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; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (verses 22-24)
One of my most embarrassing moments at summer camp, way back when, resulted from too confidently carrying an overloaded lunch tray from the camp kitchen up to a small cabin situated a considerable distance away. On that tray was a carafe of tomato soup, plates of grilled cheese sandwiches, a pitcher of grape juice, and dessert bowls of lime green jello – probably not the healthiest of lunches, but certainly colourful! For some reason, I’d felt the need to carry it all myself, with my friend (who was to share the meal) following on behind. The plan worked fine until we got to a rock outcropping that rose steeply upwards, before then dipping down to the cabin’s front porch. That final approach was my downfall – literally. As the path dropped, I missed my footing and stumbled, losing control of the tray and sending soup and drink and lime jello cascading everywhere. I was baptized in its vibrant hues. I have never been more anxious for a change of clothes!
“Put off” the old, Paul says. Absolutely! Who wants to stay clothed in soiled, sticky, garish clothing? So, “put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires,” the deceitfulness being expressed through its power to entice even though being so obviously corrupt. Put it off.
What is Paul talking about? We probably each know only too well in our own circumstances. But he gives us his own beginning list in the latter part of the passage. Things like “falsehood” – distorting the truth, stretching it out of shape, or giving it an outright make-over into “alternative facts.” Things like unquenched “anger” that lingers on, day after day, stoking bitter resentment. Stealing is another behaviour that must be put aside, whether it’s of the shop-lifting variety or that of income-tax-fudging. Then there is “unwholesome talk” of any kind, whether derogatory, or gossipy, or filled with inappropriate inuendo, or crass and vile. Paul closes out his list with a staccato string of items which so obviously soil our countenance, but which so easily stay stuck to us unless we deliberately push them aside: bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, malice.
But don’t just strip away the old. Actively engage with the new. If you’ve been speaking falsehoods up till now, make a deliberate choice to only speak truth. If you’ve used your hands to steal, taking from others what was rightfully theirs, then use those same hands for productive work, creating something to give away, piling blessing on another rather than depleting. If you’ve been “dishing dirt” with your words, tearing others down, then turn it right around, consciously putting together words that encourage and strengthen and comfort, building others up.
Or, to put it another way, don’t cause the Spirit of God grief by the things you do. No. Rather, submit to his renewing work, cooperate fully with the flow of his purposes, and allow his own seal of ownership to be wonderfully displayed in your life.
As you do, those old, soiled garments will get put aside – it’s obvious they should. And the newly laundered garments of the Spirit’s own handiwork will take their place.
What a relief!
Holy Spirit, so renew my mind that I can clearly see the filth of the old nature that clings to me still. Fill me with your own strength to put it all aside, joyfully putting on the new attitudes and behaviours that are fragrant with your presence. May it all be to the glory of Jesus who has redeemed me for himself. In his name, Amen.
Reflect: Sit in the Spirit’s presence. Allow him to renew your mind. Ask if there is any “soiled clothing” that needs to be set aside. Consider what positive attitudes and actions could fill the void. Step into it – all in his power.
Photo by Maude Frédérique Lavoie on Unsplash