Just about everyone knows the basic concept of a caterpillar becoming a beautiful butterfly. But this process is not just something to produce beauty, it’s also something to represent the beauty that is in us as we do what Paul instructs… “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:22-24)
What’s interesting about these instructions that Paul is giving to the church of Ephesus, is that he shows in the opening comments that there are likely people in the church who simply have not really heard the truth. The very sentence before this statement says “assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus” (Eph 4:21) You see, even though Paul himself launched that church, he’s well aware that it has now grown. People he taught and empowered have continued the teaching. Other Christians from surrounding towns have even come in to offer their two cents as well. Paul is fully aware that the pure message of the Gospel he left them with… has likely been diluted and/or distorted. So he wants to point out the pure and simple truth that Jesus taught.
So what does it really mean to “put off your old self”? Does it mean we no longer have any worldly temptations as we did before? Of course not. But there is power in the Holy Spirit. Even the disciples were petty in their worldly ambitions and temptations prior to the Holy Spirit. Before the Spirit (even with Jesus in their midst), they sought power and position, arguing who would be greater. They attempted to take matter into their own hands like Judas. They ran away from their faith in Jesus like Peter. They doubted what they had been taught like Thomas.
From the time they were called until the time the Spirit descended upon them (50 days after the resurrection) they were still in their old selves. It was not until the Spirit entered their bodies and empowered them, that they were truly able to put off their old selves. At this moment and from that point on, we (like the disciples that day) have our physical selves but also our spiritual selves (empowered by the Spirit). We will still face the same temptations we did before, sometimes even more as the enemy is fighting to regain his foothold in our lives. Being tempted, giving in to temptation at the moment, and allowing the temptation to take hold of you… are all three different things. Paul said “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Eph 4:26-27)
When you allow the Spirit to assist you in your fight against temptation, you empower the Spirit and put off the old self. So continue to give control over to the Spirit. His ambitions (unlike the enemy’s) are solely for your complete reunification to God.