By Donna Reimer
When I was in the sixth grade my favorite teacher, Mrs. Trotter, assigned our class oral reports. I remember carefully writing out a report on the human ear complete with drawings to use on the overhead projector. The only problem was that I was terrified to stand up in front of the class and deliver my report. So terrified that I thought up a plan to ensure I wouldn’t have to present my report. The night before my doomsday date I stayed up all night breathing in the cold night air through my bedroom window hoping I would have a red, sore throat in the morning and then my mom would allow me to stay home! Well, my plan worked and I missed that dreaded day in sixth grade!
After I was asked to do this devotional three weeks ago I came down with a sore throat that turned into a bad cold that turned into bronchitis! Let me assure you I did not cause this sore throat, although the thought probably crossed my mind! I have done all I could to be well for today to deliver this devotion so maybe I’ve grown up! Public speaking is still not my favorite thing to do but here I am hoping that this passage of scripture will be as much of a blessing to you as it has been to me.
We’ve probably all heard that, “Clothes make the man.” These are two shirts out of my husband’s closet that I borrowed with his permission. When he wears this...I think he looks great! Put together, mature and distinguished! But when he wears this… I think...hmmm. What is he thinking??? Doesn’t he get that he looks a bit sloppy? Unkempt? A little too comfortable? To be fair I sometimes wear this!!! Well, we all have our own closets at home and we choose what we are going to wear every day. I know mine is full of things I don’t wear, can’t wear, won’t wear! Some I wear occasionally and some I wear often. How about you?
We also have what I like to think of as our own “spiritual closet”. It is full of the good, the bad and the ugly! We can choose to “put off” or “put on” different characteristics that we read about in Colossians 3.
Even though our passage today is Colossians 3:12-17, I’d like to begin with verses 1-11
to show the contrast between what we are to “put off” and what we are to “put on”.
In Colossians 3:1-4 Paul writes,
1) If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God
. 2) Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
3) For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4) When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
Every day the Lord gives us the choice to obey His commands or disobey them. IF we are born again believers, raised from our dead spiritual bodies, then we are commanded to look up and seek the things of God: His Word, His example on earth, His thoughts, His ways, His will; not worldly thoughts, traditions, beliefs and endeavors. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”. Our former lives, before we accepted Christ’s free gift of redemption, are hidden in Christ, covered by His blood, the price He paid on the cross for our sins-verse 3. We must remember, Christ IS OUR LIFE, as stated in verse 4. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Verse 5: 5) Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
This verse is not suggesting to us, but commanding us to actively destroy those earthly desires which are of our flesh; “put them to death”. Fornication which is sexual immorality, uncleanness which is a state of moral filthiness, passion which refers to sinful sexual emotion, evil desire and covetousness or greed, which is idolatry. In the passive these actions are to be rendered “as good as dead”. We are not to act upon them. We are to actively throw them away and treat them as dead to us.
6) Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7) in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. All mankind has sinned and we, as believers, once lived in and walked in disobedience to God, just like the world. We need to remind ourselves that God’s wrath is coming for those who live and walk in these things. But that we, as children of God, are not under God’s wrath, which is “the righteous anger of God toward sinful disobedience.” 8) But now you yourselves are to put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9) Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, Verses 8 and 9 command us to “put off” (throw away, rid yourself of or send away): anger, wrath (rage), malice (wickedness), blasphemy (slander), filthy language and lying to each other. Why? Because those things are our “old man”, Before Christ (BC) and we have “taken off” the “old man” when we accepted Christ’s free gift of salvation. We need to live like it! 10)and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11)Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. We are to “put on” or wear, as in clothing, the “new man”. And what does the “new man” look like? Chuck Smith writes in his notes, ``We are being renewed into the glorious image of our Creator, as the Holy Spirit Is changing us into the likeness of Jesus Christ...to see what we will eventually look like we just need to look at the model, Jesus Christ.” And in verse 11 let’s remember that Christ is in all believers without partiality (He doesn’t play favorites or discriminate) and He is everything to us.
James 1:21-25. ‘Therefore, lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.’
So all this putting off, putting to death and putting on requires action on our part whether or not we feel it! James tells us to “lay aside” all filthiness and wickedness; “receive with meekness” the implanted word; “be doers” of the word and not a “forgetful hearer.” When we gave our lives to the Lord, we “put off” the old man with his deeds and “put on” the new man who is renewed in the knowledge of Christ to His image. So we need to walk in that truth, not our feelings, or judgements of our own or other people’s judgements. And Jesus is working His character into us so that we will be like Him, who is the exact representation of God as said in Hebrews 1:3. Philippians 1:6 says, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”. So not only must we “put on” the new man but we must remember that Christ is “putting in” the new man.
Chapter 3, verses 12-17. 12) Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13) bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you must also do.
In verse 12 Paul calls us the “elect of God''. The elect are those whom God knew, beforehand, who would accept the free gift of Jesus’ sacrifice of His life on the cross. He calls us “holy and beloved” because we are acceptable to God in Christ and are dearly and deeply loved. Here we are called to go into our “spiritual closet'' and “put on” “tender mercies” which is compassion; “kindness” which is goodness; “humility”; “meekness” which is “gentleness”; and “longsuffering” which is “patience”.
Verse 13 tells us to “bear with one another. “Bearing” means to put up with or to endure with each other. As part of the body of Christ we are each unique. Some people we have to “bear with” more than others as not one of us is perfect. Remember others have to “bear with” our uniqueness, too. God has tremendous patience with each of us and bears with us as we grow in Him. Let’s remember to afford each other that same grace. There are times when there are conflicts in the body, disagreements and offenses. We are told we “must”, (not should) forgive one another in the same way Christ has forgiven us. I used to be unforgiving at times and hold a grudge against others who had in some way hurt me. I felt justified in my grudges until the Lord showed me how ugly unforgiveness is. Hebrews 12:15 talks about being careful not to allow a “root of bitterness” to spring up which can cause trouble. He showed me that those roots, that bitterness, was choking out anything good in me in the same way that the roots of a weed can choke out healthy plants. And then He showed me how much He had forgiven me. All the ugliness of my sin and disobedience was far worse than anything anyone had ever done to me and still He died for me. I love Ephesians 4:32 which says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ has forgiven you.” My husband has been a wonderful example to me of that verse for the 47 years I have known him.
14) But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. Going back to our “spiritual closet” we find love. This is ‘agape’ in Greek. In the New Testament it is usually the active love of God for His Son and His people, and the active love His people are to have for God, each other, and even our enemies. Of all the spiritual gifts the greatest is love as seen in I Corinthians 13:13. “Now abide faith, hope, love, these three but the greatest of these is love.” We are to “put on” or “clothe ourselves” with God’s love. In I Peter 4:8 Peter writes, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.” Why is love above all these things? In Jesus’ time people wore an inner tunic and an outer tunic that hung loosely on the body. They would then tie the tunics at the waist with a belt or sash that would hold the tunics in place and keep them together. When God’s love is “put on” in the body, that love or belt or sash ties together and holds in place the body perfectly. So then with love there is the perfect bond, perfect unity. Without God’s love in the body there cannot be true unity. We can clothe ourselves in all the things we just looked at but without Agape love the body collectively and individually will fall apart and be unable to display His love to this broken world.
Let’s look at the final three scripture verses and see what actions they prescribe for us.
15) And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Ephesians 2:14 says, “For He Himself is our peace…” We are to allow that peace who is Christ to rule in our hearts; to rule in the sense of an umpire, calling the shots. My longtime friend, Karen, always makes her final decisions according to God’s peace in her heart. After seeking God, His word and godly counsel, Christ’s peace determines her final decisions. If she doesn’t have His peace she holds off on that decision until she has His peace again.
Paul is speaking here in verse 15 of personal peace but also of peace with others, especially our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We are called to peace. Paul is telling us that we are called, literally summoned as by a King to peace. Friends invite but a king summons! Paul also tells us to “be thankful”. Why do we need to be reminded of this so often? We too easily forget at times to have an attitude of gratitude. Like the Israelites wandering in the desert, I tend to grumble when I don’t like something but I have no reason to. He has given me so much. My focus should be on Him when I go through difficult times and on all His benefits that He has lavishly bestowed on me. He has given us everything so let’s thank Him all the time!
16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Paul tells us to allow Christ’s word (the Bible) to dwell or live in or be at home in our hearts. In the seat of our very thoughts and emotions. And to what degree? Richly! Generously and abundantly in all wisdom. This has to be a purposeful endeavor. Unless I have a Bible study book I’m using on my own I become lazy and spiritually weak. There’s a saying that goes, “Seven days without the word makes one weak!” The Bible is our spiritual food but reading and studying it is not enough. We must “eat” it. Chew it slowly, swallow it and digest it for spiritual strength and health. Meditate on it, memorize it and practice it! Let it inhabit our lives. We are to teach it to each other and, when necessary, use it to warn and reprimand each other. We are very blessed in our church to have musical worship with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs of praise to our God that we sing together in grace to our Lord. There is something about singing out loud to the Lord that can put our darkest moments and thoughts to flight. And singing together with one voice can fill us all with His presence, His joy and His love.
17) And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Colossians 3:23 says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men…” Whatever we do, whether in our words or actions we must do it in Christ’s name and for the Lord. We must allow the Lord to reign in our private and public life. Our character is what we do when no one is watching. We must let our light, the light of Jesus in us, “shine so that the world will see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16. We want others to glorify God’s work in our lives and not bring accolades to ourselves, so let’s remember to thank Him for His work in our lives.
In conclusion, of all the attributes we are told to “put on”, ‘The Clothing of Love’, is above all. Again, think of God’s love as the belt that keeps all the other spiritual garments in place in the body of Christ. And remember, it is His love that truly binds us together as one body
Father, we thank you for your love. Help us to choose to “put off” the “old man” with all its evil ways and choose to “put on” the “new man” with all Your attributes which bring glory and honor to Your name. Help each of us to walk in Your love and be a light to this dark world every day. And Lord, lest we become weary, help us to remember that it is You who is working in us as Jude writes in Jude 24-25,
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory With exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.”