Christ Over All: Put on the New Self

http://www.foresthillsbaptist.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/03-08-2015.mp3  

Each Monday (This week Wednesday!) I’ll be putting up my sermon notes and audio file for the sermon series from Forest Hills Baptist Church “Christ Over All: A Study from Colossians”. This is an edited copy of my sermon notes, not a transcript of the sermon. You can listen to the sermon audio above or directly for at the church’s website

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12–17, ESV)

As we’ve been walking through the book of Colossians, chapter 3 turns to the practical aspects of the Christian life. Paul has been discussing how our union with Christ by faith changes who we are. We are new people with a new identity. Therefore the old person who we used to be is now gone. Paul tells us in v. 5 to put to death our old self and to put off the vices of worldliness.

Here in v. 12 Paul is going to instruct us what the character of Christ looks like in the Christian life. We must not simply stop doing the sinful activities of our past, but we must put on a new character and a new heart that is birthed out of our new identity in Jesus.

One of the things that I think will surprise you as we study this passage together today is just how much Paul discusses putting on the character of Christ within the Christian community of the church.

Some will claim a “me and Jesus” faith that has no need for the community of the church. They may claim to be able to worship just fine on the fishing boat or may claim to grow just fine disconnected from community and membership to a local body. Yet, this attitude is not found in the NT at all. The writers of the NT always assume that a follower of Christ is always connected to the body of Christ.

If you hope to grow in your relationship with Jesus and if you hope to increase in Christ-likeness it will not happen if you are severed from the church. God has ordained it that we grow together in the loving community of the church. If we hope to put on the character of Christ as Paul instructs us here today, we will see that he assumes it is done within the context of the local church.

If you have a desire for holiness and if you have a desire to live your life for the glory of God than you ought to have a desire to belong and participate in the life of the church as well. The church is God’s gift to us helping us to grow in our faith. As we dive in to our passage for today we will see it over and over again. Putting on the character of Christ is meant to happen within the Christian community of the local church.

In Jesus, we put on the character of Christ and grow through the community of Christ.

1. The Character of a Christian (v.12–14)

Paul kicks off his command of “Put on then” by reminding us of who we are. Again that theme of indicatives and imperatives reoccurs here again. Before Paul tells us what we must do as Christian he always reminds us of who we are. And just who are we?

Paul tells us that we are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. Paul reminds the colossians and reminds us that if you are a Christian who are the elect of God. Chosen to be a member of his family. You have been called by him to be set apart and you have been chosen by him to be a special object of his love as he unites you to his son Jesus Christ by faith.

Paul is reminding us again of our new identity in our Christian life. Our identity in Jesus is the source and power for any hope to put on the character of Christ. Because in Jesus we have been made holy, by the Power of God’s spirit we are able to live in holiness.

I must never cease in warning you of this: It is impossible to live the Christian life without first being made by God a Christian. When we come to Christ there is a fundamental change in who we are. We are made new. We are born again. We become new men and new women in Jesus. It is out of this new identity that we are able by the Spirit to not only put off our former way of life, but put on the character and love of Christ.

Five Virtues

So Paul describes the character of Christ in which we are to put on. Just as Paul gave us a few verses earlier of 5 vices to put off, here he gives us a list of 5 virtues that are to radiate from the Christian life. He tells us to put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

Jesus transforms our very personality as he brings about the character of Christ in our life. In our Christian life we should seek to be growing in each of these areas.

Our ruthless merciless hearts should be growing more warm and compassionate towards others. The rudeness and selfishness that dominates our speech should be replaced with the kindness of Christ. Our sefl-suffeciency and pride should be replaced with a God given humility and meekness. Our irritableness and frustration with others should be replaced by divine patience for others struggles and weaknesses.

Bearing with One Another

Paul goes on to tell us that we should bear with one another, and be patient with one another. Here already you see the importance of community in growing in christ-likeness. It is easy to get frustrated with one another as church members isn’t it? We all have annoying little quirks and we all have areas of sin in our life and blindspots. Some of us are a little thick-headed and stubborn than others.

Yet maturity in Christ means that we are patient in bearing with one another. For those who are slow to learn we show humble patience. To those who hurt us and harm us we offer forgiveness. To those struggling with sin, we come along side and help them bear their struggle.

The immature Christian is a one who sees the weakness of his brother or sister and gets filled with self-righteous frustration. The mature Christian is the one who sees the weakness of his brother or sister and is filled with compassionate and loving patience.

For those of us who struggle with our weaker brothers and sisters perhaps we are not as mature in Christ as we’d like to think.

Forgiving One Another

Paul even tells us that those who have put on the character of Christ should make us forgiving people. A forgiving spirit is a sign of maturity in Christ. Those who hold on to bitterness and unforgiveness in their heart not only hurt their own soul but bring destruction and disunity on the church. The forgiveness of God changes us.

How has God forgiven us? Well he has forgiven us in the most costly of ways. That while we are sinners God sent his son, born in human flesh to absorb the penalty for our sin at the cross. Jesus stands in the gap and takes on our shame so that we could receive the favor of God and be adopted into his family. Our horrific, vile, and detestable sin has been forgiven by the blood of the lamb! The forgiveness of God is costly, it wasn’t cheap, and yet God generously gives it to all who might believe in his son Jesus Christ.

Again, I must urge you if you do not know Jesus and if you have yet to be forgiven by God, he is generous and merciful to receive all those who would turn from their sins and place their faith and trust in Jesus as their savior and Lord. Christians are not perfect people, but forgiven people. And God’s forgiveness shapes us and molds us into forgiving people.

So when you have conflict with other members in the church it is vital that you go and seek reconciliation and forgiveness. A church filled with gossip, bitterness, grudges, and tension is not a church that is growing in the image of Jesus Christ. We should be so quick to offer forgiveness when we fail each other and we must be quick to offer grace just as God in Christ has offered to us.

Paul says that above everything else that should define the character of a Christian, a Christian must be defined by love. As recipients of God’s love we love one another. Why is it that we refuse to forgive one another? Why is it that we are not humble or compassionate or patience towards others? It is because our hearts have not been filled with God’s love. Harmony in the church is achieved when the people of God genuinely and deeply love one another. It is the love of Christ that binds our hearts together and puts us together in perfect harmony.

2. The Community of a Christian (v. 15–17)

Paul tells us that the one of the distinguishing marks of the body of Christ should be one in which the peace of Christ rules. The church is to be a group of people growing together in christian maturity. We live under the rule of Christ and under his authority, and we live under the rule of his peace. In col 1:20 we are told that Jesus made peace by the blood of his cross. As we live our life under his Lordship that same peace should be evident in our churches.

The church should not be known for its back-bitting, grumbling, and complaining, but joyful peaceableness as we live under the rule of Jesus together, and for that we should be incredibly thankful to God that he allows us to be apart of this wonderful community of peace called the church.

But a question remains. How can our church became a community living under the peace of Christ? Why is it that most churches seem to be places of hostility not of peace?

Let the word of Christ Dwell in you richly

Well, I believe Paul gives us the answer of how that peace within the body is attained. We live under the peace of the rule of Christ if we allow the word of Christ to dwell within us richly. That’s what Paul says isn’t it in verse 16.

As we think about Forest Hills Baptist Church none of us can claim any sense of ownership to this body. Even though I’m a pastor, this isn’t my church. Even though you might have been born and raised in this church, Forest Hills is not your church. The one who owns us, who controls us, and who rules over us all is Jesus Christ himself. After all, he is the one who bought us by his own blood.

This is hugely important for us to grasp. If Jesus rules over us as his body, then that means that his Word is the final authority when it comes to our church. It means that every member of this church should submit our lives to the Scripture not only our personal lives but also in our church.

The reason there is so much hostility in some churches is because their is a conflict of authority. The church is not the place for you to come and exert your own influence, control, and your own way of doing things. When people begin to act like this, conflict ensues and rivalries develop. When Jesus’ word is replaced by our own personal authorities we cease to be His church.

So let me make it clear in case there is any doubt, as pastors of Forest Hills Baptist Church we will only lead our church under the rule of God’s word. God’s word will be our authority, not the opinions and preferences of our members. Why? Because we want the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts, therefore we want to allow the word of Christ to dwell within us richly.

Corporate Worship

v. 16 has a lot to teach us when it comes to cooperate worship. One implication is that it means that the word of God takes the primary seat in all we do, particularly in our corporate worship.

This is why there is such an emphasis on the teaching of the Bible here at Forest Hills, because we want to let the word of God dwell within us as a body. As a result, it gets the lions share of time as we come together. The preaching of the word of God and the teaching of the word of God are essential and primary in the life of the church.

In every generation there seems to be an attack on the preaching of the word, but in our own day preaching is especially attacked by a focus of shifting our church worship towards entertainment. There is great pressure for churches to make their worship services something that will attract a large crowd through large scale musical productions, skits, videos, flashing lights, fog machines, and overpowering decibels of volume. The preaching of the word is being reduced to a 15 minute sermonette in which preachers become less like prophets heralding the truth of the Gospels but stand up comedians who tickle itching ears.

Some will doubt that the word of God will be effective in reaching this next generation. The Bible isn’t enough, we need to bolster it with our own ingenuity or we need to come along and bolster the Bible. Some may say that the Bible isn’t enough at all that it should be jettisoned and replaced in the church with something new and fashionable.

Let me tell you something, the word of God is enough. Whenever a man of God stands before a church with the Scriptures miracles happen. Why? Because the Spirit of God works to save the lost and grow the saved through the faithful preaching and teaching of the word.

May God forgive us for making worship about our own entertainment than about God’s own glory. At Forest Hills we are committed to treasuring Christ in worship by seeking to fill our hearts with the word of Christ! Does this mean worship is only preaching? No, not at all.

In the same focus of letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly Paul tells us to use psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to admonish one another with the word of God. Music can be a powerful way to instruct one another with the word of Christ. This is exactly what Paul tells us to do, to admonish one another with the word of God.

When it comes to music in our worship we must always make sure that we are singing towards God in worship but also singing to one another. The point of music isn’t to set a mood, draw attention to soloists or the musician ship of worship leaders, but rather it should function as admonishing one another with the word.

There are few principles of how I think Colossians 3:16 gives us guide when it comes to understanding our singing.

  1. Our songs should be dripping in Scripture.
  2. Our Songs should be directed towards God.
  3. Our songs should be admonishing one another.
  4. Our songs should be sung with thankfulness to God.

The summation of the Christian life both individually and corporately has one aim and one aim only, the glory of God. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, so everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” v. 17.

As we put off our old way of life and as we put on the character of Christ in the community of the church may our life’s purpose be to the glory of God. In whatever we say and whatever we do may our ambition for God’s glorious name be the driving motive in it all. The Christian is one who lives his life wrapped up entirely in Christ. There is no such thing as being to committed or to devoted to Jesus. Christ is our life. He is Lord over all. His peace rules over us as we live in our community of love together allowing the word of God to dwell in our hearts and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Don’t you want to be a part of a community like this? There are some of you that are incredibly connected and invested in the community of Forest Hills Baptist Church, but there are many of you that are not. You come to an event on Sunday morning but you are not engaged in the community of the saints. Your not a member of our church, you are not connected to a Sunday School class, or you are not engaged in serving the body in any way. Let me challenge you today to get connected to what God is doing here in us. If you want to grow in your faith and put on the character of Christ you need the body. You can’t do it on your own.

If you are interested in joining in membership to our church I’d love to talk to you about that after the service. We have our membership class starting again in just a few weeks and we’d love to get you learning more about what it means to be a covenant member at our church.

For some of you who are members perhaps you need to pray today about investing in this community with your time and with your resources. Maybe you need to recommit to pursuing holiness by committing to regularly participating in the life of the church. We need one another to grow together in Christ. Will you join us as we come together as a church to put on the character of Christ together for the glory of God.

Spurgeon on the Movie Theater

spurgeon11Ok, so there were no movie theaters in Charles Spurgeon's day, but there were regular theaters with actors and plays.  I'm currently reading through Tom Nettles new work on Charles Spurgeon called Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Spurgeon. It is a mammoth of a book, but I've enjoyed learning and studying the life of Spurgeon.  I came across this section where Nettles is describing Spurgeon's view of London and the sinful habits of the people. Nettles writes:

If Spurgeon could have added another curse, he probably would have selected the theatre. The moral tone of the theatre was too bad for mending and the character of drama is such that the tendency always is toward quick corruption. While some advocated Christian attendance in order to raise the moral level, Spurgeon thought that was like advocating pouring a bottle of lavender water into the great sewer to improve its aroma...Spurgeon claimed that he had never entered a theatre during the performance of a play, but when coming home from a distant engagement he had passed by and seen enough to 'pray that our sons and daughters never go within the doors.' Should that practice even become a habit among church members, Spurgeon believed it would prove the death of piety. 'Who can suppose,' he asked, 'amusement surrounded with the seductions of vice to be fit recreation for a pure mind? Who can draw near to God after sitting to admire the performances of a wanton woman, and I am told that some who have dazzled London society are such."

If Charles Spurgeon was concerned about the theatre of his day, I'm sure he would be astonished at the sort of TV shows and films that constantly play on our screens.  I'm not sure I agree with Spurgeon on the inability to redeem the artistic medium of theatre or film. I do not think Christians should abandon the arts but seek to transform them with the Gospel.  Yet, his point about the rubbish we intake as believers on our screens could very well 'prove the death of piety.' Maybe the reason we have such a hard time living for the Lord is that we have been filling our mind with these seductive vices? I'm not advocating we necessarily throw our TVs out the windows or never walk into a movie theatre again, but there is a greater need for discernment as we seek to grow in godliness.

Cleaned by Jesus

This blog was adapted from a recent sermon I taught from Haggai. You can access the original sermon audio here. Can you imagine being a total outcast? If so you can relate to the woman in Luke 8. The Gospel tells us that Jesus gets the call to go heal Jarius' daughter who was dying. Jesus goes on his way and the crowd pressed in all around him.

An Unclean Woman Made Clean

We are told that in that crowd is a woman who has had chronic menstraul bleeding for twelve years. She has spent the past 12 years and every penny trying to figure out what was wrong with her. However no one could heal her. No doctor could help her.

According to the Law she was ceremonially unclean. She was an outcast, she was alienated. No one could be around this woman lest they became unclean by touching her. This woman was completely and totally alone. No one would touch her. No one would shake her hand. No one would give her a hug. She was unclean. As Jesus is making his way through the crowd she has a crazy thought. She had heard about Jesus. She heard that he was a healer. Then she had this crazy thought – "If I could just touch his garment, I could be healed." So she goes and she fights her way through the crowd and she is able to just barely touch the fringe of Jesus' garment and at that moment she is instantly healed. The unclean woman is made instantly clean. Jesus realizing what just happened stops the crowd and asks who touched him. The woman falls on her face in the presence of everyone and confesses what she did. Jesus tells her "daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace".

Holiness is Not Contagious

This story is amazing. In Haggai 2:10-14, the prophet uses an priestly illustration of the nature of holiness. Here is the words Haggai penned:

“On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’ ” The priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the LORD, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean.” (Haggai 2:10–14, ESV)

Haggai says imagine someone is carrying around holy meat (meat sacrificed on the alter to the Lord) in a special garment. Haggai then said what if you take that garment, that was wrapped in the Holy meat and what if I touched this piece of bread with it? Haggai asks them, "Would this make the bread holy?" The priest answer, "No". Holiness is not contagious. It doesn't pass from one thing to the next.

Then Haggai said, well what if someone who is unclean by touching a corpse then goes to touch the bread what would happen to it? Well that food item would become unclean. Well what is Haggai's point? Defilment is contagious, uncleanness passes to other objects but holiness does not.

But Jesus' Holiness is Contagious

Now knowing this, think back to the bleeding woman. You see when this unclean woman went to touch Jesus. When she made contact with Jesus, Jesus should have then been unclean. Remember defilement is contagious, if you touched a woman like this you were to be ceremoniously unclean. Yet the opposite happens! The cleanliness of Jesus is imputed to this woman. Jesus' holiness is contagious and it is passed to this woman through her faith. In Haggai, that garment containing the holy meat would not transmit holiness to another object, yet here the garment containing the holy meat, the lamb of God, passes cleanliness to this woman! Why? Because Jesus is the holy one of God. He is undefiled and completely pure!

This is the beauty of the Gospel, that Jesus takes our uncleanliness and our sin and washes us with his blood. We are unable to make ourselves clean, but Jesus cleanses us and purifies us. In all our guilt and filth, Jesus cleans us and makes us his own!

A Worldly Christian is an Oxymoron

4177519542 b623fc7974 o Have you heard that phrase before?  "Worldly Christian".  Christians use that phrase often to describe other people, even fellow church members.  However, as I've studied the Scriptures, a worldly Christian is really an oxymoron.  They are two opposites coming together.

In 1 John, the apostle John is writing to a church suffering from a church split.  This split wasn't over the color of the carpet or drums in the worship service like most church splits.  This church split was over some major theological issues.  John is writing to a church in the midst of a crisis.  They were filled with doubt, thinking, "Did we make the right decision?" and "How do we know who are the true Christians?" The whole letter is filled with the apostle John trying to provide answers and encouragement to a broken congregation.  Here is what he writes:

   “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15–17, ESV)

John tells us their are two teams in his letter.  There is team light and there is team darkness.  There is team Christ and team anti-Christ.  There is team God and team world.  John tells the church that they must pick a side in this spiritual battle.  As a result John gives the strong command, "Do not love the world or the things in the world".  In fact, John tells us that someone who loves the world does not have the love of the Father in him.  This is incredibly startling!  John is telling us that "Worldly Christians" are impossible.  There is no such thing.  You either love God or you love the world.

John is trying to teach us that Christians are a distinct people who reject the pleasures of the world and are marked by radical love for Christ. 

We are Purchased to be Distinct

Christians are a purchased people.  They are not their own and have been bought with a price (1 Cor 6:20).  Through the blood of Jesus Christ God has purchased His people from the bondage of slavery.  Through the cross God has set Christians apart to be a distinct and unique people for his possession.  He wants to set them apart and make the holy.  Check out what the apostle Peter says:

   “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9–10, ESV)

So we have been purchased to be a distinct people for God's own possession.

We are Distinct by Rejecting the Pleasures of the World

How do we show our distinctness as the people of God?  Well we demonstrate that by rejecting the pleasures of the World.  This is why John commands us not to love the world and the desires of the world.  This means we reject the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and pride of life.  This means we don't view porn, we don't cuss like sailors, we don't bow down to money, and we don't drown our sorrows in drunkness.  You see, Christians are called to be a distinct people, unique and set apart.  We do that by rejecting the pleasures of the world.

There is a pragmatic reason for rejecting the pleasures of the world; They do not last.  John tells us that the desires of the world are passing away.  Any honest person knows this.  Indulging our fleshly desires only leaves us longing for more.  We become pleasure seekers looking for the next "thing" to lift our spirits.  We buy that new outfit. We take that extra shot. We go just a little bit further with our girlfriend.  Why do we do this? We are looking for pleasure, but the pleasure of this world is not lasting.  It is pershiing.

Love for the world does not satisfy the human soul.  The reason Christians reject the pleasures of the world is because we know that lasting pleasures is found only in Christ.

We Reject the Pleasures of the World by Radical Love for God

What fuels our rejection of the pleasures of the world? What motivates us to do such a counter-cultural thing?  It is our radical love for God.  My great fear is that many Christians reject their fleshly desires for the sake of their own egos and moral superiority.  They become legalists and phrases not because the love God but because they love themselves.  Christian pursue distinctness not because they want to appear morally superior, but because we love God.

Our love of God fuels us to be distinct and reject the pleasures of the world.  We love God more than any other pleasure the world has to offer. You see, a worldly Christian is an oxymoron.  It is a logical impossibility.  It is an unbiblical combination.  Even though faithful Christians might be tempted to fall into the deceitful lies of the culture, Christians must reject the siren song of the culture and find lasting pleasure in the arms of Jesus.

 

 

 

 

Am I Beyond Repair? - Our Holiness in Christ

2515800654 bd1562ae72 o Have you ever thought that you were beyond repair?  Have you felt like you have so many problems, that there is no hope for you?  I think many of us tend to feel this way so you are no stranger.  The good news is that there is a God who has not given up on you.  There is a God who can take your broken sinful life and make you holy and blameless.

In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians church, Paul makes a starling claim about the church in the first few verses.  Here is how he greets them:

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus…

Notice that verb in that greeting - "to those sanctified".  In the Greek, that word "sanctified" is passive and in the perfect tense.  The perfect tense was a tense to describe an action that has already been completed.  Passive means that the action is being done to the Corinthians.  So when Paul greets them, he greets them as those who have already been made holy.  Now, if you have ever read 1 Corinthians, you know just how astonishing that statement is.  The church at Corinth didn't seem to be a very holy church.  Here are a few of the issue Paul addresses in this letter:

  • There were fighting over who to follow (Ch. 3)
  • A guy was sleeping with his step-mom (Ch. 5)
  • The church was suing one another (Ch. 6)
  • There were marriage problems (Ch. 7)
  • Some were worshiping idols and practicing pagan religious rituals (Ch. 10)
  • There was gender role confusion & women were dressing immodestly (Ch. 11)
  • They were getting drunk at the Lord’s Supper (Ch. 11)
  • They were fighting over which spiritual gift was better (Ch. 12)
  • They had disorderly worship services (Ch. 14)
  • Some were denying the resurrection (Ch. 15)
A quick glance through that list will tell you one thing.  This church had issues.  They seem to be anything but holy, yet Paul greets them as saints.  How can this be?
The answer lies in the good news of the Gospel.  For those who are in Christ, we are given the righteousness of Christ.  We are declared holy and pure before God because of Jesus.  Jesus went to the cross and paid the price for our sins on the cross.  Through the cross, God has declared his people holy and blameless.  Although the church at Corinth has some major sin in its midst, Paul still addresses them as holy, because they have been made holy through Christ!

This has huge implications for you and me.  You see, our holiness is simply the outworking of who we are.  In Christ, we are holy.  So when the Scriptures call us to live lives of holiness, it commands us to be who we already are.  Our personal holiness is the outworking of who God has already declared us to be in Christ!  Even though we might feel like we are beyond repair, God in Christ has already made us holy.  Our salvation and imputed righteousness is secured through the blood of the lamb!  Be holy, because that is who you are.  That is what Christ has made you to be.

So are you beyond repair? If you are in Christ you have already been repaired through the cross.  Live your life now in obedience and holiness in joyful thanksgiving to Jesus.

How is God making you holy? How does the Gospel encourage you to be holy? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!