Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Colossians Week 6 - God Works Within Us

Since we have been going through the book of Colossians we have seen that the writer, Paul, has been talking about the Church in general and our relationship with it. Last week we finished up a two part talk, where we focused on the us aspect of that relationship. We talked about how we are to be built up, we are to have our faith strength, and we are to be thankful toward God. All this leads us to knowing the fullness that Jesus has brought us into, which is knowing him intimately. 
We also talked last week about how Christianity is not an organized religion. We talked about how an organized religion is meant to create a false spiritual experience. While Christianity is a faith based relationship.
Christianity isn’t based on what the pastor tells you what to do, rather on what God is working on within you. Which is where Paul is going with this whole thing. Last week, we saw that organized religion wants us to be so focused on the do’s and don’ts so that it can create a controlled experience, whereas Christianity is meant to be lived as a living breathing movement of where God is leading and teaching us. 
In order for that to happen though, we need to give each other room to explore what God is teaching us.

But in this, there are somethings that we need to be seeking to deal with in our relationship with God. And it’s with that mindset that Paul moves on to chapter 3 of Colossians. So if you have your Bibles, we’ll be start reading in Colossians chapter 3 verse 1.
Now as we get into this, I have to let you know that I struggled with how much we were going to cover today. Because, to be honest this is one of those sections where it could easily be cut into two, but as we have said before, we’re here looking at the overarching ideas that are being put forth in the book, rather than looking at the verse-by-verse of it all. So, even though there is a lot to cover, we’ll read this as Paul lays out his thoughts. Let’s begin reading.

1 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. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Let’s stop right there. In our last section we talked about how Paul wants us to know the fullness that God has brought us into. That fullness, we discussed, was knowing God intimately. We talked about how that is a common theme throughout the book of Colossians so far, and it is in this passage that Paul is going to give some rubber to road application for us. Before it was mostly abstract kind of thinking, know God, but now Paul’s going to get into how that actually works itself out.
Paul starts off with saying set your hearts and minds on things above. What are those things above, and why is it our heart and mind? Well the things above is the reality that, as Paul says in verse 3, our lives are hidden with Christ in God. In other words, it’s what we have been talking abbot for a while now: the fullness that is to be experienced now, and which will see a new dimension to when Jesus returns. The two are the same.
The heart, as we have talked before are our feelings, and our mind are what we think.
So Paul is saying that we need to get our thinking selves, and our feeling selves on the same page. What’s that page? To focus on the fact that our lives are Jesus’ and we can experience that full life now with him.

But what does this full life entail? Remember we asked that same question last week, and we said it’s getting to know Jesus intimately? Well, here are the nuts and bolts of how that happens within that intimacy. Let’s start back at verse 5

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 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. 

In verses 1-4, Paul says that we need to get our lives focus in the right place, with understanding that our lives are Jesus’. He says we need to get our thinking selves and our feeling selves to live in that reality. But here’s the thing, you and I know that there is something wrong, there’s something holding us back. Paul knows it too. So he says, let’s put to death those things that are holding us back from experiencing this fullness of life that we have been brought into.
He then gives us a list of things that are holding us back: Sexual immorality, impurities, lustful things. Translated into the modern happenings of our world, some of these cold be: homosexuality, adultery, pornography, even what can be see on TV and movies. 
Paul talks about evil desires and greed, which Paul calls idolatry, because it’s those things that we try to replace God with for our security.
He goes on with anger, rage. When somethings not right, it’s the way we respond with destruction. Malice, which are those ungodly, self-centered reasons that drives us to do things. Slander, filthy language, and lying which is using our mouths to breakdown, rather than build up.

Paul just hit things that go on in our thinking and in our feeling. He says those things are to be put to death, and our thinking selves and our feeling selves need to refocus to our lives with Jesus.

Now the usual answer to this list that Paul just gave us is, “I can’t do that. I’m not some super-spiritual person.”

And in verse 11, Paul’s response to that someone who would respond with this statement.

11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Paul’s answer to us saying that this can’t happen in our lives: You can. Why? Because it’s not about your social, economic, ethnic, or spiritual background. It’s because Jesus lives in you.
You can put to death these things that Paul has listed because of no other reason than you have been brought into the fullness of Jesus, and now Jesus through, the power of the Holy Spirit, lives within you.

And even more, because Jesus lives in you and you can put to death these things that were listed, Paul says to not stop there, but to replace it with the things that are found in the fullness of God’s life. Verse 12 says…

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.

We asked the question in our third week of going through the book of Colossians: How do we be the person that is here for the Church and not make the Church here for us?

Here’s the answer: by getting our thinking and feeling selves to put the things that we lived in before Jesus, to death. We do this only through the power of the Holy Spirit living inside us. When we get our thinking and feeling selves to focus on the fullness that God has brought us into, we can begin to replace those dead things, with living things that are found in the fullness of Jesus.
When we are fully participating in this kind of relationship based spiritually, then we can sit with each other as fellow relationship based people, bearing with each other as we deal with taking off the old dead things, and putting on the new living things of the fullness of Jesus. We can forgive each other, because we understand the struggle that is in us, and how much Jesus has forgiven us to bring us into his fullness. And we can be united together, because of our Savior and his work. We can boast in what Jesus has done, rather than in what we have done. And in doing so, we can celebrate what he is doing in other people’s lives, because he is moving within them, jus like he is moving in us.

And as we do this we can stand next to each other, people who are on the same path at different stages, singing to our God who has saved us. Paul says in verse 15 and 16…

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 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.

When Paul says that we are to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. He is telling us to sing songs that are written in Scripture, which are psalms. We are to sing songs that talk about our faith which are hymns. And we are to sing songs that come out of our the relational experience we have with God.

At the beginning we said that this whole section of putting to death those things that keep us from refocusing our hearts and minds on the fullness Jesus calls us into, can only be done through our relationship with God. I cannot do this for you, because I am not God and I don’t know what needs to happen in your life for you to experience God’s fullness more. It’s the same for you to me. All we can do is to thank God for each other, encourage each other along the way, and share with each other the insights we have gained through our experiences that God has led us through.
So ending his thought, Paul adds this in verse 17, 

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.

We need to be working with God to experience his fullness. We need to come to the Church to sit with other believers, other people who are engaging in this relational process, to be encouraged, to be challenged, to be supported, and to worship the God of our fullness together.

So today, I want you take take a piece of paper and write down what God is working on in your life. Then, if you can ask someone that you know is a Christian about what is God currently teaching them. That way you can see the similarities and the difference, as you both walk with God.

God bless and have a great day.