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Entries in New Man (2)


Old Man New Man

Ephesians 4:20-32.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 15, 2016, for Pentecost Sunday.

Today is Pentecost Sunday, which is the commemoration of the day that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon all of God's people in Jerusalem following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  Today it is easy for us to be so fixated on a particular experience with the Holy Spirit that we can lose sight of all that the Spirit of God is trying to do in our life.  If you are a believer in Jesus, you have been made spiritually alive by the Holy Spirit.  It is impossible to put your faith in Jesus without his aid.  Thus that same Holy Spirit is at work in your life whether or not you have had a particular kind of experience.  Over the course of history we see that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit does not always happen the same way and look the same.  I mention this because one of the problems in the Church today is that people can actively reject the leading of the Holy Spirit in their life, all the while seeking a religious experience in a service.  It is important for us to come to grips with the reality that we cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit while we continue to embrace the life of our old nature, and that those who have been filled with the Spirit and turn back to their old nature grieve Him and negatively affect His work.

As we look at this passage today, we will focus on the work of the Holy Spirit to deliver us from the "old man," and enable us to be a "new man."

We are learning a new way of life

In the verses leading up to this section Paul has been talking about the gentile nations, which is the unbelieving world around Israel.  They had hardened their heart towards God, and thus were ignorant of the life that God had for them.  Paul shows how their futile thinking separated them from that life God had.  In Jesus, we who believe have been called out of that futile thinking and separated state, into the mind of Christ and connection with the Father.

Putting off the Old Self.  Sometimes this phrase is illustrated with clothing.  When we wake up in the morning we take off our night clothes (pajamas) and we put on our day clothes.  Thus the believer is waking up to the daylight of God's truth.  This calls for a different attire, which is the actions of our body and the intentions of our mind.  Yet, this illustration can be somewhat misleading.  In life we continually cycle back between night clothes and day clothes, and there is nothing wrong with this.  However, God does not intend for us to put back on our "night clothes."  In Jesus we dwell in an eternal, spiritual day.  Thus wPaul uses the phrase "old man" in verse 22.  Another way to see this is to think of it as the old self.  The old self represents the old way of life before the truth of Jesus.  I was ignorant of God's truth and used my futile thinking (influenced by the futile thinking of the world around me) to live my life in a way that was contrary to God.  My own sinful desires deceived me into embracing them and thus I further corrupted my life and mind.  Our fleshly desires deceive us into adopting all manner of thoughts and actions that increase the separation between me and the Life that God has for me.  This is why we are called to lay aside the old man or old self.

Putting on the New Self.  In verse 23 Paul states the positive side of this.  We put off the old so that we can replace it with the New Man or New Self.  The New Self is not just a better you, bu rather is Jesus himself.  Those who put their faith in Jesus begin a process of cooperating with the Holy Spirit's makeover of our life.  He intends to make us like Jesus.  The new me is being patterned after Jesus.  The mind and thinking of Jesus is not separated from God, neither is it ignorant of His plan.  Rather, it cooperates with God in accomplishing His will.  The Spirit of God operates to soften our hearts so that they can be made righteous and holy.

The "List of Sins."  It is common in the New Testament to run into lists of sins.  Paul begins such a list in verse 25.  It is amazing that some who call themselves believers ignore these lists under the guise of being under grace and not under the law.  Of course we are no longer under the Law of Moses.  However, we are under the Law or rule of Christ.  In Romans 8:2 Paul calls it the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.  The Holy Spirit is not counseling us in the sense that He is giving us a good opinion or advice, something that we can regard or disregard.  He is God working in us to lead us where we ought to go and teach us how we ought to be.  If we refuse Him, we do so at our own injury, as well as the injury of others.  Christ wants us to be free from those deceitful desires of our flesh that separate us from God.  How can we give into those deceitful desires and still claim to not be separated from God?  Paul calls these sins to task: lying, sins of anger, stealing, unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage, brawling, slandering, and all forms of evil.  We are called to lay such things aside and leave them behind.  We cannot avoid this by saying we are under grace.  No, we are under Christ and in that place have been given grace.  Grace is not given to those who reject the Holy Spirit.  It is given to those who recognize what He is doing and are embracing it.  Yes, we do fail at times and God offers grace for the repentant.  But a person who is not repentant cannot use grace as a shield for rebellion.

The Principle of Opposite Virtue.  There is another thing to notice in this list.  Paul is pointing out that in our life of sin before Christ, we gave ourselves to such sins.  Part of putting off these sins is to adopt the virtue that is opposite the sin, or the virtue that counteracts that sin.  Thus in verse 25, liars should practice speaking the truth.  This will be extremely difficult at first.  But those who listen to the Spirit and fight the good fight are given the grace to do so without fear.  In verse 26 we see that those who sinned out of anger need to channel that energy into righteous action.  In fact, in light of verse 31, we should get to a point where we are not acting out of anger at all.  Rather we are energized by the mind of Christ and the Spirit's power.  In verse 28, theives should use their hands at a legitimate job and use the money to give to others rather than take.  In verse 29, those who practice unwholesome talk (corrupt or rotten speech) should speak only that which builds others up in Christ according to their needs.  This whole issue is worth investing hours of prayer and seeking God for wisdom regarding how we can replace our own sins with the virtues that nullify the hold these sins have on us, as long as we pursue them.

Grieving the Holy Spirit.  Because we are in a relationship with Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can grieve Him.  He is leading us from the Old Man to the New Man.  Like Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, so we can be stubborn and mule-headed, moaning and complaining.  Thus in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Paul encourages believers by saying this, "Do not quench the Holy Spirit."  This literally says, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire."  The presence of the Spirit of God in your life is like a powerful fire that burns in you to become like Christ.  When we douse that power and embrace our old life, it causes the Spirit of God to be sorrowful.  He is not sorrowful out of petty, selfish reasons.  Rather, He knows the pain and sorrow we are bringing on ourselves and the people around us by embracing these sins.  In Galatians 6:7-8 Paul warns, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked.  Whatsoever a man sows that will he also reap.  If you sow to the flesh you will from the flesh also reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life."

Yielding to the Holy Spirit.  Thus we need to learn to yield to the Holy Spirit and stop grieving Him.  The Holy Spirit dwells in us in order to teach, lead, and fill our lives with power to obey.  He also marks us as belonging to Jesus (sealed with the seal of Jesus in verse 30).  He is teaching us to let go of evil motivations and desires, so that we can operate from the Love of God.  This is what verse 32 is describing.  The Holy Spirit will fill our life with God's kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness if we will yield to His direction.  It is when we yield that the power to do will come from the Lord.  Let's become like Jesus and not like the world!

Old Man New Man audio


Understanding the Gospel II

Last week we talked about the importance of understanding the Gospel leading up to salvation.  Today we will talk about the importance of understanding the Gospel after salvation.  The Law teaches us that we will never approach God through it.  It begs the question “Is there another way?”  The answer is yes there is only one way and His name is Jesus.  What does the life of a Christian look like?  Or, what should it look like?  Two common mistakes happen in the lives of believers.  We either see Jesus as a new and improved “Law” that we need to keep, or, we see Jesus as the reason why we don’t need to do anything.

In Colossians 3:1-11, Paul lays out the proper understanding for believers to have.  When we truly understand the horrible predicament we were in and the awesome love that Christ showed for us at the cross, our lives will be impacted in very practical ways.  Let’s look at the first 4 verses of Colossians 3.

Seek The Higher Things

You might read chapter two to get a better feel for Paul’s point here.  It is clear that some of the Colossians were caught up in a legalistic asceticism, which basically focused on what you couldn’t eat, touch, or handle.  To them Christianity was still the Law, but under new management.  Paul’s argument at first sounds like he is saying there are no more rules.  But the truth is that they are looking at all the wrong things.  They are focused upon things of this world that are consumed and then gone.  He tells them to turn their focus and aim at a higher thing.  This is very different then saying, “Do anything you want because it doesn’t matter anymore.”  Paul is turning their attention up towards Christ.

When he uses the “If” conditional, he is not implying that some of them were not saved.  Rather he is emphasizing the logic of where our focus should be.  This logic was not only taught to them but also illustrated in their water baptism.  Colossians 2:12 says, “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith by the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”  Water baptism symbolizes my death to sin and this world and my new life with Christ.  If Christ is my new life, why is my focus on everything but Him?

The present location of Christ should help to draw our heart and affections toward God.  We long to be with Him, but he is not here.  However, we can fellowship with Him by the Spirit.  The focus should be up towards Christ is now.  Think about it this way.  Jesus did not come to Earth because he wanted to enjoy the “Local Color.”  He came to Earth because of the heart of His Father.  God desired eternal fellowship with men.  Thus the earthly endeavors of Jesus were from a heavenly reason.

Now some have said, Christians are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.  This may be true of some, however the opposite can be stated.  Many people are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good.  Think of the Pharisees.  On the surface they were all about God’s business.  But, in truth, they really weren’t.  Their political machinations were very much about themselves and things on this earth, not God and his heavenly purposes.  Believer should impact this world from the directive of heaven.  Anything short of this will fail to bring lasting impact.  Now let’s look at verses 5-8.

Cut Off The Lower Things

After telling them to seek the higher things of Christ and the heart of the Father in heaven, Paul then tells them to put to death or cut off the “lower things.”  When you read his list of these “lower things,” it is clear that he is not just talking about anything that has to do with the natural world here on earth.  Rather, he is talking about motivations of this life that are not of God (the higher), but are of our flesh (the lower).  Let me give an example.  A family is not in and of itself a higher or lower thing.  It just is.  However, the motivations behind my interactions with that family are of a higher or lower quality.  Even the giving of money to a charity can be done for base, lowly (read that fleshly) reasons.

These lowly motivations are not just “on the earth.”  It literally could be read that they are “centered upon” the earth.  They are lowly because these motivations are solely focused upon earthly reasons and ends without regard for The Maker of all things.

Another reason why they should cut off these lower things is because they are the very reason that God’s wrath is going to be poured out upon all the earth.  We must not fool ourselves.  The judgment of God is coming upon the earth, and precisely because of our sin.

Abortions, homosexuality, adultery, war, destruction of the earth, pride, atheism, false pretence, theft, anger...(the list is practically infinite), not only are sins against each other but they fly in the face of God.  Why would I continue to embrace what God has pledged to destroy?  Each true believer must seriously ask themselves this question and remember Lot’s wife.  Lot’s wife did not perish because no one loved her.  She perished because even when she knew it was being destroyed, she loved the things of this world.

Now in some ways, what Paul is saying sounds like regulations again.  Seek this, kill that.  But let’s recognize that the difference is in the word Relationship.  Regulations do not care about God and His heart.  It is not about a relationship other than slave to master.  However, God has called us into the relationship of a child with a father, or a wife with her husband.  In each case we will focus on certain actions and get rid of others, but, for very different reasons: the reasons of love.  Love embraces things and gives up others for the sake of relationship.  Christ is not coming to simply destroy those who eat pork or worship on the wrong day.  He is coming to destroy those who have rejected relationship with Him and have turned towards hurting others.  In the end, sin always hurts our self and others.

Without such a relationship with Jesus, we are powerless to follow Christ.  That is why Paul said in Colossians 2:23 [following man-made regulations] have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.  Many people who are strong at controlling the outward appearance of their flesh will find that God is not pleased.  (Do you remember the instructions Jesus gave about lust in our mind and heart and how it is the same as adultery in the flesh before God?)  When you understand the impact of that statement you will realize quickly how powerless you are without Jesus.

Put Off The Old Man Put On The New Man

In Colossians 3:9-10 Paul changes the metaphor of higher and lower and uses “old man,” “new man,” and getting dressed.  Here the new man seeks the higher things of Christ, whereas, the old man lived for the lower things.  Thus if you are going to follow Christ you need to strip off that old man and its lower motivations and put on the new man which is motivated by Christ himself.  If I truly turn from my old life towards a new life in Christ it will make an impact in my life.  This “clothing” is not merely new and better rules, but rather, a new focus, attitude, and source of power.

Paul says that the new man is renewed by knowledge.  Specifically, this is the knowledge that we have been given by Christ.  It is the Word of God and our knowledge of the true Gospel and God’s real judgments.  This will enable us to be renewed into the image of Jesus who is our pattern.  This is where our focus should be; the desire to be like Jesus, not because we will then be saved, but because he has saved us, out of love.

Final Thoughts

Our flesh does not want truth in this area.  Even when we turn to Christ our “Old Man” remains hostile to the things of God.  Just try to pray every morning before you go about your day and you will see how true this is.  Our flesh will either be unbalanced towards legalistic regulations of pride or it will be unbalanced towards “sloppy agape.” 

The truth has more tension in it then either of these two extremes.  Following Christ is filled with tensions that we are tempted to relieve in all the wrong ways.  Don’t run from the tension.  Rather relieve the tension by turning to God in prayer for strength and surrendering to His grace for peace.


Understnding Gospel II Audio