Killing Sin by the Spirit, Post 4 (Put Off and Put On)

The Bible calls us to the daily exercise of putting off the practices of the "old self" and putting on the practices of our "new self."

Colossians 3 and Ephesians 4 give a number of specific examples of this kind of behavior change, but these chapters are not giving us exhaustive lists. Notice also that when Paul tells us to put off sinful patterns in these chapters, he also uses the language of putting these things to death. In other words, we’re not supposed to be putting things off and folding them and putting them in a drawer to be brought out later when we want to wear then again. We’re to put them off and put them to death!

 

In our series on Killing Sin by the Spirit, we have seen so far three things we must do:

1. Understand and respond to the call to kill sin by the Spirit.
2. Know and live our identity as children of God who have been born again and who have the Holy Spirit.
3. Get the grace we need to be empowered to kill sin and grow spiritually through God’s ordinary means of grace.

Once we have the grace we need, what do we do? Well, the Bible calls us to the daily exercise of putting off the practices of the “old self” and putting on the practices of our “new self.”

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. – Colossians 3:9-10

Colossians 3:5-17 is a great passage to read for specific guidance on putting off and putting on, as is Ephesians 4:17-32. Consider this from Ephesians 4:

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:20-24, ESV)

The principles behind these passages that teach us foundational, practical Christian living are simple:

1. Your outward behavior is a reflection of your inward desires.
2. As you love Jesus more and more, you must also work to live out what you believe and who you love.
3. You aren’t going to simply do nothing. You will be doing something, so as you stop old patterns of life that come out of selfishness and unbelief, they must be replaced by new patterns of life that come out of our love for Jesus.

Colossians 3 and Ephesians 4 give a number of specific examples of this kind of behavior change, but these chapters are not giving us exhaustive lists. Notice also that when Paul tells us to put off sinful patterns in these chapters, he also uses the language of putting these things to death. In other words, we’re not supposed to be putting things off and folding them and putting them in a drawer to be brought out later when we want to wear then again. We’re to put them off and put them to death!

Here are the things we’re told to put off and put to death in these chapters:

1. sexual immorality
2. impurity
3. passion (Greek “pathos” – unhealthy and inordinate desire)
4. evil desire
5. covetousness
6. anger
7. wrath
8. malice
9. slander
10. obscene talk
11. lying
12. stealing
13. corrupt talk
14. bitterness
15. clamor (crying out, outcry, loud complaining)
16. slander

Here are the things we’re told to put on instead:

1. compassionate hearts
2. kindness
3. humility
4. meekness
5. patience
6. forgiveness
7. love
8. peace
9. work
10. worship
11. kindness
12. tender-heartedness

We can read passages like these and look at lists like these in two different ways:

1. As a do and don’t list, a checklist for behavior.
2. As descriptions of the overflow of two different heart orientations.

The context of Colossians and Ephesians makes it clear that we’re to read these in the second way and not in the first way.

If our hearts are oriented on ourselves, we will seek to gratify our own desires. We will not take the truth seriously, but will manipulate our words to serve our purposes. We will not see other people as precious images of God but as tools and objects to advance our desires or else as obstacles that stand in the way of our desires.

If our hearts are ruled by grace and filled with love from God, we will seek the glory of God and the good of others. We will love and forgive, seek purity in speech to bless others and build them up. We will embrace work as a gift from God and will worship God in our hearts and with our lips in song. We will forgive as readily as we have been forgiven and will be patient with the faults of others, knowing how patient God is with us.

Remember that this heart change comes only by the Holy Spirit, who works His will in us. We respond to the grace given us. So, we should seek His face more and more as we’re convicted of our shortcomings.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:17  

Jason A. Van Bemmel is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. This article appeared on his blog Ponderings of a Pilgrim Pastor and is used with permission.