Friday, October 10, 2008

Could They Tell

Could They Tell?
Colossians 3:12-17
Reflecting God in the New Community

Scripture Introduction:

What would happen if a person that had never heard the gospel followed you around at church? Would a person be able to sense the beauty and preciousness of Jesus simply by walking through these doors and observing our life, our worship, and our love? Would they see a picture of the grace of God in the way you interact with other believers, or would it be no different than the world? Would they notice compassion or self-absorption? Would they be blown away by kindness and gentleness or feel right at home amidst the gossip, slander, and back-biting? Would the glory of God shine through our humble obedience or would the stench of pride cause this person to reckon that the church is no different than the world?

I would say that Colossae was quite a bit like FBC New London. The unbeliever would see a touch of humility but still smell pride. There would be more compassion but still quite a bit of self-absorption. So, Paul in this section has the task of encouraging believers to look like they have been saved. He points out the work of God and admonishes them to start looking like children of God. I want you to notice how he encourages believers (the Colossians and us) in this section. Listen as I read Colossians 3:12-17


Sermon Introduction:

Paul could have done several things to encourage the Colossians. He could have chided them (beat them up). He could have reminded them how much they were blowing the Christian walk and threatened them with punishment if they did not start growing more. He could have given a riveting “just do it” type of speech; encouraging them to pull themselves up by the power of the human will. He could have given examples of people (maybe even himself) that are “getting it” and encourage them to reflect that. But here he does not; he motivates them with grace—sovereign unadulterated love and grace.

Notice how Paul motivates the Colossians (and us) to exhibit kindness and compassion: patience, love forgiveness, gentleness and humility. He does it by reminding them of God’s amazing love and grace. When Paul says, “as God’s chosen ones” that is jam-packed with deep doctrinal truth. Paul is using the same language he used in Ephesians 1:3-10. I will read verse 3-7. What Paul is saying is that before the foundation of the world (before anything was even created), if you are a believer, God decided to pour out mercy upon you. He decided, even before He said, “Let there be light”, that he would shine the light of the glory of Christ into your heart and bless you with every spiritual blessing in Christ. As verse 5 says in love He predestined that we, believers, would be adopted and brought into His family. In eternity past knowing that we would turn away from Him, knowing every sin that we have committed, knowing that we would never on our own choose Him—He chose us. That is what it means when Paul says in Colossians, “as God’s chosen ones”.

In other words Paul is saying: “Put on the, as those God has plucked out of darkness and brought into the light…” Then he adds to this by saying that we are holy and dearly loved. Holy means called out—separated from corruption for the purpose of God. God has plucked us out of darkness and brought us into the light so that we might be set apart for His glory. But this is not some cold and calculated plan. This is not some random lottery drawing in Heaven. This is not a heavenly chess game. This is based on love. Paul uses here the strongest word for love that there is: “Beloved”. Love, even “agape” love is not enough. He strengthens it with the deepest form of agape—which means dearly loved, or as we have it in the ESV, “beloved”. Deeply, dearly, intimately loved; that is the way that God views you whether you feel it or not. God loves you believer in a deep way.

Now in light of that great truth Paul says, “Reflect that”. Remember the first part of Colossians 3. God has taken you out of sin—throw away the garbage. Cast off all the earthly junk. But do not just stand there naked. God has also provided you with new, beautiful clean clothes—put them on. God has called you into His family, therefore put on clothes that reflect that. But put extra heavy emphasis on that first part, “God has called you into His family”. That is the grounds, the universal truth that gives fuel for the fire of reflecting. May the truth of God’s sovereign love and grace motivate and secure for us lives that reflect living in this new community. That is what Paul is saying here to the Colossians and us. God has transferred you into a new community. In this new community you cannot wear those dung covered garments of the old community but you must put on the new holy, beautiful, precious, joyous, grace-filled garments of the new community.

That is what we will look at tonight—our new garments. These garments reflect the King of the new community—God Himself. They are characteristics of God. Humility belongs first to God. Kindness is an attribute of God. Gentleness, Patience, Compassion all of these belong to the Lord first—and He clothes us with them in His grace. So, we will look first at the way God exudes these characteristics and then we will look at how we ought to reflect them.

A. Compassion

The Greek word translated compassion is a really fun one to say: it is the word splangchna. Another form of it is the very splangchdzomai. Your splangchna are your guts, your entrails, your bowels. In the ancient world they believed that your bowels were the seat of emotion—not so much the heart. Can’t you imagine some of the love songs of the day; Olivia Newton John’s, “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Bowels”. Billy Ray Cyrus’ country hit—“Don’t tell my bowels my achy breaky bowels”. Elvis is lonely at the Gut Break Hotel. And oh how it changes our worship songs, “Open the Eyes of My Entrails”. But we digress.

This word is actually very important and a passionate word. To try to salvage it from confusion and laughter we will go ahead and translate it heart. What this word compassion means is a deep-seated heart of mercy that results in action. We see this in action in the life of Jesus. It is splangchna that causes Jesus to heal the sick. It is this tender compassion that Jesus has for those who are harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd—and so he tends to them. And it is splangchna that causes Jesus to do the unthinkable—touch a leper. God is filled with compassion. It is his compassion, in part, that brings about our salvation.

God is filled with compassion do we reflect that? Ask yourself this key question: What do you do when somebody is hurting? The lonely kid at school—do you sit by him? The kid getting picked on—do you stick up for him? The impoverished kids in Africa do you do something? The single mother, the alcoholic hitting rock-bottom, the confused, the hurting, what is your response to them? Do you have compassion? Remember it’s not compassion unless it results in action. I will say that again. It’s not compassion unless it results in action.

What about within the community of believers? This is really where Paul is talking about in this context. These characteristics ought to be most present within the new community of believers. Our compassion should be most evident with those who are our spiritual kindred. When a fellow Christian is hurting what do you do to alleviate their suffering? And not just your friends—the ones that you don’t even know. It may even be those that you know but do not like particularly well.

God has had and will continue to have a tremendous amount of compassion. May we open up our eyes and reflect the Lord with unbounding mercy and compassion.

B. Kindness

I think we all know what kindness is. It is, in a sense, treating others how you would want to be treated. Luke 6:35 actually extends that. It shows us the unbelievable kindness of God; He has kindness even on the unjust—on those that hate Him and His beloved people. Could you be kind to someone that beats your son? Yet, God does this through the common grace of such things as sunshine. God is very kind. If you are a believer you know of an even deeper kindness. God was kind towards us when we were still sinners and He displayed this kindness through the greatest act of kindness in history by sending His Son Jesus to die in our place.

Do we reflect Him in our kindness? How do you treat your worst enemy or maybe your perceived worse enemy? The teacher that is unfair to you and does not like you—do you respond in kindness? Do you have kind words for others? Do you do acts of kindness? Somebody drops their books in the hall do you help them pick them up?

What about within the community of believers? Are you more apt to edify (build up) or tear down? Are you welcoming to other believers of a different background or different community? Are we as a local community of believers marked by kindness or jerkiness? Are our words dripping with kindness or sarcasm? Are our actions clothed in kindness or selfishness?

C. Humility

We talked a ton about humility during VBS—so we will only speak on it a little here. When we look at Christ being humble one place we can look is Philippians 2:6-11. But let me mention that Christ in his humility is unique. Remember that we defined humility as a “proper estimate of self in light of our sinfulness and God’s holiness”. Christ is unique in that He is sinless and He is absolutely holy. How Christ shows humility is that He thinks about and looks out for the interests of others above His own. Now, of course the best thing he can give us is Himself—which also makes Him unique. But Christ was indeed humble. He didn’t come in pomp and authority. He was not born in a castle or mansion but a lowly cave. He lived as a lamb though in actuality a lion. He rode on a colt instead of a regal horse. Christ exemplified humility.

Do we reflect that? Or are we consistently driven by competition and pride to be number one? Are we unbelievably self-consumed or others-oriented? Is it our goal to exalt the name of Christ and to exalt others above ourselves? That is true humility. What is your response when another is exalted? That is how you can tell if you really have humility. If someone is given props when you should have gotten the glory? What do you do when somebody shows you up?

Within the community of believers are we lifting up others? Do we go out of our way to compliment our brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we welcome and take rebukes from other believers? Do we have a woe is me attitude—that too is prideful and not living in light of God’s grace. Is our community humble or prideful? Are we self-absorbed as a church?

I like what Jonathan Edwards said about humility: “True humility is not putting ourselves down but rather lifting up others. If we concentrate on lifting up others, putting down ourselves will take care of itself. As we go through life exalting Christ and others, then genuine humility will be inevitable. If we exalt ourselves then God will take care of our humiliation for He promises to humble the proud. It is much less painful to do it the first way.”
D. Gentleness (Meekness)

When you think of this word you typically think that a synonym is weakness. You think of the guy that never stands up for anything. You think of the gentle little woman that becomes everybody’s door mat. Even when we think of gentle Jesus meek and mild it’s in a tone that makes him out to be a mama’s boy. He’d never hurt a fly would he? We know he was a carpenter but I wonder if he was even strong enough to lift those boards. I bet he hammered really softly too. No, that is not meekness or gentleness. Do you want to see meekness? Look with me at Luke 23, where Jesus is being spit upon, mocked, stripped naked, and beaten. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. That is meekness: power under control. At any moment Jesus could have came down from the Cross. At any moment Jesus could have called upon legions of angels to wipe out everybody there and he could have saved Himself. But he didn’t. He chose gentleness. He chose meekness.

What happens when you are dishonored and insulted? Do you reflect the gentleness and meekness of Jesus? Do not measure this by whether or not you open up your mouth. Some people are perceived to be gentle and meek but they are just passive. Their insults are within their own mind. The daggers are not with words but with deep-seated bitterness. You silently ignore the person you are mad at. That is not gentleness and meekness. True gentleness and meekness will have a soothing quality; a spirit of grace and forgiveness. Are you gentle?

Within the community of believers are we marked by our meekness or are we hungry for power and control? When you do not get your way what is your response? Do you lash out? Do you stop coming to church? Do you silently plot people’s destruction? Do you manipulate to get your way? What is your response when another brother or sister is not exhibiting these characteristics? What do you do when someone within the church slanders your or treats your poorly? What is your response if the adults in the church do not accept you quite like they ought?

I like what David Fairchild says about gentleness: “It is a heart that doesn't need vengeance because it has been altered by grace. God's grace invades the heart and causes it to be aware of what price Christ paid for our own sin. This frees us to then respond with gentleness even when someone is harsh.” Does this reflect us as a community of believers?

D. Patience (Forbearance)

The idea behind patience is restrained wrath or anger. It is not necessarily a character trait but a way of life. God’s wrath is righteous—ours often is not. Yet, even His righteous wrath God restrains. Why are any of us saved? One reason is because of the perfect patience of God. The second we sin God would have been just to pour out His wrath—but He restrains it for the sake of our redemption and His glory. Have you ever wondered why Jesus has not yet come back? According to 2 Peter 3:9 it is because there are still some that are going to be saved—all the elect are not yet gathered—therefore, God continues to restrain His wrath; he continues to have patience. God is actually so patient that sometimes it ticks of the saints of God. Look at the example of Jonah. He thought that God should have destroyed Nineveh. God called him to preach to the Ninevites and Jonah refused. Why? Because Jonah knew that God was patient and He did not want to see God restrain His wrath towards them. Sometimes we want justice quicker than God is willing to give it. That is how patient God is. And we ought to be very thankful for His patience with us.

Do we reflect such patience? What is your response when something really ticks you off? Road-rage is not a Christian grace. Flying off the handle in anger (even if it’s in an argument about the Bible) is not a holy thing. Are you patient with idiots? Can you handle being around a little child? What is your response to a lost person’s sinfulness? Is it patience or is it wrath?

Within the community of believers or text gives us an extended meaning of patience, “bearing with one another”. That essentially means put up with one another’s faults. It does not mean dust them under the rug—but it does mean to endure with them. It means to struggle with them instead of against them. Also notice the “one another”. That kind of means that you probably grate other peoples nerves as well. You are not perfect. But people need to put up with you. Endure your faults and pray for grace. Does that sound like us at FBC New London? Are we a patient community?

I was convicted on this one by 2 Timothy 4:2 which says, “preach the word, be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching”. That means whenever I am preaching and teaching and people just do not “get it” or change as fast as I think they ought—do I have patience? Or even with myself do I have patience with myself and with God in growing me or do I have a microwave spirituality that wants it done now?

E. Forgiveness

God is forgiving. This is really the verse that helps us to see what Paul is doing here. He is reminding them of the action of God—because God forgave you, you should reflect that and forgive others. There is a parable in the Gospels that reflects this. Jesus tells the store of a guy that was forgiven a huge debt and then goes out and kills a guy that owed him a very small debt. That is a picture of the forgiveness of God and a picture of what Paul is saying here. If God could forgive you the massive heap of your sin don’t you think you ought to forgive others? Who are you to withhold forgiveness from someone that God has forgiven? Such an attitude is prideful and reflects none of these characteristics. It does not belong in the new community. We will come back to forgiveness in a moment.

F. Love

The thread that holds every one of these together is love. This is really simple to see. If you do not have love there is no such thing as compassion. If there is not love then you will not see kindness. Humility is impossible with love for Christ and others. Gentleness comes from love. Patience stems from love. Forgiveness is the essence of love. Love holds it all together. If you get love, chances are you are going to reflect all these other things, it is the thread that holds it all together. It is the glue that keeps these things (and us) from unraveling. And God is indeed love. It is His love that He has given us that enables us to love each other and to love Him.

We need to define love because our view of love in this day and age is all jacked up. We think of love as this mooey-gooey emotional roller-coaster ride. Something you fall into and out of. Romantic Hollywood love is not what is being talked about here. That garbage does not hold a candle to the deep love that is being spoken of here. But what is funny is that the way we would define love would be to look back over these characteristics. You could go back to 1 Corinthians 13 and see that love is patient, but we have that quality here. Love is kind, but that quality is here. It does not envy or boast—we have humility here. It’s not arrogant or rude—humility and gentleness covers this. You get the picture. It is all a big circle that is held together by love.

So, lets try to get a little more practical and apply these principles. Paul kind of does that in Colossians 3:13, we will look at his example and provide a few of our own. Here is the way I would think of this. Draw a circle. Put the word Love in the middle. Then put Compassion, Kindness, Humility, Gentleness, Patience, and Forgiveness around the circle. Now let’s look at Paul’s situation in verse 13. Somebody has a problem with somebody else in the church, “a complaint against another”. Sally dislikes the way that Clyde teaches his Sunday School class. Molly does not like the carpet that Hank picked out. Clem is ticked off that young Billy wears a ball cap in the youth building. Billy is ticked off that Clem is acting like an old coot. What do you do?

Let’s run this through our questions. We’ll just look at Clem and Billy. The compassion question: Am I motivated by and exhibiting compassion? Does Clem consider that Billy was not raised in church so he does not know that this is perceived as disrespectful? Does Billy not know that Clem comes from a different generation that had different views?

The kindness question: Am I reflecting a spirit of kindness; treating them as I would want to be treated? Would Clem appreciate being called out in front of everyone for his hideous looking tie? Would Billy like for other people to roll his eyes at him when he expresses concern?

Humility, Gentleness, Patience, Forgiveness, and Love: You get the picture. Now it’s your turn. Let’s see if you can come up with situations that should be run through this.


What happens if you are really blowing it? I want to exhort you in a couple of different directions. 1) If you are not a believer then you will not be reflecting any of these. You do not belong to God’s kingdom you have not had the old clothes taken off and you will not be able to put on the new clothes. The first thing that needs to happen in your life is that God must save you. Earlier we talked about something that might seem strange to you when we talked about God choosing people to be saved. Sometimes people take that truth and they distort it. They take it passively and say things like, “Since God chooses who will be saved I will sit here and wait for Him to choose me” or “If God doesn’t choose me then I’m in trouble anyways so I might as well live like I want”. Neither of those responses is biblical. The Bible calls you to repent and believe in Jesus. If you do not then it’s because of your sin and stubborn heart. What you need to know is that you are being called to repent and believe in Jesus. The Bible says that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. You don’t need to go around trying to figure out if your “chosen or not”. The Bible never encourages unbelievers to do that. The Bible commands unbelievers to repent, believe, and call upon the name of the Lord. If you do so, then you can have assurance that you are saved.

2) If you are a believer and blowing it then I want to encourage you with two things. First of all you need to follow Paul is saying. Don’t be passive, don’t sit around waiting, don’t assume that you can’t do it—“Put on these clothes”. It’s an active imperative. It means put it on now! Pursue God and as you pursue God, pursue these qualities of God. Secondly, I want to point you back to verse 13. It says “as the Lord has forgiven you”. Trust in that. Even though you are blowing it God has forgiven you. Certainly, you do not take the grace of God as a license to sin—but as a motivator to holiness. God has changed you. He has transformed you. Live like that. It really is true. Because you have been transformed by God and His grace you can be humble, gentle, kind, loving, compassionate, etc. Exhibit those things. Stop feeding the flesh, throw away all the garbage and put on these things. Don’t question it just do it. Do it in light of the Cross and what God has done. He has secured all of these blessings—and is giving you the power to do them—so do it.

The Gathered Church

The Gathered Church
Colossians 3:12-17 Part Two

Scripture Introduction:

Are you struggling in your walk with Christ? Perhaps you are lacking passion. You find it hard to read Scripture. Prayer seems dry. Evangelism is not even an option with your spiritual dryness. If you were to describe your spiritual walk it would be like a man stumbling through the desert trying to find a drop of water. Over your head you see buzzards swarming ready for your final fall so that they can have a little lunch. You feel spiritually barren; a wasteland. Numb to spiritual things. The world is looking more appealing every day. You do not want to live this way but you cannot seem to help it. What are you going to do to get back on track? I think I can help you give some advice—we give better advice to others than ourselves. Rather than this being you in a spiritual wasteland, let us pretend it’s your friend. What would advice would you give for this person to get back on track? Think about it for a moment.

Now, let’s change our story a bit. Here you have a man. A few feet apart from him in a mason jar you have his ex-hand. You get an exclusive interview with the hand. (Did I fail to mention that as we are imagining this—that body parts can talk?). The hand tells you about how he used to feel blood flowing through his veins. He felt so alive, so connected. It was rough sometimes. Occasionally the head would get mad because the hand did not quite cooperate. Occasionally the hand would get hurt because the other hand could not effectively use a hammer. But life was good. You felt alive. Now the hand begins to describe his life like a man stumbling through the desert, desperate for a drop of water. But he says that his case may be even worse—rather than stumbling through the desert he’s just laying there getting picked apart by buzzards without much hope.

So, what caused the wasteland experience of the hand? It was disconnected from the body its life source. Might I submit to you that the very same thing is true of you? In your list of advice for your spiritually dry friend did you mention that they ought to be vitally connected to the body of Christ. They ought to do more than just attend church—they ought to be active within the church. Did you mention that the only way for believers to grow is through being connected with other believers? I believe I have said it before and I will say it again: you will not effectively grow in your walk with Christ apart from the body of Christ. A hand severed from the body does not grow.

Tonight we will be looking at Colossians 3:12-17 and focusing on verse 15-17. As you are turning there remember the context. Paul has been encouraging the church at Colossae and reminding them that fullness if found in Jesus Christ alone. He warns them against the teaching of those in Colossae that are discouraging them and attempting to lead them away from the gospel towards legalism. In Chapter 2 Paul drops the gauntlet and reminds the Colossians of what Christ has done in the life of the believer. In Chapter 3 Paul says, “now that you have been raised with Christ” and “now that your life is hidden with Christ in God” live like it. Essentially what he is saying is you have been placed into a new community and transferred from the old one. Now change your clothes. Throw off the dead, dying, and dung covered clothes from the old world and put on the new. That is where we are tonight—putting on the new:


Sermon Introduction:

If it is very important for us to be an active part of this new community—the church, then we probably ought to define for a moment what the church actually is. Church is not a building. Church is an assembly or gathering of the “called out ones”. “Church” can happen whenever a group of girls that are believers meet with my wife at our house. “Church” can happen whenever a group of believing teenagers gathers in the youth chapel. “Church” however finds a more full expression in the local gathered assembly of believers. In Hebrews when it says not to forsake the assembly it is speaking of the gathering of the local assembly of believers. This is why you need to be in attendance in more than just youth group. You need to not only be actively in fellowship with your peers but biblically you need to be actively involved within the local body of believers—adults, children, etc. Finally, “Church” will find its most full expression in heaven when the universal church, “people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language, will come to worship before the Lord”.

Tonight, when we talk about church I do not want you to primarily think of church as a small group of believers gathering for a worship service or Bible Study. I also do not want you to primarily think of church as our gathering of teenagers on Wednesday evenings. I want you to think about the local assembly of believers within the local body of Christ. Not necessarily Sunday mornings or Sunday night but the gathered congregation as a whole. This is the Church that we are talking about. Hopefully through the introduction to this sermon and sermons in the past your have gathered the importance of gathering with a group of believers. But, this begs a question—what should happen whenever the local congregation gathers? What should the church “do” at these gathered assemblies? Before I launch into the answers I know that you have your own. You have your own preferences about church. There are probably some things about attending these gathered assemblies that you do not like.

What type of messages would you prefer the preacher to preach? Topical—where he picks a topic and tells you about it. Would you prefer “How to” messages? Do you want the pastor to go through one book at a time? Do you want him to slowly unfold the message of the Bible and make it relevant for your life? Should the preacher be energetic? Do you want visual aids like power point? Do you even want a preacher to preach—would you prefer an open discussion?
What should the church building look like? What type of carpet? What color should the walls be? Should we have a Cross somewhere? If so, where? Should the baptistery be elevated so everybody can see the baptisms? Should we use such modern technology as power point? What about the sound—should we have state of the art sound equipment or get by with what is necessary? Should we build on to accommodate more people?
At the beginning of the service should the pastor acknowledge the visitors some how? What about at the end? Should we give an altar call at the end of the service? Should we put the number of baptisms on a board? Should we display our tithes and offerings and attendance? How should we do tithes and offerings? Should we pass the plate or do it later? How often should we partake of the Lord’s Supper? When we do how should it be done?
And let us not forget the music. Should it be traditional? Should it be high-churchy with all the organs and candles and all that stuff? Should it be only hymns? Only contemporary? Should we use drama? What type of music should be sang? How should it be sung? Should we use musical instruments? How many? Should we try to blend all of these together so that we have a little bit of traditional and a little bit of contemporary? Some hymns and some praise and worship choruses. Should the choir sing? Should we have a choir? When should they sing? Where should they sing?

Now, these are only a few of the questions that a church has to face when they gather. There have been others throughout the centuries. Should we use icons—like statues of the Apostle Paul? Some of those have been resolved. Others, like the music and preaching questions, are forever being changed and rethought. These, and many others, are what have split churches. Many of these questions may not have one right biblical answer—like the carpet question. But in this text in Colossians 3 I think Paul gives us three principles for answering such questions. What should we do in Church? Or you can even ask it like this, when I go to choose a church what three things should I look for?

One last thing before we discuss these three things. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ and you are saying, “I don’t really care” to these questions—even though that may seem really holy let me submit to you that it is not. These questions are essential, and you are answering them even by your refusal to seek an answer. What I mean is this. The church is inundated (overflowing) with pew potatoes; people who sit on their rear within the gathering of the local body and throughout the overall life and ministry of the church. “I do not really care what the church does so long as I get fed”. That is the attitude and it is wrong. We must be very much concerned about the life of the Church and whether we as part of the Church are biblical. So, now lets look at three things a church ought to do in their gatherings.

I. A gathered church ought to be a peaceful church

In verse 15, Paul says, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful”. The idea of thankfulness is one that you will find in every verse—we will come back to thankfulness in the end. For now we will focus on the peace of Christ.

Peace is something that we all long for, is it not? Peace is something that we would love to see in our world. Peace is something that we would love to have in our own hearts. You know what peace means but it is kind of hard to define. It’s one of those emotions like love that you just know what it is but words escape you when you try to express it. The word here for peace is a word that means joining together two things that are separate. When two parties are at war (separate) then they sign a peace treaty, they are joined together. Whenever there are contrary feelings in our souls and they are brought together we experience peace. Whenever we are separated and alienated from God and draws us to Himself and brings us into fellowship with Him we have peace. That is the peace that is being spoken of in this text; the peace of Christ--the peace that Christ provides and the peace of soul that Christ imparts to believers.

Essentially peace is reconciliation. This is what God has done through transferring us into this new community. He has reconciled us to Himself, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. Or as Paul said in Colossians, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind…he has now reconciled…” But it is not only reconciliation to God that has happened. He has also reconciled us to one another and brought us into unity in one body. We have been reconciled racially, culturally, and socially. This is the essential point of Ephesians 2:11-22 that the elemental dividing wall of the people of Israel and the Gentiles has been torn down. As Ephesians 2:14 says of Christ, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”. This is the same thing that Paul is saying in Colossians 2:11, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”

This is the peace of Christ, but what are we to do with it? What is the implication of this peace? This text says that we are to let it rule in our hearts. I want to bring a couple of things out from this phrase. First, notice that hearts is plural. So, you have all of these hearts with our opinions, our passions, and our drives, put together into this one assembly. Here at FBC New London we have some 200 hearts (depending on how you figure the numbers it could even be said to be 600) that are joined together into one body but we all are made differently. One person likes green carpet another likes hardwood floors. One person likes traditional music with a piano and an organ, another thinks the organ should be burnt and we should set up some drums and play contemporary music.

The picture is that all of these hearts are coming together into one setting. Now, what should take place with all of these hearts? How do we decide on green carpet or hardwood floors? We are to let the “peace of Christ” rule our hearts. The word for “rule” is the only time it is used in the New Testament. What it refers to is an Olympic judge; the guy that would award a medal or disqualify an athlete from his prize. This guy was the umpire. You can argue all you want but the umpire is the one that gets to make the call.

What this verse is saying is that when the church gathers it ought to gather in peace. Jim should not be ticked off with Jan. The young folk should not harbor bitterness to the old and the older folk should not harbor resentment of the young. There should be unity of peace. This verse is not saying that you should make individual decisions based upon whether or not you have “peace in your heart”. Perhaps you could find verses to support that theology but this is not one of them. This is speaking corporately. It is saying that we have been called into one body not 200, so with every decision, relationship, and gathering the peace of Christ ought to rule. As Sam Storms says, “A decisive factor in how you should conduct yourselves in relation one to another is whether or not the peace that Christ died to achieve and impart is preserved and promoted. When you are faced with tensions and potentially divisive decisions in the community of faith, give strong consideration to what will most effectively sustain the ‘peace of Christ’.”

This means that if you are not at peace with somebody in the body then you need to be reconciled with that person. Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 5:23-24, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift”. If you are not reconciled with one another then our worship as a body will be hindered. We are to function as one body not 200.

II. A gathered church ought to be centered on Christ and His Word

In verse 16 Paul gives the second thing that should define the gathered church: we should be centered on Christ and His Word. If anyone has a KJV verse 16 probably reads the “Word of God”. This is really interesting the way that we come up with our Bible translations. Why does the King James say Word of God and the ESV and other modern translations say, “Word of Christ”? The modern translations use something other than the Greek manuscripts that the KJV editors used. The King James uses what is called the Textus Receptus. To make a long story short they use a manuscript that compiles Greek and Latin manuscripts from a somewhat later date than what the modern translators use. In other words the ESV uses manuscripts that have been found since 1611 to translate their text, while the KJV uses only the manuscripts that were available at that time. In translating if you have what is called a textual variant the one that is older usually gets the props. In our particular case the older manuscripts read that which is translated as “word of Christ”. The newer manuscripts used by the KJV read “word of God”. How do we know what is right?

One of the principles for translating is that the one that makes the least sense is probably the original. At first that does not seem like it makes sense, but when you understand why we have these textual variants it makes sense. Textual variants sometimes happened whenever the copyists would make notes out to the side and then whoever copied the copy would put the note in as part of the original. So, the logic goes, why would somebody replace something that made sense with something that does not make as much sense? All of that to say more than likely this should be translated word of Christ.
What does that even mean? It means simply the word about Christ—in other words the Gospel. That which Paul said in 1:5, “of this you heard in the word of the truth, the gospel”. So, then what Paul is saying in verse 16 is that the gospel (and really all of Scripture relates to the gospel because it is all about Christ) ought to dwell in them richly. Again, this is not individual but corporate. This is speaking of the gathering of believers—the word of God ought to dwell—make its home in—the believers in abundance.

Now, we can take the second part of this verse in two ways. Is Paul saying that teaching and admonishing is something separate from the singing psalms? Or is Paul saying that the way teaching and admonishing happens by the means of singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs? Certainly it would be biblical to say the first one. We know that preaching was essential to the gathering of believers in the first century. We know from such places as 1 Timothy that the elder or pastor was supposed to “preach the word”. However, in this particular context I think Paul is actually saying the second—that the teaching and admonishing happens through the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

This is crucial for us to understand in all of our discussion about what music ought to be played in the church. According to this passage if it is not centered upon God in Christ and if it is not used for teaching and admonishing then it probably should not be played. I turn again to what Sam Storms says about this passage:

“At the core of our individual and corporate experience as God’s people must be the person and work of Jesus. The importance of this for today is easily seen with a quick glance at the predominant themes in our pulpits and on our platforms. Christ is largely absent! That’s not an overstatement. Obsessive preoccupation with self has usurped the place of Jesus in the life and ministry of countless churches. “

This is reiterated when we understand what Paul means by psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The psalms are more than likely the Psalms of the OT—but could also be referring to that which uses musical instruments. The hymns are songs meant to honor God. As Augustine said that if it is a hymn then: It must be sung; it must be praise; it must be to God. The spiritual songs could perhaps have been impromptu songs that are motivated by the Spirit of God that testify of His Greatness. Remember in the early church they would not have had a hymnal, or power point or anything like that. More than likely these spiritual songs are spur of the moment songs that are motivated by the Spirit and exalting to Christ. And they were done for the edification of the body and would have been done in an orderly and united fashion. Perhaps we could even say that this is where some of our modern worship songs would come into play.

One thing that ties all these three together is that they are to be centered upon the word of Christ. No matter how nice and precious the song makes you feel if it’s more about you and less about God then it’s probably not to be part of our gathering. Furthermore, if they are not done in a spirit of thanksgiving then it’s not true worship either. Notice that for it to be true worship then it must be sung, “to God”, “with thanksgiving”, “in our hearts”. Mindless and heartless singing is detestable to God and is not worship no matter what style of music you choose.

So, how is your worship? Is it passionate? Is it to God? Is it biblical? Is it centered on the word of Christ? Is your worship Christ-centered?

III. The gathered church is to be for the glory of God

I think I am going to preach on this text next week, so let me say this in passing before next time. The church is not about man. It is not about what you want, what you desire, what your opinions are. It is about you being fed. It is about you growing. It is about you enjoying God. But this happens not by focusing on you and making church about you…this happens by being swallowed up in a vision that is so much greater than yourself—the glory of God. Church is about reaching people. Church is about teaching people. Church is about ministering to our needs. Church is about you. But more than anything Church is about God and for His glory. That is the way to answer all of your questions.

So what are three things that define a biblical church—1) It is united. 2) It is Christ-Centered 3) It is glory of God focused.

In closing I want to return to the thread that runs through each of these verses—thankfulness to God. Why is it that God says be thankful, in one way or another, all throughout this text? I think that it is because we ought to be thankful because each of these blessings is a blood-bought purchase of Jesus Christ. How do we have unity in the church? How are we reconciled to God? How are we reconciled to one another? Because of the Gospel! What makes us Christ-centered? How do we even have an understanding of the word of Christ? How is it to dwell in us richly? Because of the Gospel! What will make us glory of God focused? The Gospel! We are to be thankful in all of these areas because they are purchased by Christ.

This is why if you are here tonight and separated from Christ you might attend the gathering of believers but you cannot rightly worship. You cannot rightly worship first of all because you have not been reconciled yet to God. You are not Christ-centered because you are focused on your self and not Christ. You are not glory of God focused. Until you come to know Jesus Christ you cannot right be a part of the gathering of believers. Church will be strange and boring to you. You need Jesus.

You need to be an active part of a biblical gathering of believers.

Look the Part

Looking the Part
Colossians 3:5-11 Part Two

Tonight we will be looking at Colossians 3:5-11 and focusing on verse 8-11. I had a really funny experience one year at church camp. Becky Wood, one of the cooks, did not know who I was. I also should mention that at this point in my life I was shamefully beardless. It was actually my first year at church camp and I had just discovered the amazing benefit for counselors—free sodas in the kitchen. So, I journeyed into the back to get a soda only to have Becky chide me, “What are you doing!” Apparently, she thought I was a camper—I did not look the part.

We cannot be certain that the Christians in Colossae are not “looking the part” but Paul is warning them that this could at least be a danger in Colossae. As he has continued to do through the letter Paul is in this section pointing them to the work that Christ has done. From the third chapter on in Colossians Paul is giving directions on how the Colossians should live in light of what Christ has done, these direction apply directly to us as well. Last week we discovered that we are to not flirt with sin but we are to put to death sin in our lives—we are to take care of the weeds that grow up around our gospel flower. Tonight we will be looking at a different image—that of clothing. Some clothing should be worn others should be cast off. Read with me what God says in Colossians 3:5-11

Sermon Introduction:

There is a quote on the DC Talk album Jesus Freak that says this, “the single greatest cause of atheism in the world today are Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle”. A common complaint among the unchurched is that the reason they do not come to church is because we are hypocritical. And the truth is we all dislike hypocrites. Even Jesus did not like hypocrites. He constantly preached against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. One story in particular is noteworthy. Apparently Jesus also hated hypocrisy in fig tress. In Mark 11 we read of Jesus cursing a fig tree because it advertised to the world that it had figs but when Jesus got there it had nothing but leaves. Therefore, Jesus cursed the tree.

Does it not rub you the wrong way when you see a person professing Christ at youth group, singing worship songs, coming to church, and then living like the world and being totally different and school and in the community? Does it not bother you to hear of preachers that called others to holiness but live lives of immorality? Is it not one of the most annoying things to hear someone say, “Do as I say and not as I do”? We get ticked off when we buy a bag of potato chips and find that 2/3 of the bag is filled with air.

We all hate hypocrisy. But we often forget one great truth about hypocrisy—we are not immune to it. If you do not believe me what would you do if I told you that all of your deep dark secrets would be plastered on the power point? Nobody knows everything about us. We all like to put together a much better image than we truly are. We are much like Teddy Roosevelt; during one of his political campaigns when a delegation called on him at home the President met them with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up. “Ah, gentlemen,” he said, “come down to the barn and we will talk while I do some work.” At the barn, Roosevelt picked up a pitchfork and looked around for the hay. Then he called out, “John, where’s all the hay?” “Sorry, sir,” John called down from the hayloft. “I ain’t had time to toss it back down again after you pitched it up while the Iowa folks were here.” Teddy wanted to give the image of a hard-worker; and truth be known he actually was, but on this occasion he was being hypocritical.

A hypocrite, as you know, is someone that proclaims one thing and lives another. Let me ask you a question. Is a man that puts on a police uniform to impersonate a police officer so that he can make fake arrest a hypocrite? If a king puts on clothes to act like a commoner so as to find out what people are saying about him, is he being a hypocrite? If one group of friends acts one way and another group of friends acts another way and you change your behavior to accommodate each group are you being a hypocrite? If Christ has transferred you into his kingdom but you live like you belong to another are you being a hypocrite?

That is what has happened in the life of the believer, we have been transferred into his kingdom. Paul’s exhortation in Colossians 3:5-11 is to live like that event has taken place. In other words; since Christ has transferred us into His community our lives must reflect such a change. There is one thing that is true of everyone here this evening: you are either in Adam’s community or you are in the community of Christ. As the Puritan Thomas Goodwin has said, “there are but two men that are seen standing before God, Adam and Jesus Christ; and these two men have all other men hanging in their [belts].” What Goodwin means is that every person is either represented by Christ or Adam. You either live in the community of Christ or the community of Adam; and you will be judged based upon which community you reside in.

All Christians have been transferred into the community of Christ. Tonight we will look at the Christian response to this mighty work of God. We will see that because of the work of God Christians must reflect a life dead to Adam’s community. And we will also see that Christians must reflect a life alive in Christ’s community.

I. Christians must reflect a life dead to Adam’s community

When I speak of Adam’s community some of you may not know what I am talking about; so please let me briefly explain. In Romans 5:12 it says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”. This is a reference to the Fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden. In one sense when Adam fell we all fell. Whenever we are born we are born “into Adam” or as we are phrasing it tonight into Adam’s community. When we are referring to Adam’s community we are talking about fallen corrupt humanity that is separated from God; as it says in Colossians 1:13, we have been delivered from this “domain of darkness”. Let’s look now at the life that we have been delivered from:

Life in Adam’s community

There are numerous places in Scripture that discuss life in Adam’s community; I will focus only on the ones here in our context. The first characteristic that we see here in our text is anger. It is the Greek word orge; it is what we translated wrath last week. When referring to humans this word means a settled disposition—the settled heart attitude of the angry person. The next word is very similar—this is the one that is translated wrath. It is the Greek word thumos. Orge is the settled bitterness and thumos is the flying of the handle type of rage. Both have a common origin—a heart that is not satisfied in God which lashes out at others.

I do not miss this about life in Adam. I do not miss that unsettled feeling and silent rage within. I do not miss the having to walk on eggshells because of the anger and wrath of my friends. Anger and wrath belong to the old way of life and not the new community of Christ. Yet, I understand that we still struggle with anger and wrath. Even as I was writing this I was holding Isaiah and he kept trying to push buttons on my computer and I found myself starting to get a little angry. But this is living in Adam’s community and not Christ’s.

The next characteristic of life in Adam’s community is malice. Malice is a mean-spirited or vicious attitude. Lightfoot, the biblical scholar translates it as, “the vicious nature which is bent on doing harm to others.” Malice exalts itself and is bent on putting down others. Again this is one that belongs to Adam’s community and not Christ’s. Malice is laughing at the misfortune of others—but it is so much more. Malice is vicious. It is the desire to see someone else’s destruction.

The fourth characteristic of life in Adam’s community is slander. Slander is actually the same word that is translated blasphemy in other places. It is called slander when it is directed towards people and blasphemy when it is directed towards God. Slander is “the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame, belittle or damage another’s reputation and cause them to fall into disrepute or to receive a bad reputation.”[1] Slander is when you talk bad about someone and try to tear them down. It does not have to be a 100% false charge for it to be slander. This is the “gossip” that Christians often find themselves in. We are guilty of slandering one another. This too is part of Adam’s community and not Christ’s.

The fifth characteristic of life in Adam’s community is obscene talk. This is not only cuss words, it is also the filthy, perverted, and vile speech that Christians can sometimes engage in. Brothers and sisters we need to repent of this. I need to lead in this. My language is sometimes fitting in this category. I want to openly apologize to you for language that has come from my mouth before. I am very quick to not cuss, but I am guilty of improper language—and I beg your forgiveness. This has no place in Christ’s community.

The sixth characteristic of life in Adam’s community is lying. This is included those “little white lies”. It is anytime that we have the intent of misleading and deceiving someone. In the context this is talking specifically about lying to fellow Christians. Certainly this includes boasting and exalting self and making ourselves out better than we are. It also includes evil deceit. Any type of lying is not fit within the body of Christ; it belongs to Adam’s community.

The seventh characteristic of Adam’s community is the immorality and idolatry that we learned about last week. All of those things that are to be put to death—sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness—are part of Adam’s community and not part of the community of Christ. That is why they too must be put to death. Those that are living in Adam’s community are bent towards the immorality and idolatry that defines it.

The last characteristic from our text is that the community of Adam is under and subject to the wrath of God. We saw this last week in verse 7. And it is confirmed in Ephesians 2:3 when it is discussing Adam’s community and it says, “among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” All of those within Adam’s community will experience an eternity of God’s wrath.

Listen to what Revelation 21:8 says about those in Adam’s community, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death”. This is not mincing any words but it is true—the Adamic community and all those that reside there will experience the fullness of the wrath of God.

Thankfully; we are: Lifted from Adam’s community

We see this truth in Colossians 1:13, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son”. When we went through this text a few months ago we looked at the awesome act of what God has done here. Those in the community of Adam are not neutral in their relationship with God they are adamantly opposed to him. God goes on a rescue mission to save his enemies.

We also see that we are lifted from Adam’s community in Colossians 2:11. “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off (does that word sound familiar) the body of flesh, by the circumcision of Christ…” This text is showing us that Christ has removed the wicked propensity to sin that defines all those in the Adamic community.

We also see what has happened in out text. Look at verse 9. Notice the tense in verse 9. It says that you have put off the old self. That is a past action with a continuing result. It is something that has already taken place. In other words if you are in Christ you are lifted out of Adam’s community. You no longer reside there. In fact you never will reside there. However, we sometimes still reflect our old culture.

Leaving Adam’s community

We have been delivered from the Adamic community but it seems like we have a hard time leaving. We still have the stain and corruption of Adam’s community. We lived so long in this community that we are trained to live in such a way. If any of you were married I could give a good analogy that you would understand. I will still tell you but you will have to look back and say, “OH, that’s what he meant”.

When you get married you learn something about yourself—your family had a few really weird idiosyncrasies. Some are funny and some can actually be a hindrance to unity in your marriage. When you live for so long with your parents (or even parent, or foster parent, or brother or sister) you get shaped by that person. People are weird. You pick up their weird habits; especially if you belong to my extended family. One of the funny things that I discovered when I first got married happened when my wife put silverware in the refrigerator. My mother never put silverware in the fridge. I had a hard time adjusting to my new culture of putting silverware in the fridge. We are like that in our walk with Christ—our old habits need to be changed.

In verse 7 Paul is discussing the manner in which we used to live walking in the ways of the earth (or Adam’s community). In verse 8 we are commanded to “put them all away”. That means to cast off like it is an old piece of clothing. In other words stop dressing like somebody that lives in Adam’s community. You live in Christ’s community now look like it. We are dead to that community. Therefore we must reflect a life that is dead to the community of Adam. Cast off all those characteristics of Adam’s community like you would a filthy garment. Get rid of it, and do not keep it around for a dust rag. Totally abandon it.

II. Christians must reflect a life alive in Christ’s community

In verse 10 we are told that we have “put on the new self”. Again notice the tenses. It is something that has been completed in the past and has a continuing result. Once we were lifted out of Adam’s community we were transferred into the community of Christ. In Colossians 3:12-17 we are given a good outline of life in Christ’s community. We will be discussing those characteristics in a couple of weeks. Tonight we will focus on the characteristics of Christ’s community in the immediate context of our passage.

Life in Christ’s community

The first thing that we see about life in Christ’s community is that we are constantly being renewed. The tense of this one is also significant; it is in the continuous present tense, which means that it is an ongoing process. It is not a completed thing but we are daily being made new. And we are being made new by God. This is not something that we are told to do—it is something that God is doing to us. He is making us new every day.

This text also gets specific about what we are being renewed in; knowledge. The Colossian heretics are very keen on having fullness and a deep understanding. Paul counters that by saying that those in Christ’s community are being renewed (daily) in knowledge. And we also see what type of knowledge this is—“after the image of its creator”. What this means is that those within the community of Christ are being progressively renewed to know God and to look like God.

I like how Richard Melick explains this, “People were created in the image of God. That image was marred when they sinned. Through conversion and growing in Christlikeness, believers are renewed, “according to the image” of God. The measurement of growth is the restored image of God in people.” So those who live in Christ’s community are (and in fact over time) will look more and more like Jesus and less like Adam.

There is another significant difference between Adam’s community and the community of Christ. In the community of Adam there is anger, wrath, malice, covetousness, and all of those vices we have mentioned previously. All of these hold one thing in common—they are selfish and individualistic. From such attitudes comes a breech in fellowship. In Adam’s community fellowship with other people is next to impossible. Friendships are shaky. Relationships are rocky. Selfishness abounds. Adam’s community provides fertile ground for such detestable things as racism, sexism, slavery, and all sorts of bigotry. But in the community of Christ there is no place for such a thing.

Notice in verse 11 how all of these political, racial, and social walls are broken down. In Paul’s culture you were either a sophisticated Greek or you were a barbarian. In Jewish circles you were either a holy undefiled Jew or you were a dirty Gentile. In society you were either a free man or you were a slave. Therefore, in the community of Christ there is no place for factions. There is no place for racism. There is no place for sexism. There is no place for social standings. There should not be cliques in the community of Christ. All of those distinctions have been obliterated by Christ and replaced with familial titles. We are now brothers and sisters. Why? Because as verse 11 says, “Christ is all and in all”.

This statement tells us two things. First, Christ is the center and ground for everything in the Christians existence. For those who live in the Christian community one thing is clear—it’s all about Jesus and not about me. Whereas in Adam’s community it is individualistic and fellowship with God and man is broken, in Christ’s community we experience true fellowship—a shared commitment to a single goal—Jesus Christ. And this is maintained by the second truth we learn from this text: Christ is in all. Christ dwells in all believers and therefore we are united in fellowship.

Locked in Christ’s community

And remember that believers have been lifted into Christ’s community. This is a completed action; the exhortation for us is to live like it. I want to share one final thing about Christ’s community—it is eternal. You can pick this up from the context and tenses of some of the words in this passage—but I think we can see this best by going to another place; turn with me to John 6: 37-40. “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believe in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Let us transfer the language of Colossians into this passage. “All that the Father gives me will come to me”, says Jesus. Does this not sound somewhat like Colossians 1:13, “He (the Father) has delivered us and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son”. In other words the Father has given us to Jesus. And because of that action on God’s part all those that he gives will respond to Him in faith. And what does Jesus say, “And whoever comes to me I will never cast out”. Do you see the security and finality of that?

In case you do not see the security let me show you how this text really drives the finality of our security home. According to this passage what is the will of God for Jesus? It is, “That (he) should lose nothing of all that (the Father) has given (him). Now if Jesus loses one person that the Father has given to Jesus—one person that has been transferred into his community—what does that mean for Jesus? It means two things 1) He is unfaithful to God’s will for his life. Which makes him a sinner. 2) It is also makes him a liar, because he just said that he will lose nobody and that he has come to do his will. So, if God has given you to Jesus and you fall and perish into Hell then Jesus is a sinful liar. Jesus is not a sinful liar. You will not perish into hell. As sure as the character of Jesus all those that have been transferred into Christ’s community will be ultimately renewed and transformed and will forever enjoy the King.

How do you know if you have been transferred into Christ’s community? What does verse 40 say? “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”. Do you trust in the promises of God? Do you trust in Christ for your salvation and your security? If so, that is evidence (not necessarily the grounds) but the evidence of the grace of God in your life.


Oh, the beauty of this truth. The position of the Christian as a child of God and a citizen of the community of Christ is eternally secure. We are holy and blameless before God because of the mighty work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. God is the hero to this story. Jesus is the one that has completed his rescue mission. It is the Spirit of God that is continually renewing us and shaping us into the image of God. And it is all by the grace, mercy, and love of the Father that any of this has taken place. That is all true and will always be true.

Why then are we exhorted to “put to death” and to “put away” the deeds of the flesh? If Christ has taken care of it why does Paul need to say that? Because our experience does not always match our position. These essence of what Paul is saying to the Colossians and what God is saying to us tonight is this—look at what Christ has done. Live in that grace. Be motivated by that grace. Live from the storehouse of that grace. Christ has graciously transferred you into his community—live like that is true. Since Christ has transferred us into His community our lives must reflect such a change.

I want to remind you of what the Puritan Thomas Goodwin said, ““there are but two men that are seen standing before God, Adam and Jesus Christ; and these two men have all other men hanging in their [belts].” Living in Adam’s community is deadly because it is subject to the wrath of God. If you are living tonight in Adam’s community I urge you to trust in the promises of God and believe in Jesus Christ. Cry out to God to save you from Adam’s community.


Kill Sin or It Will Kill You

Kill Sin, Or it Kills You
Colossians 3:5-11 Part One
Gospel Gardening

Scripture Introduction:

Last time we met we discussed the key to holiness—falling in love. We discovered the expulsive power of a higher affection. In other words we discovered that the more enthralled you are with Jesus the less appealing sin will be. We also have learned about the situation at Colossae. The false teachers are concerned with having a full experience of Christianity. They proposed that it comes through obedience to certain rituals and practices; or as we said “by building fences”. We have learned that the gospel declares just the opposite. As we saw a few weeks ago people are not changed by fences. Building fences cannot create holiness, and as we saw last week if we are to experience the fullness of Christ or to be holy it will come through having a higher affection in Christ. But this begs the question, “how do we do that”? If the key to holiness is falling in love with Jesus then what do I do to cultivate this? How do I fall more in love with Jesus. In the coming weeks we will discuss this. Our text for the next two weeks, Colossians 3:5-11, will discuss it negatively. Then we will look at Colossians 3:12-17 and will discuss this positively. So, we turn now to Colossians 3:5-11:


Sermon Introduction:

Does it ever feel like you cannot get a hold on certain sins? Do you ever feel absolutely defeated by sin and almost want to give up the fight? Maybe you have already given up the fight against some sins and now you are in the process of rationalizing them. You want to grow and have a vibrant relationship with Jesus but it seems like there are big barricades in the way. Some of you that went to camp have probably already experienced this. Camp always seems to be a time when you “rededicate” your life to Jesus. That’s great. But often what happens is that once you get back into the “real world” it all seems to slowly fade away? Why is that? Why can you not maintain the fervor that you had while you were at camp? Why does it seem like your love for Jesus dwindles and your passion gets choked out? If the key to holiness if falling in love with Jesus then why do I have such a hard time staying in love and growing in love?

Imagine planting a beautiful rose in a garden. To plant a rose I need to put it in a sunny well-drained location. Also, when I dig my hole I need to cut off the broken branches in the ground and try my best to prevent the rose from getting crowded out from other roots. I also need to fee it. This flower begins to grow up beautifully. It has that wonderful fresh smell of a rose. Its petals are forming and it is beginning to blossom. This rose, when fully grown is going to score me lots of points with my wife.

Now, we all know that planting something is only half the battle. Getting it to grow is only half the battle. You also have to care for it once it begins to grow—you have to cultivate it. What happens if I get lazy and ignore this part of the process? Weeds grow up. What happens when a bunch of weeds grow up around my beautiful rose? The rose begins to wither and die because it is choked out by all of the weeds around it. What was once a beautiful rose, has now become a withered and ugly rose. Why? It was not cultivated and the weeds around it sapped it of life.

That rose is our affection for Jesus. It is our measure of love for Christ. If sin in our life is not cut out then it will grow, like the weeds, and choke our affection for Jesus. Weeds are always trying to grow up and compete for our affections. The greater the weed grows the smaller our affection for Jesus becomes. We get distracted. Sin—those other affections—must be cut out. This is what we call mortification.

Mortification is a big word that means to put to shame by injuring one’s pride or self-respect. But it can also mean “to kill”. That is the way we will use it tonight. It is synonymous with Paul’s command in verse 5 to “put to death”. As John Owen explained mortification by saying “to kill a man, or any other living thing, is to take away the principle of all strength, vigor, and power, so that he cannot act, or exert, or put forth any proper action of his own.” What we are talking about tonight then when we discuss mortification is the killing or uprooting of sin in our life. We will look at two things the need for mortification and the power for mortification.

I. The need for mortification

A. Kill sin or it will be killing you

The Puritan John Owen in his book The Mortification of Sin said it well when he said, “Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it while you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” That is the first reason for mortification. Kill sin or it will be killing you.

Sin is not something that we can play with. Sin is deadly. This is why Paul says to put it to death. Look at what verse 6 says. After listing a few of the sins of the flesh Paul says, “on account of these the wrath of God is coming”. What is the “wrath of God”? The wrath of God is his settled intense hatred and disposition against sin. Now that is not a very concrete definition, in fact it is very difficult to picture God’s wrath. It, like all his other attributes, are so intense and majestic that we as finite sinful human beings cannot full grasp. But I will try by giving you a picture. Imagine with me a family that lives on the side of this very large dam of water. If anyone has seen the Smurfs, picture the Smurf village. On the other side of this dam is a massive amount of water, if the dam breaks it will wipe out the entire village without hope of restoration.

Now, go back for just a second to our text. Notice the tense of verse 6, it says that the wrath of God “is coming”. That is in the present tense. It means that it is something that is now taking place—we can see the effects of the full fury of God’s wrath. It means that we get a sampling of what is to come even today.

Back to the village. Imagine that every few weeks the dam starts to spring some minor holes. It causes a little bit of flooding and is enough to cause serious concern in the community. That is what this text is talking about, with the wrath of God “coming”. It means that we are already seeing evidence of God’s wrath but even that is a sampling of what is to come. Even that is gracious. It causes the village to consider where they live and if they are wise they will move out of the village because eventually this dam will break and they will be consumed. Unrepentant sinners are living in that village and as long as they live there the dam could break any moment and they are in danger of being consumed.

God graciously brings glimpses of his wrath to cause sinners to turn. God is today graciously holding back the dam of his wrath. But someday he will no longer hold it back. The dam will break and unrepentant sinners will be consumed. This is why we cannot flirt with sin. As John Owen said “kill sin or it will kill you.” I think we can see this even more clearly by our second principle.

B. Sin always aims at the utmost

Again I quote John Owen, “Sin always aims at the utmost: every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin of that kind…But sin is still pressing forward; and that because it hath no bounds but utter relinquishment of God, and opposition to him.” Let me put that in contemporary English—sin always aims to dethrone God. Every “little sin” aims at this. It aims to go as far as it possibly can. That little passing thought of lust, if not weeded out will lead to adultery. Adultery will lead to addictions. Addictions will lead to worse addictions and on and on. Ask an alcoholic or a drug addict if this is not true. What started with smoking pot occasionally—if not weeded out—will lead to an addiction to crack.

I know I sound like one of those old sticks in the mud right now. And I know as teenagers you often think that sin will not catch up with you. It does. It leads to addictions. The serial killer Ted Bundy began his downward spiral when he found some “dirty magazines” in a trash bin close to his house. It then spiraled downward into more violent fantasies. Eventually it continued spiraling downward from fantasy to reality. By the time Bundy was arrested he had sexually molested and brutally murdered at least 28 females.

I will let Bundy speak for himself: “Once you become addicted to it, and I look at this as a kind of addiction, you look for more potent, more explicit, more graphic kinds of material. Like an addiction, you keep craving something which is harder and gives you a greater sense of excitement, until you reach the point where the pornography only goes so far - that jumping off point where you begin to think maybe actually doing it will give you that which is just beyond reading about it and looking at it.”

In other words sin always aims at the utmost. And this is confirmed by our Scripture here as well. Let’s look at this list of sins that Paul mentions here individually, and then lets tie it together.

The first vice in this list is “sexual immorality”. The Greek word is porneia; it is where we get our word pornography. Now this is not talking about the viewing of sexually explicit material. This word refers to any sexual activity outside of the divine bounds established by marriage and thus includes the ideas of unlawful sexual intercourse, unchastity, and fornication. This is having sex before marriage and it includes much more than intercourse. This is speaking of oral sex and the like. It is speaking of any type of sexual stimulation that happens outside the bounds of marriage.

The second vice in this list is “impurity”. The word refers to filth or refuse. It is that which makes one defiled to enter God’s presence. It is the stain of sin. It is the defiled heart. It is the very opposite of purity. This is directly opposed to God. God is pure. God is holy. This stands in direct opposition to that. This is the perverted mind. This is the heart that laughs at fornication. This is the life that calls “okay” and “clean”, something that God considers and abomination.

The third vice in this list is passion. It is the Greek word pathos. This is a desire that does not rest until it is satisfied. It is an inward emotion that is aroused by an external object. It is the soul’s diseased condition out of which evil lusts spring. It is the condition of the heart that longs for things that it should hate. And this longing is not satisfied until it is quenched or killed.

The fourth vice in this list is evil desire. This is actually not as strong or at least as “settled” as the third vice. This refers to the longing or craving directed toward an object. The word desire can actually be neutral. But in our case when married to the word “evil” we know that it is not neutral. It is having a bent and a craving toward things that are offensive to God. This is actually the fruit of pathos.

The fifth vice in this list is covetousness. It does not seem to belong. These others are more sexual and physical in nature. Covetousness is anxious greed. It is a lack of contentment. It is the wanting of something that is not yours. John Piper defines it as “desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God”. Paul gives us another definition of it. He says that it is idolatry. Covetousness is the worship of something that is not god as if it were God. It is exalting something to the status of God in your heart. It is dethroning God and putting something else there. Remember what John Owen said, “sin always aims at the utmost”.

Let’s try to tie all of these together to see how they are connected. I think we can look at this like a cycle. Look at it from the top to bottom and from the bottom to the top. From the top we see the act of sexual immorality. What does that lead to? Impurity. Impurity then leads to having messed up passions. This leads to rationalizing the sin. And the sin spiraling further down. I know this from experience. This is not some philosophical understanding here. I have went down this spiral myself. Our desire gets messed up and then we start clinging to that treasured sin—which is idolatry. So, what happens? Our relationship with God gets really messed up. And the spiral continues.

I think we can also look at it from the bottom up. I think in some sense Idolatry is the root of all of this. Why do we struggle with sexual immorality in the first place? I think it is because we struggle with idolatry. Why are we idolatrous? Because we are not wholly satisfied with God. Why are we unsatisfied with God? Because we are too distracted by all of the weeds in our life to enjoy the rose that could be growing.

If you look at this list from the bottom up you see that the root is idolatry. That leads to covetousness—that is the fruit of an idolatrous heart. What happens when you start desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God”? Your heart gets distracted and your desires get messed up. What happens when that takes root? It leads to a settled disposition and you heart becomes totally distorted. A distorted heart leads to an impure and defiled heart. And out of an impure and defiled heart what do we see? Things like sexual immorality. We could easily deal with different sins the same way. As Jesus said, out of the heart of man, comes “evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness”.

All of this to say that sin is often a tangled up spiral that keeps feeding and fueling itself and each time leading to a dethroning of God and a death to our soul. Sin always aims at the utmost—our death and God’s dethroning.

C. Sin is always working

Again we turn to John Owen as he says, “Sin does not only still abide in us, but is still acting, still laboring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh. When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone: but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our [plans] against it to be vigorous at all times, in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion.” And later he says, “There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed on; and it will be so, while we live in this world.”

Simply put either sin is winning or you are. Either weeds are cropping up in your rose garden or you are constantly plucking them up. They, like stupid dandelions, will always keep coming back up. Not much more needs to be said on this point. We only need to mention that as long as your heart is beating you will be fighting this battle. But I do not want to stop there. Let’s ask our second point.

II. The power to mortify

Some people have really tripped over Colossians 3:3 and Colossians 3:5. In Colossians 3:3 Paul says that “you have died”. Then in verse 5 he says, “put to death”. It is active in voice meaning it is to be something that we do. It is also to be a settled attitude. How can it be then that it is something that Christ has already done and now it is something that we must do?

I think that is pretty obvious actually. Notice the word “therefore” in verse 5. That tells me that the grounds or the motivation for our action in verse 5 comes from what just happened in verse 1-4; namely the work of Christ. It is as if Paul is saying “the old man is dead, now put him in the morgue so that he doesn’t stink up the joint”.

If you kept a corpse in your house even though it is dead it can do considerable damage. Honestly though I think Paul is talking about something a little more active than simply scrubbing your floors and getting the dead man out of your house. It seems from experience and other place sin Scripture that sin is something that is active that we must keep away and put away. But I think this work is a duel work. It is cleaning up the dead man in your house and it is also keeping evil out of your house. So that it is both active and dead in two sense of the word.

So, how do you do that? How do you follow what God’s word is saying here in verse 5? How do you mortify sin? This is such a profound mystery. It is indeed the Spirit that works this in us so that when we boast it must be in God. But the Spirit works in such a way that it can be rightly said—you do it. As John Owen said, “Your being dead with Christ virtually, your being quickened with him, will not excuse you from this work.”

This notion of “let go and let God” is not biblical at least in this sense. This is not something that we sit by and passively hope happens. No we are called to put sin to death? How are we to do that? This is where it gets tough—it’s not really something we can do. It’s something that God has done and something that God is doing. It is kind of as simple as me opening a jar of pickles for my wife. She cannot get the jar of pickles open. It needs opened. She can be prideful and try and try and try to get that jar of pickles open and do it to no avail. Or, she can swallow her pride and give the jar of pickles to me—so I can find somebody strong to open it. It is the same way with us in our mortification. We give it—very actively—to Christ.

Again I turn to John Owen. He stands wholeheartedly in agreement—and more importantly Scripture stands wholeheartedly in agreement that this mortification is ultimately something that Spirit works in us. How, asks Owen? By:

1) By causing our hearts to abound in grace, and the fruits that are contrary to the flesh and the fruits thereof, and to the principles of them.

2) By a real, physical efficiency on the root and habit of sin, for the weakening, destroying, and taking it away.

3) He brings the cross of Christ into the heart of a sinner by faith, and gives us communion with Christ in his death, and fellowship in his sufferings.

Let me modernize that? The Spirit does it by pouring in us grace and the things that will fight sin. He does it by taking our heart of stone and turning it into a heart that treasures Christ. He changes our affections. And lastly he does it by sitting us down in front of the Cross.

How do you mortify sin? You mortify sin by sitting at the foot of the Cross. You mortify sin by putting yourself at the feet of Jesus. He is the one that can heal. He is the one that takes your burden. Rather than going off on a holy quest trying to kill sin—you sit at the feet of Jesus. In fact there is one sense in which Jesus has already crucified your sin. There is one sense in which the victory is already yours. Christ has saved your soul and when you died with Christ your old self died as well. This is what enables your victory today. But it is not a victory that you accomplished— or is this as if what God is saying is, “I did this now you do this”. No, every blessing and victory we have today was already purchased by Christ on the Cross.

Oh, you actively go to the Cross. A war will be raging within you, attempting to distract you from the gospel. Everything from without will be tempting you to either ignore sin or try to pay for it yourself. So you must actively every day put yourself in a position at the foot of the Cross. This is how you mortify sin—you give it to Jesus. You take it to the Cross. You preach the gospel to yourself daily and you give it to Jesus.

But, this must be done. We cannot trifle with sin. Sin will kill your soul and it will spiral downward. Do not hug and cherish sin—deal with it. Take it to the Cross and beg Christ to slay it. Do everything within your own power to slay it. This will be painful. I like what a preacher from the 1800’s named Andrew MacLaren said about mortifying sin:

“Picture a man who while working at a machine gets his fingers drawn between rollers or caught in the belting. Another minute and he will be flattened to a shapeless bloody mass. He catches up an axe lying by and with his own arm hacks off his own hand at the wrist.... It is neither easy nor pleasant, but it is the only alternative to a horrible death.”

Taking sin seriously is neither easy nor pleasant. It hurts to look at your sin. It hurts to admit to pride. It is sometimes not pleasant at first to give up those choice sins. But it is the only alternative to a horrible death. Sin will kill your soul. Are you going to take it serious enough to take it to the Cross?I close by quoting Owen one more time and then giving a brief word advice to those not saved:

“Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of thy sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and you will die a conquerer, yes, you will, through the good providence of God, live to see thy lust dead at thy feet.”

In other words take heart and trust in Christ some day your sin will be dead at your feet because Christ will indeed slay it.

Now a brief word to say that mortification is not something that an unbeliever is to set about doing. This call in Colossians 3 is something for believers. Unless you can claim Colossians 3:1-4 you do not have the power nor the call to follow 3:5-11. If the “therefore” in verse 5 is not true of you then you cannot put away sin because you are still living in it. Sin, though, is still just as deadly and it will kill you. You are like those in that village that are living your life on the other side of a dam that will burst. Someday it will burst and if you are still in that village it will be to your peril. Therefore, you are encouraged to do about the same as the believer—go to the Cross. Come to Christ for healing. If this is something that you are desiring I would like to talk to you later about this.