Real Change From the Inside Out - Part 3

Ephesians 4:20-24

Tom Pennington  •  June 28, 2009
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This week, the news has been filled with tragedy. Fifty-year-old pop star Michael Jackson is dead. Died of unknown causes. Family and friends suspect, as you probably read, the abuse of prescription drugs had been involved. Apparently, this had been an ongoing struggle in his life on and off for most of his adult life. And, of course, there is the shadow cast by the lingering suspicions from the previous child abuse law suit; a tragic life in so many ways. And then there were the self-destructing actions of Mark Sanford, the South Carolina governor; head of the Republican governors associations on a track to make a bid for the White House in 2012, made a serious of decisions that were absolutely, completely foolish.

As I thought about those two lives and their self-destruction, I thought that really there are two lives on two different tracks and yet they share this in common. Both were in slavery to their own sin. Both were headed toward disaster with no internal capacity to change. Sadly, the same story is told everywhere, everyday. Because it's not just the superstars, it's not just the powerful political influences in our world, it's not just those men who wield power at high levels who struggle to change those sins that destroy their lives. It is a universal reality.

In fact as we've discovered from Ephesians 4, it is a self-evident truth that not one person can by his or her own efforts bring about real heart change from the inside out. That's the bad news, but here's the good news. Because of Jesus Christ and because of the gospel through the power of Christ, real change is possible. Real heart change. You can change at the heart level and that heart change will affect how you think, and how you act, and how you speak, and how you live. That's the message of Ephesians 4:20-24 that we're studying together.

I invite you to turn there with me again this morning as we complete our study of this wonderful paragraph, Ephesians 4. Let me remind you that, in verses 17-19, Paul talks about how we used to live, tells us not to live that way, and then verse 20, he makes this transition.

But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed, you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Paul's point in these five verses is that, if you are a true Christian, you have been taught not to live like the person you used to be, but to live instead like the new person you have become in Jesus Christ. These verses tell us why and how in theory to do that beginning in verse 25 and following. Paul shows us how to do it in practice.

Now these verses, verses 20-24, really give us crucial insights into this issue of real change. And we've studied it before, let me just review with you briefly to remind you of those insights that we've already seen from these verses. The first insight we saw is the reality of real change. He begins verse 20 by saying, 'you didn't learn Christ in this way.' In other words, you are different. We know that real heart change is possible, Paul says, because as Christians, it's already happened to us. It happened at the moment of salvation. We are not the people we used to be. And so that real change that happened in the past at a moment in time encourages us, reminds us that real change is possible in an ongoing way in our lives. So if you're a Christian, you know real change is possible because you've already seen it. You're not what you used to be even if you're not yet what you ought to be.

The second insight that we saw in this passage into real change is the cause of real change. How is this change possible? In verse 20, Paul says, 'you learned Christ.' That's it. You entered into a teacher-disciple relationship with Jesus Christ. He has the knowledge to teach you and the power to enable you because you learned Christ, you can change. He Himself is the cause and this new relationship that we have with Him.

Paul further explains what it means to learn Christ in two ways. Notice he says in verse 21, "you have heard Him." He's talking about when you first heard. That time when you were sitting and you heard the gospel and you really heard it for the first time. You really heard it and responded. You entered in at that point to that disciple relationship with Jesus Christ. And then he goes on to say, he adds verse 21, "we have been taught in Him." In other words, not only did we learn Christ at that initial moment we entered into that relationship with Him, became His disciple, but in an ongoing way we have continued to learn Christ through the process of systematic instruction in God's word.

Now our last time in this passage, we looked together at the third insight that Paul gives us into real change and that is the motivation for real change. Woven into this passage are some serious motivators to pursue real change. You should want to change because of these things. You should want to change because of the salvation we enjoy. You should want to change because of the new person we have become, the new body to which we belong. And the glory of God we reflect. Those are the reasons you should want to change and there are others, but those are the ones detailed in this passage. So that's where we've come so far.

Today, we come to the next major insight, the final insight into this issue of real change in this passage, and it's really the heart of the passage. I want us today to examine the process of real change. This is how real change actually happens in our lives. The process of how real change happens from the inside out. Now I want us to start by getting the big picture, by seeing the flow of the sentence, the structure of the Greek sentence. It's very important to understand this to really get what Paul is saying here.

Now, the controlling verb begins back up in verse 21, "you have been taught." Everything else flows out of that. You have been taught certain things. That Greek verb taught is followed by three infinitives in the Greek text that summarize what it is we've been taught by that systematic instruction after our salvation. Now these three infinitives are not immediately obvious in the English text so let me point them out to you. This is important so stay with me. We have been taught, verse 21, first infinitive comes in verse 22, "lay aside." The second infinitive comes in verse 23, "be renewed," and the third infinitive comes in verse 24, "put on." So those are the infinitives that we have been taught. So the structure of the sentence then is like this, here's what Paul is saying: You were taught through systematic instruction after your conversion to lay aside the old self, to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new self.

Now, theologians and Bible scholars are divided on the important question of whether these infinitives are commands, something we need to do, or whether they are statements of something that has already happened to us. Are they imperatives or are they indicatives? Well, grammatically, it's hard to tell. Daniel Wallace, the DTS Greek scholar, points out that in the Greek New Testament the structure here occurs some 150 times and, in every other case, there is an implied command to do something. But the grammar alone doesn't solve our problem. Paul could be saying one of two things. He could be saying, you have put off the old self, a report of what happened in the past. You were taught that you have put off the old self. Or he could be saying you have been taught that you should put off the old self.

Now it's true, if you're a Christian, you have put off the old self. We looked at that several weeks ago. At the moment of salvation, something amazing happens. In regeneration, the old you, the person that lived before that moment, dies. You, the old self, the old person with all of its sin that you used to be, dies and you become a new person in Jesus Christ. That's regeneration. That happened. There's no question about that. But I don't think that that's Paul main point in Ephesians 4. I think, as I've grappled with this text, what unlocks Paul's meaning here is understanding that he is mixing his metaphors. He's using two different metaphors. One is a change in the person, pictured as an old self and a new self. The other is a change in the clothing described in the words, "lay aside" and "put on."

When we came to Christ, our old self died and was buried. We were made a new person, that's regeneration. And because of that reality, Paul says we have been taught to lay aside the clothes that belonged to our old dead former self. And to put on the clothes that match our new self. So what are the clothes? What is it these clothes are describing? Clearly in context, the clothes are talking about the habits of thinking and behaving that were a part of our life before Christ. So then, here's the key. Stay with me, this is very important. There are two different images in this text, two different pictures that Paul mixes together. One of them is of the old man and the new man, the other picture is of old clothes and new clothes.

The first picture, the picture of old man and new man, speaks of the reality that has already been accomplished in our salvation in regeneration. The second picture, the picture of clothes, old clothes and new clothes, speaks to the need for ongoing action. Because you are a new person, take off the old clothes that belonged to the person you were. That is those habits of thinking and acting and put on the new clothes that are fitting to the new person that you are. Maybe, the best way to illustrate this is with a biblical illustration that it's not its primary point but I want you to see this, turn to John 11.

The point of this chapter is that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. That because He has the power of life and death, no one who believes in Him will ever face the permanent affects of death. And so in the context of that you remember He raises Lazarus. Lazarus becomes the picture of who Jesus is and what His power is. But there's a very interesting little interchange when he actually raises him, look at verse 43, when Jesus had prayed. "When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth." Now watch verse 44, "The man who had died." So there's no question Lazarus had actually died. "The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said (to him) to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." Lazarus had been dead and now Jesus has raised him from the dead physically but he was still dressed in those physical grave clothes. It's a very interesting picture. Because as I thought about that, I thought really that's an interesting picture. I don't think an intentional one by John, I'm not saying that, but I think it's an interesting picture of the way you and I who were spiritually dead have been raised from spiritual death. We are now alive. But it's as if like Lazarus, we're still standing there alive in the clothes that were a part of our death, a part of the person we used to be. Those habits of thinking and acting perfectly suited the person we used to be, but not anymore. So you and I must lay those clothes aside, the clothes that are part of the death, the grave, the person we used to be and we must put on the new clothes, new habits of thinking and behaving that are in keeping with our new life in Christ.

Now turn back to Ephesians 4. I think this is what Paul is telling us to do. He's saying you are a new person in Christ, take off the clothes that were a part of the person you used to be and put on the clothes that are in keeping with your new self. You see this even in the, first of all, the command in verse 17. We looked at this, Paul says, 'Here is a negative command; you must not walk any longer as the Gentiles walk. Stop living like that.' But then he comes to a positive command, I think, implied in the infinitives of verses 22-24.

Paul's language here is very similar to my, the kinds of language my parents used to use and probably your parents as well. If I got in trouble, and I shouldn't say if because it was a matter of when and how often, how many times a day. If I got in trouble, one of the first statements that I would hear from my mother, especially if she was really upset with me was something like this. "Your father and I have taught you to…" And fill in the blank whatever it was I had done, you know. "Your father and I have taught you to obey your teachers." Now, I'll admit to you that I'm not always the quickest to pick up on verbal cues, but I learned early that when my mom and dad said that I had been taught to do something, it was not merely a family history lesson. They weren't taking me on a stroll down memory lane. 'You have been taught to do this…' had in it an implied what? Command. Make changes in light of what we taught you.

I think that's exactly what Paul is doing here in Ephesians 2:22-24. He's reminding us of what we have been systematically taught as Christians in order to change our behavior. To bring our behavior in line with what we've been taught. So these verses then, I don't believe, are merely a statement of what happened in the past although that's wrapped throughout it, but they are a series of commands of what we must do in the process of sanctification. Now, now that we have that big picture and I hope you have the big picture of what's going on in the flow of this text. Paul's saying you were taught to do these three things. Do them. Make changes.

Now I want to go back and look at this process in greater detail. You want to change? Here's how. Here are the steps to real change from the inside out. Think about whatever it is you struggle with in your life, those sins that sort of dominate your mental and spiritual landscape. Here's how change is possible. Let's look at it together. Step number one: Lay aside the old self. Verse 22, notice what he says, "That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit." He begins by saying, verse 22, 'in reference to your former manner of life,' Paul is talking about those patterns and habits of your old life, described back in 4:17. Remember, he said, 'don't walk like you used to, you walked it with a futile mind, darkening your understanding, excluded from the life of God, ignorant of God and His ways. A hard heart, morally callous, given over to sensuality, practicing every kind of impurity with greediness.' He says, 'in reference to that former way of life, lay aside, put off the old self.

Now the Greek word that's translated lay aside here, literally means 'to put from.' To put from yourself. It was often used literally of taking off a piece of clothing. For example, in Leviticus 16, Aaron the high priest is described like this, "Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting, and take off," there's the in the Septuagint our word lay aside is this word take off, "take off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the holy place and shall leave them there." So it's used of literally taking off clothes. You see this in Acts 7. You remember at the end of the stoning of Stephen? It says that they decided to stone him after that wonderful sermon, they're convicted by it, they're reproached by it and so they decide to stone him and it says, "and they laid aside" there's our word, "their robes at the foot of a young man named Saul." The witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. So literally, it means to put off a piece of clothing and lay it aside.

Eventually, the word also came to be used as a picture, a metaphor for putting off some attitude or some behavior. And here we're told, verse 22, to lay aside to put off the old self, that's the person you used to be. We saw it in Romans 6. The old self that died the moment you came to faith in Christ. Put off the old self. In other words, don't just put off particular sins, but put off all that is connected to the old self. The old person you used to be before Christ, that life dominated by sin, put it off. Peter O'Brien in his commentary writes, "The readers' former way of life was earmarked for demolition. It's foolish to let it play any role in their lives. Let them instead live out the implications of that dramatic change which has taken place in them."

Turn over to the parallel passage in Colossians 3. Paul makes this point profoundly, verse 1, "If you have been raised up with Christ," If you died, your old self died, and you've been raised to new life in Christ, then act like it. Live like it. Verse 5,

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed, which amounts to idolatry. [It's] because of these things the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in these sins you once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: [There's our Greek word, 'lay them aside'] anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Don't lie to one another, [Why?] since you [have] laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-

In other words, Paul's point is this, your old self is dead. You laid that old self aside when you came to Christ and you put on the new life in Christ, so put off the clothes he used to wear. He's dead. Get rid of his clothes. Lay aside all that remains of the old life – its thinking, its desires, its self will, its sinful habits. Lay it aside. Take those things off as you would take off a piece of clothing and lay it aside.

This is a frequent command by the way of us in the New Testament. In Romans 13:12, Paul says, "The night is almost gone, the day is near. [The day of Christ's return.] Therefore let us lay aside [let us put off] the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light." In James 1, we studied this when we worked through this wonderful letter of James to the tribes that were scattered abroad. In James 1:21, "Therefore, putting aside [There's our same word. Laying aside, putting off as a piece of clothing.] all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls." 1 Peter 2:1-2, "Therefore," Peter says, "putting aside [putting off, laying aside as a garment] all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow by it." So this is a frequent command of us. Lay aside the clothes that were a part of your former self. Those behaviors and attitudes and habits. Lay them aside.

Now, notice back in Ephesians 4:22 how Paul describes the old person we used to be. He says that old self is being corrupted in accordance with lusts of deceit. The old person I was is dead and is being corrupted. Maybe a better translation would be 'is decaying.' The old person is decaying and that old way of life was characterized, notice how he ends that verse, by lusts of deceit. A better translation might be 'cravings that deceive.' If you doubt that the cravings of our fallen-ness deceive us, ask the governor of South Carolina. He craved what he thought would bring him satisfaction, and joy, and delight, and it deceived him. It was a bait and switch and that's true of everything connected to the old life that used to be ours.

So if you want to grow spiritually, Paul says, you must take off those old habits of thinking, and acting, and lay them aside. You have to stop doing them. You say, "Well, I've tried that before and it doesn't work." Well, if all you do is this first step, then they'll come back, because there are two other steps here. This is only one of three steps to real change. But you have to do this one, you have to lay aside those clothes that are part of the old person you used to be.

Step number two, be renewed in the spirit of your mind, verse 23. Literally, it's in the present tense so it's kind of awkward in English, but it's something like this. You have been taught to go on being renewed. You have been taught to be being renewed. It's a continuous process, this renewal. You have been taught to be continually being renewed. Now there's something else important about this command. Notice the language, "lay aside" in verse 22, and "put off" in verse 24 are our actions. I am to lay aside. I am to put on. But "be renewed" is passive. I don't do the renewing. This is what theologians call a divine passive; it means God's doing this. God does the renewing through His Holy Spirit. It's passive and yet even though it's passive, even though it's something God does, it's a command to us. Be renewed. How can that be? If we can't renew ourselves, why are we told to be renewed?

Well, the clear implication here is that only God can do the renewing, but you and I can either hinder that process or we can promote and encourage it. Paul is telling us to facilitate the process of renewal that the Spirit wants to do within us. We'll talk about how in just a moment. But notice what is renewed, verse 23, be renewed in the spirit of your mind. The spirit of your mind is the way you think. It's the disposition of your mind. Think of it like this, the spirit of your mind is the grid through which you see and interpret everything. That's the spirit of your mind. It's the grid through which you see and interpret everything. So the renewal Paul is talking about produces a total transformation in our thinking.

You remember what Paul says in Romans 12:2. There he says what? Don't be conformed to this world. Literally, what he says is, don't allow the mindset of the age to push you into its mold. Don't let the thinking of the age push you into its mold and way of thinking. Instead, be transformed, literally the Greek word is the word from which we get the English word "metamorphosis." Be metamorphosed through the renewing of your mind. Be radically transformed in your thinking, instead of being shaped by the mindset of the age.

But be renewed or transformed in our thinking in what sense? It means to be completely reshaped in how we perceive everything, the spirit of our mind. Be renewed in the grid through which you see and interpret everything in life. We're talking about, not some outward change, we're not talking about some change in your behavior. We're talking about an inward change in which outward actions follow. Charles Hodge the great American theologian put it like this. "Sanctification in its essential nature," you want to get to the heart of sanctification, here it is, "It's not holy acts, but such a change in the state of the soul that sinful acts become more infrequent and holy acts, more and more habitual and controlling." That's sanctification. It starts from the inside. It's a change in your mind and your thinking so that your whole perception of life and reality is different and that changes your actions eventually.

So how does this renewing of my mind, this change in the grid through which I see everything happen? You know the answer to this. It's through the Word of God. You remember that High Priestly prayer, John 17. I go there often for it's such a rich passage. But in John 17, Jesus on the night before His crucifixion is praying and it's recorded for us. The longest prayer of our Lord that's recorded in all of Scripture, John 17. And in that prayer He prays this, for His disciples and then later He makes it clear He's praying for us as well. He says, 'for all those who believe through Your Word.' That's us. And He says this, "Sanctify them [make them progressively holy by means of] the truth, Your word is truth." Jesus is saying, 'Father, all of those who believe through the word of the apostles, I want You to make them holy and I want You to do it by means of the truth, and by truth, I mean the Word of God.'

So there's no secret, the renewed mind is one that is saturated with and controlled by the Word of God. Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you." You see the Holy Spirit renews our mind through consistent reading and study and meditation on the Scripture. How can you facilitate the renewal of the Holy Spirit? Well, what does He use to renew you? The Word of God. So you can facilitate the renewal that only the Spirit can do by consistent exposure to the Word of God. Read it, study it, meditate on it, listen to it taught, pray it, sing it. This is so important, folks, because renewing of the mind is the hinge on which real change takes place. Without this work of the Spirit called renewing of the mind, putting off and putting on is nothing more than behavior modification. It's not different than what unbelievers do every day when they try to change their external behavior. It's changing the outside, it's rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. That's why Christ prays, 'Sanctify them through the truth' because the Holy Spirit takes the truth, as we take in the truth, the Holy Spirit takes the truth and He changes our thinking. He renews the grid through which we see life and ourselves and sin and God. And it's only as our thinking has changed through the truth that real change happens.

Now, there's one more step in the process of real change. Not only must we put off the old self, that is the clothes that belonged to the old person that we were. Not only must we allow the Spirit to renew our minds through the Word of God, but the third step in the process found in verse 24, 'put on the new self.' The Greek word for 'put on' is a word that is always used for putting on clothes. It means to dress yourself. It means then, metaphorically, to think and act in a way in keeping with our new selves. Put the right clothes on the new person you are. As we put off the old thinking and behaviors, allow the Spirit to change our way of thinking, we need to begin to practice new patterns of thinking and acting. Patterns in keeping with the new person that we have become.

What's that new person like? Look at verse 24, "in the likeness of God [it] has been created." It's a life patterned after God Himself. We are to act like God would act. Paul goes on to say it's been "created in righteousness and holiness." Righteousness describes how we treat others, according to God's standard. Holiness speaks of reverence and fear toward God. This is how that new self looks. Paul adds at the end of verse 24, "the righteousness and holiness of the truth." These virtues come from the truth where the cravings that were a part of our old life come out of deception.

So how exactly do we put on these clothes? We're told to put on the clothes that belong to the new self. Put on the new self in the sense of put on those things that reflect our new person in Christ. How do we put on the clothes that belong to the new man? You ready for this? By applying and obeying the truth. Lloyd-Jones writes very perceptively, "The whole matter of putting on the new man is in essence the application of truth to ourselves. It is the most important thing that one can ever discover in the Christian life. We must talk to ourselves, we must preach to ourselves, we must take the truth and apply it to ourselves and keep on doing so." That's what it means to put on. It means to see what we ought to be and to seek to apply that truth to ourselves.

So then, Ephesians 4:22-24 summarizes the process of real change. Lay aside the clothes that belong to the person you used to be, be renewed in how you think by the Spirit using the Word of God, and put on the clothes that belong on the new person that you are. Now verse 25 and following, Paul illustrates what this looks like in real life. He's given us the theory, now let's see what it really looks like when the rubber meets the road.

Look at his first example in verse 25. It's lying. Maybe you struggle with lying. Here's how you can change. Really change. First of all, you have to lay aside. Notice he begins, "laying aside falsehood." You have to stop lying. But you don't just stop lying, there are two other steps in the process. Secondly, you have to be renewed in the context of verse 25, you have to have your thinking changed to realize that we are members of one another. When you lie to someone else, it's as if one member of your body is lying to another member of your body. It's illogical. It's hurtful. It's absolutely out of keeping with who we are in Christ. So change your thinking, the Scripture changes your thinking, it renews how you think about lying and about the person you are talking to when you lie and all of those things.

And then you have to put on. What do you put on in verse 25? "Laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor." This is the crucial part of sanctification. You have to put on the positive behavior. Because a liar who is not lying right now is what? Still a liar. So how can we ever be truly changed? When does a liar stop being a liar? When he becomes something else. When he becomes known for telling the truth. This is the principle, folks, of replacement and this is absolutely crucial in the process of sanctification. The only way to put off the old sins of the old life is to get into the Word of God and let the Holy Spirit renew your thinking, help you identify the virtues that you should put on.

This is absolutely crucial. If you miss everything else I say today, don't miss this. Every vice that you struggle with has a corresponding virtue that should be put on its place and, if you want to put off the vice, you must identify the opposite virtue and put it on. You must replace the vice with its opposite virtue. Put off and put on. I think this is even clearer in the example in verse 28, the example of stealing. If you struggle with stealing, what do you do? If you're tempted to shoplift or whatever it is, what do you do? Verse 28, "He who steals must steal no longer;" Put off that that doesn't belong on the new person you are and be renewed in your thinking. And here what he tells us, there're a lot of things about stealing in other places in Scripture, but here he tells us that part of the reason to labor is not only so that you can provide for your own, but so that you can share with those who have need. A thief who isn't currently stealing is still a thief. He must put on the positive virtue. What's a thief to put on? When is a thief not a thief? When instead of taking from others, he gets a job. He labors so that he can support his own family and he can be generous with others. You will stop stealing, if you struggle with stealing, when you become a person who is generous with others.

Now, maybe your sinful propensities aren't lying and stealing, but the process works the same. So let me give you very practical advice. Here's what I would encourage you to do. Number one, identify the sins you need to put off. Think about it. Make a list, if a mental list or maybe later this afternoon, an actual list. What are the sin struggles you need to put off, that you know of, that are sort of recurring themes in your life. And use Biblical language okay, don't wimp out with, you know, non-Biblical terms. "Well, I struggle with frustration." No, it's anger, okay. You didn't as Mark Sanford said this week, "create a fiction." You lied. Don't cover it up with non-Biblical language. What is the sin in Biblical terms that you need to put off?

And by the way, don't just deal with the external sin, deal with the internal cause. So if you're struggling, for example, with lying, don't just put lying then ask your self why do I lie? What is the sin in my heart that causes me to lie? For example, Abraham lied. What was the sin in his heart that caused him to lie? Fear. He was afraid of what would happen if he said that Sarah was his wife. Ananias lied, but he didn't lie for the same reason. Why did Ananias lie? Pride. He wanted everybody in the church to think he was really generous. He gave everything from the property he sold. So if you're going to write down the sin of lying, then ask yourself, "What is in my heart? What sin in my heart, sinful thinking pattern, is pushing me and driving into that sin?" Maybe it's pride, maybe it's fear, maybe it's something else.

Number two. You've made your list now, okay. Number two, identify the opposite Biblical virtue. For each of those sins, ask yourself in the Scripture what is the opposite virtue of that sin I struggle with? Here, it's clear. Lying – tell the truth. Stealing – being working and being generous with others. Lust – gratitude. Instead of craving what you don't have, being grateful for what God has done and given you. And on and on the list could go. Whatever your sins are, make that list and then what are the corresponding Biblical virtues.

Number three, study what the Scripture says about both the sin and the corresponding virtue. Meditate on what you learn. This is the process in which the Spirit will change the grid through which you think. As you think on the Scripture, as you think about the sin, and what you've studied in the Scripture about it, as you think about the opposite virtue, you should be putting on and what the Scripture says about it, the Spirit begins to change your thinking. The grid through which you see yourself and your sin and life itself. All of a sudden what wasn't important to you before, becomes important to you. And all of a sudden, the thing that you didn't think was really that bad becomes a huge sin before God. The Spirit is renewing your mind.

Number four, just a practical one, do some homework. Keep a journal for two or three weeks, detailing when you sin in those areas, and why, what's going on. Paul David Tripp encourages us in his book, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, to answer five questions about each time you sin and those patterns of sin. Ask yourself these questions. What happened? What did you feel? What were you thinking at the time? What did you want? What was it you desired by pursuing that? And what did you do? And analyze it. Look for trends, look for patterns, unbiblical goals, unbiblical thinking, unbiblical emotions, unbiblical actions.

Number five, create a plan to put off and put on. Create a plan to put off those sinful habits and to put on virtuous habits. In other words, come up with a way to expend some effort to do something to make that happen in your life. You cannot change yourself, but are you ready for this? God will not change you unless you expend some effort. If you're sitting there waiting for God to zap you, you say listen this is way too hard I'm just going to go home this afternoon I'm going to find a quiet place and say, "God change me." And then when God doesn't change you, you blame God because He hasn't. It's not God's fault. He's told you the process. He's not going to zap you. There is no pixie dust God's going to sprinkle over you or that I can sprinkle over you that's going to change you. This is the process for change. Real change. You want change, this is how it comes.

You can't change yourself but as you and I pursue obedience in the path that Paul has laid out here, God does what we can't do. As we expend the effort, as we struggle to obey, God changes us at the heart level. I've seen it in my own life. I know many of you have seen it in yours. A decreasing pattern of sin and an increasing pattern of righteousness. God can do that. God does it by means of the truth, the Word of God. He convicts us, identifies our sin, the Spirit uses the Word to renew our minds, the Spirit teaches us about the virtues that ought to replace our sinful habits.

Lloyd-Jones again, writing very insightfully, says, "What happens in sanctification is that God takes this truth, this Word of His and by the Holy Spirit opens our understanding of it and enables us to apprehend it. So that after we have received the truth and apprehended it, we then proceed to apply it to ourselves and the whole time God is enabling us to do that." In other words, you and I work. We work hard. We identify the sin. We study the Scripture. We think about it. We meditate on it. We come up with a plan to try to put on these new virtues that ought to be in our life. And as we pursue the path of obedience, God does what you and I could never do, He changes our hearts. That's the process to real change and you will never get there any other way. This is God's plan. Let's pray together.

Our Father, forgive us for our laziness. Forgive us for blaming You that we still struggle with sin, when we haven't even bothered to expend the effort. Father, I pray that You would give us the resolve to pursue the path of obedience. Give us a commitment to become the people You want us to be. Father help us to endeavor with all of our strength, depending on Your Spirit to put off those sins that are a part of who we used to be. To let the Spirit renew our thinking through constant exposure to the Word of God. And then, Father, to endeavor to put on the virtues that ought to be in our lives in place of sins. And Father, thank You that You will keep us very dependant in that process because with all of that effort we can never produce real change. Only You can do that. But God, we ask that You would be faithful to Your Word and as we expend the effort, would You produce the change? Lord, may we honor You by the lives we live. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.