“. . . 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” (Colossians 3:9,10).
FOR TODAY’S MEDITATION, CONTEMPLATE WITH ME THE CONCEPT OF “CHRISTLIKENESS.” Surely it is obvious that the Christian is to demonstrate a likeness to the character (or “mind”) of Christ. Having obeyed the gospel and entered the realm of God’s grace, we are to be people in whom the beauty of Christ can be seen.
But is Christlikeness an accomplished fact or is it a goal we’re to grow toward? It is both, and Paul makes this point in two passages that are strikingly similar. In Colossians 3:9,10, he puts conformity to Christ in the past tense. He says that we have “put off the old self . . . [and] put on the new.” But in Ephesians 4:22–24, he puts it in the form of a command: “put off your old self . . . [and] put on the new self.” These texts are not contradictory; each contains an important truth. What we are in Christ imparts a sense of rest — and what we must become gives us a sense of responsibility. So the gospel has two sides to it: the indicative and the imperative.
I suggest that both the indicative and the imperative parts of the gospel require a decision on our part; neither is automatic. It will not be true to say that we have put on Christ if we have not made a commitment to doing that. And we certainly will not grow in our conformity to His character if we don’t devote ourselves to that process. In both cases, we must exhibit the kind of decisiveness reflected in the song: “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back.” To put it another way, we must choose to become the people that, in fact, we are in Christ.
Anyone who has been a Christian for very long will tell you that this is hard. There will never be a time in this life when the past does not try to pull us back — and sometimes the pull can be very strong. After all, we wouldn’t have been what we used to be if there weren’t some very pleasant (and easy) aspects of being that kind of person. But we can’t have it both ways. A choice has to be made.
Growth is one of the best things in life, but it is also one of the most challenging. To put it plainly: growth requires sacrifice. But the choice we make is worth every bit of what it costs us in this world.
“To be another than I am, I must abandon that I am” (John Chrysostom).