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ROOTED IN CHRIST
Our Dress Code
November 5, 2017
On Friday morning a number of us attended the annual Valley Forge Leadership Prayer Breakfast. It was a sold-out event at the Crowne Plaza in King of Prussia that featured former Philadelphia Eagles’ star Seth Joyner as the speaker. Seth did an incredible job boldly and humbly sharing his faith in Christ and giving everyone there the opportunity to trust the Lord.
The program began with cadets from Valley Forge Military Academy and College parading into the room carrying the stars and stripes, so we could all stand and say the pledge of allegiance. They looked impressive dressed in their immaculate uniforms and there was no doubt that they were in the military. Because that’s what you wear when you’re in the service of our country. That’s the dress code.
There’s also a dress code for those of us who serve Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It’s not so much an outward dress code with a uniform as it is an inner dress code, a dress code of the heart more than of the body. Do you know that dress code? Can people tell that you’re serving God’s kingdom? Do you look the part?
This morning we continue our series in Colossians called Rooted in Christ. And today we want to look at the dress code for those who call themselves followers of Jesus. Turn in your Bible to Colossians 3:12-17 (p. 832). Look at verse 12, Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved. Stop right there.
If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ this morning you need to know something about yourself. You are chosen. You are holy. You are dearly loved by God.
When your name comes up in a conversation among the Trinity, when the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are hanging out in the throne room of heaven just shooting the breeze and your name is mentioned, the Father gets this big smile on his face because he loves you and thinks you’re something special. That’s my boy. That’s my girl. He’s over the moon about you! If we could only just grasp that, how our lives would change.
It’s very significant that every one of these three words, chosen, holy and dearly loved was originally used to describe the nation of Israel. They were God’s chosen people. They were a holy nation. They were dearly loved by God.
Later on these same three words are used to describe Israel’s Messiah, Jesus Christ. He is God’s chosen one. He is God’s holy one. He is the Father’s dearly loved Son.
And now Paul takes these same three precious words and applies them to you and to me. And he can do that because as believers we are now “in Christ.” We are immersed in Jesus so that when God sees us he sees Jesus. We are chosen. We are holy. We are dearly loved. God loves you and me as much as he loves his Son Jesus. That’s what it means to be “in Christ.”
So, if that’s who we are then how do we act? How do chosen, special, dearly loved kids behave? Well Paul gives us the dress code for the King’s kids because our identity in Christ affects the way we live and how we relate to each other.
The characteristics that he’s going to list in verses 12-17 are not intended to be a “to do” list to gain God’s love and approval. No. Matt made that real clear last week. Instead, these are characteristics that describe the way chosen, holy, and dearly loved sons and daughters are to live. This is how they dress. This is the wardrobe in their closet.
Often when Jen or I put on a new shirt or a new outfit we’ll say, “That looks great on you! That is so you!” Well, these are the attitudes and behaviors that look great on a child of God.
Look again at verse 12, Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Do we always live like this? No. We’re not perfect. We get our clothes dirty sometimes and need to ask God’s forgiveness when we do. But these are always the clothes the Holy Spirit is pulling out of the closet for us to wear.
Now we’re going to move quickly through the wardrobe. Each one of these could be a separate teaching in and of itself. But as we do I want you to identify the piece or pieces of clothing you wear the most. We all have favorites outfits. And thank God for those. But I also want you to identify the piece or pieces you haven’t worn in a while. Maybe they’re way back in your closet and you need to pull them out again.
The first piece is COMPASSION. Compassion literally means “bowels of sympathy.” It’s a feeling word. The Greeks viewed the center of our emotions as not residing our heart, but in our bowels, in our guts. Even today we still use the expression, “I’ve got a gut feeling.”
Compassion is that ability to see a need, feel the hurt, and respond to it. It’s the first one on the list. We have a lot of compassionate people at Valley View. Compassion looks great on a child of God. Do you wear it well?
The second piece of clothing is KINDNESS. Kindness means putting the needs of others above our own. I love this one because kindness comes in all kinds of little ways. We live in a driven, fast paced, harsh world, and when we show kindness we stand out because kindness always slows us down. Kindness drops the rpms. It’s hard to be kind fast!
Kindness can mean holding the door open for someone, letting another go first in a line of traffic or in a line at the store. It can mean a smile, a warm greeting, a compliment, saying “please” and “thank you.” It can mean listening to a child tell a long, rambling story, or an adult! Sometimes kindness means not interrupting a person and letting them talk and talk and talk.
Kindness, the second garment on this list, shows that God understands that the little things count in big ways. God wants his kids to be kind just like every parent wants their child to be kind. For years we’ve used the expression around here, “Be kind to everyone because everyone is fighting a battle!” That’s so true. Are you slowing down long enough to be kind?
The next piece on the hanger is HUMILITY. This one’s really tied to our identity because when we really understand who God is and who we are and what he’s done for us it’s hard to be proud. Over the years I’ve found people confused about humility. Humility is not saying, “I’m no good. I’m nothing. I’ll never amount to anything.” That’s not humility. The subject in each of those sentences is “I, I, I.” Statements like that keep us at the center. That’s pride, not humility.
True humility keeps God at the center. Someone has well said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.” Humble children of God can serve others without notice because they’re not looking to others for their worth and value. It comes from above. Are you wearing humility well? Is that one of your favorite outfits?
GENTLENESS is the next virtue. Gentleness is not weakness. Gentleness means strength under control. Jesus describes himself as gentle and humble of heart. In his letter to the Thessalonians Paul says, We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. Gentleness means being careful with people, not harsh, not trying to hurt, intimidate, or bully anyone. Gentle people are safe to be around.
PATIENCE is next on the rack. This can be an easy one to leave in the back of the closet. How patient are you with circumstances and situations and people who rub you the wrong way? The Chinese have a proverb that says, “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.” There’s a lot of truth in that. A little patience can pay huge dividends and often involves forgiveness.
Look at verse 13, Bear with each other and FORGIVE one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Forgiveness follows patience because patience often demands forgiveness, not just once, but sometimes over and over and over again, just as the Lord has forgiven us. To forgive means to release people from the need to get back at them for the pain they’ve brought into our life. God wants us to release our parents, our ex-spouses, or any other significant people who’ve hurt us or offended us or failed us in some way.
And how do we know if we’ve done that? How do we know if we’ve really forgiven somebody? The test is not whether we’ve forgotten the offense. We may never forget the hurt they’ve caused. “Forgive and forget” is not in the Bible. The memory of the hurt may fade with time after we’ve released them, but it may never completely disappear.
Instead, we know we’ve forgiven someone if we don’t bring up the offense ever again, not to that person, not to someone else, not even to ourselves. Instead, we remember to forget because that’s how we’ve been forgiven by God. He won’t bring up our sin ever again, he won’t tell others about it, and he won’t mull it over and hold it against us. It’s gone.
Someone has said, “When God forgives our sin he throws it into the deep end of the ocean and puts a sign on the beach that reads, ‘No fishing!’” I love that! Anyone you need to forgive right now? Do you need to remember to forget?
Verse 14, And over all these virtues, put on LOVE, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
The last piece of clothing the Greeks would put on was their belt. Wrapping the belt around their waist would hold the whole outfit together. The belt is love. If we love others well we will be compassionate and kind and humble and gentle and patient and forgiving. Love ties it all together. The greatest of these is love. And the love we have for one another is intended to lead to peace in our relationships.
Look at verse 15, Let the PEACE of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be THANKFUL.
Peace is to rule our relationships. The word “rule” is an athletic term that literally means “to umpire.” In sports the umpire has the final word. The umpire makes the final call. So, in our relationships, peace is to have the final word. And if we’re not at peace with someone we may have some relational work to do.
Anger, bitterness, and hurt feelings are not to rule our relationships. Peace is to make the call. And so, we do whatever it takes to maintain peace in all our relationships.
But peace isn’t always possible. I get that. And do does Paul when he says in Romans 12:18, If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. But if there is not peace in the relationship let it not be because of us. And be thankful. It’s hard to be angry and thankful at the same time.
Look at verse 16, Let the MESSAGE OF CHRIST dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
This is happening right now. We’re here being taught and admonished by the wisdom of the Word of God. We’ve already sung psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in our hearts to God. We’ve affirmed together the truth of God’s Word in song and in teaching. And we do it every week around here because we know this is where God shows up.
But we don’t just to wait until Sunday to let the message of Christ dwell in us richly. We get into the Word during the week on our own or with our Life Group or Transformation Group.
We listen to it. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Soak in it. Let it richly dwell in us.
And whatever you do, Paul says in verse 17, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
When Seth Joyner spoke at the Prayer Breakfast on Friday I thought he’d tell lots of football stories about his time playing for Buddy Ryan and the Philadelphia Eagles back in the 80’s and 90’s. But he didn’t. Every story he told was about Jesus and how thankful he was that Jesus didn’t give up on him and still doesn’t. He’s still a work in progress, but he’s so thankful to God the Father.
And so are we. We’re all a work in progress and we will be until we meet Jesus. But this is the dress code for those of us who are chosen, holy, and dearly loved. Compassion. Kindness. Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Forgiveness. Love. Peace. Thankfulness. The Word of God. This looks great on you and on me and on all those who follow Jesus. This is how we make Christ known in a driven, fast paced, harsh world.
As we close in prayer I want to give you a minute to thank God for the garment that you wear the most and a chance to ask God to help you bring one out of the closet that you may not have worn in a while but need to. Let’s stand for closing prayer.