Today we are reminded of a vital truth that followers of Christ need to remember: we have two selves. We have the old self which is sometimes called the “sinful nature”. Being born again in Christ does not eliminate the old self. We still have a sin nature, and we still have an inclination to fall back into old habits and ways of life that felt right before we came to Jesus. But what the new birth does do is create within us the new self or what is sometimes called the “spiritual man”. This is the new person that Christ brings to life through the power of His Spirit within us. He or she is a lover of God and sincerely wants to think, act and speak in ways that bring joy to the Father.
The fact that we have two selves puts the children of God in a position of having to make daily choices. We must “put off our old self that belongs to our former manner of life” (v. 22), and we must “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God”. (v. 24) Practically, this means that we will have desires, dreams and inclinations in our hearts that come from different places. Some of the things we want desperately will come from our old selves, and they will “feel” right to our old self, but they need to be put off. Some things we do want to do in our new self will be opposed by our old self, and these things need to be put on. Sometimes it will feel like we are living out the old cartoon picture of someone with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Both the angel and the devil are you. It’s just that the “devil” is the old you and the “angel” is the new you. Galatians 5.16-18 describes this experience perfectly. This is why it is so important for us to gather with fellow believers around the Word of God. We need this to form our conscience and help us to know which “self” the desires of our hearts are coming from. We need encouraging community that will empower us to “put on” the right things and “put off” the wrong things.