Putting Off the Old and Putting On the New

Transformation (change) does not happen by addition. Adding wings to a caterpillar will not make it a butterfly. Adding a good habit will not cancel out a bad one.


During metamorphosis, the caterpillar sheds part of itself before it can become a butterfly. The old has got to go before you can be transformed by the new.

It’s difficult to change. Even if our habits are bad, we are comfortable. It’s like the toddler who doesn’t want her diaper changed. It may be soiled, but it’s warm and it’s hers!

And, for one more example, you have to empty your garage before you can fill it with something else.

The Bible has plenty to say about transformation. See what Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

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 (emphasis added)

I like the words Paul uses. I imagine taking off layers of dirty clothing so I can then put on new, fresh, clean clothes.

Paul is one to talk about change. His own life transformed dramatically when God got his attention in a powerful way and he immediately repented (turned around). He was so different that his name was changed from Saul to Paul.

You know you want to change. You want to quit your bad habit.

But you don’t want to put off your old self first. And without doing that, you will never be able to put on the new self.

Why is it so hard to put off your old self?

  • I think it’s more of a both/and than a progressive order. If we focus on putting off without simultaneously putting on we are “naked” – without even the bad habit. An uncomfortable position which makes it easier to return to the deficit behavior. By adding as we are removing we replace the old with the new.

    • There is no significant difference between putting off and on at the same time or sequentially — as long as they are done together, without leaving a gap for other bad things to take root.