Today’s reading: Colossians 1-4.
“What should Christians wear?”
That’s a trick question. This devotion isn’t about the earthly, material clothing that changes according to the weather and style. It’s about the eternal, spiritual clothing that believers should put on each day. After some heavy theology, today we’re getting practical. Paul kept coming back to the analogy of putting on Jesus Christ, so it must be important. I’ve rounded up some great writing on this topic by some well-known pastors to inspire you to dress well.
Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:9-12
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. Romans 13:14
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:27
…you can’t crash the Kingdom without the proper robe. You can’t get in unless you have the garment. And what’s the garment? You know what the garment is? It’s what? It’s righteousness. And that’s Isaiah 61:10, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.” And so, when you came to Christ you put on Christ in the sense that you put on His righteousness, you put on His holiness, you put on His nature. And God sees you as righteous in Jesus Christ. It’s a beautiful, beautiful picture. And you will notice, won’t you, from the parable on, even through the Pauline epistles, this imagery of putting on a garment as emblematic of putting on the righteousness of Christ. So when you became a believer you did that…and the best word to use is in a positional sense. You did that before God and God sees you in Christ. We receive then a declared righteousness…But that brings us to the second dimension. Putting on Jesus Christ also is an exhortation given to believers. How can you say to a believer who has already put on Christ, put on Christ? Very simply. What he is saying is this has happened to you positionally, let it happen to you practically. I used to think of it in terms of an athlete who puts on the uniform of a great team. It’s one thing to wear the uniform and be on the team, it’s something else to play up to the reputation of the team. So act like it.
Listen to Robert Schuller, and other advocates of “positive thinking” or “possibility thinking.” What are they saying? Just what this paragraph says, “Put on these positive qualities. Think positively. Face the day with courage and confidence.” As we saw in our last study, “thumbs up” is to be the symbol of the Christian life. These men make a strong and biblical plea to do this. But the problem with their message, and the reason why oftentimes their plea is misleading, is that they fail to make the careful distinction that Scripture makes between the old man and the new man. These positive admonitions are not addressed to the old life. That is to be put away. There is a negative quality of living, which precedes the positive. We must reject this appeal which comes to us so easily from our past experience. It still haunts us as new creations in Christ, because it has taken over our brain patterns and past programming. We still, all too easily, play over in our minds the old movies of the past. But this is to be put aside. If we do that, then we can respond to these exhortations to be what God has now made us to be. So, when you start your day, begin this way. Put away the old reactions and then clothe yourself, put on deliberately, in your thinking, these seven qualities that reflect the life and temperament of Jesus.
You have already passed from darkness to light. You have already been transferred from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of Christ. You are already new creatures in Christ. You are already children of God. What remains is for you to dress like it, to live like it, and to fight like it. The clothes, the fight do not make you a child of the light. They show that you are a child of the light.
This is plain in the flow of the book of Romans—that chapters 1–11 precede chapters 12 and 13. First we get right with God by faith in what Christ has done. Then we dress and live and fight like people of the day. But this is even more clear in two other places where Paul talks about putting on the clothes of a believer. Listen to Colossians 3:12: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” You are already God’s chosen ones, God’s holy ones, God’s loved ones. Now he says, put on the character that reflects your new identity. And the one other place in all the New Testament where Paul speaks of “putting on Christ” describes it as something already done. Galatians 3:27, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Baptism is an acting out of what happens by faith in conversion. And what happened was: You put on Christ, once and for all. Which means that the command to put on Christ is a call to become what you are—a Christ wearer.
So keep in mind as we move forward now that putting on the armor of light or putting on Christ in verses 12 and 14 are not instructions to become a Christian all over again. Paul is calling us to be what we are in Christ. You are children of the light, children of the day. Now dress like it, live like it, fight like it.
The command before us is given to those who have the imputed righteousness of Christ—who are justified—who are accepted in Christ Jesus. “Put you on the Lord Jesus Christ” is a word to you that are saved by Christ and justified by His righteousness! You are to put on Christ and keep putting Him on in the sanctifying of your lives unto your God. You are, everyday, to continually more and more wear as the garment of your lives the Character of your Lord.
I now wish to show the description given in Colossians 3—from the 12th verse. I will take you to the wardrobe for a minute and ask you to look over the articles of our outfit. See here, “Put on therefore”—you see everything is to be put on—nothing is to be left on the pegs for the moths to eat, nor in the window to be idly stared at. You put on the whole armor of God. In true religion everything is designed for practical use. We keep no garments in the drawer—we have to put on all that is provided. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, tender mercies, kindness.” Here are two choice things—mercy and kindness—silken robes, indeed! Have you put them on? I am to be as merciful, as tender-hearted, as kind, as sympathetic, as loving to my fellow men as Christ Himself was.
See, next, we are to put on longsuffering and forbearance. Some men have no patience with others—how can they expect God to have patience with them? If everything is not done to their mind they are in a fine fury…Our Lord was full of forbearance. “Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you become wearied and faint in your minds.” Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and bear and forbear. Put up with a great deal that really ought not to be inflicted upon you—and be ready to bear still more rather than give or take offense.
“Forgiving one another, if any man has a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you, so also do you.” Is not this heavenly teaching? Put it in practice! Put you on your Lord! Have you fallen to loggerheads with one another, and did I hear one of you growling, “I’ll, I’ll, I’ll——”? Stop, Brother! What will you do? If you are true to the Lord Jesus Christ you will not avenge yourself but give place unto wrath. Put the Lord Jesus on your tongue and you will not talk so bitterly! Put Him on your heart and you will not feel so fiercely! Put Him on your whole character and you will readily forgive—not only this once, but unto 70 times seven!
“And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfection.” Love is the belt which binds up the other garments and keeps all the other Graces well braced and in their right places. Put on love—what a golden belt! Are we all putting on love? We have been baptized into Christ and we profess to have put on Christ—but do we daily try to put on love? Our Baptism was not true if we are not buried to all old enmities. We may have a great many faults but God grant that we may be full of love to Jesus, to His people and to all mankind!
How much I wish that we could all put on, and keep on, the next article of this wardrobe! “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Oh, for a peaceful mind! Oh, to rest in the Lord! I recommend that last little word, “Be thankful,” to farmers and others whose interests are depressed. I might equally recommend it to certain trades people whose trade is quite as good as they could expect. “Things are a little better,” said one to me—and at that time he was heaping up riches. When things are extremely well, people say they are “middling,” or a “little better.” But when there is a slight falling off they cry out about, “nothing doing, stagnation, universal ruin.” Thankfulness is a rare virtue—but let the lover of the Lord Jesus abound in it. The possession of your mind in peace, keeping yourself quiet, calm, self-possessed, content—this is a blessed state. And in such a state Jesus was—therefore, “put you on the Lord Jesus Christ.” He was never in a fret or fume. He was never hurried or worried.
Image by Kent Wang on Flickr, CC by-sa 2.0