Whenever I recognize that I have done something wrong, it can be pretty easy to also recognize the need to apologize to whomever I have offended (including God). But what’s not so easy is the next step, which is explained in couple of great verses from Ephesians 4.
“But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth in Jesus, to 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.” Ephesians 4:20-24
The fact that these verses talk about two selves—the old self and the new self—implies that there is a change that must happen for us Christians. And, in order for that change to happen, we must do something. It requires ACTION–action in the opposite direction of how we’ve been living.
For me, that recently meant adding ACTION to my recognition that I had created an idol. I had to put off the old self and put on the new self. I had to put on righteousness in a way that contradicted my idolatrous habit.
But that doesn’t mean that my works are what saves me. You and I are saved by grace alone, through faith. But James tells us flat-out that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). And work? That’s an action verb.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. James 2:18-26
What sin are you struggling with today? What “old self” are you tired of dragging around? In what area can you first ask for forgiveness, and then put on the “new self” as well?
In the commentary for the Ephesians verses above, the Crossway ESV Study Bible explains that, “As Christians seek to do this, God makes it a reality.” So, my advice? Ask God to help you put off the old you today and become renewed in him so that you may put on the new self. Allow your faith to be completed by your works!