The wallpaper in our kitchen needed to go—it had definite signs that it was time for a change. It was 30 years old, there were grease spots and fingerprints, and it had been shredded by the cat. I was so eager to put up new wallpaper! But we knew that before we could put up new wallpaper, we had to take down the old wallpaper, which meant going to the hardware store to rent a steamer, then steaming and ripping off the old wallpaper and scraping off the old, hardened glue—a bit of a long, messy job.
Only after the old wallpaper was taken off, were we able to start putting on the new wallpaper, which involved cutting the paper the right length, mixing the glue and spreading it on the walls, laying the paper, and smoothing out the bubbles. It wasn’t perfect (and it wasn’t quite as easy as the YouTube tutorial made it look), but little by little the walls were transformed!
Change is a Process
In the same way that wallpapering is a process, so is biblical change, or “sanctification”. It is work! Paul explains three aspects of this process of change in Ephesians 4:22-24: “that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
So, to “put off”, we must first identify what old thought pattern, desire, attitude or behavior needs to be removed and replaced. The second step, “being renewed in the spirit of your mind” involves allowing the Scriptures to inform our thinking, desires, affections and will. The third step then, the command to “put on”, is to live out the life of Christ in us. We are not left to do this on our own; it is God who is at work in us so that we can be pleasing to Him (Philippians 2:13).
Change Requires Practice and Perseverance
In this process of change, we must identify what needs to be put off — the habits and patterns of our flesh — and we must identify what needs to replace them. One of the things I would like to “put off” in my life is anxiety. I worry. Worrying has been a part of me for too many years! But, indeed, old habits die hard. Is change really possible for me? How do I stop worrying?
Just as I had to read the instructions on the box of wallpaper glue, I must look to the Word of God for guidance in my temptation to worry. Paul gives specific instructions about anxiety: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:4-9).
I hear in those verses a command to stop being anxious! So, I must “put off” anxiety. Paul also tells me what to “put on”: I am to replace anxiety with thankful prayer and controlled thoughts. I must put on faith and trust in God’s power, wisdom, and goodness. And finally, Paul says to “practice these things”. “Practice” implies repetition. I must keep at it, daily going to the Lord with my anxieties and “casting them all on Him” (2 Peter 5:7). I must practice trust and thankfulness. Change requires perseverance.
Change is Progressive and Collective
This process of “putting off”, “renewing the mind”, and “putting on” is the key not just to my anxiety but is the method to deal with all the attitudes or behaviors in our lives that need to be changed. Biblical change requires effort, just like changing the wallpaper. But slowly I can see progress, just as Paul said: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Our sanctification is progressive.
Changing the wallpaper is easiest when not attempted alone. I need encouragement and guidance – “Is this panel of wallpaper straight? Did I put on enough glue?” In the same way, in pursuing sanctification, we need the church — one another — for encouragement and guidance: “How are you doing with your temptation to worry? Are you growing in your trust in God and in His faithfulness? How can I pray for you in this?” Two are definitely better than one in our pursuit of sanctification, as well as in wallpapering.
Change Brings Hope and Joy!
We all deal with sins throughout our lives. Maybe you are dealing with a different sin than I; but whatever it is, there is hope for biblical change. We don’t have to stay “stuck” the way we are. I have not perfected my wallpapering skills, nor have I completely eliminated my propensity to worry. But I am continuing to work on it by putting it off and by putting on trust in the Lord through thankful prayer, meditation on the Scriptures, and help from other believers– and I am seeing progress. Our new wallpaper is a nice change, for sure. But seeing change in my life that pleases the Lord brings real hope and joy!