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Chapter 38 - Putting On and Putting Off

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. - Galatians 3:27

The 'diligence' Peter spoke of as our contribution to our character transformation is less the effort to achieve a goal, than the sustaining constancy to make difficult choices. The advantage is that as we more consistently choose to 'put on' the Lord Jesus Christ, the easier it becomes until even the idea of 'putting on' the filthy rags of the flesh is revolting.

The idea of taking off and putting on clothing is used to illustrate our role in the process of our sanctification. We can think of two sets of clothing in our 'closet' of life. One set is appropriate for our old nature that manifests in ungodly behavior. The new set of 'clothing' is appropriate for the life we are now called to live.

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness. - Colossians 3:12-14

Clothing might be seen as the interface with which we engage with the world. Our selection of clothing is often made with regard to warmth, protection, and the tasks we undertake. The 'clothing' described in Colossians are not things we can accomplish as tasks, but manifestations of a choice. This is summarized in verse 14 with the word 'love'.

The good qualities listed in Colossians 3:12-13 that we are to 'put on' all flow out of the selflessness of love described in verse 14. When faced with a situation where we could chose forbearance or retribution, our fleshly hurt might motivate us to chose retribution, but our love (selflessness) helps us to chose forbearance.

At the core, Christians have a divided nature. That with which we were constituted prior to salvation can still operate to frustrate our Christian walk. It is key to the radical Christian life to understand this division so that we can chose to 'put on' the new nature.

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. - Galatians 5:16-17

Our spiritual nature is given us when we are born again. It is by this that we receive eternal life and our connection with God. Part of the change associated with radical Christianity involves transitioning from infant Christianity to mature Christianity such that that which was born of God in us grows to the full measure of Christ.

The decision to put on or take off indicates the option to do so. Our new birth frees us from the compelling power of sin so that we are actually able to choose.

Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. - John 8:34-36

Freedom is the opportunity to choose that results from our will being set free from our fallen nature. However, spiritual birth without spiritual growth produces a situation where our will is too heavily influenced by our old nature. Our putting on and putting off choices are severely limited by a lack of spiritual growth.

When we have grown spiritually, we find our choices flow easily from a desire for the things of the Lord. The Christian life is so much easier when we have grown to understand, appreciate, and recognize much of what the Lord has done and continues to do for us. Gratitude and humility become portals for the flow of Godís grace.

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. - James 4:6

All too often some who attempt to live a deeper Christian life attempt to do so in their own strength. This is doomed to fail as the qualities of the spirit can only be mimicked by the use of the flesh. For example, forbearance might be simulated by suppression of anger, but often at the expense of incurring a bitterness that can poison a soul.

Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; - Hebrews 12:15

True and godly desire flows from a heart that has been transformed and remade as our spirit matures.

Now the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: - 1 Timothy 1:5

  

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