J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Putting on Christ Part 1 of 3

Have you ever noticed how the clothes you wear have the power to influence your mood or even influence the mood of the people around you?  For example, you may have gone to an interview before with your best suit on or your sharpest looking outfit with the expressed purpose of making a good impression.  Perhaps those clothes gave you confidence or perhaps they made you feel itchy but either way, you wore them because you wanted to make a certain impression to someone.

Now, sometimes what we wear or don’t wear is dictated for us.  For example, from 1993 until 2003, I wore a tie every single work day.  I haven’t seen too many of those on me lately.  But when I was a teacher and a sales guy and an office manager, wearing a tie or a suit was essential business attire.  Now, I don’t know about many of you folks, but I give what I wear each day about 15 seconds worth of thought – maybe 30 at best.  Unless there is an event that calls for something specific, the requirements for me are cleanliness (most of the time) and comfortability.

I’m aware not every one is like me or is afforded the luxury of wearing what they want every day.  Some folks take great pains to look put together for their day to either send a specific impression or to just make themselves feel better.  Either way, every one has some routine, habit, pattern, or ritual about the picking out and putting on of their clothes each day.

Well, this week in the book of Romans, Paul is, believe it not, going to address what you put on every day but with a twist.  In the midst of a whole slew of exhortations and commands, Paul is going to command you to put on Jesus Christ, just like you put on your clothes every day.  And we are going to find out that despite God’s promise to never leave us or forsake us, we still need to put on Christ in order to live this life of faith in which we are called.  With that in mind, let’s ask this Big Picture Question this week.

Big Picture Question:  What does it mean to put on the Lord Jesus Christ?

As always, before we try to answer that question, we need to remind ourselves of the context in which this week’s passage falls.  Paul is the middle of making some incredibly practical applications and exhortations about what it means for the believer in Jesus to offer their body as a living sacrifice as a spiritual act of worship.  According to Paul, offering your body as a living sacrifice

  • Means loving people genuinely, hating evil, and loving good.
  • It means blessing those who curse you and loving your enemies.
  • It means meeting each other’s needs within the church and showing hospitality to those who are in need within the larger community.
  • It means being submissive to the authorities that God has placed over you.

13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Now what we have here is one of the few sections in the NT that repeats a large number of the 10 commandments.  Aside from Jesus’ preaching at the Sermon on the Mount, we don’t see much of the 10 commandments in the NT.  Perhaps that’s because the 10 commandments were assumed in the life of the believer or perhaps it’s because the NT is the inspired commentary on the Law and the 10 commandments.  Either way, Paul feels it’s necessary to remind us of the importance of living out these commands of the law now by the power and grace of Jesus Christ.  We get these commands:

  • Do not commit adultery.
  • Do not murder.
  • Do not steal
  • Do not covet

Now I don’t want to just read these commandments and let them fall on your ears like so many other readings of the 10 commandments have done.  Think about how each of those commandments reflect God’s character for a moment.

Why does God care if a husband and wife are faithful?  I mean, why can’t you just have that person at home and that person on the side?  Because God is always faithful.  He never strays from His love of you and His care for you, and He wants you to reflect that in your marriages.

Why does God care if you kill or murder someone whether it be physically or mentally?  Because death is a result of sin and death is the curse of the fall into sin.  The life of the believer in Christ is evidence of God’s undoing that curse of sin.  Murder, whether it be mentally or physically, is a willful return to the curse of sin.  Murder is saying, “Jesus is irrelevant.  Let’s indulge in a sinful, hurting world instead of undoing sin and hurt.

Why does God care if you steal?  Well, any time we steal, whether it be money, time, or fame, we are saying, “Hey God, you are unwise.  You have not properly cared for me.  You are stingy, God.  You should be more generous.”  Hearing those words spoken out loud show their ridiculousness.

Why does God care if you covet?  As you can imagine, coveting is much like stealing yet much more nefarious – I love using that word.  Coveting is stealing someone else’s possession in your mind.  Why would God care about that as long as you don’t actually steal anything?  Well when you covet, you’re stealing and you think you are getting away with it.  Mentally, you are saying, “I’m going to steal this from another person and God will never know (insert Dr. Evil laugh).

Obeying each and every one of those commands shows in them a faithfulness to God and a loving attitude and care towards your neighbor.  That’s why Paul goes on to say You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself and if you are seeking to love your neighbor as you seek to love yourself (and we all love ourselves folks; don’t kid yourself) then you will be fulfilling the law.  Now verses 9-10 are not new.  They are basically quoting Jesus from Matthew 22 when a bunch of Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest law was.  He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  The “shalls” in this passage speak to the way in which we are to love God and our neighbors:  we are to love them with every part of us as if we were seeking their welfare in the same way that we seek ours.  These commandments coupled with the command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves should show immediately both the depth of sin in our souls and the great amount help that is going to be needed to obey them.

But Paul teaches us a new wrinkle in this somewhat familiar truth in verse 8.  He commands us to owe no one anything but love.  Love is what we owe to God and one another.  Now I have to be really careful here as a pastor and I’ll tell you why.  If I use the language of owing something, I’m quilting you into something.  If I guilt you into love because you owe it as a debt, it is no longer love.  But Paul clearly says that there is a debt of love.  Dr. John Townsend describes the dilemma this way in his book, “Where is God?”  “It is impossible to should love.  That is an oxymoron.  Basically, when we feel we have to love someone, we have erased the possibility of love.”  Love is a desire and a choice.  Make it a “have to” and it is no longer love.

So what is Paul saying?  Well, before we go any further we have to understand that this is one of those highly contested verses in terms of translation.  Some folks think it should be translated “Owe no man anything.” Which makes getting a car loan a sin but that wouldn’t be consistent with the rules of loaning and repayment found within scripture.  Some folks split the two commands making it “Owe no man anything (period) and then add “Only love one another” which separates the two ideas offering no connection.  Those translations are possible but they don’t emphasize well enough the intention of the language.  Verse 8 really translates along these lines “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.”

Folks, right now, there are people in your life that you are willfully choosing to withhold and withdraw love and affection.  Maybe you are doing to protect yourself or maybe your doing to punish them.  It’s not love though.  Paul says you have a continuing debt to love one another.  You see, you will never get to the point where you can say that you have loved other people enough, and choosing not to love incurs a debt.  God commands us to love Him and to demonstrate our love of Him by loving our neighbors – in fact Paul describes it in this way:  Love does no wrong to a neighbor.  We don’t add to the love of God love for us by loving either Him or our neighbor.  But we are to love our neighbors seeking only to do them good and not wrong.

What we are doing is reflecting the nature of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.  Practically, any one who claims to be a believer in Christ Jesus, should look around this room, should look around their workplace, should look around their neighborhood, should look around their home and think, “I owe each and every person here a debt of love.  How can I love them better?  How can I love them like Jesus has loved me?  God, how can you help me love them?”

Right now, you can’t turn on the radio or the TV without hearing commercials about debt consolidation or eliminating debt.  The idea is, “How can I most quickly pay off this debt and be debt free.”  Paul would say, “You are never debt free when it comes to love.  You never get to pay it off.  Christ gave of Himself so that you could reflect His love in loving those around you.” Listen to the urgency in Paul’s verse in verse 11

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February 15, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. […] Putting on Christ Part 2 of 3 Part One of this post can be found here. […]

    Pingback by Putting on Christ Part 2 of 3 « J. Gordon Duncan | February 15, 2010 | Reply

  2. […] on Christ Part 3 of 3 Part One of this post can be found here. Part Two of this post can be found […]

    Pingback by Putting on Christ Part 3 of 3 « J. Gordon Duncan | February 15, 2010 | Reply


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