What not to wear

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace ~Ephesians 4:1-3

Do you remember the tv show What Not To Wear? The premise of the show is observing this poor, slovenly wreck of a woman who cannot dress or does not care what she wears.  They tape her for a few weeks to prove her pathetic state and then surprise her with the news that, while she is living in bad clothes state, someone was planning and desiring to help her. She only has to agree to go to NYC, give up all her clothes and buy new clothes that fit her correctly and flatter her.  A credit card is freely offered with all the money she will need to do this. Does she want to go?  Well of course she does! She cannot wait! So she packs up every piece of her closet and brings them into a room where they are all placed on a rack for scrutiny. Every episode I have ever seen then shows the same phenomena occur – the poor woman begins to defend and long for her old clothes. No matter that she has just heard how ugly they are, seen footage proving this, or felt excited at the prospect of changing and updating. Now that the moment of trashing them (for this is the plan – there is a huge trashcan into which each piece must go after criticism) has come, she cannot let go and even clings to them wanting them for a multitude of reasons. She has to stand in a mirrored room and observe the ugliness of them as outfits, yet her defense continues to mount. Typically the woman is by this time so offended by the hosts she usually vents in private.  

Then she is shown the right clothes to wear to make her look good and sent out to make purchases. Armed with this knowledge she strides into the first store and almost immediately gets confused by what she is used to buying versus what she has learned she needs now for the new self.  So the hosts swoop in and rescue her, reminding her of what she needs and helping her assemble her wardrobe.  Finally the transformation is completed with hair and makeup, and the big reveal of the new self is done both privately for the hosts and then publicly for all her friends/family.  and every one of the recipients attests that this transforming experience was so worth it!

So what does this have to do with Ephesians 4 & 5? I think this show unknowingly displays some aspects of my walk with Jesus. 

I too was a poor wreck of a sinner, dead in the trespasses and sins in which I once walked, But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved me, even when I was dead in my trespasses, made me alive together with Christ – by grace I have been saved (Eph. 2:4-5) Dressed in the rags and torn garments of sin, before I ever sought Him, He sought me. He saw all my ugly clothes, all my inadequate ways to cover myself and make myself look presentable, and He offered new clothes of His righteousness! The cost for these clothes is without measure, and yet he has paid it for me!

And honestly, I jumped at the salvation offered! I knew, looking at my tape of all my horrific, sinful clothes, that I was hopeless to ever clothe myself in a manner worthy of the King and was so grateful that He offered me his salvation. But just like the woman on the show, I often see myself standing there with all my dirty rags on hangers, trying to defend or justify what I see.

But that is not the way you learned Christ! -assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ~Eph. 4:20-24 

On the day of my salvation, I was given the Holy Spirit who began to sift through the clothes I choose to wear, seeking to purge and reclothe me in His righteousness. Yet I cling to what is familiar, what has worked before, or what I like. There are many moments when the trashing of my sinful nature is the most painful experience, and I’m not sure I can bear the stripping away of it. Then there are the times when I look at myself in His mirror and see the rag for what it is and willingly give it up to the One who clothes so beautifully with grace, compassion, love and kindness.

Often I will be like the women as they go out, resolutely armed with a list of what to purchase for their new wardrobe. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love (Eph. 5:1-2) Oh! I want to dress like the daughter of the King that I am! And yet I can quickly be overwhelmed with obstacles, confusion, the pull towards the familiar clothes I used to wear. I have a tendency then to run to what I know despite having been told by Him that those clothes are binding, ill fitted, and worthless.

And I forget who walks with me, who has been given to me as my Counselor. The Holy Spirit has been given to me as my teacher, my guide, to lead gently and convict lovingly that I may slowly accumulate the wardrobe of righteous living. My righteousness is not in question; His death was payment or ransom for all my dirty rags. But there is a daily clothing that either reflects my position as redeemed or hearkens back to my natural choices.  Putting off of the old sin nature and a putting on of the new sanctified nature bought and paid for by Jesus Christ by his death and resurrection happens as I walk with the Spirit.

But the difference between the show and my true life is who is central. In the show, it’s all about the woman and her change. But in my life, true change occurs when it’s all about Jesus Christ. He is the One who begins our transformation and He is the One who will carry it out to completion. I will stand before Him dressed in his robes of righteousness washed white because of his blood. For now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. (Eph. 5:8-10)

 

 

Walking through Ephesians, 7

But that is not the way you learned Christ! –assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ~Ephesians 4: 20-24

“Are you the one who’s done?” His sweet voice and eyes just asking me to explain why today has gone so horribly wrong, completely sideways of the direction I had wanted this morning. Why is it that now at such an early time I am imposing bedtime for all? I have to honestly look at him and confess, “Yes baby, I’m the one who’s done.” I have had my anger stoked, my annoyance pushed, my anxiety over impending events grown, and I’m stepping out of this day as mommy.

All I can think as I hear happy wrestling sounds from their room as daddy steps in to save the evening is that I never really stopped yesterday. I never stopped to quietly sit with the One who could have changed my heart, changed my attitude, helped me walk the rest of the day with Him. Oh, let me assure you, I was praying most of the day. But my prayers were selfish, whining laments, “God help me. They are so annoying to me” or “Lord, If I hear one more fuss or argument, I don’t know what I’ll do” And just so all confession is out there, I had had my quiet time that morning.

The ugliness doesn’t escape me, it screams at me. I urge humility yet walk pridefully, I encourage gentleness but act roughly both in word and action. My patience was false and a little scary for my people because it was fleeting and a mask over anger. I wanted quiet, I wanted ease, but I didn’t necessarily want truth. The truth is in Jesus. I didn’t want to engage Jesus the way the Spirit was urging me to. Scripture says we must throw off sin that entangles, and the honest truth is that for me, that is often a daily, minute to minute throwing off. It’s bad when my children are gently rebuking me for today and can point to the early moments of the day where I began to embrace the bitterness, wrath, anger and slander (Eph 4:31) They exhibited Ephesians 4:32 SO much better than I could have – they clung to Christ’s forgiveness, and with kindness and tenderheartedness, they walked this sinner clinging to my old self through the day.

So Jesus, once again the old self has to go – I need your peeling touch to yank off even the vestiges today that want to grow back as issues arise. Let me not go back to the old self – the worrying performer who expects perfection and slays with her tongue, pride seeping through every facet of her life. Like Aslan removed the dragon skin, remove my old self. The pain may be intense, but the result is peace and joy and abiding.

To be renewed in the spirit of my mind – this ongoing process of being renovated and reformed as we walk with Him. It’s not a one time event. The bottomless well of God’s grace matches up perfectly with the seemingly limitless ability I have to turn to my own way and be deceived by my former self. Jesus invites us to walk with him, clothed in His righteousness and holiness, not because we have earned these clothes but because He did. His life as the sacrifice for my sin defeated the darkness, alienation, and hardness of heart that is the life of the lost (of the Gentile in this passage.)

So I will confess to my children that I got dressed this morning in the filthy rags of my old self, deceived by self love and did not abide in Jesus, the truth giver, nor seek any renewing of my mind. But I will testify to the goodness of the Holy Spirit, who doesn’t let us rest in our sin, but who convicts and counsels that we may learn Christ more and more.  I want them to understand the deep love and grace of their Heavenly Father who takes away their sin and gives them a new self, new beautiful clothes of righteousness and holiness designed in His image.  His mercies are new every morning, He is so faithful. So I will humbly seek to make right with them what I let go so horribly wrong yesterday and invite them to learn Christ with me today.