Over the last two months, we have been exploring the practical application of how we “put off” the flesh and “put on” Christ. The Scripture that explains this cleansing process is Ephesians 4:22-24, 31, which instructs us to “put off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
Again, what does this really mean?
It means we must acknowledge, confess and repent of our sin and self, change our mind about following what they are telling us to do and then, ask the Spirit of God to permeate the situation. This inner cleansing is essential. It’s the “key” to our Christian walk. Without this sanctification (cleansing), God’s Life in us will be quenched in our hearts and unable to come forth.
Remember Psalm 24:3-4: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His Holy Place? He who hath clean hands, and a pure heart, who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.”
How we cleanse our hands and develop a pure heart can be patterned after the three steps the priests took-in the Inner Court of Solomon’s Temple-in order to deal with their sin and be reconciled to God. This is the blueprint God has laid out in Scripture for us to be cleansed and then, filled with the Spirit.
We talked last month about the first two steps of this process: 1) recognizing and acknowledging our negative thoughts and emotions and then, 2) confessing and repenting of them (these two steps occurred at the Lavers of Bronze in the Inner Court of Solomon’s Temple). This month, we want to continue to explore this cleansing process by understanding the last two steps.
3) Once God has revealed our ungodly thoughts and emotions and we have confessed our responsibility in them, the third essential step is that we must give everything that is not of faith over to Him. God will not violate our free will by forcibly taking these things from us; we must willingly sacrifice and choose to hand them over to Him. This is the “putting off” that Ephesians talks about.
Romans 12:1 tells us that God wants us to give to Him-to sacrifice to Him-everything in us that is not of faith, so that it can be purged and cleansed by His blood. This is exactly what the priests did at the Brazen Altar as they sacrificed their offerings to the Lord. 2 Chronicles 7:1 gives us a vivid picture of just what happened: “Now when Solomon had made an end to praying, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house.”
Being a living sacrifice means offering God the best of what we have to offer-ourselves! His Word tells us that offerings like this rise to Him as sweet smelling savor. (Exodus 29:18, 25)
This sweet savor was the difference between Cain and Abel’s offering. Abel followed God’s instructions and his sweet smelling sacrifice was accepted. Cain, on the other hand, didn’t obey God’s prescribed order and, thus, his offering was rejected. It had no sweet aroma.
Most of the things that we give to the Lord are “of the flesh” and we’ll experience them gone in a few days, if we are faithful to go through these three cleansing steps. However, some of the things that the Lord might expose could be long-standing strongholds of the enemy and he won’t let these kinds of things go easily. So don’t be dismayed if certain thoughts and feelings seem to reappear even after you have given them to God.
The truth is that the Lord takes our sin the moment we give it to Him (Psalm 103:12 tells us He takes it “as far as the east is from the west”), but often our feelings don’t align with those choices for awhile. And this is where Satan tries to make us think that God is not faithful and that He has not cleansed us.
Satan uses these “in-between times”-between the time we choose to give ourselves to God and the time the Lord finally aligns our feelings with our choices-to try to destroy us. God, on the other hand, lets us go as long as He knows is wise, to test us and to strengthen our faith. The question He is constantly asking us is: “Will you trust Me? Will you trust Me in spite of what you feel or think or see?”
4) The fourth essential step in dealing with our sin and self is that we must read God’s Word and replace the lies with His Truth. We must remember that God is the only One who can cleanse, sanctify and heal our souls completely by His Word.
Remember, it was at the Molten Sea-a huge bathtub that held thousands of baths-where the priests immersed themselves bodily in order to receive a total cleansing. At the Brazen Altar they had become blood-splattered while sacrificing their offerings. Now they needed a complete bodily bathing in order to be thoroughly cleansed.
In like manner, after we have confessed, repented and given all to the Lord, we too are “bloody” and “torn apart” and in desperate need of God’s complete healing power. Only reading or reciting Scriptures from the Word of God can totally restore us at this point. Only the Lord can wash us “with the washing of water by the Word.” (Ephesians 5:26)
It’s very helpful to memorize appropriate Scriptures for this particular step, so that if we are away from our Bibles, we can still put the Word of God back down in our innermost part where the lies have been. Scriptures like Psalm 32:5: “I have acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid...I have confessed my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” All of Psalm 51 is good. Also 1 John 1:5-10, Galatians 2:20 and 2 Corinthians 7:1 are wonderful Scriptures to remember.
After we have gone through all four of these steps: recognized and acknowledged our sins, confessed and repented of them, given them over to God and read His Word, we can be confident that He will cleanse us, align our feelings with our faith choices and perform His will through us.
At this point, having put off our sin and self (our body is now cleansed and our spirit purified), we can now put on the “beauty of Christ’s holiness.” (Psalm 96:7-9; Psalm 29:2)
Just like the priests changed their clothes after they had cleansed themselves in the Inner Court, we too, have changed our clothes and can now boldly enter the Lord’s presence and worship Him.
Renewal, therefore, is essential to being a mirror that reflects every detail of Christ’s character to the world. It’s impossible to glorify Him unless we are, first of all, cleansed. Then, the “beauty of the Lord” can come forth.
Remember Matthew 23:25-26: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.”