Learn and Unlearn: On New Life in Christ


I’m a Star Wars junkie. So is my husband Ben. We have two cats, Luke and Leia, and a dog, Hoth. Our parents implored us not to follow suit in the naming trend when we had kids. We didn’t, but we did instill in them our love for the movie trilogy.

I recently watched The Empire Strikes Back with my middle son. It’s the second of the original trilogies and one of my favorites. It’s the first time we meet the wise old Master Jedi, Yoda. Young Luke   Skywalker finds Yoda in order to begin his own Jedi training and things don’t exactly go swimmingly. When Luke’s sunken starship bubbles beneath the watery surface he sighs in exasperation. Just a moment before he was using his mind to move rocks, but a starship? That was too big. Insert one of pop culture’s most famous dialogues:

Yoda: “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

Luke: “All right, I’ll give it a try.”

Yoda: “No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Not bad advice from a 2-and-a-half-foot green monster. It reminds me of what Paul wrote about our old and new selves in Christ Jesus.

New People, New Ways

At its core, the gospel truth is that Jesus predestined us before we were born, called us to saving faith through his Holy Spirit, paid the penalty for our sins through his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection and welcomes us into new life in him. We then go on to spend our earthly lives as changed individuals living for Jesus. To put it simply, our journey of sanctification here on earth is a little like what Yoda tells Luke, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” That’s essentially what Paul tells the Ephesian church when he says, “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires…and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:22-24).

Our sure salvation in Jesus Christ means that we are no longer who we once were—sin-wrought and deserving of God’s righteous wrath. We are born again, a new creation. We are new people who live in a new way that is markedly different from our old lives. When we assume our position as children of the one true King, we have to unlearn our old ways and learn to live as those who have the Spirit of the Living Jesus in them.

And did you catch what Paul didn’t say? He didn’t say “try.” In fact, he’d probably agree with Yoda here: “Do or do not – there is no try.” Put off and put on are in the imperative; they are commands. Our redeemed life in Christ means we are commanded to live in the likeness of God, full of righteousness and holiness. God doesn’t call us to try, he calls us to do. To do as we were created to be, image-bearers of God and through the Spirit, fully capable to image Christlikeness. A tall order? Yes. But do we must. It will not yield perfection this side of heaven because do as we might, we’re just never going to get it right all the time. My friend, take heart! We serve a merciful God, a tenderhearted Father, one who longs to commune with us, and forgives us time and time again, encouraging and spurring us onward to the likeness of his Son.

Put on Your Crown

Another way to think about how we unlearn our old ways, and learn new ones is to meditate on what Paul says to the church in Galatia, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20) We have full confidence that we can live as children of the Risen King because he sends his own Spirit to dwell within us. We are not orphans searching for belonging but have been adopted into God’s own family; sealed and purchased by the blood of Jesus.

Dear one, this is good news! My spiritual mother and mentor reminds me time and again to “put on my child of the King crown.” My identity is secure in the kingship with Jesus! As we rise each morning put on our crowns and remember the spiritual family to which we belong, we should be moved to have our actions, thoughts and words transformed into Christlikeness.

While Star Wars is science fiction, the story of our redemption is fact. We have a true hero who conquered greater evil than the Empire; he conquered sin itself. Our hero, Jesus Christ, by his perfect life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection has made us new creations. The Spirit of the risen King of Heaven and Earth, Jesus Christ, resides within you and me, and that my friend is truly remarkable and praiseworthy. Thank God for our new lives in Him and his Spirit residing in us! Let us live out that reality. Let us not “try” but “do.” Because Christ made it so.

About the Author:

Julianna Bowman

Julianna Bowman is wife to Ben and mom to Barrett, Bryce, and Henry. She lives with her family, dog, and two cats in the Philadelphia suburbs. In addition to being a full-time mom, she enjoys serving within women’s ministry, the craft of writing, as well as almond milk lattes. Her home church is Proclamation Presbyterian in Bryn Mawr, PA.