Shedding Old Clothes

Today I want to discuss a passage in Colossians 3.

Put to death therefore whatever is earthly in you; sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness which is idolatry….Put on then as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 

What do we do with a Scripture like that? Part of me wants to run to the hills recognizing that this is impossible. And the other part of me says: “Of course it’s impossible to disrobe from earthly attitudes and actions and put on Godly character. Of course. It’s only possible through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.” This is the key – we can’t but God can. And another Scripture that brings it home…

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

So putting both of these Scriptures together we see the full picture of the work of Christ in a believer. We are bent towards earth but called towards heaven and this work bending us back to heaven is a work of the Spirit.

Patience, forgiving others when wronged, and being kind are not always our first response but God is working a new response in our hearts, a work that we must yield to as we grow in Christ. Here is what is helpful for me when I am faced with a grit-my-teeth response to something or someone. I pray:

“Lord, I am struggling here and I want to respond as you would have me respond. But I would rather not. Help me”.

Now that may not sound like a very spiritual prayer, but it is certainly a real prayer when my flesh cries out to complain or push back.

Does this always work? Not always. But if I can stop for a few seconds and shoot up an arrow prayer in my heart it is helpful. God is at work even in my unholy prayer. He likes real, I think, don’t you? Nevertheless there are days I am tired and grumpy and I would rather leave my old clothes on– the clothes of selfishness or unforgiveness and the like. But God reminds me that He has given me a new set of clothes; that I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. Ah… now that is good news.

Friends, let’s remind one another of who we are in Christ and encourage each other that although we don’t get it right every day, Christ in us is at work in us. It doesn’t happen overnight but our responses will improve.

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