Immediately after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead he said, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:44b). Lazarus had been dead, completely and utterly dead but then Jesus came along, brought him back to life and the first thing he told Lazarus to do was get rid of the grave clothes. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us the same thing. It tells us that through Christ’s death, we have become a new creation and we need to stop living like we are dead. So what have you done with your grave clothes?
Do you think Lazarus kept his grave clothes as a keepsake? I seriously doubt it. My guess is they were dirty and tattered and they smelled like nothing you would want to permeate your nostrils. My guess is he burned them. Here is the problem with us. Instead of burning our grave clothes, we fold them up and stick them in a drawer just in case we might want to wear them again. We might burn up parts of them. It is easier to recognize certain sins and do away with them altogether, but others are more subtle and we find ourselves slipping back into them just as easily as we slide on that old comfortable pair of sweats at the end of a stressful day.
So how do we avoid putting those grave clothes back on? If you have the answer to that, please share because I’d love to burn these sins of mine forever. The truth is we will never be able to keep them off completely. It’s probably one of our toughest battles as Christians. I suppose we can draw some comfort from the fact that even Paul had the same struggle. He says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15) Amen, brother. I feel ya.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Remember Jesus has made us a new creation. He doesn’t send us out on this journey alone. We have the Holy Spirit to help us. He can help us take off those old rags and instead of keeping us naked, He gives us new clothes to put on. (Oh Jesus, you sure do know the way to a girl’s heart.)
I know for me, the only time I have any success is when I consciously think about what I need to take off and then plead for His help in putting on the new garment. We can take off anger, and put on mercy. We can take off selfishness and put on generosity. We can take off fear and put on faith. Every single time we find ourselves wearing those old clothes we must consciously take them off and put our new clothes on. It’s not easy; it takes work and conscious effort but I am convinced that the path to true freedom begins with taking off your clothes.