Ephesians 4:17-24 Part 2: 9 Strategies To Help Us Kill Sin

Part 2

Ephesians 4:17-24

9 Strategies to help us kill sin

  1. How can we put off our old self?

Last week we learned what not to do, who we are and what we are to do.

We are not to return to unbelieving ways. We have learned Christ. And we are to put off our old selves.

As we move into the application of putting off our old self, we need to understand that verse 22-24 is in the infinitive, and that indicates that verse 22-24 is describing what happens when one has truly learned Christ.

We’ve learned Christ, so we put off our old self.

We’ve learned Christ, so we are being renewed in our mind.

We’ve learned Christ, so we are putting on the new self.

In these things we are to be killing sin or sin will be killing us.

Our old selves belonged to our former manner of life. Our old selves are corrupt through deceitful desires.

So, how are we to put off the old self?

How are we to kill sin?

How are we to put to death the deeds of the body?

Before we get to the “how”, let me remind you of the why.

In studying the Old Testament, I always make it a point to tell students that the “indicative” (the mood of a verb that expresses a simple statement of fact) comes before the “imperative” and you can’t reverse the order.

We look at Exodus 20:1-3 and understand the statement of fact that Israel was God’s people through his election of them and atonement made in the Passover comes before the 10 commandments. In other words their identity was secured and due to their identity being what it was they were to act like what they were.

We have the same situation here.

Paul’s original teaching was cast in the indicative—in union with Christ your old sinful humanity was crucified, and you were raised to new-creation life (cf. Rom. 6; 2 Cor 5:17; Col. 2:11–12, and most obviously Col. 3:9–10, the direct parallel); but such indicatives imply corresponding imperatives (as here; cf. Rom. 6): we are responsible to live out with all seriousness and energy what God is doing in us (cf. Phil. 2:12–13). Failure to do so would precisely be to live in the ‘deceit’ (22) of the old creation rather than in ‘the truth’ of the new (24; cf. 21).[1]

So these strategies are not us pretending we are something we are not. These strategies are helps for us to act like what we are due to the justifying work of the cross. They are not means of becoming something we are not.

The indicative always comes before the imperative and the order can never be reversed.

  1. 9 Sin killing Strategies (adapted from John Owen)[2]
  2. Consider whether the sin you are contending with has any dangerous symptoms attending it.

If you are coming down with a cold, there are some symptoms that come on the front end. Sometimes you may have a fever. Sometimes you may have a scratchy throat. Then the full thing comes on you. If you pay attention to the symptoms you can take some measures to cut it off or shorten its assault on you.

This is the idea here. What symptoms come along with the sin you are seeking to kill?

Recognize these symptoms and log them and watch for them then get to work on the coming assault by taking the offensive against the sin by killing it’s spies.

  1. Get a clear and abiding sense upon your mind and conscience of the guilt, danger and evil of that sin.

You have to become convinced that sin is really evil and not a friendly. We can’t allow ourselves to believe that this sin is not really that bad.

The reality is that my sin put Jesus on the cross and it’s the grossest of evils. It may not even be the sin (not all sin is equal) as much as it is the object of my offense. And I’ve rebelled against the King of the universe.

  1. Load your conscience with the guilt of it.

2 Corinthians 7:10 “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret whereas worldly grief produces regret.”

John Owen is not talking about guilt that is the antithesis of Romans 8:1. He is not talking about condemnation. Owen is talking about 2 Corinthians 7:10 grief that leads to repentance.

It’s the kind of grief that hates sin and loves righteousness and seeks repentance because holiness is really better.

  1. Cultivate a constant longing for deliverance from the power of it.

Cultivate is the idea of planting a seed, fertilizing it, watering it, weeding around it and caring for it in order to receive the fruit of that seed planted.

Cultivating a longing for deliverance is to truly want the fruit of holiness and being rid of the disease of sin.

Plant holiness. Fertilize holiness. Water holiness. Weed out from around holiness choking weeds.

Don’t get comfortable with sin. Grow a longing for what it would be like to no longer be beset with that darn thing.

Imagine what it would be like to be free from that sin. Dream about freedom from that sin.

Pray for Father to liberate you from that sin: Ask, seek and knock until the good Father gives your fish and bread.

  1. Consider whether the sin is rooted in your nature and exacerbated by your temperament.

Really consider whether or not your sin is the result of the fact that you are just a jerk and your jerkiness is really producing the sin that causes the problem.

If your sin is that of lust, the objects of your lust may not be what needs to be dealt with as much as a temperament of dissatisfaction and lack of contentment.

If your temperament leads to sin, then attack your temperament with accountability in community and gladly receive correction from loving family who wants you to be in the kingdom.

  1. Consider what occasions and advantages your sin has taken to exert and put forth itself, and watch against them all.

Learn to take note of the weaknesses that the sin takes advantage of and shore up defenses.

If your problem is materialism and getting the newest thing drives all your labor to the exclusion of a passion for Christ and the discipline of self-denial and managing God’s resources for his kingdom, then take note of what exacerbates the desire to get something new. If it’s the constant visiting of your favorite sporting good store website, then have your wife or friend or someone block that site and check your internet history and take your credit card.

The occasion is the website. Have your browser set so that when you open a new tab that it goes to Desiring God or a sermon by Piper, like “Doing Missions When Dying is Gain.”

  1. Rise mightily against the first actings and conceptions of your sin

When the sin raises it’s ugly head, cut it off without any dialogue with it.

  1. Meditate in such a way that you are filled at all times with self-abasement and thoughts of your own vileness.

Don’t buy your own press. Let the biblical balance rule your own mind. The bible will call you a saint and it will call you a sinner. Believe that.

Realize that your sin is hated and an affront to God. Realize that Father loves you and counts you justified.

Wrestle with that tension. It’s healthy.

  1. Listen to what God says to your soul and do not speak peace to yourself before God speaks it, but hearken what he says to your soul.

Seek Father’s peace not your own psychological soothing. Father’s grace to bother your soul is life saving. Learn to discern, by the Spirit, the difference between satanic condemnation and a Spirit wrought eclipse of the soul to drive us to humility and repentance.

  1. What is happening as we are putting off the old self?
  1. Through putting off the old self we are being renewed in the spirit of our mind OR as we are renewed in our minds we put off the old self v. 23

Renewed here is in the infinitive and implies that putting off the old self is to be renewed.

Being renewed is not an additional command, but it is the reality revealed as one is putting off their old self.

1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us that we have the mind of Christ.

Here is the reality: we have the mind of Christ and yet our old self is corrupted with deceitful desires and if we are in Christ we put off the old self because we have the mind of Christ.

Because we are in Christ and because we put off the old self we discover that we have different thinking.

  1. We think like Christ
  2. We have the beliefs of Christ
  3. We have the passions/desires/ends of Christ

As we put off the old self we will discover immeasurable delight of having the thinking of Jesus.

We will begin to think Scripture brought to mind by the Spirit with holy and glorious applications in our present moment!

  1. Through putting off the old self we are putting on the new self that is in the likeness of God, truly right and holy v. 24

Putting on the new self is likewise in the infinitive and implies that in putting off the old self, because we have learned Christ, we are putting on the new self.

Putting on the new self is not an additional command, but it is what is happening as we put off the old self. Why? Because we are new creations that have the root of sin that remains, and by the Spirit we are constantly putting that sin to death so that the new creation can be dominant.

  1. The new self is created in the likeness of God

The image of God fully restored.

2. The new self is truly Righteous and Holy

As fully restored image bearers our righteousness is real and our holiness is real.

Our deeds are really right and our status as holy before the Lord is real.

In other words, as we put off the old self, the new creation we are is revealed as right and holy.

To say it another way: true righteousness and holiness puts off the old self so that the new creation will show itself as the work of King Jesus.

As we put off the old self we display the work and glory of Jesus!

To not put off the old self is to reject and cover up the glory of Jesus.

But, TRCC, we have learned Christ. So we put on the new self, we are renewed in our minds and we are putting off the old self, so we make much of Jesus.

Psalm 147:1 “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

[1] D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1240.

[2] John Owen, Mortification of Sin


Ephesians 4:17-24: Put off the old self and put on the new self

Ephesians 4:17-24 (a word of organization, the blog is not keeping my formatting, so the outline is not organized well, and the program is not cooperating)

Put off the old self and put on the new self

TRCC, my great desire for you is that you would see and savor Jesus Christ in all things. That end drives my preaching.

Everything I say is intended to drive you away from the rebellion, the curse and it’s fruit and drive you to see the majesty of King Jesus and his kingdom.

Today’s message particularly has that thrust to it.

Paul is instructing the Ephesians on the practices that come from the unifying work of the gospel.

We are to walk worthy.

We walk worthy by supply all that King Jesus has gifted me with for the church

Now, Paul is going to instruct us that walking worthy looks like putting off our old selves and putting on the new humanity.

After an initial insistence that the readers put behind them their former Gentile way of life (17), this (instruction) is painted in dark colors (18–19; cf. Col. 1:21; 3:7) to provide a sharp contrast with what they have heard in the gospel about Christ (20–21). He is the pattern for the new-creation humanity, and Paul reminds his readers that the gospel therefore included teaching on the need to put off the old sinful humanity, and put on the new (22–24; cf. Col. 3:8–10).[1]

So, we are to live out this mysterious gospel of the kingdom in unity by putting off the old self, which is corrupted, and put on the new self. This new self is what we are to be in the church and in the age to come of the new heaven and the new earth.

A quick outline of the points from the text looks like:

  1. Paul is going to tell us what not to do, 2. who we are and 3. what to do.

Before we launch into our text, please be reminded, it is easy to highlight certain truths and ignore complementary truths as they are presenting in the Scriptures.

We emphasize the justifying work of the gospel here well. We often don’t emphasize the complementary reality that the justified work out their salvation with fear and trembling.

Today, we are going to see the necessary reality that we are to work out what we say we believe.

  1. What not to do: Do not live like what you used to be, an unbeliever! v. 17-19

If Paul has to remind us to not act like what we used to be, then the propensity to act like that must still be real.

Here is the reality of the gospel. When Jesus justified us, we died with him, but we also have at the root of our being the curse of sin that Paul calls the “flesh” that we war against. Romans 7 is clear that Paul had to war against the easiness of sin and war harder to do what is right even though he wanted to do what is right.

Sin came easy. Doing right came hard.

Colossians 1:21 “And you, who were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,…”

Colossians 3:7 “In these you too once walked (what is earthly: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness which is idolatry v. 5), when you were living in them.”

As Paul reminded one church, he is reminding another church that the manner of their life can’t be what they once were, which will be so easy for them to do.

     A. Don’t live in a darkened understanding v. 18a

Due to a futile mind (v. 17c), unbelievers live in a darkened understanding.

To put it another way, they are not capable of thinking on the truth. Truth does not rule them. They are in the dark. Lies rule them

We must be constantly evaluating if we are living in and making decisions according to lies

We must strive to be applying truth in every sphere of our existence

     B. Don’t live alienated from life due to ignorance stemming from a hard heart v. 18b

Paul gives us second in this list the primary cause of the darkened understanding and ignorance. That primary cause is the hard heart. Paul’s parallel statement about the heart is made in 2:1 when he calls us dead.

Ultimately, darkened understanding and ignorance are due to the dead man walking.

Due to dead and hard hearts, man lives alienated from God and thus life.

Paul is reminding them to not return to dead living that is alienated from God.

You may ask: can I even do that?

Paul’s answer is a resounding: YES!

Don’t hear: loss of salvation.

Hear: Never been transformed by the gospel.

Paul tell us here that we must not go back to living like unbelievers because we will be evidencing that we are unbelievers.

Can an unbeliever really act as though they believe? See Judas.

C. Don’t be callous, given up to sensuality, greed and impurity v. 19

With a calloused heart, we will live according to our senses not by faith and that will lead all kinds of greed and impurity.

  1. Don’t live according to your senses. They are not trust-worthy.

Being driven by felt needs lends itself to being a wave tossed around by every wind of doctrine.

For us, this is warning. It’s sobriety. It’s a litmus test to see what we are.

Paul will now move from what not to do to a reminder of who the Ephesian believers are.

  1. Who we are: We have learned Christ! v. 20-21

Colossians 2:6-7 “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

     A. We have heard v. 21a

Paul does not simply mean physical hearing. Paul has in mind effective and transformational hearing. Hearing that results in change.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15)

This is Job 42:5 kind of hearing, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.”

     B. We have been taught in Christ because the truth is in Jesus v. 21b

The connection between truth teaching and truth here is unmistakable.

As we have known Christ, we have known truth and it’s source.

“…and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus.”

In other words, all true teaching emanates from the knowledge of the Godhead.

  1. We know that God himself is our source of truth
  2. We reject all other claims to truth
  3. We stubbornly hold on to reality from God’s perspective (truth)
  4. We live in the community of the kingdom seeking to rescue others by bringing them into this truth
  5. We are willing to die for this truth                                                                                                                                                                             C. The primary truth communicated here, is that in Christ we can do point  3

This is our identity now. So, what do people with the knowledge of Jesus do?

  1. What to do: In truth found in Christ, put off the old self and put on the new self! v. 22-24                            A. Put off your old self v. 22

Quick summary:

  1. Don’t live like an unbeliever
  2. Discover, hold on to the truth as found in Jesus
  3. Now, put off the old self


Let me be clear. I can’t say this better than John Owen and John Piper. So, I’m going to let them speak for me and to me for a minute.

Maybe as I preach to me, you will hear too.

“Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it while you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” – John Owen

Romans 8:13 “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

John Owen goes on to say… “…First, believers who are free from the condemning power of sin, out to make it their daily work to mortify the indwelling power of sin; (Part of doing the mission, being and producing radical followers of Jesus, is killing sin so that we living worthily before those we seek to bring into the kingdom)[2] second, only the Holy Spirit is sufficient for this work; (you have to walk in relationship with Father, Son and Spirit: Up: Communion with God)[3] and third, the life, vigor, and comfort of the believer’s spiritual life depends much upon this work of mortifying sin.”

“Your being dead with Christ virtually, your being quickened with him, will not excuse you from this work. And our Savior tells us how his Father deals with every branch in him that bears fruit, every true and living branch. He purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit (John 15:2). He prunes it, and that not for a day or two, but while it is a branch in this world (continuously)[4]. And the apostle tells you what was his practice: I keep under my body and bring into subjection (1 Cor. 9:27).”

“He was killed for your sin (There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus Rom. 8:1). You were killed in him and died to sin (You have died and your life is hidden in Christ with God Col. 3:3). Therefore, kill in yourself every quivering of that corpse of sin, lest you find him to be no corpse, but a captor, and yourself dead.” – John Piper

It is our work in walking worthy to be about the work of putting off the old self that will seek to grumble and rise from it’s dead state to kill us.


When Isaiah was besieged with the death of king Uzziah, his greatest need was not a strategy to ease their vulnerability.

Isaiah’s greatest need was to see who the real king is.

“In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on the throne.” Isaiah 6:1

Your greatest need to fight sin this morning is not our strategy first. There is some strategy. We’ll give you nine of them next week.

Right now we need to see the Lord and behold his glory.

Psalm 147:1 “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

[1] D. A. Carson, R. T. France, et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1239.

[2] Parenthesis Mine

[3] Parenthesis Mine

[4] Parenthesis Mine