May 2, 2010 Philippians 4:4-9
Something happened when each of the disciples went into that empty tomb. They came out different than when they went in. It is almost as if they came out with a new set of clothes. I want to talk about that change today in our last message in the series about the empty tomb.
Most of you know that my girls have been involved in pageants. Right now Sarah is competing for the crown of Miss Connecticut. She is having fun going shopping with Lori and Rachel. You should see some of the new outfits they bought. Sarah looks stunning in them. Well the truth is that whenever we get something new to wear, it can make a tremendous difference even for those of us who aren’t quite so beautiful.
You see, a new set of clothes, whether it is a suit, a dress, a pair slacks and a shirt, all do something not only for our appearance, but for our attitude as well. When we put on a new outfit, we feel different. When the girls were younger, Lori would always buy them a new outfit for Easter. Lori would buy a new dress for herself and she’d get me a new shirt and tie. The new clothes made Easter seem even more special.
I thought about that and it made perfect sense because scripture tells us that in Christ we are a new creation. There is no better way to show that than to put on a new set of clothes. I don’t know about you, but I have an awful lot of old clothes in my closet. Some of them are worn out. Some of them are too big. Others are, if you can believe it, too small. (Just a side note here: As this contest between Mark Kane and I continues, I just might be able to fit in some of them again!) The truth is that these old clothes are only taking up room in my closet. Instead of throwing them out, even though they are tattered and ill fitted, I keep wearing them.
The truth is that clothes aren’t the only thing we hang onto. Sometimes we hang onto old attitudes as well. That was the problem in Philippi and Paul addresses it in his letter to the church. He tells them at the outset that they have to have a different attitude. They need to live in Christ instead of living in the past.
Since Easter we have been talking about the gift of forgiveness. Jesus died on that cross to take away our sin and give us new life. The problem is that too many of us have carried over the baggage of our old life and it keeps us from truly experiencing all of God’s blessings. So today I want to invite you to do some spring cleaning so you can make room in your closet for our new set of clothes. In order to do that, you need to get rid of five things that often clutter the closets of our lives.
First, let’s get rid of the burden of doubt. The definition of doubt is this: It is the uncertainty of belief that interferes with decision making. If you aren’t sure of something, you won’t be able to make a clear decision.
The truth is that the empty tomb proves that Christ rose. As a result, it confirms everything he said. He died for your sin. You are forgiven. God has given you new life. You never have to worry about being apart from him again. God loves you, there’s no doubt about it. So stop doubting it. Live like a child of God.
President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” Christ has risen. There is no longer any reason to doubt that God loves you. Second, we can get rid of the burden of guilt. Too many of us keep wearing this even though Christ has taken it away. That’s the message of the cross. You were guilty. Once you came to Christ and asked him to forgive you, it is gone. If you haven’t done it yet, it’s never too late. Every sin you’ve ever committed was nailed to the cross with Jesus. He paid the price and you are free now.
I’ve told this story before but I’ll tell it again. Lori and I used to enjoy going into Bee Bee Dairy. One time shortly after Becky was born, we went in for lunch and had a good meal. When I went up to pay, the cashier told us that someone else had already paid our bill. I felt a little guilty about walking out but when I tried to pay it anyway, she said “Didn’t you hear me? It’s already been paid. You don’t owe anything. Just go and enjoy the rest of your day.”
In Act 13 it says “Everyone who believes in Him is free from all guilt and declared right with God.” Now we can enjoy the peace of God in our lives.
The third burden we need to get rid of is that of old grudges. These hurts, that cause us anger and pain, are making us ugly. I have a silk shirt in my closet that I wore when I was in college. I used to wear it to disco dances. It is so ugly, but I can’t seem to let it go. That is how it is with grudges. But God says we need to forgive and forget. We need to remember that even as God forgives us our debts, we need to forgive our debtors.
A few weeks ago we talked about the unmerciful servant. God calls us to share the measure we have received and he tells us that in doing so we will find blessing. You can trust him on that.
The fourth thing we must clean out of our closets is regret. God doesn’t want us to experience regrets in our lives. Instead, He wants to replace regret with hope.
Roman 4:7 says, “Oh what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.”
You see, this verse says that past mistakes, sins, missed opportunities are put out of sight when we are forgiven. They are no longer remembered. We no longer have to dwell on them or bring them up over and over to punish ourselves in our minds. We can remove them, wipe them away, as if they had never happened. Why can we do that? With God’s forgiveness, second chances, third chances, fourth chances, will always be there. Every new day is filled with possibilities. The Prophet tells us that God has a future and hope planned for us.
Alexander Graham Bell said this, “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long as so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that is open for us.” Don’t spend so much time looking back with regret and missed opportunities and mistakes that you miss the door that God has opened right in front of you.
Finally get rid of that burden of fear. For many people this is the heaviest weight they carry. We are afraid of the future. We are afraid of looking foolish. We are afraid of not being successful in our careers. We are afraid of what a financial situation is going to be. We are afraid of commitment. We are afraid of not finding Mr. Right or Mrs. Right. We are afraid of losing our marriage. We are even afraid of death. We have a lot of fear in our life and it is so heavy.
God did not create us to be afraid. We don’t have to be paralyzed with fear because we know God will be there and God will take care of us. When we fall down, God will help us up. II Timothy 1:7 says “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self discipline.”
You see we can get rid of these things because God has given us a new set of clothes. When we step into that empty tomb, we can put on Christ. The Apostle Paul gives us a picture of what that looks like in his letter to the church at Philippi. It is powerful. It is beautiful.
Rejoice in the Lord, always, again I say rejoice. You see God has called us to a new ministry, the ministry of reconciliation. He has sent us into the world to share the good news and to invite people to get to know him. To know him, is to love him. I’ll never forget the day my friend Dave Debowsky went out for his very first job interview after college. He put on his new suit. I asked him how much it cost. He told me, now this was in 1980, $500. He told me he bought two suits. I was blown away. You see my last suit had cost $35 at a Sears two for one sale. I laughed at Dave. You know what he said? He told me that in sales you had to make an impression. How you looked would either make or break the deal even before you said a word. His clothes were his life.
I think that is what the apostle Paul was saying. If you want to work for Christ, if you want to serve him, then you need to be humble. You need to fill your closet with whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable and wear it wherever you go. If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, then it will reflect God and the fact that you belong to him.
God has got a new set of clothes for you and me. Let’s put them on and show the world what Jesus has done for us and what he wants to do for them. Amen