Colossians 3:12-15 How to clothe yourself -Great clothing choices P1

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Bible Studies in the Book of Colossians

Colossians 3:12-15 How to clothe yourself -Great clothing choices P1

by I Gordon

Last time we looked at verses Colossians 3:5-11 dealing with what to put off. This message is about what to put on. It focuses on the positive practical aspect of our faith in everyday living. Here is the passage that we will be looking at:

Col 3:12-15 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 whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (14) And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (15) Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Now I was thinking that I've been moving pretty slowly through Colossians and maybe I should pick up the pace. Maybe I should put a little spurt on as we approach the finish line. So I approached the preparation of this study with that in mind. No luck. There is simply too much in these verses to quickly gloss over them.

Put on the new man

In the last study we read what is said in verse 10 that we should 'put on the new man'. But what is that exactly? Well, what we have here, in the first couple of verses, a great description of what the new man is and looks like.

Col 3:12-13 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 whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

The Bible speaks of 'clothing' yourself. Thankfully, you have managed to do that well physically this morning. But there is more than cotton and polyester that we are instructed to cloth ourselves with. We are to cloth ourselves spiritually  [1]  . So when we arise in the morning, as well as putting on socks, shorts, shirts and skirts, we are to cloth ourselves with that which is listed here. Socks and shorts are pretty easy to put on each morning. What about compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility, patience, forgiveness and love? Sometimes you don't even have to leave bed to have all those positive attributes tested! You've got a loud party nearby keeping you awake at night. This sets the neighbors' dog off who spends a good part of night yapping. As you finally start to drift off in the early morning the kids start fighting while it still dark and the neighbor on the over side of you then decides to get the motor mower out at first light... As Albert Einstein apparently said, "The problem with the speed of light is that it comes too early in the morning!" And the day hasn't even begun! Sometimes we enter the new day not feeling overly compassionate, gentle, kind or patient. And that can be before we actually meet... people! What about that person at work that grates and irritates you?

So how does it work? How can these positive virtues be seen in our lives? The ability to do what the Bible commands here is not possible with the fleshly nature we were born with. When we are reading the Bible as a list of commands that we have to obey and we don't take God into account then we are setting ourselves up for failure. In fact there are 6 words that cannot ever be ignored and govern every other command in the Bible. They are the words of Jesus: 'Without me you can do nothing.'

Yet the character and attributes mentioned in this verse are essential in our age. Why? Because humanity in general is going in the opposite direction with so much conflict, selfishness, pride and ungratefulness. So if we are ever to display what is true, instead of just talking about what is true, then it is found in the positive Christian characteristics expressed here - kindness, patience, humility, gentleness. D.L Moody rightly said  'Out of one hundred men, one will read the Bible, the other ninety-nine will read the Christian."  That statement is very true and very sobering!

Isn't Jesus all of these things?

So how?We are back to that question again! How are these things seen in our life? The good thing about the gospel message is that the one who has given His life not only for you, but also to you, is all of these things. He is compassionate, He is kind. He is humble. He is meek and gentle. He is patient. So let's start by looking at Him:

Compassion: Mat 9:35-36 Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. (36) Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 

Luke 7:12-14 now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. (13) When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep." (14) And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, "Young man,I say to you, arise!"

Mar 1:40-41 and a leper *came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, "If You are willing, You can make me clean." (41) Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed."

And remember that Jesus is no different today. He wants to be this in us.

Kindness :I like kindness. I'm not saying it is any great strength of mine but I like it when I see it. We tend to be kind to those who are kind to us. Jesus often chose those that society had shunned to be the recipient of His kindness. Such was the case with the tax collector Zacchaeus, whom society shunned. But Jesus didn't!

Luke19:5 When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house."

Again we see this kindness is Jesus' attitude towards the Samaritan women (whom Jews didn't associate with.  [2]  )

John 4:7-10 therecame a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." (8) For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. (9) Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, "How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) (10) Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."

Gentleness/Meekness:  Now we are talking Meekness, not weakness! Someone once said, "If all God's attributes were offered at auction, the last one to be sold would be meekness." Meekness can be defined as 'Controlled strength'. Remember the cross? The creator of the universe lay upon that cross. And mankind dished out every type of hatred, violence, insult, sarcastic mocking and venom it could think off. How much strength does it take to be insulted and not insult? The world teaches us to 'give as good as we get.' It doesn't take any great character or strength to lash out verbally or physically but true meekness was shown that day at Calvary.  [3]  It stood out so much that a man who was there had to write about it later in his life. That man was Peter. Maybe because he was a bit of a motor mouth - speak first, think later! Or act first (like when he grabbed the sword and chopped off the guards ear!) and think later. That was Peter. But this attribute of Jesus, this meekness and gentleness of Jesus, this controlled strength, was something that amazed Peter. So Peter wrote about it:

 1Pe 2:23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 

Humility: We could talk about His humility. As someone once said: 'Many would be scantily clad if clothed in humility.' But Jesus, the King of Kings, He simply came as a poor carpenter and as the prophet Isaiah said about him over 700 years earlier: '  He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.' 

Bearing with one another and forgiveness: What about the forgiveness that Jesus showed?
Luke 23:33-34 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. (34) But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."  When one of the thieves, who himself had been earlier mocking Jesus, turned at the last moment and said 'Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom' - What did Jesus say? We read that Jesus turned to him and said 'Too little, too late sinner... You'll get what's coming to you!' Ok, sounds more like us than Jesus. Jesus gave him the greatest promise that a man could ever receive - 'Today you will be with me in Paradise!'

So, argh, how does this help us?

Now the thing to remember in all of this is that if that was just who Jesus was then, and the Christian life was just you now trying to imitate what He was then, what a sorry lot we all would be! But the gospel is so much better for Christians have the Spirit of God who is all these things. He doesn't have to try. This is what He is by nature. So our mission is to allow Him to be what He is, in us. That's why all of these positive attributes are listed as fruit of the Spirit:

 Gal 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

Concerning this, Hudson Taylor said "I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help Him. I ended up by asking Him to do his work through me."

Bound by love

(14) And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Now if the previous virtues aren't important enough, what about the next verse? Love is the Bible's super-duper virtue. It is the super-glue that holds all these other virtues together. It is the belt that holds the garments of the new man in place. Each of the virtues derives from love. So what does the Bible say about love? How important is it? Just listen to these well used, but never worn out, scriptures:

1Co 13:2 'if I 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.'
Rom 13:8 owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law.
Mark 12:30-31 'and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these.'

So... again... how? How do we put this on?

So we come back to our question... How? When life throws up so many curved balls, difficulties, frustrations and irritations - and sometimes before we've even left bed, how are we able to put on these things? When we find that in ourselves we are weak or struggle with patience, or humility or forgiveness... How are we to clothe ourselves in these critically important virtues?

Firstly look at how this verse starts:  'Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves...'  There are few points that Paul gives from this verse onwards concerning the 'how':

1. It is derived from God's love and presence in our life

The first thing to see if that we can never divorce what we are called to be from what God has done for us. We are chosen, holy, and dearly loved. Those are great words. We shall remember these things. God sought you out, reached down, and poured His love upon you.  [4]  Dr. Harry Ironsides gives an interesting story that I can relate to concerning this:

 Dr. Harry Ironsides spoke of a man who gave his testimony, telling how God had sought him and found him, how God had loved him and called him and saved him, delivered him, cleansed him, and healed him -- a tremendous testimony to the glory of God. After the meeting, one rather legalistic brother took him aside and said, "You know, I appreciate all that you said about what God did for you, but you didn't mention anything about your part in it. Salvation is really part us and part God, and you should have mentioned something about your part." "Oh," the man said, "I apologize. I'm sorry; I really should have mentioned that. My part was running away, and his part was running after me until he found me." 

If you are a true child of God then God has chosen you and not only that, you are holy and dearly loved. Have you experienced the love of God? Has the love of God been poured out into your life? These attributes, including the 'all important love' that we are to clothe ourselves with are really meant to be an outworking of that which He has already poured into our life. We love, the Bible says, because He loved us first. We are simply meant to be passing on to others that which we already have. That's why the final part of verse 12 says

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Did God bear with you? Was He patient with you? Oh yes... He was VERY patient with you! Did God forgive you? How much? Was it a half-forgiveness He gave you? Does He remind you of your old sins? Does He talk and gossip to others about what you did? Does He say it's forgiven but not forgotten? No, no, no and argh, no. That's just our forgiveness to others. So that is Paul's first point: We are meant to be passing on to others that which we have already received. We are meant to be treating them with the same forgiveness as the Lord forgave us -which, you have to admit, is a radical forgiveness. That's why it is important to know your own heart and understand how much you have been forgiven. For he who has been forgiven much loves much.  [5] 

2. Let the peace of Christ rule

So the first point that Paul makes to help us in practically displaying these Godly characteristics is that it is based on what God inputs into our life. The second concerns the peace of Christ:

Col 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.

Let the peace of Christ rule... Now we all know and can relate to what it is like to NOT let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. You know those times when something unexpected comes up and you're worried and concerned and as you dwell on it more and more you can literally feel the peace being sucked out of you while your pulse quickens and your anxiety levels hit new all-time record highs. Or maybe we should talk about conflicts or disagreements with others and its impact on our peace? They can have you lying in bed reliving the conversations, thinking of clever retorts or put downs well after the fact. And all the while you do so; peace has had to pack his bags and leave, patiently waiting to return when you come to your senses. In these situations we fail to show Christ and His character and fail to put on that which is listed above: love, patience, gentleness, humility, forgiveness... So LET the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. We can block it. We can smother it. We can get in the way or force it out. But we can also LET His peace rule. It is something directed at us to DO!

So what is this 'peace of Christ' and was it evident in Jesus? Did Jesus have inner peace? You betcha... in bucket loads! He was completely unflappable! He could sleep in a storm, remain calm when insulted, and be unconcerned when resources grew thin. He could stand before the rulers of the land who gathered to convict and execute Him and His peace would literally leave them worried! You bet He had peace. But listen to this for it important for us. Before He left Jesus said: 'Peace I leave with you; MY PEACE I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (  John 14:27  )

So He has given us His peace. It is the peace that we have of knowing we are right with God. It is the peace that we have knowing that God is for us, on our side, and with us in all that we go through in this life. It is the peace that we have knowing where we are going when this life is over. So let that peace rule... Let it reign!

 "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanks-giving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus!" 

And remind others of it to help them maintain their peace.  [6]  There is another point to consider in this verse. The word "rule" here is interesting. It means to "act as an umpire  [7]  ." The Amplified Bible states:  'And let the peace (soul harmony) which comes from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] 

The Bible says that the peace of Christ is to be that umpire in your life. It is to rule when you are unsure or troubled. And we are to be mindful of that which removes this peace. When anger or malice or bitterness seeks to setup its governance in our hearts we should say no - this is not of the Lord and Jesus' peace is to rule.

3. And be thankful. 

The third point to focus on is Paul's command to be thankful. I won't say too much about this now as it comes up again in the next verse, but it is still worth mentioning how critical this is. It seems to me that that thankfulness, which comes up so often especially in Paul's letters, is hugely important in allowing the Holy Spirit to be all that He is in us. But we are a funny people, us humans. We seem to have a natural bent towards moaning and being dissatisfied. And this can quench the Holy Spirit. It seems that whatever level or quality of life we have obtained to quickly becomes the norm so that anything that falls below that gives us something to groan about. Occasionally we'll be shocked back into reality. We'll see people really struggling with some major long term health problem or disability and we'll remember how fortunate we are. We'll see other countries in chaos with bombs and terror and for a short while we'll be thankful that we can sleep peacefully in our bed without fear. But that natural bent towards grumbling is persistent and strong in us as it was in the Israelites of old as they made their journey through the wilderness.

So count your blessings. This is not a new message... but an important one. Remind yourself of who Jesus is and what He has done.


So in conclusion, the Bible tells us to put on this clothing, the clothing of the new man: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with and forgiving each other. And bind them together with love. This is practical Christianity. This is what the world needs to see. And, to quote DL Moody again,  'Out of one hundred men, one will read the Bible, the other ninety-nine will read the Christian."  If people were to read you what would they see? What would your work mates see? Thankfully, as we have seen, this is not just 'try harder - be good! Be compassionate, be patient. Forgive. Bear with everyone. Come on!' No... it is extending to others what hopefully you have already experienced and has been poured into your life. It is the work, character and fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life. But we must play our part in allowing this great salvation to be worked out in our life.

We'll carry on from here next time because Paul isn't finished with the practical steps we can take to help enable these things as we shall l soon see!

[1] ↩  The Bible uses the metaphor of clothing in both a positive and negative way. On the negative side we read in Isaiah 64:6 that  'All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags...' 

That is our natural fleshly righteousness. It doesn't say that our wicked deeds are like 'filthy rags'. It says our righteousness is. So when Paul tells us in Colossians to clothe ourselves with these good things it must be something more than just our own natural attributes and efforts. In the same book of Isaiah however we also read:  Isa 61:10 'I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.' 

[2] ↩  The Bible Knowledge Commentary says 'The normal prejudices of the day prohibited public conversation between men and women, between Jews and Samaritans, and especially between strangers.' So Jesus broke all three rules in his kindness to this woman!

[3] ↩  For Christmas I was given a voucher to go horse riding. I loved it. The horses were so responsive. I just had to make a single 'clicking' sound with my mouth and the horse would trot. Two 'clicking' sounds and he would canter. As an illustration, a horse that is broken in and under the control of its master can be said to be 'meek'. In no way is it weak. Not even close. They were powerful animals. They maintain all of their strength. But it is now a controlled strength under the reigns of its rider/master. Jesus likewise was meek for He was totally obedient to the control and will of His Father.

[4] ↩  Do I understand the ins and outs of His choosing? No I don't. But have I experienced it in my own life? Yes I have. In CS Lewis' Silver Chair, Aslan says to Jill -  'You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you.'  Though a great mystery, it is the truth. I wasn't interested in Christianity as a youngster. I didn't want to know anything about it through the bulk of my teenage years. When I was 16 my grandmother got radically saved in the last few weeks of her life. Mum, very excited, came and told me that Grandma had been saved. She said it was like the shutters being closed and coming down. Nobody home... a closed shop! I didn't want to know anything about it. Internally I was saying 'Don't tell me anything about that. I don't know anything about that nor do I want to know. I'm closed for business if that's what you've got.' But when God starting calling me, that was a whole different story. I couldn't get away. He chose me, He called me, He came after me and He drew me. And I'm thankful that He did! Maybe you can see this in your own life. Often we don't see it at the time but looking back we see that relentless drawing of God.

[5] ↩  And when you know yourself, it leads to the right attitude towards others. A.W Tozer put it well when he said:  A Pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself. 

[6] ↩  A few years back I was really sick for many months and it started to worry me. An older Christian at my Church used to encourage me with simple words like 'You'll be ok. God is good. He'll bring you through.' They were simple words but ones duly appreciated! You see he had gone through a lot himself and had seen the faithfulness of God so was able to pass what he had learnt onto other in this simple way. We can help others maintain 'the peace of Christ' by reminding them of the character of Christ in difficult times.

[7] ↩  I come from a pretty full on sporting background so umpires aren't anything new. They are actually very important. I remember playing in the final of the tennis club champs one year and normally the club appoints an umpire but this year they said we were to umpire ourselves. My opponent won the first set which was pretty uneventful. Not many contentious calls. I won the next set... but as we went into the third and final set it was getting close and more tense, and there was suddenly quite a few 'umpires'. I'd call a ball out and he'd say 'no it hit the line'. We had people around the court starting to say that was out! Or that was in! At one time I had some of the relatives of my opponent yelling out to me 'you're' foot faulting'... It was all getting a bit crazy when the pressure came on! There were lots of voices and lots of voices can make for lots of confusion! In the end the club appointed an umpire to come down and make the rulings so there was just one voice. That helped a lot! So in the same way the peace of Christ is to be our umpire. It is to rule in our hearts telling us whether things are 'in' or 'out' - 'right' or 'wrong'.

The Believers Bible Commentary also has the following useful advice:
'  If in anything we are in doubt, we should ask ourselves the questions: 'Does it make for peace?' or 'Would I have peace in my heart if I went ahead and did it?' 

 This verse is especially helpful when seeking guidance from the Lord. If the Lord really wants you to embark upon a certain course of action, He will most assuredly give you peace about it. If you do not have that peace, then you should not proceed. As has been said: 'Darkness about going is light about staying.'