“You were taught to put away your former way of life... to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
— Ephesians 4:22a, 23-24 (NRSV)
“God is pleased to strip them of this old person and clothe them with the new person... He strips their faculties, affections, and feelings—both spiritual and sensual, both outward and inward...”
— St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul
The most common experience of coming to faith in Jesus Christ is that of blessing and emotional anointing—to be counted privileged and to witness great personal miracles, as God proved himself to us. We fell in love with this God. The baby believer is swept up in all manner of emotion for the Lord.
Then, eventually, our understanding is morphed after we have come in and landed. Life, once it has normalised beyond the emotions-of-blessing, what St. John of the Cross might call the “unperfected” phase of salvation, then becomes a testing ground for the refinement and purification of our faith. And we’re tempted to think God’s Presence has left us, because life feels, again, like it did before we were saved.
Yet, this is merely evidence of transition into the truer faith-life.
The goal of this truer faith-life is somewhat a tongue-in-cheek experience, admitting, in the Presence of God, there is now no desire for personal control over circumstances that would neither aid nor hinder us, as well of those that might.
We ought to be beyond the placating of our circumstances; reliant on them to feel good.
Problems For The New And Older Believer, Alike
Christian maturity has nothing to do with the years one has been saved.
There are some believers saved five decades that have less malleable Christian maturity than a two-year-old tried and tested by their circumstances and application of faith. But the years of applied faith approve our growth toward perfection.
The truer faith has everything to do with straight submission under the purposes of God in the living of one’s life beyond triumph and tumult. The truer faith is home to the dry life as much as anywhere.
The differences between being clothed in the new self and not are, for instance, the source and manifestation of complaint, what we might argue about, even what we might choose to discuss. It is a test of worldliness.
In our everyday life we have grown used to comfort and beauty all around us; we naturally want to attract more of God’s ‘goodness’ and we can grow accustomed to requiring it.
When a severe testing time comes we’re not ready for it—as I was personally concerned, my faith was still infantile; but it soon grew. And that is the purpose of the testing time; to prove our faith worthy of accepting life however it comes—the process of maturing.
Accepting Life However
The great difference between Christian living and the unregenerate life is the manner of acceptance—those who will not and cannot accept their real-life circumstances are still living the unregenerate way; they are clothing themselves in the old self. This is a hard word but it is nevertheless true.
Accepting life however it comes compels us to imagine a place of possible circumstances that may cause fear and trembling.
Anything that comes—good, bad, or indifferent—is for our growth. Again, thinking of the possibilities, we ought to be thankful for the things God is saving us from, and has saved us from.
Christian living is the purpose of life in that it focuses us on being clothed in a new self that is patiently resilient whatever comes. This is about not living as little children anymore, but agreeing to partner with God in accepting life on life’s terms.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.