We are told in Ephesians 4 that if we have received Christ we will put off sin, be renewed in our mind, and put on righteousness.
This Put Off/Renew/Put On pattern has been in use among biblical counselors for some time, and is of great help in thinking through the spiritual disciplines, as well. We will consider the personal spiritual disciplines in light of this pattern.
We must first recognize that these aren’t discrete steps of our spiritual walk, like rungs on a ladder. That is, we don’t first establish ourselves in our walk with Christ by putting off, complete that task, and then move on to renewing our minds. Instead, we should be continually putting off sin, continually renewing our minds, and continually putting on righteousness, at least until we die or the Lord returns.
The Bible speaks often of this aspect of “putting off” sin.
The believer is told to “deny himself” in order to follow Jesus (Luke 9:23); to “abstain from every from of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22); to “flee from youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22); and to “put away” specific numerous sins in light of our redemption in Christ.
“Putting Off” Practices
There are as many opinions about what constitutes a “spiritual discipline” as there are authors who write about them. What I have attempted here is to include those things that relate to the major sin groups to avoid, and which correspond to or facilitate the opposite “Putting On” practice.
Simplicity. The practice of simplicity is not Luddite in its anti-technology, nor romantic in its view of the “simpler” times of life on the prairie before cell phones and the Internet. Instead, it is “austerity in embellishment” (American Heritage College Dictionary), and reflects Jesus’ admonition that “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15), or, as it were, power, influence, reputation, meetings, and so on.
Simplicity is the practice that puts off such things as pride, greed, covetousness, and haste.
Frugality. To be frugal is not to be Scrooge, pinching every penny in order to store it somewhere of no use to anyone. Frugality avoids wasteful spending, either on oneself or others. The point in being frugal is not to spend less in order to hoard more, but to spend less in order to give more.
Frugality is the practice that puts off pride, profligacy, and greed. It leads directly to giving and stewardship.
Chastity. Chastity is living in sexual purity, whatever the circumstances we’re in. It is to find sexual fulfillment and gratification, whether in the actions or in the thoughts, in only those ways that the Lord has approved.
Chastity is the practice that puts of gratifying sexual desires in pre-marital or extra-marital relations, adultery, or the sexual fantasy life of the thoughts and imaginations including porn and “soft porn” and all sexual immorality.
Solitude & Silence. In today’s world we seek out diversions of all kinds in order to avoid being alone with our own thoughts. These diversions usually include noise from TVs, computers and phones, as well as the company we find in kids’ sports, recreational events, moms’ groups, and so forth. Jesus’ example is that he often withdrew from the noise and company to be alone, usually to pray. The believer should join solitude and silence with things like learning, self-examination and prayer so that his silence and solitude does not come to resemble the Near Eastern meditation goal of emptiness.
Solitude & Silence is the practice that puts off the distracted, hurried, un-examined life.
Fasting. Fasting is the believer’s intentional abstention from food (or other things) for a certain period of time in order to focus on communion with God. We fast from food in order to feast on the Lord. The believer should always accompany fasting with Bible study and prayer, and perhaps other practices as well.
Fasting is the practice that puts off the flesh’s demand for priority over the spirit.
Repentance & Confession. Repentance is the believer’s continual turning away from sin and self and toward holiness and Christ, including the “mortification of the flesh”. Confession is saying what God says about sin, not what the compromising world or excusing flesh would say. Repentance & Confession go right along with rehearsing the gospel, “preaching the gospel to ourselves,” and what I call “Gospel gazing” (which we discuss in the article on “Putting On” practices.)
This is the practice that puts off pride, self-righteousness, indifference, and apathy.
Remember that Putting Off is only part of the process. We talk about the other parts — Mind Renewal and Putting On — in upcoming posts.