I head back to school today–not to study, but to conduct classes in the library. As I contemplate my attire for work, I am also reminded that I will need to “put on” a few other things that I don’t need as much while I’m on vacation. What things? Well, things like patience when four children are calling my name at the same time. Restraint when dealing with a child who is making extremely poor choices. Diligence in doing my personal best even when it’s 1:30 p.m. and all I want is a large coffee and a long nap.
Are these things totally foreign to my nature? No, not at all. I do have some patience, restraint, and diligence already in my character. But going to work at school requires me to pay careful attention to these and other qualities, amplifying what I already have wherever possible. I don’t have to become a different person at work, but I do have to boost certain qualities; we can think of “putting on,” in one sense, as not putting on clothing I don’t wear but adding extra layers of what I’m already wearing–”bundling up” against the weather of the day.
As I was thinking about this, I was reminded of Paul’s reminders in the New Testament to “put on” certain qualities–the armor of God (Ephesians 6:13 Ephesians 6:13Why take to you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
American King James Version×) and ways of behaving (Colossians 3:12 Colossians 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering;
American King James Version×). But as I was reflecting on these and the necessity of putting them on–adding them, because they are traits we don’t naturally possess–I read Matthew 13:33 Matthew 13:33Another parable spoke he to them; The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
American King James Version×. “Another parable He spoke to them: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.’” Barclay’s commentary points out that this parable reminds us of the transforming nature of Christianity. The point is not an outward change, but an inward change, an inward growth. Adding yeast to bread doesn’t just make the outside shell of the loaf bigger while leaving the inside hollow; it transforms the dough completely.
Of course, in both cases there is outward change that we can witness; there are outward changes that we put on as we grow in Christ–things we have to remember to “wear” because we don’t naturally think or act in those ways. However, those must go hand-in-hand with that interior change, or else those outward changes become simply makeup that we can take off whenever we’re tired of “playing Christian.” I noted earlier Colossians 3:12-14 Colossians 3:12-14 12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering;
13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you.
14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfection.
American King James Version×, where Paul writes, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” Clear instruction about things we are to “wear” as Christians. But if we back up a few verses, we read, “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…” (Colossians 3:8-10 Colossians 3:8-10 8 But now you also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
American King James Version×).
Here we see three things: putting off old things, putting on the new…and in between, renewal. Something happening inside. In Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×, Paul writes, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” We’re conforming to a new standard, but we are being transformed so that the new standard is also what we are. We are not remaining who we once were and simply adding a new look–the new look comes as we are changed into new beings. As we study and reflect and breathe in the word of God, we are doing more than “accentuating the positive”–an effort that can only last as long as we have willpower and desire to keep up the facade. We put on the outward things as a sign that we understand that there is a better way to live…but we do so as we allow Christ to transform us inside-out, allowing Him to change who we are at heart.
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