(Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog)
Because the Lord Jesus died for our sins, when we believed in Him, we were forgiven and washed of all traces of our sins. We shouldn’t feel troubled by what we did or who we were before we were saved. We must be very clear about this.
But when we were saved, we also became a new person in the Lord with a new life. We were born again with the life of God. From that point on, we have a new life, and we should also have a new living.
If we continue to live the way we did before we were saved, the things of our past life will hold us back. To progress in our Christian walk, we need to put an end to our old way of life so we’re no longer under its influence.
So how do we do this?
The feeling of our conscience
Before we were saved, our conscience was somewhat dull. One of the first things that happens after we believe is that our conscience is sensitised. So while certain things didn’t bother us before, we now realise they’re sinful, unrighteous, or immoral. Without having to consult with others, we spontaneously know what’s displeasing to God in our living.
For example, perhaps our old life included using crude language. Maybe we even took the Lord’s name in vain without feeling like anything was wrong. But after we were saved, we began to have an uneasy feeling whenever we talked like that. This uneasy feeling comes from our conscience. If we go along with our conscience by ceasing to use such language, we’ll feel peaceful. Our old way of talking will no longer be one of the things that holds us back in our Christian walk.
Now, let’s look at some examples in the New Testament of how the believers dealt with their old way of life in a thorough way in order to grow in Christ. These examples will help us see what displeases the Lord and help us go forward with Him.
1. Turning away from idols
The first and most important thing we should rid ourselves of is any kind of idol or objects related to an idol. First Thessalonians 1:9 says:
“You turned to God from the idols to serve a living and true God.”
Idols are lifeless images or objects, which are in contrast to the living and true God. They can include many things, like paintings or sculptures. God does not tolerate idols. For us to hold onto an idol is a serious matter. Our God is a jealous God who wants us to worship and love Him alone, the unique living and true God.
Even possessing an idol for any reason or having an inclination in our heart toward one is objectionable to God. The apostle John warned the believers in 1 John 5:21:
“Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”
We have to be decisive and absolute when it comes to an idol. It’s not sufficient just to put it out of sight. To be free from their effect, idols and anything pertaining to superstitious practices, such as fortune telling or horoscopes, need to be completely eradicated from our lives. And it’s best not to sell or give these things away.
We must immediately and thoroughly forsake anything related to idols after we believe in Christ. Even if you don’t think you have any idols around you, it’s good to take a moment to pray about this matter. You can pray:
“Lord Jesus, I don’t want to have any idols. I love You. Lord, show me if I have any idols or superstitious things that You want me to remove from my life.”
2. Thoroughly eradicating evil and unclean things
In Acts 19, the apostle Paul preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people in the city of Ephesus. Verses 19 and 20 gives an account of what the people did after they believed in Jesus:
“And a considerable number of those who practiced magic brought their books together and burned them before all; and they counted up the price of them and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver. Thus, the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.”
Paul didn’t tell the Ephesian believers, “Now that you’re saved, you must destroy these books.” They took this action not because of an outward commandment, but as a result of the inward work of the Holy Spirit who lived in them. Their experience of God’s salvation was strong and motivated them to forsake and burn these wicked books that were once precious to them. They wouldn’t even sell them. Their absolute separation from these books freed them. And the result of their action was that the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
This example of the Ephesian believers shows us that improper objects should be eradicated from our lives. Things that are sinful or filthy—pornographic material, indecent clothing, gambling paraphernalia, items related to drug and alcohol abuse, immoral books and pictures, and things related to witchcraft and magic—should all be destroyed. A thorough clearance of even the remnants of our godless life will release us from the hold of our old way of life. Related to this matter, you can pray:
“Lord Jesus, make my conscience sensitive. Shine on anything improper or filthy in my life, Lord. Help me rid myself of these things so I can go on with You in an unhindered way.”
3. Repaying debts and making restitution
Luke 19:2-10 records the story of Zaccheus, a tax collector who met the Lord Jesus as He passed through Jericho.
It was common for tax collectors in those days to extort money from people by over-assessing their property or income and taking the excess for themselves. Because of this, they were hated and despised.
But the Lord spoke to Zaccheus and told him that He would come to stay in his house. Zaccheus received the Lord, rejoicing, and said to Him:
“Behold, the half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor, and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore four times as much.”
After meeting the Lord Jesus, Zaccheus was convicted of his sins, especially of extorting money from people. He professed his desire to repay them fourfold and give half of all he had to the poor. The Lord didn’t command him to do this. When Zaccheus met Jesus, he instantly knew what he should do to make restitution to anyone he cheated and turn away from his former dishonest way of living.
So how does the example of Zaccheus relate to us today? The Spirit within us makes us conscious of what we need to clear up from our past. Perhaps we need to repay money we borrowed from someone long ago. Or maybe we need to return items we took from our workplace. If we allow the Lord to speak to us, we’ll know what we need to deal with and how to do it.
We can seek the Lord concerning how to repay our debts, trusting Him to help us make things right, by praying:
“Lord, if I owe anything to anyone, show it to me. Lead me how to repay my debts.”
4. Putting off our former manner of life
Ephesians 4:22 says:
“That you put off, as regards your former manner of life, the old man, which is being corrupted according to the lusts of the deceit.”
Our former manner of life is a broad term that refers to how we previously conducted ourselves in every aspect of our life. It includes things like who we associated with, how we spoke, how we dressed, where we went, how we spent our time, how we spent our money, and so on.
After we’re saved, our whole manner of life should change from what it was before.
If we open to the Lord about this, we may realise there are many things in our living that are unsuitable for a child of God. For example, perhaps we wore certain kinds of clothing before we were saved. But after we believe in the Lord, we feel uneasy when we wear those clothes. In that case, we should go along with this feeling, which is the Lord within us, and either alter the clothing or replace it with something else.
We need to ask the Lord to show us if there’s anything displeasing to Him in our living. As He speaks to us, we should respond to Him, discontinuing certain practices and activities from our former life.
Not a matter of outward regulation but of the new life inside us
How we deal with our old way of life isn’t according to some sort of outward regulation. It’s a matter of being sensitive and obedient to God’s life within us. So we should bring this matter to the Lord Himself. We don’t need to try to figure out what things might be a problem on our own.
The One we received as our Saviour and who is now living in our spirit is full of feeling. He’s also very definite and specific concerning anything that doesn’t match Him. We can open our hearts to the Lord and ask Him to point out anything still present in our living that is offensive or displeasing to Him. We can pray:
“Lord Jesus, thank You for saving me. I want You to grow in me without any hindrance from my old life. Lord, show me any improper things in my living that frustrate me from going on with You. Help me remove them completely from my life.”
The Lord Jesus will surely answer this prayer. He will reveal the things from our former life that impede us in our Christian walk. By cooperating with the Lord to put an end to them, we can go on and experience Christ every day.
To learn more about being sensitive to God’s life within us, we recommend reading chapter 17 titled “The Fellowship of Life and the Sense of Life,” in The Economy of God. You can download this free e-book here.