But That is Not the Way You Learned Christ

Ephesians 4:17-24
March 17, 2019
Abraham Hong

 

Today I want to talk to you about your old self and your new self. And I want to talk to you about what it means to put off the former and put on the latter.

If you are a believer in Christ, then here is an amazing and yet mysterious fact about you. There is an old you. And there is a new you. Or to be more precise, there WAS an old you. And there IS NOW a new you.

The old you or the old self is dead. Your old self died when Jesus died. Your old self was buried with Jesus when Jesus was buried (Romans 6:4). Your old self was baptized into Jesus’ death (Romans 6:3). Your old self was crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6). Your old self has died to sin (Romans 6:11). None of this is metaphorical. All of this is downright mysterious. When I speak about your old self, I am not merely referring to your old walk or lifestyle. When I speak about your old self, I am referring to the old you. The old you that belonged to the old creation. The old you that was once connected to the first Adam and his sin. We are not merely saying that your old sinful habits or practices died when Jesus died. We are saying that you, you actually died. And all of this is because you were united with Christ in his death (Romans 6:5). The old you, your old self, is dead. This is a huge part of the gospel of your salvation. There was an old you. But the old you is dead.

This is amazing. Usually when believers think about the gospel of Christ, they think about the death of Christ. And rightly so. For in Christ’s death, we receive the forgiveness of our sins. This is a wonderful meaning and significance of Christ’s death for us. But it doesn’t end there. When you think about the gospel of Christ, you need to also think about the death of the old self. For in Christ’s death, our old selves have died.

So there was an old you. And there is now a new you.

The new you or the new self is alive. Your new self was made alive when Jesus was made alive. Your new self was raised up when Jesus rose again from the dead (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12; 3:1). None of this is metaphorical. All of this is downright mysterious. When I speak about your new self, I am not merely referring to your new walk or lifestyle. When I speak about your new self, I am referring to the new you. The new you that belongs to the new creation. The new you that is now connected to the second and final Adam, Jesus Christ, and his glory. We are not merely saying that your new obedient habits or practices come alive when Jesus came alive. We are saying that you, you actually were made alive. And all of this is because you were united with Christ in his resurrection (Romans 6:5). The new you, your new self, is alive. This is a huge part of the gospel of your salvation. There is a new you. And the new you is alive.

This is amazing. Usually when believers think about the gospel of Christ, they think about the resurrection of Christ. And rightly so. For in Christ’s resurrection, we receive the hope of eternal life. This is a wonderful meaning and significance of Christ’s resurrection for us. But it doesn’t end there. When you think about the gospel of Christ, you need to also think about the creation of the new self. For in Christ’s resurrection, our new selves have been made alive.

So there was an old you. And there is now a new you.

And our Lord Jesus Christ commands you to put off your old self and put on your new self. The old self is a done deal. And the new self is also a done deal. It is all finished. Nothing you do can change or undo death of your old self and the making alive of your new self.

So what then does Jesus’ command mean? What does it mean to put off the old self and put on the new self? To put off the old self means to not be what you no longer are. And to put on the new self means to be what you already are. These two statements sound paradoxical. How can you put off what you are already not? And how can you put on what you already are? But God’s word says that this is what the Christian life looks like.

Putting off the old self looks like this. You have heartfelt sorrow for sin. And you hate it and turn from it always more and more. That’s what putting off the old self looks like.

Putting on the new self looks like this. You have heartfelt joy in God through Christ. And you take delight in living according to the will of God and do good works. That’s what putting on the new self looks like.

But here is a key to Christian life. You have to do both. You have to put off the old self and put on the new self. You can’t just do one and not the other. Putting on the new self without putting off the old self is like buying a new car but keeping your old one. Unless you’re saving the old one for your kid, that’s not normal. And putting off the old self without putting on the new self is like selling your old car but not buying a new one. Unless you plan to use Uber for rest of your life, that’s not normal either. So don’t just stop gossiping. Start encouraging. Don’t just subtract sexual immorality from your life. Add sexual purity to your life. Don’t just say no to selfishness. Say yes to sacrifice. Don’t just let go of old sinful habits. Grab hold of new good works.

This is not easy. This is so very difficult. We are often not good at obeying the Lord’s command to put off the old self and put on the new self. The struggle is real. And it is sometimes so disconcerting that the Apostle Paul in Romans 7 nearly despaired of it.

Listen to what Paul wrote, and see if you can relate. He said, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing…. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:15, 18-19, 21-24).

It is not easy to put off the old self and put on the new self. But here is the good news. God gives us grace. By his grace, God gives us heartfelt sorrow for sin. By his grace, God gives us heartfelt joy in him through Christ. By God’s grace, we hate sin and turn from it always more and more. By God’s grace, we take delight in living according to the will of God and do good works. We don’t deserve to change and grow in the Lord. But we do change and we do grow in conformity to Christ. This is the beauty of sanctification: it is the work of God’s free grace (Westminster Shorter Catechism #35). Praise the Lord! Paul’s words in Romans 7 does not ultimate end with despair. For he declares “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25). The Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t just take care of your justification. He doesn’t just take care of the forgiveness of your sin. The Lord Jesus Christ also takes care of your sanctification. He also takes care of the putting off of your old self and the putting on of your new self. Praise the Lord! Do not be discouraged as you put off the old self and put on the new self. Be encouraged to keep going. Be encouraged to be who you already are in Christ.

Let us remember the big picture about our old selves and our new selves.

When God first made Adam, he was naked. And the reason why he was naked was because he was meant to be clothed. He was mean to put on a perfect righteousness and holiness that would come from obedience to the test of the covenant of works. This was the ultimate goal. To put on the consummated self, the glorified self, the eschatological self.

But Adam did not do this. He sinned against God. He was left in naked shame. And he died. And all of us by default had put on Adam, the old man. The old you was once connected to the first Adam and his sin.

But God provided some new clothes for you. God so loved you that he gave his only Son, so that you would believe in him and not perish but have eternal life. Jesus came as a second and final Adam for you, as a champion human representative for you, to obey the law for you and pass the test of the covenant of works for you. He accomplished the ultimate goal that you could never accomplish. He became sin for you and died hamefully naked and humiliated on the cross for your punishment and for your forgiveness of your sins. He died. And remember, when he died, your old self died too. Then Jesus rose again from the dead. He received the covenant curses. But he deserved the covenant blessings. Thus, Christ rose again from the dead. And he put on the consummated self, the glorified self, the eschatological self. He sat at the right hand of God the Father. He is exalted as the King. He fulfilled the ultimate goal. And now, through the powerful work of the Holy Spirit, he puts off your old self and he puts on your new self. And your new self is united to him. The new you is now and forevermore connected to the second and final Adam and his righteousness and holiness and glory. This is what Paul means when he says that you learned Christ. You did not merely learn things about Christ. You learned Christ himself. You got a new self in him. And the rest of your life, before Christ comes or takes you home, is one gigantic already-not-yet slow-motion sanctification move in which you put off your old self and put on your new self - your consummated, glorified and eschatological new self.

This is why you must put off your old self and put on your new self. When you put on your new self, you put on nothing less than Christ himself. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Galatians 3:27). And if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). None of this is metaphorical. All of this is downright mysterious.

So look at Jesus. Look at who he is. Look at what he has done for you. Look at how he loves you. And put off your old self and put on the new self.

End


Summary of Sermon

If you are a believer in Christ, then there is an old self. And there is a new self.

Your old self belonged to the old creation. Your old self was profoundly connected to the first Adam and to his sin. But your old self is now dead. Your old self died when Jesus died.

Your new self belongs to the new creation. Your new self is profoundly connected to the last Adam and to his glory. And your new self is now alive. Your new self was raised up when Jesus rose from the dead.

Remember that your new self is nothing less than Christ himself. For after he fulfilled the covenant of works as our champion human representative, he put on a consummated, glorified, and eschatological self. And we who are united with him - we who have “learned Christ” - have also received consummated, glorified, and eschatological selves in these already-not-yet last days of redemptive history.

Given all of this wonderful salvation truth, here is the Lord’s command: We are to put off our old selves and put on our new selves.

To put off the old self means to not be what you no longer are. We have heartfelt sorrow for sin. And we hate it and turn from it always more and more.

To put on the new self means to be what you already are. We have heartfelt joy in God. And we take delight in living according to the will of God and doing good works.

This is not easy. Just consider Paul’s words in Romans 7. But God gives us his grace. By his grace, we put off the old self and put on the new self.

Questions for Discussion & Sharing

Your old self is now dead. Your old self died when Jesus died. And your new self is now alive. Your new self was raised up when Jesus rose from the dead. In what ways do these truths bring joy and thanksgiving in your hearts and minds?

It is not easy to take off the old self and put on the new self. But God gives us grace. In what ways has the Lord shown grace to you in your walk with him? In what ways can you relate to Paul and his words in Romans 7?

To put off the old self means to have heartfelt sorrow for sin and to hate it and turn from it always more and more. Having “learned Christ”, what are some sins that you are learning to put off in your life?

To put on the new self means to have heartfelt joy in God and to take delight in living according to the will of God and doing good works. Having “learned Christ”, what are some areas of obedience that you are learning to put on in your life?