Eph. 4:22-24 …Put off, as regards your former manner of life, the old man, which is being corrupted according to the lusts of the deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new man, which was created according to God in righteousness and holiness of the reality.
Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us clearly that a believer in Christ has two men—the old man and the new man. The old man is of Adam through our natural birth, and the new man is of Christ by a new birth, regeneration.
According to my observation, very few believers in Christ and lovers of Christ live a life of continually putting off the old man and putting on the new man. In our daily life we mainly live an ethical life, spontaneously caring for matters of right and wrong. Those who live such an ethical life try their best to do what is right and to avoid doing what is wrong.
What kind of life do you live day by day? Is your daily life a life of the new man?… In your married life is it your practice to love your wife or husband by the new man or by the old man? We should not think that loving in the old man is justified by God. That kind of love is according to the law, according to the old dispensation, not according to God’s New Testament economy and not according to the new creation. A brother may love his wife very much, but his love may be of the old creation, not of the new creation. (Life-study of Proverbs, p. 25)
We need to have this realization when we come to the Bible. We may study the Bible either by the old man or by the new man. Many Christians study the Word in a natural way, according to their old man…. If we merely exercise our mind to get knowledge from the Word, we are reading it by the old man.
To read the Bible by the new man is very different. Even before coming to the Bible, a person in the new man exercises his spirit to contact the Lord. He may confess, saying, “Lord, I am sorry that I live so much in my old man, not exercising my spirit to contact You, to live by my new man, as one of Your new creation. Lord, forgive this sin.” When we approach the Bible in this way, exercising our spirit, we have the deep feeling and sense that we are approaching, touching, and contacting God. By this I do not mean that the Bible is God but that in coming to the Bible we are coming to contact God.
In Proverbs there are many detailed precepts for man to live a proper human life and … every precept is a gem. Even if a person accepts all these gems and is successful in keeping them, he will only build up himself to be a perfect man by cultivating the self. But the Lord Jesus said that whoever would follow Him must deny himself (Matt. 16:24).
We must learn to come to the Word of God as those who are approaching God, not to receive proverbs and teachings but to receive nourishment and enlightenment, so that we may know that, according to God, we should always be conformed to the death of Christ by the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10), which is the consummated Spirit, who is the reality of the resurrection of Christ.
We must reject self-cultivation and condemn the building up of the natural man. We need to turn the Bible from a book that teaches us to cultivate the self and to build up the natural man to a book that is full of life, spirit, spiritual nourishment, and spiritual enlightenment. This will tear down our self, break our natural man, and supply us with the consummated Spirit of the Triune God. Then we will live a life not by our natural man, by our old man, and by our self but by the Lord Jesus, who is our life and person living in our spirit.
We need to learn to exercise our spirit every day in our daily life, especially in our Bible study. We need to turn ourselves from the mind to the spirit by praying in our spirit. If we come to the Bible in this way, we will be touching the Word by the new man, and it will become to us a book of Spirit and life. (Life-study of Proverbs, pp. 26, 28-29)
Further Reading: Life-study of Proverbs, msgs. 4, 6