Sermon series: What Does Jesus Do For Us?
If we are in Christ, if we have become Christians, a change has taken place. We have had to say goodbye to the Old Man, to Mr. Wrong and all the habits, passions, and practices of the past. And because Jesus has restored our life, because He has given us abundant life, we are new creations, made in His image.
Here in Colossians 3 verses 12-17 we are given clear and cogent instruction on what the new person in Christ looks like. We are told how to live the new life in Christ and what that restored life looks like. A certain and undeniable change should have taken place. That change is not something we have done. It is something Christ has done for us, in us and through us. And as we read and study this passage, we need to remember that the Bible is not a book about people. It is a book about God and His dealings with people - In this case God's dealings with us as His people.
So as we examine this text, let us remember that God is always proactive. He always takes the initiative. He took the initiative in creation, He took the initiative in salvation, and He takes the initiative in our sanctification. God always takes the initiative and then calls upon us to respond appropriately.
Notice five areas where He has taken the initiative to restore us, and the response He expects from us as those who have been restored to fellowship with Him.
I. Because He chose us, we enjoy favor with God (v. 12a)
Paul begins by reminding us of the fact that God chose us or elected us, and therefore we enjoy a position of unique favor with God.
We are Holy - set apart from sin, from the rest of the world, and set apart unto God. We are God's unique creation, His people, chosen to demonstrate His reality to the world in which we live. We were chosen to be different so that others can see His power and glory. He restored us to demonstrate His power to the world around us.
Phillips' translation says because you are "Picked representatives of the new humanity, purified and beloved of God Himself."
Now not only are we holy, or set apart unto God, but we are beloved, or loved by God. It means that God loves us and wants the very best for us.
Deuteronomy 7:7-8a: "The Lord was devoted to you and chose you, not because you were more numerous than all peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But because the Lord loved you . . ."
And Because God loves us He counsels us to put off the old man, the sinful way of life, and to "put on," or clothe ourselves, cover ourselves. It is the same word used in Ephesians 6:14 where the Scripture tells us to put on the armor of God before we do spiritual warfare. But in this context he is telling us to put on certain characteristics that will prepare us for peace, not war. Whereas in Ephesians we are putting on the armor for war, here we are dressing ourselves for a peaceful existence with other Christians. We are to clothe ourselves with garments of the new life in Christ. These are the garments worn by the person who has been changed by Jesus
This brings us to our second observation. Look in verses 12b-14.
II. Because He changed us, we love the People of God (vv. 12b-14)
Paul is clearly talking about unity in the church. He is talking about the kind of harmony that should exist among those people who really love the Lord, among those people in whom the Holy Spirit is living.
Verse 14 sums it up, and the preceding characteristics should all be seen in light of the love God commands us to have for one another. Remember that love is the sash or belt that binds all of these garments together.
A. Heartfelt compassion
This is mercy or sympathy. As Christians we are part of the same family and we should not be indifferent to one another. We should not be cruel, harsh, and cold toward one another. One of the characteristics of a genuine Christian is that he or she possesses heartfelt compassion for other Christians. This is nothing less than feeling towards others as God feels towards them.
B. We are to put on kindness
This is a sweetness of disposition. It is also translated generosity or goodness. A person who is kind has good things to say about others, is considerate of the feelings of others. Their words are tempered with grace and with tenderness. A kind person is not abrupt or harsh but is soft-hearted, and genuinely cares about others.
Everyone of us knows someone like this, someone whose manner and smile communicates kindness, even if they never said a word. This, too, is evidence of the Holy Spirit living inside of a Christian.
C. We are told to put on the garment of humility
This means that we are to submit ourselves one to another. Putting the other person before ourselves, to have a proper estimation of ourselves. It means to be lowly. In God's economy it is the lowly that are exalted and the proud who are brought down. If Jesus humbled Himself, even to death on the cross, we too must humble ourselves.
We live in a world where we are constantly told we must promote ourselves. People today are seeking to "one up" the next guy. Their pride is easily wounded. In this crazy society people even shoot each other if someone disrespects them on the freeway. The Christian should never be possessed by this type of attitude.
It is interesting to me how we have come to understand sin. In many Christian circles mortal sins are always defined by sins of the flesh. Those who drink or smoke, watch R-rated movies, and other such worldly things are looked down upon as the dregs of society. While sins of the heart sins such as pride, arrogance, anger, envy, hatred, and mean spiritedness - are tolerated. Self promotion and boasting may be seen as marks of a "secure" or well adjusted person in the world, but in the church such attitudes create division and discord. Humility enables us to be servants instead of insisting that others serve us.
Remember that God is always more concerned with the condition of our heart for it is the heart that determines the actions and course of our lives.
D. We must put on the garment of gentleness or meekness
It is the willingness to suffer injury instead of inflicting it. What a contrast with the way the world thinks. The world sees meekness as weakness.
Sometime ago humorist J. Upton Dickson said he was writing a book titled Cower Power, and that he had also founded a group for submissive people called Doormats - an acrostic for Dependent Organization of Really Meek and Timid Souls, if there were no objections. Their motto was, "The meek shall inherit the earth, if that's OK with everybody." Their symbol was a yellow traffic light." That's the way the world sees meekness, as weakness. But the Bible says Jesus was meek, and we know He was not weak. Meekness, from a biblical perspective, is strength under control. It takes a greater strength to exhibit meekness than to burst forth with anger and lose control.
E. We are told to clothe or envelop ourselves with patience
This is longsuffering, especially in the face of injury or insult. It is marked by the ability to respond in love when others treat us poorly.
William Barclay writes, "This is the spirit which never loses its patience with its fellow-men. Their foolishness and their unteachability never drive it to cynicism or despair; their insults and their ill-treatment never drive it to bitterness or wrath" (The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians [Louisville: Westminster, 1975], p. 158).
Patience in our own strength is impossible. Patience is not something the world teaches us to practice. In fact, while the world may give lip service to these characteristics in a kind of patronizing kind of way, it looks down upon these traits and ascribes them to weak, timid, insecure losers.
So the question is this: Will we give in to worldly pressures and act like the world, or will we allow Christ to have control of our lives, and live according to His mandates, regardless of what the world thinks?
When we put on these traits two specific things take place:
1. We forbear with one another
That means to put up with or tolerate one another. It can even mean "to endure." Have you ever know those people you simply had to endure. Being around them is never any fun, it is never a joy or pleasure. But we are told to tolerate, to have patience with or endure these people. There can never be unity in the church unless we are willing to tolerate one another. The only way we can do this is through forgiveness.
2. We forgive one another
That's the second thing that happens when we clothe ourselves in these traits - we forgive one another, even as Christ forgave us. Even if you have a valid complaint against someone, forgive.
I have seen people who call themselves Christians who have unforgiving spirits. Their pride and ego was wounded and they cannot bring themselves to forgive another Christian for some offense. One author puts it this way: "Forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt you for hurting me." (Archibald Hart, quoted in James Dobson, Love Must Be Tough.)
To forgive someone involves three things. First, it means to forego the right of striking back. One rejects the urge to repay gossip with gossip and a bad turn with a worse turn. Second, it means replacing the feeling of resentment and anger with good will, a love that seeks the other's welfare, not harm. Third, it means the forgiving person takes steps to restore good relations. (Alexander C. Dejong, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 1.)
For the true Christian, forgiveness may not be easy, but it's not optional either. It is an essential characteristic of the transformed life. Forbearance and forgiveness are never a problem when we are talking about people we really love. Because He restored us to fellowship with Him, we love the people of God even as He loves them..
III. Because He called us, we participate in the peace of God (v. 15)
The word translated "called" means to summon or to call your name, as if you had been summoned to court or to the table of the king. The imagery here is that God has called us out of the world to live in His eternal presence. In His presence there is peace. There is no fighting between His people. If Christians could simply picture themselves in the presence of God, where His holiness, might, splendor, and glory were on display, there would never be any lack of unity or peace between them.
The peace of God mentioned here is not the indwelling feeling of comfort, but rather an external reality that mediates between Christians. What Paul is saying here is that the peace of God should govern our hearts. It should have control of and power over our hearts to the end that as a body we are one.
Don't misunderstand me. There is a right way and a wrong way to have peace. The wrong way is to leave sin unchecked, to compromise truth for the sake of unity, to allow the devil a foothold. The right way is by speaking the truth in love, confronting sin, and forgiving the sinner. But because we are called or summoned into His presence, we are to allow His peace to arbitrate all of our dealings with one another.
IV. Because He counsels us, we build up the family of God (v. 16)
There is much we could say about the word of God, about its promises, its power, its prophecies, its principles and its priorities. But the context of what Paul says here is the instructive nature of the Word of God as we meditate upon it, as we ingest it as spiritual food. He is talking about the fruit that is borne from instruction. That is the richness of the Word, the fruit it bears in our lives.
As it teaches us, we instruct, teach, and admonish one another. The truth here is that we are one other's keepers. We are accountable to God for one another, particularly in the local church.
In wisdom we are to teach and admonish one another. Teaching is the positive side of this coin. It is where we positively instruct one another, where we share insights, truths, and wisdom with each other. Admonition, on the other hand, is the negative side of teaching. It means to warn or to caution others. When you love someone, you do both. You instruct them as to what they should do and you warn them as to what they should not do.
Because God's Word is at home in our hearts, we are to allow it to direct our interactions with one another. We are to allow God's Word to teach us, to counsel us as we teach and admonish one another. And all this is to be done in an attitude of praise and worship, as we give thanks to God for all He has done.
This is fascinatingly insightful. Some people, when they admonish or teach others, assume a condescending or holier than thou attitude. But what the Scripture is teaching us is that our attitude should be one of praise and worship, one of gratitude and thanksgiving.
When you are focused upon praising God, upon worshiping Him, upon thanking Him for all He has done for you, it will keep you in His presence, mindful of His mercy and His grace, mindful of your own unworthiness. It will keep you from having a wrong attitude toward others.
V. Because He cares for us, we cherish the Name of God (v. 17)
Our gratitude causes us to be careful about how we carry the name of Christ. It causes us to be mindful of the fact that we are called Christians, and that our actions reflect to the world the reality of Christ. That's what it means to do something in the name of Christ - to do it on His behalf, under His authority, and according to His will.
Is that wonderful change in your life evident? Has light filled the darkness of your soul? How has it changed the way you treat your fellow Christian? Has His presence given you the ability to forbear, to forgive, to love others more than you love yourself? What change has been wrought in your life? Has your life ever been restored? And if not, why not today?