As a young believer I first came across the “Put On, Put Off” principle in reading The Excellent Wife. It's based on the principles in Ephesians 4 regarding what bad habits we are to “put off” and what good habits we are to “put on.”
As believers, we have been called “to put off the old self” (Eph 4:22) and to “put on the new self” (Eph 4:24). We came to Christ with habits and ways of thinking that are difficult to break in our strength. As believers (those who have repented and put their faith and trust in Jesus alone for salvation) we have become new creations by the work of the Lord in us at the moment of salvation. We are made new.
D Martyn Lloyd-Jones shared a helpful illustration of what our old way of thinking can do to us:
When Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, they were officially free from their many years of servitude, but some of them went on living as if they were still slaves. The President’s proclamation gave them legal standing as free citizens. It was a done deal—they were no longer slaves. But, out of habit and way of thinking, many of these poor people still lived like slaves. So, they needed to live in accordance with the new facts. When they were tempted to think like a slave, they needed to say, “No, the truth is I am now a free man!” They needed to appropriate that truth into their daily experience.
Attitudes in Our Homes:
Many times the attitude in our homes doesn't match up to what we profess to believe. We can find ourselves being unloving, impatient, selfish, and angry with those we love most.
In our natural state, we don't put God and others first. Love is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and if you are in Christ, you possess the fruit of the Spirit. When our hearts are being ruled by the Spirit, we will only desire the very best for someone. Jesus is our perfect example of how love acts (Ephesians 5:2).
I am not stating that we will be perfect because that isn't possible here on this earth, but our walk with the Lord should be continually growing and changing us more into the likeness of Christ. Many times we don't see much growth because we don't take the time to replace the old bad habits with new good habits that reflect obedience to God's Word and what He desires for us. It's easy for us to fall back into our regular default mode.
What would our homes look like if we responded to others with love instead of impatience or anger? The Lord calls us to discipline ourselves for the sake of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-8) and when we obey God's Word to do that He helps us to supernaturally fulfill that calling. He will continue to change us to be more like Jesus.
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Re-Thinking Your Thinking:
Correcting our children can be an area where the anger that is already inside us comes out (maybe too easy at times).
The next time you are responding to your child in anger take a moment to stop and “put off” anger and “put on” love. This is where you need to re-think your thinking. Sadly, we usually just react and don't tend to see or desire to seek change in the sinful patterns and responses in our lives.
One way to change your thinking is to continue to saturate your mind and thoughts with God's Word. We know from God's Word that what is inside our hearts will come out in our behavior and responses. So a change in our behavior needs to start in the heart. God uses His Word to bring about that heart transformation in us. Every time you choose to replace a sinful desire or action with a biblical one you are being renewed in your mind and heart.
Making it Practical:
I struggle with anger and impatience and have memorized 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 as a reminder to me of what love looks like. I'm reminded that when I am patient with my child or husband, I am showing love to that person. When I'm speaking in a kind and gentle voice and not being harsh, I am showing love.
The passage in 1 Corinthians 13 is a beautiful description of what love is like:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
God has laid out for us in His Word what love looks like. It should be my joy as a believer to obey His commands (1 John 5:3). When we have a desire to please the Lord, in time those old ways of thinking will have less of a stronghold on us. Over time we will start to see right responses being more dominant and wrong ones showing up less and less. When we have sinful patterns in our lives that we have practiced for years, it is not a quick fix so don't be discouraged but continue to fight the good fight. God's grace works in and through us, but it is still man's responsibility to work with God at it.
Take the time to recognize your sinful thinking. Pray and seek the Lord and ask Him what you should have been thinking. What thoughts or responses would be God-honoring? Look up verses on the areas you struggle with. Memorize scripture. Talk to yourself and ask yourself again and again, “what should I be thinking?” (that was worth repeating)
Work through the “Put On, Put Off” study linked here and recognize the sinful areas in your life where you are not responding rightly.
When You Mess Up:
You're not going to respond each time correctly to your children, and I'm so thankful for God's forgiveness and mercy to us. When those moments happen, seek to properly restore the relationship with your loved ones. Repent of your sinful response to God and them and seek forgiveness.
Turning the tables on this one is how you respond when others sinfully respond to you. You have the choice to respond back lovingly and not to take a wrong suffered and play it again and again in your mind. You can choose to forgive.
How Love Acts:
We know how love acts by reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and there are ways we can practically live that out with God's help. We know love is patient, so we can correct our children with a calm and loving voice. We know love is kind, so we ask what we can do to show kindness to someone. We know love is not arrogant, so we can respond respectfully and correct gently when needed.
You may be saying to yourself, “Am I a hypocrite by doing something when I don't feel like it?” A quote I heard from Lou Priolo was such a helpful response to that comment:
“You are never being a hypocrite when you obey God's Word.”
On the flipside, when we do what we feel and don't obey God's Word we're in sin.
You need to correct your children but the next time you find anger or impatience welling up inside you take the time to pray and ask the Lord, “how can I show love to them?” How can I honor you in this moment? How can I glorify you in correcting my child? Discipline in love, in a peaceful and calm tone of voice. There is hope if you desire to obey God. He will help to change you.