Have you ever been hit with the reality of how heavy your sin is?
My mind goes instantly to the passage in Ephesians 4:22-24 that talks about this “putting off” and “putting on” mentality: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
I know in my mind that I need to put off the old self and put on the new self, but I tend to forget about the second part. I usually just focus on the things from my past that come up that need to be thrown away. I am constantly asking God to show me things in my life that aren’t of Him, that He would help me to cast them aside. This isn’t a bad thing to be asking, but I’ve realized I need to also be asking Him to show me how to fill that hole with Him.
The book I’ve been reading, The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges, spoke directly to this in my heart when I read these paragraphs the other day:
“I like to think of this twofold approach of ‘putting off’ and ‘putting on’ as represented by the two blades of a pair of scissors. We readily recognize that a single scissors blade is useless as far as doing the job for which it was designed. The two blades must be joined together at the pivot point and must work in conjunction with each other to be effective. The scissors illustrate a spiritual principle: We must work simultaneously at putting off the characteristics of our old selves and putting on the characteristics of the new selves. One without the other is not effective.
Some believers seem to focus on putting off sinful practices but give little attention to what they are to put on. Too often the lives of such people become hard and brittle and probably self-righteous, because they tend to equate godliness with a defined list of ‘don’ts.’ Other believers tend to focus on putting on certain positive traits such as love, compassion, and kindness. But if they do not pay attention to the ‘don’ts’ of Scripture, they can become careless in morality and ethics. So we need the dual focus of ‘putting off’ and ‘putting on,’ and each should receive equal attention from us.”In this instance I am absolutely the person who focuses too much on the “putting off.” It’s interesting because I don’t think I would characterize myself as self-righteous, but I can totally see that characteristic in my forgiveness, especially in forgiving myself. When I fail to cast off something that isn’t from the Lord, I give myself a pity party. I ask myself, “Will you ever change?” I don’t see the sin and realize that God is showing me that I need to fill that void with Him and His love. I see a list of things I’m not supposed to do and if I don’t them, I punish myself. It’s more of a good works mentality instead of a grace mentality.
The Scripture I need to cling to in this instance is Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I need to sit in that grace that God so readily gives us, forgive myself and putting on the new self that God has given me. By the power of the Holy Spirit I can live in my new self.
What side of the spectrum do you fall on? Do you fall more on the side of “putting on?” Maybe like me you wouldn’t recognize the characteristics that Bridges mentions of being careless in morality or ethics, but maybe you could recognize not noticing the things God calls us not to do. I could see myself falling to this if I was to only put on the good things God has asked us to put on.
The Scripture I know would speak to my heart in this is Romans 6:1-4, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who has been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
God calls us to put off the old self and to put on the new self that He has transformed. Yet He doesn’t ask us to do this with no help from Himself! Remember, dear friend, Romans 8:11, “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.”
God has given us the same Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead to live inside us and give us power! We can both put off the old self and put on the new self because we have strength through His Spirit! What good news!
God, I pray that you would show us where we lack in either putting off our old selves or in the putting on of our new selves. Show us where we need to be made more like you! I pray against condemnation that we might put on ourselves for failing to be perfect, and I also pray against taking advantage of your grace because you give it so freely! Help us to have a good balance of truth and grace, God. We love you and thank you for yet another day to bring you glory!
[This post first appeared on Radical Everyday Living, December 10, 2013.]