• A Few Good Men - Colossians 3.1-17

    Disclaimer: I’m directing today’s message primarily toward the men of the church, young and old, because many of the ladies are still at our women’s retreat. For the ladies who are here today, I would like to humbly ask two things: first, your indulgence. I don’t get the chance to speak directly to the men like this very often, and I want to take advantage of this opportunity! Second, I would ask you to remain open to what God might say to you through this message. Even though I am aiming directly to the men today, this message actually applies to any believer, male or female. I believe, by the power of the Holy Spirit, there is something for everyone who has ears to hear.

    I have been preparing to lead us through the book of Daniel beginning next week. As I’ve been studying, I have been deeply impressed by the courage of Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Their courage under fire and willingness to stand for what is right in the face of great danger is both rare and inspiring. As I’ve read about these young men and their stories, I was reminded of a common theme throughout Scripture: it only takes a few good men to change the course of history.

    Think of Moses and Aaron, Joshua and Caleb, Daniel and his friends, twelve ordinary disciples … and us today. When anyone is willing to be used by God, mighty and good things happen.

    A Man In Uniform

    “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with
    compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (v12, NIV)

    This Friday, my son wore a three-piece suit to middle school. I’m still not entirely sure why he did it, but he looked great -- he even took the time to comb and style his hair. When I dropped him off at school, I noticed more than a few heads turning as he walked to class, including some young ladies. Ok, even some of the older ladies! Now, he insists that impressing some unnamed, mysterious girl was not his motivation, and I will take him at his word on that. There is, however, a reward for information. But I made sure to tell him how proud I was of him for being willing to go against the flow and stand out from his peers. Judging from his huge smile at the end of the day and the fact that he was still wearing the whole rig, tie and all, I think it was a good exercise in daring to stand out.

    Now, even though he insists there was no particular girl in his equation that morning, I also made sure to remind him -- more than once -- of those very important lyrics sung by a certain group of long-haired Texans, “Every girl’s crazy bout a sharp dressed man.” I really want to reinforce the hair-combing thing.

    I hate to admit it, but ZZ Top is right about that. Some girls do indeed seem to be crazy bout a sharp dressed man. And many of them tend to be impressed by a man in uniform. Now, not all girls have this reaction, to be sure -- but losing the t-shirt with pizza stains and washing those really disgusting jeans once in awhile certainly couldn’t hurt some of us (not to mention regular bathing and grooming, if you can possibly manage to find the time).

    Here’s the truth: the way we clothe ourselves can be very important. We all recognize the significance of a uniform, whether it’s the badge on a police officer, the apron on a store clerk, or the fatigues on a soldier. In certain contexts, if you are out of uniform, you could be out of a job! Clothing communicates. Whether you wear a uniform or a three piece suit -- your clothing communicates something about you to the people you interact with. Now, some of you will remind me that man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. That is true -- but let’s not forget that first part of that verse -- man does indeed look at the outward appearance! For better or worse, as long as you roam the earth, your clothes convey a message about you to others.

    And that is what the Word of God says to us today. Paul takes up this great metaphor of clothing to remind us that people are watching us, observing our lives, seeing what kind of message our behavior and values convey. But he isn’t talking about shirts and pants, but about lifestyle and attitude. Paul says the way we live should communicate something about the work that God is doing in us. What’s on the outside -- our actions and activities and attitudes -- should turn some heads and hopefully reflect God’s work on the inside.

    Again, Paul isn’t talking about real, physical clothing here. I don’t want any of you to misunderstand. I’m not telling you to start dressing up for church. There is no dress code at this church beyond our mutual request for basic modesty and decency.  What I am saying is that we should think of our behavior and our attitudes as external clothing that reveals what is happening internally. If your actions and attitudes are clean and pressed, it reflects Christ well. If your actions and attitudes are a stinky, rumpled mess, that reflects poorly on Him.

    A Good Man is Clothed With:

    Here’s what Paul says we should be wearing. This is not a three-piece suit, but a five-piece suit:

    “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with
    compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (v12, NIV)

    Compassion

    Compassion is simply action that meets the needs of others. In other words, Paul is saying that the way we treat people in need is a direct reflection of the work of God in our lives. If God is real to you, you will be compassionate and tangibly serve those in need. If God is dead to you, you will pass the needy by.

    “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
    Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
    and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' 
    but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
    Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2.14-17)

    Kindness

    To be kind is to be generous and considerate. Being generous means sharing what we have to help others. Being considerate means we do not feel the need to constantly blast people with our boisterous opinions on facebook. If we cannot show kindness, we cannot show Christ.

    “Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.” (Job 6.14)

    Humility

    Humility is simply putting the needs of others first. Kindness praises instead of putting down, encourages rather than criticizes, listens before blurting out, and most of all, is willing to admit when we are in the wrong. Remember that Christ did not say a word as he was led to the slaughter, but humbly forgave.

    “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:
    Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,
    in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Romans 12.3)

    Gentleness

    To be gentle is to be calm and careful. Last week’s powerful message by Jon Twitchell reminded us that we can be perfectly calm in the midst of life’s storms when we know that God is in control. When we freak out, we show the opposite of faith: fear. Gentleness also means being careful with others. A gentle man will not break a bruised reed or snuff out a smoldering wick. Men, I say this with all respect: some of you are bulls in the china shop of this fellowship, crushing fragile hearts with your careless words. Be careful what you say, when you say it, and how you say it. I am speaking to myself more than anyone else.   

    “Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4.5)

    Patience

    Finally, the man (or woman) of God is urged by Paul to clothe themselves with patience, which is the ability to both delay gratification and to see things through. I don’t need to tell you how rare it is to see delayed gratification these days. Our culture is suffocating with “on-demand” everything. No wonder people are so fickle when it comes to God -- we have no idea how to wait for a hamburger without whining, much less wait for the Lord of all creation when we pray. We who are redeemed are to be different! We must wear patience -- not only when it comes to the small things like waiting at the store or in traffic, but also in the bigger things like peace, child-raising, relationships, and faith. The world tells us to pick up our toys and leave when the going get’s tough. But God’s power enables us to stand firm until the end against all hardships.

    “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.
    See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop,
    patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.” (James 5.7)

    What does your “uniform” look like?

    Whether you know it or not, your life is a uniform that reflects who you are inside. What do people see when they look at your life?

    Do they see selfishness or compassion?  Are you hard-hearted and calloused when it comes to human suffering -- or do you show active concern for the needs of others?

    Do people see cruelty or kindness? Are you known for being stingy and rude -- or for your generosity and consideration of others?

    Do they see arrogance or humility? Are you determined to get your way at all costs, to getting in the last word in no matter what -- or do you put the needs of others before your own?

    Are you rough or gentle? Do you scrape harshly against everyone with no care for the consequences -- or do you exhibit calm that passes all understanding and a careful spirit with those who are hurting?

    Finally, are clothed with impatience or patience? Do you storm off when you get frustrated -- or do you have the ability to be patient and to delay gratification; to see things through?

    We all wear some sort of outfit. And what we wear says a lot about us. Is your uniform inspection ready? Or do you have some work to do?  I think we all have some work to do. By God’s grace, let us ask the Lord to iron out the wrinkles, patch the torn parts, and enable us to stand ready for the big inspection. He’s coming soon!

     
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    Comments (1)

    • Gidgitte's picture

      Thanks Pastor Steve, great message. I am sad we missed it but thankful we can read about it here. I especially loved the part about patience. I have been reading a lot about prayer and I'm reminded again that this virtue gets lost so many times in prayer. Being patient and trusting the Lord seem to go hand in hand. As we pray we need to "put on" or "clothe ourselves" with patience. Trusting that the answer may not come quickly or even ever, but that our Heavenly Father knows what we need and when we need it. Not searching for immediate gratification but just bathing in patience and trust, asking in humility, thanking Him in kindness, praying for others in compassion, and confessing our sins in gentleness (remembering His grace not our constant guilt). Putting on this uniform or five piece suit that you spoke about for our lives as a ministry for others to see Christ in us and also our private lives in communion with our maker. A uniform I want to wear. Thankfully we have a good God who embodies these virtues with us.
      Thank you for being faithful in speaking the Word of the Lord to us every week.

      May 03, 2016

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