So far we’ve seen that God, through the Gospel, has promised to remedy what the fall did to our being. Our spirits are brought to life (Ephesians 2:1), our bodies are promised a resurrection, and the damage to our souls begins to be restored through the work of His Spirit and Word.
Last time we looked at some passages of scripture that show us what has happened to our mind. We are described as foolish, blinded, and darkened. Our ability to understand truth has been compromised to such a degree that the natural man does not receive the things related to the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Our will has been damaged in the sense that we don’t will the right things. People are always arguing over free will. In one sense the fallen will is perfectly free in the sense that it can choose whatever it wants. The problem is it doesn’t want the right things. Until the will is repaired by a sovereign act of God and provided with the right motivation to choose rightly, the will is in bondage to its own fallen motivations.
Emotions have also been damaged by the fall. Godly emotions are listed for us as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Because of the fall these have been lost to the natural or soulish man. The natural man is pulled downward by his own natural fleshly tendencies which are described for us in Galatians 5:19-21 as the deeds of the flesh. Even after we have trusted Christ, the old habits and patterns imprinted in our emotions keep surfacing and this sets in motion the battle between the flesh and spirit.
For example, as we have grown up in our homes, we did not always respond in healthy ways to what is going on around us. The people around us are also fallen and so their decisions and their emotional state affects our own. So as we grow we develop habits and ways of thinking and reacting that may not be helpful to us. We won’t realize it, but events in life create unhealthy dependencies, bad habits, poor judgment and emotional scars. Because our thinking is also damaged, we may not be able to see what is happening and take corrective measures.
However, when we trust Jesus Christ for salvation, He begins a renewing work in our lives. This is called Sanctification. It is the process of making us more and more like Jesus who, since He is God, has perfect thinking, perfect emotions and perfect motivation for the decisions of His will.
This process is not an instantaneous one. It takes time. We first need to learn to be skeptical of our thinking. I read the other day someone wrote that we should not believe everything we think. Our minds need to be renewed (Romans 12:2). This occurs when we take the time to meditate on the Word of God, the Bible. The Bible says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:1–3, NKJV)
So this is an important process. As you do this, you begin to recognize your habits, ways of thinking and reacting and attitudes that are not right and healthy. As God continues to work in your life, He will help you see that you need to put off what the Bible calls the “old man.” These are all of the old ways that are sinful and damaging and therefore not healthy for you emotionally, spiritually and relationally. Along with putting off the deeds of the “old man” should be the process of putting on the new ways of thinking and behaving, the deeds of the “new man” or the deeds of the Spirit. That means agreeing in your mind that what God says is true no matter what you may feel, and then behaving accordingly. Acknowledging the truth should come first, then faith in that truth which involves acting on it and then allow the feelings follow after. Most of us make the mistake of allowing our feelings to be the engine that drives the train. Let truth be the engine and let feelings be the caboose.
Let’s try a practical example. Let’s suppose that the children are having a bad morning and there is a lot of screaming and arguing going on. You feel like you are not going to be able to handle another minute of this. You are tempted to scream back at them, maybe even throw things yourself. But you have been meditating on scripture and most recently the passage that reads: “No temptation (or trial or test) has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NKJV).
Accepting this verse as the truth, you recognize that this is not a test greater than you can handle. So you take that truth and you believe it, you trust it and you act on it. “I guess I can handle this after all!” you say to yourself. Now you consciously set aside your anger, impatience, and whatever other sinful attitudes and actions you feel coming on. You do this because you recognize that these attitudes are not from the born-again you. They are part of the system of responses that the natural you has developed over time. You consciously set them aside. Then with God’s help you replace them with God’s peace, love, patience, longsuffering, etc. Depending on what the children have done there might be the need for specific discipline, but it should be motivated by the holy character of God and not by frustration and anger.
Now I realize it is not as simple as one short paragraph. But this is the idea of what needs to take place in our lives. It needs to be practiced moment by moment throughout the day. If I’m late for work and a traffic light turns red, I feel impatience coming on. So I reject the impatience based on the truth that God is at work on the day’s schedule for me. Then I consciously take patience in its place. I think one of the best summary passages for this process is the following:
“As the truth is in Jesus, 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 4:21b–24, NKJV).