Face Off

Ephesians 4:22

22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,

At the expense of dating myself, I must say that one of my favorite movies growing up was Face Off. I enjoyed it so much that I owned it on VHS (for the young folk, ask your parents). In the movie, FBI Agent Sean Archer (played by John Travolta) is obsessed with capturing wanted terrorist Castor Troy (Nicholas Cage). The story takes a personal turn because in an assassination attempt against Archer, Troy ends up killing Archer’s son. After Castor Troy is finally shot and captured, yet hanging on for life, word comes out that there’s one last explosion that Castor has set to go off. In order to diffuse it, someone needs to go undercover as Castor Troy to infiltrate his gang of thugs to find out when and where the bomb will explode. There’s a new surgery that enables the face of two people to be switched in order to go undercover, and because Archer has spent so many years studying Castor Troy, he’s the likely choice to go undercover. Although Archer “becomes” Troy by taking on his identity, he never really becomes him because he can’t embody the evil that is Troy. The real Troy wakes up from his coma, tortures the surgeon who performed the surgery, and insists on the surgeon giving the face of Archer to Troy himself. Now Troy goes into Archer’s world by “becoming” him, while fellow agents and Archer’s family wonder why Archer all of a sudden got “cool.” Castor, although having Archer’s identity, never becomes him either because he can’t abstain from his old self and the evil that he entails. Although both have new identities, they still struggle with their old inward self.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:22 to put off our old self – a self he calls corrupt through deceitful desires. After Paul goes to great lengths in the previous chapters describing our new self, how we are now saints (1:1), blessed (1:3), chosen (1:4), predestined (1:5), adopted (1:5), redeemed (1:7), forgiven (1:7), heirs (1:11), made alive (2:5), and so on, he tells us to put off our old self. We have a new identity and new life yet walk around in our old self and our old grave clothes. Positionally, we are in Christ; practically we still struggle with being in ourselves. And so to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called (4:1) involves walking not in a manner of our old self, but of our new self.

We see Paul in his struggle with his old self in Romans 7. He says, in v. 18-20, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” But Paul is not one to give the diagnosis without giving the treatment. A few verses later in chapter 8, he says, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

Paul says that our corruption comes through our evil desires. James concurs, by saying in 1:14-15, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

So what are we to do? Paul and James both see it, that evil lies within us, even though we have a new identity, a new self. The way to start putting off the old self is by starting to be grounded in your new self. As you start understanding your new self, understanding who you are because of what He did, and by faith continuing to “work out your salvation,” you can shed the grave clothes of your old self. There is no sinful desire within yourself that was not dealt with by the cross. There’s no hunger within you that is not fed by the Bread of Life and there’s no thirst within you that is not satisfied by the Living Water.

When you start seeing and savoring who Christ is and what He’s done for you, you will start to see the decaying remnants of your old self begin to fall and continue living in light of your new self. When the old self states, “I want MY way!” we fight to believe that Jesus is the Way, and because He made a way where there was no way, I don’t need my way. When our deceitful desires declare, “What’s in it for me?” we can behold a crucified yet risen Savior saying, “Holiness” and “Adoption” and “Forgiveness” and “Grace.” When the corruption within us cries, “Vengeance is mine!” toward those who have hurt us, betrayed us, slandered us, we see the precious Lamb of God proclaim, “Justice is served!” because of God’s wrath being absorbed, enabling us to forgive others because we have been forgiven ourselves.

There is no essence of our old self that has not been made new because of Christ. He gives us new life, a new identity, a new purpose, a new heart, a new mind, new desires, all enabled to follow the decree He gave, that if anyone wishes to be His disciple, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Him.

Our old self, and its evil desires, will always defiantly declare, “Mine!” But because of the transformational power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can proudly proclaim, “His!”