Every night stage productions happen all over the world. Actors play the parts of other people and thrill audiences in all sorts of productions. Once the curtain calls are over, though, it’s time. Actors go back to their dressing room and take off their costumes and slowly clean away the makeup that has made them another person. They put on the clothes and accessories that make them their real selves and head out into the world.
Once we become followers of Christ, our lives change. We realize how far away from God we were and seek to be more like Him. The picture that Paul draws of this transformation is that of the actor who peels away the layers of the old life after the show is over and puts on his new life in Christ as his real clothing. “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)
For too long it seemed like many had this picture in reverse. We would put on our stage presence so that we could go to church. Once Sunday worship was over, off would come the “religious person” and out would come the natural person who lived as though they had no concept of what it meant to follow Christ. People like that were called “hypocrites” which is fitting when you realize that the original Greek word that sounds like hypocrite was a description of an actor who put on their false persona for the drama and kept the real person for everyday life. What so many people who claimed to follow Christ didn’t understand was that we didn’t have a persona for church and then a persona for the rest of the week. When we committed to following Christ, we were a new person in Christ. Our job was to take off all the old clothes and attitudes of our old self which was being corrupted and put on our new life in Christ. This new life would see new attitudes, righteousness, and holiness because of our relationship to God. We live under the grace and mercy of Christ which gives us amazing power to be the people He wants us to be instead of living in the fear of retribution from God for each little sin.
There are some actors who grow so accustomed to their characters that they become identified with that character forever. They have lived for the applause, they have loved the adulation, and they have decided to live as that character. The problem is that even though that isn’t who they really are, they live each day in their stage persona. The gratification makes it worth sublimating their real self so that they can live in the limelight. Many Christians have that problem with their old lives. They may have been having too much fun; they may have been famous; they may have been comfortable in their old way of life. When you truly follow Christ your definition of fun changes, fame doesn’t matter, and we learn to live with an uncomfortableness of being God’s ambassadors to a world that is neutral or opposed to God. That is why Paul is so urgent in reminding Christians that their old way of life is corrupted by deceitful desires. So the question for today is do you need to sit down and take off the makeup of your old life, or do you need to allow God to continue to work on your new life?
Oh Lord, how easy it is to fall back into the comfortable ways of sin that I used to know. Mold me each and every day so that my new life in You is who I really am. Speak to me of Your grace and forgiveness and give me the strength to show that grace to others every day.