First Things First
Often when we are first born again we have great zeal, and get ahead of God ultimately delaying our spiritual growth. Our Father promised to direct our pathways, but we take off running without renewing our minds to the Word of God. In the book of Ephesians a new believer desirous of doing things for God will sometimes skip over the first five chapters and go directly to chapter 6, verses 10-12. We must learn to put first things first, and live a lifestyle of prayer and obedience.

At the point of conversion the part of you that is spirit becomes brand new, and old things pass away. But the soul (the seat of the mind, will and emotions) is not born again so it brings along the unhealed hurts, unmet needs and unresolved issues, and unless you put first things first you stumble, get discouraged and feel disappointed when old behaviors crop up. The soul will even try to convince you that you really didn’t get born again…at least there was a time in my life when I doubted, but God sent teachers who taught me the principle of doing first things first: put off the old man (the old unrenewed self).

In the Message Bible we read: …everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Man is spirit, soul and body. Being born again is the beginning of a brand new life when the spirit man becomes a partaker of the divine nature of God, but the soul has to be renewed to the Word of God. Otherwise, the unsurrended soul tries to hang on to its old way of living…it doesn’t want to give up control. Growing up spiritually is a process, and when you follow the Apostle Paul’s principles you will avoid some painful experiences. As in all processes it is necessary to put first things first.

Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; and be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude]. And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24 AMP)

In the earliest stages of my prayer life, I had no understanding about “stripping” away my former nature, so I ignored that part and skipped down to “putting on” the new. One day while driving down the highway an overwhelming feeling of anger and confusion broke through. “God,” I prayed, “What’s wrong with me? How dare I even think that I have anything spiritual to give to anyone? I cannot continue in ministry unless You do something to change me!”

When I stopped whining and complaining, the Lord said, “I am ready to help you work out your salvation by working into your inner being all that you have prayed to be established in others.”

He is always effectually at work in the lives of His children…energizing and creating in them the will and the power to do according to all that He desires (Philippians 2:13). Even though I had experienced many changes in my life and had avoided overt sins, I had no understanding of the covert (hidden) sins that kept me bound—strongholds of rigidity, denial, emotional isolation and silence. When severe, painful obstacles arose, I became more rigid about keeping to the letter of the law and expected everyone around me to do the same. My unsurrended soul exercised its power; a power that would be overthrown by the implanted and rooted Word of God that contains the power to save the soul. (Read James 1:19-21).

Again and again I declared, “Walking in love is my great quest and aim in life,” but in times of stress, I’d lose control and old behavior patterns would crop up. Then I’d spend days repenting “in sackcloth and ashes.”

In quiet, contemplative moments God’s Word revealed attitudes and thought patterns…exposed, sifted and analyzed the very thoughts and intents of my heart that had long lay in a sea of forgetfulness. As it turned out I had forgotten a past that had not forgotten me. Together the Holy Spirit and I began to strip away, put off and discard my old unrenewed self. This was the beginning of a painful but rewarding new life. Emotional wounds were exposed and healed, unmet needs were fulfilled because He supplied all my need, and I began to resolve issues concerning relationships…my need for approval and affirmation. I was a classic co-dependent!

God’s plan is for His children to go from one degree of glory to another, and the sufferings of this life cannot be compared to the glory God bestows upon those who belong to Him. The unsurrended soul with its spoiled virtue and cancerous garbage had to give way to the planted Word of God, which saves the soul…James 1:21 (NIV). Old thought patterns and attitudes will be replaced with God’s thoughts and His idea, and the love of God that is shed abroad in the heart will drive the streaks of selfishness out of doors, making way for the believer to walk in paths of righteousness. Behaviors change, and change produces more change.

Putting off the old prepares the way for putting on the new man—the new self with its new behaviors. The soul doesn’t want to give up its control, but as the mind is renewed day by day, the soul is saved, transformed by the constant ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Keep first things first. STRIP OFF THE OLD MAN (the unsurrended soul) with its wrong concepts, bad attitudes, quarreling, anger and rage, unforgiveness, bad feelings toward God and others, PUT ON THE NEW!

Suggested Scripture Reading: Ephesians. 4:22-32 NIV

© Copyright Germaine Copeland 2004

Germaine Copeland is the author of the best selling book series, Prayers That Avail Much. She has written scriptural prayers for the family. Read your Bible, pray and attend church where you can soak up the love and faith of God. You will receive emotional healing, experience spiritual growth and become more intimately acquainted with your Heavenly Father, and your relationships will grow stronger.

Continue to pray the Prayers of Commitment from Germaine’s Prayers That Avail Much Commemorative Edition and ask to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord.