The Pink House at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

A Kansas driver with Florida plates

Identification is important. We carry government-issued IDs to prove who we are and that we have a license to drive a car. You carry a library card to prove that you have a right to check out books. You carry a passport that identifies you as a person who can exit and reenter countries. You drive a car with a license plate that tells what state you’re from and even what county.

Well, the latter is true if you’re driving your own car. If you rent a car? Not so much. Example? Today is our last day in Miami, and we needed a car when we arrived here on Tuesday. So we rented one (a manly Nissan Versa … hamsters included). This car has Florida plates, but the driver is from Kansas. So we’re out on the highway with all the other millions of people who live here, and because of our Florida plates they think our driver knows how to get around in this city. Well … they’re wrong. I’ll let your imaginations fill in the gaps and just say it’s been an exciting couple of days.

Everyone carries identification of one sort or another. But not all identification that we can see is real.

The Pink House at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

The Pink House at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

The verses for today are Matthew 7:21-23.

Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

This is Jesus speaking, and even as a child, this set of verses chilled me. I struggled with my salvation when I was a young teenager because I just wasn’t sure that God had saved me, and every time I would see this verse, I would get really scared. Because how did you know for real if you were saved? What did it actually mean to do God’s will? I thought I was doing it, but was I really?

If I had read this verse in the Message as a child, I might have found some comfort because the context is a little clearer.

Matthew 7:21-23 (The Message)

Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance— isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

Serious obedience. Not just a show but doing what God says to do in Scripture. That’s how you can identify yourself as a Christian.

It’s so easy to sit back and see preachers on television or people doing good deeds all over the world and instantly put them in the Christian category, but I don’t know their heart. Granted, because I don’t know their heart means I can’t say they’re not a Christian; but by that same token, I can’t say they are either.

What matters is that I can say I am.

I don’t want to be that person who presents an image of Christ on the outside but on the inside is only interested in what “being a Christian” can get me. I don’t want to be that person who uses religion to rope people in and manipulate them. I don’t want to be that person who puts on a show. None of that is about Christ, and none of that really makes a difference in peoples’ lives.

Doing what Christ says is the only way to help others. Obeying the Bible. Listening to the Spirit and doing what He says. And being serious about it. Loving others and loving God, and then not only will you know for sure that you are a Christian, but others will know too.

A wardrobe that never goes out of style

As much as we like to deny it, our clothing identifies us. People like to think that it doesn’t matter what you wear and that everyone remembers that everyone is equal no matter how much their outfit cost, but I just don’t think that’s the case. I wish it were.

I’ve never been into fashion. Actually, I have always run away from it screaming. Anything related to fashion, I usually pretend that it doesn’t exist, mainly because I see it as a waste of time. But that’s my philosophy, and a lot of other people don’t feel that way about it. And that’s perfectly fine. That’s just my choice. I have a style that’s my own, I suppose; I don’t know if it’s a good style or a fashionable style, but it’s mine. And I’m perfectly pleased with it. But it’s interesting how the clothes I wear identify me to other people.

The best example I can give is my latest work trip to Florida. I came home to Wichita, and it was freezing. I had expected to get to go directly home from the airport, but it was late and I had to be in early the next day. So I spent the night in town and went to work from my parents’ house. However, I didn’t have my coat. It was still at my house. So I went to work wearing my mom’s coat — which is quite a bit different in style than my own. It’s not ugly by any means. It’s actually very cute — and it’s very cute on her — but on me it just looked odd. I didn’t really think about it, though. It was warm, and I was off to work, accompanied also by a giant blue scarf and a pair of pink gloves. And it confused everyone at work, and they wondered what was going on because I never wear colors like that.

Once I explained that I had left my coat at home and was borrowing my mom’s, they all laughed. Actually, we all laughed. It was really funny. One person I worked with told me, “I thought you were looking a lot more colorful than usual.”

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they were really right. I don’t wear overstated colors and I don’t wear flashy things. That’s just my style. Understated. I prefer it that way. I don’t like people looking at me. And I’m perfectly all right with that. It was just fascinating to me.

So it’s doubly fascinating to read Colossians 3:12 when it talks about putting on clothes of a different kind:

 12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

It’s interesting, I think, that God chooses to use the word clothe in this context, referring to these character qualities like they’re something to wear.

When you wake up in the morning, do you think about what you put on? I do. I mean, I don’t plan out my wardrobe the day before or anything, but I don’t just pick the first thing I come to and put it on. It wouldn’t match and it wouldn’t look right. I have no fashion sense, but I know that much. And, working a corporate job, I have to keep up a certain level of professionalism, especially in my appearance. So I have to think about what I’m going to wear and make a conscious decision to choose things that match.

It’s the same thing with these character qualities. These things aren’t just going to appear in our lives automatically. You have to choose to put them in effect in your life. Mercy is the least automatic virtue in the world. Kindness and gentleness may be a little easier for some people who are just kind-hearted, but I guarantee no one immediately volunteers to be humble. And patience is one of those things that requires a lifetime to build. We have to choose to use each of these things in our lives just as carefully as we select our clothing that we’re going to wear for the day. Why?

People identify you by the clothing you’re wearing. So if you wear these virtues like clothing, people will know you belong to God. And, what’s really nice, is that these traits never go out of style.