Sunday August 4th 2019
Pastor Galen Zook
Fresh and Clean
As I’ve been growing older, I’ve been learning to appreciate the simple, everyday pleasures in life. One of life’s simple pleasures is stepping out of a nice hot shower and drying off with a brand new, freshly laundered fluffy warm towel, and then slipping on your favorite shirt or pair of jeans that have come right out of the washer and dryer. You feel like a brand new person, like a Tide or Downy commercial, or like that Outkast song from the early 2000’s, “So fresh, so clean.”
But what if every time you got dressed, instead of peeling off your smelly, sweaty, dirty old clothing, you just pulled on your brand new clean clothing right over top of your old clothes? What if, rather than taking off your old clothes and bathing or showering you just kept piling on new clothes on top of the old? That would rather defeat the purpose of putting on new clean clothes, wouldn’t it? Not to mention it would be incredibly uncomfortable and unbearable to wear all those layers of clothing in this hot summer weather!
Before we can put on new clothes, we have to take our old clothes off and cast them aside, or there’s no point in putting on new clean clothes.
Out with the Old, In with the New
In Colossians 3, Paul and Timothy exhort the church in Colossae to cast aside all their dirty laundry — the evil deeds that were associated with their former lives, all those destructive tendencies they were inclined towards before they came to Christ — so they can put on the new clothing, the new life that Jesus has given them.
In verse 5, Paul and Timothy tell the Colossians to “put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desires, and greed” Col. 3:5), and in verse 8 they tell them to “get rid of all such things — anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language” (Col. 3:8) and “do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices” (Col. 3:9).
You see, when the Colossians chose to put their faith and hope and trust in Christ, they were made new. Paul and Timothy remind the Colossians that they “have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator” (Col. 3:9b-10).
The Colossians have been given brand new clean clothing to wear. They have been cleansed and forgiven of their past sins, and Jesus has made them so fresh and so clean.
But it seems like the Colossians are trying to put their dirty old smelly clothes back on! They’re trying to wear the new clean clothes that Jesus has given them on top of their old clothes. Maybe they think that the Christian life fits them pretty well, that praying to Jesus or going to church makes them look pretty good on the outside, and so they want to wear their new clothes. But the problem is that they haven’t really truly given up their old way of living — they haven’t been ready to cast aside their old clothing just yet.
Paul and Timothy want them to know that their new clothing — the new life that Jesus has given to them — is not meant to just cover up their old lives, to make them look better on the outside. No! Jesus wants to change them through and through, to make them completely over anew.
As one commentator has said, “For too long, we’ve called unbelievers to ‘invite Jesus into your life.’ [But] Jesus doesn’t want to be in your life. Your life’s a wreck. Jesus calls you into his life. And his life isn’t boring or purposeless or static. It’s wild and exhilarating and unpredictable.”
Paul and Timothy remind the Colossians that they haven’t just invited Jesus into their lives — instead, their lives are now in Christ! Their lives have been made completely new, they have died to their former selves, they have now been “raised with Christ (Col. 3:), and their lives are now “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).
And so Paul and Timothy challenge the Colossians to live like people who have been transformed by Christ, people whose lives are now in Christ. They challenge the Colossians to put to death everything that was associated with their former selves, everything that was unrighteous, all the bad patterns of behavior, all the practices they did that were destructive to themselves or to other people, all the wrong thoughts or evil words that caused others harm. They are to put all of that away, cast it all aside, and live into the new life that Jesus has given to them.
And just in case the Colossians don’t quite understand the severity of continuing down the path they were on, Paul and Timothy remind them that it is on “account of these [things] the wrath of God is coming” (Col. 3:6).
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like to think very much about the wrath of God. I’d prefer to think of God as a kindly older gentleman with a perpetual twinkle in his eye, someone who winks at my mischievousness, or who looks the other way when I tell a little lie or think a bad thought.
But Paul and Timothy don’t sugarcoat things for the Colossians. The things that the Colossians used to do were flat out wrong. They used to do things that were harmful to themselves and to other people.
Malice? That’s not an accident. Malice is doing something evil with the intention of causing harm. Slander? That’s specifically trying to ruin someone’s reputation. Abusive language? That’s language that’s obviously intended to hurt someone else.
But that’s how the Colossians used to live! And Paul and Timothy don’t want to see them go back to that way of living, so they use this shocking language of God’s wrath to wake them up to the reality of the path that they had been on.
Now, I don’t believe that Paul and Timothy want the Colossians to live in constant fear of God’s judgment. The Colossians have already been cleansed and forgiven of their sins, so they have nothing to worry about.
I think Paul and Timothy talk about God’s wrath because they want the Colossians to understand and remember the gravity of their situation before Christ, to remember what it was that they were rescued from. Paul and Timothy want the Colossians to remember this so they can completely get rid of and turn away from their old way of living, and live into the new life that God has for them.
A few verses further down in the chapter (in verse 12 and following), we see the new clothing that Paul and Timothy want the Colossians to put on. They tell them to put on the new clothes of “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Col. 3:12), to forgive each other (Col. 3:13), and “above all, clothe yourselves with love” (Col. 3:14).
Paul and Timothy don’t want the Colossians to just try to sprinkle a little compassion on top of their malice, or to do a little bit of kindness to balance out their slander or abusive language.
In fact, adding these godly traits to their former lives might make things even worse! Adding patience on top of greed? That brings up images of an evil mastermind waiting in his lair to take over the world. Evil villains can be patient, but that doesn’t make their greed any less problematic.
And so Paul and Timothy want the Colossians to completely toss aside their old destructive patterns in favor of these godly, Christlike traits. They want the Colossians to be people of peace, rather than people who bring harm. They want them to be people who speak words of life, rather than death, people who treat one another with love, rather than greed or evil desire.
The Colossians were at one time deserving of God’s anger, but now they have been forgiven, and so therefore they ought to treat everyone with kindness and love and compassion, rather than operating out of anger or wrath, or with malice. They have no right to look down on anyone else, nor should they let anyone else look down on them, because in Christ they have been made new.
As Paul and Timothy remind the Colossians, in the renewal that Jesus is bringing about, “there is no longer Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free. But Christ is all and in all!” (Col. 3:11). What an amazing thought!
This morning as we wrap up our 4-part series on the book of Colossians, I want to encourage us to remember that, like the Colossians, we too have been “raised with Christ.” Our old self has been stripped away, in Christ we have been offered new life.
Like the Colossians, it might be tempting to just try to slip the Christian life onto our old selves, to try to fit a little bit of Jesus into our lives or try to sprinkle a few kind words into our vocabulary every now and then, but go on living the way we’ve always lived.
But I want to encourage us to remember that in Christ we have been made new. We’ve been given brand new fresh clean clothing to wear.
So let’s toss aside the old clothing, the harmful behavior and destructive tendencies that we used to have. And let’s ask God to cleanse us anew. Let’s set our minds and hearts on things above, not on things of this earth (Col. 3:2), and let’s clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with each other and forgiving each other, just as the Lord has forgiven us.
And above all, let’s be a church that clothes ourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony, and let’s allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts (Col. 3:12-15). Amen!