Colossians 3:9b–13: Time for a New Wardrobe

February 7, 2015

In the forty-five years since I gave my life to Christ, there have been many opportunities to recognize the complete transformation in my personality, priorities, and practices. Even by age 17, my life was on a trajectory of crippling anxiety, perfectionism, and isolation. If God had not pursued me and got hold of my heart, there is no telling how I might have turned out permanently. But catching me when he did, God began to remake me and reorient me towards him and towards my neighbor.

The fact that this transformation started so long ago in no way diminishes my gratitude for Jesus’ patient work in me, which continues to this day. Not as often now, but invasive nonetheless, the “old tapes” from my before-Christ days try to take over my thoughts or perspective. So one of the things dead to me now is the self that was afraid, autonomous, and anxious. After forty-five years of laying that old self aside, and putting on the new self made whole, confident and joyful in the Savior, I can say that I have made progress toward Christ-likeness. Of course, my transformation is not complete, but it will be someday (Philippians 1:6).

My story is not unique. People around the globe over the last 2,000 years have been undergoing the same kind of renovation of the heart, as Dallas Willard called it. No matter our country of origin, our cultural perspective, our socio-economic status, we who are in Christ all look to the same Savior for the same thing: salvation and life-transforming power to change the way we live.

The Apostle Paul used the analogy of clothing to depict what is happening to us spiritually:

9 . . .seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices
10and have clothed yourselves with the new self,
which is being renewed in knowledge
according to the image of its creator.
11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew,
circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free;
but Christ is all and in all!
12As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
13Bear with one another and,
if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other;

just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

My quiet life at home as a writer these days does not require me to dress up or have a large, fancy wardrobe. Nevertheless, I change clothes at least three times a day, from bedclothes to exercise clothes to working-at-home clothes. If I go out to meet someone for coffee, I put on a nice-looking sweater out of respect for my friend. Each of these changes of clothing is a reminder of the choice we are called to make to take off the old self “with its practices” and clothe ourselves with “the new self.” This new personality is always being updated (unlike my personal wardrobe!) in knowledge according to God’s image.

There’s that word “knowledge” again. There’s something about keeping current what we know about God and how we think about him as part of our daily worship and service. Regular exposure to God’s word and time in prayer keep the conversation going and allow us to stay in touch with our Lord.

Spiritual renewal—common to all who know Christ regardless of background—is evidenced by new attitudes towards others: compassion, hopeful patience, and forgiveness. Our ability to make this transformation comes from the new reality that we are God’s chosen ones, now part of the family that began with the Chosen Ones the Jews and extended by God’s grace to all others also even to our generation. As another disciple of Jesus said, “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

We are not talking merely about a new identity, but a new self that lives a new way with new attitudes and actions that are visibly different from before. All this is possible and real because Jesus Christ is Lord and he has sent his Spirit to work in our hearts to make change.

In my next post, “what sort of change” will be defined further as we continue in Chapter 3. That post will not appear until Tuesday, February 17, allowing me some freedom while traveling to see my covenant group friends this coming week. We are meeting at Sharol Hayner’s home to celebrate Steve Hayner’s life. I must be fully present for this meeting and put my writing assignments aside for the duration. Thank you for your patience!






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