Purpose: To challenge God's people to live out their new identity in Christ.
Sermon prepared by Rev. Joan DeVries, Oakville, Ontario
Order of Worship
GOD GATHERS US BY HIS SPIRIT
- Call to Worship: Psalm 24:1,2
- Leader: The earth is the LORDÕs and everything in it
- All: the world and all who live in it
- Leader: for He founded it on the seas
- All: and established it on the waters
- Leader: Let us praise the LORD, the Creator.
- Opening Song: PsH 8:1,3,4,5 Lord, Our Lord, Your Glorious Name
- Opening Prayer
- GodÕs Greeting: ÒMay the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with us all. Amen.Ó
- Mutual Greeting
- Songs of Praise: PsH 428 O Worship the King [1,2,5 All; 3 Males; 4 Females]
PsH 634 Father, We Love You
GOD CLOTHES US WITH HIS GRACE
- Call to Confession: Psalm 24:3-4
- Leader: Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
- All: Who may stand in his holy place?
- Leader: Those who have clean hands and a pure heart
- All: Those who do not put their trust in an idol or swear by a false god.
- Leader: Not one of us meets this criteria to draw near to God. Let us ask Him to clean our dirty hands and impure hearts.
- Song of Confession: PsH 254 Remember Not, O God
- Declaration of GodÕs Grace: Psalm 24: 5
- Leader: Those (who trust in God) will receive blessing from the LORD
- All: And vindication from God their Savior
- Leader: Let us dedicate ourselves again to Jesus, our Saviour and our Redeemer
- Song of Dedication: Jesus, All For Jesus OR
PH 292 Living for Jesus
GOD CHALLENGES US WITH HIS WORD
- Prayer for Illumination
- Scripture Reading: Colossians 3:1-17
- Sermon: ÒGet Dressed!Ó
WE RESPOND TO GODÕS WORD
- Prayer: ÒFather God, thank you for giving us a new identity in Jesus! Show us how we can burn the filthy rags of our sin and trade them in for your fine clothing. Make us more like Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Fill us with your Spirit so we can live fully for you. In JesusÕ name we pray, Amen.Ó
- Song of Response: PH 547 Fill Thou My Life, O Lord, My God
GOD SENDS US OUT INTO HIS WORLD
- GodÕs Parting Blessing: ÒMay the Lord bless us and keep us. May He make His face to shine upon us and be gracious to us. May He turn His face towards us and grant us His peace. Amen.Ó
- Our Parting Praise: PH 555 Lead On, O King Eternal
Nicky Gumbel, the British pastor associated with the Alpha course, tells about a woman in the neighbourhood of his London, England church. The kind of woman we would call a Ôbag ladyÕ. LetÕs say her name is ÒTildaÓ.
Imagine an older woman with graying hair. Some of it is greasily plastered to her head; some of it is sticking out at odd angles. Layers of ragged clothes hang on her body. She distinctly smells as she shuffles along lugging her cart. She sleeps outside somewhere under some makeshift shelter, eating what she can scrounge.
Now this Tilda was actually a particularly nasty brand of bag lady. She not only begged for money persistently, but if she thought you gave too little, she would revile you. Yell at you. Call you names! Tilda was not into making friends for herselfÉ
When Tilda died, NickyÕs church was approached to have a funeral for her. Nicky was asked to lead it, and he thought: No problem. Who is going to be there, after all? But his Senior Pastor said, ÒBe prepared for the church to fill up at this funeralÓ. Surprised, Nicky asked, ÒWhat do you mean?Ó To NickyÕs amazement, the Senior Pastor explained that Tilda was actually a very, very wealthy woman. She owned several houses, famous paintings, and even various hotels.
And, in fact, at her funeral the church filled up with rich and famous people: dignitaries, bankers, politicians, and ladies decked out in jewels and furs. Yet Tilda had lived out her life as a dirty, begging, bag lady.
Tilda was a person with a severe identity problem! We look at her and say, ÒWhy in the world would you DO that? Who would choose a grubby life of hunger and poverty and pain and humiliation over what she rightfully owned?Ó
Keep those two images in mind as we reflect on this passage. On the one hand, a grubby, filthy, ragged bag lady; and, on the other hand, a clean, accomplished, well-dressed rich lady. What was TildaÕs true identity? What is your identity?
Paul gives snapshots of two different time frames for us to look at in his teaching about identity: 1. The Past 2. The Present.
So, first, we look to the Past.
I. The PAST contains two important stories to consider.
A) Your story and
B) The story of Jesus
A) Your Story
The story of your past, says Paul, includes some dirty history, a Òbag ladyÓ existence. This showed itself in certain behaviors. You used to walk in these paths:
-sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry (5)
-anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language (8)
-lying (9) and division (11)
These attitudes were the rags that you wrapped yourself in. You put them on each day. You became comfortable in that existence. It was the only thing you knew.
B) The story of Jesus
And in a totally different arena in the past is the story of Jesus. Jesus, the God-Man who obeyed God perfectly. Jesus, who was tempted just like we were, but never sinned. Who was then killed. Who died. But who was raised from the dead, and ascended to heaven to sit at GodÕs right hand.
The past contains your story and JesusÕ story. One is a story of filthy rags, and one is a story of glory. But then something miraculous happened. When we became believers in Jesus, when we accepted that he did those things on OUR behalfÉ. then those two stories came together. In some strange mysterious way, our ragged dirty story got picked up by the story of Jesus, and woven right into it. And, miraculously, our story didnÕt make his story dirty, or ragged. Instead it was our part of the story which got transformed, got cleaned up and it BECAME the story of Jesus.
His story becomes our story. What he did, gets credited to our heavenly account.
-He died: we died. (3)
-He was raised; we have been raised (1)
-He is now seated at the right hand of God; our life is safe there with him (2,3)
Paul says, ÒYou have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new selfÓ (9,10). We have been changed. ItÕs been a rags to riches story. We have metamorphed from one story to another. From one existence to a completely different one. WeÕve gone from being an earthbound caterpillar to finding the wings of a butterfly on our backs.
ThereÕs a little cartoon about two caterpillars. Creeping along a twig. Munching their way through life. And suddenly this large, beautiful butterfly flutters by. And the one caterpillar says to the other, ÒYouÕll never catch ME riding in one of THOSE things!Ó. Little does he know!
Secondly itÕs a passage about
II. The Present
We now have a new identity in Jesus. What we are now, Paul says in verse 12, is ÒGod's chosen people, holy and dearly lovedÓ. That little phrase packs a huge punch.
We are now GodÕs Òchosen peopleÓ. We belong to him. Out of all the people of the earth, he has picked us to have relationship with him. That is an awesome thing. In other places in Scripture, we are called GodÕs adopted children. Ones he takes out of the ÒorphanageÓ to be a part of his family. Parents of adopted children have sometime used this language to say, ÒItÕs true, you werenÕt born from us. But you are special. You are adopted. You were especially chosen to be in the familyÓ.
You ARE ÒholyÓ, it says. In that sense holy is not what you become, itÕs what you already ARE. Here ÒholyÓ means Òset apart for GodÕs purposeÓ. You are holy because God chose you. You individually, but also us collectively. The people of God are holy, set apart from all other people. That is GodÕs doing. HeÕs the one who chooses.
Not only that, you are Òdearly loved.Ó God really, really loves you. The kind of word that Paul uses here means that you have been loved by God (it started at some point in the past) and you are continuing to be loved by God. GodÕs love is an ongoing kind of love. God really loves you. Can you believe that?
A pastor became the father of adopted children. One was a daughter who had been physically and sexually abused before. As her new father, the pastor grieves over what that has done to her small person, how that has scarred her sense of identity. His words to her show us the Father heart of God to us his children, ÒAnd you, the child whoÕs been ravaged, you must not call yourself ugly. You arenÕt. You are beautiful. You are the image of the Creator. You are his best art, his portrait, his imageÑand his child. You are not an accident. You were planned. You are the cunning intention of almighty GodÉ God loves you. And so do I. Sleep now child, in perfect peace. You are GodÕs and he spreads his wings above you now.Ó**
ThatÕs our new identity in the present. ÒGod's chosen people, holy and dearly loved Ò Those are wonderful words of affirmation. But God isnÕt content for us to just have warm fuzzies; he also wants those words to spur us into action.
What must we do? We must take off the rags that belong to our old identity. In fact we may even have to burn some of those stinking old clothes. Listen to the radical commands:
Verse 9: Do not lieÉ..
Verse 8: Rid yourselves of all these thingsÉ
Verse 5: Put to deathÉ.
Living out our new identity requires some work on our part. Have you ever put something to death? Even if itÕs just a mosquito it can take some effort. Especially if itÕs buzzing around your ear in the dark and you canÕt see it. And putting something to death also leaves a mess. Even just a mosquito. It may even be your own precious blood that gets slammed onto the wall with the mosquitoÕs body.
Listen again prayerfully to this list of rags. What is God convicting you to get rid of? [Note: read slowlyÉ] Ósexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry (5); anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language (8); lying (9) and division (11)Ó
You seeÉ if what you really are is a butterflyÉ. if, inside, you are a heavenly creature, then you canÕt crawl around like a caterpillar any more. If inside you are a Christ-person, you canÕt look and act simply according to your Òearthly nature.Ó You must stop doing these things that are not in line with your identity. With GodÕs help, burn the rags!
And replace the rags with GodÕs beautiful robe. Paul says, ÒSo therefore, as GodÕs chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves withÉÓ (12) And then follows a list of wonderful characteristics. You have put off dirty deeds, and now you must put on that which is good and lovely. You must wrap around yourself the attitudes and actions which will show your true identity:
-Compassion Ð a tenderness, a softness of heartfelt compassion- feeling with others
-Kindness Ð what compassion can lead to. It shows itself in actions.
-Humility Ð the opposite of pride. It means having a proper view of yourself before God, but also Òcounting others better than yourselvesÓ. Philippians 2:3
-Gentleness Ð not harshness, but an attitude that has grace for others.
-Patience Ð this is sometimes literally translated as Òlong-temperedness.Ó Instead of having a short temper, you have along temper. Instead of a short fuse before the dynamite explodes, there is a very long fuse.
-Bear with each other Ð itÕs actually Òendure one another.Ó Put up with each other. Stay together. Learn how to extend the grace to each other that you both need.
-And forgive Ð Why? How? ÒAs the Lord forgave youÓ.
Picture the image of a tunic, a sort of gown. The characteristics are sewn together as strips. And then comes the last piece: ÒAnd over all these virtues put on love, which bind them all together in perfect unity.Ó Paul says to tie these strips together with love. ThatÕs what will keep them together in perfect unity.
How do we know what love is? Well, God shows us some pretty dramatic displays: ÒFor God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.Ó John 3:16
We agreed that Tilda the bag lady was a woman with a severe identity problem! We look at her and say, ÒWhy in the world would you DO that? Who would want to live like that? Who would choose that grubby existence over what she rightfully owned?Ó
But, you know who would do that? Jesus would! Jesus DID! He exchanged a life of glory and power for a grubby life of hunger and poverty and pain and humiliation. And he did it for us. For you. For me. Now THAT is love! Jesus went from butterfly to caterpillar. From prince to bag lady. All so that we could go from caterpillar to butterfly. From bag lady to Queen.
So, people of God, what are you wearing?
The story is told of some enthusiastic youthful evangelists charging into a small community to do some witnessing. They approach an Amish farmer and ask him, ÒSir are you a Christian?Ó He ponders that for a second and then takes out a writing pad from his pocket and a stub of a pencil and writes some things down. He gives them a list of names and says, ÒHere, these people know me very well. Go and ask them if I am a ChristianÓ.
How about the people who know you well? Your spouse, your children, your parents, your roommates, your co-workers? Do they see and experience someone clothed in compassion, kindness, gentleness, and patience? Do they see a caterpillar or a butterfly?
Are you living out of your new identity? Given to you by God?
If not, itÕs never too late for change. God is happy with our repentance, with our calls for help. We canÕt do it on our own. But in Christ all things are possible. DonÕt be discouraged. God has changed our past. He has given us a new identity. It is new, but it is also still Òbeing renewedÓ. There is something both complete and incomplete about our new nature.
We are always, GodÕs chosen, holy and dearly loved. GodÕs disposition towards us will not change. But we will change. Our identity is being renewed after that of the Creator. And we must cooperate with God in this. He changes us, but we must also change ourselves. Take off what is dirty, put on that which shows your true identity: GodÕs person, holy and dearly, dearly loved.
And all GodÕs people say: Amen
**Walter Wangerin, Little Lamb, Who Made Thee?, p.101-2