Dressed for Godliness
The Bible pairs the idea of eliminating sin with the idea of adopting holiness so consistently that we must take it to be an important principle of the Christian life. One of the clearest examples occurs in the letter to the Colossians. Here Paul used the image of taking off the old clothing of sin and putting on the new clothing of holiness (notice especially the emphasized phrases below).
“Put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry. … Get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all its wicked deeds. In its place you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you. … Since God chose you to be the holy people whom He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you … The most important piece of clothing you must wear is love … Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts … Always be thankful.” (Colossians 3:5-15)
Nobody in their right mind would take off their clothes without sooner or later putting clothes on again. In the same way, figuratively speaking, we cannot take off the rags of sin without putting some clothes back on. Either we will don the shining new garments of holiness or we will put those dirty rags of wickedness back on.
In case you might consider all this to be merely theoretical, let us challenge you with a few practical questions:
- Do you tend to be lazy at work, at home, or at church? If so, you need to take off the garment of sloth and put on the garment of diligence.
- Do you gripe, grumble, and complain when things do not go your way? In that case, take off the garment of dissatisfaction and put on the garment of contentment.
- Do you always bring a conversation back to yourself and what you have accomplished? If so, take off the garment of pride and put on the garment of humility.
As we all know, old clothes can sometimes be the most comfortable. And in the same way, our old habits of sin can seem easiest for us to wear. The problem is that they are morally shabby and are inappropriate attire for one who wants to enter the presence of the King. We need to judge our sin by the objective standard of Scripture, not by the temporary pleasure or comfort it might give us. Otherwise, we might not see its destructiveness until it is too late. The “comfortable” clothes always become restrictive in the end. Whatever your particular sin problem might be, therefore, you need God’s grace to remove it from your life and then begin to “wear” a new, holier attitude in its place.
And how do you do this? First, you identify your sin. Then you ask God for His help in defeating the sin once for all. You also seek the Spirit’s transforming power to establish new and better habits in your life. (Note: These are just the basics. We will be introducing a more thorough process for healing a sin habit at the end of this chapter.) Of course, in practice, the putting off/putting on process looks a little different in everyone’s life.
This biblical image of changing clothes is a memorable one. An even more familiar image from the Bible—namely, fruit bearing—makes the same point, though with a twist.