Friday, 15 October 2010
Gospel Workout: Workout Clothes
Gospel Workout Part 4: What kind of active wear do I need for my busy life?
If you’re going to the gym today (or the grocery store, park, or coffee shop), brace yourself–not for the workout, but for what you’ll see.
Stretchy pants. Stretchy tops. And the places where their stretchy coverage fails to reach. I’m not talking about the svelte woman who puts her muscles on display, I’m thinking of the rest of us, who try to cover up but find ourselves exposed. We reach up to grab the handle of a weight machine–or some baby food from the top shelf at the grocery–and the bulge around our waist flashes into view. We bend over to pick up the free weights–or the jug of bleach from the bottom shelf–and a portion of white, never-intended-for-the-light-of-day, skin meets its public.
You’ve seen it. You’ve wondered whether to say anything to the friend or stranger who flashed you. After all, if she had spinach between her teeth, you’d let her know.
In short the wrong kind of workout clothes can leave us exposed. But the gospel that has fed us with the word about Christ, now clothes us as we head out into our day.
The Clothes We Need
When we get dressed in the morning, we typically think about what kind of day we have ahead of us. We select the outfit, including the shoes, that will best meet its demands. Clothes that will allow us to move. Clothes that fit. Clothes that cover us. Clothes that are clean, with no tears or holes. Clothes that free us to do what we need to do.
We’re pretty practical about our choices on most days. We’re dressing for work, not a party. What do we need today?
We’re familiar with the commands to “put off” and “put on.” Paul urges us “to put off your old self” and “to put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:22, 23), and then he gives examples: put away lying and speak truth, put away stealing and do some honest work. It’s a list of vices and virtues that we recognize to be fitting for the Christian life.
Putting off vice and putting on virtue is how a Christian should dress, right?
Not exactly. Paul is actually telling us is to put on Christ.
The Fabric of Our Faith
The fabric of our faith is the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is how Paul says it to the Ephesians:
“But that is not the way you learned Christ!–assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus…to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:20-21, 24).
Put on Christ, the one we were created to look like. That sounds abstract. How do we do it?
Picture a piece of cloth. It is woven of fibers that run vertically and horizontally. Weavers call them the “warp” and the “woof.” Individually those threads are weak. You could break them easily. They might even break when you don’t want them to. But weave the horizontal ones across the long ones–under and over and under and over–and you have fabric that will wear for years and take all kinds of abuse.
The gospel is like fabric. I picture the story line of the gospel–from Genesis to Revelation–as the horizontal threads. They tell me the story of Christ from first whispered promise to earthly mission to glorious return. The vertical threads are theology, the doctrines that explain the meaning of the story. Christ died. So what? Christ died for my sins. Oh, now I get it. Running vertically through the timeline, they stitch together various parts of the story so I can see the connection between, say, the blood of animals and the blood of Christ in the doctrine of the atonement.
The fabric of my faith is my current grasp of the gospel. As I hear the story preached and read it for myself, I weave more gospel threads into my understanding. As I hear and study doctrines of the church from trusted teachers, I add theological threads that strengthen my grasp of the story.
When I “put on Christ,” then, I am consciously wrapping myself in my current understanding of who he is and what he has done for me. He covers my shame. He clothes me with beauty.
The more I learn of Christ, the higher the thread count of my fabric.
Clothed in Christ
I want to motivate us to keep learning Christ. To not settle for Christian principles. To not fixate on Christian morals. Learn Christ, so you can clothe yourself in his gospel each day.
But I also want to celebrate that even this–donning the right workout clothes for the day–is not all up to us. The clothing analogy of Scripture isn’t limited to Paul’s commands, put off, put on! The clothing analogy actually begins when God himself clothes Adam and Eve with animal skins in place of their ignominious fig leaves.
God is the one who clothes us with Christ. He covers our shame. He clothes us with beauty.
“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with jewels.” Isaiah 61:10
These are the workout clothes we are given for all the ordinary days, when we are working out our salvation at the gym or the grocery or office or the home.