Wednesday, November 18, 2015

*Mid-Week Message: Week 3

How is your study going?  How has God's Word been speaking to you this week?  Today I will share what I saw as I walked through this passage....

Scripture this week is from Colossians 3:1-17

(Below is the 'script' I roughly followed...)

How can you take on your new identity in Christ and find gratitude in it?

On Sunday we had some introduction to Colossians 3.  I asked the big WHY question after considering verse 3:17:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 
- Colossians 3:17

WHY do the disciples, and Jesus himself, keep using that phrase (in the name of the Lord Jesus)?  It is used often throughout the New Testament.  I shared how the culture at that time believed a name was indicative of a person and their personality.  When believers were told to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, they were essentially being told: take on the personality and characteristics of Jesus.  "Christian", as we and they are known by today, is more than a title, it is our very identity and we should be living as such.

This whole message piggy-backs last week's on being rooted in Christ.  Here, Paul begins to expound on HOW.  His "IF" statement in 3:1 seems almost to be a challenge:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  

When I studied this passage myself I began to list-out his admonishments.  After all, the above is quite a bold statement, IF you have been raised with Christ.  Essentially, IF... then your mind should be somewhere else, not on earthly things.  Let's break this down:

Since we are made new:
  • seek things above where Christ is [not the things below on Earth with man] 
  • set your mind on things above [not on things below]
Why? For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (v3) you are alive in Christ (not, alive in the world)

Remember from Monday: our identity, the definition and example of who we are, is in Christ.  This was said for the 1st century believers who wondered and questioned... and it is said for us today.

Put to death the earthly in you (v5...)
  • sexual immorality
  • impurity
  • passion
  • evil desire
  • covetousness, which is idolatry

We once walked but now... put them away (v7-8)
  • anger 
  • wrath
  • malice
  • slander
  • obscene talk
  • lieing

As we have discussed since week 1... we aren't talking about a list of dos and don'ts... rather... we are waking the mind to see how and what truly reflects the character of Christ in us.  Notice the action words Paul uses with the believers here: Put to death, put them away.  These are deliberate motions he commanded the first century believers to go through in order to deny the flesh.  Is it easy?  No, not always.  But Paul is serious in calling on believers to root out the things in them of this world.  Once those things are out of the way, more of Christ can shine through.

You may be saying: this is still a list of things to do.  So let me explain.

I heard once how, when we remove sin from our life, if we don't replace it with something else, sin comes right back and brings all his friends.

Paul knows this.  That is why, right after he tells them to put the earthly things away, he explains what should take it's place:

... you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of the creator.
Colossians 3:9b-10

Did you catch that?  That one word in there: being.  This suggests that our walk, our spiritual growth, is a process.  I believe this is a process which results from the putting off talked about in the previous verses and the putting on in subsequent:

Put on (v12...)...
  • compassionate hearts
  • kindness
  • humility
  • meekness
  • patience (bearing with one another)
  • forgiving (because Christ forgave so we must forgive others)
  • **love**... this binds it all together

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (v15)
     be thankful [because Christ's peace is ruling in your heart]
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (v16)
     teaching (in all wisdom)
     admonishing (in all wisdom)
     singing (with thankfulness in your hearts to God)
     ... psalms
     ... hymns
     ... spiritual songs

[Basically]... do EVERYTHING in Jesus' name giving thanks to God.

And notice, extremes:
Let the peace of Christ RULE in your hearts
Let the word of Christ dwell in you RICHLY
These are abundance worlds.  Not just let, but let to the extreme.  Christ is in control and abundance.  He isn't your COpilot... He IS your pilot!  You're just the passenger riding in a state-of-the-art jet-liner with everything you need on board! 

Oh boy, where do I go from here?

First of all: action, action, action.  How many times do we or others we know come to Christ expecting to not have to do anything to see our faith grow?  Like the 1st century believers in the licentious society of Colosse, we want to meld with the culture around us.  We don't want to be weird or different.  We just want to be like everyone else AND like Christ because it just sort of happens that way.

But the believers then couldn't, hence Paul's very letter to them... a message for us now as well.

PUT ON and LET are choices we make to do something.  Not to gain approval from God, rather, to reflect Christ in us.  Think of it like this:  if your spouse or kids are getting on your nerves... not because they did anything inherently wrong but just because your nerves are frayed that day... you have a choice: snap and make a mess of emotions in everyone including yourself OR pray through it, seek your peace in Jesus and give grace, making for peace in your home... what do you CHOOSE?  Neither one nullifies your relationship with your family, though it might strain it.  Which mood or attitude do you put on or let control your decisions and what are the consequences?  From a Christian perspective: which mood or attitude in this scenario reflects Christ most?

Now broaden that to the way you interact with society on a whole.  The 1st century believers in Colosse had a choice too.  They, like us, would fight it at times.  They would resist the right choices... whether for acceptance or out of fear or some other reason... we don't know.  I have to believe Paul's use of the verb 'let' tells us he is calling them to lay down that resistance and allow something, someone, greater work within.  To choose the attributes growing inside which reflect Christ over the attributes that should be dieing off since accepting Him.

Notice, too, AFTER Paul beseeches them to put on he calls on them to walk in gratitude THREE times in just three consecutive verses:

  • be thankful (because peace of Christ is ruling your heart)
  • with thankfulness (sing and worship)
  • giving thanks (do ALL in Jesus' name)

Again, he isn't giving them a list of dos and don'ts.  No.  What Paul is doing here is much more revolutionary: he is calling them to an entirely new way of thinking which will result in a new lifestyle.  The new life is heaven and eternity focused with Christ verses the rules and regulations of false teachers which call believers to focus on things of this earth.  We all know the things of this earth are not eternally satisfying, they eventually wear out and we are left empty and worse than before.  One profound quote I saw on this topic:

Our death to this life must be made real in the way that we live day-to-day

....We can be thankful through the process of being made new because the peace of Christ can and will sustain us.

....We can worship God with deepest gratitude because of our salvation and the process of being made new.  Worshiping in thanksgiving is powerful, even if life isn't perfect, just to thank God for being our deliver and comforter.

....We must continue to do all that God calls us to do: go to work, stay home, wash the car, feed the hungry, clean our toilet, cuddle a baby... EVERYTHING.... thanking God we have the place and space and strength to do it.

Even in our weakest moments: chemo, broken leg, illness, loosing a job, even the despair of death : we can thank Him and give Him glory because this life, this day, this world is passing.  We have an eternity with Christ in a place of no pain or suffering.  Our attitude is the one thing which might be used, even in the darkest moments, to shine the light of Christ to someone else.  If we are focused on eternity, the sorrows in our moment pale in comparison to the hope we have in our future.

Put on in the name of Christ... BE Christ every minute of every day of whatever time you have here. Be made new. 

For more study on how to be made new refer to last week's study outline and the additional Bible passages listed at the end of the document.  These can be just one source and guide.  
Also, take time today and for the remainder of this week to reflect on how you have been made new (or can be made new) in ChristFind some songs, psalms and/or hymns which reflect your heart of gratitude for the ways your relationship with Christ have helped you to overcome old habits and put on new ones... and Thank God through worship.  If you want, you can print the leaf document below and fill them out with gratitude reflections.

I pray you will celebrate the New Life you have in Christ this week (and all weeks!) and take those revolutionary steps to be counter-cultural in BEING Christ to the world around you.  

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