Ephesians 4:22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
How does one put off the "old man" and put on the "new man"? It takes a lot of hard work! Anything in this life that is really valuable necessitates striving, working hard, aiming towards the goal!
If I want to stop lying, I must tell the truth. If I want to stop stealing, I must begin to work so I have something to give to someone else. If I want to stop eating sugar, I must instead choose healthy vegetables to munch on. If I want to stop gaining weight, I must start exercising.
The spiritual realm is the most important aspect of the put off/put on principle. In striving to change my life, I am co-operating with God, Who is in the business of conforming me to the image of Christ.
I love how Andrew Fuller, an English Baptist preacher, taught this principle:
. . . Sin is to be overcome, not so much by maintaining a direct opposition to it, as by cultivating opposite principles. Would you kill the weeds in your garden, plant it with good seed; if the ground be well occupied, there will be less need of the labour of the hoe. If a man wished to quench fire, he might fight it with his hands till he was burnt to death; the only way is to apply an opposite element.
-Reverend Andrew Fuller, April 2, 1795
This is something to remember when training our children, too. If Suzie constantly fights with Johnny, it is not enough to say to Suzie, "Stop fighting!" We must teach Suzie that if she wants to bring glory to God, she must learn to speak kindly to Johnny, to share with him, to do exactly the opposite thing that she is inclined to do in the moment. It won't be easy - it isn't even easy for adults! But in practicing this training in righteousness, we exercise our spiritual muscles, and become more and more fit for His Kingdom!
Lord, help me to examine my heart before You. When I begin to fail, show me - stop me short - remind me of Your word and the principle I am about to violate. Let me put off the sin by putting on a righteous act instead, and in so doing, help me more and more to mortify my flesh and live a life that brings glory to You, the God I love. Help me, too, as I seek to teach this principle to my children and grandchildren. I know that in order for me to truly learn it, You will send trials, big and little, into my life in order to help me to practice righteousness. Give me an awareness of my tendency to sin. Help me to fight against my "old man", and strengthen and renew my "new man". Help me to repent quickly, and not to wallow in the dirt for a bit before I decide to give in. Help me, Lord, to keep short accounts with You.
In Christ, I pray. Amen.