This verbiage is found throughout the New Testament. This whole “old self vs. new self” thing is something I have always had a hard time figuring out how to apply to my own life. Frankly, I never really felt as though I had an “old self,” though I know that I do.
“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 attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” ~Ephesians 4: 22-24 (NIV)
I don’t remember ever being apart from God. I don’t have a moment in time which I can look back on and know, with certainty, that this was the moment I gave myself to Jesus.
I think I have finally figured it out, though.
My life as a Christian is one of constant battling the flesh and my own sinful desires. What I want to do, I don’t do, and what I hate, I do.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
~Romans 7:15-20 (NIV — emphasis mine)
It’s incredibly frustrating at times to have a heart which desires to live a sincerely and honestly upright life. A life where righteousness springs from genuineness, and not merely religious piety, pride, or a desire to look good to those around me.
Over the past several months, I have found myself drawn to a lot of Scriptures in this “old self vs. new self” theme, as well as “sinful nature vs. spiritual nature.” In these passages, I see great emphasis on righteousness, holiness, and living out a practical faith. Acting as sons of God instead of slaves to sin.
I began to get discouraged. Would I ever really be able to defeat my sinful nature?
Then, I began to see a theme within a theme:
“Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
~Romans 8:8-14 (NIV — emphasis mine)
The day I finally stopped fighting on my own and realized that I was free from sin was a great day! I am no longer a slave to sin, but a slave to Christ. I am no longer obligated to obey the desires of my sinful nature. Just because I struggle, doesn’t mean I have to give in.
That day, I started acting like a slave to Christ. Yes, I still act as though I’m a slave to sin at times, because I am not Jesus. I’m not perfect.
I am learning to forget what is behind, and press on with perseverance to what lies ahead — a glorified body, a union with Christ, and a true righteousness that comes from within me. That, of course, is not going to happen in this lifetime, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less real.
The reality of my future has motivated me to strive for it now. By striving, I actually mean giving up — I am no longer actually “trying.” Instead, I am surrendering. Putting myself to death, so that I will decrease, and Christ can increase in me. Emptying this broken-and-repaired vessel for the Holy Spirit to do his work. The work that will someday make me whole and complete, without spot, blemish, or crack.
No matter how I feel, or how I struggle, this fact remains: “…we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.”
If I am free, I am free in fact. Not just in theory.
And if I am free, in fact, then I have already won. Not by anything I could have done, but by proxy. It is Christ who has put sin to death in me, and raised me to life again. I wear his righteousness as a garment right now.
“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” ~Isaiah 61:10 (NIV)
So, my obligation is to Christ, to live up to the clothes he’s given me.
And, the last time I checked, his burden is easy and his yoke is light. All he asks of me is everything.
I don’t have to pick and choose and wonder if one portion of myself is more worthy of him than another. Nothing in me is worthy of him.
As weird as it may sound, that comforts me.
I am free from sin. Free to obey. I have an “old self” that has passed away. All of me has become new. That is a fact. A fact I cannot live up to unless I stop trying, and start surrendering to my new obligations: To love God, and to love others.
Doing those two things will enable me to live the sincerely and honestly upright life. A life where righteousness springs from genuineness, and not merely religious piety, pride, or a desire to look good to those around me.
It’s a paradox, but it is fact. I cannot love God or love others apart from Love living in me first. So, it’s no longer I who live, but Christ living in me.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” ~Galatians 2:20 (NIV — emphasis mine)
I think my brain just exploded. In a good way.
Grace & Peace,