Putting Off & Putting On - Colossians 3:5-16

Living a consistent and holy life day after day is something that for many Christ-followers is a constant struggle. Many don’t know where to begin or how shape their lives around the things of God. Trusting Christ as Savior may be the easiest part of becoming a Christ-follower. It’s easy to identify with Christ as the One who saves His children from death and Hell. The hard part comes in trusting Christ as Lord. There are many who don’t want to give over all of the areas of their life. They don’t want to surrender to Christ as Lord, if He can get them out of Hell then fine but other than that can’t He just leave well enough alone?

Unfortunately this type of thinking has spread over the last few decades through many American churches that Jesus is simple a ticket out of Hell; say a prayer and go to Heaven. Wouldn’t want to do that? In a room full of children, or adults for that matter, one can ask the question: “Raise your hand, if you want Jesus to save you of your sins and take you to Heaven when you die.” Every hand in the room will shoot up. No one wants to go to Hell. The life that Jesus calls His followers to is so much more than that.

The apostle Paul in Colossians 3:5-16 gives a glimpse of what it looks like to really follow Christ and how to life a consistent and holy life day after day by “putting on” and “putting off” certain areas of the heart.

In Colossians 3, the apostle Paul is addressing a Christ-follower’s new life in Christ and how their life should look in the day to day. In verse 4 of the text Paul writes that “Christ is your life and when he comes again you will share in his glory.”[1] There are no subdivided areas of life in which Christ does not have authority over. Christ is the life of the Christ-follower. He permeates every breath.

It is light of this thinking that one might do will to “put off” or “put all evil things out of your life”[2]. Paul lists a number of things that “make God angry”[3] and need removing from the life of one trying to life like Christ. The list includes some of the following: sexual sin, letting evil thoughts control you, greed, bad temper, hurting others, using evil words, and lying.[4]

This type of living is common for those that are lost. It’s the way that many who have chosen to follow Christ used to live but it is not the type of living that helps one to be “made new”[5] and “become more like the One who made you”.[6] There are certain things that can cause one to become more like the Christ. These things are true for all people just as salvation is for all people through the shed blood and complete atonement of Christ Jesus.

This sacrifice on the cross is how Jesus showed the all people His love for them. It is because of this life that Christ showed for all people that those who follow Him choose to “put on” or “clothe themselves”[7] with things that are please to Him. Such as, “mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” [8] These are all inward character traits and values that require an outward action. One might show these character traits by serving others in need or forgiving a debt or a wrong someone owes. Paul encourages the reader to forgive others as Jesus forgave their sins.[9]

It would seem that this relationship with others is a key part in the developing of the Christ-follower. Paul encourages one to “Let the teaching of Christ living in you richly. Use all wisdom to teach and instruct each other by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”[10] It is in the form of community that God wishes for one to grow. Man was never made to be alone. This is why in Genesis God made Eve out of Adam’s rib in order to be his “helpmate”. One would be severely lacking in life to not participate in the process of becoming more like Christ with a group of Christ-followers.

It would seem that “putting on” and “putting off”, in Colossians 3, are referring to lifestyle habits or choices. Before knowing Christ many were lost in their own destructive and selfish lifestyle patterns. When finally recognizing Christ as not just Savior, but also Lord one begins the process of being made into a new person and being made to become more like Christ.

The big theological word for this process of being made into the image of God is called sanctification. Paul describes sanctification as a process. As one “puts off” the things that displease God and steal glory from Him and “puts on” the mind of Christ, Jesus becomes the filter for all thought, word, and deed.

One way in which this author “puts off” the things of this world is to remove them from his life. There are rating blocks on his TV and accountability software on his computer to help guard his heart and eyes from evil things. He also meets weekly with another older and wiser Christ-follower to help keep him in balance with other areas of his life and “put on” the things of God.

One must be sure to not neglect this area of spiritual discipline, as an unbalanced life will lead to failure and heartache later in life.

[1] Colossians 3:4 (NCV)

[2] Colossians 3:5 (NCV)

[3] Colossians 3:6 (NCV)

[4] Colossians 3:3-9 (NCV)

[5] Colossians 3:10 (NCV)

[6] Ibid.,

[7] Colossians 3:12 (NCV)

[8] Ibid.,

[9] Colossians 3:13 (NCV

[10] Colossians 3:16 (NCV)

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