A Sharp Dressed Man
Colossians 3: 5-14
I wanted to start today by telling you a story, but I have to warn you that I originally heard it from a preacher, so I cannot verify its truthfulness. It’s a story about an incident that happened at a Cadillac Dealership in Tennessee. A man appeared on the car lot back in 1956 wearing an old hunting cap, a dirty pair of overalls, and muddy boots. He meandered around the lot for almost 30 minutes with no one offering to help him. The manager of the Car lot asked the newest employee to go and see he could get him to leave. It wasn’t good for business to have unsavory characters out there with potential customers. The new sales man obliged and went out to meet the man.
The man in the overalls greeted the sales man with some questions about some of the cars, and the standard equipment on the vehicles. The salesman was rather short with his answers, trying to be polite but also trying to let the man know that he wasn’t really interested in wasting his time. After about five minutes, the man in the overalls asked the salesman if they would accept cash for the cars or did they need a check. Trying not to laugh the sales man said either would be fine. So the man in the overalls said I would like to buy this car, in every color, and I’ll pay cash. And with that, he pulled a roll of $100.00 bills out of his coat pocket. The man in the hunting cap, dirty pair of overalls, and muddy boots was none other than Elvis Presley.
Now I am sure that you have heard the old adage that “the clothes make the man.” And to a point, I believe that’s true. If you see someone who is wearing ragged and dirty clothes their hair is unkempt and dirty, you generally make some assumptions about them. But if you see someone in a Brooks Brothers Suit, the assumption is usually not the same.
I would like to know what some of you are thinking about my clothing choice for today?* “This casual dress for worship has gotten out of hand.” “Give a preacher some time out of the pulpit and this is how he thanks us.” “Maybe he ate some poison berries on his trip.”
I needed to dress like this today to get your attention. You see we are called to be the bride of Christ, and when I think of a bride, my mind goes to my beautiful bride. Almost 16 years ago, I stood in a church building with my back to the door while Trista made her way into the auditorium. As I turned around my eyes caught the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was perfect in every way.
In our passage today, Paul discusses the dress of the Bride of Christ, but he is not going to talk about physical clothing, Instead he addresses how we really look to the world around us. You see in the church we usually look at the list found here in Colossians 3:5-14, and the similar ones found in Revelation 21 and Galatians 5 and use them as a check list. Open your bibles with me to the book of Colossians and let me show you what I mean.
Read text, Colossians 3:5-10.
There is our check list: Sexual sin – Nope
Perversion – Nope
Lust – Nope
Greed – Nope
And we stand there looking at that list feeling like we are dressed like a prince, while we really look like a pauper. But Paul doesn’t leave us there he goes even further, and we start making excuses:
Anger – Only justified anger, that’s spiritual right.
Hot tempers – Well it’s not as bad as it once was and any growth is spiritual growth
Cursing – Haven’t said my favorite word in months
Obscene language – Who is to say what is obscene and what’s not.
And don't lie to each other – I don’t lie especially to my brethren. Well maybe just little ones like when they ask me how I am and I say fine when really I’m not but they don’t want to hear about my problems so I am really doing it for them.
I think after looking at this part of the list we see that there may be some fuzz on the jacket and a wrinkle in the shirt, but then the Holy Spirit sees fit for Paul to write one more thing found in verses 9 and 10 “You've gotten rid of the person you used to be and the life you used to live, and become a new person. Did Paul just say a new person? Well that’s kind of tough. Honestly, have you really become a new person? Are we that different from world? Does Christ make a difference in your life?
Those are the questions that we have to ask ourselves if we want to get an honest look at how we present the bride of Christ. I can be deceived into thinking that I am dressed to the nines when all the while my actions have made the church a laughing stock.
I really believe that if Park Central is going to be the Church that God desires for this community then we need to change our clothes. We have got to take off the rags that the world offers us and be dressed in the robes of the believers. We must be individually dressed like men and women who have been chosen by God.
Let’s pick back up where we left off in our text and start reading again in verse 11 about the attire of a sharp dressed man or woman. (Read 11-14)
Paul says that we have got to learn how to put on Compassion.
Compassion does something. We can’t be compassionate and just sit there and look at the plight of others. Compassion causes us to show others the love that then need so badly, and the one who loves unconditionally. Compassion always leads us to involvement.
It’s like the story of a fifth-grade class at Lake Elementary School in Oceanside, California, that had fourteen bald little boys. Only one, however, had no choice in the matter. Ian O’Gorman was undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma, and all his hair was falling out... so he had his head shaved. But then 13 of his classmates shaved their heads, so Ian wouldn’t feel out of place.
Ten-year-old Kyle Hanslik started it all. He talked to some other boys, and before long, they all trekked to the barbershop. "The last thing he would want is to not fit in," said Kyle. "We just wanted to make him feel better." Ian’s father, Shawn, choked back tears as he talked about what the boys had done. He said simply, "It’s hard to put words to."
Compassion is what Paul is talking about in Galatians 6:2 "Carry each other’s burdens, and fulfill the law of Christ.”
Next we must wear Kindness.
In a world that lives by the motto Dog eat Dog why should we show kindness to others? Because kindness is, our natural response to the grace God has shown us. Kindness is the character of God. God desires for us to show kindness to others because that is part of His wonderful character. He is full of loving kindness toward us. And God didn’t just tell us He loves us, He proved it. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
When God saved you, He began to change you. You no longer want to live like those people who don’t know God. Church, we live by a higher standard. I believe that the more you understand and appreciate God’s grace and mercy, the more you will want to show kindness to others.
The third thing we need to put on is Humility.
This is probably the hardest item for us to put on. You see it doesn’t matter if we have $5.00 in our checking account or $5 million dollars in our checking account we all can be very full of ourselves. And when we live a life full of pride, we must spend every waking moment defending and reestablishing our superior positions in the minds of everyone we meet.
Real humility, not the fake kind we try to pass off at times, comes when we see ourselves as Christ sees us. When we ponder our past failures, and sins, and look at our great limitations of our life we can’t help but humble ourselves before an all powerful and holy God.
Humility is probably the rarest article of spiritual clothing found among God’s people. Pride however is plentiful. Pride is a junkyard dog feeding on everything in sight, including the blessings of God. If we are not careful, even the answers to prayer can make us think that we are something special when in reality we are not.
Our next spiritual garment is Gentleness.
I love how the Phillips translation has translated gentleness, it’s “The grace to accept life.” Things don’t always work out the way that we hoped that they would, and the bottom drops out of our best-laid plans. Life has its disappointments and that’s where gentleness comes in. When we don’t live a life of gentleness we dishonor Jesus and His sacrifice by venting our irritation as if God was not aware of our struggles, and let our world spin out of control.
We buy a new car, it has some defects, and we are ready to go into a tirade. Children don’t act like little adults and we loose our cool. The person in front of us doesn’t realize that the light turned green and we lay on the horn. There are people who go through every day living in anger because something has not worked out the way they planned and they think life is unfair.
But we must realize that God has not only showered us with His love and grace, but He made us two promises.
We Will Struggle Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
We will endure 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
That brings us to the article of patience.
There are many words that could be used to describe us. "Patient" is not one of them. It seems that the faster life becomes, the more impatient we are. But in many ways the kind of patience that can help us get through our daily frustrations of someone committing a 21 item in a 20 item express line violation is a minor league compared to type of patience as Christians we are called to wear.
Biblical patience has to do with long-term situations. That is what Peter told his readers in 2 Peter 3. Already late in the first century Christians were becoming impatient with the fact that Jesus had not yet returned. They started to ask, "What in the world is God waiting for? We didn't think Jesus would take this long!" So in this his last letter Peter reminds us that God's time is not our time.
God is well aware of our time and what's going on here. But He has a purpose for letting the time pass. In the Bible God's patience with us is what gives His compassion the chance to save us. Over and over in the Old and New Testaments we read that God is slow to anger and that precisely this patient slowness is what keeps Him from any snap judgments. God's ability to stick with us desperately flawed folks is what mediates between wrath and grace.
Our final article that we need to put on is love.
We use the word "love" a lot, and I’m afraid that our use of it can be rather confusing. For instance, I love Trista. For the last 18 years, she has been my companion, my encourager, my counselor, and my friend.
I also love Crockett Mississippi, It’s where my grandparents lived and as a Navy Brat many times it was the only constant in my life. But even though I used the same word "love" to describe my feelings toward Trista and Crockett, you realize that I don’t love them in quite the same way. Our word love is a catch-all for many different feelings. "I love my Dog, I love Mt Dew, I love my truck, and I love this church.
Since we use the same word to express all those different emotions, we sometimes get confused. We are told to put on love, but how do we do that? To me it seems to be the perfect garment to end with. It just seems to encompass all of the other garments that we have discussed today. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience all hinge on the amount of love we have in our hearts.
Do you want to see the garment of love acted out? Then look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. The Holy Spirit is leading Paul to say, "This is how love acts. This is how it behaves."
"Love is patient." That means that I don’t get into a hurry with you if you don’t do things the way I would like for you to do them. I’ll wait. I’ll wait for things to change. I’ll wait for those edges to be knocked off, and I hope that you’ll wait for me in return.
"Love is kind." I wouldn’t say anything unkind to you because you are the object of my love, and the important part of my love is to make sure that you feel loved. Therefore, I couldn’t be unkind. I won’t envy you. I won’t boast about myself. I won’t become proud, because I am more concerned about you than I am about myself.
"Love is not rude," means that I won’t crowd before you in line, and if we get to the door at the same time, I’ll open it graciously and let you go before me. It means that I am not self-seeking. It means that I am not easily angered. I won’t throw temper tantrums any more. It means that I won’t keep any record of wrongs. We must all tear up our lists and throw them away and start anew with each other.
Love has to trust. God shows His continual trust in us because we are His only plan to get the good news out. There is no plan B. There is no other way. It is just us. And He trusts us to put on the right garments so that His kingdom will be attractive to a world that so desperately needs a little compassion, and kindness, and humility, and gentleness and patience, and most of all love.
God is love and like the apostle, we can only exclaim, "I love Him because He first loved me."
I visited the thrift store and got my preaching clothes today. I wore polyester
brown pants, a hot pink polo shirt, a navy blue leisure suit coat with red stitching,
a tie with a boxing kangaroo, and mismatching shoes. Once the church quit
laughing I hope they understood the point.
Questions To Consider
When you meet a person for the first time, what are three things that you might tell them?
When would you tell the person you are a Christian?
Think back through the story of Israel, and tell of a time that God showed His kindness.
Is it more difficult for you to offer kindness or to receive kindness? Why do you think that is the case?
Read Philippians 2:5-8. How did Christ show humility?
(Other examples besides His death on the cross)
Philip Kenneson defines gentleness as “grounding one’s relationship in something other than pride and power”. How does his definition fit with the teaching of Jesus in Luke 14:7-14?
What does it say about a person who cannot be gentle?
(Refusing to be gentle is a sign of selfishness)
Why is patience important in a life of faith?
(God doesn’t always act as quickly as we hope He will)
Is there more to life than just arriving at the destination? Can you think of something you gained during a season of patience?
How would you define love?
What does love look like?
How would putting Luke 6:32-36 into practice change your daily life?