We are in the image of Him who created the new man! The Christian has had a radical, life-changing experience in which he has put off the old man and is putting on a new self. The apostle illustrates this through the mundane practice of changing clothes.

One does not become undressed in the blink of an eye. The taking off of one's clothes is done one piece at a time. In the same manner, one does not become fully clothed all at once, but each piece of clothing is put on in an orderly manner. It is a process.

We have all heard the expression, "Clothes make the man." People come to different conclusions about or have different impressions of the same person when they see him dressed in different clothing.

Sociologists, wanting to see how much a person's appearance affected others, took a man, had him grow his beard a bit scraggly, and placed him on a street corner in dirty, raggedy clothes. His orders were to march across the street against the "don't walk" sign. Nobody followed him.

They took the same man, cleaned him up, dressed him in a nice business suit, and put him on the same street corner. He did the same thing—walked across the street against the "don't walk" sign—and everybody on the corner followed him! Nothing changed inside the man; only what was on the outside of the man changed!

In the Bible God uses clothing as a symbol of righteousness. Fine linen, clean and white, is symbolic of the righteousness of the saints (Revelation 19:8). Dirty, filthy clothing, on the other hand, symbolizes of unrighteousness of iniquity (Isaiah 64:6).

Remember that clothing is put on one piece at a time as part of a process. But putting on clothing is just an illustration. What Paul wants us to understand is that, as Christians, what we are to put on are the elements of a new nature that exhibits itself in the person's conduct.

It is vital to understand what is involved here because we will conform to somebody else. Clothing fashions illustrate this. Designers change the design of clothing somewhat, and they get people in the public eye to wear the new style. Then, because others want to conform to what is "in," they buy the clothing that celebrities are wearing. They are conforming to an image. Even as people have a tendency to copy what others wear, they also have a tendency to copy what other people are. Humans will conform to something. They will conform to an image!

As Christians, what we conform to is exceedingly more important—it involves eternal life! What we are interested in are the elements of a new nature that are illustrated by pieces of clothing put on one piece at a time. What or who are we going to conform to?

Man as created (shown in Genesis 1) was a perfect, physical specimen but still incomplete in terms of God's overall purpose. That purpose requires man to make choices, particularly about things regarding his nature and his conduct. The major difference between man and animals is that man is not a creature of instinct but of mind. Man can explore, observe, collect facts, analyze, deduce, and understand, and from this, he makes choices. It is from this process that character is formed for good or bad.

The question is in what or whose image is he being formed? Is his image of character after the image of God or of this world? God requires each human being to answer this question. He does not give us the option of deciding what is right and wrong, but He compels us to make choices, and it is in the making of choices that our character is established.