Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Clothes Communicate

What we wear says something, before we say a word. Clothing does not identify us perfectly, but it helps identify us. We recognize a policeman, a fireman, a doctor, and others by what they wear.

A "mind the gap" cap tells those who have been to London that the wearer of the cap has also been to London. A Budweiser T-shirt indicates to others that the wearer drinks beer. In both cases, the facts might be otherwise. The cap may have been a gift from someone who traveled to London. The shirt may be a hand-me-down. But the wearer of these items has no one but himself to blame if people take the items at face value.

The truth of this observation goes far beyond travel caps and beer T-shirts.

Mike Royko, columnist for the Chicago Tribune, once wrote about an illogical young woman who walked down the street wearing a miniskirt and then became angry when she thought a man had sounded his car horn at her. She had invited such behavior and then, illogically, taken offense at what she had invited.

What are we saying with our clothes? Many of us have had to wear ill-fitting hand-me-downs at times in our lives. We simply had nothing else. So, of course, we are understanding of those who have nothing else. But what of those who have nice clothes, or could have, but prefer to dress like tramps? It is hardly logical to willingly dress like a tramp and then act surprised that others respond to you as such.

Whether we care to admit it or not, our clothing says something. As Christians, we are commanded to be concerned with what our words, actions, and clothing may communicate. We ought not to be expensively overdressed and thus communicate a love of worldly splendor. Nor should we be underdressed and thus communicate a careless attitude or a lack of concern for morality.

Col. 3:17, 23-24 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ...
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ

1 Tim. 2:8-10 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

1 Peter 3:3-4 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing— 4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'’" Matthew 7:21-23

I had a student once who believed that everyone who claims to be a Christian is one. While that may have been a comforting doctrine to this young man, it is not a biblical teaching. It flies directly in the face of what Jesus said. It is not everyone who says "Lord, Lord," but the one who does the will of the Father, who is approved by God.

Of course, none of us does God’s will perfectly. We are saved by his grace (Eph 2:1-10). We must be infused by his Spirit (Rom 8:9). We do not save ourselves by our works, but the direction of our deeds demonstrate the direction of our hearts (see James 2:14-20). According to Titus 3:11-12 his grace will lead us to repentance, it will train us to renounce sin. If we are not being led to repent, this indicates that his grace is not really at work in us.

In Africa we had a lot of trouble with counterfeit medicines -- pills that were sold as antibiotics that were really just fakes. In America we have a lot of trouble with counterfeit faith in self-granted grace that claims to save but in reality leaves people just as they were before.

Saying "Lord, Lord" proves nothing. True faith in the true grace of God will transform our lives. The "after" picture of our life is not supposed to look like the "before" picture. Christ came to save us from sin, not just from the consequences of sin.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Do We Love Him?

He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" (John 21:17)

There are those who serve for what they will receive, and there are those who serve for the love of him whom they serve. Far be it from me to say that one who serves for the reward is totally wrong. I, like anyone else, appreciate a reward for my effort. But is it only for the reward that we serve? Is it only for the avoidance of the punishment that we follow?

Work done in love is done better than work done merely for a reward. Service rendered for love is of a different quality than service rendered for pay. The one called to "feed the sheep" of Christ is to follow him for love, not for what they will receive.

Yes, we all desire heaven as our eternal home, but why do we desire it? To desire it merely for self is to desire what we would not enjoy, even if we could achieve it with such an attitude. Heaven is a place of eternal praise, and those who go there must go for the love of the one who is to be eternally praised. As one hymn reminds us:

The bride eyes not her garment, but her dear bridegroom’s face; I shall not gaze at glory, but on my King of grace; not at the crown he giveth, but on his pierced hand. The Lamb is all the glory, of Immanuel’s land.

Friday, March 2, 2012

One On One, Or Many Will Never Hear

The following is a true story. The names were changed to protect the guilty.

A friend, whom we will call Joe, recently related an experience that I wish I could call unusual. It was a Sunday morning, worship had just ended, and Joe mentioned to another member, whom we will call George, a recent special event in the congregation. George responded, "When is that coming up, I want to attend." Joe responded, "It was yesterday." George replied, "Why didn’t anyone tell me?"

The event had been repeatedly announced both in the church bulletin and in the verbal announcements. That Sunday before this conversation took place, the fact that the event had taken place was mentioned several times during the service. Yet George was somehow unaware that it had taken place.

There are a lot of Georges in the world. There are many people who are oblivious to everything that is said in the bulletin or from the pulpit. If they are to hear anything, it must be said to them face to face, one on one. For some odd reason, they ignore everything that is said to the group as a whole.

Don’t be like George. Listen to the sermon and the announcements. Read the bulletin. Apply them to yourself.

If you know a George (and I suspect you do), get with him one on one and teach him the gospel. Odds are, even if he has come to worship for years, he has never heard it.