Friday, August 3, 2012

Dress to Impress

No doubt you've heard the phrase 'dress to impress'. Generally, the term is in reference to the opposite sex, a future employer, or some other person wherein it would be to your benefit to impress them based on looks. My post today is hardly like that at all; instead, I want to seek ways that we can dress to impress God.

I've already written a post about immodest clothing, and if you haven't read it, you can check it out here. Instead of focusing on the negative too-this and too-that, I want to talk about what we CAN put on to be pleasing to God as His children.

First things first, let's notice what Galatians 3:27 says:
"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
When we became Christians/children of God, we put on something from the very start: Christ. Sometimes, though, we tend to cover up Christ and put back on a few things that we supposedly put off. Colossians 3:8-9 tell us what some of those things are.
"But now you yourselves are to put off all these things: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds."
In order to be impressive to God, we cannot be clothed with (dressed in) anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy and filthy language! If we have any of these things still on, we may be impressing the world, but we aren't being pleasing to God.

I hate negative posts, though. I hate being told what I'm not supposed to do, and then just leaving it at that. When we are seeking to be pleasing to God, I don't think we can simply eliminate the bad things from our hearts; instead, we must replace those negative, worldly things with good, Godly things. So let's see what we should put on that will impress God:
"Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you were also called in one body; and be thankful." - Colossians 3:12-15
Paul tells us that there are numerous things that we can put on in order to be pleasing to God:

  • tender mercies - Really, this phrase is talking about the "bowels of compassion" or simply, compassionate feelings. To be pleasing to God, we are going to be people of compassion. The World English Dictionary defines this term as "a feeling of distress and pity for the suffering or misfortune of another, often including the desire to alleviate it." If we have truly put on Christ and are 'dressing to impress' God, we are going to see the sufferings of those around us and do our best to alleviate their burdens.  I find it interesting that the list starts here, because if we can manage to put on this attribute, the others should fall in line.
  • kindness - We should all know what this means, but let me use another verse to show us a little more clearly: "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior." Titus 3:4-6. We can see from those verses that God's kindness was demonstrated to us by sending Jesus and the Holy Spirit. What an awesome example of kindness! Since we have received such a kindness from God, we should also demonstrate that kindness toward others. 
  • humility - Peter tells us that we should be 'clothed with humility'  because 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble' (1 Pet. 5:5). In no way and at no time do I want God to resist me. However, if I have chosen to live a life that is prideful--perhaps not confessing my sins to others, perhaps thinking I'm better than others because my struggles are not the same as theirs (ie: homosexuals)--God will resist me. We must be people of humility if we want to receive grace from God. 
  • meekness - Galatians 6:1 tells us that if one of our brothers or sisters are overtaken in a trespass, we are to restore them in a spirit of meekness/gentleness lest we also be tempted. What an amazing characteristic to put on! When we are meekly and gently correcting and exhorting our brothers and sisters toward righteousness, are we not being extremely pleasing to God? When we are hatefully condemning and trying to 'scare people into heaven', I don't think we are. In order to be like Christ, and in order to be impressive to God, we must be people who are meek. After all, those are the people who will inherit the earth (Matt 5:5).
  • long-suffering - This is a tough one for me. Patience is a learned virtue, and it is one I am still working hard on perfecting. I love the order where this falls in the list, though: "Long-suffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another." It seems the people that require the most patience are either the ones who 1: are so incredibly hard to 'bear with' (ie: put up with) or 2: are the ones who have wronged me and require the most forgiveness. In order to be like Christ, though, and in order to be pleasing to God, we must extend patience to all. After all, God is so long-suffering with me and my continually sinful walk. How can I expect Him to be long-suffering with me if I will not extend the same amount to others?
  • forgiveness - Jesus tells the story of the wicked servant in Matthew 18. After the story, He wraps up by saying, "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." (v.35). Jesus is the standard when it comes to forgiveness (and everything else). The first words He uttered on the cross were "Father, forgive them". Even in the midst of the worst pain and agony, Jesus had a forgiving heart. The scary thing is: if we don't have that kind of heart, God won't extend His forgiveness to us. So, in order for us to look like Christ and impress God, we must be people who always forgive. And not only when it's easy and convenient. There was nothing easy and convenient about dying on a cross. There was nothing easy and convenient about leaving heaven and coming to earth to be tortured. Surely, then, we can forgive others when they call us names or steal our boyfriends or break our hearts or hurt our families. 
  • love - As if the list hasn't been inclusive enough, Paul concludes by telling us to put on love, which we know incapsulates all of the characteristics mentioned (1 Cor. 13:4-8).  However, love appears to be the most important thing. While Jesus showed extreme forgiveness and compassion and long-suffering toward us, love is what brought Him from heaven in the first place. Nails aren't what held Jesus to the cross; no, it was His love for us. If we want to be true Christians and to really 'put on Christ', we must put on that deep, abiding love. 

So if those are the things we're supposed to put on, does it really leave any room for questions? Will I wonder, "hmm, this dress comes a few inches above my knee but, ehh, it's ok." or  "well, this show has a lot of fornication and homosexuality on it, but it's really funny and they don't cuss a lot so I'm sure it's fine." No. We will be seeking out clothes and entertainment and friends and spouses who help us wear Christ well. We won't be involved in the things that cover Him up and put Him to shame. 

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