Your Character As Clothing
If your heart characteristics, and your corresponding behavior, could be visualized as clothing, what would your wardrobe look like?
Your suit of stateliness might be hanging there, or your mood-swing blouse with alternating black and white stripes. The tie-dyed t-shirt of trouble-free unpredictability or your sweatsuit of steadfastness might be folded there on the shelf. Do you still have that flannel shirt of forgiveness? And where is that cardigan of kindness that you used to wear all the time?
You Can’t Wear Everything At Once
There you stand wearing a winter coat. Oddly, now you try to put on a jacket over top of the coat. It doesn’t work. It is way too tight. You don’t look normal, and you couldn’t act normally throughout your day. There is a simple point: you don’t wear everything at once. You make a choice each day as to what you will put on. And when there is a drastic change (cold to hot, office to sport, carpentry to surgery), you put off one set of clothes to put on another set that corresponds to the new demands of the day.
The visual of putting off and putting on clothing is a theme repeated throughout the Bible (Job 29:14; Psalm 132:9; Isaiah 61:3,10; 64:6; Zechariah 3:4; Revelation 19:13).
“The figure of changing clothes is, in good Hebrew tradition, an appeal to make an inward and spiritual change.” – Alan F. Johnson
The Replacement Principle – Put Off, Then Put On
The Apostle Paul used this wardrobe principle in “the twin epistles” – Ephesians and Colossians. If you are following Jesus, “put off your old self … be renewed in the spirit of your minds … and put on the new self….”
But in Colossians 3:5-17, Paul repeatedly stresses this change of clothing. Your old “you” (enslaved to the power of Sin) died with Christ. Now, when you obey the internal impulses of Sin by committing sins, you make a fool of yourself. You’re a child of the King! Why are you wearing those stinky old rags!?
- Put to death [the list of sins] – v. 5
- Put them all away [and another list of sins] – v. 8
- You have put off the old self – v. 9
- Put on the new self – v. 10
- Put on [virtues that are listed] – v. 12
- Put on love, which ties everything together – v. 14
At the end of this put-off-put-on passage, Paul gives us a hint at the importance of the garment of thankfulness – he mentions it three times in three verses. This is the only such passage in the entire Bible.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 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 3:15-17
Time To Go Searching or Shopping?
How often do you put on gratitude? Do you know where it is in your closet? Do you even own the garment? You might need to go shopping.
But owning the garment is not enough. Thankfulness doesn’t just automatically spring from the closet and cling to your body in the morning. You have to put on gratitude. And in order for it to fit properly, you must first put off the musty coat of ingratitude. So often, you think that life stinks, when actually it’s just your old coat.
So, aside from this garment metaphor, how do you actually change? The key lies in Ephesians 4:23 and Colossians 3:10: “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds.”
The New You and the New Clothes
The power of Sin used your bodily impulses to force you to commit “sins.” It also messed with your mind pushing you to control your world and everyone in it for your own happiness. And the world was never fully right, so you were seldom truly happy, focused on the shortcomings of life rather than all that was amazing and good.
Then Jesus came. Jesus put off the enjoyment of His glory so that He could put on our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21) – how’s THAT for a garment switch! – and then He sent His Spirit to help transform believers. Your old self died when you believed in Christ (Romans 6:6, Colossians 3:3), and the new “you” was born.
Your old reasoning and old habits are your old clothes. You start out your Christian life with them, but they don’t belong in the wardrobe of the redeemed, so throughout your life, you are discovering and throwing away the old and replacing them with new reasoning and new habits.
Th(i)nkful – The All Weather Coat
Romans 12:2 says we are transformed by renewing the mind – learning to think God’s thoughts. Life isn’t about me; it’s about God. He is not my genie; I am His servant. Earth is the unbeliever’s only heaven, and the believer’s only hell. Hard times aren’t a disaster; God designs them to refine, strengthen, and improve me as an image-bearer of the Creator.
And knowing His lovingkindness, His meticulous care for me, His rock-solid promises, His infinite mind, His unchallengeable sovereignty, and my redeemed pathway, there is so very much to be thankful for.
There! I just bought a new golden jacket called “thinkful,” put my arms into the sleeves, and wow does it feel amazing! This is a keeper. I think this might be my favorite coat ever.