THEREFORE, AS GOD'S CHOSEN PEOPLE, HOLY AND DEARLY LOVED, CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH COMPASSION, KINDNESS, HUMILITY, GENTLENESS AND PATIENCE." — COLOSSIANS 3:12
My daughter bought cargo pants yesterday.
Cargo pants. Voluntarily. Not from a thrift store. From a real store that is selling new cargo pants. Pants with side pockets. Pockets for your box of nails. Or perhaps a wrench? I remember these pants. I wore these thigh-widening pants back in the day. And it is safe to say that if I put them on again, I would fill those pockets with my own embarrassment. They are not for me, not this time around. I’ve met my lifetime cargo pant quota. Cargo pants are dead to me, a part of my old wardrobe I will never put on again. But, why do I bring this up?
Today, we’re gonna talk about cleaning out our spiritual wardrobe.
In our verse, and the surrounding passage, Paul (the author) uses the imagery of clothing to help us visualize what it looks like to “wear” our faith. He tells us in our verse that as believers, we should be clothing ourselves with the selfless clothing of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (read more about why and how we can do that in last week’s post). But Paul doesn’t just tell us what we should be wearing, he also tells us what we shouldn’t be. He’s asking us to take a look inside our closets and clean them out. He’s asking us to make a choice. What are we going to wear?
We should wear new clothes because we are new people.
When we come to Jesus, we come as we are, confessing our brokenness and need for him. And he welcomes us with open arms—but we don’t stay the same as we always were. Like we talked about last week, Jesus makes us new on the inside, giving us his holiness and the Holy Spirit. We are no longer who we used to be. We are new people. Consequently, our old life and our old habits, our old “clothes” (if you will) no longer fit. And yet, we often find ourselves putting them back on. But unlike my cargo pants illustration, these clothes aren’t just dated, they are straight up dirty.
Let’s take a look at what these old clothes look like.
Paul goes piece by piece through a long litany of undesirable clothing: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying. This list isn’t exhaustive but it is explicit. I don't know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be known for these ways of living.
And yet, I wonder if some of these behaviors prick your conscience.
They do mine. When I go through the back of my closet (so to speak), I find so many of these things just hanging around waiting for me to put them on. Even when I’m not looking for it, anger is right there waiting to bust out. Greed is just there on the other side of my legitimate need. Filthy language is on the tip of my tongue. And here’s the really ugly truth: I justify these things, I minimize them, sometimes I even feel nostalgic for my old life, thinking it was easier to be free and live however I wanted. The reality is, I spend way too much time pulling from the back of my closet, putting on clothing that is just unfitting for a chosen, holy, dearly loved child of God. I wonder if you relate?
What’s a person to do with their old ways when they don’t fit anymore?
Paul tells us! And he doesn’t mince words. He opens up his conversation about our sinful behaviors by saying this: PUT THEM TO DEATH (Colossians 3:5). Don’t hide them. Don’t minimize them. Don’t idealize them. Don’t justify them. Don’t try them on for a bit. And don’t merely put them away, in the dark part of the closet in case you want to try them on again later. KILL THEM. Paul isn’t playing. He says, “Because of these, the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:6). There are no sanctioned sins, little sins, excusable sins. There is just sin. And all sin separates us from our loving God.
That’s a lot. But, what can we do with our sins? Here is a short, practical way of dealing with your sin:
- PRAY. Ask God to reveal any hidden sins to you (see Psalm 19:12).
- CONFESS. Ask God to forgive your failings (see 1 John 1:9). It’s also helpful to confess it to a Christian friend who can pray with you and hold you accountable, especially if it’s a particularly hard sin to get rid of (James 5:16).
- REQUEST. Ask God to help you live rightly and keep you from falling into that same sin again (see Psalm 19:13).
- PRAISE. Thank God that he has forgiven you for this sin and for all your sins in Christ (see Luke 7:47)!
So, what are we going to wear today?
This is the question at hand, moment by moment, every day for the rest of our lives. As we’ve seen, it’s a struggle. But because the Holy Spirit lives in us, we have his help in our struggle for holiness in our lives. And when we confess our failures, God, who is rich in mercy, will forgive us and move our hearts to put on his ways once more. Even Paul himself (who wrote this letter) confessed his ongoing struggle with sin. It’s a worthwhile read for any honest sinner (Romans 7:7-25). And at the end of his exasperated confession, he says this: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25)! AMEN! The struggle is not our destination, it is the path of our deliverance. One day, we won’t struggle against our sin any longer. Jesus himself will liberate us from it once and for all, clothing us in his righteousness forever.
What sins do you tend to justify, minimize, or hide?
What are some of your old ways that you particularly struggle to put to death?
Who is someone who you could ask to hold you accountable?