Where do you shop for clothes? Do you go to thrift stores, big-box discount chain stores, trendy boutiques, or high-end stores? Or is most of your shopping online?
When do you shop? Do you wait for clearance sales or Black Fridays? Are you a last minute shopper or do you plan your shopping trips?
We Americans, known for our consumeristic culture, are overly focused on clothing. It's more than just covering our nakedness, it's often part of our identity.
But really, how important should it be? It depends on the clothing.
Out with the old
Last week, I observed that letting go of our former life and ways is like a slow burial. It won't happen all at once, which is what we'd all prefer. It's a daily process that requires a daily commitment on our part to follow Jesus (Luke 9:23).
It also won't be a steady progressive process, but more herky-jerky, stop and go in nature. Why? Because our stubborn selfish will resists this kind of progress.
In my own life journey with Jesus, I've enjoyed some relatively smooth progress at times. It gets interrupted when the Lord reveals areas of my life where I'm not nearly as surrendered to follow Him as I think.
This can include attitudes, use of my time, habits, words I say or don't say, and well, you get the idea.
A life-long process
It's as if the Lord peels another layer of myself to reveal what I've attempted to cover up with some self-justification.
I remember times the Lord would speak to my heart as I counseled others about their life. "Do you hear what you're saying to them?" He confronted me with my own words of counsel, encouragement, or exhortation to others.
What this reveals is how much I'm not like Jesus whom I'm committed to following.
This is the dilemma of every Christian believer.
We can't be satisfied with whatever progress we think is made. This is a life-long process of transformation until we see Jesus face-to-face (1 Cor 13:12; 1 John 3:2)
Just as letting go of our old life and ways is a daily commitment and process, so is taking on a new way of living. This is where transformation takes place, where real change begins from the inside out.
I'm not talking about a self-improvement program. It's not about being a better person. It's an internal transformation where we become more like Jesus.
How does this happen?
I wrote about putting the old life and its ways to death last week. It's like taking off dirty raggedy clothing (Col 3:5-9; Isa 64:6).
A change of clothes
The next step, after we take off the raggedy old clothes of our former way of life, is to put on new clothing—the new ways of a new life and nature—
Since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Col 3:9-11 NIV)
A big part of that is "being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator". It's not just accumulating biblical knowledge, but becoming like the One who gave us a new life and nature (Gal 6:14-15; 2 Cor 5:17; Eph 4:22-24 NIV).
So, what should it look like to be renewed and transformed this way? What are the new clothes we'll put on this new self?
Our new clothing
We are to become like Jesus as we follow Him. We'll still be who we are as individuals, but how we live will change, and that begins with an internal transformation.
What will this look like?
Therefore, as Godʼs chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Col 3:12-14 NIV)
Look at these "new clothes"— compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love. These are not natural to our selfish nature, yet we are to put them on! All of these reflect the nature of Jesus, which a simple reading through the gospels will reveal.
A work of God's grace in us
These very attitudes of the heart that become actions are mentioned by Paul in Galatians as the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
This tells us something vital about this changing of clothing from the old self to the new. It's not our work or effort, but God's work by His Spirit. It's an internal, spiritual transformation.
It's a work of God's redemptive grace within us. Our part is choosing to allow God to do this work in us. That's our commitment to Jesus when we choose to follow Him.
Imagine holding a ball underwater. Because of the air inside, which is lighter than water, it wants to rise to the surface. That's you and I holding back this transformation into a new life. We just need to let go of our self-centered ways and let the Holy Spirit do His work in us.
Next week I'll take a look at how we can do this. Until then...
How are you learning to allow God's Spirit to do His work in you?