Putting on Christ

When Jesus saves sinners, there are many theological realities that take place immediately upon that one act of salvation. And when you first get saved, most of the time you don’t understand much about what has just happened to you.

You have been…

  • Called—irrevocable calling, an effectual calling
  • Crucified—the old you is put to death and brought to an end
  • Regenerated—born again, baptized by the Spirit, given a new heart that is now enabled to love and worship God and obey his commands
  • Justified—pronounced righteous by God the just judge
  • Redeemed—purchased and bought indicating a cost paid by the purchaser and a new ownership (slave/master)
  • Saved—rescued from Satan, sin, and delivered the wrath of God
  • Forgiven—released from the penalty of sin
  • Gifted—the Spirit of God empowers you for newness of life
  • Indwelled—the Spirit of God takes up residence within you
  • Sealed—promised to be saved by God who has made you his own
  • Sanctified/Separated—often think about progressive sanctification, which is true, but you were immediately set apart upon conversion
  • United—with Christ, gaining the privileges and power of his position
  • Adopted—made a child of God, a little brother or sister to Jesus, a joint-heir with him

All of that happens immediately. And then you and I spend the rest of our lives worshipping God and seeking to understand what has taken place in our lives. We seek to understand our salvation both in terms of what is true about us (objective) and then how we live in light of it.

The application of these Gospel-truth to our everyday lives.

We started a series “Christ in the Common” two weeks ago. And the purpose is to gain practical encouragement for living the Christian life. This section in Colossians 3 is so rich, we are slowing it down to work through it, so we don’t miss anything.

Paul is giving the characteristics of a thriving Christian, and he connects our identity to our practice over and over. We said you could really subtitle this section be who you are. You are a saint, live like one, you are a child of God, live like one, you are forgiven, so live like it.

And these characteristics of a thriving Christian are challenging. The first is…

  1. One who treasures Christ above all else (1-4)

What are you focused on? Or better asked, whom are you focused upon?

  1. One who mortifies sin upon seeing it for what it is (5-11)

What sin are you killing? If then, by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, you will live.

  1. One who models Christ magnifying him on earth (12-17)

Now very often when we think about assessing spiritual maturity what do we default to? What are you doing for the Lord? How much are you doing for the Lord? That’s not a wrong question. In fact, some of you need to consider what you are doing for the Lord.

We are called to serve the body with our spiritual gifts. We are called to give generously to the Lord in our offerings. We are called to disciple and witness to unbelievers and many other responsibilities.

But a passage like this is so essential because it is possible to do all the things I listed and be immature in the faith. Certainly they will all be present in the life of a believer, but even unbelievers do those things. Unbelievers serve and give and study.

So, the mere presence of spiritual activity and sacrifice in your life isn’t an evidence of maturity. What is an evidence of maturity is Christlike character. The evidence that you are mature is godliness that comes from the Lord.

Paul calls it the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. By that he means the product of the Spirit being at work in the life of a person. And so, this week as we move from

  1. One who treasures Christ above all else (1-4)
  2. One who mortifies sin upon seeing it for what it is (5-11)
  3. One who models Christ magnifying him on earth (12-17)

When you belong to Christ and know him, it shapes your attitude and then your behavior. 

4 Critical Areas We Must Model the Lord Jesus Christ

  1. Let the character of Christ define your demeanor (12-14)
  2. Let the peace of Christ be the umpire in your strife (15)
  3. Let the word of Christ permeate your life (16)
  4. Let the person of Christ impact all that you do (17)

(12) So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on 

The main instruction here is to incorporate something into your life that isn’t naturally a part of it (i.e. put on). This brings up a preliminary comment here at the beginning.

See our tendency in a text about things like patience and gentleness and make it about natural disposition. So, the people who are naturally disposed to be quiet and sweet think that they have nailed this. People who are not naturally disposed to empathy and are rough around the edges think they are who God made them to be and this isn’t possible for them to obey in the same way that it is for others.

But God when calls you to put it something on… it means it is not natural, and it is not optional. You are a royal kid, and these are your royal clothes as it were. If you are naturally quiet and sweet, that doesn’t matter. You need these attitudes to be what’s on the inside in your heart. If you are naturally predisposed the other way, you need these attitudes in your heart.

So, Paul says, put on…

as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved,

We are back to identity here. Before Paul exhorts (i.e., commands and urges obedience to God) he reminds these people of what God has done for them and how God views them.

Chosen of God. God selected you to be saved. The elect. Just like Israel who was chosen out of all people. A challenging doctrine that sometimes we feel the need to rescue God from… why is that? Because if God chooses then that means some get picked and some don’t. 

Paul doesn’t say “put on, as those who chose God.” I know you know this truth, but let it grip you anew. Why did God choose you (of all people) to save? Your answer is as good as mine. Nothing my hands can do – Ephesians 1 he predestined us in love. 

Holy. He set you apart.

Beloved. He brought you into his family and calls you his loved one. According to his great love with which he loves us he adopted us as sons. God loves us. God loves us so much that Paul says we can’t even comprehend it. 

We can’t fully appreciate it or understand it. This truth is hard for me to believe personally because I do so many unloveable things. But God’s love for me is based upon his character and what his son earned for me. I don’t earn his love because I couldn’t. He freely bestowed it upon me. 

This is the basis. This is the starting point. This is the position of confidence that we obey from. 

Since that’s who you are, act like it now. 

Get dressed in the same character clothes worn by Jesus. You gotta put this on… take off the old and put on the new. What’s the problem?

Well we get comfortable and familiar and used to our patterns. You don’t cultivate ungodly attitudes for years and then immediately become fully changed. My favorite shirt is almost 20 years old and from time to time I get offers to have it replaced at no charge. It looks kind of greasy and there are holes in it.

But I continue to decline. Why? It’s comfortable. It’s what I know and what I want. But Jesus requires you to change. You must be transformed. So, here’s the list of spiritual character clothes to put on:

a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

We’re just going to walk through this list and make sure that we understand what each of these words are and how they apply to our lives. All of these are attributes of Jesus. And so our Lord embodies them, and now we put on Jesus and we model his character.

A heart of compassion: affection, tender mercies; mercy, compassion, pity—empathy. A deep concern for people that enters in to their struggle in an understanding way to bear a burden.

You say, “I’m not an empathetic person…” what’s the opposite of empathetic? The opposite of compassionate is someone who is harsh and exacting, or dismissive of the needs of others. 

God goes to great lengths to describe himself as compassionate (Exodus 34, and the parable, “who told you that I was an exacting master?”)

This is a sappy word, and a word that God uses to describe his own attitude toward us…

Luke 1:78—Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,

Philippians 1:8—For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Kindness: benevolence, usefulness, active goodness. Often we think of being kind as being nice. It doesn’t mean being nice, but it is actively working to bring goodness into the life of another. It is a working wordgroup. 

And it has the idea of blessing those who aren’t deserving of your blessing. If you wanted a related concept it is that of generosity. Someone who is lavish in their treatment of others, that is a kind person.

This is the attribute of God that leads us to repentance, Romans 2:14. God is a God of severity toward those who reject him, and yet kindness to those who are his own (Romans 11:22). A fruit of the Spirit-led life. 

Fleshly people lack kindness, Spiritual people flourish in it. What’s the fleshly response at a perceived wrong? You pull back. You withhold affection. You quit serving. Kindness finds a ways to bless (Romans 12:14 bless those who persecute you). We’re talking about real persecution here.

Humility: humbleness, dropping a personal agenda, consider others first. Because they have a high view of God they serve joyfully without expectations, they are soft to correction from the Scriptures, quick to admit faults, and they spend time thinking about others. Being in a church will expose you. It can get uncomfortable. You get to see my weaknesses and I get to see yours—let that bring about true humility.

A position of lowliness and personal insignificance. 

What you find commonly is that we know enough as Christians to act humble on the outside. Or to say things that sound humble. True humility is cultivated before your God and as you view Him rightly it gets rid of being arrogant and judgmental.

Gentleness: meekness, carefulness with one another, it is being considerate and courteous and meek. It recognizes that if God has the power to change he doesn’t need me to deliver his message in a 2x4. Certainly, things may escalate (sharp rebuke is required says Paul elsewhere) but that’s only when the situation takes you there. You come in with the least amount of force required.

It was the manner that the Apostle came says he came to that immature church at Corinth. You and I would probably wonder if they were even saved. Paul threatened to bring the rod (1 Cor 4:21) but he instead came in the meekness and gentleness of Christ. 

You think, how is that not compromise? There was drunkenness at the Lord’s table. Tolerated immorality the church. Divisions. Spiritual gifts running amuck and being used for self-promotion. And these were people who were maligning Paul’s public reputation after he served them faithfully for so long. 

It makes sense. Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23) meaning it is a sign that the Spirit of God is at work in you. Lack gentleness? You lack the Spirit of God. According to James whatever wisdom you think you have, if it isn’t wrapped in a package of gentleness and humility it isn’t wisdom from God (James 3:13).

Sinners are to be restored in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1); opposers to the truth are to be corrected with gentleness (2 Timothy 2:25); and outsiders are to see us as models of gentleness even when wronged (1 Peter 3:16). 

Gentleness requires trusting in God’s power to work, and his timetable. It regards others carefully and lets the Spirit of God do a work. Don’t excuse a lack of gentleness for anything other than what it is—spiritual immaturity.

Patience: forbearance, willingness to be calm and bear up with the weaknesses of others. 

This is not the patience you need when you are in the McDonald’s drive thru and you have to pull into a parking spot and wait for four minutes because the fries weren’t ready, or they don’t have enough checkers at Costco at that moment and it takes ten minutes to get through the line.

Sure, those situations reveal your level of self-importance and entitlement, but that is not the kind of patience Paul is talking about here.

Children—do you have a sibling who is difficult to deal with and love? Employees—do you have someone at work that day after day is challenging? Some of you have a spouse that requires a great deal of patience (others of you provide that opportunity to be patient).

Patience here is longsuffering with weaknesses. In fact a mark of mature Christlikeness is an ability to trust God to work in the heart and lives of those around you. Drops personal expectations that result in frustration. 

That sounds compromising. Really? Compromising what? God’s honor! Really? How patient was God with you? Paul says that Jesus saved him to demonstrate how patient he was. God had a rehab plan for self-righteous zealot who murdered Christians. 

What does 1 Thessalonians 5:14 mean when it says be patient with everyone? It means that you are going to need to hang in there longer than you think. We underestimate how long it is has taken for people to change because we overestimate our own maturity.

When I look at areas of my character that are serious issues—they didn’t get worked out because I heard two amazing sermons on it, or had three great discipleship sessions. It was years of God shaping and forming Christ in me. 

On a pastoral note, I’m convinced that people who lack patience with others are blind to how difficult they are personally and how much patience they require of others around them. Look, ten years ago I thought I was a real catch—I mean an amazing husband and father.

You know what I would say today? Jacob has areas that are challenging to love and to follow. And whether you are my wife, or my kids, or my extended family, or in my flock, I give people around me plenty of opportunities to be patient. Just be honest. 

For the sake of Jesus Christ, be patient with one another. How long? I can’t answer that, but to say longer than however you naturally think.

Patience rejoices in the little areas of change and encourages those. 

Bearing with one another—this is a good translation of the word. 

But it sounds too nice. This is raw. The other way of rendering the word is literally put up with one another. Bear up sounds a little nicer than put up with each other. And the idea isn’t merely to agree to sit in the same room but rather to accept one another.

Accepting one another with our faults, and enduring. How well can you bear up with someone else’s faults? I’m amazed at how incredulous we get. The Lord grows you in an area and then immediately you are in shock and disbelief that everyone else around you is so blind. 

Are you able to serve people and relate to people across a broad spectrum? Mature Christians can bear up with people across many contexts. They can be comfortable around people who are different than them. 

Jesus and the disciples—going through Mark we have witness them truly blow it over and over and over, yet Jesus keeps enduring. He doesn’t give it to them all at once. Incremental growth. Models. Teaches. Ask questions and draws out. Corrects. 

Churches split and people become isolationist when they can’t bear up with differences and accept one another. Let me put it to you as starkly as possible—if Jesus Christ shed his blood for that person, who are you to judge and reject them? Accepting is loving someone with warts and all.

Forgiving each other—releasing one another from a debt and an obligation. Why would we need to release one another from a debt?

The obvious answer is because we incur debts. We sin against one another. If it’s in God’s Word then you can surely expect sin and offenses to occur in relationships. God’s people still sin and will sin against one another.

It shouldn’t be surprising. And if that wasn’t enough Paul clarifies…

whoever has a complaint against anyone;

Paul’s anticipating perhaps someone at this point is thinking, “Paul, I’ve been tracking with you so far, but I’ve got this situation that falls outside all the scenarios you just described. I have what you might call a unique situation.” 

Paul just removes any and all qualifiers. That’s pretty far-reaching. Whoever and anyone who has a situation where they can blame another. There is some issue that can be spoken against. 

You must forgive freely and lavishly… just as/so also (a comparison of a forgiveness that comes lavishly from the heart). 

Matthew 18 is the seminole passage on this matter. You could never be sinned against by another human to the degree that you have sinned against God. And so, if God would so release you and cast your sins as far as the east is from the west (i.e. not treat you in light of them any longer) how can you be stingy in releasing others from the offenses they commit against you? 

Provides an opportunity to display the fruit that you yourself have tasted of forgiveness. An attitude exhibited by our Lord who requested the Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him. They didn’t deserve forgiveness. They hadn’t asked for forgiveness. Yet he wanted them to have it. 

People who are exacting and stingy with their forgiveness are proud. They haven’t yet contemplated the depths of what God did in freely pardoning them.

To the degree that you do not practice these things from the heart, you may be a Calvinist on paper or on your FaceBook profile. But you operate, functionally, much closer to a person who actually believes that they have earned something from God. You may be able to articulate the grace of God, but to the degree you don’t exhibit these attributes, you reveal that you don’t really understand the grace of God.

The reverse of all of this is the world, and it is ugly. Consider with me these words in opposite:

Instead of putting on a heart of compassion you are exacting and harsh, not demonstrating empathy, and you are incredulous that others can’t get with the program; instead of kindness, you withhold yourself unless reciprocated, or not serving people who don’t serve you, instead of humility, you elevate your own spirituality or your own preferences and look down on others, instead of gentleness you approach others in a manner as if you are the force that will cause them to change rather than seeking to serve them and trusting in God’s power, instead of patience you find it disappointing and annoying that the people around you are still struggling in the ways they are struggling and you are ready to throw in the towel in the whole process, instead of bearing up with one another, you can only relate to people who are like you and hold your positions and perceived maturity, and instead of forgiving lavishly you harbor things, you put stipulations on your willingness to forgive.

Friends, God has been so loving toward you. The reason why we are to up this stuff on is because it is the character of Jesus. 

(14) Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

Five minus one equals zero…

1 Corinthians 13:1–3—1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Alexander Strauch paraphrased 1 Corinthians 13 in his typical fashion of communicating. And it illustrates the point that the measure of your usefulness to God and your personal ministry to others is not merely what you do or how much do, but the attitude behind it all.

If I were the most gifted communicator to ever preach so that millions of people were moved by oratory, but didn’t have love, I would be an annoying, empty wind-bag before God and people.

If I had the most charismatic personality, so that everyone was drawn to me like a powerful magnet, but didn’t have Christlike love, I would be a phony, a dud.

If I were the greatest visionary leader the church has ever heard, but didn’t have love I would be misguided and lost.

If I were a bestselling author on theology and church growth, but didn’t have love, I would be an empty-headed failure. 

If I sacrificially gave all my waking hours to discipling future leaders, but did it without love, I would be a false guide and model.

Love is most frequent of all the biblical one another’s occurring over one dozen times. It’s the primary responsibility we have in the body.

Love constrains us. Love compels us. Love restricts us. It limits your freedoms. And it defines how well you know Jesus.

4 Critical Areas We Must Model the Lord Jesus Christ

  1. Let the character of Christ define your demeanor (12-14)
  2. Let the peace of Christ be the umpire in your strife (15)
  3. Let the word of Christ permeate your life (16)
  4. Let the person of Christ impact all that you do (17)

(15) Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Rule=umpire. The judge that rules and adjudicates. For those of you unfamiliar with the fundamental rules of baseball. Baseball is a game of judgment calls. Pitchers throw baseballs for batters to hit and the pitch is ruled as a strike or a ball (valid or invalid as a good pitch). So too, close calls where a runner is deemed safe or out comes by rule of the umpire.

Here’s the deal. The pitcher and the batter don’t always agree. Neither do the baserunner and the baseman. How are these disputes resolve? Well, if you play baseball, then the umpire is the final judge and what the umpire says goes.

It illustrates the point here. You want to know what solves strife in a church? Let the peace of Christ be the umpire. What does that mean? You take any earthly dispute and you bring it under the umbrella of a much greater principle at work, namely the peace of Christ.

You have peace with God. You have the peace of Christ. Now don’t disrupt it through strife. What is the key to putting to death strife? Dying to your flesh, and putting on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Want to know another mark of maturity in a Christian? It’s the ability to trust God. His promises. His plan. His character. And what flows out is gratitude. The opposite is anxiety, frustration, discontentment, strife, grumbling and complaining. 

Romans 12:18—so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with everyone. Everyone?! Lord! Are you serious? Why’d you gotta say everyone? Romans 12 makes it clear it isn’t always possible. But Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers. You want to be blessed by God? Be one who promotes peace.

Is your life characterized by peace? Internal peace or turmoil? Relational peace or strife? Mental peace or anxiety? God wants you to be ruled by the peace of Christ. You think of how David describes in the Psalms his mental state as he is being pursued by enemies. In peace I will both lie down and sleep for you oh Lord make me dwell in safety. What is that? Letting the peace of God rule in a difficult situation.

If you are worked up and lacking peace, it is an indicator that something other than Christ is ruling in your heart. 

4 Critical Areas We Must Model the Lord Jesus Christ

  1. Let the character of Christ define your demeanor (12-14)
  2. Let the peace of Christ be the umpire in your strife (15)
  3. Let the word of Christ permeate your life (16)
  4. Let the person of Christ impact all that you do (17)

(16) Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, 

Let it habitate within you abundantly. Let it live in you. More and more it comes out of you because it is in you. 

Holy Spirit already dwells in you (Christ dwells in you) Romans 8:11, 2 Timothy 1:14. Now this word is to dwell in you. Live inside of you. Take up residence. Have it as the comfortable and familiar place of residing.

The adverb richly describes the manner of this dwelling. The antithesis of rich here be meagerly or skimpily. The Psalmist describes a believer’s relationship to the Word of God as one in which this is the meditation day and night.

Is it on your mind—when you wake up? Before you go to bed? At various points throughout the day and as a renewing and refreshing influence in your life? An anchor for your soul? 

If you attempt to put on the character traits in vv. 12-15 apart from v. 16 you will end up with a person who in self-reliance is trying to do these things, but it isn’t genuinely taking place in the heart. So, they might be able to be nice to others, but genuine compassion? 

You know how it dwells richly in you? Through believing and obeying it. I don’t care how much scripture you read or memorize or how many sermons you listen to. How is Word of God changing you? How are you submitting to truth? Richly dwelling means residing in you and transforming you. 

How are you being broken by truth? Built up in the truth? Softened by the truth? That’s what it means to be permeated with the Word of Christ.

And look at what happens as that’s truth of you…

with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 

You then are teaching and admonishing—imparting right doctrine (teaching) and giving specific counsel or instructing (admonishing). There is certainly overlap here, but you could consider the distinction between the two along these lines: a class on the character of God is teaching, meeting to work on area of your life that needs biblical correction or discipleship is admonishing.

How are you to teaching and admonish? Haphazardly? Carelessly? Ignorantly? No. With all wisdom. 

These little qualifiers are huge.

Something that strikes me as so challenging in learning from the life of Jesus and Paul was the many different gears they operated in as it pertained to human communication. The woman at the well to the Pharisees being called whitewashed tombs. 

Paul with the Thessalonians as a mother with her nursing babies vs. Paul publicly rebuking Peter in the presence of everyone because he stood condemned. This wasn’t the inconsistency or impulsiveness that marks immaturity. Rather it is the mark of someone who is teaching and admonishing with all wisdom. 

They can discern between majors and minors. They can discern between dangerous threats and less important matters.

When you go to instruct and teach how much study and prayer and thought do you bring to those conversations? If you are going to benefit the body of Christ, then you must open your mouth with skillful application. Just because someone says something doesn’t make it wise. The bible is misinterpreted all the time foolishly. Love labors to bring carefully weighed and wise instruction to the issues of life.

And this teaching and instructing comes in joyfully singing. One of the main passages in the New Testament about singing. I will note there is no discussion here about instruments or style or choirs or song leaders. There is a place for that discussion, but what’s the priority here?

Content! Psalms (we sing those… Psalm 42, 84, 62, 103). Hymns (theologically rich lyrics). Examples in the early church include Philippians 2, part of Colossians 1, 2 Timothy 2:11-13. We sing theologically rich songs, those are hymns. And then finally spiritual songs those are most likely songs of testimony. These would be personal songs to God that are rich in their expression of praise to Him.

Variety and theology. How is it sung? Thankfulness to God. Our singing is directed to God and to one another.

4 Critical Areas We Must Model the Lord Jesus Christ

  1. Let the character of Christ define your demeanor (12-14)
  2. Let the peace of Christ be the umpire in your strife (15)
  3. Let the word of Christ permeate your life (16)
  4. Let the person of Christ impact all that you do (17)

(17) Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

In conclusion, the bow on top is that whatever you do, you do it as a Christian. You do it as disciples of Jesus. You live like you belong to Him. 

Word or deed. Don’t speak and don’t do without considering the Lord Jesus. None of us lives to himself… whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s (Romans 8:14). Once you get married any relationships you had with someone of the opposite gender fall away or change drastically. Why? Because that one relationship, a spouse, no redefines every other relationship.

Certain words and deeds that may have been appropriate are no longer so. You don’t take days off from being married. And so, it is with Christ. You belong to Jesus and now words and actions are to be related back to and oriented toward him.

When you change diapers. When you wake up in the night with little ones. When you sit through that brutal work meeting. When you try to work through a conflict and it isn’t going well. When you get time to yourself to relax and rest… you do it all with your Savior in mind.

A healthy church is a church is a church with people who are mature in these things. We have an amazing portrait of Christ in his people through these verses.

And can I say this is a compelling part of our Christian testimony?

My wife and I were discussing this past week how when God saved her, part of that work came as she went to college and began to meet Christians living a genuine Christian testimony there was an obvious contrast between light and darkness. There was a distinction a saltiness if you will.

Our love for one another is to be a compelling testimony of Christ to those around us. Jesus said by this they will know that you are my disciples—by your love for one another (John 13:35). Do all things without grumbling and complaining so that you shine as bright lights (Phil 2:13), Matthew 5:11-13 your response to people railing against you is what causes you to shine as a light in the world.

There is a close connection between our attitudes and our love for one another, and our testimony to a watching world.

This is a Gospel issue. Thank God for Gospel-grace to obey it.