As my wife and I were cleaning out our bedroom closet for the move to Amherst, my wife, after looking at one of my shirts, put it in the bag marked trash.
“Hey, what a minute, I like that shirt. Don’t throw that shirt away!” I politely proclaimed.
I grabbed it out of the trash bag and looked at it.
“Sweetheart,” (my wife always says “sweetheart”) when she is going to deliver bad news, “Sweetheart, please don’t wear that shirt again.”
Looking at it, I said, “What’s wrong with it?”
Well, she said, “It has a mustard stain on it. It has one button missing, and it’s frayed at the collars and very faded.”
(She failed to notice that it had a hole in it. I decided not to bring it to her attention.)
“And besides,” she continued “I’ve never liked that shirt, anyway. It’s kind of ugly.”
She was right about the stain, the fading, the fraying and the button missing.
“Well,” I said, “I’ll keep it as a work shirt. You know, when I cut the yard or clean out the garage.”
I haven’t seen that shirt in three months.
I guess she got rid of it.
This story reminded me of some great verses in Ephesians chapter 4. Verses 22 – 24 reads, “You did what you were taught, you stripped off your former way of life, which was only getting worse because it is being led astray by the deceitfulness of life; so now, continue to be made new in your thoughts and your actions because you have put on the new self which is created to be like God in righteousness and holiness."
Letting go of things can be hard.
So, let me tell you a few excuses for not wanting to throw away that old, dirty shirt.
First, even though I knew there was a yellow mustard stain on the front, I had fond memories associated with that blob of yellow. I got it while eating an amazing hot dog in Washington DC. But my ever practical wife wasn't having it. Despite my protests, she threw it away. My emotional connection and denial didn’t work.
Awhile back, I was counseling a fellow who everybody knew was an angry man. I told him, “I think you have a habit of getting too angry.” He said, “What anger?” Clearly that stain was evident to others...but no him.
Paul writes in Ephesians, “Strip off the former way of life." The former way of life doesn’t work, not really.
The anger doesn’t work. (It's not a good color for you.) The pride doesn’t work. Bitterness doesn’t work. And, in case you were wondering, if you think you have it. You have it. If someone close to you tells you you have it, you have it. You can deny that you have it, but you have it, and it’s not working for you.
Well, the first excuse didn’t work so I tried another. I said to my wife, “It’s not that bad!” “The shirt’s not that bad!” But to be honest it was that bad. It WAS stained with mustard. And, it did have a hole in it, had a button missing and it was faded.
It was pretty bad.
We can attempt to deny how bad life really is, but the reality is that without Christ, life can get even worse.
People fuss and fight and yell and scream and hit each other. They drink too much to try to kill the pain and party to much to try to find some happiness. The years pass, and it just gets worse and worse.
My third excuse about the shirt was this: I was emotionally attached to it. I'd had it a long time. I liked it. I liked wearing it. I wanted to keep wearing it. But really it WAS an ugly shirt. I needed to find other shirts to wear that looked better.
You know, one that was a better color on me.
One Sunday we were getting ready for church and my grandson came down the stairs dressed for Church in his batman Halloween outfit. He had on the entire outfit -- the suit, the cape, the mask, the gloves, the belt and the boots. A few days before that a young mother asked him his name. He replied, very seriously, "My name is Bruce, Bruce Wayne.”
He really did think he was Batman!
The point is this, you may be emotionally attached to the “who” in who you are – the anger, the bitterness, the sarcasm; it may even be the way you were taught to deal with life; it may be the way your family did it.
But it IS NOT WORKING.
Take it off!
Throw it away!
Romans 13:14 reads “Clothe yourself with the Lord, Jesus Christ.” Ask Christ to come into your life and change it.
You’ve tried other things in this life and found, at least when you’ve been truthful with yourself, that it doesn’t work.
Put on Christ.
He sure looks good on you.
See you next Sunday at Amherst Baptist Church.