Our New Wardrobe

Colossians 3:15–17


What is one way that we can tell these different people apart? A pilot, orthodox Jews, a police officer, a soldier, a Muslim woman, a nurse, a basketball player.

How can we often recognize these people without even talking with them?We can identify them from their clothing—what they are wearing.

That’s what we are going to look at in the blog today— what clothes we are wearing, our wardrobe. Not our physical clothes, but our spiritual clothes. Just as you knew something about these people by what they were wearing, so our wardrobe tells others about who we are.

Let’s reflect on Colossians 3:8–17.

8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 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. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 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. 17 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.

A History Lesson

God created the world “very good.” Adam & Eve lived in perfect harmony with God and with each other. There was no sin, no shame. Genesis tells us that the man and the woman were naked and were unashamed.

But then they disobeyed God, and everything changed. Suddenly, there world was turned upside down. As soon as they ate of the forbidden fruit, the Bible tells us, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.”

Adam & Eve tried to cover up their shame, their sin. They used fig leaves to try and cover themselves. But later, God made animal skin clothing for them. In fact, the first death recorded in Scripture is when God killed an animal to cover Adam & Eve. This was a sacrifice for their sin. They tried to cover their sin through self-effort, but it was not good enough. God had to cover their sin—and it took a death to do so.

Fast forward 4,000 years. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed to cover mankind’s sin—but not just to cover it, to take it away permanently. He became sin and suffered the penalty for it.

Fast forward 2,000 years to today. For those who are in Christ—who have placed their faith in His work on the cross and His resurrection from the dead—our sin has been taken care of. It was placed on Christ and His righteousness has been given to us. Positionally, we are righteous in God’s eyes.

A New Heart

When we are born again—what theologians call regeneration—God gives us a new heart. He takes away out heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh. The old man is done away with and the new man is created according to God’s image. There is debate today over whether we have two natures or just one. I believe that the Bible teaches that we have one new nature—the new man.

Did you know that there are two kinds of heart transplant operations? The one you probably think of is called an orthotopic heart transplant, in which the failing heart of the patient is removed, and a new heart is inserted. The other, lesser-known, operation is called a heterotopic transplant. In this case the surgeon leaves the old heart in the patient and connects the new heart to it. This creates, in effect, a double heart.

Why would the surgeon leave the old heart in? There are two main reasons. One is that a new heart sometimes helps the old, sick heart to recover and heal. The second reason is that if the body rejects the new heart it can be removed without putting the patient at immediate risk.

When it comes to the heart transplant God performs in us, many want the second operation. We want our old heart left in there with our new heart. We want just enough of Christianity to help our heart get “better.” We want self-improvement, not a new self. But our sin-filled hearts cannot get better. They’re not just sick, they are dead. They need to be cut out, not patched up.

God only performs one kind of heart transplant. He removes the old, lifeless, callous heart, and inserts a new one that beats to the pulse of His Spirit. When your heart beats to that pulse, you will desire to live a brand new, godly life. Your affections will change; the direction of your life will change.

Our old self had reigning sin. Our new self has remaining sin. And there’s a huge difference. We are no longer under the power of sin. We have a new identity.

JI Packer said, “Anytime a Christian sins, he is in that moment, suffering from an identity crisis.”

But, even though our old man was killed, and we were given a new heart, we still sin. We still struggle with the flesh—those habits, patterns, and wrong ways of thinking. To some degree, I’m sure we can all identify with the Apostle Paul, who said,

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. . . . For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. . . . For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

Law or Grace

So, in our attempt to subdue our flesh, to overcome sin, to fight the battle waging in our members, we resort to self-effort, to rules and regulations, to harsh treatment of our flesh. We do what Adam & Eve did—we try to cover our sin with works, with our own self-effort to clean ourselves up and atone for our sins. But that never works; it can’t work. That’s not God’s plan for our sanctification.

God is not just looking for outward conformity to a set of rules, but He is looking for real heart change. He looks at the thought and intentions of the heart; He can see our attitudes and motives, and that’s where sin starts.

And when it comes to real heart change, we have two options: Law or grace. That’s it. Two. At the end of the day, we either believe Law changes us or love does. We can tell people all day long about what they need to be doing and the ways they’re falling short. But simply telling people what they need to do doesn’t have the power to make them want to do it. Law shows us the need for change, but it is powerless to enact change—that’s not part of its job description. The Law points to righteousness but can’t produce it. It shows us what godliness is, but it cannot make us godly. The Law can inform us of our sin, but it cannot transform the sinner. The Law can instruct, but only grace can inspire. Or to put it another way, love inspires what the Law demands.

As I have come more and more to understand the gospel; as I recognize the great love of God shown to me in Christ; as I consider the amazing grace shown to me as an undeserving sinner—that is what produces heart change. Not law, but love and grace.

Charles Spurgeon nailed it when he remarked, “When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I beat my breast to think I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so and sought my good.”

In the text above from Colossians, Paul is continuing to tell the Colossians (and us!) what the proper response is to all that God has done for them in Christ. Not only that, but he has reminded them of their new identity in Christ—their total union in Christ. And he is urging them to become who they are—to live out practically what is true of them positionally.

Our Old Clothes

In this passage, Paul uses the metaphor of clothing. He tells them to put off certain things—to take them off and lay them aside. And then he tells them to put on certain things—to pick up these new clothes and get dressed.

The old clothes belong to the old man. Let’s look at the old man—who we were before we came to Christ:

  • Alienated from God (Col. 1:21)
  • Hostile in mind (Col. 1:21)
  • Corrupted by lust & deceit (Eph. 4:22)
  • Engaged in evil deeds (Col. 1:21)
  • Dead in transgressions (Col. 2:13)
  • Enemy of God (Rom. 5:10)
  • Enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:6)

You have probably heard the statement, “The clothes make the man.” Well, that’s true in a sense spiritually, too. Our behavior reflects our heart. Jesus said that it is out of the heart that comes immorality, anger, greed, etc. Who we are at our core—our nature—is to be reflected in the clothes we wear—what people see on the outside. Just like you knew the pictures of the people by their clothing, so others identify us by our clothing. Either as Christ-followers walking in the Spirit, or as those walking after the flesh.

First, let’s look at the wardrobe of the natural man—our old man:

  • Immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed, covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, slander, filthy talk, lying

These are the sins that Paul mentions in Colossians 3 verses 5–9. I covered the first half of this list in another blog, so let’s look at his list in verses 8 and 9 this time.

  • Anger (Gr. Orge) refers to an abiding, settled habit of mind with the purpose of revenge. We might call it deep-seated, vengeful anger. It’s the smoldering volcano that lies dormant for years then finally erupts.
  • Wrath (Gr. Thumos) is similar to anger in that it refers to an inward, boiling spirit. But it differs in that it refers to a burning anger that flares up, burning with the intensity of a fire. It is seen in a quick temper or a rage that suddenly bursts forth. It is an uncontrolled spirit of anger, boiling close to the surface so that it spills over without warning.
  • Malice carries the idea of being mean-spirited. It is a vicious nature that is bent on destroying or hurting others. The plans for harm may not be carried out, but the attitude is there nonetheless.
  • Slander might be called “a belittling tongue.” It is the attempt to bring someone else into disrepute, to paint him or her in a bad light, or to say something to give another person a bad reputation. When you add malice with slander, you get what Scripture calls a “malicious gossip.”
  • Abusive speech is also translated as filthy talk or coarse language, and we are to get rid of that Ephesians 4 says let no “unwholesome talk” proceed from your mouth, which literally means corrupting or rotten speech. The Greek word here means shameful talk—speaking about things that we ought to be ashamed of.
  • Lying is . . . lying—not telling the truth. It can be “white” lies, exaggerations, fibs, cheating, etc.

We’ve all heard stories like this: a college football coach resigns after admitting he falsified his academic and athletic credentials. A career military officer confesses to wearing combat decorations he did not earn. A job applicant acknowledges that her stated experience in “food and beverage oversight” was actually making coffee each morning at the office. It’s discovered that a politician made false statements on his resume — saying he earned a certain degree, or went to a certain university, when in fact, he didn’t.

We often pretend to be someone we are not. We project something to others that is not the truth. Instead of just being ourselves, we want others to think better of us, and that leads to lying.

These “vices” make up the wardrobe of our old man—the nature that has been crucified with Christ. Paul says in verse 7, “and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.” In other words, this is who you were in the past. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

These are all what we might call “social sins.” They involve how we treat others. We get angry, we want revenge, we wish evil on others, we abuse others with our speech, we lie to one another. I’m sure we’ve all experienced these feelings and acted on them as well. And, you have probably been the recipient of these sins.

What we need to see here, is that Paul is speaking this to the church—to the assembly of believers. This is how we sometimes treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. We might expect this from the world, from unbelievers, but from born again, spirit-filled believers who are in fellowship in the Body of Christ? No way!

When we behave in these ways, we can be sure that we are walking in the flesh, not in the Spirit. We are listening to the world, and not to Christ. In Galatians 5, Paul gives a very similar list of social sins and says they are the result of not walking by the Spirit, but walking by the flesh:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh . . . so that you may not do the things that you please. . . . Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are . . . enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions . . .

But Paul says that we are to PUT OFF these old, soiled clothes. They don’t fit us anymore. They aren’t our color; they aren’t our style. Our new person needs new clothes. Instead, Paul says, we are to PUT ON the wardrobe of the new man—who we REALLY are.

Our New Clothes

Let’s look at the new man — who we are now that we are in Christ:

  • New creation (2 Cor. 5:17)
  • Created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24)
  • No longer enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:6)
  • Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19)
  • United to the Lord (Rom. 6:5)
  • Being renewed after the image of our Creator (Col 3:10)

In verse 10 Paul says that our new self is “being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” God created our new inner man, in His image, and it is “being renewed” to His image. This is a present progressive—“being renewed.” It speaks of the progressive nature of our sanctification as God’s Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ.

Paul list here in Colossians 3 is very similar to the fruit of the Spirit that he lists in Galatians 5:22—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is only God’s Spirit who can work these things in us; we can’t manufacture them, not at the heart level anyway.

So, what is our new wardrobe? What fits our new man to a T? Here’s Paul’s list: Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing with one another, forgiving each other, love, peace, gratitude

These are what Christ-followers should be wearing. Notice that these are basically the opposite of the previous list. Instead of social sins, we might call these “social graces.” These are how we ARE to be treating one another—with compassion, kindness, humility & meekness, patience, long-suffering, forgiveness, and love.

This is our new wardrobe; these are the clothes of the new man. We must put these ON.

But remember, only God can work these in us by His Holy Spirit. And these are not just external acts, but inward motives and intentions—these must come from the heart level.

Do you know what the Oxford Dictionary “word of the year” was for 2013? You may have guessed it—selfie. This is a photo of yourself taken with your camera or smart phone and then uploaded to social media, like Facebook or Instagram. What does that say about our culture?

I’d like you to take a selfie right now—not an actual one—but a spiritual one. Pretend you took a snapshot of your spiritual clothing. What would you see? Anger or compassion? Rage or patience? Pride or humility? Filthy talk or encouraging words? Lying or truth-telling? Malice and slander or love and gratitude? What do others see? How would they identify you?

Go before the Lord, with this passage in front of you, and ask Him these questions:

  • When people look at me, do they see the clothing of the new man or the old man?
  • Have I hurt someone in my family, at work, in church by my gossip, anger, hurtful words, slander, or lies?
  • Do I need to pursue peace and reconciliation with anyone?

Jesus said to His followers in John 13: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

CONCLUSION

Here is Paul’s main point in Colossians. Regardless of who you are, there is one hope that we all share, and that’s Christ and Him crucified. Whether you’ve been a legalistic rule-keeper or a lawless rule-breaker, your only hope is the Cross of Christ.

My prayer is that we would seriously contemplate whether or not we are walking and living under grace, walking by God’s Spirit and letting Him transform us into who we really are—the New Man, or whether we are building our hope on our own efforts, our own strength, our own flesh. Surely that has to get exhausting. Surely there is no freedom that we can find there. Surely we are failing.

My prayer is that we might understand and grasp that we have one hope—Christ and Him crucified. And that that hope will transform our relationships in the Body of Christ.

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