Most mornings one of the first decisions we make is what to wear. As a stay-at-home mom, I’ll confess, some days I choose to wear the same pair of jeans I wore the day before. Yesterday’s jeans might be a bit rumpled, but they go on real easy since they’ve already been stretched to fit. Usually, they’re the thing I grab when I really don’t give the matter much thought.
Ephesians 4:22 tells us to “throw off” our old sinful nature and former way of life and instead “put on” our new nature, created in God’s image. Maybe, like me, you’ve wrestled with the truth that your old man (sinful nature, flesh) was crucified with Christ (Eph. 2:1, 2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 5:24, Rom. 6:6). I’ve wondered: If the old me is dead, why do I continue to sin? Why don’t I always feel like a new creation?
Could it be that your sinful nature really is dead, but still hanging around? Since the apostle Paul is advising us to throw it off, that (to me) suggests it’s still available to be worn–like a dirty pair of jeans that you grab out of mindless habit. No wonder God calls our independent efforts at righteousness “filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) Not only filthy… dead. When we default back to our old, independent, sinful nature, it’s like choosing to wear our own dead flesh. Eew, that can’t smell or look pretty.
The way I understand it, becoming a new creature in Christ isn’t as if we’re reprogrammed like a computer. Yes, it is finished–already true in the heavenly realms, as God sees us. But we’re not robots–even after being reborn, we have still free will. Our agreement with the truth and participation in the spiritual renewal of our thoughts and attitudes remains essential. We intentionally choose to “put on” the new us.
So the next time we’re tempted to slip back into an old pattern out of habit, we might pause to consider whether that decaying, rotten old suit is really so appealing. Over time, as we continue to yield to the Spirit, we’ll come to realize it simply doesn’t fit us at all anymore.