“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
Denying self is hard work!
When God revealed my four focus themes for this year (denying self, sacrifice, humility, and love), I knew I was in store for a bumpy ride. After all, I’ve mastered the art of self-focus. Giving in to my heart’s desires is my default setting, my natural tendency. It is where my thoughts, words, and actions flow when I’m not making a conscious effort to follow Christ.
Denying self, this act of humility and sacrifice, is the center of living a life in devotion to God. It encompasses everything!
Giving up my own desires for the sake of Christ or the sake of others should be a part of all I do. It requires a constant remembrance of Jesus’ command (Luke 9:23) and the knowledge of what actions must be part of it. Effort and determination are required. It will not happen just because I want it to.
Change is never easy, and I find this to be especially true in learning to be sacrificial. It stretches me beyond my comfort zone into the realm of discomfort and sometimes pain. But as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, this is my calling. Indeed, it is the calling of all of us who proclaim Him as Savior.
What does denying self look like?
It is described in Ephesians 4:22-24 as a three-step process. Something I like to call The POONAPON Principle. Why that name? Because it helps me remember the steps and, frankly, I just like the way it rolls off my tongue.
Ephesians 4:22-24 says: “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.”
The three steps are: (1) put off your old self (2) be made new in the attitude of your mind; and (3) put on the new self.
Oh, yes, the principle is simple enough. But putting it into practice? Not so much!
Let’s break it down into the different steps:
Step One: Put Off Old
First, we must identify what belongs to our old self and choose to stop doing those things.
But while we’d like to just say, “Stop it!”, and it be done, it doesn’t happen that way. We must make the determined effort to not do those things any longer. And then we must replace them with the right attitude and action.
Step Two: New Attitude
Once we recognize the old self, we must understand what we are striving for. What does being conformed to the image of Christ look like?
For this, we must go to God’s Word. God makes it clear how we are to live, what is right and wrong. We see God’s character in the person of Jesus Christ, and His very life and death teach us His ways.
Writing down or memorizing Scripture verses that speak to following Christ’s example and the ways of God can help us to change our thoughts, our mindset. The more we meditate on God’s Word, the more it will transform our thinking. We will come away with a new attitude—one centered on the ways of the Lord.
To complete this process, we must take action on what we have learned.
Step Three: Put On New
A void is made when we put off the old self. To avoid falling back into it, we must fill the void with the new self of living righteously. We have to make the effort to practice the ways of Christ so that we will in essence change our default setting—or at least be closer to it.
And let’s never forget that it can only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. We cannot do this on our own. God doesn’t ask us to. He gives us the sufficient grace to be successful! We must depend on His strength.
The POONAPON Principle. It’s that easy…It’s that hard.
We have our plan to follow, and now we need to get busy. Transformation awaits!
Do you struggle with this putting off the old and putting on the new? What ways have you found to help you to remember this biblical principle and follow it? Would you share them with us? Please leave a comment below.
Dearest Father, thank You for giving us a plan to follow in striving to become more like Your Son. Help us to put off the old self, to change the attitude of our minds to be filled with Your ways, and to put on the new self. May we not succumb to our weakness, but rely on Your strength. Transform us, O Lord, we pray. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
All Scripture from New International Version of the Bible, 1984.
Photo by Sabra Penley, 2011