Looks We Love
July 31, 2016
It is no small creature comfort to wash up at the end of a long hard day and put on some clean clothes. Whether is after a dusty softball game under the hot sun or a grueling home improvement project or an insane work out at the gym, it’s feels good to get what is sweaty or smelly or soiled off of you and, after a good wash, to put on what is clean or crisp or comfortable. Let’s give it up for clean clothes.
And yet, the interesting thing about this mundane creature comfort is how it is the supreme metaphor for Christian life. Spiritual growth and maturity comes down to taking off clothing that is dirty and old… and putting on clothing that is clean and new.
First, Christian life comes down to taking off what is dirty and old. Since we are united with Christ, we have also died with him. And if we have died with him, then we must also put to death our old and dirty selves. We must put to death sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. We must put off anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, and lying. All of these things must go. These are all like dirty old clothes that we need to take off.
Brothers and sisters, notice the seriousness of this activity. We are not to pray about our sinfulness. We are not to merely share about our struggles and get accountability for our sins. We are to put our sins to death. This is not a Christian life for the faint of heart. This is not a moment for us polite midwestern Pokemon-playing suburbanites to play nice with our sinful hearts. In his book titled The Mortification of Sin, John Owen wrote, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Yes, we are given the command, “You shall not murder.” But we do have one serious “exception,” if you will: you shall put to death your old self. Yes, we are given the command to love everyone. But we do have one serious “exception,” if you will: you shall hate your sin with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. The Heidelberg Catechism pulls no punches when in Question 89 it asks, “What is the mortification (or death) of the old man?” The answer: “It is to have a sincere sorrow of heart, that we have provoked God by our sins; and more and more to hate and flee from them.”
Brothers and sisters, let us be a church that hates sin. Let us be a church that puts away our old and dirty selves. Let us be a church that takes things like sexual immorality or covetousness or anger or slander and puts them to death. Let us be a church that takes sin seriously and deals with it accordingly.
So, first, Christian life comes down to taking off what is dirty and old.
Second, Christian life comes down to putting on what is clean and new. Since we are united with Christ, we have also been raised with him. And if we have resurrected with him, then we must also put on our new and clean selves. We must put on compassion and kindness, humility and meekness, patience and forbearance, forgiveness and love, the peace of Christ and the word of Christ. All of these things must come. These are all like clean clothes that we need to put on.
Brothers and sisters, notice the awesomeness of these clothes. Check the tags to see who made them and who they belong to. For all the items in Colossians 3 that we are to put on are really and ultimately the clothing of Christ himself. Our Lord saved us by dying for us and living for us. And in living for us, he perfectly obeyed and fulfilled the law of God, he achieved a perfect righteousness, and he earned heaven. Christ has done all of these things listed in Colossians 3. He alone has shown true and perfect compassion. He alone has shown perfect humility and meekness. He alone has shown perfect forgiveness. He alone has shown perfect love. This is all his perfect righteousness that he has done on his own accord. And the glory of the gospel is that he trades his beautiful clothes for ours. He became sin, who knew no sin, so that we might become his righteousness. Therefore, Christ invests the church with them. And so all of these things - humility, patience, forgiveness, love - these are all really glorious hand-me-downs. These are very much his clothes. And all we must do it put his clothes on.
Let us praise the Lord! For he is clothed with splendor and majesty. He covers himself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent.
Let us rejoice in the Lord! For he has clothed us with the garments of salvation; has has covered us with the robe of righteousness… as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
God has turned our mourning into dancing; God has loosed our sackcloth and clothed us with gladness.
I hope you begin to see how clothing is an important thing throughout the Bible. Think about how God clothed Adam after he sinned and fell. Think about how Moses had to put a veil over his shining face. Think about the meticulous instructions and design of the beautiful clothing of the high priest in the Old Testament. Think about the real reason why David could not battle Goliath with Saul’s armor. And speaking of armor, think about the cousin of Colossians 3, which is Ephesians 6, in which we are told to put on the armor of God. Clothing, and its deep meaning, is contemplated everywhere in the Bible.
Let us be a church that appreciates what we are putting on. The Heidelberg Catechism asks in Question 90: “What is the quickening (or making alive) of the new man?” The answer: “It is a sincere joy of heart in God, through Christ, with a love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works.” So let us joyfully put on the new self. It is not like that unwanted and unfashionable sweater that your parents got you for Christmas when you were a teenager. It is very much like the very clothing of Christ himself. So put it on with joy. And wear it with reverence and with awe. For the material quality of Christ’s compassionate heart and kindness is second to none. Christ’s humility and meekness was established well before 1983 (J.Crew) or 1892 (Abercrombie and Fitch) or 1663 (some fabric mill in Italy). Jesus’ forgiveness and love never wrinkles or fades. His peace and his word will never go out of style.
So, brothers and sisters, this is what Christian life comes down to. It’s about taking off the old self and putting on the new. It’s about dying to sin and being alive to Christ. And it is about all of this because we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection.
Sanctification is not glamorous. Spiritual growth and maturity is often full of discouragement and despair. Brothers and sisters, I hope that you realize this. The Christian life is a daily dying to sin and a living to Christ. It is often slow and ordinary.
But while sanctification is not glamorous, it is glorious. It is full of impending glory. For when we put on the new self, we are receiving nothing less than resurrection life. When we put on the clothing of Christ, we are becoming nothing less than a new creation.
So be encouraged as you spiritually grow and mature. Here are some tips for your sanctification. Tip #1: When you put on patience or forgiveness, it make not feel good at first. But give it some time. As with some clothes that are new, you need to break them in. Tip #2: Is humility and meekness a little tight on the waist? If so, it may be time to hit the gym and get on the Hebrews 12:1 program: “Lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely.” Tip #3: When deciding what to wear, remember that all the pieces of Colossians 3 are super versatile. Take love, for example. You can wear it at work, at the coffeeshop, at weddings, at school, in home, when you play, when you’re at a wedding, and, yes, even when you’re at the hospital or the funeral. Love never fails. Tip #4: Show some brand loyalty. Don’t be worldly and put things that are earthly. Stay with Jesus. His rewards program is by far the best one out there. Tip #5: When you feel like returning your items, when you doubt your salvation, remember Christ’s once-and-for-all finished work on the cross, and remember that all sales are final. Lastly, Tip #6: Don’t go back to your old dirty clothes. Nobody in their right mind would take off what is sweaty or smelly or soiled, wash up, and then put the same sweaty or smelly or soiled clothes back on.
In closing, brothers and sisters, just remember that life isn’t perfect. But your outfit can be. What you wear does matter. And you are what you wear. So look good, Highland Church. Take off the old self and put on the new.