The real putting off and putting on is not so much about our determination to make improvements but about giving ourselves over to our Lord to do the real work in our lives.
In the children's book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, there is a particularly bad boy named Eustace. Through his misbehavior and greed he is turned into a dragon, which might be pretty cool for a boy except that there is a gold band around his leg causing excruciating pain and that he finds nobody wants to be around him. He wants desperately to be transformed back to a boy. While he is bemoaning his troubles, a lion appears and leads him to a well. Eustace explains what happened next.
"The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe, it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first..."
"I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bath.
"But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bath.
"Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and go off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.
"Then the lion said... 'You will have to let me undress you.' I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
"The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off....
"Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off -- just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt -- and there it was, lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me -- I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on -- and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again....
"After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me -- ...in new clothes -- the same I've got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream."
"No. It wasn't a dream," said Edmund.
"Well, there are the clothes, for one thing. And you have been -- well, un-dragoned, for another."
"What do you think it was, then?" asked Eustace.
"I think you've seen Aslan," said Edmund.
That is the type of conclusion that anyone who has experienced a spiritual transformation will say. "I've seen Jesus." It is what must happen for you if you really do want to get rid of the old self that is clinging to you and making you miserable. It is what must happen for you to put on the new self, not an improved self, not a makeover, but to be a new creation made in the image of God in true righteousness and holiness. You must look to Jesus. You must give yourself over to him and let him remove your dress. Let him toss you into the cleansing water and give you new dress.
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