September 26, 2010

God's Community of Grace - Sep 26, 2010

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What do you think of when you hear the word “community”? Maybe you think about the neighborhood where you live. Maybe when I say “community” you think of the small town that you grew up in. A town where you knew everyone, and everyone knew you.

Or, maybe you didn’t grow up in a small town, and when I say “community” you think of think of something else. Maybe you think of a church, or a school, or the circle of friends. The communities we are part of aren’t always located near our homes.

The word “community” comes from the word “common”. As in, having things in common. At its heart, community is about sharing. It’s about knowing each other. Caring about each other. It’s about supporting. Giving when there’s a need. It’s about a GROUP of people being ONE.

Today, we’re going to finish our sermon series on the book of Colossians. And as we hear Paul’s closing words, we’re going to see the faint outline of a CHRISTIAN community.

This community didn’t live together in one neighborhood. It’s wasn’t living on the same street that brought them together. These people were separated by hundreds of miles, but they were still one. God’s grace had brought them together.

Now, when I say that God’s grace had brought them together, I don’t just mean that it was God’s doing. When I say God’s GRACE brought them together I mean GRACE in the greatest sense of the word: God’s undeserved love for sinners had brought them together.

These people had come to know and believe the message of the Bible. That all people are damned because of their sins, but because of Jesus all stand forgiven. Through His sacrifice on the cross our debt has been paid. Through faith in Jesus we receive the gift of complete forgiveness. For every sin we’ve ever committed. For every sin we’ll ever commit.

Through faith in God’s Son, these people were brought into God’s community of grace. And in that community, they then shared grace with one another. Let’s read.

Colossians 4:7-18 (NIV)

7Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.
10My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
16After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.
17Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”
18I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

Before we talk about the Christian community we see here, lets took at the individuals pieces of that community.

Verse 7, Tychicus. Tychicus was the messenger sent to deliver Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Later in life he would travel to Ephesus to serve the congregation there.

Verse 9, Onesimus. Here’s an interesting story. Onesimus was the slave of a man named Philemon, who was part of the congregation in Colosse. Onesimus had robbed his master and had run away. Hiding in the bustling city of Rome, Onesimus met Paul and came to trust in Jesus. Here we find him, a run-away slave, returning to his master Philemon because it’s the right thing to do. He carried another letter from Paul, one for his master. You can read this letter, it’s the “book” of Philemon found in the New Testament.

Verse 10, Aristarchus. Once when Paul was in the city of Ephesus, a group of men started a riot because they were angry with Paul. His preaching of Jesus’ message was cutting into their profits from selling silver idols. There was a huge riot and two of Paul’s travelling companions were seized. Aristarchus was one of them. After being grabbed by the angry mob, they were swept into the city’s theatre where the mob chanted “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” (their false god) for two hours. This might have been slightly scary for Aristarchus.

Verse 10, Mark. This is the guy who wrote the Gospel of Mark. He was a cousin of Barnabas and a friend of the apostle Peter.

Verse 12, Epaphras. This is the man who came to faith and then started the church in Colosse. It’s likely that he was also instrumental in bringing Christ’s message to the surrounding cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis also.

Verse 14, Luke. Luke was a doctor who travelled with Paul on his missionary journeys from time to time. He wrote the Gospel of Luke after thoroughly researching the events of Christ’s earthly life.

Verse 14, Demas. Sadly, the only other word we hear about Demas is that he later abandoned Paul and Christ, because he loved the world more.

Now, when you read this section, it’s not hard to tell that Paul and his fellow workers care about the Christians living in Colosse. This last portion of Paul’s letter is dominated by one word: GREETINGS. Remember to say “Hi” to so and so.

Paul even sends Tychicus for the purpose of telling them all about what has been happening in Rome. Paul didn’t want to put this personal update on paper, instead he sent Tychicus to fill them in.

And there’s more than shows their love for each other. Did you notice that Paul specifically mentions that Onesimus is coming with Tychicus and calls him “our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you”. This was a runaway slave returning home. Paul knows it, and softens his reception by his tactful words.

Because they cared about each other, this community also supported one another. Paul says that he has sent Tychicus to tell them about all that has happened, and to ENCOURAGE THEIR HEARTS. Let me remind you that it was nearly 1,000 miles from Rome to Colosse as the crow flies. This wasn’t a trip that was made lightly.

And those who couldn’t make the journey were still supporting the Colossians. Paul says that Epaphras was constantly “wrestling in prayer” for them. At the beginning of the letter Paul said that he was praying for the Colossians also, and he had never even met them!

Sometimes our attitude seems to be, if you don’t have any BETTER way of helping, you can always pray. Maybe we aught to flip that around. Maybe we should think, when we’ve prayed it from every angle, then maybe we can do something else to help. You know, use the power tools first, then the finishing brush?

I suppose that one of the best examples of this community’s support is the fact that Paul wrote this letter in the first place. He took the time, penned the letter, sent the messenger – all to encourage his fellow Christians in the faith.

One of the signs of a strong community is it’s ability to work through inner problems without disintegrating. Its one thing to band together against threats from the outside, its something altogether different to face inner conflict and work things out. This community did that.

Twelve years previous, Paul had a serious disagreement with Mark. On Paul’s FIRST missionary journey Mark had come along, only to turn back at Pamphylia. Paul didn’t think Mark had a good enough reason to turn back and refused to take Mark along on the SECOND missionary journey.

But by the time of Colossians, there are no bad feeling lingering between Paul and Mark. Paul even tells the congregation at Colosse that if Mark comes to visit they should be SURE to welcome him.

In the future they would have more internal problems. Demas would abandon the faith and embrace the world. Who know what damage and pain this would cause in this fellowship. But they would work through it. They were one in Christ, and they would look to Him for comfort and guidance.

Community does not work if people function alone. This is true of the Christian community as well. Look at the Christian community here in Colossians. They didn’t function alone. They considered themselves to be ONE. It wasn’t a bunch of separate people who happened to believe in Jesus. They were ONE IN CHRIST. That meant they were involved in each other’s lives.

How can we care about each other, or support one another, or pray for each other’s needs if we don’t KNOW each other? If we can’t TALK to each other? How can we be UNIFIED if we think the faith and the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ are their own business and not ours also?

This community in Colossians didn’t function alone. They were all about being in each other’s business. Paul says, Hey I’m sending Tychicus to tell you what’s going on here with us in Rome. Paul says, Onesimus, you gotta go back to Philemon. Paul says, Mark, you’re not coming on the second mission. You shouldn’t have turned back. Epaphras is praying for his home congregations like a mad man! All these guys are sending their greetings to Colosse and Laodicea. Paul tells Archippus to make sure he’s doing the work God gave him to do in Colosse. Paul asks them not to forget that he is in prison.

THEY DIDN”T FUNCTION ALONE. It wasn’t, Hey I know my sins are forgiven through Jesus so now I don’t need this community anymore. Not at all. They stayed connected. They worked as a unity.

At the beginning of Colossians Paul wrote,
“1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father” (Colossians 1:1-2 NIV).
Paul began this way, calling them “holy” because they were holy through Christ’s all cleansing blood. Their sins were forgiven, and through faith in Christ they were acceptable to God. Paul ends on that same note. The last verse of Colossians reads,
“I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you” (Colossians 4:18 NIV).
After all this talk about Christian community we need to end on the same note also.

Being part of God’s family does not depend on how well we succeed in living godly lives. I’ve been calling it “God’s Community of Grace” for a reason. We don’t deserve to be in it. But we are, because Jesus’ death and resurrection have made a place for us in this community.

For this, let’s give thanks.

Prayer: Father in heaven, you have drawn us here together to hear your word. To learn of sin. To learn of grace. To know our sins have been erased, and to see our place in your community of grace. Help us to mature in our relationship with you. Help us to mature in our relationship with each other. Open up our hearts toward you and each other. Make us the Christian community you want us to be. And keep us always in Christ, the one who bought us. The one who cleansed us. The one who sought us out and found us. The one who unifies us in peace, forgiveness. Amen.

September 19, 2010

Sharing the Secret - Sep 19, 2010

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We’re nearly to the end of our study of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Last Sunday, we heard Paul give directions about how the Colossian Christians were to act in certain relationships. Paul talked about how Christian husbands and wives should treat each other. How Christian children and parents should treat each other. How Christian slaves and masters should treat each other.

In our short reading for today, Paul gives some more general directions for Christians. Today’s directions don’t hinge on being involved in a certain relationship. What Paul says today is for ALL Christians.

Basically, Paul says, “Christians, you know your sins are forgiven by God because the mystery of Christ has been revealed to you. Now, share that secret.

That’s simple right? Yours sins are forgiven through Christ, now share that message. Simple to say, not always simple to share.

Some people don’t get it. They’ve been brainwashed into thinking that religion is all about how we can EARN God’s love. When they hear the true message of the Bible; that we have FREE forgiveness through Christ’s cross, they just don’t believe it. It’s too good to be true! Nothing’s really free, is it? Sharing Jesus with that person could be difficult. It might take more than reciting John 3:16 and giving them a Bible. You might have to take a couple runs at it before they really understand.

Sharing the secret, isn’t always easy.

The great apostle Paul would have told you the same. Paul was perhaps the greatest missionary in the history of the world, but he wrote this:
“1When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2 NIV).
For Paul, sharing the secret was sometimes nerve wracking.

But Paul got better at it right? Well, after three missionary journeys he ended up in prison at Rome. From Rome, he wrote a letter asking his friends in Ephesus to pray for him. What did he ask them to pray for?
“19Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:19-20 NIV).
Paul still needed God given courage to share the Gospel in a way that was worthy of that message.

In our reading for today, Paul gives the Colossians a little help. He shares the secret, of sharing THE secret.

Colossians 4:2-4 (NIV)

2Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

Paul says, First of all, start with prayer. GOD will lead the way and open doors.

In fact, Paul says a little more than “start with prayer”. Paul tells the Colossian Christians to “devote” themselves to prayer, and to “be alert”, or “watchful” in prayer.

We might think of a military lookout watching for the enemy. With walkie-talkie in hand he scans the horizon. At the first sign of the enemy, he calls in to his superior officer.

Having an open line to our Creator is a powerful tool. Through Christ this line has been opened up to us. It’s not open to all people. With our sins covered by Christ’s sacrifice, we can talk openly with God the Father. Jesus even teaches us to call God “Our Father” in the Lord’s prayer.

Without Christ, we wouldn’t have the right to speak to God. Our sins would render us unworthy. But since stand completely forgiven through faith in Christ’s cross, our prayers ascend freely to God.

Paul knows the Colossians will pray for themselves, and he asks them to include him and his fellow workers in their prayers. Paul says,
“3And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains” (Colossians 4:3 NIV).
Doors need to be open in order to share.

When I sit down with my family to eat dinner and someone knocks on the door wanting to talk about re-siding the house, or putting in new windows – that’s just not a “doors open” time for me. I’m not going to listen. I’m not going to even have a conversation.

People don’t like pushy and rude sharers. They like friends who they trust. People they know ACTUALLY, REALLY, TRULY care about them. One open door for sharing Christ is the open door of true friendship.

I’m pretty sure that if we pray for God to bring people into our lives that we can share Christ with, He will. Or, He’ll open our eyes to people we’ve overlooked, or hesitated to share with before.

Why not give it a try?

Prayer: Father in Heaven, I’ve been hesitant to share you will others. Mostly out of fear of the unknown. Not knowing what they’ll say. Not knowing if I’ll be seen as a pushy religious freak. I don’t want to be afraid. I want to share. Give me the courage to speak up and share Christ. Bring people into my life, and give me opportunities to do just that. Build my faith stronger through these experiences, and keep me in Christ. Amen.

Paul asked the Ephesian congregation to pray for his courage. He also asked the Colossian congregation to pray – for him to be able to proclaim the message of Jesus clearly.
“Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (Colossians 4:4 NIV).

In Paul’s day, the Holy Spirit frequently enabled Christians to perform miracles. One such miracle was speaking in a language which that person had never studied. Sometimes you hear it called speaking in “tongues”. Well, that word “tongues” in the Greek just means “languages”.

Anyway, the Holy Spirit gave this gift to some, but he also gave them the power to control it.

Most people don’t know it, but the Holy Spirit also gave some rules for tongue speaking through the apostle Paul. Basically, He said, If nobody in the congregation can translate what the miraculous language speaker is saying, then that person should be quiet during worship.

Someone speaking in a foreign language wasn’t going to help the rest of the congregation grow in their relationship with Christ. And the same is true when we speak to non-Christians. They’re not going to come to faith if they don’t understand what in the world we’re talking about.

Paul asked the Colossians to pray that he’d preach the Good News of Jesus CLEARLY. So that people can UNDERSTAND it.

I think this is something we need to think and pray about too. How are we communicating to the people around us? When we do speak the message of Christ, are we doing it in language our children can understand? In language our friends understand? In language our neighbors understand?

Before we move on I want to share something encouraging. Paul’s requests were prayed about, and answered.

Check this out. We believe that Paul wrote at least four of his letters while in captivity at Rome. We call them the “Captivity Letters”. They’re Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. It appears that Philippians was the last one to be written because in Colossians and Ephesians Paul asked the congregations to pray for 1) A door to be opened for the message of Christ, 2) For clarity in his own preaching, 3) for boldness in his preaching.

But, listen to what Paul wrote to the Philippians…
“12Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly” (Philippians 1:12-14 NIV).
And at the END of Philippians, Paul writes...
“22All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household” (Philippians 4:22 NIV).
They asked for a door. A door was opened. Even people in Caesar’s own house came to Christ.

Start with prayer. God will lead the way and open doors.

Paul goes on. In verse 5 of our text, Paul says…
“5Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 5:5-6 NIV).
First of all, when Paul says “outsiders” he doesn’t mean that in a bad way. He uses this term for people who don’t yet know Christ because we want o bring them IN to a relationship with the God who created them, with the Savior who took their sins away.

In other words, Paul says that we don’t want to CLOSE any doors that God has opened to us to do this. So be careful in every interaction!

Another way of looking at this is that we’re having an “open house” for God. That means that we are representing Him to the people around us.

Let me tell you about something that happened to me recently. I was on the way home from a class. It was late. It had been a long day. I was driving the church van, and I came to a section of the road that had traffic cones and markers out on it. It was obvious that they were working on the road.

But it wasn’t obvious what you as the driver were supposed to do. It was just a two lane road with cones arranged to move you over into the left lane and a few blinking lights to get your attention.

Since I wasn’t quite sure what to do, I slowed down and then started to creep over into the left lane. Then I realized that there was actually someone standing there in the shadows, holding a stop sign.

I came to a complete stop and rolled down my window. The guy came around to my window, and to my surprise he started to bawl me out.

He said something like, “What do you think you’re doing! You never just drive into oncoming traffic like that! What do you think you’re doing!”

Like I said, it had been a long day, it was late and I wanted to get home. Also, I was irritated that I was getting reprimanded for not seeing him on this dark road, and so I cut him off mid rant. I said, “I don’t need this. Just tell me what you want me to do.”

Well, he motioned me through. But, I couldn’t help but notice as I moved away that he kinda glanced at the side of the van.

As I was driving home I thought, That wasn’t good. That wasn’t the way God wanted me to respond to that guy.

Being wise in the way we act toward outsiders means NOT reacting instinctively. Often our instincts are sinful. Being wise in the way we act toward outsiders means reacting to people with CALCULATED GRACE, regardless of how they’re treating us.

We all know people who have mastered this art. People who never follow their “knee jerk” reaction. People who respond graciously to ANYTHING we say to them. These are the people that we want to emulate and imitate, FOR GOD. For the “open house” that we’re holding in His Name.

Paul says, Let your conversation always be full of grace, as if it were salt. Sprinkle grace around on your conversation.

But how many times haven’t we done the opposite. How many times haven’t we shut doors by our own rude or careless remarks. How do you follow that with Christ? That’d be like me shouting back to that road worker, Hey! Jesus loves you and has forgiven your sin, Bible class at 10, Worship at 11!

Letting our conversation be full of grace means being forgiving others. Speaking kind words. Loving words. Caring words. Un-judgmental words. Putting the best construction on things. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Put the best construction on things? How many times don’t we jumped to conclusions instead? Thinking we’ve got people pegged, when we really don’t know their heart.

Paul says that we should let conversation be “sprinkled with grace” so that we know how to respond to everyone. The way to respond in any conversation is with the attitude of Christ. With an attitude that puts up with other people’s garbage because Christ has put up with OURS! And He still does! Christ forgives our rudeness to Him. He has forgiven us before we even sin and He repays our evils with KINDNESS and LOVE.

If we can learn how to do the same in our daily interaction, then doors for Christ will remain OPEN. Opportunities to speak SPECIFICALLY of Christ’s sin-forgiving grace, those opportunities will appear.

Paul says he wants to proclaim the MYSTERY OF CHRIST. That’s like another way of saying, that he wants to proclaim the GOOD NEWS of sins forgiven through Christ. But Paul uses the phrase, “Mystery of Christ” because this message is something that needs to be revealed to people. They’re not going to wake one morning as go HEY! I think I’ll put my trust in Jesus today! God brings people to faith through His Word and through His Holy Spirit.

We know the mystery of Christ because people in our lives have brought it to us and explained it to us. Whether was our parents, or our friends or our extended family. We know His forgiveness and love because Christ has touched us with that forgiveness and love.

So, lets take that mystery of Christ and lets carry it in our lives. Lets watch out for every opportunity to pray to God for help. Lets showing that mystery to others: FIRST by our gracious conduct, and then with the specific Gospel of Christ: the fact that He died for them too. To take their guilt and sin away. The fact that He lives, so that we will live forever with Him.

Prayer: Father in heaven, thank you for the open line to your throne. We can talk directly to you, because your Son has come to us and made us part of your family. Lord Jesus, thank you for removing our failures and sins, and replacing them with your grace and love. Help us to reach out and give this gift of peace to those we meet. You have sprinkled us with your blood, cleansing us forever. Help us now to sprinkle our speech and our conduct with that same grace.


September 12, 2010

A Reflected Relationship - Sept 12, 2010

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In case you haven’t been here for a while, we’ve been studying through Paul’s letter to the Colossians during our sermon time. We’re past the halfway mark, and nearly to the end of this short book.

For the past couple Sundays, Paul has been talking to the Colossians about Christian living. He hasn’t been talking so much about how their sins got forgiven, he’s been focusing on how to live since they have been.

On the one hand, Paul tells the Colossians to cut old sinful habits out of their lives. On the other hand, Paul tells them to bring new godly ways into their lives, putting on these God pleasing ways like a fresh set of clothes.

Turn to Colossians 3, verse 17. Paul finished last Sunday’s reading by saying,
“17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17 NIV).
You see, God the Father sent His Son to rescue sinners from an eternity apart from Him. God the Son lived and died to erase the record of our sins. The reason we will live forever with God, the reason our sins have been forgiven – is God’s plan, and Christ’s action.

Paul is essentially telling the Colossians, Christ is your future! So let Him be part of your today. The best direction for your life is for you to let Christ bleed into your interaction with everyone. Let your relationship with God’s Son be REFLECTED in your relationships with people.

That’s what we’re going to see in our reading today. Paul is going to describe three human relationships that were present in the congregation at Colosse. And Paul is going to point out how each of these relationships can REFLECT the greater relationship that exists between the Christian and their Savior God.

The first relationship Paul talks about is the relationship that exists between husband and wife in Christian marriage.

Colossians 3:18-19 (NIV)

18Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

The first word that we really want to deal with here is that word, “submit”. It’s kinda one of those words that sticks out in this section. In English it can have lots of different shades of meaning, so, we gotta go back to the Greek.

The Greek word for “submit” is actually made up of two different words put together. The word for “under” and the word for “order”.

This particular verb is a passive verb. So, it’s not something that wives are to do to someone else, it’s something that wives are doing to themselves.

Paul is telling wives, he’s addressing wives: Order yourselves under your husbands as is fitting in the Lord. Order yourselves under. In other words - Put your husbands first.

I don’t think I’ve let you in on a little secret. Colossians has a sister book that is identical in many ways. Colossians is a sister book to the book of Ephesians. A lot of times if you’re not understanding something in the book of Colossians you can open up the book of Ephesians and find a parallel section that’ll fill in the gaps.

That’s certainly the case here. We get a lot of help in the area of husband wife relationships from Ephesians 5.

Interesting thing, in Ephesians 5 verse 21, that same word for “submit” is used. To order yourselves under. Except in Ephesians 5:21 Paul uses this word when addressing the whole congregation, both men and women. He says to them…
“21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21 NIV).
Order yourselves under each other, put each other first – out of reverence for Christ. He says this when addressing all Christians. Then when you look at Colossians 3:18, he’s just addressing this same thing specifically to wives.

Ephesians 5:22 gives us even more detail. Ephesians 5:22 says…
22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22 NIV).
As to the Lord. You see that’s different than in Colossians. In Colossians it says, submit to your husbands as is FITTING in the Lord. In Ephesians it says, submit to your husbands at TO the Lord. Is if your husband was actually your SAVIOR! Put him first in that way.

How’s that for a tall order? How you doing on that one?

Wives, do you see how your relationship with your husbands is to mirror your relationship with your husband? That’s what Paul says here.

This isn’t a make-your-wife-do-what-you-want-her-to-do thing. This isn’t an obedience thing. Paul is addressing the wives here. He’s saying, This is how YOU should order YOURSELVES. He’s not addressing the husbands saying, Make your wives do this.

And the same thing is true when Paul gives direction to the husbands. He says to the husbands, Husbands, this is how YOU are to act. This is how YOU are to order YOURSELVES. Husbands love your wives. And in case you didn’t get that, let me give you another one – DO NOT BE HARSH WITH THEM!

And guess what, the book of Ephesians gives us a little bit more detail as to how we’re supposed to do this. Ephesians 5:25. There Paul says to husbands…
“25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25 NIV).
Husbands are to love their wives with the same intensity and dedication that Christ had for the church. Remember what Christ did before he picked the 12 apostles? He prayed ALL night! Do you remember why Jesus’ family thought He was crazy on one occasion? Because he was SO busy caring for the needs of others that He didn’t even have time to eat! The house that He was teaching in was surrounded, was thronged with people trying to get to Him. And his family thought, This guy’s crazy, He can’t keep doing this!

Jesus was always patient. Always loving. He corrected when it was needed, to be sure. But He always forgave.

This is how a Christian husband is to treat his wife. And again this is for you husbands, not for your wives to make you do. This is only something that you can do.

Husbands, do you see how your Savior’s relationship with you is to impress itself on your relationship with your wife? That’s what Paul says here.

The second relationship Paul talks about is the relationship between parents and children. Verse 20-21…

Colossians 3:20-21 (NIV)

20Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
21Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

The word that we have to deal with first here in this section is the word “obey”. This word is also made up of two parts. The first part means “under” and the second part of this word means “listen”. So, children are to “under-listen” to their parents, or, listen under them.

This is for you children. Paul is saying this is how YOU should live as Christian children. You should listen under you parents.

Now, why do you think Paul says to listen “under” your parents? I think it’s because if we think we’re more important than someone, we usually don’t listen to them. If we really admire someone, if we think they’re the best, then we hear what they say. We repeat the things they say, and do the things they tell us to do right away.

Listen carefully to what your parents tell you. If it’s something to remember then remember it. If it’s something to do, then do it. If it’s something to say, then say it.

This is actually the same way that all Christians are to act toward God. We are to “under-listen” to Him. When we hear His word, if it’s something to remember then we should remember it. Write it on your hand, on the doorposts of your house, on the gate of your yard. Like it says in Deuteronomy 11, verse 18...
“18Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21 NIV).
If the Lord says something we are to do, then we should do it. Not in a minute, or when we feel like it, but when HE says.

If the Lord says something we are to say, then we should say it. Not if it suits us. Not if we were thinking of saying that same thing anyway.

You see, a child’s relationship with parents is to mirror the Christian’s relationship with our Creator God. And, in the same way, a parent’s relationship with a child is to do the same.

Fathers are directed not to “stir their children up” in verse 21. The idea is kinda like poking a dog through it’s cage to get it riled up. Father’s are warned here not to antagonize and aggravate their children just because they’re bigger and stronger. Paul says that if we do this they can become discouraged.

This word, “discouraged” is a very heavy word in the Greek. I want to share this with you parents. In the Greek that word for discouraged is “a-thu-me-oh”. This word is the word “thu-me-oh” with an alpha privative on the front of it. When you add an alpha privative, it’s like adding “un” to and English word. If you’re liked and then un-liked, it’s the opposite. Get it? “Thu-me-oh” and “A-Thu-me-oh” are like that.

“Thu-meh-oh” means to be fired up, to be passionate, to be spirited. When you add the alpha privative it means no more. No more fired up. No more passion. No more spirit. “Discourage” here really means to take away a child’s heart by aggravating them. To cause a child to lose their passion. To break their spirit.

What a cold and empty things to even think about.

God has been ever so patient and loving with us, let us be the same with our children. Disciplining them, yes! But never aggravating them or provoking them. Being patient with them. Allowing them to keep their passion and their spirit and their excitement alive.

The third relationship Paul talks about is the relationship between slaves and masters. Look at verse 22…

Colossians 3:22-4:1 (NIV)

22Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.
4:1Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

One more time we see that our relationship with our Savior God, is to impress itself onto our earthly relationships. Even such a potentially bad one, such as the relationship between a slave and a master.

Paul goes so far as to say, Don’t even look at it like serving your master. Open your eyes. As a redeemed child of God, your actions serve your Savior.

In 1 Corinthians 7, verse 21 Paul wrote…
“21Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave” (1 Corinthians 7:21-22 NIV).
The ways and institutions of this world only last for so long, and then we will stand with our great God in heaven. Until then, the slaves in Colosse were to serve their masters (both good and bad ones) in a Christian fashion, like Paul said, doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Some of the Christians in Colosse owned slaves. These weren’t necessarily evil people for owning slaves. Things were different then. People sometimes would voluntarily enter into slavery in order to pay a debt they had racked up. But if a Christian owned a slave, they were still to treat that person right, with fairness.

Absolute authority leads to abuse of authority. And we can imagine how easily a slave master could begin to treat his slave as less than a person. Just like children can to get bossy and mean when they’re put in charge of others.

Paul directs the slave owners of Colosse to remember, that they have a Master also. They have someone who owns them fully. He’s in heaven. And even though they have sined against Him time and time again, this Master has been loving. He has not abandoned them or beaten them. He has given them peace and forgiveness even though their service to him was lazy and full of holes.

They were to remember God’s relationship with them each time they interacted with one of their slaves.

Paul ended our last section by saying,
“17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17 NIV).
At the beginning of this message I said that Paul isn’t focusing on the Gospel so much here. He’s not telling the Colossians HOW they got their sins forgiven, he’s talking about how to live because their sins HAVE been forgiven. That’s true, but perhaps it’s better to say that Paul isn’t building the foundation of the Gospel, instead he’s building ON that foundation. For each of these direction directs our vision BACK to Christ and our relationship with Him. A relationship of free forgiveness and utter peace.

Our Christian living flows from our faith connection to Christ. Our Christian living is modeled after our relationship with our great God.

Prayer: Father in Heaven, help us to grow in faith. Help us to totally rely on Jesus. Open our hearts to pray. Open our mouths to sing. And open our eyes to ways that we can model our Savior to one another. In each of our relationships show us how to mirror the relationship we have with You. Fill our relationships with forgiveness, understanding, love and peace. Amen.

September 5, 2010

A Whole New You - Sep 5, 2010

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Are there things about your body that you’d change if you could? I think that most people would answer, “yes” to this question. Even world class athletes want to have a quicker first step, or a larger vertical leap. The rest of us would settle for losing ten pounds, gaining a little muscle or smoothing out a few wrinkles.

Maybe it’s not your body that you’d change if you could. Maybe you’ve got some bad habits you’d like to erase. Things that you do, but don’t like to do. Ways that you tend to think, that you’d rather not.

In our reading for today, Paul talks about changes that take place through knowing Jesus.

The Son of God didn’t come to earth to take away a few of our sins. He came to erase the damning record of ALL sin. Ours. Our neighbor’s. He came to erase the sins we might consider “little” AND the sins we consider “unforgivable”.

When it comes to changing the way we live, the scope of Jesus’ work is just as grand. He doesn’t want to change us a little bit, He wants to REDEFINE us. He want to make a whole new you.

For the past six Sundays we’ve been studying Paul’s letter to the Colossian Christians. Today we pick up our study at Colossians 3, verse 12.
“12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14 NIV).
In the first part of this chapter, Paul talked about eliminating the old sinful ways we used to live in. He talked about things like lust, and greed, and rage as if they were extra limbs that grew out of us. He said that since we have now become part of God’s family through what Jesus did in our place, these sinful mutations should now be amputated.

Halfway through the chapter, Paul turns from the subject of eliminating old sinful habits to the subject of putting on new godly ways. Instead of the grim image of lopping of appendages, he uses the imagery of putting on brand new clothing.

Look at the beginning of verse 12. Paul says, Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, etc. This is incredibly important. Paul isn’t telling the Colossians to adopt these new ways of living so that they will then become acceptable to God. He isn’t saying that IF they change their ways well enough God THEN will love them. The Colossians were already accepted by God through faith in God’s Son. Paul calls them HOLY and DEARLY LOVED by God!

God’s Son took all their sins, and all our sins, onto Himself when He suffered and died on the cross. By His excruciating physical and spiritual torment He served the sentence that our sins against God demanded.

The point is, the Colossians were already forgiven through Christ. All this talk of life changes comes AFTER that gift has been received.

In Galatians 3, verse 26 Paul told his fellow Christians…
“26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27 NIV).
This makes all the difference in the world. Paul says that if we try to get forgiven through keeping the commandments we’re never gonna make it. In Galatians 5, verse 4 Paul says…
“4You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4 NIV).
At the beginning of our reading for today, Paul says, Through faith in Christ, your sins stand forgiven. Now, here’s some new clothes for you to put on. This is how God dresses, since you’ve been made His people through Christ, start dressing like Him from this point forward.

So how do we do this? I mean it’s easy to say, “I’m going to make a change today. I’m going to start eating right.” It’s easy to say, “Today, I’m going to stop telling lies.” It’s easy to say, “Today, I’m going to start being patient with everyone I meet.” But without a plan, our grand intentions fail.

So, how do we put these “clothes” on? Paul gives us a clue in verse 13. There he says, ”Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). First we gotta look at our Savior. We gotta see how HE lived in our place. Then, knowing that we are already declared HOLY because of Him, we can move forward and learn to imitate His ways.

Our forgiveness depended on Jesus, and so does our change.

One way to learn how to put all of these virtues on is to discover what the Bible says about each of them. In fact, this is what we did on the camping trip this year. This section from Colossians is actually the part of the Bible that we focused on in our camp devotions. We dug into these virtues. We saw how Jesus modeled them. We dug into the words themselves and discovered what the Bible says about them. Then we talked about how we could incorporate them in our lives, why we WANT to incorporate them into our lives.

We don’t have time right now to go into all of them in that way, but I’d like to talk about the last one for a moment. Look at verse 14 again. Paul says…
“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14 NIV).
Paul says, here put these virtues on like clothes. Imagine they’re like the parts of a suit. You’ve got the shiny shoes, the socks, the pants, the coat, the vest. If there’s one piece that pulls it all together it’s the tie. That’s “love”. It draws all the virtues together. Completes them.

Or think about it like this. We can be patient without loving people. We can act kindly without really caring. But that’s not what God wants. He wants a heart that backs up the action.

Turn to First Corinthians 13. There Paul says…
“1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:1-7 NIV).
If all the virtues of Colossians three are the pieces of a quilt, then love is the backing that holds them together. If these virtues are the pieces of the human body, then love is the muscles and tendons that make them function properly.

And how do we put love on? How do we know what it is and how to put it into our lives? First John 3, verse 16…
“16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16 NIV).
We look to Christ. We see our sins forgiven. We learn to forgive.
We look to Christ. We see His astounding humility. We learn to be humble.
We look to Christ. We see His compassion. We learn to feel emotions of mercy and pity.

Our forgiveness depended on Jesus, and so does our change.

In this first half of our reading from Colossians Paul has spoke of a “new look” for us to put on. Now, in the second half of our reading for today, Paul talks about the new management that runs our hearts.

Turn to Colossians 3, verse 15. There Paul tells the Colossian Christians…
“15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:15-17 NIV).
The “new management” in the Christian heart is Christ Jesus. If you look at this section it says that the “peace of Christ” rules in our hearts, the “word of Christ” rules in our fellowship, and the desire to “live for Christ” dominates the things that we say and do.

Another thread that runs through this section is “thankfulness”. Paul mentions three areas of life: the “inner life” of the Christian, the “church life” of the Christian and the “everything else” of the Christian. And in each area he says, “Be thankful”.

Personally, I like the way Paul speaks in verse 15. He says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”. Another translation might be, “Let the peace of Christ umpire your hearts”. The umpire in a baseball game is the one who calls the plays. His decision is the final decision. He governs what happens on the field. The “governor” of our heart is to be the “peace of Christ”.

Jesus once told His disciples…
“27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27 NIV).
The peace that Christ gives us is peace with our Creator. If we’re good with Him, what is there to fear? Nothing! That’s the fact that Paul says should determine the emotion of our heart in every situation: God’s on my side. I’m at peace with God through Christ’s cross. Heaven is my final destination. My sins are forgiven.

But Paul says that Christ is to rule more than our inner state of being. Paul says that Christ’s Word is to be the foundation of what we say and do as Christians together. Verse 16 again…
“16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16 NIV).
Paul admits that we Christians need to learn, when He says to “teach”. Paul admits that we Christians sometimes need to be corrected when he says “admonish”. But this learning and correcting must be in line with Christ’s Word.

This is part of Redemption’s constitution. If you become a member of our fellowship you agree to be corrected by the Word of God. Not by human opinion, but by the Word of Christ.

Paul says the Christ is to rule us outside the door of this church too. In verse 17 Paul says,
“17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:15-17 NIV)
If we know ourselves, this seems impossible. Doesn’t it? That all we do would point to Jesus? That all we say would make others think, “wow” what a different He’s made in this person’s life”. That’s what we want. But our old sinful nature clings to us. It turns our thoughts from Christ’s sacrifice. It gets us thinking of problems. Our failures. Our sins.

And that’s where we need to return to Paul’s first words in our reading for today. Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved. We are not God’s people because of our track record. We are God’s people because His Son’s perfection covers our every failure.

Prayer: Father in Heaven, we are sinners. We have fallen short of what you created us to be. Without your intervention we would have been lost forever. Thank you for sending Your Son to take our place. Through that great injustice, we have been redeemed and set free. Thank you Father. Thank you. Help us to learn how to live in your image. How to be like You in the things we say and do. Help us to really believe that our sins and failures are erased in Christ, because they are. Re-create us in your image Father, Amen.