Skip navigation

19. Put on the New Man

There are two ways in which we can obey this commandment of the Spirit through the Apostle Paul. The first way is how you and I approach it, convinced with all confidence and joy that Christ is our life, reaffirming in our own minds and hearts each day the incredible reality that His glorious presence sits enthroned within us at all times, that we are enveloped in all ways by Almighty God, and that He moves through us as a mighty river of life whether we "feel" it or not.

19. Put on the New Man 

© Daniel Yordy 2011
 

I received an inquiry from someone I had met briefly years ago. I remembered him vaguely and sent him a brief, but kind and welcoming reply, sharing just a bit about how God has led me the last few years.

In return I received a lengthy reply that forms the basis of this letter.

In that reply, the brother explained exactly how deceived I was when he had met me before, but now I was clearly much further into deception than I had ever been. He then went on to state that I twisted the Scriptures to suit my own ends, specifically what God says in Ephesians concerning putting off the old man.

That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

He pointed out that this is a present tense action and that since I believe that I am already dead, I am in disobedience to this command of God to put off the old man in the present moment. He stated that I was relying on “positional” truth and was twisting those Scriptures. He also stated that Paul said that the old man is the flesh. (Paul says no such thing.)

As I turned to the Lord Jesus after reading his reply, reaffirming His presence in my heart, putting off the “old man” and putting on the new, renewing myself in my own mind in the Spirit, as I do every day, He spoke a simple word to me. You see, I have the mind of Christ, as do you, and His thoughts are my thoughts.

He said, “Don’t worry about ___ ___, he’s entirely My problem.”

You know, my Savior is very capable at this business of salvation.

God has given me the picture of Nehemiah upon the wall, with his enemies trying to get him into the temple of God to “discuss truth.” God has not given me the ability or the calling to persuade anyone of anything. He has placed me where He wants me upon the wall, and He has said to me, “Son, build here, with your sword in one hand and your trowel in the other.”

But this accusation sits under my shell like a grain of sand, irritating me enormously. In the past it would have cast a shadow over me; that cannot happen anymore because it isn’t long before the Majesty and Glory of the One who fills my heart causes the shadows to flee as if they had never existed.

But it still aggravates me, and so I coat the irritation with the Lord Jesus Christ, and it still irritates, so I coat it again, and after awhile, I am left with a wonderful pearl and no remembrance of the irritation whatever.

I would like to share with you that pearl of abiding in Christ.

~~~

That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

In Ephesians, this statement of Paul’s is in present tense, something we continually do as believers in Christ. On the other hand, in Colossians, the same words are in present perfect tense which means that the action began at some point in the past, but continues into and is made complete in the present moment.

There are two ways in which we can obey this commandment of the Spirit through the Apostle Paul. The first way is how you and I approach it, convinced with all confidence and joy that Christ is our life, reaffirming in our own minds and hearts each day the incredible reality that His glorious presence sits enthroned within us at all times, that we are enveloped in all ways by Almighty God, and that He moves through us as a mighty river of life whether we “feel” it or not.

The second way is how most of Christianity has approached this commandment. I would like to get across to both you and me how evil this second approach is. It is so very familiar to me for I labored under it for many years.

There is a Greek myth retold by an existentialist philosopher of the mid-20th century, Albert Camus, called the myth of Sisyphus. Existentialism is the discovery by modern man that human life is indeed subject to vanity and is in itself pointless and absurd. Having removed God from their minds, they have also removed the reason why God subjected the creation to vanity – HOPE!

Sisyphus has been condemned by the gods to a particular punishment. He is bound by his nature to wrestle a large stone up a long, steep hill. He works and works, sweating and striving in every way to move the stone to the top of the hill. After great effort and much time he finally succeeds, but the moment he does so, the stone immediately rolls back down to the bottom. He cannot leave it alone; he is bound to go back down and push it up again. And so it goes forever and ever. All of his effort is pointless and absurd, yet he is bound to continue in it without hope of success.

This is exactly how most of Christianity and many Christians today view God and the gospel. This, really and truly, is the definition most Christians give to God and to salvation. This is why most of Christianity has been and is today a dark and cruel travesty – a death cult. You go to most any Baptist or Pentecostal church or most any other, and you lead the pastor through a series of questions, and you will discover that, bottom line, this is exactly how he views Ephesians 4:22-24 and the Gospel as it applies to our present life in this world. And this is why, separate from the New Testament, Christianity has concocted this wonderful idea that God never says, that the answer to all the absurdity and all of our pointless effort is to be found only after we “go to” heaven.

Yes, God says that you are dead, but this is only “positional,” they say. If you believe that it is true, you are deceived. You must “put off the old man” now, in the present tense. Only you never can. You must “put on Christ” now, in the present tense. Only you never can. If you think for one moment that you finally have “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ, you are obviously deceived. He is such a slippery fellow that the moment you get Him on, He slips immediately away and you have to start all over again. No one knows, really, what it means to have successfully “put on the new man,” nor what one would look like who actually did. They are convinced that it cannot be done, and that those who believe that they are, in fact, clothed with Christ, are liars and deceivers. Nevertheless, we are bound to “try” by the explicit command of the gospel.

The statement “positional truth” is, of course, a wonderfully clever way to call God a liar, convincing ourselves that we are astute Christians at the same time. I have heard some declare that God deliberately put these statements in the New Testament (such things as “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, only it’s not me, it’s Christ” or “our faith is made effective by the acknowledgment of all the good things of Christ inside of us,” and so on) for the sole purpose of tripping us up, to deceive us, to see if we will go for such an “easy” answer instead of “put off the old man right now, loser – you know that you haven’t.” That God, keeping us in all hopelessness like Sisyphus, then cuts us off from Himself the moment we do believe what He actually says. This man was simply taking the normal “Christian” way of thinking to its proper conclusions.

Let me use a parable to illustrate this same evil way of thinking.

~~~

Dan was excited! His best friend Jim, was getting married today and he had been chosen as the best man.  It would be such an honor to stand with Jim as his lovely bride came down the aisle to him.  However, Dan was just returning home from a hard, difficult day at work, and he was covered in grime and sweat; his clothes were a mess!  But Dan’s wife had already laid out the incredible tuxedo that Jim (quite a wealthy man) had purchased just for him.  Dan stripped off his dirty clothes and spent some time in the shower, scrubbing himself clean, from top to bottom.  

Dan got dressed. Wearing the tuxedo and new shoes that Jim had bought him, he looked like a new man.  Dan’s wife gave him a thorough going over, adjusting here and there, before giving her final approval. With great joy and excitement, they went together to the wedding.

Dan stood at the front of the sanctuary to the right of his friend, Jim. Dan’s heart was filled with pride and joy; what an honor, to stand here by Jim, sharing side by side the moment of his joy. The bride was just ready to make her way into the room.

But suddenly, Dan noticed the guests across the front row to the left of Jim. They were all familiar faces from Dan’s life, elders, deacons, pastors. They scowled, whispering to one another, their faces dark. Every now and then they glanced at Dan, with incrimination on their faces, then whispered some more.

Finally, just before the bride entered the hall, one of them stepped forward, his finger pointing at Dan. “Put off your old, dirty clothes, right now,” he commanded. “You know that your clothes are dirty and stained. You know you hid them in your laundry basket. God says put them off in the present tense, that means right now.”

Dan was momentarily stunned. He knew that he had put off the dirty clothes and had bathed himself thoroughly; he knew that his wife had given the final okay. But he also knew that, yes, he had put his dirty clothes in the laundry basket. They were there – where they were supposed to be! The problem Dan faced, though, was that these were all familiar faces and the words were all familiar words. He had heard those words for years, never really understanding them. He hesitated and looked down.

The elder stepped forward, more certain of himself now. “Dan, you know you’re not submissive, you do things your own way when no one is looking. You know that you’re the proudest man we have ever met. Your garments are filthy, take them off.”

“But,” Dan protested, “Look at this wonderful tuxedo that Jim gave me. I am clean.”

“It doesn’t count,” the elder replied. “It’s not really yours, it belongs to Jim, not you.”

Meanwhile Jim said nothing. He knew that the truth must come from Dan’s heart alone. Dan himself had to cast off this accusation that tied him to his former clothes. Yes, Dan did have to cast off those old clothes, just as he had done earlier that evening, but this time, he had to do it in the spirit of his mind.

For a moment only, Dan hesitated. This was all so familiar. But then he turned and looked at Jim. Certainly the present tuxedo had been purchased by Jim. But Jim had said, “This is yours, Dan,” when he had given it to him. But the tuxedo itself was utterly unimportant, as were the dirty clothes of the day. This was the moment of Jim’s triumph and Dan was with Jim and Jim was with Dan. Nothing else mattered.

Immediately, in the spirit of his mind, Dan cast off the old garments once again, the accusing voices vanished as if they had never existed, and the bride stepped down the aisle.

To Jim and Dan both, the garments of the past meant absolutely nothing. This precious woman, moving forward now towards Jim, meant everything.

~~~

When Paul said, “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind,” he was showing us the location of the present battle in which we are engaged. The cross has done its work. The old man is dead. I am already crucified with Christ.

But there is most certainly a “putting off” that continues in the present moment. That “putting off” happens in the spirit of our minds. Not mind only, but in the spirit of the mind.

The natural mind cannot engage in this “putting off.” But you and I are not natural minds. We have the mind of Christ.

I have blundered badly. My blundering has been brought to its end recently, and I have no real excuse. A week ago, when the full dawning of my denial and  failure came upon me, I tried, very, very hard, to pull the shadow of “loser” over my heart. It was a sobering, sad night that I spent, lying awake for most of it.

I couldn’t do it. I could not weave a house of darkness to fall under. In the morning I was as filled with joy and confidence as I have ever been, sober, maybe, but the sobriety of deep peace.

You see, I know Jesus. I know that He, the Person of Jesus, fills my heart. He fills all of me, my mind, my soul, my body, my spirit, my flesh. He is real.

I looked at Him, my Life, the only life I know, and all the darkness vanished.

I’m sorry, but I cannot feel bad about myself; all I can see is Jesus. Even in my mistakes, and I freely admit the mistakes, He carries all that I am.

You know, I am not really interested in an ambiguous “Christ.” It is not “the Christ” in me. Paul said in Romans 14, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” If you want Christ, you have to put up with Jesus.

He is a Person; He is alive, and He fills me full.

The view, that “putting off the old man and putting on the new” is nothing but an existentialist effort that never really happens and therefore must be continually attempted with no hope for success, fills the minds and thinking of almost all of our brethren. What a sad, sad place to live.

I could never understand, over the years, how on earth anyone was supposed to “die to self.” I heard one preacher once say, “I can tell you exactly how to walk in the Spirit. It’s easy. Just stop walking in the flesh!”

Wow! That’s it. How sensible.

And just what does it look like to have successfully “put on the new man,” in that manner. Here’s the rub. It will always look like the leading, most charismatic individuals in the group. Their particular personalities, anointed by God, are always held up as the example. The rest of us are just out of luck.

Through many years I lived under the charge that if I wanted to walk in the Spirit, I needed to get rid of that old man first, get rid of my flesh, die to self, etc., etc. In all those years, I had no idea how to do such a thing. It was sitting in the elder’s meetings, listening to their internal conversation, that it finally dawned on me. No one else had any idea either.

And, you know what, the brother who wrote to me saying that I was in complete error, that the truth is we must put off the old man now – that brother has no idea how to do it either. None.

But today, I know exactly how to put off the old man and put on the new. I do it daily, moment by moment in the spirit of my mind. I know the old man is dead – I know the absolute work of the cross and blood of Jesus. I understand that Satan and his demons are stark raving terrified of me and those like me who are coming into the knowledge of Jesus as He is in us. They throw all of their weapons against us, but those weapons are proving less and less effective.

I know that Christ is my life, that I have no other life.

So daily, moment by moment, as the press of life swirls around me, my thoughts turn often to Jesus, to the One who fills my heart, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Savior, the Creator of the universe, who sits enthroned in my heart, who is the only life I am. It is not a “garment” from Him that I wear. I am clothed with Christ Himself. There is nothing else and no other possibility.

And every time I am reminded of my own weakness and failure and mistakes, I turn my mind to Jesus. He is so great and He fills me full. He is my life. I am He living in this world. Jesus and I are one.

The “old man” once again vanishes into oblivion, and Christ reigns in me.

Sometimes I speak out loud what God says about me, but whether aloud or in my mind, I speak what God speaks and then I know that it is true because I know that God is true. He does not play mind games with us.

In this way, the “old man” is “put off” daily. Not in hopelessness and absurdity, but in absolute confidence and with all joy.

This is the gospel. We are becoming what we already are, we are acknowledging that which is already true, we are calling those things that “be not” as they really are.

I cannot emphasize how important this truth, this practice, this way of living and thinking is to us right now. It is our life.

Jesus gave a parable of a wedding feast in which one of the guests had remained clothed in his own garment. Jesus said, “Throw him out.” In the western world we do not understand the setting, but in the eastern world, this practice is still continued in traditional places.

When a wealthy man marries off his son, he invites the guests to his house for the wedding. When they arrive, they are met by a series of servants whose task it is to prepare the guests for the wedding. The servants wash the guest’s feet and then bring the garments already provided by the master. For each individual guest that was invited, the master had already provided the wedding garment and a servant, whose job it was to prepare that guest for the wedding.

There would be only two reasons that the guest showed up at the wedding without the proper garment on. The first is at least understandable – the guest decided he liked his own garments better than the master’s. But the second possible reason is insidious and awful.

The second reason a guest might show up without the proper garment on is if the servants themselves had convinced the guest that he had no right to that garment. That unless he himself took off his own clothes and himself put on the “new garment,” not the master’s “positional” garment, but his own “new” one – but a new garment that never stays on, but is always slipping off and having to be tracked down and put back on again. And those old clothes, never staying off, but always somehow, finding their sticky way back on. If the servants of the master had convinced the guest that this absurd unreality was the “truth of God,” then that would be a horror indeed.

And it is; it really is a horror.

But not to despair. Our Savior knows all about it, and He is very, very good at saving. It’s what He does best!