the fashion of Christ /// 3:12-17
A historical look at fashion. >>> VIDEO
What is your favorite piece of clothing?
5 MUST HAVES IN EVERY WARDROBE
Today Paul is going to give Christians some important fashion advice. But before we get into the subject of fashion and style, it is important that I repeat something we covered last week, and that is that these instruction are for Christians. Paul opens this chapter by stating, “If then you have been raised with Christ…” This is a critically important line because it is not expected that a human being can actually put to death certain fleshly desires, like sexual immorality and anger, without being resurrected to new life in Christ. Actually, I would add that it is still very difficult for born-again believers without a constant dependence upon Christ. Last week Paul told us to take certain things off, this week he is going to instruct us to put certain things on, and again, he begins with a statement to remind us that this activity is for Christians.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, (Colossians 3:12 ESV)
Listen to this intro, “as God’s chosen ones who are holy and beloved”. If you are a Christian, it is important that you remember that you are already holy. You have been made holy because Christ has purchased your soul. Jesus was crucified on a horrific cross, his body was brutally broken and his blood was shed so that all of your sins – all of them – could be washed away. Your certificate of debt, or the legal requirement for your sin, was completely erased – having been nailed to the cross. When we respond to that Good-news we become God’s holy and chosen people. Not only that but you are dearly loved. The word Paul used is beloved. It is a powerful word. You are loved by the ferocious love a God who came to earth, as a man, to dwell with us, and to proof his love by willing laying down his life.
Now with that in mind, remembering that you are deeply loved and that you have been given holiness – this is how you should dress. Because you are so loved and set apart as his chosen holy people. Paul gives us 5 pieces of clothing – 5 must haves in every wardrobe. Lets look at each one individually – and i am going to take just a little license to illustrate these garments just for fun. For instance, Paul is not actually talking about pants or shoes, but for the sake of illustration I have recruited a super model to model these 5 must haves in every wardrobe.
First we are to put on a comfortable heart of compassion. Compassion is a deep sensitivity to the need of others. We all know what compassion is, but do we really have it?
Second, we need a solid button down of kindness. Kindness is the outward expression of compassion. One author has called kindness “the art of being a dear”. Kindness is a Christ like attitude toward other people. How did jesus treat others? How did he treat sinners? How did he treat the very people who hit him and spit upon him?
Third, we need some well worn, appropriately fitting, jeans of humility. You don’t want to be too big for your britches. Have you ever heard that before? My mom used to say, “Boy, you’re getting too big for your bitches.” Now, I don’t think I ever really knew what a britches was, but I always understood what she meant when she said that. Kindness is a Christ like attitude toward others but humility is a Christ like attitude towards self.
Fourth, every man needs an everyday blazer of meekness or gentleness. This term meekness describes our approach to people. Meekness is the opposite of arrogance. We must be gentle to others.
Fifth, we need some comfortable, yet versatile, shoes of patience. We must not rush too quickly but comfortably and casually stroll into certain circumstances. Patience deals with not just our approach toward people, but the way that we react to their approach to us. Patience is the opposite of anger.
Now, if every believer wore this outfit on a daily basis, well – we might have an utopian society. The church would be a place of love and peace and honor and encouragement and humility and meekness and patience and, I don’t know about you, but that has not been my experience – at all.
Now there are 2 things that I want to say about that. First, the church is made up of a bunch of sinners and second, well – the church is made up of a bunch of sinners. What I mean is this, first, we are really a bunch of sinners who are still in a progress of being made holy so we often mess it all up. The people of God are called to higher standard of social skills, and it is interesting that even non-christians understand this and hold us to it. Unfortunately, we often fail and when we do it is the first thing that is used against us. How many people will never go to church because they have been hurt by God’s chosen people. If that is you, can I just say I am really sorry that you had a negative experience. I really am. I hope that you will not use that experience as a reason to miss out on all that God wants for you. People suck, the only difference between Christians and non-christians is that Christians are learning not to, but we are all on a journey and most of us have a really long way to go.
Secondly, we are a bunch of sinners who – because we are sinners – try to pretend to be compassionate or patient on the outside rather than putting on Christ. I think the church often has of backwards kind of niceness. We think that because we are called to be nice we have the tendency to avoid the problem altogether and then that problem festers and grows until people just get plain ugly about it. Again this is chasing after shadows rather than the substance – or chasing after externals rather than Christ. We strive, in our own strength, to muster up some kindness or patience instead of depending on Jesus. Paul is telling us in this passage, and several others through-out the Bible, to put on Christ. These garments are simply descriptions of who Christ is.
So we don’t have a utopian society because sinners fill the pews of every church and we either have a hard time wearing this outfit, our we put on some knock-off brand. And Paul knows that too, listen to this next verse.
…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13 ESV)
Aren’t you glad that Paul is a realist. I mean, think about it, he would not need tell us to be patient if there was no need for patience. I mean if everyone was gentle and nice and humble, then I wouldn’t need to put on patience. Paul doesn’t believe that there is going to be a utopian society. He says, “if one has a complaint…” So, what do you do if someone criticizes you? Forgive them just as Christ has forgiven you. What do you do if people are difficult? Bear with them their difficulties. What does bear with one another mean? The word bear means:
“to hold up, support, to carry from one place to another,
to have a tolerance for.”
Let me ask you something. Is this something that your going to have to do in your life? I mean – are there going to people – in the church – that you will have to actually bear and forgive? “Does the Pope live in the woods? Is the bear Catholic?” If you have relationships, whether they are family, co-workers, or church people, if you you have any relationships at all – then you are going to have to bear and forgive. So you might want to just go ahead and start dressing for it. Put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Which of these garments do you need to add to your wardrobe? How will you do that this week?
ONE CRITICALLY IMPORTANT ACCESSORY
Now when we talk about fashion, it seems there’s always some discussion about accessories and Paul here adds that we do need an accessory. We need something that binds all of these garments together. Something like a brooch. Now I want to be honest, I didn’t know what a brooch was until I studied for this message. I assumed a brooch was something that held up your britches. Incidentally, that is not what a brooch is. Although – I was close – because a brooch is, for those of you who don’t know, “a relatively large decorative pin or clasp.” They are popular accessories today so you may have seen them before. Paul wants us to use a sort of clasp that binds all of these virtues together. Verse 14 says:
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14 ESV)
Love is a very critical accessory. In the Roman-Greco period these clips were called fibulas. Back then it was a manly accessory. Soldiers would wear them to hold their armor up on their shoulder. If you have seen movies about gladiators or Spartans then you’ve seen these huge metal decorative clips, usually up on their right shoulder, holding it all together.
Paul says above all else put on love that binds them all together. How do you develop a heart of compassion for others? How do you exhibit humility and gentleness? How do you bear with patience those difficult people in your life? You have this accessory, it’s called love, and you wear every day because it binds all of these other things (compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience) together.
Incidentally, I find it fascinating that Paul opens the section by reminding us that we are first loved by God. We are his beloved children that he went to great lengths in order to purchase us as his beloved children and to show us just how far he would go for us. Oh, how he loves us. In light of that love, we are encouraged to put on Christ and to have this clip that binds all of our garments together called love. We must put on the love of Christ. The same love that endured the cross for a people who spit on him and cursed his name, is the same love that you must intentionally put on every day.
Love means to love that which is unlovable; or it is no virtue at all.
Gilbert K. Chesterton
It is the love of Christ that compels us. That is what motivates us to show compassion, gentleness, forgiveness and love. The love of Christ for us compels us to love others. Now, with all of that said, Paul elaborates and says:
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15 ESV)
Let the peace of Christ rule your emotions. I often wonder what that would look like. What does peace look like? I don’t think I know. Even in the church, I mean if we actually loved each other, and if we shared compassion and humility and patience and if we bore with one another and forgave each other – what would that look like? What is peace in a community of sinful people?
Maybe I’ve grown cynical over the years but I find it hard to imagine peace within a community where we have to bear one another’s idiosyncrasies and constantly forgive mean sinful people. Let me just vent for a little while. Let me tell you what sort of emotions I get when I read this verse, “let the peace of christ rule your heart” – rule your emotions – Wow, I really really want peace. I long for that. I want it. I need it. I don’t think I even know what peace feels like. I grind my teeth every night in my sleep. I wake up all throughout the night and frequent cant even sleep and I would say that most of it has to do with relationships. Most of my lack of peace is wrapped up in worrying about whether or not I have offend someone, or sick to my stomach because some one has offended me. And I get angry about gossip and gossipers. Rich Mullins, who was huge influence on me, has a line in this song that goes:
There’s people been friendly, but they’d never be your friends
Sometimes this has bent me to the ground
I really resonate with that and the older I get the more I realize that I really long for peace. I imagine allot of you are the same way. And if you are let me show you something interesting. Do you notice what every single one of these garments have in common? Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, love forgiveness – they all have one thing in common and that is this – you can’t even begin to put these things on in a vacuum. Another way of saying it is – you can’t dress alone. Now that’s weird. But it’s true. That is why community is so extremely important.
Whenever I lived alone and I had my own place and I would put the dish rag next to the sink exactly where I wanted it, and I put my clothes on the floor in a pile exactly where I wanted them, and I had total control of the remote and could watch whatever I wanted to watch – exactly the way I wanted to watch it – but when I moved into an apartment with roommates, I began to learn that I couldn’t put my clothes where ever I wanted. I couldn’t fold that dish rag and put it right here and then actually expect that it would be there when I needed it. And throughout college I had several roommates and it always amazed me and surprised me just how far I was from understanding people or from even understanding myself. And then, I got married and then I had children, and those children look more and more like a mirrored image of me everyday. So, the Lord is constantly teaching me how I really suck at being humble and compassionate and gentle and patient. Now when I lived alone I thought I was pretty good. You see, you must be in community before you can even begin to understand how to put these garments on much less wear them comfortably.
So I want to spend a little time hammering out what I think is a very important value here at MISSIODEI. Our mission statement is CHRIST – COMMUNITY – CULTURE. It is really all about Jesus, but Jesus as chosen us and set us apart as a people – a community – so you can not do Christian life outside of being intimately connected in community. You will never learn humility outside of community. You will never truly have compassion with out knowing and understanding other people.
It is overwhelmingly clear in scripture – over and over and over again the Bible tells us that iron sharpens iron, that when two or more are gathered, that a chord of three is not easily broken. Everyone wants real honest genuine life on life but no one wants to do it. I believe that community is the fire that purifies us and I really believe that if you and I will commit to being in a lasting community together, and to make every effort to maintain the bond of peace that we will love, and be loved and experience this peace that rules our hearts.
DRESS FOR SUCCESS
Now the final point about our fashion has to do with dressing for success. You may have heard some tips on how you should dress for success. How to dress for an interview or how to dress for a sales client. I have heard it said before that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. So, humility or patience or compassion may be hard for you, that’s ok, dress for the job you want not that job you have. You may have a hard time forgiving people, just wear forgiveness as a garment for the kind of forgiving person you want to be not the kind of unforgiving person you are. You got to start somewhere.
Paul concludes this section with zinger of a statement that I believe makes all this talk about fashion make sense. Why are we to put these garments on, why are we to wear this accessory that binds them all together? Listen to the last verse:
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17 ESV)
Let me say it again, I don’t mind being redundant on this, IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS. The very moment that we forget that this wardrobe is through Jesus, because of Jesus, for Jesus and is Jesus, will be the moment that we move away from Christ-centered, gospel driven life towards human driven niceties, fake smiles and cold kindness. We are not putting these garments on so we can have the appearance of peace. Please don’t wear a mask. Please, be real. There is nothing I hate more than a fake smile.
But the text does not say, “Put on this quality or virtue of the Lord Christ,” but, “Put you on the Lord Jesus Christ.” He Himself—as a whole—is to be our array! Not this excellence or that, but Himself. He is to cover us from head to foot. Endeavor to come into such communion with Jesus Himself that His Character is reproduced in you! ~ C.H. Spurgeon
So I need to say this, because this is where the whole illustration starts to break down a bit. All this talk about putting on these garments can very easily be turned into a external, going through the motions kind of a thing. I even just now encouraged you to dress for the job you want, not the job you have – and that almost sounded like – just fake it. Please don’t fake it. We can smell it when you fake it. So I need to clarify this. How do we, put on Christ’s character, when most of us are so far from looking like Christ’s character? How do we do it with out faking it? I think the key is the last part of this verse. I believe we do it by “giving thanks to God the Father through him.” When we are thankful for we have, we are very likely to give to others who have less. When we are thankful for the the forgiveness that we have been given, then we are more than likely going to be eager to offer forgiveness to others. Jesus told a pretty convicting story about this very thing.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:23-35 ESV)
We sometimes worry allot more about our fashion or how we look in our clothes than we do about wearing these garments of love, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Interestingly, Christ actually told us not to worry about our clothes, he does however condescend to let us wear himself. What an honor, what a privilege. I am confident that the fashion of Christ is much more elegant and beautiful than any design we could pick up at a department store. This image that we have been using as a background all day is proof of that. This is a macro photo of a Madagascan Sunset Moth. Aren’t you just amazed at the beauty and detail. If Christ has woven such elegance into that wings of a moth, how much more will he clothe you with garments of unfathomable beauty? One day, we will be given new clothes, but until then, we are invited to put on Christ.