Imagine for a minute that I do a lot of running (I don’t, just in case you didn’t know). Now consider these two scenarios: 1) I run long distances each day and get covered in sweat and mud. I go back home take off my dirty clothes and straight away put on my nice clean clothes and go to work. 2) I run long distances each day and get covered in sweat and mud. I go back home take off my dirty clothes, have a shower, put on my dirty clothes and go to work. You might be thinking “ew disgusting”. Who on earth would do that?
We have been considering the pursuit of holiness in my past 2 posts and today we will be considering that God’s grace teaches us to say yes to positive qualities of the Christian character. These are the qualities that we call the fruit of the Spirit. (Read Galatians 5:13-26) In order for us to be able to say yes to these, we need to consider what the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:22-24
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
In the process of striving to attain, pressing on in this journey of seeking holiness, we need to “put off” the old self and “put on” the new self. Lets consider my two scenarios: we think they are disgusting but very often as Christians we do exactly that. Consider scenario number 1. We might feel sorry for something we did, so we mumble a few words to God and put on our nice smile and go on our day trying our best to do the good things that will impress God. Now consider scenario number 2: we might genuinely repent and hate the sin we have committed against God, but we continue to let our self be in control of our desires and we go on living our day doing the same thing we did with no change.
There are problems with my two scenarios. If we take off the old clothes and put clean ones on without showering, all we are doing is making the clean clothes dirty and we are only concealing the mud and smell. If we shower and put the dirty clothes back on, all we are doing is making our body dirty all over again. The smell and the dirt will be transferred back to us. The perfect scenario would be to shower, get dry and put on the clean clothes before going to work. The process of getting clean and changing into clean clothes go together.
We need to do the same when it comes to pursuing holiness. We need to “put off” the old self and “put on” the new self. They go together. As we scrub the mud away, i.e. as we repent genuinely of the sins we cultivate or struggle with, we get dry and put on the nice clean clothes we have, i.e. we put on the new self, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” This is where we strive, we persist, we press on to imitate centred on God’s grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit.
We must remember that the grace of God is sufficient and it must be in the centre of our pursuit. Lets consider Titus 2:11-12
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
Verse 12 presents us with the positive side of what grace teaches us: to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives. These 3 words Paul uses here relate to actions towards one self, neighbours and God. We need to be self-controlled in order to practice the restraint we need in order to focus on good things of life. We also need to deny all things clearly sinful. We need to learn to live upright lives. That means we must have the right actions and conduct towards other people. Godliness is having regard for God, his glory and will in every aspect of our lives. Small or big. We must do everything out of reverence, love and obedience to Him. These are our new, “clean clothes” so to speak.
What an amazing, wonderful, gracious God we have! Not only has He sent His Son to die on the cross for us as a perfect sacrifice, but He has also given us what we need in order to live holy lives. Let’s be encouraged. We have God’s grace and the Holy Spirit living in us. We also have God’s word. We need to train ourselves to open it up, read and study it so we can know God more and understand all of the wonderful things He wants to teach us. For now remember to put off the old self and put on the new one. We are new creations in Christ. To get back to my scenarios: get in the shower, scrub all the mud off and get dressed in your bright clean clothes.
Have a blessed week.
Photo by Ylanite Koppens from StockSnap