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One of the greatest misconceptions of the Christian faith over the last few decades has been the teaching that we just need to have a relationship with the Savior. However, this “relationship” is rarely defined. It often remains ambiguous. As a result, among other things, “putting on” the ways of the Lord and “putting off” the ways of sin are often underemphasized. Both are results of true repentance. Let us look at what our wise Lord teaches us about this in His infallible Word:

On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 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. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Col. 3:6–15)

The Lord is most gracious. Whenever He speaks of His redeemed people, He does not refer to them as “sinners.” While it is true that we are sinners, when we consider our identity in Christ, we are defined by His righteousness, not by our sin.

Christians are going from old to new, putting off and putting on. This is the constant spiritual activity of the child of God who is living a repentant life.

By God’s grace, we are saved through faith (Eph. 2:8–9). We then put off our old nature and put on something else—that which is new. Whenever we read of the “new” in the Bible, it tells us of what is now fulfilled in Christ. For example, we have a new covenant that fulfills the old covenant in and through Christ. We also have a New Testament, which reveals that everything promised in the Old Testament has found fulfillment in Christ. Moreover, we had an old nature that was enslaved to sin and serving Satan rather than the true God; now we have a new nature through the work of Christ applied to our life. Though we are justified by the righteousness of Christ, we Christians are still being sanctified. We are going from old to new, putting off and putting on. This is the constant spiritual activity of the child of God who is living a repentant life.

What Do We Put Off?

Paul tells us what ongoing repentance looks like in the Christian life. Let us return to the passage above.

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 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. (Col. 3:8–10)

We need to forsake all sin in our life. We must root out sin each day, seeking the abundance of God’s grace to prevail. Right here is what many new Christians do not realize: we must ask God to help us repent. We must seek in prayer for God’s grace and for help to apply God’s teachings to our lives. We must hate that which we used to love, and we must learn to love and cherish that which God tells us is the beauty of holiness. Both of these are possible only by the grace of God.

We all need discipling to grow in repentance. We need help from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Putting off the old and putting on the new involves going to God in His corporate worship, reading His Word, confessing sins, adoring God, expressing our thankfulness for all things, and making supplications for ourselves and others in prayer. This is, in short, is what it means to put off the old and put on the new.

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