The Christian walk is one of constant renewal.
We are first renewed in our hearts when the Holy Spirit infiltrates our self-focused and self-worshipping lives and replaces our stone hearts that cannot care about the things of God – and puts a heart of flesh in its place. Once this transformation takes place, we begin to see our sin as it is, and we are ashamed of it. God then starts to infiltrate our thinking with His truth in whatever method he chooses to insert it – pastors, preachers, evangelists, past Christian experiences, lay Christian interactions – however he brings it upon us, he converts our minds with these things. Our minds, now renewed, begin to ruminate on the truths of God – first in anger, then with open minds, then in obedience. Finally, our speech is renewed as we confess with our mouths that Jesus the Lord is the Christ of God, and that his salvation is both sufficient to cover the full breadth and depth of our sin debt before our creator, and also efficient in that it is applied to our lives and that we now walk in light of this change in our being.
That mass of renewals is merely the first step of our walk in Christ. That’s our first external understanding that our lives have been converted to Christ for his glory and not our own. The next set of renewals begin to change our interactions with the world. Our old habits and old thoughts begin to bother us. The Holy Spirit, finished with the replacement of our hearts, now reignites our consciences that have been seared from years of neglect and abuse. This God-fueled conscience now begins to whittle away at our idols and prompting us to abandon them for the sake of Christ. They are different for all people , but all have the same focus – to take our eyes off of Christ and to fall back into the old patterns that we are comfortable with. For some people it comes quickly – this abandoning of our old ways, but for most it takes time. We begin to learn about who God really is, in contrast to what we think he is. We start to desire to know God more intently, and seek him out in both good teaching, and in study of his word.
In this new understanding of who God is we learn that he is not on our side, but God is on his own side. God was not created for our good pleasure, but we were created for his. Our lives are not created for pursuit of our own desires, but to serve him in all that we do. Whatever we do, wherever it is done, is to the glory of God and Jesus his Christ. Our salvation was purchased so that we would be purchased back from our slavery to our own desires, and instead to glorify God in truth.
This is the “new self”. The “old self” was that which we were before, but that “self” is dead. It rots in the coffin of our salvation – forever dead and gone. Any time we try to revert back to our old ways, we bear the stench of that rotting corpse and it burdens us until we forsake it again in repentance and rush to wear again the “new self”.
This “new self” is free from the burdens of our old self. It no longer desires the things that we loved in the past. The “new self” is created much like Adam was – free from the hard-wired desire for self pleasure, and free to worship and serve God as he is. As Adam was created “in the likeness of God”, so we are created in same likeness – in true righteousness and in holiness.
“If righteousness be taken as a general term for uprightness, holiness will be something higher, or that purity which lies in being devoted to the service of God. I am rather inclined to consider holiness as referring to the first table, and righteousness to the second table, of the law, as in the song of Zacharias, “That we may serve him in holiness and righteousness, all the days of our life.” (Luke 1:74, 75.) Plato lays down the distinction correctly, that holiness (ὁσιότης) lies in the worship of God, and that the other part, righteousness, (δικαιοσύνη,) bears a reference to men. The genitive, of truth, (τῆς αληθείας,) is put in the place of an adjective, and refers to both terms; so that, while it literally runs, in righteousness and holiness of truth, the meaning is, in true righteousness and holiness. He warns us that both ought to be sincere; because we have to do with God, whom it is impossible to deceive.11 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (p. 296). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.”
So that old “self”, being dead to us, is also dead to the world – therefore we only live in the “new self”. We now live our lives, reborn through the work of Christ, initiated by the work of the Holy Spirit, and saved to the glory of God the Father. These lives are revealed in our holiness from the world to God, and in lives bathed in the righteousness of God, revealing our new self to the world.
As Jesus says in John 15:14, we are his friends when we do what he commands of us, then in the next verses he explains that it’s not we that hold ourselves to him, because it’s God that chose us for salvation, and that he is the one who binds us to him, so we, living our new lives that are borne in us through his sacrifice on our behalf, and the renewal of our lives to his praise and glory. So we are his friends; we are brothers and sisters with him in glory, not “IF” we do what he commands us, but since we do it. He will bring us to himself, and birth the obedience in our lives, to his glory in the world. This is the life that is found in the “new self”.
So, with Paul, I agree and say that we should, in our rejection of old ways and our old lives, put on the new self – the self that’s created for worship of our God and King. Separating ourselves from our lives in the past, rejecting the snares and temptations of the world, and replacing everything with that which is in the pursuit of God’s intentions and that which glorifies him who died for us. May we all walk in this pursuit, forsaking all else, and bring glory to our Creator.