Colossians 3:1-17: Living Out the New Life Within Us
1) Colossiams 3:1-4
2) Colossians 3:5-10a
3) Colossians 3:10b-12
4) Colossians 3:13
5) Colossians 3:14
6) Colossians 3:15-16
7) Colossians 3:17
1) Colossians 3:1-4
Colossians 2:13-23: “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it. You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, ‘Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!’? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.”
Colossians 3:1-4: “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.”
All the things Paul taught the Colossians previously fit together and culminate in how God wants us to live. Factual information about Jesus and what He has done for us should have practical effects in our lives. Living in Christ, being in Christ is what Paul is constantly talking about. One-hundred-sixty-four times Paul says that we are in Christ. In Christ is what Paul is all about, so what does that mean? How does that work? Fullness in Christ is this, the same way Christ said it, “Just as you Father are in me and I am in you, may they be in us.” There is a sense that God and I are walking through life together. That is what He wants for us. He came to the garden everyday to be with Adam and Eve to ask, How is it going? To ask them questions and give them a sense of what life is all about. But me being in Christ, that is kind of different and a little bit harder to get a hold of. In Colossians Paul gives us a picture of what it means. He says, “Since you have been raised with Christ.” Raised with Christ? “Raised with Christ” implies something else. That you died. You do not need to be raised if you have not died. What is this “having died”? We have died to our sin nature. That part of us constantly rebelling against God. My heart that is constantly wicked has died, has been placed on the cross so that when God sees me, He sees me in Christ.
Now, with this understanding, “set your heart on things above.” Christ is seated on the right hand of God the Father. And if He is our life and we are safe and whole in Him, we are to set our minds on things above, where He is. When God sees us, He sees us in Christ because one day we shall be like Him; but not yet. We are not worthy of His presence. But we can approach God through and because we are in Christ. But our great transformation is yet future. That great day is when “God’s home [will be] among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them” (Rev. 21:3). I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to that day. We become more like Christ now as we abide in Christ in our personal lives. Or in other words, “set [our] hearts on things above.”
Because I am in Christ, when He comes back I will be pure before Him and fit to dwell in His presence, personally. But now we are in the presence of the Father in Christ, not personally. We are not yet fit for heaven. The Father has promised that will be a reality for those who have repented and received His crucified and risen Son into their lives. Because it is by virtue of being in Christ that we have access to the Father’s loving presence, and to actualize that in our present lives we are to “set our minds on Christ” or “set our minds on things above.” As we do this we become more like Him. It is not by following rules and regulations or mystical practices or ascetic disciplines that we become like Him. We become like Him by looking to Him and wanting to be like Him.
We have been born again and hereby given new life. The life of Christ dwells in us. It grows within us as we look to Him and see Him for who He is and yield ourselves to become like that. And by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit we become spiritually whole and mature in this life. Not perfect, but mature, as Paul was mature in Christ.
Setting our minds on things above should have earthly effects on our lives. The new life we have been given should show itself in our lives. If there are no new-life effects in our lives then we are still dead in our trespasses and sins, in our evil desires and passions. We give witness that we have not accepted that our sins have been nailed to the cross. We crucify Jesus afresh by our denial. God wants us to see life from His perspective, see life through His eyes. To see life through His eyes changes our priorities. God’s priorities are people. Serving and loving and caring for them is more fulfilling than any other job because God is all about people. We can do this in different ways but still have this same focus. That is why all the Ten Commandments are about relationship--between us and our Father, between us and our parents, between you and me and your life and my life. They are about how we can get along with each other. They are all about people. Think how simple the world would be without people. We are the only renegades on the planet. We are the only ones who are stuck in rebellion against God. But our God is big enough to say, “I can fix that and I want to fix that.” And He fixes that by and through Jesus Christ!
To set our minds on things above includes treasuring what He has done for us. What He has done for us in the past was in Him on the cross. What He is doing now for us is in Him seated on the Father’s right hand in heaven. So we are now to set our hearts and minds on things above and doing so will expand our affections and our desires and our focus. To set our hearts on things above will affect what we care about, what moves our spirit. Do you want Christlikeness in your life? Do you want it with a passion that says, “This is going to control me?” When I first met my wife, she moved my affection. To the point where a man who doesn’t like to talk would drive home as fast as he could to get to the house to call her on the phone after he spent three hours with her. Any of you husbands remember those days? Our affection, our desire, our focus. Expand then your devotion, your allegiance and your commitment because wanting that for me is not what it is about because once you grow to really love a person, not just lust for them, not infatuated for them, not wanting to own them, not want them for you, you start to say, “I want me for that.” “I want to give myself, I want to make her smile. I want to make her life full. I want to be for her.” And as a Christian, as a Christ follower, it is not just, I want the cross for me but as you see and understand who God is and what He has done for us and His personal love for you, you say, “I want me for that.” This is what I want to characterize my life--His cross, His life, His plan, His direction, His perspective. That is what God has designed for us.
If you are around church for any length of time you learn to act like a Christian, especially around other Christians. People are always on their best behavior around me. One of my favorite things to do is go visit people in the work place and after a while of me being there, they introduce me as being their pastor and they may say, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” We were in North Carolina a couple weeks ago and there are some dear people there and one of them just went on and on with all kinds of crazy stuff and she does not care what people think and she found out after two days that I was a pastor and she said, “Father, do I need to come to confession to you?” I said, “No, I heard it the first time. But you might take it up with God because He loves you and cares about you and he wants to hear from you and He wants your life to be full.” The things that we do don’t just break God’s rules or guidelines, they break us. When you do or say things you shouldn’t you hurt you. Each time you do you become less than what God wants you to be. Without a God perspective, a God ruling, a God direction, a God understanding, you are just stuck in bondage to the old man passions and desires. Colossians 1:21-23: “This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.”
One of my pet peeves is when people try to scare the hell out of people to get them to go to heaven. I did not marry Katie so I wouldn’t get stuck with somebody else. I married Katie because I loved her, because she moved my heart. God is looking for a response of love. That is why it takes faith. It takes, “I want this.” He offers it to me and a spirit inspired response is, “I want this.” And the Christian life is the same. We grow in Christ as we say to God, “I want this.” And “this” is found in Christ who is seated in heaven next to the Father. We must give Him His proper place in our lives in order to not be half-hearted, or doubleminded as James puts it. To be doubleminded is to go back and forth, back and forth in your faith. You are just stepping in faith and out of faith and you are not really trusting God at all. And you cannot expect any blessing. So, center your mind on Christ. Expand your vision. Say, “Lord, your will be done in me.” What does God want to do in you? Wholeheartedness. Let him shape your heart and your mind. We are transformed in our behavior and attitudes by the renewing of our minds. Renewing is an ongoing process. Our minds are not done being renewed yet, are they? He is still working on mine. He is still working, I trust, on yours. Our minds are not renewed by merely memorizing scripture, although that is quite profitable, but our minds are renewed as we get to know Christ better. “We shall be like Him, [when] we see him [for who He really is].” Set your minds on things above, where Christ sits on the right hand of the Father—where truth and grace are.
2) Colossians 3:5-10a
Colossians 3:5-10: “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”
Because we died to this life (3:3), and as a prerequisite to living the life that is ours in Christ we are to “put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within us.” And what are some of these things lurking within us? Sexual immorality, sexual impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, idolatry, rage, maliciousness, slander, dirty language, and lying. And once we do this, we strengthen and manifest our new nature by getting to “know our Creator and [seeking to] become like Him.”
This message should not be a surprise to you. Anybody have a question that sexual immorality and lying and slander and malice are wrong? I have heard probably one hundred messages in my life on these topics. And they usually go like this. “God says, don’t.” And then a three point sermon is preached. But we still do them. We try harder. We try to straighten ourselves out. “I’ll try harder. I’ll pray more. I’ll read my Bible more. I’ll go to church more.” And that gator still eats your lunch. I want to talk to you differently. I want you to see God has made provision to protect you, to strengthen you and help you rise above the moral and spiritual dangers in this life. First of all, when we read this passage, our first impression is that God hates sex, money, and power. These things can destroy us, so God hates them. So we think. But do you realize that God is not against sex? God invented sex. I mean, read the very first chapter of the Bible. The first command was “be fruitful and multiply.” “Well, Pastor Dave, that is just talking about pro-creation.” Oh no, it’s not. There is so much more. If it was just pro-creation, He would have made us like cows or goats or like the myriad other animals that pro-create only during certain times of the year. No, God designed male and female sexual relationships to contribute to one ‘fleshness’, to draw us together and connect us like nothing else can. It is given to a man and woman to bring intimacy and closeness and specialness to the marriage relationship. So, God is not against sex, just the misuse of it.
And God is not against money. He is the provider. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. All things. He is not against money as a median of exchange, just the over-valuing and hoarding of it.
And He is not against power. Having the ability to help and enhance others is a good thing. But trying to assert self and think all about yourself at the expense of others is a social and moral problem. God wants us to be humble, not proud. He wants us to exercise power for the right purposes, for the right ends, with the right attitude. Jesus sent His disciples into the world to be change agents, to be revolutionary among peoples and cultures. And that is what power is all about—bringing change to a hurting and dying world.
Our Father is not against sex, money, and power, but He is against perversion. Our Father is not against sex, money, and power, but He is against obsession. Taking something that is meant for good and misusing it--using it for wrong purposes or in wrong ways or at wrong times. There are all kinds of things in our world that pull us toward excess and perversion. Excess and perversion can be promoted for multiple reasons. Two of the most powerful reasons are the love of money and attempts to fill that God-shaped vacuum that dwells within the God-empty heart. Look at our sex saturated culture. It is promoted chiefly by our entertainment industry because it sells. They feed sexual excess because once fed it can be economically exploited. People will pay to buy the magazines, the records, the clothes, and whatever else that enhances illicit sexual experience. The truth about sex is this: it is not so much what you do, it is who you do it with that matters most. And God commands that sex is to be between a husband and a wife—that is all. That is God’s best for us. To break this command is to unlease a powerfully destructive force on social and personal relationships. Look at the negative effects of the 1960’s and 1970’s push to separate sex from its marital ties. Oh, sex outside marriage has always existed but we can see what it has done to our culture as proof of its destructive power—stds, high divorce rates, tens of millions of abortions, sexual promiscuity, increasing numbers of sexual assault of women and children, and rampant growth of pornography worldwide that devalues women and children, to say nothing of the song and dance that entertains us, and increasing acceptance of homosexuality as one of the last rungs of the latter in our descent into moral abyss. Thanks 60’s and 70’s for your legacy. But you know, sex was a big deal in Paul’s day, as well. They just didn’t have little blue pills advertised in prime time television so our children can be exposed to it all before they reach puberty. But they did have ways to make sex stronger and more powerful than it was meant to be. So Paul commands us to kill illicit sexual impulse in our lives. And because of what we have in Christ, it is possible.
God is not against money but He is against greed because greed corrupts contentment. We have so much and we want more. We want newer, thinner, faster, shinier. We have so much and yet something in us says, “Well, you would be happier if you had the blue one. You would be happier if you had the low, long, sleek one. You would be happier if you had the louder one. You would be happy if you had a taller one.” Greed never satisfies because our hearts, our souls are bigger than the things of this world.
He is not against power but He is against the abuse that goes with that. The abuse of controlling other people rather than asserting yourself for their good, protecting and healing and lifting them up, but imposing your will and your way upon them is sin. The depth to which humans can sink in abusing their fellow man for profit is astonishing. Human trafficking of men, women, and children for cheap labor and sex is rampant worldwide. It is not just characteristic of one people. It is characteristic of the human race! The total disregard for the human rights of others for profit is indicative of the darkness of the human heart. Instead of power God calls us to gentleness, which is the exercise of strength for the benefit of another.
God is against the perversions and obsessions of sex, money, and power not just because of the hurt they do to the victims but also because of what they do to us as perpetrators. They promise happiness but deliver emptiness and darkness. Sin destroys. It spreads. Sin affects others because we live in a cause and effect world. Sin affects us because we are cause and effect beings. We cannot separate what we do from who we become. Sin corrupts and that is why it will never be allowed in heaven. Those who repent in Christ are in essence asking God to change them. Those who don’t will die in their sin nature and remain unchanged. They remain workers of iniquity and therefore must be cast from God’s presence and His heaven forever. Sin in the forms of sex, money and power sabotage our well-being. They attack joy and peace in our lives. They make us restless.
They are also the death of relationships. Illicit sex will kill a marriage. Greed will kill your business. Power mongering will kill your friendships. Can you think of some friends that you used to have but don’t have anymore because of their anger or their hurt or their resentment because they didn’t get their way because you did something to them that they will not forgive? A power that is not used properly can kill a relationship. God hates these things because they harm people. Moms and Dads, what do you do if some kid gets off his bike and walks up to your kid and hits him, pounds him in the face? You get a little emotional. You get upset. You run to his aid. God feels the same way about us. Sin hurts and He runs to stop it. God is broken hearted for you because of what you’ve done. Upset that you’ve made wrong choices that have hurt so many, including yourself. But if you are a child of God His wrath is not addressed to you. You are not to be cast into eternal darkness. As a believer, we are saved but He is still hurt because we are not living the life He wants for us. It is a mistake to read this passage and come to the conclusion that Paul is telling us to “get cleaner, get better, do the right thing. These are bad things. Stop doing these things. Try harder. Keep trying. Come on. You guys gotta do better than this.” He is saying, “Jesus died for you. Your sins are forgiven. You have been given new life. Look to Jesus and rest in Him.” Living the Christian life is not about ramped up human effort. It is about manifesting the new life God has given us in Christ.
Humans have a remarkable ability to live with their own sin, even the grossest and most destructive kinds. We have to live with ourselves so we justify ourselves. The desire to sin comes first. The irrational justification follows. It is not that we sin because we are confused or do not know enough or think irrational thoughts. Self-justification leads to irrational thinking and excuses. The self perception that says I am just addicted, I am a sex addict, I am a compulsive liar, I am a hot-tempered Italian, this is just who I am, or I am human so get over it, follows the commitment to sin. You perceive yourself in these ways so you can continue doing the things you really want to do. Isn’t it amazing, after all you’ve been through, after all you’ve done, how many times you’ve said, “Ah, I don’t want to do that again” and you’ve done it again? All things are made new when you accept Jesus Christ. You don’t have to be a slave to the old things. New and renew this passage says. God wants to give you a new perception and that is what He has been doing all through this passage. All things are made new when you accept Jesus Christ. You do not have to be a slave to the old things. You used to be this way. Do not be the way you used to be. You once lived in these ways, but God gives you a new life that is not going to hurt you, not going to rob you of joy, not going to corrupt you and kill your relationships. As Jesus said to the woman accused of adultery, “Go and sin no more.” And Paul would add, “Because you have been given new life.”
It is either kill or be killed. And you do not stand much of a chance unless your ear is close to Jesus. Sin will eat you alive. And tear up the most important relationships in your life. You can put a baby gator in your home aquarium but it will not remain in there for long. Even the small sins in our lives can grow and infect other areas of our lives and become unmanageable. The world tells us that we are natural beings in the process of stimulus and response. Every action causes a reaction and we are the way we are because things happened and they pushed us to be who we are. No guilt is involved, just understanding of how someone got to be the way they are. Behavior is relative to up-bringing and culture. There is no such thing as a sin nature, just dysfunctional social systems. But I ask, Who creates the dysfunctional social systems? And how do you explain those who refuse to be shaped and defined by the negative things that happen in their lives? We are responsible for who we become as moral and spiritual beings. And once we become new creatures in Christ, no matter what negative habits we have developed we can put them away.
Sometimes we just need to get out of the swamp. If you are wrestling gators all the time, you need to look at where you are at. You may be living in a swamp. You may be just hanging out where all the gators are because, well, it is exciting there. Sure it is. For a while until they take your life. How do you think you would do one-on-one with a gator? No weapons, no rope, no tape, nothing, just you and the gator, bare handed in a fight to the death? Is that anything you want a part of? Sin is the same way. It will win a one-on-one battle every time. That is why it needed to be nailed to the cross, slain in Christ. So, rise up, get out of the swamp!
There is a whole list of things we are to take off and one thing to put on—Jesus Christ. And recognize, if you are with Him you will not be where you are not supposed to be. But chiefly, if you are with Him you will be open to His blessing in your life. It is about using the power God has given you and walking with Him.
3) Colossians 3:10b-12
Colossians 3:10-12: "Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."
Some define freedom as the ability to do what you want to do when you want to do it. In essence, there is a connection between power and freedom. To have the ability to do what you want to do when you want to do it speaks of unlimited and unrestrained social and personal power. Is that a good thing? No? Yes? Is freedom in Christ like that? Because we are forgiven in Christ, are we free to indulge our desires? In other words, do what you want to do and if it turns out to be wrong, you are forgiven anyway? Some in Paul’s day taught just that very thing. When Jesus says you shall be free indeed, what did He mean?
In the passage we are talking about, Paul uses an analogy of taking clothes off and putting clothes on. Taking off the filthy rags of our old man and putting on the white and clean clothes of the new man given to us in Christ. Taking off and putting on speak of ability to do so—power. In Romans it says our old nature was nailed to the cross with Christ so that our sin nature might lose its power over us so that we should no longer be slaves to sin. Earlier in Colossians Paul gave us the picture of what Jesus has done for us. He took our ledger books, those handwritten books that contain everything wrong we have done and nailed them to the cross. Plus, He took the regulations and the whole Old Testament system that was to control the life of the Hebrew living in Israel and put them to death. As Paul said, that whole system acted like a guardian to both teach and control the life of Israelites to keep them on track for the coming Messiah and fence them in so they do not go astray. As the book of Hebrews informs us, the patriarchal age before the Hebrew system and the Christian age after it are superior to the Hebraic system of law and regulation. Christ’s ministry is patterned after Melchizedek not Aaron. Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek not the other way around. God first told the people He wanted them to approach Him as individuals and that He wanted a nation of holy believers before he gave them the Mosaic system to keep their sinful tendencies fenced in after they refused to accept Him on a personal basis—they opted for a representative system of priests as go-betweens instead. Those who were true believers under the old system understood this and looked forward to the day when they could be set free to live a spirit led life free of rules and regulations--just God and them living in a personal relationship. Jesus told the woman at the well, the Father desires people to worship Him in spirit and truth regardless of who it is and where they live. That has always been God’s desire, always. So when Christ said, “I will make you free,” that is what He meant. And this Colossians passage gives us some particulars about how this freedom can be a reality in our lives.
Open your Bibles to Colossians chapter 3. We are looking at verses 10-12. Paul says, “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, civilized or uncivilized, a slave or [a] free [man or woman], Christ is all that matters and He lives in all [who have received Him and His redemptive work into their lives].” Is that incomprehensible? In that day it sure was. To think that men and women, Jew and Gentile, a slave or a wealthy slave owner are all equal and can spiritually prosper in Christ was a revolutionary concept. Incomprehensible to those who were accustomed to divisions and prejudices between people. The New Testament concept to capture this truth is The Body of Christ. All peoples who are in Christ are in His Body and are all equal before Him.
And what is to characterize His people? Holiness. And what does holiness look like? We are to put on merciful, kind, humble, gentle, and patient behaviors. The idea of ‘putting on’ speaks of behavior. Things you choose to do. The idea of ‘putting off’, as we saw in previous verses, speak of behaviors we choose not to do. And what should motivate us to holy attitudes and behaviors? Verse 12a: “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves …." There are three things here I want you to notice—God chose, holy people, and He loves.
Jesus and Paul are talking about being transformed. To be transformed is to be changed from one thing into another. Biblical transformation has both active and passive components. God makes us more like Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. But we get involved in that process as we yield to and enact behaviors consistent with whom Christ is. And this enacting is true and pure if it is motivated by our gratitude for being chosen by God to be His people, His holy nature and His love for us, not any attempt on our part to raise ourselves up to make ourselves worthy in His sight. It is all about grace not merit. It is about us resting in His grace and walking in it in our daily lives. We are transformed by God as we choose to yield to the new nature desires within us. That is where ‘putting on’ the new nature is an active verb. It says, you have to do something. It comes down to you have to choose to live differently. And a new nature-will that has been affected by the Holy Spirit will choose to live differently.
There is a subtle difference to be noted here. This is not a “God will help those who help themselves” philosophy. That is Ben Franklin. This is “a new nature-will that has been affected by the Holy Spirit will choose to live differently” philosophy. Our task is to judge ourselves to recognize new nature thoughts and desires and old man thoughts and desires. Sin is a choice to recognize and allow old man desires to rule the moment. Holiness is a choice to recognize and allow new man desires to rule the moment.
Put on your new nature is active. Be renewed is passive. Be renewed is a passive participle and means that someone is continually doing something for you. Spiritual renewal is a continual process. It is an ongoing process of becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. We need to learn to know our Creator, to relate to Him, to learn about Him, to study His way with men and women as revealed in His Word. Creation reveals some things about God. But not enough. History is full of people imagining about God. He is like this or like that. Some might be correct but it ends up being just one opinion among many, and most likely lost in the shuffle as our sin nature interprets for us. Why do you think idolatry is so popular? Truth usually, eventually, gets overrun by error or wrong doing because that is who we are apart from Christ.
God wants you to transcend your history. “But I am always doing it. I have been this way since I was a kid. This is who I am.” But Jesus says, “But this is who I am, become like Me.” I came across a letter this week and it was big in the news a couple years ago. A guy named Jordan Anderson wrote it August 7, 1865 to his former slave owner in Big Spring, Tennessee. It says:
“To my old master, Colonel P. H. Anderson. Sir, I got your letter and was glad to find that you had not forgotten old Jordan and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this. Although you shot me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear anything about you being hurt and glad that you are still living. It would do me good to go back home again and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Alan and Esther and Green and Lee. Give my love to them all and tell them I hope we will all meet in a better world if not in this one. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working at the National Hospital but one of the neighbors told me that your son Henry was still intending to shoot me if he ever got the chance. I want to know particularly, though, what the good chance is that you propose to give. He’s referring to the letter that he had gotten from Anderson saying I will give you a good chance, do better than anybody else can for you. I am doing tolerably well here. Right now I get $25 a month with vittles and clothing and have a comfortable home for Mandy and the folks actually call her Mrs. Anderson. And the children Millie and Jane and Gundry, well, they all go to school and they are learning well. The teacher says that Gundry actually has the head of a preacher. They go to Sunday School and Mandy and I attend church regularly and are kindly treated. As to my freedom, which you say I can now have, there is nothing to be gained on that score because I got my free papers in 1864 from the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be rather afraid to go back without some proof you are disposed to treat us justly and kindly. So, we’ve concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to just send us our wages for the time we served you and this will make us forget all the old scores and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for 32 years and Mandy for 20 years. At $25 a month for me and $2 a week for Mandy, our earning amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for our time and wages that have been kept back and you may deduct whatever you paid for our clothing and for three doctor’s visits in 32 years and for pulling out Mandy’s tooth. Please send the money by Adam’s Express, care of V. Winters, esq. Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for the faithful labors in the past, we have little faith in your promises for the future. In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for Millie and Jane who are now grown up and both good looking girls. You know how it was for poor Matilda and Kathryn. Also please state if there are any schools open for my children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education and have them form virtuous habits. From your old servant, Jordan Anderson. P.S. Say howdy to George Carter and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.”
Here is a man who knew what freedom was and wasn’t and then was again. What would you give for your freedom? What do you hold onto rather than being free? Do you hold onto your past and the things you have done in the past and the habits you have developed, things you cannot seem to break free from? In this life, it does not matter if you are Jew or Gentile, the past is past. It is water under the bridge. It is spilled milk. You cannot get it back. It is gone and it is nailed to the cross. He asks, today, “Can I give you a new life?” You may have accepted Christ as Savior a long time ago but He wants to give you a new life starting today. He wants to give you a fresh start, today. Those things that are in the past are still in the past. They may be from just yesterday, or they may be from when you were in junior high, but they are past. You can start fresh. It does not matter whether you are Jew or Gentile, what your racial background is, what your religious background is, or what your social status, because you are now a son or daughter of God. Transcend your history. Christ is all that matters and He lives in us. Can you capture that? I know you are happy that He lives in you but He also lives in others, as well. To each one of us, He gave His Son showing His eternal investment in us. I mean, all the stars, all the gold, all the diamonds, mean nothing to Him apart from Himself and His Son and He wants to give Him to you. This is personal. He wants you to be His, to bear His mark, to be His child. God has chosen you personally and purposefully to be His holy people. What the ‘holy people’ means is to be on purpose for Him. It is to set ourselves apart as special for Him.
God tells us we are dearly loved. That should bring inspiration to your life. There is a lady named MaryAnn Bard that was born with multiple birth defects. She was rejected by most people. She was deaf in one ear, and had a cleft palate, a harelip, her face was disfigured, with crooked nose, lopsided feet, she could not even walk straight. As a child, Mary suffered not only the physical impairment but also the emotional damage that goes with other kids ridiculing her. Her worse experiences were always at school. And the worst day for her was always the annual hearing test when she had to stand up in front of the class and they could watch her and look at her and see what she could and couldn’t do. To avoid the humiliation of ridicule, Mary would carefully cup her hand over her good ear instead of covering it and that way she could hear what the teacher said. And the teacher would whisper things like “the sky is blue” or “you have new shoes.” One year Mary was in the class with Mrs. Leonard. Mrs. Leonard was a typical elementary teacher and she was large and round but she was also one of the most beloved teachers in the whole school. But then came the day of the dreaded hearing test and when her turn came, Mary walked apprehensively to the teacher’s desk. And as Mary carefully cupped her hand over her good ear, Mrs. Leonard leaned forward to whisper, Mary writes, “I waited for those words, I wanted to hear them and wanted to get them right.” But that day she heard different words than she expected. Mrs. Leonard did not say, the sky is blue or you have new shoes. What she whispered was, “I wish you were my little girl.” Oh, dearly loved. That is what our Father whispers to us. I mean, actually, He shouts it from the cross. As you reflect, this is not about simply learning some new information. This is not simply about Bible study. It is about letting God speak and move in your heart.
As God’s people, chosen, holy, and dearly loved we are to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience not just for us, to benefit our personal lives, but to represent Him to the world. Who do people see in you and through you? These things are tough but they are fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of Don, or Dave, or Dan, or whoever. We are to let God work His compassion, kindness, gentleness, and patience in us. Your character is important. More important than your job, more important than your bank account, more important than anything. Your character is how God relates to you. Your relationships are at stake. Your Savior’s reputation is at stake.
It is a choice, folks. What choice leads you back into slavery? You say, I am just so hopeless. With Jesus you are not hopeless. Will you choose your past or His future? If you keep making the same choices you have always made, you will always get the same thing you always got. But choose with God and start walking into His future. To do so is to seize upon a plan and a vision He sees, a hope and a dream that He has for you even if you do not understand them fully. You will get to heaven, but you are going to miss out in this life, in these days, the fullness God wants to give your life. If you are stepping back and refusing to move forward, I want you to see that you are trading Jesus in for something else. For what are you trading Jesus, the most precious thing in the universe? What are you selling out for? I hope you start to hate that thing. And start loving Jesus more!
4) Colossians 3:13
Colossians 3:13: “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
Life is full of storms. Jesus said, “You will always have trouble in this world. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” When the rains fall, we want to get out of the way but we must recognize that rain brings new life. It is not just something that causes problems. It is what brings new life. It prepares for the future. And when the lights flash and the thunder roars, let your spirit soar because you see the power and the majesty of God. Amid the storms of life, you are not alone. You know, when spiritual storms come you have a choice. You can either become a victor or a victim of the storm. It depends upon where you stand with God. The greatest potential victim in history was Jesus Christ. The cross tells us that Jesus was not a victim but He was the victor because He committed Himself to God. He did not run but faced what God had for Him and He saw the power of God. The cross reminds us that we have a God that is with us in a broken world. All things were made by, through, and for Christ. This universe, our world, was created with grace in mind. We don’t have to run from storms but by His grace we can live through them, bringing good out of them. I call it redeeming the storms. Does that move your heart and soul, to know we have a God that is with us amid our brokenness, a God that can bring newness to all situations? It is not like all the people coming together and singing Kum ba yah, and then away they go with God and life is great again. And they lived happily ever after. No, I don’t find that anywhere in my Bible. What I find is a lot of trouble and strife and a God that works in hearts and lives and overcomes that. And as people stay faithful to Him, He works and does magnificent, miraculous things. We have a God that is bigger than our problems. We have a God who is walking with us. We have a God who has a future for us. He does not write fairy tales. He writes adventure thrillers. Adventure thrillers are fun to read but you don’t want to live them. They are scary, they are hard, you just do not know what is going to happen. But that is what makes it so wonderful and that is when God shows Himself to be real in our lives. When we read a thriller we do not know how it is going to turn out so we read with anticipation one chapter at a time. Not even a chapter at a time, we read one page at a time. But not even a page but one paragraph, one sentence at a time. Spiritually, sometimes we need to read just one word at a time because life is tough.
I do not know how it is going to end for all of us. It is not my story. It is His. And so we need to read His story one word at a time and sometimes the words are so difficult we have to sound them out one letter, one syllable at a time to know what we need to do next. People ask me, what are you going to do? You may be thinking, what are we going to do as a church? I do not know. What is God’s will? Do we know that? Yes, we do know what God’s will is. God’s will is that we be His people and be His church. Sometimes you do not know the specifics of what to do, but generally God tells you very clearly what to be. And that is what being clothed in Christ is all about.
Open your Bibles to Colossians 3:13. “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” This passage is part of the whole focus on how we live in Christ, letting Christ live in us and through us to the world. We complain about a lot of things. And if you have a complaint against somebody it often starts out as just a grievance, some kind of a slight, or a broken promise, something that somebody has done that grieves your heart. For some of us, when someone hurts us, when someone says something we do not like, we get sad. It hurts our feelings. Some of us get angry. “What right do they have to say that?” Some of us just walk away and avoid it. The Bible tells us to forbear those things, because if you do not forbear them, those grievances turn into grudges. The hurt feelings, the sadness, the anger you have, the wanting to avoid the person turns into depression, bitterness, and isolation. And if you get enough people making you sad, depression becomes a real part of your life. And if you are angry all the time, you get bitter at this stupid world. And if you avoid people enough, you get isolated.
You know, I have told some of you I have often dreamed of getting a Peterbilt and driving across the country, by myself. I would turn off the radio, the CB and not listen to a soul and then God’s spirit says, “Yea, and what would that accomplish?” You can get into, what I call, ‘swimming in Satan’s spiral’, just going down, down, down. That is not what God wants for us. He says “forbear.” That word forbear is not a common word for us, but I want you to look at what it means. “For” means taking something in the place of someone else and “bearing” means carrying it. Forbearing, them, is to carry something for someone else; to carry someone’s burden when you do not have to. You voluntarily carry a wrong or weakness without bitterness or retaliation. I carry on with the relationship despite the hurt. For-bearing. You are carrying for them. You are making up for, if you will, their insensitivity, their neglect, their something that happened. But as we will see later, it must be undergirded by love or resentment will creep in. As parents we know we have to carry a lot for our kids. Parents are called to forbear for their children. To forbear means to put up with personal injustice for the sake of the relationship.
Forgiving means that you give for them. What do you give? You give up your right for justice. “They hurt me and so it’s only fair. The Bible says an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, does it not? So, I can tooth them right back.” And that is in the Bible. And that may be good for governments but that was not Jesus’ instructions for our personal relationships. That was a code for legal justice in the Old Testament because the human heart is capable of great evil and crime. Jesus says, forgive. How many times? 70 x 7. You do not even keep score is what it means. And so you give up your right for personal vengeance. As a society, to protect the innocent and make criminals accountable, there needs to be penalties for wrong doing. You cannot, as a society, say to the murderer, “70 x 7 for all your killing,” and expect to provide a safe place for people to live. The same goes for the thief, robber, con man, extortionist, etc. But personally, we are not to mistreat someone because of the wrong they have done to us. If it is a legal matter, we let the law run its course, rightly so, but if we come into contact with that person we treat them with respect, not punishing them with our own brand of justice. To forgive them does not mean to enable them in their wrong doing—Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more.
Okay, now let us see how all this fits. Is the relationship with that person worth more than the issue that they are discussing or an issue that has offended you? As God’s people, we belong to Him. Our heaven citizenship is in Him. We have a helper, we have a healer; we are not alone in this. The first part of verse 14 says, “clothe yourselves.” The whole thing of putting on clothes is to cover yourself so that you are protected and that people see Jesus when they see you. Clothe yourselves says you have a choice. You get to choose your clothes; you choose how you respond to every situation. You get to choose to respond with anger, or bitterness, or with forbearance and forgiveness. Clothe yourselves in His wardrobe of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (v. 12).
Compassion means that you care about how they feel. Kindness means you express that care to them. Humility, you talk to them and relate to them without degrading or demeaning them. Gentleness, you do not overwhelm them with your goodness or your strength or who you are. And patience means you do not give up. All those things are His wardrobe. Because again, more important than what we do is how we do it. God’s will and doing God’s will is not just doing God’s will. It is doing God’s will in God’s time and in God’s way.
Jesus says, “forgive as I have forgiven you.” As a Christian, do you realize Jesus forgave you before you asked? The sins that you commit, once you have accepted Christ as your Savior and are committed to Him and are His child, you do not ask forgiveness for eternal judgment sake. It is covered. You ask forgiveness to restore relationship. You ask forgiveness so you can look Him in His face and smile with a clean heart. You ask forgiveness so He can bless you and strengthen you and walk with you. Because if you are still carrying stuff He says, “You are not open to me. You are not listening to me.” So as Jesus has commanded, forgive as He has forgiven you. It is real easy to say, “Well, if they come and ask me, I will forgive them. I will be big about it.” That is what the world says and that is absolutely natural. “If you say ‘I am sorry,’ I will say, ‘never mind, it is okay.’ Until you do, I have that written down.” God says, “You know, I know him and he is never going to say he is sorry. So I want you to forgive without being asked.”
God wants His grace to blossom in your life and these things hold you captive and kill your joy. What is at stake with all this? Your life. Not just your existence, but your life. A life of peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness. A life that is lived in light of God. That is what is at stake. Do not forgive them only because you want to be a good Christian because God tells us to forgive, which is right and good, but forgive so you can be free from anger, resentment, slander, and lies. To be free of those things so you can live with joy and the peace of God in your heart.
“Father, we are here, we are broken but you are the healer. We are lost but you are the guide. We are weak but you are the helper. We are barren but you are the provider and so in our brokenness we rejoice we have a God who meets us right where we are and holds out a new story, a new future, a new plan with your power, with your grace and with your love and with one another. Though we rely upon you to build us as your children, to unite us as your church and to walk and lead the way for us as we depend upon you. Lord, guide and strengthen us to be kind and compassionate and humble and gentle and patient with those around us that they might see Jesus when they see us, might experience your kind of love through us to know that you are alive and working in your people. In the strong name of Jesus we pray, Amen.”
5) Colossians 3:14
Colossians 3:14: “And to all these [add] love, which is [the] bond of perfectness.”
I want to give you not only the tools for love but I also want you to know that you have the power for love as it says in Ephesians, “He is able to do immeasurably more than you can think, dream or even imagine by his power working in you.” I want you to sense that power and see how love works in our lives. You have probably heard a dozen messages on love. Love one another, love God. We have one job to do, one major job and that is to be the loving people of God. We are commissioned to make disciples but we are also called to be lovers of God, lovers of each other, and lovers of the world around us. Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore as God’s people.” If Jesus is your Savior, that includes you. We saw a couple weeks ago that if you are God’s person then you represent Him to the world around you. If you are judgmental, they see God as judgmental. If you are vindictive, they see God as vindictive. If you are kind and compassionate, they see God as kind and compassionate. We are called as God’s people to represent God to the world. We are called to His service, to be characterized by behavior that points to Him, for His purposes and goals. Because of who He is and His love for us, we get to be a part of what He wants to do.
When talking about love, I have heard preachers say there are three words for love--agape, phileo, and eros. And they mean different things. And you respond, “Uh, ok,” and it gets kinda cloudy. The word here is agape. It is to have a commitment for the other’s best interest. In my mind when I think of people, I do not think of those three terms. I think, “I tolerate them, I like them, and I love them.” There is a difference there. I mean, there are people we tolerate, right? Uncle Stan; our next door neighbor who plays music way too loud. There are people we tolerate, people we forbear. We do not take offense. We let those things go because the grievances and anger is just going to hurt us. So we tolerate them. I do not feel like loving them. I do not like them. I do not like what they do but I will tolerate them out of love for God.
And then we have people we like. I was trying to think of a definition for liking. We like people, usually, who are like us. We like people who have similar purposes, who value some of the same things we do. We like people who are like us. But you know, the Bible never calls us to like one another. It steps way over that. It says, “love one another.” Do not let your evaluation of other people be based on whether they like what you like. God did not look down from heaven and say, “Oh, Gary, you are just so cute. I am going to send my Son to die for you. I just cannot help myself because look at you, you have such a great smile.” He did not send Christ because of a giggly feeling inside. He sent Christ because He was committed to Gary’s best interest.
As we talk about loving one another and loving God and loving our neighbors, are we committed to their best interest? See, to love God is to be committed to what He is interested in, to what He cares about. And God really does not give a rip about Chevys or Toyotas or Fords. So that is not what my life should be about. If it is, then I need to change and get things rearranged to the right priorities. And at the core of that is commitment to the best interest of people.
So let us look at what that means. The same way that we choose what we wear, we can choose how we act. We choose our character by the things that we do. When God calls us to love one another, He is not telling us to follow our feelings. It is a choice of obedience. To love one another, to love God, to think of His best interest and our neighbor’s best interest, and one another’s best interest is a commitment of obedience to God. I choose to obey. I choose to be committed to their best interest. I obey because I serve Him. The voice inside your head that says you are in control of you and you will do what you want is a self-serving voice. Your will is your master. Part of being a Christian is surrendering our wills to God and His way of doing things. “Now I have my ideas, Lord, but I want your ideas to become my ideas. I will trust you for my best.” Choose your master. Think of who you are listening to, who you are letting be your master rather than God because I know the voice in my head sometimes is not the Holy Spirit. My own selfishness, my own fear, my own concerns sometimes drown out the voice of God in my life. Sometimes we are too accepting of our own ideas and feelings. Sometimes we even mislabel them as from the Holy Spirit when they are not.
"And to all these [add] love...." This is a command. This is an active verb that says this is something you need to do. It says “[add] love” because you cannot live a Christian life without it. We are to love God, love one another and love our neighbors. That is core to who we are to be. If we attempt to make disciples and do not do it with love, we are making a team that has forgotten its head, forgotten its leader. Love ties, or bonds, all the virtues together. Think of the virtues as tools to be used in the appropriate situations, as tools for the right job. If you pull out the Philips screwdriver to adjust a clamp on a hose, you are in trouble because it is the wrong tool for the job. You need a bladed screwdriver for that hose clamp. If you pull out a bladed screwdriver to fix a door knob, you are going to be in trouble because you need a Philips for that job. God will give you the right tool for the situation if you seek Him in it. By definition, there are many virtues. And each can be applied excessively (ceases to be a virtue) or deficiently (ceases to be a virtue). How can we determine when a virtue ceases to be a virtue? This Colossians passage says that love is what binds virtues together. Love when rightly enacted prevents us from wandering into vice but calling it virtue. Briefly, look at the list below. It will give you an idea of what I am describing.
Look at the virtues and their corresponding vices below (Skeen):
Vice Virtue Vice
dependent interdependent autonomous neglectfulness helpful paternal gullible cautious suspicious docile tenacious obstinate unfeeling fair capricious vacillating firm stubborn restrictive friendly overfamiliar careless analytical perfectionistic austere sober dissolute easily distracted diligent obsessive combative cooperative solicitous pliable resilient inflexible self-indulgent health-minded body-minded wasteful conservation-minded miserly self-oriented civic-minded others-oriented cowardice courageous rash obsequious principled dogmatic reckless secure invincible pretentious ambitious ruthless disorganized organized rigid sectarian loyal slavish indifferent supportive submissive pessimistic optimistic permissive low self-estimation self-confident arrogant ascetic temperate licentious impulsive patient over-enduring shameless modest shy There are three things I want you to notice about the list above. First, each virtue, the middle column, is bounded by two ways to error. Second, each virtue needs to be balanced by the other virtues in order to prevent vice. Third, depending on the situation certain virtues may actually clash with other virtues to see which one might have more, but not total, relevance to that situation. It is a complicated balancing act. We have to constantly check ourselves, to examine ourselves. We struggle with this because we are not inherently good. All the virtues when taken together describe goodness and they are bound together by love.
Mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and forgiveness are the virtues given to us in previous verses and all these things are to be bound together by love. Why did Paul choose these virtues to highlight as especially important to the Christian life? 1) Because they are distinctly needed in the church's outreach to a lost and hurting world, and 2) That is how we can more show Christlike qualities to the world around us. As the above list shows, there are other virtues that we need to be concerned with, but these especially stand out as capturing the heart of Christ toward a lost and hurting world.
Love holds everything together so you can have what you need, when you need it. On Thursday, you are going to need some patience. You are not going to be able to say to your wife, “Honey, wait an hour. I will have some patience then.” You want to have it with you when needed. When an opportunity comes to express kindness, you cannot drive away for an hour and come back and expect that person to be there waiting for kindness to be expressed to them. It needs to be with you when needed. We are to put on love so we have all the spiritual tools needed for any given situation.
6) Colossians 3:15-16
Colossians 3:15-16: “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.”
The peace of Christ is a phrase we often hear. In fact, some churches get up and they share “the peace of Christ.” What does that mean? Well, they get to say “howdy” and shake hands and greet one another. The phrase the “peace of Christ” is only used one time in Scripture? The peace of God is only used one time in Scripture. And there is one other time where Jesus says, “My peace,” so I think you can take that to mean the peace of Christ. We are going to look at all three of those.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in you since as members of one body, you are called to peace and be thankful.” My dream, my hope for myself and for you is that you walk from this place knowing that the peace of God is real and possible for us. It says in Philippians. “Do not worry about anything. Instead pray about everything.” Catch the contrast there. “Stop your worrying” is in the active verb tense because the natural thing to do about things is worry, so we actively have to combat that, oppose it. Instead, pray (active) about everything.
Tell God what you need. Why should I bother doing that? Does not God already know? Yes, He does. Then why do I tell Him? You tell Him so that you know He knows and then you see His answer. If you do not tell Him and things work out, then, we think, “Oh, that worked out just great. That was good fortune,” versus, “I prayed and saw an answer.” That is why it tells us to thank Him for all He has done. Thankfulness is one of the keys to the peace of God. Because when you see His history, His faithfulness in the past, you are motivated toward faithfulness now. When we thank Him for all He has done, the peace of God that transcends all understanding, human understanding, that does not make sense to men, will guard our hearts and lives.
The peace beyond understanding, what does that mean? Are you healthy, wealthy, and wise? You have all three of those things going for you? You have good health, so you are not bothered there; you have the money you need to take care of all the bills and plenty saved for the future, so you are not bothered there; and you know how to make good decisions and plans and you have things pretty much under control, so you are not bothered there, either. And then you start thinking, “I am doing pretty good. I do not need God.” It reminds me of the story Jesus tells us about the rich farmer who tears down his graineries to build new graineries. “I have it all together here. I think I am going to do this to get more.” And God says, “Oh, you fool.” But see, if you miss any one of those things, if you are wealthy and wise and are laying in Waterman Hospital, your peace is going to be challenged. If you are healthy and wise, but you cannot meet this month’s mortgage, you are going to have some stress or somebody in your household is going to have some stress. If you are healthy and wealthy but you do not know what to do, you do not know what is going to happen, you are probably going to have some stress. Your peace is going to be sucked out of you. Do you see how fleeting worldly peace is? But this is saying when you are sick, poor and stupid, God will give you peace. Not when you miss one, but if you are missing all three.
You know people missing all three? They are sick all the time, they never have enough money for anything they want to do, and they make some very foolish choices. Here is the grace of God. God loves them, too. He comes alongside to support. And that should be good news for all of us because we all live in this world. We sometimes think, “Well, if I can just get some of these things shaped up then it will be better. If I can just get to next month, if I can just get a little more.” It is never going to stop. You have to base your peace on the peace of God and that is what will guard your hearts and minds. The heart is talking about your feelings. An anxious, restless heart can affect your thinking—anxious heart, anxious (and sometimes irrational) thinking.
I do not know how many of you read Thursday’s “Jesus Calling,” but it talked about all the things that clutter our minds and hearts and how they overwhelm us. Anybody feel overwhelmed with things that trouble your heart or is it just me? There is a lot of troubling stuff in this world. Guard your hearts and minds because you do not know all the things that might happen this week. But here is what I know I need to do now. I need to do the next right thing. You cannot do everything all at once. So just ask yourself, when you’re feeling overwhelmed, “What is the next right thing?” Jesus was pretty explicit about that. “Do not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow has enough trouble in itself. Do not worry about tomorrow but trust in God. Look what God does with all the birds. Look at the fields. Look at the flowers. They’re here and gone. Don’t you think He cares about you?” That is Jesus talking.
Besides the passage we are looking at, Jesus says, in John, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give you as the world gives so do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” He had just talked about the Holy Spirit coming to them. “I am going to send you a helper and He is going to bring you peace.” He left us a gift--peace of mind and heart. “The peace I give is a gift the world cannot give to you so do not be troubled, do not be afraid.” So we are clear what we are talking about, What is the peace He is talking about here? He is not talking about absence of war, an absence of stress and discord. The peace of God is different than that. The peace of God is faith in the fact that you are in His hands which generates feelings of security, hope, and joy. “But I feel scared, I feel alone, I feel lost.” God knows that. But you are not alone and you are not lost. So let that fact affect your faith and how you feel. Are you controlled by feelings or by facts? We have a God that cares about our lives and wants to be involved in your and my life. You believe the fact that you are in His hands and then that generates feelings. “Wow, if God is for me, who can be against me? If God is for me, who can be against me? That is security! “Oh, maybe tomorrow will be okay. Maybe we can get through this. Maybe God will help us get through this.” You see, it just went from security to hope to joy. The sense of the peace of God is a product of faith. Faith in facts that rule your feelings. I pray that you might have faith and you might grab a hold of the truth of God’s promises, the truth in His Word, and that rules what you think and what you feel. That is why it says pray and tell God what you need and thank Him for it. Then the peace of God that transcends all things will guard your heart and mind.
It is not surprising that the peace of Christ has the same definition. Faith in the fact that I am in His hands which generates feelings of security, hope and joy. But what is the difference? A simple way of saying it is how a little girl put it one time--Jesus is just God with skin on. Faith is rooted in the facts that He knows and loves us. Faith is rooted in the fact that He understands my weakness because He was a man and He had to deal with people and He didn’t know where tomorrow’s meal was going to come from. And yet He died for me. It is faith in the fact that He will take me to be with Him forever. It is rooted in who He is. Our peace should be rooted in who He is not in how I feel or how much optimism I have. It comes from faith that is rooted in Him and what He has done. Christ has restored us to God and that gives us a relationship so that we are never alone. He has promised us a future. I do not know about next week. I do not know about next year. I do not know about the next five years but eventually it is all going to pan out and that is the most amazing, wonderful thing to me. The hardest times, the scariest times, the most desperate times are the times that are going to stand out for you. “Remember when we went through that? Remember when we had to do this? Remember when?” Our lives are filled with difficulties and it is going to be the things that cause the biggest problems that when we see how God worked gives us the most encouragement and strength. He wants to help you have more peace so that you can do things His way, not take shortcuts or resort to the ‘sinful’ ways of doing things; the ‘sinful’ ways of getting ahead. God wants to work through you to bless others. So no matter what you are doing you have a purpose—doing things God’s way. You have this purpose in your marriage, with the mother, your father, your child, and others around you. With this purpose in mind, God wants to work through you to touch lives. Can I tell you a secret? I have enough of my own problems. I need to work for other people. As you surrender yourself to working for others, that frees up God to work on your life. I had three kids. When I saw one of my children helping, coming alongside another, that inspired my desire to bless them. And God is the same way. So let the peace of Christ rule in you so that you can do things God’s way no matter the circumstances.
First of all, you have to recognize that ‘let’ says you have a choice. You can ‘let’ or ‘not let’. Are you going to ‘let’ peace rule or not? It is a choice you have to make. Are you going to receive it? Are you going to allow it? Are you going to choose it? Or are you going to rely upon the peace of the world? Anybody want to have both? I want Jesus and be healthy, wealthy, and wise. Being healthy, wealthy, wise are part of our American heritage. That is part of the American dream. We want to have it all. The peace of the world includes several types of peace. You have the peace of your own abilities. “Well, I’ve really studied and I can take care of this. I can be confident. I can do this. Oh, I can relate to that. I can muscle through this.” And the peace of, “Que sera sera, what will be will be. I guess it is my fate.” Just surrendering to life. If we just had to surrender to life, there would be no point in the cross. There would be no point in Christ. Surrender to fear. Fear attacks us. Anger attacks us. Sorrow attacks us. The cure for anger is peace. The cure for fear is hope. The cure for sorrow is joy. God wants you to have all three of those things but you have to start with the peace of Christ and you have to let it rule your heart. Let it rule means let it be the boss of you. Let it direct your feelings. Let it direct your actions.
How do you let the peace of Christ rule? You have to feed it with thankfulness. See it, rely upon it, keep feeding it, keep feeding it, keep feeding it. Some of you have endured some horrendous things in your past that were absolutely unfair, absolutely evil, absolutely of Satan, things you did not deserve. Maybe, you have lost somebody you dearly loved, had a relationship severed that left you hurting. You can get past it, knowing that God is with you, knowing God has a plan despite the pain. But this does not mean sorrow is a bad thing and should be forgotten. Sorrow is a legitimate emotion. Peace amidst sorrow or grief or confusion, or whatever can be a powerful witness to others of your faith in Christ. It is not peace instead of sorrow, instead of grief, or instead of uncertainty but peace despite all these emotions. It is peace to do the next right thing no matter the circumstance.
7) Colossians 3:17
Colossians 3:17: “And 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.”
So, what does in the name of Jesus mean? I will bet most of you have never had that explained to you. And sometimes it seems like a formula that we use because that’s the way it has always been done. But there is strength and power and encouragement in saying those words particularly if you know what they mean. We say things all the time we don’t know what they mean, particularly in church language. We are in the book of Colossians and this week we are in verse 17 of chapter 3 where it says, “And in all that you do, whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through him.” "Whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus." That is more than just praying “in the name of Jesus, amen.” What it is saying is that the things that you were involved with, the things that are coming out of your mouth, should be done in the name of Jesus. How does that work and what does that mean? What does Paul want? He gives us a list of things to do and attitudes to have--kindness, compassion, gentleness--and things not to do—anger, wrath, malice, slander, lying, sexual immorality, greed, idolatry-- but then he gives us a general summary, “whatever you do should be done in the name of Jesus.” We are going to be talking about the significance of the name. We are going to be talking about the significance of the person and then significance of claiming that name and saying, “whatever you do, whatever you say, do it in the name of Jesus.”
We know there is no one like Jesus. He is unique, He is absolutely indescribable. He should be singularly thought of and His name unique among men. But you know they seldom, if ever, called Him Jesus. His friends, His mom, His dad never called Him Jesus. You see, Jesus is a Greek word and although Greek was the legal language of the land it was not the popular language or official language. The official language was Hebrew. The popular language was Aramaic. Yeshua, or Joshua in English, was what He was called. That was what rang in His ears. You hear in Jewish synagogues or in Jewish Messianic synagogues, Yeshua Hamashia—Joshua, the Messiah. But we know Him as Jesus. Jesus is the Greek version of Joshua. Now, before you think, "Oh, have we been doing it wrong?" Absolutely not. It is not that the name is not important, It is that the name signifies the person that is important. There were many children named Joshua in Jesus’ day. I mean, Joshua was a hero. He was like the Abraham Lincoln of his day. It was a popular name because Joshua was an Old Testament hero, a deliverer. Everyone wanted their son to be a leader, to be a truth-giver, to be devoted to God. I mean, when you are a mother and father looking at that baby, you’re not going to name him or her, “loser.” You want him or her to live up to the name so there were many boys called Joshua. That is why He is often called Jesus of Nazareth. That is why we call him Jesus Christ or Yeshua Hamashia, Jesus the Messiah. We specify Him as the Lord Jesus. Jesus, son of Joseph some called Him.
Sometimes we think if the name Jesus or Joshua was common, that diminishes Him. Oh no, it does not. There is one name we know as Jesus, that all history knows as Jesus. Because there were so many does not mean His name is diminished. What it means is He is so much more because He stands out by who He is and what He has done. He could have been named Frickfrack. There is no one in history, that we know of, named Frickfrack. Now that is a unique name, but it is meaningless. But Joshua was a name of strength to be lived up to because Joshua means “God Saves.” The Lord is salvation would be the longer version of it. The J-O of Joshua refers to “Jehovah” and “Yeshua” means “one who saves.” Put together the name means, “God is the one who saves.” Isn’t it interesting that Jesus’ name means, “God saves.” It is what He does. That is His mission. That is why He came. God has this way of working out coincidences, right? It is not a coincidence. His name is picked by God. At the start of Matthew we have God appearing to Joseph in a dream saying, “fear not to take Mary as your wife. For she is with child from the Holy Spirit and give him the name [Joshua] because he will save his people from their sins.” It is in the plan. It is on purpose. Luke records an angel appears to Mary and says, “you are going to have a baby.” She says, “but I cannot. That is impossible.” He says, “Oh, you are with child from the Holy Spirit and you will give birth to His Son and you will give him the name [Joshua]." So Jesus means, “God of salvation.” So when you hear that name, you know that Jesus came to save, not just to teach, not to rabbi, not to be a martyr, not to be a preparer of a heavenly place for us; He came to save us.
What about Joshua? God did not pick Joshua by accident. It was not eeny, meeny, minie, moe, I like the sound of that. It sounds manly. It sounds strong. He could have picked Moses. He could have picked Abraham. Both great leaders. He could have called him any of those names but He picks, Joshua. Joshua’s work was the hope of Israel. Again, what does Joshua’s name mean? The Lord is our salvation. The Lord saves. God saves us. And when was Joshua named by his mom and dad? You have to think back. You have to understand the context. Where were they when that baby was born? They were slaves in Egypt being oppressed, wanting freedom, wanting salvation. And they are hoping, and that hope motivates them to name their son, Joshua. There was hope about him. There was a desire for a better future.
Joshua is also the successor. Who does Joshua succeed? Who does he follow? Moses. And Moses represents man and the law. The whole system was given by Moses. It speaks of man living under the law and living in wilderness and emptiness their entire lives. They are given the law, but then comes Joshua who takes them from the wilderness into the promised land. What they were intended to have at the very start, when God promised to Abraham, “I will give you a land and it will be yours from the Euphrates to the river in Egypt.” The fulfilling of the promise comes through Joshua. Does that sound a little bit like Jesus? He is the successor of the Old Testament. He brings the New Testament. He brings the new covenant. He replaced the law with grace and is the fulfillment of God’s salvation.
A name points to a person. The name Jesus leads us to reflect upon who He is and what He has done. It is the person that is important. The name points to the person. If I say Ute, you know who I am talking about. They used to put modifiers with it so we say the Lord Jesus or Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus, son of Joseph. But we say Jesus, now, because that is all we need to say to identify Him because what He has done sets Him apart from all others. The name points to the person, gives the significance of who he is and what he has done. The name is significant because it points to the person who is significant. Names often point to what the person is or what he has done. We could go through the Bible and list and discuss all the names that are given for God or Jesus but it would take hours. They are all derived by who He is as defined by His actions or character. All the modifiers are what makes the name of Jesus above all others. So, whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus because of the significance of the person, not because His name has magical powers.
If someone were to ask you, “Tell me, what is significant about Jesus?” You have to start off with He was the Son, or IS the Son of God. That He IS and has saved us from our sins. That He is preparing a place for us. That He IS at work now in us and through us. I trust those are facts in your heart. Do you rely upon those? There is a significance then in claiming that name and saying, "in the name of the Lord Jesus."
What is the significance of claiming the name? First of all, that has been misused from the very beginning of the church as recorded in Acts. People were using the name of Jesus that didn’t even know who He was. A man tries to cast out demons—“in the name of Jesus be healed, get out,” and the demon says, “Well, I know Jesus, I know Peter, but who are you?” And he jumps up and beats the guy. The name of Jesus is not a magic formula. It is not an incantation to make things happen. It is not the key to leverage God. “Oh Lord, I really need that new Corvette. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.” Some think because they pray in the name of Jesus it will gain them leverage because whatever is asked in the name of Jesus God the Father will do. Has anybody else ever prayed a prayer like that; trying to leverage God? Do you think, maybe, we got that wrong; that it is not a way to leverage God? “Hey, Gary, I know your son and he said you would give me a thousand dollars.” That describes entitlement, not a spirit of humility.
And then it is not a zip code for our prayers. We pray all the things we want, we tack it on the end like the zip code to make sure He gets it. And it is not a lucky charm for God’s protection. It is not a rabbit foot. If so, a man, a son would have never died in any war in all of history. Because every mother that has a son in the military has prayed for that son. In the name of Jesus they prayed for that son. Or daughter. It is not a lucky charm for God’s protection.
Well, then, what is the significance of praying in the name of Jesus? Number one, it is a confession of His lordship. When someone says, “Stop in the name of the law,” what does he mean? He means that behind him is the full force and rights of the legal system. It is not him personally that calls for the criminal to stop and desist but the legal system, itself. That means behind him is the authority of the police and legal system. He is using the authority of what that represents. So in your praying in the name of Jesus, you are saying, “Jesus is Lord.” “I do not come to you, Father, because I have been really good this week and I am just so loveable, I pray because you see me washed in the blood of the lamb. You see me as righteous in your Son.” It is a confession of His lordship.
Secondly, It is a submission to the Father’s will. Jesus will not do anything for you outside of the Father’s will. Even the Father would not do things for Jesus outside of His own will. Jesus did not want the pain and humiliation of the cross. He was not a masochist. “If there is any way you can remove this cup, this cup of wrath and suffering, please do it.” He did not fear death. He was slain before the foundations of the world were set. It was the beatings, mockings, humiliation, and pain that He did not want. But He did it anyway. Do you think that Jesus’ prayer got the Father’s attention? Do you think God the Father heard that prayer or was He too busy? The cross and all that happened surrounding it were not only because that is what God wanted but it was what we needed. There was so much more happening and so much more being revealed than substitutionary sacrifice. All the suffering and brutality inflicted on Him reveals the depths of human opposition to God and the depths of His love for His Father and us. We are so hardhearted that only the spectacle of a suffering Savior would move our hearts to repentance. We get to see how our sin affects God. To pray in Jesus’ name is submission to the will of the Father. You are saying, “Lord, your will be done.” That needs to be what is going through your mind when you are saying that. Not, “Oh, I am done now, amen.”
Thirdly, it is an expression of your heart alignment. That I am in this life together with Jesus. Every week Katie takes my money and gives it away to people. People I do not even know. She gives it to doctors and insurance people and grocery stores and all these kinds of things. Just gives away my money because she has my name. She received my name 40 years ago. She can accumulate all kinds of bills and all kinds of debt that I am responsible for. It is an expression that we are working through life together. In the name of Jesus, I am doing, I am asking in this prayer and I am doing these things in alignment with Jesus, with what He wants me to do. You know the phrase, “What would Jesus do?” With the things I am praying about, the things I am asking about, the things I am doing, I am doing as if Jesus were doing it. So it is an expression of one’s heart alignment.
Fourthly, it is acceptance of His work and His way. “Lord, I want, in your name, I want to do your stuff not just ask you to help me with my stuff. And I want to do your stuff your way, not just get it done the easiest way I can so I can get on with things I care about.” That is doing His work His way.
What does that mean in practical language? Number one, it means by bearing or wearing His name, I am representing Him. I am doing it in the name of Jesus. Katie represents me to the banks. If we are overdrawn, if she is overdrawn, I am overdrawn. She represents me. If you wear a Dodger uniform, you are not just a Dodger out there acting like a child or cursing or doing bad things, beating your wife or whatever else, you are not just an individual player. You are a Dodger who is representing the whole team. When an American soldier unwarrantingly kills people in a foreign land, it is not just the soldier that is bad and stupid and dumb and wrong, it was the military and our whole nation that have their reputations damaged, because they represent us. When you say in the name of Jesus I pray, in the name of Jesus I am doing this, you are representing Jesus and His Father.
When I say in the name of Jesus, number two, I am trusting in His sovereignty. In the name of the Lord Jesus, I am saying that He is real and He is involved and active and He has given me some directions of things I need to be doing and so I will do those things by faith and trust Him and His way. That is why it is a matter of heart alignment. What it means there is, “I serve under that name. I am aligned with His purpose. I am aligned with the way He does things.” It is acceptance of His way and work which shows I am being transformed because I want to do things His way and in His time, not my own. We have desires of what we want and when we want to do things. But God says, “I want to transform your heart and the way you do things. I want to partner with you, so let me transform your heart and life." It is doing His work His way.
We must ask ourselves, “Are the things we are doing reflect who He is and what He wants for us and can Jesus be seen in us and through us?” That is not just the call on a pastor. That is the call on each of us who name Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.