Some people may tell you your old self is like a ferocious dog living inside of you, terrorizing you and other people. It controls you and makes you commit all kinds of sins. It’s what makes you selfish, self-centered, and dependent on yourself instead of God. It’s the reason you are tempted and the reason you sin.
In contrast, they say the new self is like a wonderful, loving dog that always wants to be with you. It protects you and leads you to do what God wants. It’s why you want to live a righteous life. It’s why you want to serve and help others. It’s the reason you can resist temptation and obey God.
According to this illustration, the dog (or “self”) you feed the most will be the one that wins the battle in your daily life. To feed the old self usually means things like watching pornography, hanging out with people who cuss, getting drunk, going to clubs, having sex outside of marriage, or just avoiding God. Feeding the new self means doing things like reading the Bible, praying, listening to good sermons, serving God, and donating money.
This two-self teaching seems to express what we often experience, doesn’t it? Some will use Scriptures that seem to prove this, like Ephesians 4:22–24, which says,
In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (NASB)
If you look closely at the text, though, you’ll notice these verses are clearly speaking about behavior. When it says, “your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self,” it means to get rid of the sinful behaviors that were a part of the old self that is no longer inside of you. Then putting on the new self is about living with righteous behavior that is consistent with the new self you now have, meaning the new identity in Christ you have today.
Two-self teaching has two big problems.
First, it’s not helpful. I’ve asked many people whether this teaching has helped them overcome a specific sin, provided emotional healing, or repaired a ruptured relationship. Not one person has ever been able to show how the two-self concept produced those fruits. Why? Because it’s not God’s truth!
Which leads to the second problem: it’s not biblical. The Bible tells us we have only one self.
For example, Romans 6:6 says, “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”
The Greek language gives us an understanding much clearer than English does. The verb crucified is a specific aorist tense. It means the old self, or what some call the old nature, was in Christ when he died on the cross. In other words, your old self died with him on the cross. Notice that it’s past tense, meaning it has already happened. And the Greek tense tells us it happened once and for all. It is done. It will never be repeated
(From God’s Best-Kept Secret: Christianity Is Easier Than You Think by Mark Maulding, page 40)
In Christ, you have not lost yourself. You have found your self. Email or call us and let us provide discipleship counseling so you can live in this freedom,