Everyday we get up and put on new clothes. Yesterday’s apparel is dirty, wrinkled and smelly from yesterday’s work. Today is a new day, and should begin with clean, fresh smelling clothes. Yesterday’s attire may be spotted with embarrassing coffee or ketchup stains. Old pants get holes in awkward places. Dress shirts get “ring around the collar.” Our favorite sweater is shrunk in the dryer and no longer fits right. It’s time to do a load of laundry. It’s time to go shopping.
The gospel of Christ ushers in God’s New Day of salvation. All are called out of their sleepy haze and invited to join in the tasks of the new day. For those who heed the breakfast call and step into the light, the next step in our morning routine is to clothe ourselves for action. But what clothing is appropriate for God’s New Day? We are back at the closet again, facing that familiar dilemma. What shall we wear?
Again, the Apostle Paul is step ahead of us. He has already laid out clothes for us to wear. Like a mother scrambling to get her sleepy children to Sunday school on time, Paul tries to rouse his church in Rome to action with the following instructions:
Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours…Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about (Rom 13:12-14 MSG)!
As the light of Christ shines into the hearts of men and women, their lives should begin to reflect his transforming radiance. The only dress appropriate for God’s new creation-in-the-making is a lifestyle in concert with Christ’s new way of being human. We must throw away yesterday’s garments, stained and wrinkled from last night’s reveling, and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 13:14). It’s time to have a garage sale and rid our self of outdated stonewashed blue jeans and purple Zubas of the past! They are “so yesterday.” In Paul’s words:
You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete (Col 3:9-10 MSG).
For Paul, all who place their hope in Christ and follow after him are united with him—sharing in his life, death, and resurrection (Rom 6). Our past life of sin and rebellion has been “crucified with Christ,” and we no longer live, but Christ lives through us as we reflect his image (Gal 2:20). “Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).
The Christian life is more than just beautifying our outer appearance. We need to do some laundry of the soul. Our “hearts and minds must be made completely new” as we “put on the new self, which is created in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy” (Eph 4:23-24). And you thought getting ready for prom was a big ordeal!
We can begin to enter into the dynamic power of new clothing if we simply recall some of our own shopping experiences. Remember the last time you purchased a new shirt, an elegant new dress, a sharp looking coat, or a new pair of shoes? How did it make you feel? You probably walked into work the next day with a little more bounce in your step. Did you feel strangely refreshed and filled with a renewed confidence? If you’re like me, new clothes often bring a “newness” to your spirit as well. The outer impacts the inner.
I remember school shopping as a kid. Mom would take each of us kids separately, spoiling us rotten on an annual clothes-shopping marathon. Three new pairs of jeans, several new shirts, some sporty shoes and a fall jacket if I was lucky would keep me set for the entire year. When the first week of school arrived, I felt like a million bucks. As I headed toward the door, mom would inspect my spiffy new get-up and remark, “You look like a new man!” No words could have said it better. Without a doubt, I felt like a new man too.
The Christian life summons us to the divine changing room to become new men and women in Christ. That’s precisely the language Paul uses to describe the transforming power of the gospel: “You have put off the old man with its practices and have been clothed with the new man” (Col 3:9-10). In baptism we are invited to strip off the old, dirty garment and put on the new white robe Christ has provided us. “Buy from me white clothing,” Jesus declares, “so you can be clothed and your shameful nakednesswill not be exposed” (Rev 3:18). Paul says, “You were baptized into union with Christ, and now you are clothed, so to speak, with the life of Christ himself” (Gal 3:27).
Some early church baptismal practices symbolically enacted this exchange by trading in soiled garments for new ones on their baptism day. The hope was always that the outer symbol would impact the inner reality.
Yet, how exactly does one “put on Christ”? Experience proves that a spiritual makeover is not nearly as simple as changing out of your Saturday grubs into your Sunday best.