“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9b-10 NIV).
Growing in Christ is like putting on new clothes. We come to Christ dead and unaware of the darkness within us. He touches us, giving us new life and making us aware that much within us needs to change.
The problem with being a sinner is that we are steeped in our sinful habits and thoughts, unaware of the darkness of the prison in which we’re locked and the dirty, ragged clothes we wear as prisoners there. We lie to ourselves and others about our condition, thinking it’s not so bad.
This is why God defines sin. Because sin permeates our very core, we often don’t recognize our own sin. At salvation, Christ opens our eyes to our dilemma. Our hearts are changed, and we see the reality. We then recognize that we are locked within prison walls in prison garb.
God reaches over the wall and lifts us out.
As newly freed prisoners, we don’t pitch a tent in the prison parking lot. We run hard away from the walls of our former prison, out into the sunlight of the kingdom of God, shedding that prison apparel and asking Jesus to help us into our new clothes. We can only put them on with his help.
Think how you feel when you’re studying a passage in God’s Word and it dawns on you that a previously unrecognized habit, thought process, or action is a regular part of your life. The Holy Spirit puts his finger right on that spot. It’s as if the blinders have been removed. There it is! You’ve been doing that for a long time, unawares, even though you’ve read that before.
We need God’s help to see ourselves with new eyes.
Recently, the women in one of my bible studies asked me to compile the “vice lists” scattered throughout the New Testament. These are little scatter-shot lists where the writer says, “you used to do_________, but now you are new in Christ, so put off those things.”
These lists are wonderful for flattening arrogance, because we find murder and sexual immorality side by side with gossip. Sins are mentioned without division of worse sin and lesser sin. It only takes one sin to make you a sinner. Sinners sin. God isn’t shocked by our sins.
Before we came to Christ, many of us were on the “worse sin” end of the spectrum. To us, these vice lists are uplifting, because we know exactly what we’ve done, have repented of it, and are in the process of growth. However, as we grow, people from the “lesser sin” end of the spectrum condemn, judge, and slander us. Yet, on these vice lists all of the sins are piled together.
For people who’ve sinned grievously, these lists are a relief and a blessing. God will help us take off that sin. He’s not embarrassed to mention them, no matter what they are. Each of these vice lists is couched in words like, “such were some of you, but you were bought with a price” and “but God, because of his great mercy, changed you and made you new.”
On the requested list, I bolded these portions and left in plain font the lists of sins. The emphasis is on the reality of who we are now in Christ, new creatures, forgiven, clean. As such, we are learning to live the new reality. Sometimes it takes time to wiggle out of some of those old garments.
The important thing is that God saves. He sees everything we do and loves us completely. Nothing surprises him. He sent his Son to die for those very sins. Jesus was aware of them as he hung on the cross. These sins can be freely confessed. Nothing need be hidden, and God has already done everything necessary to allow us to become new creatures in Christ.
God is merciful. He blesses us with grace we don’t deserve. He changes us from the inside out.
How is the Lord helping you out of your prison garb?