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The Proper Attire For Worship

Colossians 3:1-17

Jim Davis

Brand name clothes mean something in our world. We believe that Botany 500, Guest Jeans, Gucci, Christian Dior, etc, all say something about the person wearing those clothes. We believe clothes make the person.

We may put too much emphasis on the way we, and others dress. Do we desire to draw attention to ourselves? Do we give to much emphasis to how others dress? Do we seek to judge the church and others by the way they dress?

James 2:1-6
My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? (NIV)

Fine clothes meant something to those listening to Jesus also. Jesus asks those seeking him these questions.

Matthew 11:6-8
Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. (NIV)

Seekers were judging Jesus from a worldly viewpoint. Jesus implied that if they wanted to see someone dressed in fine clothes they should go to kings' palaces. I am not sure that Jesus had a second changing of clothes when he died on the cross. I do know that he didn't have a place to lay his head.

Jeremiah was concerned about those coming before God with only an outward appearance of holiness.

Jeremiah 2:20-22
"Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, 'I will not serve you!' Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute. I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine? Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me," declares the Sovereign LORD. (NIV)

We may want to think that cleanness is next to godliness, but Jeremiah leaves the impression that it may only be a cover up.

God’s Dress Code

God is so concerned about how we come before him that he provides our wardrobe. From the beginning of Mosaic teaching God has revealed the importance of proper attire for worship services. God outlined a dressed code for the priest under Old Testament guidelines. Keep in mind that the following dress code was for the priests who offered the sacrifices that were brought to the temple. They were not for the worshippers.

Exodus 28:37-43
Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron's forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron's forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the LORD. "Weave the tunic of fine linen and make the turban of fine linen. The sash is to be the work of an embroiderer. Make tunics, sashes and headbands for Aaron's sons, to give them dignity and honor. After you put these clothes on your brother Aaron and his sons, anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they may serve me as priests. "Make linen undergarments as a covering for the body, reaching from the waist to the thigh. Aaron and his sons must wear them whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting or approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place, so that they will not incur guilt and die. "This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants. (NIV)

The purpose of the priests dress was much different from our purpose of dressing up for worship services. Their wardrobes signified the dignity and honor bestowed upon them by God (Exodus 28:2-3). Their dress wasn't a fashion statement. God wanted those who brought the sacrifices to the temple to know that the priests offering their sacrifices were clothed with his presence, dignity and power. They needed to know the priests were qualified by God to bear their iniquities as they offered the congregations sacrifices to God. Moses writes, "It will be on Aaron's forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron's forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the LORD."

Zechariah gives us a little more insight into the meaning of the priestly clothing.

Zechariah 3:1-10
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?"

Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, "Take off his filthy clothes." Then he said to Joshua, "See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you."

Then I said, "Put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the LORD stood by.

The angel of the LORD gave this charge to Joshua: "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.

"'Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,' says the LORD Almighty, 'and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.

"'In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree,' declares the LORD Almighty." (NIV)

The removing of the high priest filthy clothing symbolically represented God’s removing the sin of Israel. The rich garments signified that he was covered with God’s righteousness. But it pointed to the day the "Branch," which we now know to be Jesus Christ, would take away all of our sins. It pointed to the day that God would clothe his people with Christ's righteousness. It pointed to the priesthood of all believers in the New Testament.

The beautiful thing about the Christian's priestly wardrobe is that it is designed by God and provided through Christ sacrifice. Today God wishes to clothe each of us in the riches of his grace. The proper attire for worship is Christ's righteousness. Baptism is the place where God clothes us with the righteousness of Christ.

Galatians 3:26-27
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (NIV)

It is not enough just to be properly clothed---Christ clothing must reflect a proper attitude of the heart. We don't come to church to fool people about who we are by the way we dress. We come to be clothed by Christ.

Christ's Dress Code Is Complete

God's wardrobe is not complete until we are completely clothed with Christ through and through. Paul reveals the proper clothing for the Christian.

Colossians 3:9-15
Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (NIV)

In our relationships God wants to clothe us with the compassion of Christ.

Christ was on earth to serve and people were always his first priority. He ministered to the whole person. Churches might want to take an example from a storefront service in a Los Angeles suburb aptly called "The People Place." This helping organization exists to serve people. It offers food, counsel, direction and support. It operates with a small staff and some volunteers. Our deeds and reputation should designate this church as a people place. This is the real reason for our existence as a congregation. Is this the attitude reflected by our budgets, attitudes, and fellowship endeavors?

In our relationships God wants to clothe us with the kindness of Christ.

A Christian lady and two of her friends lived in a lovely residential area near a woman named Ada. All three taught Sunday school and were active in church, but they would have nothing to do with this person because she drank heavily and engaged in loud quarrels with her husband. While they realized she needed the Lord, they were proud and couldn't bear the thought of being seen with her. Then news came that Ada was seriously ill. Although they knew they should help her, they still did nothing, and a short time later this unsaved woman died. At the close of the article the author described her feelings as she saw the hearse in front of her neighbor's house. She wrote, "The silent witness of that body on the stretcher will haunt us for a long time. Could any of us honestly say we cared for Ada's soul? That's why I think we three are Pharisees."

In our relationships God wants to clothe us with the humility of Christ. Pride and domination were the admirable traits of the first century. Humility was deplored much as it is in our world. Our society, has scorned humility as a weakness, replacing it with teachings on self-esteem.

The church has often followed the world's way of thinking. Yet Scripture clearly states that God "detests all the proud of heart" (Proverbs 16:5), and that He "gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5). Jesus' life is a study in humility--the God of the universe came to sinful earth; He washed the feet of sinful disciples as the lowest slave would; then he died the most humiliating death imaginable to benefit wretched sinners. A humble spirit grows when we understand who God is and who we are in relation to Him.

God's grace came through humility.

1 Peter 5:5
Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (NIV)

God's grace is taught to others through our humility.

1 Peter 3:1-5
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, (NIV)

A truly humble person is hard to find. Yet God smiles upon such selfless people. Booker T. Washington, the famous black educator, was a shining example of this truth. Shortly after he took charge of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in an exclusive section of town when a wealthy white woman stopped him. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, took off his coat, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he obediently carried the logs into the kitchen. A servant girl recognized him, and later revealed to her mistress his true identity.

The next morning the embarrassed woman went to his office in the institute and apologized profusely, saying, "I didn't know it was you I put to work." "It's perfectly all right, Madam," the renowned black educator replied. "Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it's always a delight to do something for a friend." She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart. Not long afterward she showed her admiration by persuading her wealthy acquaintances to join her in giving thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute.

I am afraid many of us are like someone said of a man named Harry. "You can't get anywhere with Harry by shaking his hand when he puts it out--you need to kiss it."

In our relationships God wants to clothe us with the gentleness of Christ.

2 Timothy 2:23-26
Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (NIV)

"The Kingdom receives us, Jesus says, because we are willing to care for the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. We are saved because we care for unattractive strangers, annoying relatives, even those who threaten us. We are saved because we allow the mercy of God not just to enter our lives . . . but because we let God's mercy pass through our lives." ("Measured by love" by Jim Forest. Sojourners, Jan 1988. Pages 34-35.)

Have you checked up on yourself lately? Are you gentle when rebuking an erring one? Do you avoid sarcasm and harshness of speech? Do you come to the aid of someone who is having difficulty opening a door? Do you compliment a person who deserves it? If these questions prick your conscience, maybe you need to share more of the milk of human kindness.

In our relationships God wants to clothe us with the patience of Christ. It amazes me at how God put up with human failure throughout the Old Testament. But those stories teach me to be patient as others struggle with God’s will.

Romans 15:1-6
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)

Patience would allow us to get to know people before we pass judgment upon them for how they look and how they are dressed.

In our relationships God wants to clothe us with Christ’s forbearance and forgiveness.

You can't begin to worship without a proper attitude toward others. We can't understand our need of forgiveness without contemplating our need to forgive of others.

Matthew 5:23-24
"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (NIV)

We must think about our need of personal forgiveness. Many years ago John Newton, the converted slave trader who became a preacher and a Christian poet, lay upon his deathbed. A young clergyman of his acquaintance came to see him and expressed deep regret at the prospect of losing so eminent a laborer in the Lord's vineyard. The venerable servant of God replied, "True, I'm going on before you, but you'll soon come after me. When you arrive, our friendship will no doubt cause you to inquire for me. But I can tell you already where you'll most likely find me--I'll be sitting at the feet of the thief whom Jesus saved in His dying moments on the cross!" Although a distinguished man, Newton felt with Paul that he could only class himself among the chief of sinners who have been saved through marvelous grace.

We are to clothe ourselves with God's wardrobe so that the body of Christ can live together in peace.

Colosians 3:12-17
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (NIV)

Do you see how all these attitudes we have been speaking of is connected to worship. "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience . . . . Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."

In these verses Paul is speaking of a music emanating from the heart that goes far beyond the concept of acappella music. We speak of spiritual worship in terms of the kind of music we have in the assembly. Colossians is actually speaking of a music of the heart that must precede any singing we do. Do we ever attempt to sing praises to God and one another without these attitudes? The spirit with which we worship God is the most important aspect of this worship service.

Christians are built up in a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:4-5). We are here to put on Christ (Galatians 3:26-29). Job said, "I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban" (Job 29:14 NIV). Isaiah writes, "I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels" (Isaiah 61:10 NIV).

Conclusion:

Our emphasis on worship in the church has largely been upon how we do things. However, the Bible consistently emphasizes the importance of proper motive. We are to worship God in spirit and in truth.

The Sunday school teacher asked her class to recall the story of the Good Samaritan and then asked, "Why did the priest and the Levite pass by on the other side?"

A little boy answered, "Because they could tell the poor man had already been robbed."

Satan may have already robbed those coming to worship of their dignity; we are not here to remind them of that fact. We are here to invite them to come to Christ just as they are. If we are dressed through and through with Christ’s wardrobe they will get a foretaste of what Christ is all about.
 
 
 
 

 

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