How to change: cast off the old and put on the new

Change is hard! Change is painful! And what’s worse, the hardest and most painful part of change is you. Your brain doesn’t want to change — it’s difficult to reprogram yourself. Your body doesn’t want to change — it’s comfortable with the old habits. Therefore, most people won’t change until the pain of not changing is worse than the pain of changing. You may have recognized you need to change. You may have tried to change in the past. But, you found it was too hard. So, you ended up doing the same things over and over. Here is a simple Biblical concept that can help you change.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The statement means that in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. The size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object.Newton’s Third Law

The most common reason Christians fail to change is they are only looking at one side of the problem.

  • They want to stop doing something bad. So, they stop doing it. But, the more they stop, and the longer they stop, the stronger becomes the desire. And, finally, they fall into the same thing again. As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly (Proverbs 26:11).
  • They want to start doing something good. So, they start doing it. But, there are so many things to do, and new habits are hard to make because old habits are hard to break. After a few days, it starts getting harder to do the new thing and easier to do the old thing. And, finally the new thing is lost and forgotten.
Nature abhors a vacuuma postulate attributed to Aristotle

The key to change: cast off the old and put on the new

It is good to stop doing something bad. And, it is good to start doing something good. But, the Biblical concept is to replace something bad with something good. Cast off the old and put on the new.

There are many descriptions of this concept: sanctification, renewal, put-on-put-off, etc.. I like to call it “cast off the old and put on the new” because we are jettisoning the old like yesterday’s trash to make room for the inauguration of a new order.

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him,  throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life,  which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.  (Ephesians 4:21-24 NLT)

We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless,  that we should no longer be slaves to sin.  (Romans 6:6)

The night is far gone; the day is at hand.  So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.  (Romans 13:12)

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 NLT)

An example of change: cast off the old and put on the new

I was given another vision. This time Joshua the high priest was standing in front of the Lord’s angel. And there was Satan, standing at Joshua’s right side, ready to accuse him. But the Lord said, “Satan, you are wrong. Jerusalem is my chosen city, and this man was rescued like a stick from a flaming fire.”
     Joshua’s clothes were filthy. So the angel told some of the people to remove Joshua’s filthy clothes. Then he said to Joshua, “This means you are forgiven. Now I will dress you in priestly clothes.” (Zechariah 3:1-4 CEV)

Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Pulpit Commentary

How to change by casting off the old and putting on the new

Successful change requires successful casting off and successful putting on. Therefore, you must count the profit of the new versus the cost of the old, you must weigh the pros of the new versus the cons of the old, you must consider the advantages of the new versus the dangers of the old. As Colossians 3 says, it will be easy to change once you really understand the contrast between things of heaven and things of earth. Then you will be able to cast off and put on…

  1. Cast off your old sinful nature (Eph 4:22)
  2. Let the spirit renew your thoughts (Eph 4:23)
  3. Put on the new nature (Eph 4:24)

If you want to stop doing something bad. Stop referring to it by euphemisms. Use the real name. Such as: sin of lying, sin of pride, sin of self-righteousness, sin of pornography, sin of alcoholism, sin of stealing, sin of adultery, sin of gambling, sin of fornication, sin of incest, sin of gluttony, sin of abusing drugs, sin of molestation, or sin of murder. Be honest with yourself. If you are a liar, proud, self-righteous, pervert, drunkard, thief, adulterer, gambler, fornicator, glutton, addict, molester, or murderer, you need to stop.

In most of these cases, you must apologize, accept the consequences, and make restitution before you can begin to change.

If you want to stop doing something bad, you cannot leave a vacuum in your life. You must find something good to replace the bad thing or you will not be able to change.

The best is the enemy of the good
Good enough is the enemy of the great. –Voltair

If you want to start doing something good. Stop referring to it in the general sense. Be specific! Such as: read the bible, have a family bible devotion, have a family dinner, go on a date with my spouse, help my son with homework, take out the trash, attend church, eat healthy, get a medical checkup, exercise, volunteer at a homeless shelter, etc.

If you want just to start doing something good, you won’t be able to magically find extra time and energy to do it. Therefore, you are going to have to find something else that is not as good to cast off to have time and energy to do something better. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Maybe it’s as simple as exercise for 1/2 hour instead of watching television.

Then write out at least 10 reasons to stop doing the bad thing and 10 reasons to start doing the good thing. Remember, change is hard, so most people will not change until the pain of not changing is worse than the pain of changing. You need to be brutally honest in your evaluation of the pros and cons. What are the advantages of changing? What is the pain of not changing?

  • You can do nothing without [Jesus Christ] (John 15:5)
  • I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

Make a commitment to stop doing the bad thing and start doing the good thing — to cast off the old and put on the new.

Finally, find someone you can trust who will keep you accountable to your commitment.

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