Monday, June 12, 2017

Putting on the New Creation (Colossians 3:9b-17)

You can tell a lot about people in our society by the way they dress. From baseball players to bus drivers, from postal carriers to policemen, people wear the uniform of their profession. As it turns out, who we are determines what we wear, and failing to “dress the part” can sometimes have embarrassing consequences. 
Many years ago a very wealthy man in a Southern California town was found wandering around the local country club wearing shabby clothes. He was promptly seized by security guards and charged with vagrancy—even though, as it turned out, he owned the country club. You see, he was arrested because he had failed to dress consistently with who he was.
That is precisely Paul’s point in Colossians 3:9–17. Christians must dress themselves spiritually in accordance with their new identity. If we are in Christ, a change has taken place. We have had to say goodbye to the Old Man, to Mr. Wrong and all the habits, passions, and practices of the past. And because Jesus has restored our life we are new creations, made in His image.

For that reason, I have titled today’s message “Putting on the New Creation.” And what I want us to do this morning is notice some areas where God has taken the initiative to restore us. If you will consider these things with me, I believe you will better understand the response God expects from you because you have been restored to fellowship with Him.

1. Because we belong to God, Christ is all and in all (v. 9b-11)

Paul begins with a foundational statement in verse 9 about how we are new creatures in Christ and we need to dress accordingly…
“…seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:9b-11; ESV)
Paul says that because you have died and been raised with Christ there has been a radical change in your identity. What is that change like? Well, it’s like discarding an old shabby, dilapidated, worn-out, embarrassing set of clothes. 

What is it specifically that you put off? Well, in Christ you put off Adam. You discarded your identity in Adam’s lost race. And [you] have put on the new self, like a brand spanking new, smart, classy set of clothes. You put on Christ. You joined the new human race in him.

And here’s the thing — this new humanity is defined by one thing. In Christ, it makes no difference if you are a sophisticated Greek or a pious Jew. Indeed it is not a matter of whether you are a Jew or a Gentile. Here it makes no difference if you are even a despised barbarian, or an even more despised Scythian, which were the lowest class of barbarians. It doesn’t matter whether you are a slave or free. It doesn’t matter if you are a Spartan or a Wolverines fan. No. Christ is all that matters here. Christ is all, and in all.

2. Because we belong to God, we dress ourselves for peace

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 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 3:12-13; ESV)

Paul begins by reminding us of the fact that we enjoy a position of unique favor with God. He says we are Holy - set apart from sin, from the rest of the world, and set apart unto God. Now not only are we holy, but we are beloved. This means that God loves us and wants the very best for us.

So, what is it that is best for us? Well, the best is to put off the old sinful way of life, and to "put on," or clothe ourselves, with some special new behaviors. Now, it’s important to note that this phrase “put on” is the same phrase used in Ephesians 6:14 where the Scripture tells us to put on the armor of God before we do spiritual warfare. But in this context he is telling us to put on certain characteristics that will prepare us for peace, not war. Whereas in Ephesians we are putting on the armor for war, here we are dressing ourselves for a peaceful existence with other Christians.

So, what are these special new behaviors?

Heartfelt compassion

This is mercy or sympathy. As Christians we are part of the same family and we should not be indifferent to one another. We should not be cruel, harsh, and cold toward one another. This is nothing less than feeling towards others as God feels towards you.


This is a sweetness of disposition. A person who is kind has good things to say about others, is considerate of the feelings of others. Their words are tempered with grace and with tenderness.


As God’s loved people, we are to put on humility, like that of Christ Jesus: ‘He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross(Phil. 2:8).

Gentleness or Meekness

Meekness is controlled strength. It’s the willingness to suffer injury instead of inflicting it. And boy what a contrast with the way the world thinks. The world sees meekness as weakness. But the Bible says Jesus was meek, and we know He was not weak. Meekness, from a biblical perspective, is strength under control. It takes a greater strength to exhibit meekness than to burst forth with anger and lose control.


This is longsuffering, especially in the face of injury or insult. It is marked by the ability to respond in love when others treat us poorly. Of course, patience in our own strength is impossible. Patience is not something the world teaches us to practice.

According to a traditional Hebrew story, Abraham was sitting outside his tent one evening when he saw an old man, weary from age and journey, coming toward him. Abraham rushed out, greeted him, and then invited him into his tent. There he washed the old man's feet and gave him food and drink.

The old man immediately began eating without saying any prayer or blessing. So Abraham asked him, "Don't you worship God?”

The old traveler replied, "I worship fire only and reverence no other god.”

When he heard this, Abraham became incensed, grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out his his tent into the cold night air.

When the old man had departed, God called to his friend Abraham and asked where the stranger was. Abraham replied, "I forced him out because he did not worship you.”

God answered, "I have suffered him these eighty years although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night?"

When we put on these traits two specific things take place, which we see in verse 13: we will bear with one another and we will forgive each other.

You know, I have seen people who call themselves Christians who have unforgiving spirits and great difficulty bearing with one another. The call to bear with one another is the call the endure with each other because we are a Christian family. But of course, bearing with one another and forgiving one another is not optional. Because God restored us to fellowship with Himself, we love the people of God even as God loves them. Isn’t that right? Is there someone here this morning you need to forgive? Do you need to do a better job enduring with your brothers and sisters in Christ?

3. Because we belong to God, we dress ourselves in loving Christlikeness

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 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 3:14-17; ESV)

The apostle envisions a man dressing his body with the flowing garments of the day, and then it occurs to the man that as beautiful and fine as his garments are, they can never be worn with comfort or grace until they are held in place by a belt. So he adds the belt and guess what that belt is: it’s “love.” You know, it is possible to have some of the garments, these attitudes, and not have love, but it is impossible to have love and not have all of these other “garments.” Why is that? It’s because love is the grace that binds all these other graces together. The imperative thrust is continuous: keep putting on love over and over and over again.

As the Apostle Paul wraps up this little section, he gives us a string of imperatives…

“…let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…

“…be thankful…”

“…Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…”

“…teach and admonish one other in all wisdom…

“…sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in our hearts to God…”

How are all these linked you might ask? To answer that, let me end with a story.

An old story which comes from the Salvation Army in the last century tells of a strong-willed woman who had been nicknamed “Warrior Brown” because of her fiery temper. She was often belligerent and became enraged whenever she got drunk. Then one day she was converted. Her entire life was wonderfully changed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. At an open-air meeting a week later, she told everyone what Jesus had done for her. Suddenly a scoffer threw a potato at her, causing a stinging bruise. Had she not been converted, she would have lashed out at the man furiously. God’s grace, however, had made such a profound change in her conduct that she quietly picked up the potato and put it into her pocket without saying a word. No more was heard of the incident until the time of the “harvest festival” months later. Then the dear lady who had been known as “Warrior Brown” brought as her offering a little sack of potatoes. She explained that after the open-air meeting she had cut up and planted the “insulting potato,” and what she was now presenting to the Lord was “the increase.” Warrior Brown had allowed “the peace of Christ” to be umpire of her life.

Do you see how all of this relates? She put off the old “Warrior Brown” She put on the new daughter she was in Christ. Because of Christ, she put on the new garments of her new life and she bound it altogether in love. She was thankful and she let the peace of Christ rule in her heart. The word of Christ dwelled in her richly, she did not retaliate. In her meekness, she teaches and admonishes us all. We could sing songs about this woman’s God because He has so clearly affected a radical change in her life.

And in it all, her gratitude causes us to be careful about how we carry the name of Christ. My friends, we need to be mindful of the fact that we are called Christians, and that our actions reflect to the world the reality of Christ. That's what it means to do something in the name of Christ - to do it on His behalf, under His authority, and according to His will.

Is that wonderful change in your life evident? Has light filled the darkness of your soul? Has it changed the way you treat your fellow Christian? Has God’s presence given you the ability to forbear, to forgive, to love others more than you love yourself? What change has it brought? Has your life ever been restored? And if not, why not today?