Paul gives us a negative and a positive command here in Ephesians 4. He tells each of us to “put off [our] old self” (Ephesians 4:22) and to “put on the new self.” He speaks of denying “deceitful desires” while simultaneously making our selves “new in the attitude of [our] minds.”
The latter is the key — Paul elaborates: “You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” (Ephesians 4:17) What is futile thinking? Paul says Gentiles, i.e. non-believers “are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God.” He points to “the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:18) Of course, this is our “old self” which we must “put off” in that this self has nothing in common with “the life of God.” Paul laments that this “old self” is right there with him when he wants to do good. He writes, “I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:14-15) He speaks of “sin living in me.” (Romans 7:16) This is the “old self” which we must “put off” in that this self has nothing in common with “the life of God.”
Paul commands us to “put on the new self.” The only way to accomplish this is to be “led by the Spirit of God.” (Romans 8:14) And the best method of “being led by the Spirit of God” is to remain in God’s Word. As we remain in God’s Word, we stay close to “the life of God.” Why? Because “the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13) The Word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of [our] hearts.” The Word enables us to “put on the new self” by altering, shaping, creating our “thoughts and attitudes.” We are made new by the Word of God.
Paul reminds us that “[we] are weak in [our] natural selves. Just as [we] used to offer the parts of [our] bodies in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now [we must] offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Romans 6:19) “[We] have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God.” And, “the benefit [we] reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (Romans 6:22)
Therefore, let us renew our minds through the Word of God. Let us invite the Spirit of God to direct us. “We are [God’s] house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” (Hebrews 3:6) Amen.