Sunday, December 31, 2023

Structure for Christian Living in Colossians 3

“One spring our family was driving from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa, Florida. As far as the eye could see, orange trees were loaded with fruit. When we stopped for breakfast, I ordered orange juice with my eggs. "I'm sorry," the waitress said. "I can't bring you orange juice. Our machine is broken." At first I was dumbfounded. We were surrounded by millions of oranges, and I knew they had oranges in the kitchen--orange slices garnished our plates. What was the problem? No juice? Hardly. We were surrounded by thousands of gallons of juice. The problem was they had become dependent on a machine to get it. Christians are sometimes like that. They may be surrounded by Bibles in their homes, but if something should happen to the Sunday morning preaching service, they would have no nourishment for their souls. The problem is not a lack of spiritual food--but that many Christians haven't grown enough to know how to get it for themselves.” -Leroy Eims, The Lost Art of Disciple Making.

Today we find ourselves in between series, after Christmas, before new years, so as we approach 2024, I thought it would be wise for us to open the Bible, and examine some keys for Christian living.

We’re going to be looking at Colossians chapter 3 today, and we’re going to look at some keys for Christian lifestyle.

We’re going to look at 7 key points. What are the nuts and bolts of how to live a successful Christian life? And for each point, we’re going to be building a structure, a guide, for how to Cloth yourself with the new nature. And we will need God’s help to do live this. So with each of the 7 points we’re going to stop and pray after each point. So 7 prayers will be happen here as well.

Colossians 3:1 says, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven.”

If you’re a Christian, a real one, you’ve been changed from within. You’re different than you used to be. That’s the work of God within you.

God’s part is to raise you to new life with Christ. Your part in this formula, is to set your sights on God’s ways.

Well, you probably wonder to yourself, how exactly do I do that?

Verse says how: 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

So this goes into your thought life. From when you wake up in the morning, to when you go to bed at night, what are you thinking about?

I worry we sometimes are thinking about the things of Earth. We’re thinking about money. About things we read in the newspaper. We’re thinking about football games, groceries, cleaning the house, and we aren’t thinking about what God commands us to think about.

Then we’re surprised when we have little joy, and we feel depressed. We aren’t thinking about what God tells us to think about, which is to think about Him.

Our first point today is this: Change your thought life. Find ways to think about God, the Bible, Jesus, heaven, and fill your thought life with these truths.

If we adjust our thought life, to think about God’s kingdom, throughout the day, we are going to be focused on a different drumbeat. And that is going to help us to live right.

That’s the foundation, Christ-centered thought life.

Next in verse 5 we get more instructions… 5 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. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming.

Verses 5 and 6 bring the fear of the Lord to me. It reminds me that the judgment of God is coming, like a flood into the world one day soon.

And I’ve got to practice self-examination. Does it say God is going to put to death the sinful things in us? No it doesn’t. Does it say that’s already finished? No it doesn’t. We’re told you do that. The Holy Spirit will help us, but this is something we need to do.

Put to death the sinful earthly things lurking inside you.

Identify them. What do you battle? My fiancé right now we battle lust, we’ve been dating a year, now engaged, and it’s tough, but we know we’ve gotta fight through and make sure we wait until we’re married to fully express how we feel toward each other.

Lust is a big one. Impurity of any kind though, is mentioned. Evil desires. We all have certain desires that aren’t right.

So how exactly do we “put it to death”? We identify it. We pray about it. We ask God to help us be free from it. Maybe it’s swearing. Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it’s love of money.

We ask God to forgive us in prayer. Then we repent from within. We say to God, Lord, we turn away from that sin. I renounce that sin. I turn away from it. And we begin to practice the opposite. If it’s pride, we start to practice being humble.

Please take this seriously, the concept of putting to death sinful habits. I worry we in the body of Christ read it like it’s a nice suggestion. It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command of almighty God. If we ignore it, and just kinda skate along, we may find it come up on judgment day and lead us to hell. I don’t want the day you stand before God to be a nightmare for you. Take it seriously now, today, fear God, and repent quickly.

Take it seriously. This isn’t a game. We don’t come here every Sunday because we needed some therapy. We want heaven, to want eternal life, and we know God is for real about this stuff. He loves us, but he is just. God can’t be mocked. We will reap what we sow. So please, again, take it seriously. Deal with it now. Judge yourself. Examine yourself.

That’s our second point today, self-examination, repentance.

The word here is saying don’t drift back into the ways of the world. We still battle it within ourselves. We have been changed in Christ, but the old ways still tempt us. So we should put them to death quickly and say no more to sinful patterns of life.

Third point, Put on the new nature. It says in verse 10 “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”

The command here is put it on. Put on the new nature. Embrace the new way. Put on the armor of God. I do that every morning, Lord, I put on the armor of God today. Each day it starts over. And as you do that, you’re going to learn to know your Creator, and in knowing God, you’re becoming like him. You’re learning godliness and putting it on.

A few verses down we get a definition of what this new nature is: “12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

Showing mercy is huge for a Christian. If someone really hurts you, messes up, lets you down, you do have to come forward with mercy and avoid condemning them. That’s not easy. Especially if it’s happened many times. But keep showing mercy. That’s the nature of God to come with mercy.

Showing kindness is huge too. A kind word, a soft word, a sweet response to someone who is unstable can change their whole day. Be kind to the waiter. Be kind to the volunteer. Be kind to the check out lady at the cash register.

Stop and notice that they exist. Smile. Slow down, and give someone an encouraging word.

Humility is huge for a Christian. We aren’t arrogant people. We don’t honk our horns at people on the highway when they won’t get out of the fast lane quick enough.

We don’t lash out at someone who is rude to us. We don’t react in anger. We humble ourselves.

We show gentleness. Are you gentle? It’s a beautiful characteristic. Gentleman, gentlewoman. It’s beautiful. Do that.

Of course patience. Be patient with people. Give them time to get it. Give them time to learn. Give them time. If they mess up your order, be patient. Be kind. It’s a witness to them.

Those are all aspects of putting on the new self. In Christ.

When you do those things, you are putting on the new nature, in that moment! Cool!

Point number four, make allowance for each other. Make room for each other. This connects back with point 3, putting on the new nature. But it’s now telling us about living in community with other Christians.

It says, “ 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

If someone here, or in your family, at your job, in your community has a fault that bothers you, sometimes you just have to tell yourself, “That’s just Bob being Bob. That’s just Stacy being Stacy. And that’s OK. And you make an allowance for them to be that way. You decide in your own mind, that’s ok for them to be themselves. And I’m going to be ok with it.

If you can learn that, you’re going to prosper in getting along with people around you.

In connection to that, you also forgive those who offend you. Some of you have from time to time offended me. I’m sure I’ve offended you too, from time to time. But, we forgive each other, and we keep going together, as a community. We remember how God forgave us our terrible sins. And as we remember that, it helps us to be quick to forgive people who hurt us.

If you’re going to live in church community with flawed human beings, who love Jesus, but do make mistakes, learn to make allowance for peoples faults, and forgive quickly.

Point five, above all, cloth yourself with love.

“14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” -Col 3:14

What is the single greatest virtue of the Christian? It’s love. Real, honest, heartfelt love for each other. Jesus told his followers, if you really love each other, from the heart, all the world will know that you’re my disciples. That will be the perfect evidence to the world, the love of Christians.

So above all the other aspects of the new nature in Christ, the most important by far is love. And love is going to filter down into all the others and make them real. If you really love from the heart, you will be humble. You will be kind. You will learn gentleness. You will be kind. You will make allowance for others faults. You will forgive quickly.

We’ve got to learn to love people deeply.

Point number six, allow the peace from Christ to have control in your heart.

That is your calling, to live in a state of peace.

Peace of Mind we’re talking about here. You can have real peace. How? You allow the peace from Christ, to reign, to have authority, to be in charge in your soul. Isn’t that interesting?

Let Christ’s peace rule in you.

It says this, Colossians 3:15, “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.” -Col 3:15

There is a way of life which many of us are used to, where we constantly complain. We’re depressed. We live with anxiety. We are negative. There are seasons of certain things, so I don’t want to say that you’re always going to be chipper. It’s ok to be sad for a season.

But, in general, we should live in peace from Christ. Let it reign in us. That’s a calling, a command. Secondly, we are to “always” be grateful. Sometimes be grateful? No, always be grateful.

So for 2024, maybe you need to write up a gratitude list, fill a few pages in a notebook of things you’re glad for in your life.

In verse 16 we get the whole picture summed up together: “16 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.”

Verse 16 first of all is sending us back to verses 1 and 2, let the message of Christ fill your life. In other words, think about the things of heaven. The whole structure fits together now, all those things fit together, each layer, and once it’s all together, and you’ve done of all it, you can say, the message of Christ in all it’s richness has in fact filled my life. And it’s amazing. Then take this lifestyle and teach it to each other, with wisdom. Then in your gratitude, sing about it, sing songs and hymns and spritiual songs to god with gratitude in your heart. It all fits together.

All of that for the purpose of point number 7, which is, if you live like this, you will be an ambassador for Jesus, a representative to others.

Colossians 3:17 says, “17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

The command, do everything in your life as a representative of the Lord Jesus. Then others will see it, and want to know Jesus too.

And in doing all this, give thanks through Jesus to God your Father in heaven.

Let’s review out main points from today. They are…

1. Change your Thought Life – focus it on God’s ways

2. Practice Self Examination – put to death sinful ways

3. Put on the New Nature – live out the new ways

4. Make allowance for Each Other – forgive quickly

5. Above all cloth yourself with Love – genuine love

6. Let the peace of Christ rule your heart – be peaceful

7. Live life as an Ambassador for Christ – an example

I want you to take a picture of those 7 main points and make it your plan for living in the new year. Make it your new lifestyle. Learn to live this way. Learn God’s ways more and more. And you’ll find yourself becoming a devout and godly man or woman of Christ.

Make sure that in this coming year you aren’t like the waitress surrounded by oranges but unable to make orange juice. Take your Bible, study it carefully and then apply what it says, so your life changes, and you live a life devoutly in Christ. Amen.