I don’t want to brag (ok maybe I do), I have a group of guys that meet at my house week after week. At our men’s small group, we encourage one another, strengthen one another, sharpen one another, and bear one another’s burdens. I love this group of guys. I pray for my favorite dudes every day. I look at them like brothers, like a band of misfits who belong together. To my real-life brother Nate, and to my brothers in Christ, Travis, Nathan, and Justin, thank you for lifting me up. Thank you for all the talks and the encouragement, and prayer. Thank you for all the great conversations that help me to dwell on the things of God during the week. Thank you for the segway into another great topic for a blog. (Didn’t see that coming, did you?)
Last week we talked about the difference between happiness and joy. There were some great questions. The truth is, happiness is a feeling and feelings can come and go, but joy is something you put on. It is something you choose to wear when times are tough. Last week we had a long discussion about the choices we can make as Christ followers and how they can affect our day to day lives. I have spent countless hours this week thinking about this very subject. And now I want to share some of that truth with you.
We have been misguided by the world to believe that love, joy, peace, fear, anxiety, anger, hatred, and happiness are all feelings. The truth is, happiness is the only feeling in that group. The rest are choices. Love is a choice. Hatred is a choice. Fear is a choice. Anxiety is a choice. Joy is a choice. The difference between happiness and the rest, is that happiness is an emotion not talked about much in the Bible. The rest are manifestations of fruit, born either of the flesh, or of the spirit. And the path to which you choose to bare, is entirely up to you.
Let me give you a couple of quick examples. At this point you know the journey I have been on. (If you don’t check out a few of my older blogs). If you were in my shoes, shaking, trembling, seizures, not working, and no income, would you be happy?! Of Course not! Can you have joy in that situation? Absolutely! Joy is a choice. Joy is the overwhelming knowledge that no matter the situation, God is still sovereign and still in control. That mindset is a choice. I can be unhappy, and still have joy.
Next week I get to spend four wonderful days away from my family, not at an expensive resort or anything, I get to spend four days in a hospital bed tethered to twenty cords attached to my head. There is a part of me that wants to choose anxiety and fear here. That is my flesh talking, but I killed him, he has no say. So instead, I put on power, love, and a sound mind like Paul tells Timothy. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, for God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but he has given us a spirit of power and love and of sound judgement and personal discipline. Abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control (Amplified version). It is a choice to trade the timidity, cowardice, and fear, for a mind that can think without your flesh interfering. You can choose what you put on.
Paul tells us in the book of Colossians that it is our choice what we wear on a daily basis. I’m not talking about your physical clothing; I’m talking about your spiritual clothing here. What are you wearing Jake from State Farm? What is your spiritual closet full of? Are you choosing this day to walk in fear, anger, immorality, sinful passions, evil desire, and greed? Or are you choosing instead to walk in compassion, kindness, humility, and gentleness? And if you are walking less in the spirit and more in the flesh, how in the world, do we make the change? How do we get out of these old clothes and into the new ones? How do we put off the old self, with its earthly passions, and put on the new self which walks in the power of the spirit? I am so glad you asked that question! Its all about choice. Do you want the things this world has to offer or do you want the things God has to offer? What are you focused on?
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
“Then Jesus told his disciples, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Galatians 5:16-17
“Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ (to a new life, sharing in His resurrection from the dead), keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above (the heavenly things), not on things that are on the earth (which have only temporal value). For you died (to this world), and your (new, real) life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life, appears then you will also appear with Him in Glory.” Colossians 3:1-4
It becomes all about choice. What you set your mind on, is how you will walk in this life. If you set your heart on the things of this earth, fleshly things, the you will walk according to the flesh. You will walk in habitual sin, constantly seeking your own pleasure, and desiring fear, anxiety, anger, wrath, sexual pleasure, and the things of the like. But if you present your body as a living sacrifice, renew your mind, seek first the kingdom of God, deny yourself, take up your cross, walk in the spirit, and set your mind on things above; things pleasing to God, then you will find yourself putting on love, joy, peace, patience, and things like this. The choice of what you wear, is all tied to what you dwell on.
If I was to dwell on the fact that I have no money, I am rewarded with anxiety and fear. If I dwell on the fact that God is sovereign and in control, I am rewarded with joy and peace. If I set my mind on earthly things, then I find myself never satisfied and always chasing the pleasures this life can bring. If I set my mind on things above, or the kingdom of God, I am always satisfied. I then chase after the things God has for me and his will, and I am rewarded with kingdom goods, and more spiritual growth. Again, it’s all choice.
I am in love with the Amplified translation of the passage in Colossians three, where Paul tells us how to change our clothing. He says, “So put to death and deprive of power the evil longings of your earthly body (with its sensual, self-centered instincts) immorality, impurity, sinful passion, evil desire, and greed, which is (a kind of) idolatry (because it replaces your devotion to God). Because of these (sinful) things the (divine) wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience (those who fail to listen and who routinely and obstinately disregard God’s precepts), and in these (sinful things) you also once walked, when you were habitually living in them (without knowledge of Christ). But now rid yourselves (completely) of all these things: anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene (abusive, filthy, vulgar) language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another for you have stripped off the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new (spiritual) self who is being continually renewed in true knowledge in the image of Him who created the new self.” Colossians 3:5-10
Paul tells us if we have died to ourselves as we claim we have, then we should be walking in the Spirit. And if we are walking in the Spirit, then it is time to clean out our closet. If we put to death and deprive of power our earthly beings (our flesh), then we should clean out our closet and make room for the Spirit. We cannot call ourselves children of God and walk habitually in the flesh as if we have no knowledge of Christ! We must strip off our fleshly clothing and put on the new clothing, which is the Spirit of God.
What should we wear then? Paul continues “So, as God’s own chosen people, who are holy (set apart, sanctified for His purpose) and well-beloved (by God Himself), put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (which has the power to endure whatever injustice or unpleasantness comes, with good temper); bearing graciously with one another, and willingly forgiving each other if one has cause for complaint against another; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so should you forgive. Beyond all these things put on and wrap yourselves in (unselfish) love, which is the perfect bond of unity (for everything is bound together in agreement when each one seeks the best for others). Let the peace of Christ (the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him) be the controlling factor in your hearts (deciding and settling questions that arise). To this peace indeed you were called as members of one body (of believers). And always be thankful (to God always).” Colossians 3:12-15
When we set our minds on heavenly things, we find that we start to put others ahead of ourselves, when we seek first the kingdom of God, when we renew our minds, when we put the old self the flesh to death, we find we can now walk in the spirit. When we walk with God daily, we choose to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We find we can bear one another’s burdens graciously. We can also forgive and wrap ourselves in that agape love that shows we are his disciples. How you walk and what you chose to wear is entirely up to you.
I choose to walk in the calmness and peace of God. I choose to walk in the Spirit so I will not habitually walk in the ways of the flesh. I choose to put my old self to death. I choose to burn the old clothing in my closet, the things of the flesh. I choose instead to put on Love, Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I ask again, what’s in your closet? What are you wearing? Does your wardrobe look like the world around you, or does it look like the kingdom of God? Do you look the same as the world does, or do you stand out in a crowd? Does what you wear make people thing you are no different from them, or does it make them question what is different about you? These are questions we need to ask ourselves. Take a good look at your spiritual closet. What’s in there, fear, anxiety, self-doubt, anger, and the things of the world? Or do you have a closet full of love, joy, peace, and the fruit of the Spirit?
Maybe it is time to burn some of these old clothes, and ask the father for some new clothing. Jesus says in Revelation, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and slave to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door; I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:17-20
I leave the choice up to you. Continue in your wretched state, clothed in the fabrics of the world, or open the door to the Spirit of God and let him clothe you in white garments. Let him put salve on your eyes, clothing on your body, a ring on your hands, and shoes of peace on your feet. What you wear is up to you. I can’t change it for you. I can just show you the door. I want to make you aware of the sound of the King knocking on your heart. You have let him in. I can’t put on your clothing for you. It’s up to you.