Genuine – A Walk through Colossians Part 10
Asbury Free Methodist June 20, 2021
By Rev. Dr. Brent Russett
This is part 10 of our series Genuine – a walk through Colossians. I hope you have found this journey helpful This book covers three essential truths. If you miss any one of these truths it will distort your Christian faith so drastically as to make people wonder if you really are a Christian. And yet, my experience is that a way too many people who call themselves Christians are missing one or more of these truths.
The first truth is this – The foundation of our spiritual life is based on what Jesus has done for us.
Colossians 1:21–22 (NIV)
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—
Jesus died for our sin according to the scripture. We are saved by grace through faith. It is the gift of God, not as a result of our works. None of can boast that we have earned it or deserve the salvation that we have found. The foundation of our spiritual life is based on what Jesus has done for us. It is not about what you do, it is about what he’s done.
I trust that you know that. I know that many of you have asked that the work that Jesus did on the cross be applied to you. That is what makes you Christian. That is the first great truth found in Colossians. The foundation of our spiritual life is based on what Jesus has done for us.
The second great truth is this – The practice of our spiritual life is all about intimacy with God. Let me state this in the negative so you get what I mean. The practice or our spiritual life is not about morality – being good or not. The practice of our spiritual life is not about being religious – going to church, praying reading the bible and all those good things. Those things are means to an end, not ends in themselves. They are means to the end of knowing God. They are means to the end of developing a deep relationship with God.
Paul says in Colossians 1:27 that it is Christ in you the hope of glory. We talked last week about how you have been raised with Christ and seated in the with Christ. You died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. The prayer you engage in, the worship you do, the scripture you read are all to push into a relationship with God. This is what Jesus is talking about when he says,
John 15:5 (NRSV)
5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
Abiding in Christ, connecting to Christ. We looked a little at it last week when looked at –
Colossians 3:1–3 (NIV)
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
You are connected to Christ. You have been raised with Christ. The second great truth of Colossians – and I might add of the spiritual life in general is that the practice of our spiritual life is all about intimacy with God.
I hope that you get that. It is a theme I talk about often.
So, the first great truth is that the foundation of our spiritual life is based on what Jesus has done for us. The second great truth is that the practice of our spiritual life is all about intimacy with God.
The third great truth is this. The measure of our spiritual life is determined by how we relate to others. Or to put it another way – the true measure of your Christian life is not how much or how often you pray or your read your bible. The way you tell if those things are having any kind of transformational effect on you is how you relate to other people.
That is what our passage of scripture is about today. The measure of our spiritual life is how we relate to others.
Let me go back to last week’s passage.
Colossians 3:9–11 (NIV)
9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
As an introduction to the passage that we are about to look at – Paul says, you are be transformed in the image of Christ. When you are the distinctions between you and your fellow believers do not matter. It is about Jesus not about the distinctions.
Jew versus Gentile.
Part of Paul’s spiritual growth was overcoming his spiritual elitism. Jews were God’s chosen people everyone else were second class spiritual citizens. But Paul says, in Christ there is no such distinction – Christ is all and in all. I grew up in the faith, you might have grown up in a rough home, and came to faith later in life. It doesn’t matter. There is no spiritual elitism; It is about Jesus.
Circumcised or uncircumcised
Circumcision was what Jewish males did to show that they were part of God’s chosen people. I think the equivalent in our world would be the cultural differences between church people verse non-church people. People who know how to behave in church verses people who don’t know how to behave in church. Church people have a certain language, a certain way they behave especially in church – Paul says the distinction doesn’t matter. It not about you show of religious behaviour, it is about Christ.
Barbarian and Scythian
If you called someone a Barbarian – what would you mean? They are uncivilized, uncouth. It meant the same thing in Paul’s time. The equivalent in our culture would be to call someone a “redneck.” A lot of people in Paul’s time look down on the Barbarians and Scythians. Paul says, in the body of Christ those distinction don’t matter – It’s about Jesus.
Slave or Free
The equivalent in our society would be really poor or relatively rich. Paul says the distinction doesn’t matter. In Christ we are one.
So, before we get to our passage today, Paul pushes the religious bigoted button. He pushes the racism button. He pushes the extreme cultural differences button and then he pushes the social economic button.
Then he says this.
Colossians 3:12–14 (NIV)
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
He speaks of who we are. Therefore as God’s holy people. We are holy because of truth one – the foundation of our spiritual life is what Jesus has done for us. He dealt with our sin and he has made us holy. He also reminds us that we are dearly loved. God really love you. As a follower of Jesus, God is on your side. He really wants want is best for you.
So out of your position as forgiven and made holy and loved he says clothes yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. I am going to come back to those in a moment. The context for living those things out is verse 13. Bear with each other and forgive each other. And love each other That is not a continuation of the list in verse 12. The grammar in Greek makes it plain that this is the context by which we live out compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Do you know why we have to be told to bear with one another and forgive one another and Love each other. Because rednecks and elitist tend to look at each other and how they act with disdain. Because if there are any racist tendencies, or if we have felt discriminated against, we need to forgive and bear with each other. When the poor and rich rub shoulders our attitudes can go sideways really fast.
Think of the tensions that can arise in a multi-ethinc, diverse socio-economic, denominationally varied, multi generational church. Our idea of what spirituality should look like can be really different.– hymns verses choruses, dress coming to church, the language we use, can cause us to think the other side is wrong. How we behave, what we think is appropriate and how we think we should communicate can be very different.
But Paul’s whole point is that there is no other side. Christ is all and in all. So as God’s chosen people who are holy and dearly loved, treat the people who are different from you, treat the people who irritate you, treat the people who are a way richer or poor than you, or who are far more or far less civilized than you – clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility gentleness and patience towards them.
You will notice that he does not say pretend to be compassionate and kind and humble and gentle and patient. If you look closely, Paul has said in verse 5 to put to death what belongs to your earthly nature. And now he is saying Clothe yourself with compassion and kindness. Your clothes are what people see when they look at you. This is just a part of who you are.
I want you also to notice that your attitude and action towards them have nothing to do with them and everything to do with what is going on inside you. Your forgiveness of them is not based on their asking for forgiveness. Your “bearing with them” is not based on whether or not they change. This is based on you. This is about your attitude to those who are different than you – not about them changing to become like you.
In other words, this is a change that happens in your heart. That is why the measure of your spirituality is seen by how you relate to other people.
Let me quickly walk you through the list that we are to clothe ourselves with.
Requires knowing a person in such a way that we can feel their joys and especially their sorrows. This is not about giving a $10 dollar bill to a homeless person so that we can feel good about ourselves. This is about entering into the life of a person so that we be with them in their difficulties.
Kindness requires that we see the other person as having value and worth. It is about respect them in such a way that we would never do anything that would shame them or marginalize them.
When we approach someone in humility, we understand that they have something to teach us. We have something to learn from them. We approach our relationship based on mutual give and take. And yes, this is true of the barbarians or the uneducated or the poor or the foreigner.
If I am being gentle, I cannot live out of my insecurity or defensiveness. I need to treat the person, even the one who I think is wrong with dignity.
If I am patient, I put my agenda behind other people’s well being. If I am impatient my agenda matters more than the other person.
If I was to sum this up, what this means is that I treat others with dignity and respect and as people of worth even if they are not treating me that same way. This means we are gracious with people. We don’t manipulate people. We don’t use people to get our own way. We allow people to be who they are, because we are confident in the work of Christ in us.
Do you see why the measure of your spirituality is seen in how you treat others. This is not superficial politeness. This is heart transformation that shows up in real world interactions.
Just to drive that Point home Paul says,
Colossians 3:15 (NIV)
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
You see if your heart has not been transformed by God, these kinds of people will drive you crazy and make you anxious. But when your heart has been transformed by God, your heat can be at peace and you can live in peace with people even if they are really different than you are.
Colossians 3:16–17 (NIV)
16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you – isn’t the best translation. It is better rendered, let the message or word of Christ dwell within you.
In verse 11, at the start of this passage he has said that Christ is all and in all. Now he is saying let who Jesus is, what he stands for, what he has said, what he has done dwell in you richly. There is a parallel passage in Ephesians
Ephesians 5:18–20 (NIV)
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,
20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice in Colossians we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly and the results are that we teach and admonish each other through psalms and hymns and songs from the Spirit. In Ephesians it is be filled with the Spirit and the results are the same as letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly.
There is something about our internal life as we are filled with the Spirit, or as we set our hearts and minds on things above as it says in the first two verse of this chapter, or as we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. There is some that transforms how we interact with people. Especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.
It transforms whatever we do. Because we are doing it in the name of Christ.
There are three big truths in Colossians. The first is that the foundation of our spiritual life is based on what Jesus has done for us. It is all about his work on our behalf – not our work on his behalf.
The second truth is the practice of our spiritual life is all about our intimacy with God. All of prayer and the worship and the bible reading are means to an end. The end is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. The end is a close walk with our Lord. The end is intimacy with God.
The third truth is this, you can tell how much you have been transformed by the first two truths, you can measure your spiritual life with how you treat other people, especially those who are different from you. Those who you would be prejudiced against. Those who would irritate you. Those who have offended you. That is the measure of your spiritual life.
If you church attendance, if your prayer and bible readying isn’t transforming how your heart so that you are interacting with people with compassion and kindness and humility and gentleness and patience, then you need to lean into heart transformation more. You need more discipleship.
I will end with a quick story. There was a person in a church that I was pastoring that I had a bad attitude towards. He was a nice guy, but we were just very different – but as things were arranged, I had to work with him closely.
He did some things that irritated me, his views on things were different from mine. The things he valued were somewhat different than I valued. Every time I worked with this person, I just came away with a bad attitude.
My first thoughts were, how can I arrange it so I don’t have to work with this guy. My second thoughts were how can I get him to do what I want him to do. You will notice that my thoughts were all about me and my comfort. That is where our minds go if we haven’t been transformed enough by our relationship with Jesus.
But my bad attitude and my irritation is not about him, it is about me and my heart. I started asking God about what I should do – I got the answer to pray for him. So, I put it on my prayer list and every day I would pray for this guy.
The guy didn’t change but my heart did. And we were still very different people, but we could work together. We could speak into each others lives.
If you were to grade your spiritual life on how you bear with and forgive those who are different than you – what grade would you give yourself. If you were to grade yourself on how you showed compassion and kindness and humility and gentleness and patience to those who are different from you – what grade would you get.
That give you a handle on where your spiritual life is at. Your goal isn’t to tray to be more compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, or patient. You goal is to get to know Jesus in a deeper way so he changes your heart, so you are that way.