The Book of Colossians #13

 

RAGS TO ROBES
Colossians 3:5-14
 
The account of the Lord Jesus Christ raising Lazarus from the dead has to be one of the most exciting episodes in all the Bible. The Lord Jesus Christ stood before the tomb of Lazarus who had been dead for four days and the Bible says Jesus said with a loud
voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” Out of that grave came Lazarus in his grave clothes. Jesus told them to loose him and let him go. They took those grave clothes of death away from Lazarus and he was set free to go and live again.
 
Today I want to create for you an imaginary sequel to that exciting episode. I want you to imagine that you and I are there in Bethany shortly after Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead and has loosed him from his grave clothes. We are walking around there and we say, “Excuse me, but is this not the village where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead?”
 
“Oh, yes, this is it, man. You never saw such shouting and carrying on and rejoicing as the day when Lazarus was brought back from the dead.”
       
“Well, we would like to visit Brother Lazarus and talk with him a little bit and let him tell us just how wonderful it is. Where could we find him?”
 
        “You’ll find him over there in the graveyard. He’s in the tomb where Jesus raised him from the dead.”
        “The tomb?”
        “Yes, that’s where you’ll find him.”
       
 
We go over to the tomb where Lazarus was buried and then raised from the dead and we get in front of it and say, “Lazarus, are you in there?”
        “Yes, I’m in here.”
So, we go into the tomb and there, sure enough, stands Lazarus and he’s all bound up. We say, “Now, wait a minute, Lazarus, didn’t Jesus raise you from the dead?”
        “Oh, yes, He raised me from the dead, praise His Name.”
        “Lazarus, what in the world, then, are you doing in this graveyard?”
        “Well, you know I spent four days in here. I got kind of used to it and I just don’t know but what I’m more comfortable in this old graveyard than I am somewhere.”
        “Lazarus, what’s that on you? Why are you so bound up and hobbling around?”
        “Oh, these are the grave clothes.”
        “Now, wait a minute, when Jesus raised you from the dead, didn’t He tell them to take off those grave clothes so you could walk in a new life?”
        “Well, yes, He did, but I kind of got used to those grave clothes and so I just took them and wrapped them around me again and I’m just hobbling around in this old graveyard.”
       
Wouldn’t that be ridiculous? You and I know that this is so inconsistent with what Jesus had done for Lazarus.   Yet that is no more inconsistent than many people who have been saved by the Lord Jesus, have been given a brand new life in Him, and yet they are still living in the graveyards of life and they are still clothed in the rags of the old life.
       
That’s what these verses of Scripture are about. There are two basic thoughts in these verses. 
Thought number 1 --take off the rags, and thought number 2-- put on the robes.  
 
When you are saved God wants you to put away the old and put on the new which is provided in the Lord Jesus.
       
Look at the center of the passage, the last part of verse 9 and first part of verse 10. 
 
See that contrast between the old man and the new man. What is the old man? When the Bible use the terminology he means “the old man.” It’s the old person you used to be. It means everything you were before you met Jesus and He saved you. That’s the old man.
       
The new man is the new you. It is everything you are now in Jesus Christ and everything you can be by the help of the Lord Jesus Christ. He tells us to put off the old man, the old self, and put on the new man, the new self.
       
In language that’s picturesque of taking off clothes and putting on clothes, he gives this emphasis. Take off the rags, the old clothes and put on the new clothes, the robes. I want to talk about this new life in Jesus and a behavior that is consistent with what Jesus has done for us.
 
I. TAKE OFF THE RAGS-THE VICES OF THE OLD LIFE.
        Take off what you used to be before you came to the Lord. Look at verse 5.
 
Verse 3 of this chapter has already told us that we are dead. We came to the Lord Jesus Christ. We died in Jesus Christ.
He has already said as to our position in the Lord that we are dead in Christ. Now, in a practical way he says to put to death your members. You are dead, there are some things you need to put to death. There are some things you need to get rid of. There are some rags in your life that are reminiscent of the old life.
       
A lot of Christians have died in Jesus Christ and yet they don’t live like it. A lot of Christians have been buried with Christ and their sins were put away with Him, yet they don’t live like it. 
 
We’re kind of like the boys out shooting one another with toy guns. One of them shot the other one and he just fell on the grass and he was just rolling and kicking. The other little boy came up to him and said, “Are you dead?”
        “Yeah.”
        “Why don’t you act like it?”
       
That’s what this passage is saying. It’s saying that you are dead in Christ, now act like it. Put to death the old way of life. Take off the rags of your old life. 
 
Then just to clarify it even more, he gives us a list there in verse 5. 
 
He begins with sexual sin and tells us there are some things that ought not be in this area. Notice that he moves from the outside in. He shows the outward act, then moves all the way to the inward spirit. 
 
Look at the first word--fornication. That has to do with sexual immorality. Sex outside of marriage. Sin involving the human body. 
 
Then he moves to the soul. “Uncleanness and passion.” Together, those words carry the idea of being out of control or out of bounds. It is the idea of sinful thoughts that have been allowed to run in immoral directions. That leads to desires that are evil.   
       
So, he moves from the body to the soul and then into the spirit and picks up the word covetousness. Normally we think of covetousness in terms of money, but in this context he is talking about the greedy desire to possess someone else. It means sexual activity that self-centered in nature. 
 
People who allow sexual immorality to dominate and possess their lives are trying to find in that area something which only God can supply. The Word says here to put this to death. Take off these rags of old life. Take off these rags of immorality.
       
Drop down to verse 8. He picks up the theme again. He moves from sinful actions to sinful attitudes. .” 
 
Then he begins to give a series of words that have to do with our attitudes. 
 
Anger. That means that inward resentment. It means that smoldering on the inside. That anger that’s boiling up on the inside. People may not see it. They may not know it’s there. But it’s there. Anger can be a very destructive emotion. Anger can cause all kinds of problems. The Bible says on one occasion, “Be ye angry and sin not.” 
 
The only time when it is not a sin to be angry is when you are angry at sin. But here’s an anger that is an ungodly anger. 
It is that anger that boils up in the heart. Anger will tell you a great deal about yourself. How often do you get angry? What does it take to make you angry? How easy is it for you to be angry? How long do you stay angry? We need to ask God to take that old rag of anger out of lives.
       
Look at the next word. Wrath moves outward. It means an explosion. A good translation would be the word rage. Will Rogers said people who fly into a rage often make a bad landing. That’s true. 
One of the things we are hearing a great deal about today is road rage. People who are angry on the highways. They are in their automobiles and they are in a rage. You get in front of them and they will just run all over you. If you don’t go as fast as they want you to go and they will get very angry.  
 
Look at the word malice. That means meanness. Just old-fashioned, hard-hearted meanness. Desiring evil for someone.
       
Look at the word blasphemy. That means slander. Talking about people. Slandering your good name. Has anybody ever talked about you? Do you ever talk about anybody? It is a hangover from the old life.
       
Look at this one. “Filthy language.” He is saying that bad language belongs to the old life. It is not to be a characteristic of saved people. When Christ comes into your heart, then you must ask Him to make your words clean and pure. There are thousands upon thousands of words that will enable you to express yourself forcefully and precisely. You don’t have to get in the gutter. Ask God to clean up your language. 
Ask God to speak in such a way that Jesus Christ would not be embarrassed by the words you say. May the Lord Jesus Christ be able to put His approval on the words you use with one another.
       
Then he says, “Do not lie to one another.” Did you ever lie to anybody? Did you ever say anything that’s not true? I guess this is one of the sins that people are born with that comes out so soon. Children are really good at telling little lies. We learn early to stretch the truth. We learn early to tell things that aren’t so. 
 
But when you come to Christ there are some rags that need to come off. Paul is saying since you’ve come to Christ, all that old stuff no longer has a place in your life. Get rid of the rags. Have a spiritual closet cleaning. Go into that closet of your life and get all the rags of your life and have a bonfire and burn them.
       
Let’s turn to the positive.
 
II. PUT ON THE ROBES--THE VIRTUES OF THE NEW LIFE.
       
God has given us a great beautiful garment of salvation. He is saying in verse 10, “put on the new man,” to dress in the wardrobe God has picked out for you.
 
Here’s how the well-dressed Christian should look. Here’s how your life should look when you have on the robes of the new life in Jesus.
       
Verse 12
 
Tender mercies. Hearts that have mercy in them. The desire to be merciful toward other people. 
 
“Kindness.” That means goodness of heart. 
Ask Jesus to make you good of heart. To be interested in the welfare of other people. Do you have goodness in your heart? Do you desire to do good to other people? Kindness.
       
“Humility”. That means a right opinion of yourself. Humility of your mind. Recognizing who you are. Recognizing that you are no better than anybody else. Sometimes we get to thinking we are better than other people. We aren’t any better than
anybody else. In fact, the only goodness we have is what Jesus has given us. It’s only what the Lord has made out of our lives. So, let’s ask God to help us have humbleness of mind.
       
“Meekness.” That’s a beautiful word and a beautiful characteristic. Meekness could be translated quiet strength. The word was used of the taming of an animal.   Here was a horse, a strong spirited horse. Yet, that horse is tamed by its master. Oh, the power is still there, but it is now power under control. Power under the authority of its master. That’s what God can do in your life. God can give you strength of spirit. Power under control. Power surrendered to Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. We ought to ask God to help us have that meekness of spirit.
       
“Long-suffering.” That means the ability to endure difficult circumstances or people without bitterness. It’s a shame when Christians act ugly to one another. Have you acted ugly to a brother or sister in the Lord lately? Why don’t you apologize? 
Why don’t you demonstrate what kind of person God can make out of you? Apologize to somebody you’ve popped off to. Somebody you’ve been unkind to. 
 
Only Jesus can make you that way. Only Jesus can give you that kind of patience with people and with circumstances.
       
“Bearing with one another.” That means hanging in there with people even when they’ve failed you or even wronged you. Sometimes there are Christians who haven’t grown as much as they should have grown. 
 
I think about Jesus and Simon Peter. Do you enjoy reading about Simon Peter? I do. One of the reasons I do I think is because Simon Peter was just so human. Think of what the Lord had to put up with. How the Lord had to forbear with Simon Peter. Simon Peter was always popping off. 
 
Sometimes the Bible says he didn’t know what he was saying. That’s why he was saying something. Lots of folks are like that. Some folks seem to put their minds in neutral when they open their mouths. You ought to be sure the motor of your mind is running before your mouth starts to pop off. 
 
Simon Peter had hoof and mouth disease. Every time he opened his mouth it was to change feet. He was a mess. The Lord was just so patient with him and forbearing. 
 
In fact, the Bible says of us that “God is not ashamed to be called their God.” Do you think maybe there are times when the Lord gets embarrassed with us?
And yet He says, “That’s one of my children. He sure is making a fool of himself, but he’s one of mine.” God can make us that way. 
Patient and long-suffering and bearing with one another.
       
“Forgiving one another.”    The root of that word, forgiving, is not the normal word for forgive. The root is the word grace. You could translate it gracing one another. This is a word that describes God’s attitude toward us. It’s a word that describes what
Jesus did on the cross. Forgiving one another. Gracing one another. There on that cross they were so hateful to Jesus, hostile to the Lord Jesus. They were taunting Him and making fun of Him and spitting on Him and crucified Him. 
 
Yet the Bible says that He was saying over and over again, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” 
 
Forgiveness is tearing up the IOU’s you hold against another person. Forgiveness is not an emotion. “I just don’t feel like forgiving.” Forgiveness is not an emotion. Forgiveness is a decision. You decide to forgive one another. “But you don’t know what they have done to me, preacher.” I don’t know what they have done to you but let me ask you a question. Look at your hands. 
 
Do you see any nail scars in you hands? “But, preacher, you don’t know how they’ve mistreated me.” I don’t know how they have mistreated you, but check out your forehead. Are there any thorn scars? Yet, the Lord Jesus Christ had nails driven in His hands. He had a crown of thorns pressed down on His brow. He had a spear thrust in his side. 
Yet, he could say, “Father forgive them.” It’s a decision. 
 
There is no picture as beautiful as the Christian who turns to grace others, to forgive others. Let’s ask God to help us put on that robe of forgiveness. 
 
He says, “If any man have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you so also ought ye...” You are never more like Jesus than when you are forgiving one another.
 
Then he wraps it up in verse 14. “Above all these things put on love which is the bond of perfection.” Love is your all-purpose garment. It’s love that puts it all together. It’s love that becomes that crowning garment on the life of a believer.
 
What a message God has for us.   God says to take off the rags. Put on the robes. Then we’ll find ourselves dressed like the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
 
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