As the mother of two a 17-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter, I know that clothes are very important to teens. And apparently what I think is cool, definitely is not cool. Long gone are the days when I dressed my boy in cute little plaid shirts and khakis and my girl in pretty dresses. Ultimately my kids just want to fit in with the other kids in high school. They want to look like their friends. They want to dress like their friends.
As Christians it is important that we look like Jesus. We need to dress, so to speak, like Jesus.
But what does it look like to be dressed like Christ? You and I are called to be witnesses to the goodness and glory of God. When people interact with us, they are to see Christ in us. So what comes out of our mouths and how we act should accurately represent Jesus, In other words, we want to be dressed like Christ.
1. You are already dressed like the bride of Christ (Justification)
"I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."
Isaiah rejoiced because he knew God had clothed him with garments of salvation and robes of His righteousness. Isaiah peeked into the spiritual realm and saw his right standing before God, as a child of God, clothed in salvation and righteousness. He was like a groom all dressed up for his wedding day – like a bride dressed in her wedding gown and adorned with jewels.
You and I, as daughters of the King, are spiritually dressed as a bride, pure and white before God. We are wearing the righteousness of Christ, holy and blameless before Him. This is true of us positionally before God.
This speaks to the past tense part of our salvation. We have been saved. This is called justification, which happened the moment you turned to Jesus. Whether you prayed a prayer when you were a kid, or walked an aisle as a teenager, or knelt beside your bed as an adult and made Jesus the Lord of your life, that was when you were justified. At that moment, you were clothed with beautiful robes of righteousness.
So the first answer to our question is this: You are already dressed like the bride of Christ. God sees you as beautiful and adorned with jewels.
But if you are like me, you know that sometimes we don’t always act like the bride of Christ We don’t always act in ways that align with our positional holiness. Sometimes, while we are in these bodies, walking on this broken earth, our sin nature rises to the surface, and we speak and act contrary to the righteousness of Christ. So there is more to being dressed like Christ.
2. You are to continually clothe yourself with Christ (Sanctification)
"But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires."
So even though we are already dressed in robes of righteousness as the bride of Christ, it seems there is something more we need to do. There is a part for us to play in the ongoing work of salvation. We are to put on Jesus. This is called sanctification, the present tense of our salvation. I am being saved. I am becoming more and more like Jesus each day.
Colossians 3:5-14 tells us to put off the old self and put on the new self. We are to change our clothes, spiritually speaking. When I was little, growing up on the farm, we had two sets of clothes: good clothes and play clothes. We wore the good clothes to school and when we got home from school, my mom would always say, “Go change your clothes.” Play clothes could get dirty around the farm.
This is what Paul is saying to us: Change your clothes. Paul describes what the old self looks like: lust, evil desires, greed which is idolatry, anger, malice, slander, filthy language, and lying. Paul says you used to walk in these ways, but now that you are a follower of Christ, these things are no longer part of who you are. They don’t characterize your speech or your behaviour. That’s not who you are anymore.
It’s important to note that the putting off is just as critical as the putting on. As I mentioned earlier, I live in a house with teenagers. Teens don’t always have the healthiest eating habits. My son can make a stack of pancakes dripping in syrup and butter and topped with cool whip for a snack at 8:00 at night, and then when I give him that look, the one that says, “You are going to put all that sugar in your body right now?” he says, “Ok mom, I’ll eat a banana too.” As if the banana cancels out all the sugar he’s consuming!
If you want to eat healthy, you have to stop eating the junk at the same time you are adding good, nutritious foods. One apple doesn’t cancel out a box of Timbits. That’s not how it works.
Similarly, if you are getting dressed for a special event, you first need to take off your sweats before you put on that beautiful dress.
So what does this look like? What does it look like to put off and put on? This looks like holding your tongue when your flesh wants to snap back. This looks like overlooking a minor offense to preserve the relationship. This looks putting away pride before you add humility. There is always a subtraction element before we add Christlikeness
Once we have intentionally put off our old selves, Paul says we have to put on the new self. The new self is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator .Paul is making a subtle reference to Genesis 1:27 where it says that people were made in the image of God. We have the fingerprints of God all over us. We were created to image Him, to represent Him, to be dressed like Christ.
Paul tells us what it looks like to wear the jewels of a bride who is dressed like Christ. He says as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Forgive one another. And above all these things, put on love, which binds all these together in perfect unity.
As we are getting dressed in the morning, that would be a good time to think about what it would look like to put on Christ. How would we respond to our kids if we were dressed like Christ? How would we work at our jobs if we were dressed like Christ? How would we notice that woman who is sitting by herself, or that friend who needs encouragement or that teen who just needs a hug after a hard day at school if we were dressed like Christ?
3. One day you will be gloriously clothed with Christ (Glorification)
"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is."
1 John 3:2
When Christ returns, we will be given new, resurrected bodies. This is the third phase of salvation: glorification.
We have been saved: justification. We are already dressed like the bride of Christ.
We are being saved: sanctification. We are to continually clothe ourselves with Christ.
We will be saved: glorification. One day we will be gloriously clothed with Christ.
This is the Christians’ hope. God will finish what He started. He will finish the work of sanctification in us until we are fully glorified and fully remade into the image of Jesus. We cooperate with Him now as we continually put off the old self with all it’s attitudes and behaviours and put on the new self.
That’s what it means to be dressed like Christ.