“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14)
Sort of an odd statement, isn’t it? “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Why didn’t Paul say “get in step with” or “devote yourself to” or “obey” the Lord Jesus Christ?
Paul used the imagery of ‘putting on’ something for a couple reasons.
What we wear covers and protects us. It keeps undesired elements (wind, rain, paint spray, poison ivy, sand fleas – you name it) off our skin. Appropriate clothing means harmful or unwanted things cannot get to us.
What we wear also shows something of us to the world. Even those who give the least consideration to fashion have to admit that their wardrobe choices, intentionally or unintentionally, are made with purpose. It may be as simple as to draw attention (get noticed) or to avoid attention (fit in), but clothing selection has meaning.
So our spiritual attire is important. Proper dress matters in our most private moments because it protects us from harmful things. And it matters when we step out in public because it reflects our most basic choices.
Let’s thumb through our closets and see what should and shouldn’t be there.
Writing to a different church, Paul lists some things we should be wearing:
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14).
Makes sense, right? Putting on Christ means being like Christ. So let’s don the things we see in His example.
On the other side, Paul and Peter both give some hints as to the sort of things we need to be rid of:
“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1).
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).
Some of these are blatant enough that they are no-brainers – everyone knows sorcery and orgies should be avoided. Others are more subtle – like envy, jealousy, or dissensions. But blatant or subtle, choosing the wrong apparel can be limiting and enslaving.
So, can it be any clearer what needs to make up our wardrobe and what needs to go to the curb?
One final point, because I don’t want clothing selection to become the main point and result in a legalistic checklist exercise. Remember, we started with the idea of putting on Christ. Our freedom comes from abiding in Him and allowing Him to empower our choices.
We will slip up sometimes. But the question is: were you drawn into it because you had a weak moment or did you intentionally pull it off the hanger?
When Paul says “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” he is not saying that if you fall you are disqualified – just that the consistent rejection of proper attire and choice of ‘trashy’ clothes reflects a heart that isn’t focused on following Jesus.
If you are putting on Christ every day, He’ll help you put on the right things. And the rest of that stuff can be left for the moths to eat.