Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Taking off the Old and Putting on the New
Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, holy, and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience: Colossians 3:12
In my bible college years, I heard a Bible teacher say that ‘whenever you see a ‘therefore’ in the Bible, you have to see what it is ‘there for’. Here in verse 12 of our Epistle reading, Paul writes, “Put ye on therefore”. Before we can know what to put on we need to see what the therefore is there for.
If you go back to verses 9 and 10, St. Paul says, " ...stripping yourselves of the old man with his deeds, And putting on the new, [which] is renewed unto knowledge, according to the image of him that created him."
Concerning Colossians 3, Saint Chrysostum said that, “Pauls' purpose was to describe the new life incumbent on those who have been baptized.” Saint Cyril said, that the new life about to be described is the life of the baptized.
So first we must understand that before stripping ourselves of the Old man-the selfish, sinful way we naturally think and act in this evil world, and putting on the new which is described in verse 12, we must be baptized. Or as Saint Paul describes it in verse 1 “be risen with Christ” which happens at our baptism as he describes it in chapter 2, “Buried with him in baptism, in whom also you are risen again by the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him up from the dead.” For time sake I will trust you to go back and read Colossians 3 to see the “deeds' of the old man we are to being stripping ourselves out of.
Right now let us focus on the description of those who are to be putting on the new man.
I. The first description is: “Put ye on as the elect of God”
Saint Peter says in I Peter 1:1-2, that God elected us to be His children according to his foreknowledge. This means that He knew from all eternity past those who were going to be His children. Saint Paul also said to the Ephesians in Chapter 1:4 that God chose us in Christ "before the foundation of the world". Long before Adam was even created, God knew each of us by name as His children, and our names were there in "the book of life" (Luke 10:20; Revelation 13:8). These are facts that should give us tremendous security. God knew His children from before the foundation of the world. But we know that we are His children only when we actually repent and turn to Him by grace through faith and through baptism. Our finite minds cannot grasp how God elects His children and yet gives man freedom to choose Him or not. These are like two parallel lines that don't seem to meet in our understanding. But as the mathematical definition of parallel lines is, they meet at infinity - in the infinite mind of God. Someone has expressed it like this: As you walked along the road of life, you found an open door one day, with these words written over it, "Whoever repents and believes in Christ may enter in here and obtain eternal life." You entered in. On looking back, you saw written over the very door through which you had just entered, the words "You were chosen by God in Christ, before the foundation of the world." So the first description of those who are putting on the New Man is they are elected by God.
II. The second description of those putting on the new man is that they are Holy
God is holy and He tells us, "Because I am holy, be holy yourself." But for us, who are human beings, created with a free will, holiness can come only through overcoming temptation; through saying no to temptation. We are not inherently holy. When we are born, we are inherently sinful. In fact, even when Adam was created, he was not inherently holy, he was inherently innocent. He had to choose God and say no to temptation in order to be holy. Now, in the same way, today, to be holy, we have to be tempted. In fact, this is one purpose of temptation. Temptation is not meant to lead us into sin; quite the opposite. It is meant to lead us to holiness. Holiness is like being spiritually healthy and strong. Why do people go to a gymnasium and do exercise there, with bars and weights, and subject their muscle various things like that? Why is all that equipment lying around the gymnasium for? It is not easy to lift those weights and do exercise with all those various things. In fact, it is a strain. Then why do people go through that strain? They are even willing to pay money to go through that strain! You know why? - Because they want a physically fit body. They know that a physically fit body can only come if every muscle in the body is subjected to strain and resistance. So, all that equipment in the gymnasium is meant for subjecting different muscles in the body to resistance. Now a person, whose muscle is not subjected to resistance, will just be an over weight, flabby person. When doctors advises an over weight, flabby person to get rid of his or her fat, they suggest exercise, or in other words, subject your muscles to some resistance. It is exactly the same principle spiritually. We have to be subjected to resistance. We have to have somebody resisting us. And we have to resist in return and overcome in order to be spiritually fit, muscular and strong. In other words, become holy. That is why the Bible says, "Count it all joy, when you shall fall into divers temptations;" (James 1:2). Now that is not the common understanding of how to face temptations. Most people think, 'Oh boy, temptation, I wish I would never face it.' It is like an over weight man saying, 'Oh man, I don't want to do any exercise, it is such a labor, such a hassle.' What is the result? He never becomes muscular. If a Christian would say, 'I don't want to face trials, I don't want to face any temptations,' he will never be a spiritually muscular, healthy Christian. That is impossible.
Holiness can come only if you are willing to say no to temptation.
So what does James says you should do? Consider it all joy. Like the overweight man going into the gymnasium and considering it all joy when he finds these various bits of equipment around him, and he begins to exercise. Gradually the fat melts away from his body and he comes out later, in a year or so, a healthy, strong muscular man. Wasn't that good? Shouldn't he consider it all joy when he subjects his muscles to resistance? It is exactly the same thing that James was saying. Because people have not understood it, they think that avoiding temptation, and avoiding trial is the best way to become Holy when it is not.
So the description of those who are putting on the New Man is they are elected by God, they are Holy, and Lastly:
III. The third description of those who are putting on the New Man is that they are beloved.
One of the root causes of all our spiritual problems lies in our not knowing God as a Loving Father and a Sovereign God. One truth that Jesus gave us that can revolutionized your Christian life is that God the Father loves us just as He loved Jesus. Jesus prayed to the Father, that ".....the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me." (John.17:23) Jesus prayed here that the world around us might know this truth. But it has to grip our hearts first, before the world can realize it.
All Christians believe theoretically in a loving Father in heaven. But the fact that they are often worried and anxious and so full of insecurity and fear, proves that they don't believe it deep down in their hearts. There are fewer still who would dare to believe that God loves them AS MUCH AS HE LOVES JESUS! None of us could dare to believe such a truth if Jesus had not plainly told us that it was so. Once your eyes are opened to this glorious truth, it will change your whole outlook on life. All murmuring and depression and gloom will vanish from your life altogether. GOD LOVES YOU JUST AS HE LOVES JESUS. It's not because you don't fast and pray sufficiently that you are not entering into the victorious life. Victory comes, not through self-effort but through faith. "Faith in what?", you may ask. Faith in God's perfect love for you. Many believers live under the condemnation of Satan who keeps telling them, "You are not fasting enough. You are not praying enough. Your not doing enough ministry in the Parish, You are not studying the Bible enough", the list can go on and on. They are constantly being whipped up by such thoughts into an endless round of activity and into a multitude of dead works. Do you realize that all your self- discipline, fasting, praying, and tithing are dead works, if they do not originate in love for God? And they cannot originate in love unless you are secure in God's love first. Saint Paul's prayer for the Christians at Ephesus was that they might be "rooted and founded in the love and charity of God." (Ephesians 3:16-17).
The world is full of people who are looking for someone to love them. Many Christians go from parish to parish, wanting to be loved. Some seek for love in friendships and some in marriage. But all this search can end in disappointment. Like orphans, the children of Adam are insecure and as a result are again and again overcome by bouts of self-pity. The sad thing is that even after becoming a Christian, many still remain insecure, when there is no need for them to be so. What is the answer to this problem? The answer is to find our security in the love of God. Jesus repeatedly told His disciples that the hairs on their head were all numbered and that a God Who fed the millions of birds and clothed the millions of flowers would certainly take care of them. A greater argument than all of that, is in Romans 8:32: "He that spared not even his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how hath he not also, with him, given us all things?". As God cared for Jesus, He will care for you as well.
In conclusion, as I said at the beginning of my homily, When you get home please read over and meditate on Colossians chapter 3. Notice the things that are to be stripped away and then pay attention to the things that are to be put on. But start by reminding yourself of who you are.
1.Your elected by God-
God elected us to be His children according to his foreknowledge. This means that He knew from all eternity past those who were going to be His children. A fact that should give us tremendous security.
2. You are to be Holy-
God is holy and He tells us, "Because I am holy, be holy yourself." But for us, who are human beings, created with a free will, holiness can come only through overcoming temptation.
3.You are Beloved-
God loves you just as He loves Jesus. He loves you AS MUCH AS HE LOVES JESUS! And as God cared for Jesus, He will care for you as well.