“But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”
Ephesians 4:20-24 NLT
Paul continues to lay out his thoughts from his prison cell in a different land. His love and concern for his Ephesian friends totally eclipsed the privations and discomforts of his incarceration. And he having, in the previous verses, warned them about the dangers and problems of worldliness, of living lives the Gentile way, he moves on to explain how in fact they should live. There is a better way, he tells them.
He starts by reminding them about what they had been taught about Jesus. There would not have been at this time access to the Gospels, but the stories of Jesus and His mission and teachings, His crucifixion and resurrection, would have been told them over and over again. Facts drummed into them by the diligence of Paul’s preaching. So he goes on to remind them about His truth. God’s truth. The counter-cultural ways of the Kingdom of God. The importance of the basics like repentance from sin and what living a life the Jesus way really means. In fact, Paul comes up with another analogy – he seems to have had a gift in presenting easily-understood word pictures to help his friends. Paul’s analogy involved throwing off and putting on. He reminds them of the “old man”, the fleshly, sinful nature that seems to be a default for human beings. That natural way of life that is full of lies and deceit, lusts and uncleanness. A corrupted nature, not at all as God designed it to be. And Paul quite dramatically tells them to put it off. Discard it. Get rid of it. He then moves on to describe the “new nature, created to be like God”. And notice that this new nature is not something we can generate ourselves – we only experience it by allowing the Holy Spirit to renew our “thoughts and attitudes”. We must do the allowing and the Holy Spirit will bring the renewing. The end result is true righteousness and holiness.
So what should pilgrims make of Paul’s analogy? I have been much helped by these verses myself in my Christian walk because I find it so easy to get up in the morning and put on the wrong spiritual clothes. I don’t know about my readers today, but my default position can so easily be the wrong one. And so, like all pilgrims, we must put off our old clothes to allow the Holy Spirit to dress us in the new. Divine clothes, woven and knitted, stitched and finished, created in Heaven. Amazing! So how does wearing our set of Heavenly clothes impact our day? We find that the hassles of life become less important. We find the dislike of objectionable people being replaced by love and kindness. We find that we don’t get so depressed and worried by the incessant negatives from the news channels. After all, how can we be the same, now that we’re wearing Heavenly clothes, the holiness of Heaven?
A final question – will people around us notice our new clothes today? Or will they still see the same old shabby, well-worn, suit or dress? Hmmm…