There’s this stubborn nail lodged in a board on my deck that I’ve been trying to pull out. I cannot make that thing budge. I have tried and tried. Over . . . and over again. Total fail! I’ve finally just given up.
And, as I often do, I thought of a spiritual parallel . . .
Might that nail be representative to a sin or habit that’s deeply ingrained in the flesh? Try as you might to remove it, it remains. I didn’t have any success in pulling out that nail because I wasn’t using the right tool.
When it comes to getting rid of stubborn habits, two things are needed: persistence and the All-Powerful Tool of Transformation, the Holy Spirit. He is the putting-off Agent of Change.
But putting off is only half the equation. As the apostle Paul put it, you have to also put on for real spiritual growth. Because to only put off would be like working with only one blade of a pair of scissors (to borrow Jerry Bridges’ metaphor).
So, for putting on, let’s apply another similar metaphor—a nut. As in nuts and bolts. A loose nut can become problematic. Especially when it’s on some piece of machinery. Because every time that motor runs, the vibration makes it rattle. That’s fortunate (although annoying), because that rattle lets you know to go grab the right tool and tighten down that loose nut. Because if you don’t, it’s likely to go flying off! On analogy, that can be a discipline that’s not firmly established. Something that, when put on replaces what you’re putting off. It might be a practice overlooked and underworked. But tightening it down takes committed training in disciplines (like, worship, prayer, group and individual Bible study, serving, fasting, etc.). They are the put-on in order to put-off—because the Spirit uses them as tools for growth.
Work in cooperation of the Spirit in pulling out those stubborn habits and tightening those loose disciplines. He is the One perfectly suited to rightly handle all the nuts and bolts of spiritual growth and maturity.