What Parts of Myself Should I Put Off as a Christian?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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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

In yesterday's reflection, we wondered if, when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we must change everything about our lives. The context of Ephesians 4:22 suggests that this is not the case. Rather, we are to put off everything in our lives that is inconsistent with Jesus Christ: his life, his teachings, and the gospel centered in his death and resurrection.

Ephesians 4:22 offers another way of thinking about what in our lives we must put away as we seek to follow Jesus. The verse reads, "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." Notice that the old self, more literally, the "old man," is "being corrupted by its deceitful desires." This description helps us to know what parts of our pre-Christian life should be put away.

But, of course, this raises another question. What parts of our lives are being corrupted by deceitful desires? What does this mean?

Paul's reference to "deceitful desires" implies that some desires are good. Some of these may well have been ours prior to Christ. A desire to know God, for example, that motivates many to come to Christ in the first place is surely to be nurtured in the life of the believer. Moreover, the word translated here as "desires" (epithumia in Greek) is used in the New Testament in positive ways: Jesus desired to eat the Passover with his disciples (Luke 22:15); Paul had the desire to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23). So, that which corrupts us isn't desire itself, but rather "deceitful desires."

What are these? A deceitful desire involves some kind of deception or trickery. For example, a deceitful desire might promise some happy result, but fail to deliver. I might believe that if I only achieve a certain level of professional success, I will be fully happy. But when I meet my goal, I still feel unfulfilled. My desire for success deceived me. Beneath the deceit that motivated me was falsehood. I believed that success at work was the ultimate source of happiness, but this was wrong. I expect you can think of all sorts of desires that are deceitful in this way, such as: I long for sexual intimacy outside of marriage because then I will be truly loved; I desire to be famous because then I will feel truly good about myself; etc. (Tomorrow, I'll share a story from my own life about a deceitful desire that once governed me.)

Where does this leave us? The "old man" we are to strip off as Christians is governed and corrupted by deceitful desires, that is, by desires that are dirty tricks because they are based on falsehood, rather than "the truth that is in Jesus" (4:21). Ephesians 4:22 invites us to examine our lives, our motivations, our desires. I encourage you to consider the following questions.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Can you think of desires you have had in the past that were deceitful, that were based on falsehood? How were you able to "put off" those desires? How much of what you do now is driven by deceitful desires? How many of your motivations are based on lies, perhaps even on claims you know to be false? Which desires might the Lord help you to strip off now?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for helping me to set aside my deceitful desires. Crafty cravings that once consumed me no longer have power over my life. Thank you, Lord, for the freedom that comes from your grace and truth.

Yet, as you know, I'm not through with deceitful desires. I continue to be motivated by longings that will not fulfill me because they are not based on the truth that is in Jesus. Help me, Lord, to see through the deception. Help me to see and yearn for the truth. By your grace, may I put off all of my "old man," so that I might live fully in the new life you offer to me. Amen.


The Local Church Equipping Us in Our Vocations

Do you hope to inspire your church to help people glorify God in their daily work? Then our series The Local Church Equipping Us in Our Vocations is for you. If you or someone you know needs encouragement along these lines, join us on The High Calling.

Image by Juhan Sonin. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.