When I was a child growing up in New Zealand, my mother knit colorful sweaters for me. She used brightly colored wool to create warm sweaters, which we call jumpers. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it’s not the greatest fashion statement, but, in many photos of me as a kid, I’m wearing one!
I believe there are three main types of clothing: clothes that others want us to wear, clothes we wear to fit in or be someone and clothes that are truly ours. As the new year begins, I have been thinking about how this has a spiritual parallel. The Scriptures remind us to take off our old selves and clothe ourselves in our true identity in Christ.
The apostle Paul challenges Christians to put off their old selves. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul points out that the believers used to clothe themselves in earthly things. He tells them,
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry”
(Colossians 3:5, New International Version).
These are the things we must put off. Paul goes on, urging them to rid themselves of anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language (Colossians 3:8, NIV). Two thousand years later, these are the same patterns we find ourselves in.
It’s challenging to put off not just our actions but also the deeper thoughts and beliefs that give rise to these sinful acts and habits. But these things must end.
In his book "Necessary Endings," Henry Cloud writes that, for growth to happen, some things need to come to an end. “Today may be the enemy of tomorrow,” writes Cloud. “In your business and perhaps your life, the tomorrow that you desire and envision may never come to pass if you do not end the things you are doing.”
Our motivation for putting off the “old” things and putting on our new identity comes from recognizing who we truly are. We are chosen people, holy, and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12, NIV). These are just a few of our new ‘names.’
Many of us can remember being called a cutting nickname. I remember being teased for my last name growing up, yet I knew that many generations of Osbaldistons had lived in New Zealand. Sometimes, childhood nicknames take root in our souls and echo in our behavior, thoughts and beliefs as adults.
We as believers have new and true names to which we can cling, such as chosen, holy, dearly loved, and many others. These are among the first things we need to ‘put on’ in our new identity in Christ, who is our life.
“To mature is to grow up from the names that others have given us and hold on to those that are given us in community, to let go of those that are weak and false, and hold on to the names that are strong and true,” said Mark Strom, who was principal of Pathways College in Auckland, New Zealand. His words have stuck with me.
We are invited to put on our new identity and then to clothe ourselves with things that suit our new identity, such as “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12, NIV).
This year, I hope to continue learning to live out of these strong and true names. I’m trusting God to empower me to live out of who He says I am – putting off my old self and also putting on my new self, which is in Christ.
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