Old And New
“that, regarding your previous way of life, you put off your old self [completely discard your former nature], which is being corrupted through deceitful desires, and be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], and put on the new self [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image, [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation].”
In some ways, being a Christian makes life more complicated. Instead of having one nature (selfish and sinful though it is), we have two. When we become believers, incredibly wonderful and dramatic things happen. God forgives us for all our sins, we become children of God, and we have eternal life, to name just a few. But our old sinful nature doesn’t evaporate. It’s still there, whispering to us that God doesn’t care; that we’re foolish for followingHim; and that, after all, there’s nothing wrong with being selfish. Paul tell us that not only is our old sinful nature still there— it’s getting worse!
Paul uses the metaphor of getting dressed to help us understand how to live by our new nature. It’s as simple as putting on clean clothes. First, we recognize that our old clothes are dirty, and we take steps to take them off. When the Spirit of God shines His light on our pride, arrogance, indifference, or other sins, we say, “Yes, Lord, I see them too.” We confess our sin, and we lay that behavior aside like a dirty shirt.
We then grab a clean shirt- new behavior that honors Gods and blesses people- and put it on. During this process, we let God’s Word sink deep into our minds to refresh us and renew us. Without His truth, we wander around in dirty clothes, not knowing why people think we stink!
Don’t be surprised when you recognize sinful attitudes and actions in our life. They are part of your old nature, which will be with you until you see Jesus face-to-face. But do something about them. Change clothes!
Let my heart be broken with the things that break God’s heart.
Have you ever watched a small child trying to change clothes? Sometimes they try to take off the old one without undoing the buttons. They might even try to remove their pants with their shoes on. The fact is they are trying to do something that is new for them. For parents who learned to change clothes a long time ago and have forgotten what a challenge it was for them as a child, they might wonder if their child will ever master the task.
When we become Christians, we don’t know how to dress ourselves in our new nature. Sometimes we get in a hurry and try to remove our old nature without undoing the buttons. When we try to put on our new nature sometimes we get the buttons in the wrong hole. We probably look like an inexperienced child who has tried to dress themselves.
The point is that exchanging our old nature- the one we were comfortable with before Christ came into our lives- with the new nature- becoming the new person God has called us to be isn’t easy or quick. We are indeed a work in process. Just as a child has to learn to put the right button in the right hole, we have to learn new ways and new habits.
One of the important things about teaching a child to dress themselves is patience. They learn many times from their mistakes and so do we. As parents we might be tempted to do everything for our child rather than having to go through the training process, but not God. He is infinitely patient with us and will have us to unbutton and re-button until we learn which hole the button goes. He works with us teaching us how to put off our old sinful ways and to replace them with righteous ways. He never seems to tire helping one of His children work toward mastering the change.
Children seem to master some dressing task easier than others. Some may have little problems with buttons but struggle with a zipper. Some may have trouble getting the right shoe on the right foot and others with learning to tie their shoes. That’s us. All of us seem to be able to make some changes quickly and easily but wrestle with others for years.
Many of us developed a lot of sinful habits along the way and when we come to Christ learning new habits takes some time. What we ought to do is ask for assistance from the Holy Spirit who will show us what needs to change and then will work with us teaching and training us in new ways.
We should never feel hopeless about being able to change for God promises that if we stay the course we will complete the change. Our relationship with God begins with His loving us the way we are. That love never changes but God loves us too much to leave us as He finds us. His goal for each of His disciples is that they will mirror the image of His Son. Listen to how Paul and John describes this change in us.
For those whom He foreknew [and loved and chose beforehand], He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son [and ultimately share in His complete sanctification], so that He would be the firstborn [the most beloved and honored] among many believers.
And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18
Beloved, we are [even here and] now children of God, and it is not yet made clear what we will be [after His coming]. We know that when He comes and is revealed, we will [as His children] be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is [in all His glory]. And everyone who has this hope [confidently placed] in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (holy, undefiled, guiltless).
1 John 3:2-3
One day we all will stand before God and on that day Christ will see His very image reflected back to Him from us. In the mean time let’s just keep learning to take off the old dirty smelly rags of sin and to put on the new robes of righteousness even as we are being cleansed by the Holy Spirit. If this feels too challenging read again the story of the Prodigal. In that story a father(God the Father) welcomed home a wayward son who had been keeping company with the pigs(that’s us wallowing in the mud of the world). Without the third degree the father had him bathed and dressed and provided a feast for him. Jesus told us that the father rejoiced that his son who was thought to be dead had been restored. That the story of the gospel. God take us as filthy sinners, washes us with the blood of Jesus, places the Holy Spirit within us to lead us to righteous living. He clothes us in the righteousness of Christ and is preparing a feast for us on that day when we are presented to Christ as His bride. Keep changing clothes!
Dr. John Thompson