Taking Off the Old and Putting on the New
Every New Years, we begin afresh and anew. It’s like taking off the old, the past, and putting on the new, the future. Our hope is for a better future. We make those New Year’s promises which many times we never keep past the first week. Our intentions are good, but as they say, “The flesh is weak.” But there is one area that good intentions are not good enough, and that is when it comes to keeping God’s Word. We want to look at what Paul tells the Colossians about taking off the old and putting on the new.
Paul tells the Colossians in chapter 2:20-23, “If you have died with Messiah to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees such as, Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch! (which are things destined to perish) in accordance with the commandment and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self abasement (humiliation or humbling) and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”
So, what is Paul talking about? Well, let’s take those New Year’s promises for an example. Usually we want to make those New Year’s promises that will make us a better person or give us a better lifestyle. These are restrictions that we place on ourselves and as I said, we usually don’t keep them very long. Well, we do the same with God. We think that if we try harder or we place certain restriction on ourselves that we will be a better Christian. But the fact of the matter is that first, we can not make ourselves a better person without God’s help. That all becomes man-made and futile, just like those New Year’s promises. Second, it is not about becoming a better Christian (which can be nothing more than self-made religion or self-abasement) as it is about drawing closer to God and walking in obedience to His word.
Let’s look closer to what Paul is telling us. Paul continues in chapter 3:1-3, “If then you have been raised up with Messiah, keep seeking the things above, where Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Messiah in God.”
We see in chapter 2:20 that Paul begins, “If you have died with Messiah.” That is the first thing we must consider, because if we have not died with Messiah by crucifying the flesh and dying to ourselves, we can not even start the process. This is a daily choice and sometimes even a moment-by-moment choice. Paul repeats himself in chapter 3:3 and again in chapter 3:5 by telling us that we must consider the members of our earthly body to be dead. Once we have died to ourselves, then we must seek the things above and set our minds on things above. Remember, we are not citizens of this world but our citizenship is in heaven where our Father resides (Philippians 3:20).
Paul tells us in verses 5 and 8 that if we are dead to ourselves then we must put aside the deeds that keep us from God: immorality, passion, evil desires, greed, (which are all idolatry, and idolatry is as witchcraft, which breaks the first commandment) and anger, wrath, malice, slander and lying to one another (which breaks the commandments against our neighbor). Paul continues in Galatians 5:19-21 the list of the deeds of the flesh.
Romans 6:1-2 says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” So let’s go back to chapter 3 and look at verses 9-10. Paul says, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” This is exactly what Paul tells us in Romans 12:1-2, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God which is your spiritual service; and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
By dying to ourselves we then are able to take off the old and put on the new. Romans 6:4-7 tells us, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Messiah was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is free from sin.”
So you may ask, “If I am to put off the old and put on the new, is that not the same as trying to keep New Year’s promises?” No, because that you are doing in the flesh, but what does the Scripture tell us in Ephesians 4:20-25? “But you did not learn Messiah in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him (prayer and the Word), just as truth is in Yeshua/Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lust of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth, therefore laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you to your neighbor, for we are member of one another.”
And again in Galatians 5:16, 24-25, “Walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh… Now those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
The New Year’s resolutions that you need to be making are to walk a closer walk with God by prayer, reading the Bible, and most of all walking in the Spirit. But first, leave that old self behind by crucifying your flesh and putting on the new, and you will see that you not only look better, but you will feel better.