Colossians 3 12 Therefore, as God’s CHOSEN people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
We’ve been talking for a few weeks about the incredible reality that God chooses a relationship with us. He has given His all so that we can experience God without guilt, without shame and without condemnation. He has entered into our hearts and made His home in us. He offers us access to the power and grace of God and has given us a privileged status. Here, in Colossians 3, the writer says that those who have embraced their chosen status need to clothe themselves. Look at your neighbor and say, “Put your clothes on!”
Clothes are important, aren’t they? What we wear says a lot about us. Our clothing can be a strategic way to communicate messages to those around us. These two friends, (SHOW PICTURE) were “frenemies” a week ago as they went to the Bengals versus the Steelers game last weekend in Cincinnati. I should disclose that this picture, where both were all smiles, was taken BEFORE the game. One of them wasn’t smiling after the game. Anyway, the point is, each of them dressed to represent their team. They identified with their team by wearing the clothing that would make it obvious who they were representing and rooting for. (TAKE PICTURE OFF SCREEN, PLEASE)
For a Christian to live out their chosen status means that they will wear the kind of clothes that represent the One who has chosen them. We’ll unpack that in a second. Now, every section in the Bible has a heading, a subtitle. I love the heading of Colossians chapter 3. In the translation I am using, the New International Version, the heading in my Bible says this: Living as Those Made Alive in Christ
If we are made alive in Christ, what are we before we encounter Christ? Dead, right? We are born physically alive, but spiritually dead. That is what Scripture teaches us. We are born without the life of Christ. We are born wanting and doing the wrong things. We are born cut off from God’s grace and power. You might think of it this way:
We are born wearing grave clothes, clothes that must be taken off in order for us to live as those who have been made alive in Christ. I John 3:14 says that when we are born again, born anew, born spiritually, when we become Christians, we pass from a state of death into a state of life. In other words, we truly come alive when we come alive in Jesus Christ. Paul says here in Colossians 3 that since you have been made alive in Jesus, you ought to live as if that is the case. He says there are new clothes to put on and that the grave clothes should come off.
There is an amazing story in John 11 where Jesus raised his friend, Lazarus, from the dead. Lazarus had been dead for four days, and Jesus raised him from the dead. Jesus was previewing His own resurrection from the dead in that moment, letting all who had gathered there know that Jesus trumped even death. He had the power over death and wanted His followers to see that. And when Jesus called Lazarus’ name and Lazarus walked out of the grave, he came out wearing grave clothes, strips of linen, that had been wrapped around him. They were clothes that were synonymous with death. Those clothes identified Lazarus as a dead person. That made sense…when he was dead. But Lazarus was no longer dead! He was alive, and so in John 11:44 Jesus said, “It’s time for a new wardrobe.” “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
Paul says in our text in Colossians 3, that since we have been made alive in Christ, there are some grave clothes that need to come off of us as well. They are the things that are synonymous with spiritual death. Here is a list found in Colossians 3:5:
sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry
Those are behaviors to leave behind when we are made alive in Christ. Listen to verses 7 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: (here Paul is going to list more grave clothes that need to come off ) anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
These grave clothes, sexual perversions, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying-these grave clothes aren’t consistent with the new life we have received in Christ, so we aren’t supposed to wear them. In order to live out our chosen status, we have to take off the wardrobe of the grave clothes collection and put on the wardrobe of the grace clothes collection. (Cheesy, but it works. Y’all will remember it.)
Say this after me, “from grave clothes to grace clothes.” So, the Chosen Children of God have a wardrobe. What does it look like? Paul helps us out in our main text. Therefore, as God’s CHOSEN people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:1. Now, y’all listen. We can get disgruntled and frustrated and upset about the chaos and madness in the world that is swirling around us or we can consider that if we were always dressed in our grace clothes, like we are supposed to be, like if we were always living to represent that we have been made alive in Christ, the Savior who transforms the places of death and destruction into places of victory, if we always had our jerseys on and in so doing acted like Jesus would, well then, how different would the world be that we are currently living in? Y’all didn’t expect that one, did you? Listen, bad things happen in a world when the Chosen don’t live like they have been chosen.
I know Satan is deceiving many. I know many people have fallen for his tactics and have turned their back on God as Sovereign and on Jesus as Savior. I understand that our world is in a mess in part because of those realities, but my Bible tells me that everywhere Jesus walked, He turned death into victory, hopelessness into hope, and chaos into peace. That didn’t happen because He was the loudest person in the room or because He went off on people with an “I’ll show you” attitude. And if we are identifying with Him, if He is living out His life through ours, if we have our grace clothes on and are representing Him as we should be, I think we could see some things start to shift and in a major way.
Here’s a list of the grace clothes we are to put on: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Each one of these attitudes, each of these characteristics is part of the Jesus’ life. Each one has transforming power. Remember, Jesus brought transformation to every person, to every situation He encountered. Those who live as alive in Christ are to wear His attributes. We are to bring life to dead places and hope to those in despair. How far would compassion and kindness go to ease the conscious of the person who is down and out and is beaten down so low that they stay down because they don’t want to look up for fear others are looking down on them? How could we change someone’s story by reserving judgment and by letting our hearts be moved by someone who might find themselves in a bad way?
When you exercise compassion and kindness, when mercy is your go-to, people are going to be helped. If you can put yourself in the shoes of someone who is the product of pain and other people’s selfish choices, if you can think about what it might be like to be deserted by family and friends and have no one to lean on or how hard it would be to grow up without responsible and loving parents or whatever…we could list thousands upon thousands of challenging scenarios. How about we stop worrying about why people are where they are and just live to help them get to be where God wants them to be? That is the purpose of our grace clothes. When we wear our grace clothes, we are able to help other people out of spiritual graves, out of broken places and help them find healing and stability.
Believer, Jesus has entered your story with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. He didn’t come to you, bashing you, belittling you, blaming you, or berating you. He came to you as if you were a sheep without a shepherd. He intersected your life when you were lost and needed help finding your way. That is the same approach we are to have with those around us. It happens as we live as those who have been made alive in Christ. It happens as we put our grace clothes on.
Verse 13 of our text is critical. It is a hinge-pin upon which so much else rests. Our testimony rests on it. Our emotional and spiritual health rests on it. Our quality of relationships depends on it. Quite possibly, our own salvation rests on it. If it is that serious, we’d better explore it. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another (hold on to that idea of bearing with each other) if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Let’s look at the last sentence first. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Each one of these grace garments that we wear is worn because we have received something we didn’t deserve from Jesus. We now know what it is like to be rescued, to be provided for, to be cared for, to have our sin burden lifted, to be given gifts that give us strength, that provide encouragement, that literally have changed the trajectory of a bad, even desperate situation.
Our greatest need is for forgiveness. Spiritually dead people can’t become spiritually alive people without God’s forgiveness. God, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His Son, made a way for us to be forgiven. The gift was extravagant. It cost Jesus His life. It is incomparable. No one has ever done so much for us. Every Christian in this room has been forgiven of much. Much. You were destined for Hell without it. You weren’t going to have access to God without forgiveness. God did for you what you could never do for yourself. You didn’t have to beg God for His forgiveness. He had already done it. You just had to receive it. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Generously. Willingly. Lovingly. Verse 14: And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Love has to be your motivation. Love is the reason why you engage with people in compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, and forgiving ways.
We’ve talked about the fact that saying “yes” to God’s love changes us. First and foremost, it changes us to become loving towards other people. All people. People we like and people we don’t. People who have wronged us and people who have our backs. People who are easy to love and people who aren’t. Friends and enemies alike. Our mandate, from Christ, is to love. Without love, our compassion is mere pity. Without love, our kindness is a façade. Without love, humility, gentleness and patience are just a show.
If you are the recipient of God’s love in Christ, and He has made you spiritually alive and has deposited His life in you, and you are seeking to grow in understanding of what that means and in how to put His life on display, you don’t have an option regarding any of the grace clothes. When I go shopping, I can buy and wear what I’m drawn to, and I can pass up something I don’t think will look right on me. I can dress according to my preferences, but when I become a Christian, I have a wardrobe assigned to me. It isn’t my prerogative to say, “I’ll wear patience, but I am not wearing humility.” We are told what to take off and what to put on, why? Because we have been chosen to reveal Christ to the world. Christ doesn’t look like the world. Christ doesn’t act like the world. We cannot act like the world and faithfully live out our chosen, alive status.
Bitterness, grudge holding and un-forgiveness are grave clothes. If you are a Christian and you have someone in your life that you won’t forgive, you are holding on to grave clothes that are going to harm you, harm your witness and quite possibly compromise your spiritual standing with Christ. I didn’t say that. Jesus did. “If you hold anything against anyone, forgive them so that your Father in Heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:26 This isn’t the only place in Scripture that your forgiveness from God is tied to your willingness to forgive those who have wronged you. God was serious about forgiving us. We are to be serious and intentional about forgiving other people.
Can I just go a step farther? I’m talking directly to the Chosen Ones in Christ, those made alive in Christ. Remember, we are told to bear with each other. I think if we will put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, it will be a whole lot easier to bear with one another. And can I just offer an interpretation of that concept for us today? If we will clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, we aren’t going to be so easily offended, and if we aren’t so easily offended, we can overlook some stuff. When something happens one time or you know someone is having a bad day or doesn’t feel well, or if you just aren’t in the right frame of mind to take a joke, just move on. Don’t assign an ill motive to someone. Don’t ruminate on something that rubs you the wrong way and make it a bigger deal than it needs to be. Don’t let it be a stumbling block between you and that person. Put your grace clothes on and toughen up a bit.
Y’all, I’m not going to live angry and uptight. I’m not going to have a victim mentality or walk around with a chip on my shoulder or a “woe is me” attitude because someone did something hurtful or even downright mean to me. I’m going to keep my grace clothes on and be generous with forgiveness. Why? Because that is how the chosen are to live. I’m not talking about letting people take advantage of you. I’m talking about releasing a person from my judgment and trusting God to handle what needs to be handled.
Bitterness is baggage that is too heavy for you to carry. Bitterness will sour your attitude towards other people. Bitterness will steal your joy. You know who un-forgiveness hurts the most? You! If you will release people through forgiveness you will find relief for yourself. “But you don’t know what they did to me.” Do you know what you did to Christ? We can’t possibly understand what Christ took on Himself so that we could go free. Who do we think we are to withhold from someone what has been so freely given to us?
We have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We are to be peacemakers, Colossians 3:15. We’re not supposed to try to make life miserable for someone, even if they wrong us. We are to bless people and release people and let people know how good it feels to be forgiven. Forgiveness is something we should walk around ready to give because we have preloaded it ahead of the offense. Put your grace clothes on. God has freed you and wants to enable you to live as Christ did. He has chosen you to represent Him on the earth. He has made you alive in Christ, so don’t wear clothes that represent the grave of your old life. Live chosen.