A Radiant Garment of Holiness Held Out for You to Wear (Ephesians Sermon 27 of 54)
February 14, 2016 | Andrew Davis
Conversion, War Against the Flesh, Holiness
I'd like to ask that you turn in your Bibles to Ephesians 4, we'll be looking today at verses 22-24, zeroing in on, especially verse 22-24, a radiant garment of holiness held out for you to wear. That's what I have in mind today. As I was looking back on my own childhood growing up like most boys that I know, I had no great interest in clothing, honestly. I remember going to a party, I was about 10 years old, and a friend of mine was a pretty spoiled kid, I remember that, and we were all at this party, and you know the moms buy the gifts generally, and one gift after another was clothing. I don't know how it worked out, but this kid was becoming increasingly frustrated and angry. He would attack these gifts and rip open the paper and rip open the box and you know when a box in a certain size is probably a shirt, pants, hat, something like that, and he was becoming increasingly annoyed. And I started feeling, and I wasn't mature at all to understand what was going on, but just the basic ingratitude that was being displayed there. But I was relieved that I had actually given him a model airplane that my mother had chosen wisely. And I was on the good list.
So it wasn't until later years that I started to have some interest in clothing. You may say, "Pastor, I didn't think you had any interest in clothing." Some of you may say that. Now that's unkind, but I do have some interest in clothing. But I remember, especially in 1981, being for a guy anyway, uniquely interested and captivated by the wedding dress of Lady Diana Spencer. I remember feeling just jealous of them anyway, as they went off to a month-long holiday in the Mediterranean for their honeymoon, and I went off to a job that I hated. And I just thought it was so unfair. But the wedding dress was just spectacularly beautiful. And some of you old enough to remember that event, or you can look it up, it was 9000 pounds sterling, that one dress costs, and it had a 25-foot train and it had pearls and lace and all that. It was just a spectacular garment. And I remember thinking about that, that lavish outfit, and how much it cost and the amount of money that went into it and all of that to get her ready for a spectacular wedding day.
The Readying of the Bride
Well, recently I was reading in Revelation 19:7-8, and there is this beautiful picture of the Bride of Christ in garments of linen. A picture of holiness and purity. Listen to Revelation 19:7-8, it says, "Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory, for the wedding of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean was given her to wear." Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints. So in other words, as the saints act righteously, or as we act in holiness, we will be getting ourselves beautiful for the wedding day of the land. We will be covering ourselves with purity and holiness, and getting ourselves ready for Him, for Christ. And Ephesians 4:22-24 describes plainly how that garment of holiness can be spun up thread after thread of righteous acts, acts of self-denial, of purity, of holiness, that by them we will be making ourselves ready for the wedding of the Lamb.
In Ephesians 4:22-24 it says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires. To be made new in the spirit of your minds and to put on the new self, which is created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” So every time that we, by the power of the Spirit, deny the flesh, put off wickedness and sin, and put on holiness, we are, I think in light of Revelation 19:7-8, acting righteously. We are getting ourselves ready for the wedding of the Lamb, getting ourselves ready as the bride of Christ. And we are adding another thread of purity, of white linen, pure and clean to put on for that day. And that's exactly what the Lord is calling on each one of us to do.
Justification Precedes Sanctification
Now, let's get some context here. We are desiring, in this flow of simple, straightforward, moralistic perhaps commands in Ephesians 4-5 to set it in a theological context. The morality, the virtue of the Christian life is set in a theological context, the context of the Gospel. If you go back to Ephesians 4:1, it says, "As a prisoner for the Lord then I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." Well, Ephesians 1-3 gives us a sense of that calling. Ephesians 1-3 is that flyover, that beautiful satellite view of the sovereign work of God in saving sinners like you and me. It begins in Ephesians 1 with our election, our having been “chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” In other words, our yearning for holiness is for the consummation of the very reason why God chose us before the foundation of the world. “In love, He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ.” And we learn in other scriptures that that has to do with conformity to Christ, that being sons and daughters of the living God means to be like Christ and to be like God. We all have been atoned for by the blood of Christ, that by Christ's shed blood, all of our sins are forgiven. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
And so, there is an ongoing cleansing work that the Lord does by the blood of Christ, but that justification, that righteousness that we receive by faith comes simply by faith in Christ, not by any works. We've been justified by faith. “It is by grace we have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it's a gift of God, not by works.” We, having heard the Gospel of truth, the Gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected with simple faith, we were justified, and we were marked in Him with a seal, we were sealed with the Spirit. And now we have been set to doing good works. We're not justified by works, we're not forgiven by good works. No works of self-denial or holiness can ever be used to pay for past transgressions and sins, ever. But we have been justified, we have been saved in order that we may do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to walk. And a lot of those good works or works of self-denial and personal holiness, as we're going to talk about today, this is the calling that we have received. And we are to be active also in bringing other people to faith in Christ. People who are currently dead in their transgressions and sins, they're lost, they're on the outside and we are to be reaching out with the Gospel and bringing them in as living stones in this rising temple that's becoming more and more glorious, more and more spectacular, larger and larger all the time with evangelism and missions going on.
And so we've got these two journeys that we talk about a lot here in the church, the internal journey of holiness, of growing in Christ-likeness, and the external journey of worldwide evangelization of reaching out with the Gospel. Those two in effect being one and the same journey, the building of the Church of Jesus Christ. And that's the calling we have received, and we're called on to live a life worthy of that calling. And in verses 17-24, he zeros in on the issue of sanctification, the mechanism of sanctification and holiness.
Now, last time, we looked deeper at the mind and heart of the non-Christian and we're commanded not to think like that anymore, not to live like that anymore. You remember what we said last time in verses 17-19? "So I tell you this and insist on it the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do in the futility of their thinking, they're darkened in their understanding, and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality, so as to indulge in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more." Well, that's who the lost person is. We looked at it last week. We're able to look into the mind and heart of the unbeliever, and to say that all of us began life that way. And that we are commanded now by God through the Apostle Paul not to think like that anymore, and not to live like that anymore. We must no longer live in that way. In verses 20-21, he shows the incredible impact, the powerful impact of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He said, "You however did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard Him and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus."
Now, it says in verse 21, in some translations, “if so be” or, “if indeed.” But there's no sense of uncertainty there, it's more like, “Given that you did hear the Gospel, given that you did, there's actually a sense of certainty that you heard Christ, you who are Christians, you heard Him and not in that old way of corruption and wickedness. But you heard Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” That's what he's saying. And now he's going to turn to this kind of machinery, or this pattern of sanctification that's going to be with us the rest of our lives. "You were taught," verses 22-24, "You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires to be made new in the spirit of your minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." So, three steps we're zeroing in on. Put off the old self, be made new in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new self created to be like God. The result of this, of ongoing pattern of holiness, will be increasing conformity to Christ, we’ll be more and more conformed to Jesus Christ, that is sanctification.
Active in Sanctification
Now, as you can see from it, this is an active thing we're commanded to do. This is an active life of pursuing holiness, it's not passive. Some in church history have taught of kind of a passive holiness. "Let go, and let God" is the slogan you may have heard. There are some times that that slogan may actually capture some of what God calls us to do. But that's not the way holiness is taught in the New Testament. There was a movement called the Keswick movement, Keswick holiness. And they're saying that basically, if there's any striving, if there's any effort made, you've missed the Christian life, the power of the Christian life. And you need to just kind of let go and let God, and just kind of lay back into Christ, and just be carried along to the holiness. Well, that's not the way the New Testament teaches. Actually, it teaches much more like warfare, like there's a battle that we have to fight here. This is not going to be easy. I picture like whitewater and we're trying to cross a whitewater river, and if you just kind of lay back, you're going to get swept down the stream into corruption and into sin.
But instead, we have to strive in sanctification. Our works play no role whatsoever in justification. We are justified by faith in Christ, apart from the works of the law. Absolutely. So all forgiveness of sins and our right standing before God, is always based on Christ's work on the cross, not based on any effort we can give. And in the future, we will be glorified at death. At the moment of death, our soul will leave our body and be instantly transformed, and made perfectly radiant and glorious, free from evil forever. No works required for that either, it will be done to us by the sovereign power of God. But in between this, no works for justification and no works for glorification, the rules of the game are different. Sanctification, we must work. “We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us.” And how do we work? Well, we work by putting off the old self, being made new in our minds and hearts and putting on the new self created to be like God, that's it. So let's look at it one step at a time.
Put Off the Old Self (vs. 22)
You Were Taught
First, verse 22. "You were taught with regard to your former way of life to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.” Now, verse 22 begins, “You were taught.” And so, we have to start with the role of the Word of God in all of this. We have to start with the role of doctrine. It all starts with careful accurate doctrinal instruction. "You must be taught concerning this, and you have been taught," he says. Now this goes back to verses 21-22, "Surely you heard Him,” Christ, “and were taught in Him in the truth that is in Jesus,” etcetera, to put off your old self. So this is a doctrinal thing, we're being taught in Jesus this new way of living. We've seen again and again the role of Christian instruction here. Back, earlier in Chapter 4, we have these five gifted roles that he gave some to be “apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be pastors and teachers.” Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers all have in common the delivery system of the Word of God, that's what they are.
The word of God originates in the mind of God, and He speaks it through the apostles and prophets, and the evangelists take it on the road, they take it the distant places, and to the ends of the earth, and then pastors and teachers settle in and teach it to the saints going forward. And so, it's a delivery system of the word of God, and they prime the pump for the works that build up the Body of Christ. So it all starts with good doctrine. We get the same thing in Verse 14. He talks about how in Verse 14, “we are being moved from immaturity to maturity. You'll no longer be infants tossed back and forth, instead we're going to be conformed to the faith.” In verse 13, unity in the faith in the knowledge of the Son of God. So no longer immature, no longer moved around easily by doctrine, but instead, united in the faith. That's in Christianity and doctrine, united in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God to mature manhood. So we're fully mature in Christ. And so, verse 15 depicts maturity as “speaking the truth,” that is, right doctrine, “in love.” So that's right beliefs coupled with a heart of love.
And then Paul, as we saw in verses 17-19, focuses very much on the darkened mind, and the darkened heart of the unbeliever. And so, this is very much a teaching issue. It's an issue of right doctrine, of understanding the Bible properly. So he says, "As you think so you will live," that's a basic principle. As you think so you will live. If you want to live a new life, you must think new thoughts, you must be transformed by the renewing of your mind. There has to be a change in your mind and your thinking. And so, little by little, the non-Christians, they are hardened and increasingly corrupted and have increasingly bad lifestyles. The remedy therefore to bad living is right thinking, pure thinking, and that right thinking is worked by the sovereign grace of God, by the ministry of scripture, by the ministry of the word of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit. That's how it all happens. So it all starts in verse 22, you were taught. And what had he taught them, what had they learned? “Well, you were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.”
Negative Sanctification is Essential
So, now we come to the issue of negative sanctification, things that we Christians must not do. There are just certain patterns of lifestyle that must never be part of the Christian life. Negative holiness or negative sanctification. And there's also a positive side that we'll get to as well. There are some things that we should delight in, some things that we should do, etcetera. So both of those things together make up holiness. Both of them make up sanctification, things we must not be and do and think, and things that we must be and do and think, that together makes up this issue of sanctification. Now, when we come to negative sanctification, sometimes people are well, negative about negative sanctification, they might even make fun of it. You know, they make fun of the ones that say, “I don't smoke or drink or chew or go with girls that do,” something like that. And that's holiness and they kind of mock that kind of thing. But honestly, as we look at it, there are some things that are poisonous and corrupting to the Christian life.
Martin Luther said “Love God and do as you please.” But I'm telling you what, we have a hard time hearing that rightly. We can hear that and it's like, “Oh.” Then, and off we go. No, no, there's some very clear prohibitions in the New Testament in reference to the Christian life. If you only strive after the positive side of Christianity trying to be loving, and kind, and a nice person, and patient and positive, and happy, but you're not at war with the corrupting sins that the Bible warns us against, you're not putting those sins to death, you will be destroyed by the poison of sin. And that is to some degree the role of some that are called antinomians, those are people that see no role of the law in the Christian life. The law has no role in the Christian life. But that's just not true. There are so many commands like even these in these Epistles that are given to us as Christians that we must obey, and some of them are prohibitions. Some things we must not do.
On the other hand, however, if you're only focusing on negative sanctification, only focusing on putting off evil things, and you don't see the beauty and the attractiveness and the holiness, and putting on the alluring attractive aspect of holiness, which I'm going to talk about at the end of the sermon, and it's all about what you don't do, movies you don't see, what places you won't walk into, what language you don't use, you're going to lapse eventually into a kind of works righteousness, you'll be stripped of joy in life. There'll be a kind of an ascetic sternness to your life, and you won't be commending the beauty of our faith to unbelievers, and many have lurched off in that direction as well. So we have to keep a balance here on the negative sanctification, and the positive as well.
Focus: The “Old Self”
Now, the focus here is on the old self in this verse, some translations give us the old man or the old self or old nature, and it's linked here to your former way of life. Who you were in Adam, who you were before you were a Christian, okay? The person that you were born into as a human being. We were all born in Adam, we were born into original sin, and we had a positional status as sinner before God, having been born in Adam. The moment we came to faith in Christ, that position died forever. That old man that we were in Adam died and we became a new person in Christ. However, there are certain things that we bring with us now into our new life that cause us trouble. I think Romans 6:6 makes this very, very clear. Just listen to what Romans 6:6 says, "We know that our old man” or “our old self was crucified with him, in order that the body of sin might be rendered increasingly powerless," is a good translation there. "Our old man was crucified," dead forever, "in order that the body of sin might be rendered increasingly powerless, so that we might no longer be slaves to sin." So I think the body of sin, or the sin nature, what sometimes verses call the “flesh,” that comes with us into our Christian life, and that's the issue that we have to fight. This body of sin, this old tendency or old natures of the habits that we formed in our old way of thinking, that led to an old way of living, that old mindset and old habits that makes up what Paul is talking about here, the old man, that's what he's meaning here. So, they're habits.
Now, what do we mean by habits? Well the mind and the body are trainable. If you do things over and over, you repeat them, you're going to train your mind to think a certain way, and you're going to train your body to react a certain way. We have it in terms of the areas of sin, we use the word addictions, we become addicted to sin to some degree. We know what that means. There's a magnetic pull on our bodies toward a sinful pattern, made very well aware of that with certain addictions like tobacco, for example. You know, let's say a teenage kid, a boy, gets tempted by his friends to smoke, and he's drawn away by them, and he picks it up and starts this habit, he starts to smoke, and there's a mentality that comes with it, you know, "Smoking's cool, all of us are doing it. You can't run with us if you don't do what we do," and all that, and there's this pressure on him and he picks up a cigarette and starts smoking repeatedly over a period of time. Soon, I don't know how long, different for different bodies, but soon there's just an addiction that takes over. And he's going to feel the yearning for the drug, for the nicotine, he's going to want it, he's not going to feel normal until he has a smoke. And so, his mind has been addicted to the pattern of smoking and his body also is addicted to the actual toxins and chemicals that are drawing.
Well, the same thing in different ways, but the same thing happens with all sins, all of them. There's a mental side and a physiological side that draws us into all sin patterns. So, liars become addicted to lying in certain situations. It's what they use to get out of accountability for what they've done. Sluggards become addicted to laziness, and to oversleeping, and procrastination and making excuses for things they didn't get done. Complainers become addicted to complaining, they just are used to just saying negative things about their circumstances and they just become addicted to it. Gluttons become addicted to turning to food as an idol, and overeating when they should be turning to God. Drunkards in the same way become addicted to alcohol. So there's a mental and a physiological side to it, it's drawn into this. Vain people become addicted to seeking out compliments and turning every conversation back to themselves. It's just a pattern of sin that we become addicted to and we just do it again and again, that's the old nature. And Paul describes this old nature is “corrupted by its deceitful desires.” So it's getting worse, the old nature becomes more and more corrupted by deceitful desires.
So what are deceitful desires? Well, you could rephrase and say, they are lusts that lie. They lie to us, they're lusts that pull us in, but they lie to us, about what they're going to do. Deceitful desires. The lusts don't come and tell us the truth. They don't come and say, "I am here to ruin your world, I'm here to destroy everything you cared about." These lusts are deceitful, they do not tell us the truth. And so it says in Hebrews 3:13, “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness, hardened by sin's deceitfulness.” There's a hardening effect of the deceitfulness of sin over a period of time. So every time lust comes knocking on our door, it doesn't honestly say “I'm here to kill you,” but that's what it's here to do. It's a soul assassin, these deceitful desires.
The Command: Put Off the Old Self!
Well, Paul's command here is plain, “put off the old self, lay it aside, lay it down, take it off like a garment.” We're to take off that old pattern of life, all of its particulars, put it off away from ourselves. This language is used again and again. I picture here the prodigal son, don't you? He returns back from his journey into sin and excess, and he's squandered his inheritance on riotous living. Recently, he's been feeding pigs, and you can imagine, I picture him still wearing the garments that he wore in his last job. So he's coming back, having just finished feeding the pigs as best he could, longing to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating. Covered with mud, mud and pig dung, and it's in that condition that he's standing in front of his father. And do you remember how his father when the son says, "I've sinned against you and against Heaven, I'm no longer worthy to be called your son. Please take me back as one of your slaves." He says, “Put a new robe on him, and put a ring on his finger, and shoes on his feet.” That's the picture I have of a beautiful garment of holiness being held out for us to put on.
Well, I imagine that first, we have to take off that old garment of corruption and wickedness that stinks in the nostrils of God. Take it off, in order that we may put on this beautiful robe that the Father is offering to us. And the beautiful thing is, there's no need for you as a Christian, there's no need for delay. As a matter of fact, that's putting it mildly, you must not delay. You don't have to earn your way up to putting off sin, you don't have to work up to it like you have to take a class in order to put off sin, etcetera. You can just put it off, you can stop sinning. And this is the thing, we have freedom from Christ to never sin again, ever, the rest of our lives.
No sin will ever come to you as a Christian with a compelling force, so that you will be able to say to God, after you sinned, there was nothing I could do, I couldn't help it, there was no way I had to give in. He will never allow you to say that. He'll say no, no, you had enough resources, through the Spirit, by the shed blood of Christ to put that temptation to death. And so we don't have to earn our way into putting off the old nature, we can do it immediately. However, I know there's a momentum to sin, we know that Romans 7 says, “the very thing we hate we do.” And we're going to be struggling with sin. So I do not teach perfectionism. Though perfection is possible, and we have no excuse when we do sin, we still know that we are going to sin, we're going to stumble in many ways.
So the strategy I continue to give to all of you is this, death by starvation, starve it to death. Starve your sins to death. Put some distance between you and the last time you fell in that area. And the more distance there is between you and the last time you fell in that area, the weaker will the gravitational pull of that temptation be on your soul. Just put some distance between. Get through one hour, get through one day, get through one week, step-by-step, and don't worry about tomorrow, fight today's temptations today. “Tomorrow has enough trouble of its own,” Jesus said, fight for today, fight to be holy today. And so, he's going to give us examples and we'll do it in the rest of the Chapter, not today, but looking at specific examples of falsehood and lies, of stealing, and sinful anger, and sexual immorality, and drunkenness, these patterns of immorality, put some distance between you and your sin. It will get weaker and weaker if you do. Alright, so that's the first part. Put off the old self.
Be Renewed in the Spirit of Your Mind (vs. 23)
External Moralism Will Not Suffice
Secondly, be “renewed in the spirit of your mind.” To be “renewed in the spirit of your minds.” This is the inner working of the mind, the key to the Christian is the mind and the heart, the very heart. And if you want to live differently, you must think differently, and you must love differently. It's a different thinking and different loving. And this is the core of the transformation that we're talking about here. We're not looking for merely an external morality, an external virtuousness. Non-Christians can do this, they can do these things. You look at the list, “falsehood, lying, stealing, drunkenness, immorality, there are non-Christians.” There are atheists that will do many of those things better than Christians. I think about how ascetic Gandhi was in terms of his life and how kind he was, and careful in his speech and all that. You can do that, and not have any love for Christ in your heart, not have any love for God in your heart. So that's not what we're talking about here, some external morality or show of morality. It is possible for us to do that kind of thing and have no transformation at all.
My daughter is a student at Liberty University, and I read some time ago, there was a Brown University undergraduate, his name was Kevin Ruse, interesting name, Ruse. Anyway, he went undercover at Liberty, he was not a Christian, not born again, but he was doing basically an expose book on evangelicalism. So he enrolled as a student at Liberty University. The book is called An Unlikely Disciple. To pull it off, Kevin Ruse had to learn the language and external behavior patterns of an evangelical undergrad student at Liberty. And he did very well, he had everyone fooled, as a matter of fact, he was chosen to be a small group leader on his dorm floor. So, I mean, imagine later reading about all of this, and thinking, "How could we have missed it?" Anyway, Ruse studied the 46 page code of conduct called “The Liberty Way,” which outlines the rules and regulations of student life. No drinking, no smoking, no R-rated movies, no dancing, no cursing, no hugs lasting longer than three seconds, and so on.
Christi said that they've changed that rule, I don't know, is it stricter? Is it two seconds now? I don't know, never mind, tell me later, but down to two seconds, up to four? But at any rate, he took all of this external pattern on like a garment, but no heart behind it. There was no heart of love for Christ or for neighbor in that pattern, and it is possible to learn the pattern of Christianity and not have any of its transforming power. As a matter of fact, many Gospel hypocrites, in the Bible Belt, pulled that off for decades. They were unregenerate church members. And they had no love for the scripture, they had no love for Christ crucified and resurrected, but they knew the patterns of church involvement and church behavior. But that's not what we're talking about here.
What Does “Renewed in the Spirit of Your Mind” Mean?
We take off the old self, but the second thing it says in our text is to be “made new in the attitude,” or “the spirit of your minds.” Paul adds the word spirit, NIV has “attitude of the mind,” but that seems a little light. I want to go to the “spirit of the mind,” the true abiding spirit or tenor of your mindset. Now, non-Christians can think amazingly well, they can do amazing things with their minds, they can do incredible things in poetry, or music, or art, or literature. They can do incredible things in science. You get a pharmaceutical researcher who'll go into the lab, and just through his brilliance and his skill will be able to come up with drugs that are very effective in curing cancer, or other things like that, and they're thinking amazingly well and brilliantly, but they're not doing anything out of love for God through faith in Christ. And so, there's a hollowness, they are white-washed tombs to some degree, and that can happen morally as well. But God wants us to know Him and to love Him. Jesus said in John 17:3, "This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." So, fundamentally what we're talking about is not just what you think about, but what you love and what you hate. What you yearn for, what are you ambitious for? What do you choose and what do you reject, as it flows from your inner person, the mind, the heart? And so, in order to live a new life, you must be “made new in the spirit of your mind,” you must think new thoughts, you must think Christianly.
The Role of the Holy Spirit and the Word
Now what happened, the moment you were genuinely converted, that's something that the Holy Spirit did for you, “He gave you a new heart, the heart of stone removed and the heart of flesh put in.” He gave you a transformed nature. 2 Corinthians 5:17, if anyone is in Christ is a new creation, the old is gone, the new has come. So your new creation soul is eternal, it cannot be killed, it can only grow and flourish, and it will survive Judgment Day and will go on into eternity, this new creation self you are. But that's what you have to put on. You have to learn more and more what it means to “love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” To learn how to do everything for the glory of God. To learn how to love righteousness and hate wickedness, how to hunger and thirst for righteousness at every moment. It means to have the mind of Christ and to use it more and more.
Now, the grammar is literally that “you are to go on”, “go on being made new in the attitude of your mind.” If you're a Christian, you are already made new, you're made a new creation, but now you have to go on being transformed by the renewing of your mind. 1 Peter 2:2 says, "Like newborn babes, you should long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation." You're hungering and thirsting for scripture, you're being “transformed,” Romans 12:2, “by the renewing of your mind” through scripture. Jesus said in John 17:17, “Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth.” Now, the Holy Spirit has been given to illuminate, to make the scripture clear. The Holy Spirit wrote this book through apostles and prophets and then the indwelling Spirit causes the Scripture to come alive in your heart. And you see the light and the truth, as it says in Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." That's a direct contrast to the darkness of the mind and heart of the unregenerate person. So that's what he's called on us to do.
So, the Holy Spirit then will work in you to see every situation in your life, spiritually. So the sexually immoral man, now converted, increasingly sees sexual sin from God's point of view. He repents continually, he fights continually to be pure, because he can see with spiritual eyes, increasingly clearly, the holiness of Christ on His throne. He can see the fact that Christ sees everything he does all the time, “nothing is hidden before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.” He sees that clearly by faith, he sees also the coming Judgment Day when he will have to give an account for everything he does with his body. And so, he see sexual sin in light of these invisible, spiritual realities. So also the liar or the slanderer, or the gossip, or the arguer, or complainer. They see each of those verbal sins in new light, in light of Christ, in light of holiness, in light of who Christ is. And they want to use their tongues now to bring grace to the hearer. Not to have the corruption of those sins.
So also the husband, who has been dealing harshly or unkindly with his wife, increasingly sees his marriage in light of Christ and His Church. And He wants to love His bride “like Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for it.” He increasingly wants to be a Christian husband and he sees his marriage spiritually, so also the wife sees her role spiritually. Or maybe the mother of small children, maybe she's been complaining about how much work it is to raise small children, and then she starts to see her mothering in light of eternity, in light of God in Christ, and to not complain anymore, but to want to pour herself into her children and bring them to faith in Christ. They start to see everything differently. The employee who's been lazy and cutting corners and procrastinating, when the boss isn't around, suddenly starts to see that his real supervisor is Christ and He's with Him all the time, and he wants to glorify God with his work, and he becomes an excellent employee as a result. Everything changes. The materialistic, selfish person who's been spending money on himself and just loves to go to the mall or buy things, or hobbies, or electronic gadgets to make himself happy, starts to see money as a tool for the advancement of the Gospel and starts to invest it into missions and into the relief of the poor and needy, and to get ready for Judgment Day and to use his money to store up treasure in Heaven where moth and rust can't destroy and thieves can't break in and steal. The Holy Spirit just causes us to think differently about all of these topics and see them spiritually.
Put on the New Self (vs. 24)
And then finally, in verse 24, to “put on the new self.” We were taught to “put off the old self, corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of our minds by the ministry of the Word of God and the Spirit, and to put on now, the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” This now is the positive sanctification, the beauty of Christ's holiness.
Put On Like a Royal Robe
Now, here's the beautiful aspect of being a Christian. We believe that Jesus came, was born of the virgin Mary, and was truly human, and lived a truly human life. He didn't just seem to be human, He actually was human, and He was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet He never sinned. What that means that He never sinned is that He perfectly fulfilled the law of God at every moment. He loved God with all of His heart, soul, mind, and strength at every moment, and He loved His neighbor as Himself at every moment. Perfect righteousness. Look at it like a perfect robe of holiness that He has crafted, and at the moment you trusted in Jesus, that robe was given to you in justification righteousness to put on, and in that robe, you will stand on Judgment Day. But now what we're called on, is to every moment effectively put it on and live it out ourselves by the power of the Spirit. We're told to imitate Christ at every moment, to put on His holiness and His righteousness. The robe is Christ. And so, it says in Romans 13:13-14, "Let us behave decently as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy, rather put on the Lord Jesus Christ." Do you hear that? Romans 13:14, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and do not think about how to gratify the cravings of the sinful nature,” the flesh. Put on Christ.
Now, you could put a picture like a beautiful robe, that's great, for like a coronation day or a wedding day, that's fine. Or, another way to look at it, because I said it's warfare is that it's an armor of light. Put on Christ like an armor of light. Now later in Ephesians 6, we're going to talk about the armor of God, but Romans 13 actually pictures Christ in this way. It says, in Romans 13:12, "The night is nearly over. The day is almost here, so let us put aside the deeds of darkness, and put on the armor of light." So we're called on to put on the armor of light, which is Christ, and get ready to fight, and we're going to have to fight these temptations. Now, this idea is the image of God is created, it says, this new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. We are to imitate God, we are to be holy because He is holy, and we're to be drawn after God, purity in God.
Jonathan Edwards, in his personal narrative, described the attractiveness and beauty of holiness. I'm not going to read it, I've read it before, but I'm just going to put it in my own words. Basically to him, holiness was like a beautiful wildflower, humble, low on the ground, in the dust opening up its bosom to the dew and the sunshine from heaven, and putting off a scent, a fragrance of beauty, such beauty as you could scarcely imagine. So imagine you're in a garden filled with all kinds of aromatic spices and flowers and all that, holiness is that beautiful. It's that appealing and attractive. The holy life, the virtuous life, is the most beautiful possible life you could ever live. It is attractive and appealing to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. It's the best way you can live at any moment.
Now, Satan is so good at deceiving us, and telling us that these corrupting desires are the best possible kind of life. They're not, they're evil and wicked and so more and more as we see things as they really are, it's like, what I really want today, what I'm attracted to, what I yearn for more than anything else is holiness. I want to be like Jesus, I want to talk like Jesus, and think like Jesus, and act like Him, that's what I want. It's so appealing and so engaging and that's what you want. So if you don't have that view of holiness, ask the Lord to give it to you. You're going to be spending eternity living like that in the New Heaven, and the New Earth, it's going to be the best possible life you could ever live then, you can live it now by the Spirit. So yearn for a positive attraction to holiness. I want to say one final thing, and then I'll be done.
This Can Only Happen If You’re First Born Again
All of these things that I've been talking about: Putting off the old self, being made new in the spirit of your mind, and putting on the new self created to be like God, and beautiful righteousness and holiness, all of that is only possible if you're born again. It's only possible if you're a Christian. If you have not yet been born again, you can't do any of these things. But what you can do as you listen to me now, you can, in your own mind's eye, you can see the truth about Christ and about yourself. Know who Christ is, that He is the sinless Son of God who died in your place under the wrath and punishment of God, and He came to take away all of your sins, and to give you the gift of a perfect righteousness that I just described a moment ago, that you can just put on by faith, not by works. You'll be seen to be holy in God's sight. If you trust in Christ, all of your sins will be forgiven. And you will live forever. And once you do that, then you can do the things I've been talking about today. Beginning a journey of personal holiness that will grow and grow, but until then there's nothing more for you to do. “This is the work of God, to believe in the one that He has sent.” Believe in Christ. Close with me in prayer.
Father, Ephesians 4:22-24 teaches us how to be holy, it teaches us how to put sin to death. It teaches us oh Lord, how to be “made new in the attitude of our minds.” It teaches us how to yearn after, and hunger and thirst for holiness, as the most beautiful way we can possibly live. Father, I pray that we would believe this Gospel, that we would trust in Christ and by faith and by the power of the Spirit, increasingly be conformed to Christ. Lord, I pray for any that are here as yet unconverted who don't know you yet, who haven't trusted in you yet, that they would be attracted to Christ, and drawn to Christ, and that they would know themselves to be sinners apart from God, but that they would find an openness, and a welcome through the love of the Father to find forgiveness, like the prodigal son who came home. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.