“Put off your old nature, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and by the renewing of your minds, put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Your new nature in Christ is the restored image of God within you as a result of redemption through Jesus. Your new nature, which is “created after the likeness of God,” is the way God designed you to live and work. It is the best version of you morally, relationally, and functionally. In order to live according to your new nature, to experience and express the best version of you, it is necessary to “put off your old nature” that is “corrupt by deceitful desires.”
Your old nature is a broken and distorted version of who God created you to be. The impulses and passions of the old nature are deceitful. They lie you. They deceive you into doing things that feel good but are not good for you, and they deceive you into avoiding things that are uncomfortable but necessary in your life.
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2.11)
The old nature does not want to do things the right way. It wants the “distorted way.” Distorted moral standards; distorted thinking; distorted emotions; distorted communication; distorted relationships; distorted work ethic. When you live and work under the influence of the old nature, you think, feel, and act in a broken way.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5.19-21)
Paul tells us to put off the old nature and put on the new nature. The mechanism for the process of “putting off / putting on” is the renewing of the mind. In other words, spiritual growth requires mental discipline. In order to change how you behave, we must change how you think. The quality of your inner work determines the quality of your outer work.
Spiritual growth is not passively waiting for God to do something in our lives; it is an active and disciplined choice of your will. As every Christian has experienced, this is where the battle is fought. You must train our mind and heart to say “no” to the impulses of the old nature and “yes” to the principles and actions of the new nature.
We do not do this work strictly on our own. We are motivated, prompted, and empowered to put forth effort because the Holy Spirit is at work in our hearts.
Along the way we cry out to God and acknowledge our weakness and ask the Spirit to give us courage and strength to win the battle against the old nature. When we fall short, we confess, he forgives us, we learn, and we continue to move forward. We work and strive to live the new life that God has given us, and we actively resist the impulses and passions of the old life.
That is the process of transformation to which God calls us, and for which he equips us. We have a battle to fight and new life to live. Trust God and do the work.