Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
June 23, 2013
Fr. Philip Eberhart
CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH CHRIST
(Audio Sermon File)
Have you ever been to a hotel or to a spa or gone for a massage where they have these big, fluffy, plush robes. My wife has several of them, both for herself and for clients to use, as they change in and out of dresses for fittings. You know the ones, that kind of engulf you and you sink into them – and just forget all your troubles!!
I want to explore this morning the phrase we hear in Paul’s mouth a lot, and we see it in our NT Epistle reading from Galatians this morning:
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
What does it mean for us to be clothed with or to clothe ourselves with Christ? To Put on Christ - Paul uses this phrase over 20 times in his teaching about the life of the disciple – the follower of Jesus.
Our reading here seems to indicate that it is initiated at baptism –
Have you ever moved and had to have everything forwarded to a new address.
We have had a change of address! We are no longer “of” this world; we are now citizens of a heavenly city – we have a new address, a new home – and I might add, one that is not local!
Tied very closely to this concept in Paul’s thinking is his concept of our being “IN CHRIST.” If we have PUT ON Christ then we are IN Christ, by default. There is a whole bunch of this kind of language throughout the NT in regard to what has happened to us in our salvation experience. We are in Jesus and Jesus is, by His Spirit, IN US. The best definition I’ve seen is in one of the lexicons I looked at:
“TO BECOME SO POSSESSED OF THE MIND OF CHRIST, AS IN THOUGHT, FEELING AND IN ACTION, AS TO RESEMBLE HIM AND TO REPRODUCE THE LIFE HE LIVED” (Thayer’s Lexicon on the Greek word ENDUO)
Over and over throughout the NT we hear this kind of language:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…
It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me …
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh…
All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has be created in righteousness
And holiness of the truth
Put on the new self, which is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the
Image of the One who created him
All of these passages speak of a change of address! In Jesus Christ, Paul Says, we are a NEW CREATION – Old has gone! New has come! Paul was so excited by this reality that he camps on it throughout his letters to the churches. It pops up in almost every letter he writes – why? Because it is a central reality of who we are now and is the key to what we are becoming, by faith in the Grace of God!
The central picture and the reality of baptism is that we have been consumed – swallowed up – buried if you will in the act of baptism – going under the water, and we have come out of the water a new creation. A new being emerges from the water of baptism.
The new creation is a gift of grace. This is God’s idea, from start to finish – and His work, from start to finish. In fact the work is already done! That is what Jesus cry on the cross was all about – IT IS FINISHED!
Your new creation was finished on the cross – and now the task at hand is appropriation of that finished work as we PUT ON Christ. There is a mystery in the language here – the work is both finished in Jesus and ongoing with us, every day, every moment, as we make a choice to live IN HIM.
This is also plain in Paul’s usage of this imagery in other places in his letters:
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, 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. Beyond all these things PUT ON love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule IN YOUR HEARTS, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful
Let the word of Christ richly DWELL WITHIN YOU, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
What a picture of the Christian’s life IN JESUS! And the life of Jesus IN THE CHRISTIAN.
“It is no longer I who live,” Paul says, “but Christ who lives in me! And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.”
We have been talking about faith in Sunday School for the past few weeks, and this is something that has dawned on me – that faith is coming to rest in the finished work of Christ Jesus on the Cross, and not trying to add to that work of salvation by the works that I do. This is what the Sabbath Rest is all about – we are called to Sabbath, in order to put the work that we do in the name of Christ in the right order and perspective. We are not working for Christ or for our salvation -- we are working WITH HIM in his work of salvation in the world, in an extraordinary grace that allows us to partner with Jesus, day by day in every moment and every breath.
Finally, in that work there is one more place we need to look at what we must PUT ON: Would you like to turn with me to Ephesians 6
PUT ON the full armor of God! Why?
So that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
We are all familiar with the passage in Ephesians 6 about the Armor of God:
Anyone who is living this life IN CHRIST will come into a position of opposition to the world, to the flesh and to the devil! And so we need protection, which has been provided:
- The Belt of Truth
- The Breastplate of Righteousness
- The shoes of the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace
- The Shield of Faith
- The Helmet of Salvation
- The Sword of the Spirit (The Word of God)
Of course this is a whole sermon series in six lines! Truth, Righteousness, the Gospel of Peace at all about Jesus! He IS the Truth, He IS our Righteousness and He IS our peace! Our Faith is IN HIM – Our salvation is FROM HIM – and it is HIS WORD, by HIS Spirit, that we have at our side and in our hand as a sword, the only offensive weapon we own.
Much, much, much more can be said about the armor of God, but for our purposes this morning it is important for us to hear the word PUT ON the full armor of God.
And Paul finishes these thoughts by adding, in v. 19,
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me, in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.”
Friends, if Paul needed prayer for boldness, how much more do we need to pray for boldness for each other and for ourselves?!! And how much more do we need to be clothed in Christ?
We are clothed in Him in Baptism – it is a positional reality given us by Grace.
We are to PUT ON Jesus in our day to day walking and talking – it is a daily appropriation of His Grace for our moment-by-moment living IN HIM. Jesus looks like the Fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Long suffering, etc
We add to our faith, virtue; to virtue, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, unconditional love. We PUT ON the character of Jesus in cooperation with the Holy Spirit who is growing these things inside of us! It is a synergy – a partnership with Jesus in the work of a new creation --- YOU!
Finally, we are to PUT ON the full armor of God – prepare for war! You are a soldier and you are in an army. The only way to get out of that is to go AWOL.
And so much of the Church is ABSENT WITHOUT LEAVE! If we are serious about the work of God in the world and our part in it, then we must be aware and prepared for the opposition we will and are facing, from the world, the flesh and the devil. But there is a chasm between this reality and most of our experience in the American church. We have never had to go to war. We have never had to be on the defensive for our lives – few of us have even been very inconvenienced by our faith in Christ in America – for which we can give thanks! But it is a double edged sword, friends. It is easy to go to sleep, standing a post where there is no perceived threat!
But the time, they are a changing.
I want to invite you to come next Sunday, as we participate in the Call2Fall – a national call to prayer by the church on the Sunday before Independence Day. We must recover the vitality of our faith, for the sake of the nation and the future of our children and grandchildren. Friends, the problem is not THEM, IT IS US! As Henry Blackaby once said, “The problem is not with the darkness – its just being dark! The problem is with the LIGHT”
Friends, we are the LIGHT of the World. Jesus said it, and it is time for us to live into it. We are a city set on a hill, giving light to the nation. Come next week and pray with us for the health of our nation and for a return to God as we Fall on our knees together in prayer.
So let us pray:
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the Cross, that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace. SO CLOTHE US in your Spirit, that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do no know you to the knowledge and love of you, for the honor of Your Name. Amen