By Kale Booher

Colossians 3:12-14

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 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. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

In a recent message, I used the following analogy: Imagine for a moment that you work at Taco Bell, making tacos on the line. You like the job well enough, but you think it’s time for a change. So you apply, and apply, and apply. Nothing. Over the course of several months, it becomes exceedingly clear to you that you’re not going to find another job. Within your own power, there is nothing you can do.

Then, one night (let’s say a Sunday night), you get a call from a buddy of yours who owns a few Wendy’s stores, and he tells you he wants to make you the manager of one of his locations, effective immediately. All you have to do is say, “Yes.”

The moment you agree, everything changes as far as work is concerned. You no longer work at Taco Bell, but at Wendy’s. The taco maker is dead, and the Wendy’s manager has come to life. Effective immediately, your work identity has changed. And you didn’t do anything but say “yes.”

That’s kind of what it’s like when we as Christians talk about justification. What we mean is that we’ve been made right with God because of what Jesus did for us. We didn’t earn it, we didn’t work for it, we just said “yes.” And, effective immediately, the “old person” was put to death and the “new person” rose to life with Christ. We received a completely new identity.

To step back into our analogy, then comes Monday morning. Even though you are now a Wendy’s manager, you still have to figure out what in the world that looks like. You need to learn the skills, the knowledge, the practices and habits, to put on the Wendy’s apparel, and actually show up to Wendy’s and live out your new work identity.

That’s sort of like sanctification in the believer’s life. Justification happens in a moment (“effective immediately”), but sanctification is a lifelong process of us learning to look, think, act, and be more like Jesus. We are a “new creation” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and have put on the “new self,” (Colossians 3:10), but we still have to learn to live the life that matches that new identity.

This is what Paul addresses in Colossians chapter 3. In the beginning part of the chapter, he discusses certain things we should leave behind now that we are a new creation—lust, sexual immorality, impurity, greed, idolatry, rage, etc. But in verses 12-14, Paul addresses things we should pursue.

To switch analogies, let’s think of this like putting on clothes. Paul instructs us, now that we belong to Christ, to “put on” compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and love. This, if you will, is the new spiritual “wardrobe” for the Christian. And just like every morning we (hopefully) decide to put on certain physical clothes to prepare ourselves for the day, we have to do the same spiritually.

Every morning, we (intentionally or unintentionally) “put on” certain attitudes, practices, virtues or vices. We can choose to put on the old clothes: anger, slander, sexual immorality, covetousness, unforgiveness. But we shouldn’t. Those clothes belong to our old self, and it makes as little sense for us to put those on as it would for the Wendy’s manager to put on the Taco Bell uniform.

Instead, we need to put on the new clothes. We need to humble ourselves before God and act in humility toward one another. We need to be compassionate and tenderhearted, even when it’d be easier to cynical, skeptical, or apathetic. We need to practice patience in regard to one another, and we need to forgive one another from the heart because God first forgave us in Christ (Ephesians 4:32). And above all these things, Paul tells, we need to truly love.

I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds difficult. While I may have a choice each day about what clothes to put on, I know that I’ve got some “favorite old clothes” that I tend toward—old practices, old habits that die hard. I’m guessing it’s the same for you. That’s why it’s essential for us to understand how completely we rely on God for the strength to make the right choices. His Spirit is the one who empowers us to change.

I find that I can’t remind myself enough of that truth. I need God. And I need to remind myself everyday of what He’s done for me. He sent his Son to die for me, put his Spirit inside of me, and loved me even when I was unlovely. And now that He’s saved me, He’s calling to me live differently—to put away the old clothes, and to put on the new. It’s time to get dressed.

Follow-up Questions:

  1. What are 2 practical steps I can take to help me “put on” the things Paul talks about in the passage above?
  2. How do I remind myself of the gospel on a daily basis?
  3. Who are a few people in my life who can offer me encouragement and accountability in this?