There is a person in my life that causes me great angst at times. She’s critical of everything about me, always noticing my flaws and mistakes. When I don’t measure up to her standards, she’s ruthless in her criticism. No matter how many positive things I’m doing, she always notices what I’m not doing or what I could be doing more. She’s impatient, jealous and judgmental. She constantly compares me to others.
As much as I’d like to cut this person out of my life forever, I can’t seem to shake her completely. By now you’re probably wondering: who is this awful person? Well, I call her “Old Me.” She’s the person I would be without God’s saving grace; she is my fleshly, worldly self. Sadly, “Old Me” looks a lot like “New Me” on the outside, but her interior life is another story.
“Old Me” seems to show up when I haven’t been spending time with God consistently and renewing my mind in the truth of His Word. She deceives me into thinking I can perform for God to win His favor. She focuses a lot on doing for God and not much on simply being with Him.
I was thinking about “Old Me” recently while reading Tim Chester’s book You Can Change. In it, he points out that many people change their behavior but are still not pleasing to God because their motives are impure. When I think about the person I used to be (and that I can still be at times) I see that many of the things I did seemed good, but my reasons for doing them had more to do with proving myself or pleasing others than anything else. Chester explains: “We don’t do good works so we can be saved; we are saved so we can do good works. ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith…not a result of works… For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.’ (Ephesians 2:8-10).”
“New Me” experiences joy by doing good things God has prepared for me– it’s about responding to His love, not dutifully checking a box to feel good about myself or to gain approval from others. In this frame of mind, my eyes are on God, not on myself. My desire is to please Him because I love Him, not because I’m trying to earn His favor.
One of the best passages that illustrates eliminating “Old Me” so that “New Me” can flourish comes from the gospel of John. In this passage, Jesus speaks to His disciples saying,
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (John 15:5-9, NIV)
Remaining in God’s love impacts our perspectives and enables us to grow and thrive in our faith. The fruit He produces in us blesses and benefits others. (One of my pastors recently pointed out that a tree produces fruit for others to consume, not for its own benefit). For those abiding in God’s love, joy comes from growing deeper in our walks with Him and helping others to do the same. Conversely, when we don’t remain in His love, we’re not producing fruit–we’re trying to do things through our own effort to prove ourselves. For me, this is when “Old Me” tends to rear her head. In Jesus’ analogy of the vine, the withered branches represent “Old Me” and the only thing they’re good for is kindling.
This battle between “Old Me” and “New Me” happens more often than I’d like to admit. Maybe you can relate. We have a choice every day to abide with Christ, to remain in His love and to let Him renew our minds. The alternative is to do things our way. It boils down to a standoff between living in our flesh and living by the Spirit. Let’s not be deceived by our “Old Me’s” anymore. God has already won the battle and we can embrace the truth that we are living under His grace. We are holy, righteous and redeemed, no matter what our old selves may try to tell us.
Mercy Me has an amazing song that speaks this truth. Click on the link to be encouraged by “Greater.”
Chester, Time; You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions; Crossway, 2010, p. 28