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The Supremacy Demonstrated: By Being a Sharp Dressed Church Part 1 (Col. 3:10-12)

Intro

Take a lot at these pictures. After each one, I want you to tell me the title of their profession.

Ready?

I’m sure this is the easiest test you have probably ever taken. The reason is because it is easy to identify people when they are in uniform. You can tell a lot about people from the way they dress. I am sure with each of these professions, if each of these people showed up to work failing to “dress the part,” there would be serious consequences.

Do you know Christians have a wardrobe that they need to put on every day? No, I am not talking about long robes, a collar or a huge cross around their neck. Neither am I talking about a tee shirt that says “Jesus saves” or bumper stickers. I am talking about characteristics in line with our new character. I am talking about spiritual clothing. We must put them on as purposely as we put on our clothes in the morning. We must put them as decidedly as a sports player puts on his uniform to play in the game. We must put them on as unflinchingly as a soldier puts on his army attire for the battle. We must dress ourselves to meet our identity.

All of these people know who they are and thus, how they should dress and the importance of representation. They cannot be about themselves, for they are driven by something greater, something beyond them.

Similarly, as believers and as the church of Jesus Christ, we are put on this earth with a new identity, called out to represent the One who gave us this identity. We better dress the part!

Identity and Representation: these two key words describe Colossians 3. How you walk depends on where you sit. Because of who you are, walk appropriately. The title of the message today is, “The Supremacy Demonstrated: By Being a Sharp Dressed Church.” This is a two part series. Today we are going to cover Col. 3: 10-12. Lord willing, next week is joint service, but the week after that we will look at part 2 in Col. 3:13-17.

What is the spiritual attire of believers? There was an old song from the 80s sung by ZZ Top called, “The Sharp Dressed Man.” Anyone ever heard of it? Am I dating myself? The song is about the fact that a man who dresses himself well is going to get the attention of the ladies. Well, here we are going to look at the Sharp Dressed Church. What are the qualities of a believer and of the church that would make the world notice and turn its head?

Let’s start with this, the sharp dressed church has a:

I.   Firm Conviction about Change (Col. 3:10)

We left off last week with Paul saying that we must destroy and discard sin like old rags, particularly sexual sins and social sins. How can we do this? We can because we have been made new. You are a new man. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the Bible says (2 Cor. 5:17).  Notice he says, “You have put on the new self.” New men wear new clothes. Before he talks about what those clothes are, he defines what is happening to the new man (please do not be offended ladies when I say “man”).

The new man is “being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.” That word “renewed” refers to ongoing renewal or remaking by an outside force. It refers to a new quality of life that never before existed. It is a change caused from knowledge. Rom. 12:1-2 (transformed from being renewed in your mind).

I like how commentator Warren Wiersbe described it. We were formed first in God’s image (Gen. 1:26), thendeformed because of sin, but because of knowing Jesus Christ, we can be transformed[1].  Where does the knowledge come from? It comes from the Word of God, which we must desire like newborn babies craving milk (1 Pet. 2:2). As we grow in the knowledge of the Word and put it into practice, we become transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

How many of you when you became a believer realized you were just like Jesus Christ in every way? How many looked at the Book and realized that you got it all done already? I don’t think there is such a person. You had new life, but that did not mean instant maturity. God doesn’t want to just forgive me, He wants to change me. The flesh, the old self, comes along all the time dangling your old rags in front of you that it thinks you should put on. It’s a constant struggle, but we must not give up.

So you are not there yet. There is still a capacity for growth. You are under construction. You are clay in the Great Potter’s hands (if you remember the Retreat) as He puts His hands on you, cleans you and starts molding you into His image. As the wheel is spinning, the clay is changing. But you and I know that change does not happen in our sleep. The clay is useless on the ground. It needs to be on the wheel.

And as I have been a believer for 13 years now, I have come this conclusion. The Christian life is like riding a bicycle. Either you are moving forward or you are falling off. I need to always have a conviction about change. I am thankful I am not what I was, but I have yet to be all that God has me to be, but that does not stop me from wanting to change. It is so easy to think you have arrived. This was the problem of the church at Laodicea, which made Jesus want to throw up (Rev. 3:16). The sharp dressed church is convicted about change.

The transformation is only complete when we see Jesus and we will be like He is (1 John 3:2). But until then, I must have the conviction that I will never stop changing. It is not about how many chapters I am reading or how long I am praying, both of which are means to the end. The end is me becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.

Illus: Pastor Craig Barnes shares the story of Roger, a 12 year old graciously brought into his family by his parents, after he had lost both his parents to a drug overdose. Since there was no one to take care of Roger, his parents decided to raise him as if he was one of their own. Pastor Barnes says,

“At first it was quite difficult for Roger to adjust to his new home—an environment free of heroine-addicted adults! Every day, several times a day, I heard my parents saying to Roger:

“No, no. That’s not how we behave in this family.”

“No, no. You don’t have to scream or fight or hurt other people to get what you want.”

“No, no, Roger, we expect you to show respect in this family.” And in time Roger began to change.

Now, did Roger have to make all those changes in order to become a part of the family? No. He was made a part of the family simply by the grace of my father. But did he then have to do a lot of hard work because he was in the family? You bet he did. It was tough for him to change, and he had to work at it. But he was motivated by gratitude for the incredible love he had received.

Do you have a lot of hard work to do now that the Spirit has adopted you into God’s family? Certainly. But not in order to become a son or a daughter of the heavenly Father. No, you make those changes because you are a son or daughter. And every time you start to revert back to the old addictions to sin, the Holy Spirit will say to you, “No, no. That’s not how we act in this family.”[2]

If you are in the family of God, your goal is to become like Jesus Christ.

How many of us sit here week after week but have no conviction about change? How many of us only open the Word on Sundays? How many of us are seeking not be just hearers of the Word, but to be doers (James 1:22)? I certainly don’t expect you to remember all that I preach, but my heart’s desire is that, as you leave these doors, you are getting fired about the Word and wanting more of it in your own life and talking about it with your spouse or your siblings on the drive back or at the dinner table. Why? Because I want to be changing! It will not come by osmosis. Paul says, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). It is all of me and it is all of God.

Jenny and I noticed a lull in our marriage once the baby arrived and work responsibilities and ministry needs all came crashing down on us. So we took some time out, grabbed some pastor’s marriage tapes and books and purposely went to Lake Geneva for our anniversary as some of our siblings watched the baby. It was so good for us to share and talk about changes we were going to make. Because do you know the number one enemy to our marriage? It is neglect. It is also the number enemy to our relationship with Christ. My prayer for my life is that if the Lord gives me 70 or 80 years, I have become more like Jesus Christ than I am now. We cannot stop changing folks! We can’t keep wearing the same raggedly old clothes, we got to change!

Here’s how we can change:

  1. I must want to change.
  2. I cannot change on my own.
  3. I must have a plan for change.
  4. I will not change overnight.

The Sharp Dressed Church is convicted about change. Secondly, the Sharp Dressed Church is:

II.    Fighting toward Christ-Centered Unity (Col. 3:11)

Paul moves on to say that there is a Christ centered unity that is part of every sharp dressed church. Notice the list of man-made barriers that have been cut down because of their relationship to Jesus Christ. Paul is not denying these distinctions exist, but as far their standing before God, none of these things should separate people from God and each other. He mentions three categories: First is:

a)    Racial-Religious division: “Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised” Jewish men would wake up every morning thanking God they were not a slave, a woman and a Gentile! Jews had nothing to do with Gentiles. They refused to enter a Gentile house. They would not even eat Gentile food and when traveling, they would come home and shake off the dust from their sandals and clothes.[3] The early church had a hard time believing God was going to reach the Gentiles with the gospel at first (Acts 10-11), but eventually they began to see that the gospel was going to penetrate everybody and create one new body, the church.

b)   Cultural division: “barbarian, Scythian.” The cultured Jew or Greek both looked down on the uneducated folk, like the barbarians. You didn’t associate with people who did not have the education you had or could talk like you do. Now the lowest of the barbarians were called the Scythians. They were warlike, nomadic savages. To give you an idea what these people were like, one Green historian writes that, “They drank the blood of the first enemy killed in battle, and made napkins of the scalps, and drinking bowls of the skulls of the slain. They had the most filthy habits and never washed with water. (4.64, 65, 75).[4] Hope that did not ruin your lunch, but what Paul is saying that an uneducated savage who puts his faith in Christ is as equal before God as the most educated and eloquent of Jew or Greek.

c)    Socio-economic division: “slave or free.” A slave not a person, but a piece of property. Aristotle called them “a living tool.”[5] The master could do whatever he wanted with him. The slave could not even marry. But here Paul says, the slave man and free man are both brothers for whom Christ has died, just like Paul told Philemon a slave owner of Onesimus, a runaway slave (Philemon 16).

All of these divisions no longer affect a person’s spiritual status. The gospel is color-blind, gender-blind, cultural-blind and socio-economic blind. All are welcome to come to the Lord! The ground is level at the foot of the cross.

Paul says at the end of this list, “but Christ is all and in all.” He means, Christ is all that matters and He is in all who believe equally. He is everything! Again and again, Paul goes back to the total sufficiency of Jesus Christ!

Imagine a table in which you have the Greek, the Jew, the barbarian, the Scythian, the slave, the woman, the free all sitting together. It was unthinkable in the first century, but the gospel made it possible.  All distinctions are removed except for those in Christ and those who are not.

Illus: That unity of slave and freeman was dramatically demonstrated in the arena of Carthage in a.d. 202. Perpetua, a young woman from a noble family and Felicitas, a slave girl, faced martyrdom for Christ. As they faced the wild beasts, they joined hands. Slave and free woman died together for the love of the same Lord (M. A. Smith, From Christ to Constantine [Downers Grove, Ill: intervarsity, 1973], p. 107).[7]

I do pray our church is one where people can look and see that Christ is all and in all. I pray for a Christ-centered Unity. I don’t want to be building walls, but building bridges. Are we building walls keeping us from reaching people? I was thinking of some man- made walls, in light of Col. 3:11, that can destroy our unity and witness:

a)    Ethnocentrism and Racism. The former is the belief that one’s own ethnic group is the most important and that some or all aspects of that culture are superior to other groups. I pray there would not be a hint of that among us. Jesus is the end of ethnocentrism and racism. Not a word or any attitude should ever suggest that the Japanese or Chinese or Indian or Taiwanese or American or whatever group one is born into is superior to others.

b)   Self promotion of educational accomplishments. We may have more degrees than a thermometer, but that does not make us superior to another believer.

c)    Insensitivity to others. Jenny told me that she was part of a small group where the leader would sometimes randomly speak in Korean during the discussion. Please do not do things like that. Beware also of racial slurs and jokes about other races, which are offensive.

d)   Judging others by clothing.

Let us work on the things that unify us, like becoming more like Jesus Christ. So often our conversations and focus are on what’s different about us, that we rarely challenge each other to strengthen the things that we are all striving for together in Christ. I am not against learning about culture and people’s backgrounds and what makes us all different, but sometimes what we feel like at the end of the day is that we don’t belong with each other because we are so different! We are supposed to feel more unified than divided as we grow together in life. The Sharp Dressed Church is convicted about change and has a Christ Centered Unity. Here is the last one for today. The Sharp Dressed Church is:

III.   Forging a Christ-like Character in Community (Col. 3: 12-14)

Paul had been, up to this point, telling us what to discard and destroy, but we are not to stand there naked, because we have to put on some new clothes as well. See, the key to slay and shedding the negative is not to focus on the negatives, but to focus on the positives. That is why a “Just Say No!” campaign against sin does not work. Fight it by preoccupying yourself with something greater.

The first point was that we are to be convicted about change, but now we are told what that change looks like. It is not enough to have a conviction about something, we also must have a goal about how to make the conviction a reality. We know the goal is becoming like Jesus Christ, but what does that look like? Verses 12-14 tells us what Heaven’s Wardrobe looks like.

Here are three things about forging a Christ-like Character. First of all:

a)    It is a Command. Paul says, “Put on then.” Just as you get up in the morning and wash your face and go to your closet to put on some clothe, “put on” the following spiritual attire. Paul is calling for effective action like Put it on now! It is like you are still in bed and someone rings your bell and you are not dressed properly, so you take immediate action to put on some clothes! There is urgency there. You have to make that choice when you get up in the morning to do this.

 

b)   It is because of your Identity. Paul reminds the believers of who they are before challenging them to live it out. It goes back to the thought that you have to know who you are, (see Pastor Robin’s 14th message in the Colossians series on Col. 3:1-4) if you are going to walk the walk. You are three things:

 

i.    Chosen. Some of you at this point may be excited that we have that word here and would love for me to explain the whole doctrine of election in 3 minutes or less. Others of you might be hoping I would just skip over that. Well, let me say this. The Bible does teach divine election, that if you are in Christ today, it is because He chose you (Eph. 1:4—He chose us before the foundation of the world; Rev. 13:817:8 Our names were written in the Book of Life before the foundation of the world). But the Scripture also teaches that “Let the one thirsty come; let the one who desires to take the water of life without price (Rev. 22:17). “Come to me who are weary and heavy laden…” (Matt. 11:28).

So which one is it? It’s both. As Pastor James MacDonald says, “The sovereign election of God and free will of man are two parallel points that meet in the mind of God.” I do not get it, but I’m ok with that. Theologians over time have spent their lifetimes trying to sort it out. But I must rest on the fact of Deut. 29:29: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us…” The Scriptures do not tell us everything about the mind of God in this matter. I am sure good Christians who all belong to different camps will be in Heaven.

But what I do know is Scriptures tell us how to respond to the doctrine of election. It is to be a comfort to us (Rom. 8:28-29), in the midst of trials and uncertainties of life, to know that God who chose me will take me to the end. It should lead us to praise God (Eph. 1:12) and it humbles us knowing it was nothing that was in us for God to choose us. Look at those who do not know Christ today: your neighbors, relatives, celebrities, co-workers. Some of us may be the only ones in our family who knows Christ. What grace!

ii.  Called Out.  Paul says we are holy. This means set apart. God saved to be set apart, different. We are called out to be distinct and unique from the world.

 

iii.  Cherished. Paul also says we are “beloved.” We are objects of His love. The apple of His eye. Look what is said of Israel in Deut. 7:7  “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,  but it is because the Lord loves you…” Just let that sink in at this moment. I am loved by God.

 

So Paul is saying you who are called out, chosen and cherished people! Sons and Daughters of the Most High, children of the King! Live out your identity.

So it is a command, it is because of our identity and lastly, forging Christ-like Character is

c)    Character not performance based. Paul gives us yet another list, this time on virtues not vices. Notice that there is no mention of efficiency, cleverness, diligence, marketing ability, dominant personality, good looks, great portfolio, none of which are bad, but God is after character building. Character is what helps you live in community to God’s glory. Illus: I received an encouraging note after speaking at a friend’s memorial service. However, I was upset that the note made mention of my character and not my performance. I was convicted of my sinful heart which seeks approval from man on my performance, when God looks at my heart and my character.

Let’s break these down:

i.    Compassion. To feel as others feel at the gut level. It is when all that is within you is moved toward another. It is more than sympathy, which says, “I see that you have pain in your heart and I’m sorry.” Compassion says, “I see that you have pain in your heart and that pain is also my pain.” It means drawing close when others pull away. It means standing up for those who cannot defend themselves. It means loving the one everyone else hates. Jesus looked over the crowd and had compassion on them as they were sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9:36). Just like Jesus!

 

ii.  Kindness. A grace that pervades the entire being, treating another without harshness, with respect and honor, and attributing value and dignity. It can take different forms, a smile, a pat on the shoulder, a kind word, holding the door for someone, looking to affirm something in others, an invitation to lunch and an offer to help. Just like Jesus!

 

iii.  Humility. It is the antidote for self-love, which poisons relationships. It is not to think less of ourselves, but to think of ourselves less. Actually, it is not to think of ourselves at all. It is to lift others up. It stems from the understanding that we are mere stewards of everything we have, not managers. It means when I am criticized, I am not quick to justify myself or blame others. It means I take the initiative for the purposes of reconciliation. Just like Jesus!

 

iv.  Meekness. Also called “gentleness.” This is seen in our society as weakness. The world says if you want something, insist on it, get loud about it, and flex your muscles until you get it. Unfortunately, this often leads to loud, rude, obnoxious and abrasive people. Actually meekness is strength under control. It is tact, able to relate to others in tenderness and softness. It is not weakness or spinelessness. It is willing to suffer the burdens of others sin may place on him. It is the willingness to suffer injury than inflicting it. It is able to provide a soothing influence on those who are angry. Just like Jesus!

 

v.   Patience and bearing with one another. This is the virtue that it is not irritable, not provoked and not driven by the behavior of others to take revenge or strike back. To endure. The “bearing” is in the present tense meaning it is my lifestyle to put up with people. It needs to be continuous! Easy to define, hard to practice when you are around crabby sales clerks, whining children and rude drivers. But patience means that just as I need room and time to grow, I give others the same room and time. It means I may have to say something many times before someone gets it. It means giving people “the benefit of the doubt,” just as I hope they do with me. It means things that are easy for me may not be for others. It means realizing that growth comes through mistakes. It means I am thankful God is patient with me! Just like Jesus!

 

We will continue with forgiveness and love next time.

Conclusion

Loved ones, if your faith is not changing you, it has not saved you. If these character qualities are no big deal to you, perhaps you are not in the family. Do you remember the story of the wedding banquet in Matt. 22:1-14? A King wanted to host a wedding feast for his son. He sent out all his servants to call the invited to come, but all were busy and distracted with so many other things. The King was angry and had them all killed. Finally, the King said go to the highways and byways and call whoever they could they find. Now the custom of the day was that if you were invited, once you showed up, the King gave you special wedding garments for you to wear. Now one occasion, the King noticed that there was a man who was not wearing the wedding garment. The King was shocked and had that man cast out. Listen to what John Piper says here,

“There will be many shocked church goers when the Lord comes, who think that they have responded to the Lord’s invitation to come to the banquet of heaven, but in fact have never really, with their hearts, entered his school to get ready. They walk in the door, as it were, when the bell rings, but they don’t listen to him. With their lips they honor him as the schoolmaster, but their hearts are far away. It’s as though they were not even there. When the Master says, “Change your clothes,” they adjust their collars or shine their shoes, or tuck in their shirts, but they won’t take off those cherished habits. They won’t strip away those old attitudes of racism, or the love of money, or the addiction to pornography. They want the hope of heaven, but they won’t dress for heaven. They won’t change their clothes. And Jesus says in the end on the graduation day, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into outer darkness.” He had never really enrolled with his heart. It was all a show.[8]

If we are not “dressing the part,” there are serious consequences. What are you wearing?
—-

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. “An exposition of the New        Testament comprising the entire ‘BE’ series”–Jkt. (Col 3:10). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

 

[2] Craig Barnes, author and pastor of National Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C.; from sermon  “The Blessed Trinity” (5-30-99).

 

[3] MacArthur, J. (1996, c1992). Colossians (150). Chicago: Moody Press.

[4]MacArthur, J. (1996, c1992). Colossians (151). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] O’Brien, P. T. (2002). Vol. 44Word Biblical Commentary: Colossians-Philemon. Word Biblical Commentary (193). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

a.d. Anno Domini (Lat.), Year of the Lord

[6]MacArthur, J. (1996, c1992). Colossians (152). Chicago: Moody Press.

 

[8]Piper, J. (2007). Sermons from John Piper (1980-1989). Minneapolis: Desiring God.

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