This post is a companion and followup to Naked and Unashamed (posted one week ago), so if you haven’t read that one yet, you might want to. Despite the title, this post actually isn’t about fashion – a topic about which I know very little (surprise, surprise). It’s about putting on a new mindset. But I’m getting ahead of myself — so let’s start at the beginning.
As soon as Adam and Eve chose the snake’s deceptive offer of independence and ate the forbidden fruit, they knew right away that something was wrong. Something fundamental had changed in their world. Still naked but no longer unashamed, they immediately sought to cover their shame by fashioning clothes made of fig leaves. This remedy, however, was not very effective. When Adam sensed the presence of the Lord God in the garden, he hid from the Lord because – despite the covering of fig leaves – he knew himself to be naked, and he was afraid. Before this pivotal act of eating the forbidden fruit, there had been no shame and therefore no need to hide. Once trust had been broken and shame and guilt had come in, try as they might, Adam and Eve could not cover up the damage; they could not make things right.
And so, ever since Adam and Eve, people have lived with self-consciousness, guilt, shame, embarrassment and fear of exposure, and have tried to cover up. This is the heritage of the children of Adam. Instead of getting our sense of identity and security from God, we now try to get it from other people. And so, the whole human race is part of one gigantic costume party, everyone wearing a mask of some sort. We all choose to portray ourselves in a certain way to the world. This is because what other people think of us is inordinately important to us. We know we aren’t good, but we want to be seen as good so we try to put on a front that will make us look good (or cool or smart or impressive or noble or capable or righteous). It gets very subtle because even people who say they don’t care what others think are choosing to wear a mask, to cover themselves with an assumed identity. Their chosen cover is “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me”. If you scratch beneath the surface, however, you discover that this is just a veneer and sometimes only a very thin veneer, covering up a wounded heart.
To fallen men and women, covering our nakedness is as natural as breathing – we do it instinctively – yet all such efforts are ultimately ineffective. It took the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb to restore our peace.
When you are ready to give up the facade of trying to be something you are not, you can make a more creative and honest choice. You can give up trying to repair your own life and surrender it to Christ. When you do that, one of the benefits you receive is a new suit of clothing – a new identity. He removed our burden of guilt and shame so that we no longer have to pretend. He then provided us with a new identity that we can put on, much as you might put on a new suit of clothes if you got a promotion and became an executive in your company. It’s a costume that may not fully reflect what is currently on the inside of us at the time that we first put it on, but it does reflect what God thinks of us and what we are destined to become. That sounds a bit deceptive, but actually it’s a process of restoration that has the power to transform us from the inside out. It’s not deceptive because we aren’t fooling God – He is the one who gave us the new suit, after all – and since one of the freedoms that Christ gives is freedom from the fear of people and their opinions, what others think doesn’t matter all that much anyway. The Bible says that we can make a conscious choice to wear this new identity in place of our old identity. This new identity feels strange to us at first, but as we continue to wear it, it changes us on the inside, as our self-understanding is renewed and we begin to realize that we really are made new by Christ.
I have a friend who spent many years behind prison bars. Today he is a free man, and becoming freer every day as he learns to let God’s acceptance and mercy fill his thoughts and renew his mind. He has put on a new identity, a new suit of clothing. My friend says that when you come out of prison it can take years to learn to think like a free man. You no longer have to wear prison clothes – you get to wear street clothes – but it can take a long time to learn that you are truly free. Yet if you keep wearing those street clothes long enough, and every day you tell yourself “I’m free now”, eventually the reality sinks in. Sadly, far too many ex-cons never make the mental shift necessary to stay free. They may be out of jail, but mentally they are still prisoners, and as soon as they get the chance many will put themselves back in jail because that’s the identity they know.
I desire to be transformed day by day until my character reflects the likeness of Christ. The extent to which I attain that goal in this life is the fruit of my daily choices. I am learning that the suit I put on the morning will affect my whole day. If I “put on” a mindset of negativity, failure and discouragement (leaving my Christ-identity in the closet, so to speak) I drag myself down, the presence of God seems to flee from my life, and I am vulnerable to the influence of all the negative mindsets and attitudes of those around me. If I remind myself that I belong to Christ, put on the suit of clothing that he has provided for me, and choose to walk in that identity through the day, God seems near and accessible (as He in fact is) and because I am placing my confidence in Him, I am able to reflect His goodness without even trying.
What suit of clothing are you wearing? Maybe a better question would be “Who do you want to be?”. The identity you put on every day will affect what you become. As for me, I am choosing to wear the identity of Christ. As I make this choice, God’s word assures me that day by day I am being transformed until I reflect His glory.