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The Supremacy Demonstrated: By Being a Sharp Dressed Church Part 2 (Col. 3:13-17)

Intro

Welcome to EFC. We have been going through a verse by verse study of the book of Colossians. The title of our series is “The Born Supremacy: Restoring His Rule in our lives.” In Chapter 1, it was the Supremacy Declared: Jesus Christ is totally Supreme! In Chapter 2, it is the Supremacy Defended: Jesus Christ is totally Sufficient! Now it is not enough to declare and defend the Supremacy, it must be demonstrated, so the last section, which covers chapters 3 and 4, will be the Supremacy Demonstrated everywhere! In our personal lives, in the church, in the home, and everywhere else! Jesus Christ totally subdues all areas of our lives!

We left off last time talking about what a sharp dressed church looks like. What are the qualities or characteristics of group of believers that will make the world take notice? If you were arrested of being a Christian, would there be any evidence to convict you? We said some things so far. Let’s review:

I.    The Sharp Dressed Church has a Firm Conviction about Change. The day I stop changing should be the day I see Jesus Christ.

II.   The Sharp Dressed Church is Fighting toward Christ-like Unity. Man-made divisions are gone as far as our standing with the Lord. Christ is all that matters.

III.       The Sharp Dressed Church is Forging   Christ-like Character in Community. There are seven virtues listed here. We left off with patience, the fifth virtue. Remember we said that throughout the New Testament, it is character that God is after. More than how you look in public or how well you preach or sing. Who are you when no one is looking? That’s character! Let’s continue with the sixth virtue: able to forgive.

vi.  Forgiveness. I will not do justice with this as   I would like, but let me say at the outset, we cannot have long lasting quality relationships without forgiveness. As I said last time, anger and frustration comes from expectations not being met. These expectations grow the longer we know people. This is why most of our fights happen within our close relationships like spouses, siblings, parents, relatives and close friends. We are all bound to get hurt, but we must forgive others. Notice Paul says, “we MUST forgive” (Col. 3:13). It is not an option!

 

Let me give you two reasons to forgive. The text says because it reflects God’s character. Forgive as Christ has forgiven us. In other words, pick up your injury, take a hike to the foot of Calvary, look at Jesus, dying in pain for your offenses, and ask yourself, “Can I forgive?”

Remember the story of the unforgiving servant who owed like a million dollars to his master, but his master forgave him and released him of the debt. Then the servant himself had a servant who owed him like 10 dollars and he refused to forgive him. The Master heard about this and threw him in jail. Jesus said that is what happens to everyone who receives forgiveness from the Lord, but refuses forgiveness to those who hurt them.

The phrase “if one has a complaint against another” refers to times when someone is at fault because of sin, error, or debt. The Lord Jesus is our pattern for forgiveness, because He forgave all our sins, errors, and debts.[1]

Secondly, forgiveness releases us and the person who offended us. The alternative is bitterness and resentment and it pervades your whole being. You can’t sleep. Your blood pressure rises. You have an ulcer in your stomach. You can’t pray and if you do, it binds up the Holy Spirit from working in your life. It eats you alive in every way! Matt 5:21-26 and Matt. 18:15-20 tells us the procedure of reconciliation.

First of all, before anything, we need to do log surgery on our own eyes (Matt. 7:1-5). Is there anything I did wrong? Any wrong attitudes, words, actions, or reactions that I need to ask forgiveness for? Go to the Lord in prayer. Usually people after surgery are more tender and soft. 2. We must then take the initiative if we hurt someone or if someone hurt us. Both Matthew passages show this. Unfair? Well, there is nothing the Lord has asked us to do that He has not modeled (Eph. 4:32). 3. We must speak gently and use the words like “I felt.” 4. Attack the issue not the person. 5. Ask for forgiveness on your part 6. Be realistic. Sometimes the person sees no wrong in themselves. Sometimes they are indifferent. We must seek forgiveness because we choose to do what is right, not because of the response we hope to get from another.  6. Give it time. Sometimes you will need to forgive again and again as memories or certain events or people pop up and remind you of the hurt.

Illus: Rebecca Pippert relates the powerful story of the late Corrie ten Boom. This Dutch woman and her family were sent to Auchwitz for hiding Jews in their home during the Second World War. Corrie was a Christian woman and had been invited to speak at a conference in Portland Oregon. This is what she said,

“My name is Corrie ten Boom and I am a murderer.” There was total silence. “You see, when I was in prison camp I saw the same guard day in and day out. He was the one who mocked and sneered at us when we were stripped naked and taken into the showers. He spat on us in contempt, and I hated him. I hated him with every fiber of my being. And Jesus says when you hate someone you are guilty of murder.”

“When we were freed, I left Germany vowing never to return,” Corrie ten Boom continued. “But I was invited back there to speak. I didn’t want to go but I felt the Lord nudging me to. Very reluctantly I went. My first talk was on forgiveness. Suddenly, as I was speaking, I saw to my horror that same prison guard sitting in the audience. There was no way that he would have recognized me. But I could never forget his face, never. It was clear to me from the radiant look on his face while I spoke, that he had been converted since I saw him last. After I finished speaking he came up and said with a beaming smile, ‘Ah, dear sister Corrie, isn’t it wonderful how God forgives?” And he extended his hand for me to shake.

“All I felt as I looked at him was hate. I said to the Lord silently, “There is nothing in me that could ever love that man. I hate him for what he did to me and to my family. But you tell us that we are to love our enemies. That’s impossible for me, but nothing is impossible for you. So if you expect me to love this man it’s going to have to come from you, because all I feel is hate.”

She went on to say that at that moment she felt nudged to do only one thing: “Put out your hand, Corrie,” the Lord seemed to say. Then she said, “It took all of the years that I had quietly obeyed God in obscurity to do the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I put out my hand.” Then, she said, something remarkable happened. “It was only after my simple act of obedience that I felt something almost like warm oil was being poured over me. And with it came the unmistakable message: ‘Well done, Corrie. That’s how my children behave.’ And the hate in my heart was absorbed and gone. And so one murderer embraced another murderer, but in the love of Christ.” [Hope Has It’s Reasons p. 189, 190].[2]

I love that story as it demonstrates the power of forgiveness. It is not easy, it takes courage and humility and the grace of God. Do you need to forgive someone today? When you do, you are leaving them up to God to do justice and not you yourself. Receive the grace from the Lord to be like Him to forgive.

vii.    Love. Paul ends this list with love (Col. 3:14). We may be known as an active member of EFC, involved in the community, by the many gifts we have, uncommon wisdom, beautiful voice, but God looks and asks, “Do you love?” The last article of clothing is the belt of love. Paul says, “it binds everything together.” Love is not mere sentiment, but an inner disposition that produces all of the character traits we have been talking about. This is how it “binds it all together.” We cannot have compassion on a person without loving them. We cannot show kindness without love.  Neither will we know humility, meekness, patience and forgiveness without love.

Pastor Bruce Goettsche quotes Jerry Bridges, in his book, The Pursuit of Godliness.  Bridges takes the familiar words of 1 Corinthians 13 and writes them as positive statements. Goettsche says, “As you listen to these words, ask if they describe how you feel toward others.”

  • I am patient with you because I love you and want to forgive you.
  • I am kind to you because I love you and want to help you.
  • I do not envy your possessions or your gifts because I love you and want you to have the best.
  • I do not boast about my attainments because I love you and want to hear about yours.
  • I am not proud because I love you and want to esteem you before myself.
  • I am not rude because I love you and care about your feelings
  • I am not self-seeking because I love you and want to meet your needs
  • I am not easily angered by you because I love you and want to overlook your offenses
  • I do not keep a record of wrongs because I love you, and “love covers a multitude of sins.” [Practice of Godliness p. 246,247] [3]

If you noticed, all of these qualities are exemplified in Jesus Christ. He is the pattern for us in what character looks like. He is also the power to help us become what He has asked us to be. Paul says in Galatians 5:16 that it is by walking by the Spirit that the fruit of the Spirit is borne in our life. Is your life characterized by these qualities?

Illus: Baby Illustration time! One of the things I noticed happening to us as new parents is that we love showing others what Abbie has been doing. “Abbie say hi!” “Abbie wave!” “Abbie crawl!” But my greatest frustration comes when she gives you the death look when you actually ask her to do it in front of people. There’s something that happens to children that makes them paralyzed, when it’s time to put it into action. I wonder if God is like, “Robin, show compassion now!” “Robin, time to be patient here!” “Robin, be kind to that person” and I stand before Him with the death look.  We need to show Him off! Give Him the glory! Put ourselves into action.

Paul goes to give some more characteristics about the Sharp Dressed Church. In Col. 3:15, he says, the Sharp Dressed Church is:

IV.    Controlled by the Peace of Christ (Col. 3:15)

Here is a verse that is regularly misinterpreted. The usual line of thinking goes something like this. You are confronted with a decision: a potential life partner, a job opportunity, a new car to purchase, etc. So you pray. Then if you feel a “peace about it” in your heart, then it means God is saying, “go ahead!” If you don’t feel peace, you better stop. So an internal sense of peace determines whether or not to make a decision if something is the will of God. People run to this verse to then prove why they did it that way. So if we paraphrased Col. 3:15 with that thinking, it would be something like (and I am borrowing from author Greg Koukl here), “let the feelings of peacefulness in your heart be the judge about God’s individual will for your life.”[4] The question is, is this what Paul means?

The word “peace” here has two different meanings. It can mean an inner harmony, a sense of inner calm and rest. Like in Phil. 4:7 “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I do believe that God does give you a sense of peace in your heart about things as long as you are following His Word (like you cannot have a peace about committing murder) and are walking in His ways. However, I do not think Colossians 3:15 is teaching this.

The word “peace” can also mean lack of conflict, like between two parties who were formerly at war with one another. Like in Rom. 5:1 “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have the peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The first one is the peace of God which comes from what is mentioned here, which is the peace with God.

Which “peace” does Paul have in mind here? How do we know? It is context! Look at what comes before the text in question and what comes after. Both in Col. 3:11-14 and later in Col. 3:15 talk about unity and living in community with other believers. So I think Paul is saying something like, “let harmony, not conflict, be the rule that guides you, now that you are all part of the same body.”

The word “rule” means to act as a judge. Even if you are putting on all of these virtues, walking by the Spirit and bearing and forgiving one another, this does not mean everyone is doing the same. So when others are living by the flesh and are hurtful, Paul is saying, the peace that you have in your heart, calls the shots. The peace of Christ is your umpire that calls a time out in your heart and asks you, “will your reaction here bring peace or division to the body?”

A lot of issues can be avoided if we just allowed the peace of God in our heart to set the temperature around us. This is not to be done at the expense of truth. This does not mean if there is false doctrine in the midst or sin needs to be confronted that you do not say anything, so that you will not “disturb the peace.” However, if it is a minor issue, a personal preference or someone’s opinion, be eager to maintain unity as Paul says in Eph. 4:3 by allowing the peace of Christ to rule you. This is more important than getting our personal rights and dividing up the body.

Paul adds at the end of this verse as almost a side note, “and be thankful.” How many times has Paul said this in Colossians? (Col. 1:3122:73:151617Col 4:2). We have it three times in Col. 3:15-17 alone!  Actually, the word “thanksgiving” is found 7x in 95 verses in this book, which is about 7.3%, more concentrated than any other book!

He’s trying to make a point here don’t you think? We need to be a thankful people. Ungratefulness is what destroys the peace of God. You start to look at others and are filled with a “I deserve more, I need more, God you’re not good“ kind-of- -thinking and the peace is gone in your heart and in the community. I quoted Pastor James so many times already and I will again when he said, “Gratitude is the attitude which sets the altitude for living.” The thankful people will rarely find themselves as church dividers. They set the temperature around them. It’s hard to fight to with such people.

Illus: The thermometer and thermostat both measure temperature, but their functions are very different. A thermometer can only register the temperature around it. A thermostat measures the temperature and then works to bring it to a predetermined comfort level.[5] The thermometer is controlled by its atmosphere but a thermostat controls its atmosphere. Are you a thermometer or a thermostat? Thermometer people tend to reflect the temperature of the people around them? If you’re angry and hot tempered, I’m angry and hot tempered. If you turn icy toward me, guess what? I will do the same and snub you right back. But thermostat people are different. Thermostats set the temperature for the atmosphere around them. It has an inner power to set the temperature. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your hearts be trouble, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). His peace in our hearts enables us to set the temperature to control the inner environment. This is what Paul is saying here in verse 15. Do not simply react the same way to others when there is conflict. Rely on His peace within to set the temperature. With each confrontation, ask yourself, “What is the picture of Jesus this person is seeing within me right now as I react?”

Ways to control the Church atmosphere (thermostat):

  1. Be thankful in conversations.
  2. Be thoughtful.
  3. Think before you speak, this is why God gave you two ears and one mouth.
  4. Watch your tone. Speak softly. Proverbs says, “a soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger” (Prov. 15:1).

The Sharp Dressed Church is controlled by the peace of Christ. Look at Col. 3:16. The Sharp Dressed Church is:

V.    Committed to the Word and the Musical Worship of Christ (Col. 3:16)

There cannot be a church without these two things. Notice in this verse that singing, teaching, and admonishing all go together. They are inseparable! “The word of Christ” means the revelation He has brought into the world, which is Scripture. For the early church, this would have meant everything they had which referred to Christ, including the Old Testament. For us today, it means the entire Word of God.

The entire Word of God must “dwell,” which means “to be at home, permanently residing.” What is the difference in being in your own home and someone else’s home? The freedom is not the same. It feels strange to sleep in another bed right? Well, the Word must be so familiar to you that it has the freedom to settle in and live with you. When you are at home, you can move anywhere you want and check every closet and every room because it is your home. Similarly, the Word must govern every area of our lives so much so it is overflowing. Notice the word “richly.” This means abundantly, jammed full of it. As John Macarthur says, “[even] if they cut you anywhere you will bleed Bible verses.”[6]

This is not only to individual Christians, but also to the entire church body. You can be sure here at EFC, that everything that comes out this pulpit is going to be the Word of God. I am committed to that! The day I stop doing that is the day I die.  And I realize that 5,000 words from my mouth are worth nothing compared to one word from the Lord. His Word is the double edged sword cutting into our heart (Heb. 4:12). Jesus said, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). It is honey for our soul (Ps. 19:10), a hammer for our heart (Jer. 23:29), a lamp for our path (Ps. 119:105), a seed that grows (1 Pet. 1:23) and milk to make us healthy (1 Pet. 2:2). James says it is also a mirror to show us our flaws (James 1: 23-25).

I read a quote that “preachers are not to be cooks to delight the palate, but physicians to recover the patient.”[7] This is my heart’s desire for you. I want the Lord to always be doing surgery on your heart. The Word must dwell in us richly. Let it be known that EFC is committed to the Word of God. Let it be known that when people come through these doors, there are going to get meat, some of it may be hard to chew on, but it will not be some sugar-coated, cotton-candy Christianity, full of fluff and no nourishment. No, we are going to dig in the Word here. We want to get everything that God has for us that day. Did you hear about the church that had the sign up outside saying “Jesus only”? Well, the wind blew and three of the letters flew away, the J, E and S. Soon it said, “Us only.” That’s what you get if the Word is not preached. Jesus is gone and we are left to ourselves! We are sheep without a shepherd!

Let me say here that there is no excuse for you not to bring your Bible here and get into the Word when you show up here. Just as you put on pants or skirts this morning, you bring the Word with you when you get out of your house. But more than anything, my prayer is always that you are fired about the Word when you leave here and are getting into it every day.  Six ways the Word can richly dwell in you:

a)    Hear it (Rom 10:17). Take opportunities throughout the week to hear the Word.

b)   Heed it (Matt. 13:19James 1:22). I try to give you applications every week. Do you do them?

c)    Handle it (2 Tim. 2:15). This means read it, underline it, take notes, pray it back to God.

d)   Hide it (Ps. 119:11). Memorize it, write it on an index card, go over it in the shower.

e)    Hold it fast (Phil. 2:16). In the midst of anxiety and trial, let it in you and be your anchor.

f)    Hand it to others (2 Tim. 2:2). Notice Paul says you are to be teaching and admonishing one another. It is not just the pastor’s job! (Col. 1:28). God doesn’t want you to be a reservoir, but a channel. You are supposed to have inflow and outflow. Admonishing is telling others what not to do (warn them). Teaching is telling others what they should do. Imagine if I gave you directions to my house today and said, “don’t take 355!” That doesn’t help a whole lot. Tell me which road I should take as well, that is the difference between teaching and admonishing. We do both with wisdom, which is how can I download it into my life on Thursday night at 5:30pm?

You start doing these things, the word of Christ will dwell in you richly. Some of us have sports stats or movie lines or worldly tunes dwelling in us richly. What about the word of Christ?

Notice connected to the word of Christ is the worship of Christ through singing. Worship is not just singing. Worship is our entire life and even the church life is worship, whether I am preaching, you are listening, we are obeying, singing, praying, or we are giving financially. Everything is worship!

Three types of musical expressions are mentioned here. This is interesting because it gives us a little information about early century worship services. Have you ever wished you could sit in on a Sunday service at one of these first century churches? We have a small glimpse here.

Paul says worship Christ by singing psalms (this means straight from the OT book of Psalms). Then he says sing “hymns.” Oh oh! The Bible says we are supposed to be singing hymns! We better order some hymn books immediately! Well, actually the word “hymns” refer to songs sung straight to God. In fact, scholars say Col. 1:15-20was an early hymn. If you remember when we went through that section, we taught a little bit and sang a little bit, back and forth. I wonder if they did that then? So Psalms were songs straight from the Word, hymns were songs sung straight to God and lastly “spiritual songs” were songs sung straight from experience. These were songs that express, “Lord, look what you have done for me!” through the testimony of believers.

He ends the verse by saying all the singing should not just be from the lips, but with thankful hearts. Once again, the gratitude factor, filling the life of the believer!

Some application on this verse regarding church music:

a)  Singing should involve vibrant, active participation. It is urged here. Whether you can sing or not is not the issue for the Lord, but that you are engaging in corporate singing. Nowhere does it suggest that believers are to be an audience to musical worship. Sometimes I sit in the back and have noticed that only a few people are singing. What’s wrong with the rest of you?

b) Singing should incorporate a variety of songs. Anthony and the worship team does a great job of this, incorporating old and modern hymns, old and new choruses.

c)  Singing has an educational value. I have appreciated the worship team try to pick songs that match up with the message every week. This is important because the songs are actually teachers. When we are singing together, we sing to God, but we are also actually encouraging each other to live out what we are singing. Have you thought of the worship time that way?

d)  Singing is vain if the heart is not involved. Paul says sing with “thankfulness in your hearts to God.” We must always guard ourselves from paying lip service to God. Isaiah said, “these people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Is. 29:13). Let that not be said of us!

VI.    Called to live by the name of Christ (Col. 3:17).

Paul sums up everything by saying that the church is called to live exclusively for Christ. It is like he started this section at the base of the mountain, which is broad and then he worked himself all the way up to the peak, which isCol. 3:17.

Doing something in someone’s name means two things: One was identification, i.e. we belong to Jesus Christ; the second is authority. Just like a when a man’s name is signed to a check, authorizing the withdrawal of money from the bank or if the President’s name is signed to a bill, it makes it a law. So when we call ourselves “Christian” we are saying we belong to Jesus Christ and we are acting consistently with who He is and what He wants. We are called to live by the name of Christ.

Our main problem is that we compartmentalize our lives. We have our personal time, our work time, our kids time, our tv time, our couple time, our church time. Most of us live as though we have two compartments: sacred time and secular time. But here Paul is saying everything is sacred time! When we are enjoying our time with our loved ones, we thank God for it. When we are enjoying a good meal, we thank God for it. When we are driving or washing dishes or studying or reading or watching television or whatever we are doing, we do it thanking God for it! Everything is sacred time. There is no event, activity, endeavor, or goal that is exempt from the Lordship of Jesus. As Pastor Sam Storms says, “There is no idea, aspiration, dream, or belief that does not come under his sovereign sway. There is no achievement, accomplishment, work, or word that does not exist for the glory of the Son of God.”[8] That is good accountability for us! If we cannot thank Jesus Christ for what we are about to say or do, we probably should not say it or do it right? We are called to live by the name of Christ.

I like the plaque that Ruth Graham, the late wife of Billy Graham, had over her kitchen sink, which said: “Divine services conducted here three times daily.” Perhaps you should write that out this week or make it your screensaver on your computer or write it as a note over your desk at work: “Divine services offered here!”

This thought helps me when I watch my daughter. When I am babysitting, sometimes I think of all the stuff I have to get done and do not enjoy my time with her. But if I start to see that she is God’s gift to me and I am not spending time with her, instead I am investing time with her, that changes the situation doesn’t it? This is true with every relationship that the Lord has given us, including our relationship with Him!

Conclusion

There is a story about a soldier in the army of Alexander the Great. It seems he had misbehaved. He came before Alexander the Great, who first asked his name. He said, “It is Alexander.” The general replied, “Change your name or change your ways.” If we name the name of Jesus Christ and call ourselves “Christian,” we better “dress the part.” Forging His character in our lives, allow His peace to rule our heart as we live in harmony among other believers, committing to His Word to rule our lives, singing His praise, and living for His name, bringing glory all of our days. May the Holy Spirit of God help us to that end.

 
—-

[1]MacArthur, J. (1996, c1992). Colossians (156). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] http://www.unionchurch.com/archive/080998.html

[3] http://www.unionchurch.com/archive/081698.html

[4] http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5466

[5]Paul Westervelt, P. (1999; 2006). Discipleship Journal, Issue 110

    (March~April 1999)/. NavPress.

[6] From the sermon, “Putting on the New Man Part 2,” gty.org.

[7] http://puritanismtoday.wordpress.com/theologians-preaching-and-preachers/

[8][8]http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/comprehensive-christianity-or-doing-all-in-the-name-of-christ-317/

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