We started our expedition 6 am. Trains took us to Dover and a very rough sea crossing. By evening we were in Paris and then we spent a sleepless night standing in the corridor of a French “sleeper” train which didn’t have any seats. At 6 pm we arrived in the French Alps and so began a 3 week Trek in Moutiers in France to Aosta in Italy up and down several mountains including 13,323 feet up Gran Paradiso which is the highest mountain in Italy. We walked more than 200 miles with rucksacks weighing half a hundredweight full of tents, stoves, food and clothes. When the sun shone the temperature was in the 80s. When the sun wasn’t shining it was raining. At night and at altitudes above 2000 feet it was snowing. We had none of the conveniences you might expect at modern campsites because there weren’t campsites. We just stopped overnight where we could find a piece of level ground near an icy mountain stream. It was the most memorable holiday of my life even though it happened more than 40 years ago.
Three weeks later we arrived home and our families didn’t recognise us. Stepping into a warm bath to wash away three weeks of mud and grime was one of the happiest moments of my life! Hot water and soap! Feeling clean at last! And of course then when I got dressed, I didn’t just climb back into all the clothes I had been wearing for three weeks. That would have been stupid! To get really clean but then put on those filthy damp clothes again. Of course, I put on clean fresh dry clothes. Because you just don’t return to civilisation but then carry on wearing the same clothes you wore hiking across the Alps. That wouldn’t be at all appropriate. It’s just not done!
But, Paul says to the Ephesians, that is a picture of exactly what Christians are doing if we live our lives after we become Christians in the same sinful ways as we did before we were saved!
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; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
For Paul, becoming a Christian and beginning the Christian life is just like throwing off an old set of filthy tatty rags and putting on a brand new spotless suit.
We have taken off our old self – we throw away our old life and our old sinful human nature when we come to Christ as Saviour and Lord. We throw off our old deceitful desires. We let God make us anew in our thinking and our attitudes. And we need to put on the new self – as Christ cleanses us all our sins are forgiven and we receive a brand new life to live, a new nature, a new self.
That new self, Paul says, is created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness
24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (NLT)
Throwing off the old – putting on the new. But how do we do that? We begin by turning our back on what our lives used to be like.
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are 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. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
Here Paul is saying that one aspect of human sin is ignorance. Since Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, human beings have not known God. Their thinking is futile. They are hopelessly confused, empty headed, mindless. This ignorance separates people from God. As a result they descend into all kinds of sins of immorality and greed.
When people are saved, they need to learn how to live a new life. The route out of ignorance is teaching. It’s as if we have to go back to school and learn all over again how to live. Christ is the teacher and Christ is the school and the truth that is in Jesus is the lesson we must learn.
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 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; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
We need to learn to put off our old self and put on our new self. So we have a list of aspects of life we need to take off and throw away.
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body.
We need to be completely honest with each other. Truth is vital. And we need to get rid of anger.
26 ‘In your anger do not sin’: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
We should never be stealing or dishonest in any way.
28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
And the things we say matter as much as the things we do.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
When we are saved God puts His Holy Spirit inside us, the seal of our salvation and the deposit and guarantee, the first installment of heaven. The Holy Spirit releases the power which raised Jesus from the dead into our own lives. Sin in any form saddens the Holy Spirit.
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
So like a suit of old tatty clothes we must throw off all kinds of sin.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
That is the old life we need to put off. And Paul goes on describe the new life we should put on: the new nature which is created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. We are called to become like God himself. And of course, God is love so we should demonstrate God’s kind of love in our lives.
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another,
An essential part of loving other people is forgiving them.
forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
In every aspect of our new life, God is our example.
5 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love,
Our new life of love is all about living as God’s children. In the Disney film The Lion King, the new king Simba is scared and wracked with doubts. In a memorable scene the ghost of his father Mufasa appears to him to encourage him and says this. “You have forgotten who you are. … Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true King. Remember who you are.” The secret of putting on our new nature and living our new life is simply to remember who we are. Sons and daughters of the Living God. Remember who you are.
In fact, as if it wasn’t completely obvious, we should be following the example of Jesus Christ. Our new nature is to be like Christ. Jesus is our example in everything.
2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
So we must learn Christ. Be like Jesus.
MESSAGE we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.
Be like Jesus. Put off the old nature. Put on your new nature!