Robert Jeffress - Improving Your Wardrobe
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". In his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul wrote that becoming a true disciple of Christ is like getting dressed in the morning. We begin by taking of the old garments, behaviors that aren't fitting for Christians, but the wardrobe change doesn't stop there. Today, I'm going to explain what it means to put on clothing like a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. My message is titled, "Improving Your Wardrobe" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
When I first went to seminary, the first seminary I attended, back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth was Dallas theological seminary, and actually, 35 years ago, Dallas seminary had a dress code for the students. The men who went to seminary at that seminary had to dress in a tie and a coat every day that they went to class. And you can imagine some of the seminary students balked at that requirement, but the seminary had a philosophy behind that requirement. They believed that the call to the ministry was just as a respectable profession as that of being a banker or a lawyer, and therefore, ministers of the Gospel should dress in a way that is fitting of their high calling.
Now, of course, 35 years later today, there are no dress codes at the seminary, because there are no dress codes for bankers or for lawyers or, it seems like, anybody else today. All dress codes, pretty much, have been eradicated, except in the Word of God. Did you know the Bible says something about how we are to dress as Christians? In the passage we're going to look at today, the Bible says, e ought to dress, not physically, but spiritually, in a way that is in the likeness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Paul is going to tell us that we ought to put on garments and wear the garments every day that are consistent with our high calling in Jesus Christ.
If you have your Bibles today, I want you to turn to Colossians 3, as we look at how to improve our spiritual wardrobe so that we can dress for spiritual success. That's the theme of Colossians 3. Now you'll remember that this whole passage is about how we can become like Jesus Christ in our actions, attitudes, and affections. And the Bible uses the imagery, in this passage, of dressing. The Bible says, to be like Jesus, first of all, there's certain old garments that we need to take off and lay aside. Just as Jesus, when he was raised from the dead, remember, he left back, he left aside, he took off those old garments, those grave clothes, and he put on a new resurrection body.
In the same way, as Christians, there are certain behaviors that we're to take off, that we're to lay aside. Behaviors that may be fitting for a non-Christian, but they have no place on a true disciple of Jesus Christ. We're to lay aside certain attitudes and actions and instead, put on the behavior that is befitting our high calling in Christ. We're to lay aside and put on. Put off and put on. That's a constant theme in Colossians 3. It's not enough to put off certain behaviors. We need to replace them with another set of behaviors. We need to remember that. You know, today, we tend to define Christians by what they don't do. You know, today, we think of a Christian as somebody who doesn't smoke, or drink or go to R-rated movies. It's what we don't do, we think, that defines us as a Christian.
There are plenty of wonderful non-Christian groups that don't do certain things. And certainly, the Bible says, there are things we're to abstain from. Make no mistake about it. But it's not enough not to do certain things. A Christian should be noted for what he does, as well, for who he is, and that's what Paul is talking about in Colossians 3. The last several times, we've looked at the old garments we're to take off, the behaviors that are inconsistent with a Christian, and we're to take off anger, wrath and malice, the sins of temper. We're to put aside sins of speech like slander and abusive speech and lying, but now, when we get to verse 12, Paul is going to mention the behavior we're to put on as Christians.
Look at verse 12 of Colossians 3. "So also, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on," see that word there? "Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone, just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. And beyond all these things, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity". I want to confess to you, I had a very difficult time with the message this week. And the reason I had a hard time preparing this message was even though this is what the text is, I didn't want today's message to be just a laundry list of things we need to do to be nicer people. A lot of preaching today is that way. Somebody characterized a lot of preaching today as mild-manner sermons being delivered by mild-mannered preachers, teaching people how to be more mild-mannered.
Unfortunately, that's what a lot of messages are. I didn't want to come across that way. But you know, I think the whole key to this passage is beginning in verse 12, where we're reminded that these things Paul is about to list are not optional, they are absolutely essential if we are going to fulfill God's purpose for our life. And that's why he begins in verse 12 by this reminder. "So as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved". Those who have been chosen by God. Did you know you have been chosen by God for a special purpose? You know the purpose God has chosen you for? Hold your place here and turn over to Romans 8:29. Here is God's purpose for your life, clearly spelled out. Romans 8:29, and for those of you who choke on predestination, get your pens out and underline these verses.
Romans 8:29, "For those whom God foreknew, he also," what? "Predestined," for what purpose? Here it is, "To become conformed to the image of his son, so that his son would be the firstborn among many brethren, and these whom God predestined, he also called, and those whom he called, he also justified, and those whom he justified, he also glorified". You know, that purpose puts verse 28 that all of us can quote, but only a few people have a clue what it means, verse 28 in perspective. This is one of the most quoted verses of the Bible, yet people don't have any idea what it means. Look at verse 28. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose". What's God's purpose for which all things in your life are working together for?
Again, it's not your happiness. It's not your fulfillment. His purpose, that we just saw, was that you would be like Jesus, and so, what Romans 8:28 is saying, everything that happens in your life happens to make you like Jesus Christ. It doesn't mean there's a silver lining in every cloud. It doesn't mean there's something good in everything that happens, that if you search long enough, you can find. No, it's saying the horrible, terrible things that happen to you happen for a reason to make you like Jesus Christ. That's what God's will for your life is. Well, how do you know if you're becoming like Jesus? You know, that's kind of a lofty goal, but it's kinda like trying to nail jell-o to the wall. How do you know if you've actually done it or not? Well, this passage is a list of character qualities for you to use as a checklist to see how you're measuring up to the image of Christ.
You and I need some metrics, some measurements in our spiritual life, to see if we're really becoming like Christ. So Paul said, here are six qualities to check on, to see if they are yours, because these embody the person of Christ himself. Notice the garments of Godliness, beginning in verse 12. He says, "First of all, put on a heart of compassion". Now the King James more accurately translates this put on bowels of mercy. Now we don't talk about bowels much in mixed company. It's not proper to do so, but we've talked about this before. In the Hebrew mindset, the bowels, not the heart, was the center of emotion. It was the gut of a person, and so, to put on compassion, bowels of compassion, means to have a gut level feeling of empathy for those who are in need.
When you are compassionate, it means you react positively to the needs of someone else. When you see somebody in need, you do whatever you can to meet that need, and that certainly was the character of Jesus Christ. A reporter, during World War I, was watching a red cross nurse swab the infected wound of a soldier. After a few moments of looking at that sickening sight, he said to the nurse, "I wouldn't do what you do for a million dollars". She looked up at him and said, "Neither would I". See, her motivation wasn't money. It was there was something inside of her that was moved to action when she saw that soldier in need. If you're a Christian, if you're like Christ, you can't walk by people who are in need. You'll do something about it, just like Christ did. We don't have time to look at all these verses, but just Mark down a couple of these.
Mark 1:40-41, "And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching him and falling on his knees before him, saying to him, 'if you are willing, you can make me clean'. And moved with compassion," there it is, "Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I am willing: go and be cleansed'". Two of Jesus' best-known parables were about characters who were moved to meet the needs of someone else when they saw those needs. I think about the prodigal son. Remember, in Luke 15:20, after the prodigal started his way home, Luke says, "So the son got up and came to his father. But while the son was a long way off, his father saw him and he felt compassion for him". And that compassion motivated him to lay aside his dignity as a rich, Middle Eastern man, and start running toward his son to embrace him and to kiss him.
When he saw the need in that son for forgiveness, something welled up inside of the father, and made him to start running toward his son. Remember the story of the good Samaritan, who came upon that man who had been beaten and battered and left for dead? The religious leaders had walked by with indifference, but notice what Jesus said about the Samaritan. "But a Samaritan who was on the journey, came upon him, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion. He came to him and he bandaged up his wounds". Think about the people in your sphere of influence, your family members, your friends, those here in the church, those you work with. Is there somebody God has placed in your path who has a need? Maybe a need for money, or clothing or food or shelter. It may be the need for encouragement. But if you're really becoming like Christ, you can't walk by without doing anything in your power to meet that need, putting on the heart of compassion.
The next character quality he mentions here is that of kindness. A truly, heavenly-minded Christian will be marked by kindness. I like the way one lexicographer defines this Greek word, kindness. He says, "It was a word used to describe wine, which has grown mellow with age, and lost its harshness". To be kind means not to be harsh with people, but it means to deal with people according to grace and not the law. It means to give people, not necessarily what they deserve but what they need, kindness. When I was growing up, for some reason, I always had more money than my brother or sister, or even my parents, and so, they were always borrowing money from me all the time. And one day, my mom asked if she could borrow some money. She had run out of money that my father had given her for the month, and I think it was about the 10th of the month, as I remember, but anyway, she had asked if she could have some money to help make it through the end of the month, and I said, "Well, sure, I'll be happy to lend you some money".
So I gave it to her, and you know, several weeks passed, and one day, we were driving to school. I was in the 7th grade, and we were on the way to west junior high school in Richardson, and as we were driving to school, I said to my mom, I said, "Mom, you know that money you borrowed from me. Do you think maybe I could have it back"? And my mom burst into tears. She started crying, she said, "Oh, Robert, I'm so sorry. I wish I could pay you that money back now, but I can't. I don't have any way to repay that money". She let me out at school, I went to my first period class, and I remember sitting in my first period class feeling terrible.
So after class was over, I went down to the principal's office and asked if I could use the phone, and I called the school where my mom worked, and I left a message for her, and the message said, "Mom, you don't owe me anything". Isn't that what God did for us? He didn't deal with us according to justice. He dealt with us according to kindness. In Titus 3:4-5, "But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us, not on the basis of deeds, which we have done in righteousness, but according to his mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit". We deserved eternal death. If God dealt with us only according to justice, we would've received an eternal death sentence, but it was the kindness of God that caused him to deal with us according to grace, by sending Christ to die for us. And the Bible says, we're to extend that same kindness to others.
Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God, in Christ, has forgiven us". Folks, the Bible commands us to be kind to one another. You know, husbands, maybe you've given your wife a certain amount of money to go through the month with, and she's run out of money. Perhaps the just thing would be to say, well, you ran out of money? That's your problem. Figure it out the best way you can. What's the kind thing to do? Parents, maybe your teenager has wrecked the car. They were busy texting on the cellphone and they ran into something or someone. The just thing to do would be to say, okay, you made a mistake, you figure out how to pay for the car. It's your mess, deal with it. That may be the just thing to do, but what would the kind thing to do be? Have you ever messed up in your life? Did you ever make a mistake as a teenager?
Employers, maybe you have an employee who's made a tremendous error, a mistake that has cost your business a lot of money. Justice would say, they need to be terminated for what they did, but what's the kind thing to do? I'm not saying we shouldn't ever be firm. There are times we have to be firm. I understand that. But if you're really becoming like Jesus Christ, grace, not law, is the preferred way to deal with people. One way to measure whether you're truly becoming like Christ is whether or not your life is marked by kindness. The third word he mentions here, he says, we're to also put on humility. Humility. In Paul's world, you have to understand this, humility was not a virtue, it was a vice. To willingly submit yourself to somebody else, why no successful person would ever do that. But Paul said just the opposite. He said a truly Christ-like person is one who's marked by humility.
In fact, throughout the scripture, you see the premium that God places on this quality of humility. Look at Proverbs 11:2. "When pride comes, then comes dishonor. But with the humble is wisdom". Or in Isaiah 66:2, God tells the kind of person he will listen to: "But to this person, I will look. To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at my word". What is humility? Here's a simple definition. Humility is realizing that any good thing in your life is the result of either what God or other people have done for you. Humility is the realization that any good thing in your life or my life is the result of what either God or other people have done for you.
You know, we tend to go to one of two extremes in this whole idea of humility. One extreme, as Christians, we have is, I'm so wonderful, how could this world ever get along without me? But the other extreme, and equally unbiblical is, oh, I'm just a lowly worm. I'm just absolutely nothing in God's sight. Neither is an accurate view. Romans 12:3 Paul said, we need to have a balanced view of ourselves. He says, "For through the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you, don't think more highly of yourself than you ought to think but think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith". He said, see yourself as God sees you. Yes, apart from God, you are nothing, but God has saved you and he's given you a unique spiritual gift. Paul goes on to describe, see yourself as God sees you. How do you know if you're wearing that garment of humility?
Let me give you four quick characteristics of a truly humble person. Number one, a humble person is one who gives other people credit for his successes. He gives other people credit for his successes. Now that's different than pride. You know what pride does? Pride is crediting ourselves for our successes and blaming other people for our failures. And then, 1 Corinthians 4:7, he says, "For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you haven't received it"? Ask yourself this morning, what good thing in your life is not the result of what somebody else or God have done for you? Can you think of any good thing in your life that isn't the result of what God has done for you, that's a gift?
Secondly, it refuses to hold onto our rights. True humility refuses to hold onto our rights. When you understand that everything came from God to begin with, then you don't hold onto your rights. Instead, you understand you're here to fulfill God's agenda, just like Jesus Christ. "Even though he existed in the form of God, he did not regard his equality with God a thing to be held onto," Philippians 2 says, "But he emptied himself". He gave up his rights to meet God's agenda.
Number three, a truly humble persons resists the need to always be right. We saw, in Romans 12:3, that God has allotted to each one of us a spiritual gift, a different spiritual gift. And I've said before, with different spiritual gifts come different ways of looking at things. I had a couple that came into my office, husband and wife, and they were in a bitter disagreement about how to deal with a teenage son who was involved in breaking curfew, playing hooky from school and all kind of things. The husband had the spiritual gift of prophecy. He's saying, well, man, we gotta deal firmly with this. We've gotta nip this in the bud. Let's throw him outta the house. The wife had the gift of mercy. Oh, we can't do that, you know. We need to be loving and kind and so forth and so forth. Which one was right?