Ephesians 4:17-24 Part 2: 9 Strategies To Help Us Kill Sin

Part 2

Ephesians 4:17-24

9 Strategies to help us kill sin

  1. How can we put off our old self?

Last week we learned what not to do, who we are and what we are to do.

We are not to return to unbelieving ways. We have learned Christ. And we are to put off our old selves.

As we move into the application of putting off our old self, we need to understand that verse 22-24 is in the infinitive, and that indicates that verse 22-24 is describing what happens when one has truly learned Christ.

We’ve learned Christ, so we put off our old self.

We’ve learned Christ, so we are being renewed in our mind.

We’ve learned Christ, so we are putting on the new self.

In these things we are to be killing sin or sin will be killing us.

Our old selves belonged to our former manner of life. Our old selves are corrupt through deceitful desires.

So, how are we to put off the old self?

How are we to kill sin?

How are we to put to death the deeds of the body?

Before we get to the “how”, let me remind you of the why.

In studying the Old Testament, I always make it a point to tell students that the “indicative” (the mood of a verb that expresses a simple statement of fact) comes before the “imperative” and you can’t reverse the order.

We look at Exodus 20:1-3 and understand the statement of fact that Israel was God’s people through his election of them and atonement made in the Passover comes before the 10 commandments. In other words their identity was secured and due to their identity being what it was they were to act like what they were.

We have the same situation here.

Paul’s original teaching was cast in the indicative—in union with Christ your old sinful humanity was crucified, and you were raised to new-creation life (cf. Rom. 6; 2 Cor 5:17; Col. 2:11–12, and most obviously Col. 3:9–10, the direct parallel); but such indicatives imply corresponding imperatives (as here; cf. Rom. 6): we are responsible to live out with all seriousness and energy what God is doing in us (cf. Phil. 2:12–13). Failure to do so would precisely be to live in the ‘deceit’ (22) of the old creation rather than in ‘the truth’ of the new (24; cf. 21).[1]

So these strategies are not us pretending we are something we are not. These strategies are helps for us to act like what we are due to the justifying work of the cross. They are not means of becoming something we are not.

The indicative always comes before the imperative and the order can never be reversed.

  1. 9 Sin killing Strategies (adapted from John Owen)[2]
  2. Consider whether the sin you are contending with has any dangerous symptoms attending it.

If you are coming down with a cold, there are some symptoms that come on the front end. Sometimes you may have a fever. Sometimes you may have a scratchy throat. Then the full thing comes on you. If you pay attention to the symptoms you can take some measures to cut it off or shorten its assault on you.

This is the idea here. What symptoms come along with the sin you are seeking to kill?

Recognize these symptoms and log them and watch for them then get to work on the coming assault by taking the offensive against the sin by killing it’s spies.

  1. Get a clear and abiding sense upon your mind and conscience of the guilt, danger and evil of that sin.

You have to become convinced that sin is really evil and not a friendly. We can’t allow ourselves to believe that this sin is not really that bad.

The reality is that my sin put Jesus on the cross and it’s the grossest of evils. It may not even be the sin (not all sin is equal) as much as it is the object of my offense. And I’ve rebelled against the King of the universe.

  1. Load your conscience with the guilt of it.

2 Corinthians 7:10 “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret whereas worldly grief produces regret.”

John Owen is not talking about guilt that is the antithesis of Romans 8:1. He is not talking about condemnation. Owen is talking about 2 Corinthians 7:10 grief that leads to repentance.

It’s the kind of grief that hates sin and loves righteousness and seeks repentance because holiness is really better.

  1. Cultivate a constant longing for deliverance from the power of it.

Cultivate is the idea of planting a seed, fertilizing it, watering it, weeding around it and caring for it in order to receive the fruit of that seed planted.

Cultivating a longing for deliverance is to truly want the fruit of holiness and being rid of the disease of sin.

Plant holiness. Fertilize holiness. Water holiness. Weed out from around holiness choking weeds.

Don’t get comfortable with sin. Grow a longing for what it would be like to no longer be beset with that darn thing.

Imagine what it would be like to be free from that sin. Dream about freedom from that sin.

Pray for Father to liberate you from that sin: Ask, seek and knock until the good Father gives your fish and bread.

  1. Consider whether the sin is rooted in your nature and exacerbated by your temperament.

Really consider whether or not your sin is the result of the fact that you are just a jerk and your jerkiness is really producing the sin that causes the problem.

If your sin is that of lust, the objects of your lust may not be what needs to be dealt with as much as a temperament of dissatisfaction and lack of contentment.

If your temperament leads to sin, then attack your temperament with accountability in community and gladly receive correction from loving family who wants you to be in the kingdom.

  1. Consider what occasions and advantages your sin has taken to exert and put forth itself, and watch against them all.

Learn to take note of the weaknesses that the sin takes advantage of and shore up defenses.

If your problem is materialism and getting the newest thing drives all your labor to the exclusion of a passion for Christ and the discipline of self-denial and managing God’s resources for his kingdom, then take note of what exacerbates the desire to get something new. If it’s the constant visiting of your favorite sporting good store website, then have your wife or friend or someone block that site and check your internet history and take your credit card.

The occasion is the website. Have your browser set so that when you open a new tab that it goes to Desiring God or a sermon by Piper, like “Doing Missions When Dying is Gain.”

  1. Rise mightily against the first actings and conceptions of your sin

When the sin raises it’s ugly head, cut it off without any dialogue with it.

  1. Meditate in such a way that you are filled at all times with self-abasement and thoughts of your own vileness.

Don’t buy your own press. Let the biblical balance rule your own mind. The bible will call you a saint and it will call you a sinner. Believe that.

Realize that your sin is hated and an affront to God. Realize that Father loves you and counts you justified.

Wrestle with that tension. It’s healthy.

  1. Listen to what God says to your soul and do not speak peace to yourself before God speaks it, but hearken what he says to your soul.

Seek Father’s peace not your own psychological soothing. Father’s grace to bother your soul is life saving. Learn to discern, by the Spirit, the difference between satanic condemnation and a Spirit wrought eclipse of the soul to drive us to humility and repentance.

  1. What is happening as we are putting off the old self?
  1. Through putting off the old self we are being renewed in the spirit of our mind OR as we are renewed in our minds we put off the old self v. 23

Renewed here is in the infinitive and implies that putting off the old self is to be renewed.

Being renewed is not an additional command, but it is the reality revealed as one is putting off their old self.

1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us that we have the mind of Christ.

Here is the reality: we have the mind of Christ and yet our old self is corrupted with deceitful desires and if we are in Christ we put off the old self because we have the mind of Christ.

Because we are in Christ and because we put off the old self we discover that we have different thinking.

  1. We think like Christ
  2. We have the beliefs of Christ
  3. We have the passions/desires/ends of Christ

As we put off the old self we will discover immeasurable delight of having the thinking of Jesus.

We will begin to think Scripture brought to mind by the Spirit with holy and glorious applications in our present moment!

  1. Through putting off the old self we are putting on the new self that is in the likeness of God, truly right and holy v. 24

Putting on the new self is likewise in the infinitive and implies that in putting off the old self, because we have learned Christ, we are putting on the new self.

Putting on the new self is not an additional command, but it is what is happening as we put off the old self. Why? Because we are new creations that have the root of sin that remains, and by the Spirit we are constantly putting that sin to death so that the new creation can be dominant.

  1. The new self is created in the likeness of God

The image of God fully restored.

2. The new self is truly Righteous and Holy

As fully restored image bearers our righteousness is real and our holiness is real.

Our deeds are really right and our status as holy before the Lord is real.

In other words, as we put off the old self, the new creation we are is revealed as right and holy.

To say it another way: true righteousness and holiness puts off the old self so that the new creation will show itself as the work of King Jesus.

As we put off the old self we display the work and glory of Jesus!

To not put off the old self is to reject and cover up the glory of Jesus.

But, TRCC, we have learned Christ. So we put on the new self, we are renewed in our minds and we are putting off the old self, so we make much of Jesus.

Psalm 147:1 “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

[1] D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1240.

[2] John Owen, Mortification of Sin

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