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 4:22-24).
Putting off and putting on are terms Paul used to describe the change in a believers life after salvation because of mind renewal. Before salvation, we’ve trained our bodies to yield to certain appetites, we’ve trained our minds to think in certain ways, and we’ve trained our emotions to act and react certain ways.
Stopping these learned behaviors is called putting off the old man with his deeds. The sin nature that produced appetites, thoughts and emotional responses has been removed by the new birth! We have become new creatures in Christ, and our daily lifestyle must be retrained to yield to this new person that we’ve become inside.
Developing new habits that reflect the new person that we’ve become within is called putting on the new man. This process occurs in us as we feed on the word and purpose to live a life of obedience to God.
A key to putting off and putting on is in understanding the fundamentals of how behavior changes. We can’t stop a habit by constantly refusing to act it out. That keeps the attention on the habit.
Habits change by being replaced. When we make the decision to renew our minds with the Word, we decide to act on what we read and meditate on in scripture.
For instance, you read in Ephesians 4:29: Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. You may have had a habit of gossip, negativity, or manipulation with how you talk to others. And, after reading this you become aware of the need to change.
You make a choice that, beginning today, you refuse to allow yourself to speak any hurtful words to or about others. You confess to the Father your lack of edifying speech, and ask for His grace to help you.
Then you meditate and think on this scripture over and over again for a period of time. And you may find that you still slip up and say things that shouldn’t be said. When you catch yourself, you repent before the Father for what you just said, and ask for His grace to change your speech.
Just keep that process up. Every time you slip up with your words, catch yourself, repent, and choose to acknowledge that the Father is changing this area of life. After a period of time the entrenched habit of hurtful speech will be broken and replaced by a habit of blessing with your words.
At first, it’s hit and miss. You may take a step forward and then a step backward. The key is persistence. Just keep on meditating in the word, and acting on it by repenting when you miss it with your words, and soon you’ll be catching yourself just before you begin the tirade of negative speech.
This principle of putting off the old man by putting on the new man works in every area of life. Worry, fear, doubt, lusts, self-centeredness, anger, and every other hurtful behavior can be changed by allowing the grace of God to work by 1) catching yourself after you do something, 2) repenting before the Father and asking for His grace to overcome this habit and 3) mentioning to yourself (meditating) specific scripture that show how you would rather behave.
Behavior is changed just this way. You challenge it before the fact, repent, and mention out loud scriptures that show how you want to behave. Eventually, instead of after you’ve finished the behavior, you’ll start catching it right in the middle of performing it! And, as you continue to put off and put on by catching yourself, repenting, and mentioning what you know you should do, you will at some point catch yourself before you even commit the offense! At that point, the power of the habit has been broken! You have successfully put off the old man and put on the new man in Christ.
Putting off the old man and putting on the new man is a process that continues throughout our lives as we grow in Christ. His plan is that by the time Jesus comes for us, we act just like Him in our thoughts, our words, and in our responses to others!