Radical is NormalPastor Jerry Gillis - January 10, 2016
The only life that is a worthy and pleasing life to God is a Spirit-filled life.
Community Group Study Notes
- Why is it important that you better saturate yourself with God’s Word? What difference will that make in your life?In the lives of those closest to you?
- Why should you better devote yourself to prayer? How will this change your outlook on daily life and on your relationships with others?
- What might happen if each of us prayed daily to ask God for wisdom in order to obey Him in all things? What impact would that have in our lives? In our community for the sake of the Gospel?
For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)
So Father, as we begin, I pray that you would position our hearts to be able to hear from you. Lord, I thank you for these precious folks, and I thank you that having heard of their faith in Christ and their love for one another, that I know that springs from the hope that they have in you - that they have found through understanding and embracing the gospel that has transformed them, and that even now is transforming the world. I pray that this gospel would bear fruit in their own lives, in all of our lives, and that it would grow in us, in our little worlds, and it would grow throughout the world. And I pray, God, that we would learn what it means to love in the Spirit, and to live life in the Spirit. For your own glory, we pray in Jesus' name, amen.
Happy New Year! You know a lot of people in this part, when the calendar turns, you know into January, the beginning of January, kind of some radical changes start happening in the lives of people. Right? So some of you may be on some multi-day or multi-week detox. You're the angry people. Or you might be on like, you know, you might be going to the gym for the first time ever or you know, you're trying to shed a few pounds or you're trying to get your budget in order, particularly when your credit card bills came due over Christmas and you're starting to go, o.k., I've got to make some radical changes along that line.
And that's good, but often every year kind of same thing, all of these radical changes are often a lot like sparklers. We did some like at New Years with my little cousins, you know, all these little kids running around holding sparklers. Man, they kind of light up and flame up and brighten everything up and then they disappear, you know, in about a minute and a half. And that's what often happens, right? Gym memberships go through the roof in January and then in February you can find a machine, it's not a problem.
It's just funny how all of that works. Part of the reason is because we have good intentions, but intention does not get you where you're wanting to go. Only direction does. Intention has to be coupled with direction. It's wonderful to have good intentions but you need intention that's actually coupled with direction if you want to actually end up where you're supposed to.
I remember saying to my oldest son, I was giving him this illustration that intention doesn't get you where you want to go. It's a good lesson for all of us. Let's just say, a gang of friends or whatever are in a sailboat, pushing off at Wilson, NY. They're pushing off on a sailboat. And they say what they're going to do there on Lake Ontario is they are going to Toronto. It is their intention to go to Toronto. But let's say, for instance, that they never actually set the direction of their sails northwest to get them to Toronto, but instead as they're out there floating around, and in fact the wind's pushing them east, I could call them if they had cellphone coverage and say, hey, where are you going and they would answer, we're going to Toronto. But in fact, you're not going to Toronto. You had an intention to go to Toronto, and your intention won't get you where you're trying to go. Only direction will get you where you're trying to go, that's coupled with your intention. Now, I tell you that because we're going to come back to that in just a little bit but it's something that we call need to remember - that good intentions are not what get us to the place that we're looking to go.
Now some have started making changes in their lives maybe for a variety of different motivations or a bunch of different reasons. Maybe just say, you know what? I want a better life, so I'm going do blank. Or I want to be happy and satisfied with myself, so I'm going to do blank. Or I'm going to do blank because I think that it will give me a higher degree of significance. Now, I just want to pause you here for just a second and make sure that you understand that if you start eating really healthy, that it doesn't mean that God loves you any more. That if you drop some pounds it doesn't mean God all of a sudden loves you more. It means if you build a little bit of muscle and you get a six-pack or a three-pack or a one-pack, whatever you got, right? Or it just looks like still a bunch of Cheetos. Whatever. That God doesn't love you any more than He already does and He doesn't love you any less. You do realize that even if you get all your budget together and you feel like this is something significant, that it does not increase your significance to God because you've done those things, right? Do you understand what I'm saying to you?
Now, I'm not suggesting that any of those things are bad things. Quite the contrary, they're probably good for you to be able to do. And so I'm not saying, hey, be lazy and obese and all of those kinds of things. I'm not saying that in any way, right? But I'm trying to help us understand that in a lot ways when we think that we can gain significance or that we can gain acceptance with God through some of these types of things. What's happening to us is that we have the right idea about transformation, but the wrong gospel. And I don't want you to miss this. I don't want you to have the right idea about transformation but the wrong gospel. I'm going to show that to you in a minute.
The reason that I use that phraseology is because it's really coming from where we're looking today in the book of Colossians. And if you want to find your place, find Colossians chapter one. It's in the New Testament, kind of two thirds of the way back into the scripture. If you're new to the scripture - if you say Jerry, I don't really bring a Bible with me, okay, great. If you've got a phone or an iPad that you have it on, just turn the ringer off so nobody gets freaked out when you're looking for things you know and scanning your email while I'm talking and all those things that you do.
I'm kidding, no one does that, no one ever has ever done that. No one's ever fallen asleep in here. You couldn't. You couldn't. You love me, come on. That's a lie, I could point you out. We've got, we've got cameras, we've got a montage that we watch in the office. There they are again, there they are. They're drooling this week. Man, your message was terrible. We don't have a montage, we actually just loop it to Youtube and so people can see it and just - it's got like four million views. We put it under a category that you guys wouldn't be able to find.
So I'm just saying this to you, if you don't have a Bible, bring one with you, or if you don't have one there's one in the seatback or on the tables that are in the East Worship Center. You can grab those, and certainly at our other two campuses you can ask somebody for a Bible. Here's the reason: you say, Jerry, you're going to put it on the screen for me. I know I'm gonna' put it on the screen for you, but you can't take the screens home. You can take the Bible home, though and you need to understand how to be able to use it and find your way around it. If that's easier digitally, fine, that's great.. If it's easier manually, I'm still old school, I like the manual. Most everything else that I do is digital, but this I just want to hold the book, man. I just want to turn the pages, you know. And I read a bunch of other stuff online. I get all my news online. I don't do newspapers. I don't do magazines. I don't do any of that stuff, but I just, for some reason, I just want to handle my bible. I don't know why that is. You don't have to be that way. And in fact, I'm not even necessarily recommending it, but I am representing that you need to have one for yourself and learn how to use it.
And so Colossians chapter one - here's what Paul's doing. Paul's going to begin this process of writing to the church at Colossae, who was founded by a guy named Epaphras who was an associate of Paul's who brought the gospel to these folks. And in doing so, Epaphras was not only reporting back to Paul about what had transpired, but he's giving Paul an update of what's happening. Paul's probably writing from a jail cell when he writes to the church at Colossae, but he begins by actually praying for them. And in fact, the prayer that I prayed for us at the very beginning was out of the first chapter of the book of Colossians. And so, I want to continue that prayer in listening to what Paul said, because he's up against a number of things that you and I...
But before I get there, I want to remind you of something. That in all of the areas that we look at in our life that we're trying to change, right? We're trying to make radical changes here in the new year and whatever that might be. My dad and I joke around because you know, when you eat like a king over the holidays, right? Or a queen, right? Whatever you want to do. You eat like you're on death row, you know, this is it for me, like I'm done after this week, this is all I've got. We eat like this is the last meal we ever have. And my dad and I will always look at each other. We'll be eating just whatever, the fortieth huge meal of the holidays, right? And he'll just look over at me and he'll be, he'll say there's some changes coming in 2016, and I'll just look at him and I'll go yeah. When you starting? He went, later. I was like, say yeah, yeah, yeah. So we just keep eating, right?
So I know with all of these things, here's what I don't want you to miss. I don't want you to miss that you get your significance tied up in what you do or the changes that you make and all that stuff. You can start to warp the idea of the gospel. Because ultimately, when you and I really bring it down, if we have a right understanding of the gospel, and a right understanding of transformation, then we'll know that this is true. You can jot this down. That the only life that's a worthy and pleasing life to God is a Spirit-filled life. That is the life that is a worthy and pleasing life to God.
And the reason I say that is because that comes really right out of what Paul is praying for the people at Colossae. And I don't want you to miss it in chapter one. Look in verse number nine he says, "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way."
This is exactly what Paul is trying to get at: that the life that is worthy and pleasing to God is the Spirit-filled life. Now the reason that Paul is trying to make that clear is because Colossians had some trouble that was going on, and really they had a warped gospel that was floating around in their midst. You see, most of the people at Colossae were Gentiles. That means they were non-Jewish, but there were some Jewish people that were there as well because they had fled Jewish believers that had fled during the persecution in Jerusalem. It's called the diaspora, the dispersion where everybody kind of, everything started coming down on Jerusalem, and a lot of believers started spreading out all over Asia Minor. So in Colossae, you've got some Jewish Christians that started thinking about this idea of the gospel that Epaphras brought, but they started adding to it.
We know that the gospel was really about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, right? That that's ultimately the gospel message, not about what we can do to impress God but what God has done on our behalf through Jesus. But some of these Jewish Christians in Colossae started adding a little bit to the message. In other words they were saying, o.k., yeah, have a little faith in Jesus, but you've also got to bring this Judaism, some of these laws, into play as well, and they probably even mixed this thought with some initial philosophy of the Greeks - which were influencing them all at the time - that would later be known, it wasn't at this point and wasn't fully developed, but would later be known as Gnosticism, this idea of this kind of special secret decoder ring knowledge that you can get and all of this stuff. So all of that mashed together started giving them a bit of a warped gospel. And so what Paul is doing is he's writing to help counteract that.
In fact, if you want to see what some of that, some of what he was trying to combat was, you can hear it when you start reading further in chapter two. In fact, look at verse number eight, and then I'll skip after verse eight to verse sixteen. He says, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ." Then verse sixteen says, "therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belong to the world, do you submit to its rules; 'Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!'? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."
So you can see that Paul is actually getting after some of these people who are really proposing a warped idea of the gospel. Really, it was like this: they were saying, you know what, yeah man, trust in Jesus is great, but if you want to be pleasing to God and if you want to be in God's good graces and if you want to make sure that you can be significant before God you also have to be circumcised. Or, he would say something like this: the kind of proponents of the warped gospel would also say, yeah, o.k., with Jesus that's cool, but you also have to keep all of these special sacred days as well. Don't miss those, or else you're going to be in big trouble and you're really not going to be kind of accepted by God. Or, they might throw in something along the lines of you have to have a special knowledge of the angelic world and the angelic realm as well and those kinds of things. There was a number of other ones that probably we could outline as well, like I mean, he was also talking about foods, right? Don't let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink. In other words, hey, it's o.k. to have faith in Jesus but you have to eat this, and not this if you want to be in God's good graces, o.k.? So you've got to make sure that you know that.
So you had all of this going on, and it was a warping of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the truth is is that for you and I in our context that sounds reasonably similar. In the church world, sometimes we get a warped view of the gospel, and start taking our significance and identity and our acceptance before God as if it's bigger than just Jesus, but we've got to do something to add to that. That's a mistake.
For instance, you've probably heard the phrase in our American kind of culture, and I know we've got people watching us from Canada and some people stream from all different parts of the world but, in the United States and Canada we have a similar idea and very pronounced in the United States: God helps those who help themselves. You know, that's straight out of First Nowhere in the Bible. All right, just so you are clear on that. That's the reference. If you are looking that up you can look in First Nowhere because it's not in there. God helps those who help themselves. Well, I understand what's trying to be said there, right? You know, America's all about having a work ethic and all that kind of stuff, but what happens is sometimes people kind of fuse those things together, as if that's actually the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is not. In fact, the gospel would say it this way: God helps those who can't help themselves. That's the gospel. Because it's about what God has done for us in Christ, not what we can do to somehow earn God's favor or be in right standing with God because of what we've done.
This is what I don't want you to miss, because we have all kinds of versions in our culture of making this gospel that we've been given, this beautiful good news about how God is reconciling the world to himself through his Son by the power of the Spirit, that we've figured out ways to warp that. Maybe it's just this idea of the American Dream. And we've attached to that this idea that the only way that I'm going to be significant and the only way I'm going to get into God's good graces is if I have a certain level of income, if I actually do well enough in this, in this culture that I live in. Or that if I get a certain number of promotions, it'll show people that I'm really in God's favor. And of course, you can do those unethically as well, right and that wouldn't say anything about God's favor. Or maybe, you know, how many kids that I have or what my marital status is, or even how I'm living my life out through my children, and whether they're doing good in school or doing good in athletics or doing good in ballet or doing good in the arts or whatever. And that's really showing people kind of my own significance, and we've misappropriated all of these ideas.
And now, any of us can do that, right? Sometimes we just buy into this idea that we can't find in the Bible anywhere that God just wants me to be happy. That's just what He wants. He just wants me to be happy. It's the just that's a problem. It's not that He just wants you to be happy. See what happens is people that retire, they start buying into that idea. God just wants me to be happy. So you just walk around collecting seashells for the rest of your days. Boring. And exactly not what God would want for you to do. God still wants to use you, still wants to do something with you. So you can't just check out on God all of the sudden, right? That's not at all the gospel, but we've bid into that.
Millennials - I've got a little something for you as well. If you're on the younger side of the world, right, you're a young adult or younger. You've been told so many times how awesome you are, and how awesome your life should be? And by the way, I love all of you. I'm delighted. I've got young people myself and I love them. But we've been told so many times how awesome we are. You know the Lego movies, like our theme song, everything is awesome. Right? It's like this is what we've been told so much. So much so in the Christian sphere that anything less than an extraordinarily radical life is insignificant. And so we make sure that our social media shows everybody the highlights of our life and how awesome we are because we need that for our own significance. Because we bought into a warped gospel, and maybe we've fed into a really poisonous narcissism in our young people's lives, how awesome they are and how their lives have to be awesome, and if they're not awesome apparently they're not very significant.
So now in the Christian world what happens is we have to think o.k., now that I'm a believer my life has to be awesome for Jesus. I've got to show him how radical I am. And by the way, this isn't a shot at some of the authors who've written along this line. Guys like David Platt, Francis Chan - good people, godly men. I'm not critiquing them in any way, so don't hear me saying that. What I am saying is this: is that radical for young people in the Christian world - you know what, I've got to go to Africa. I've got to live in the inner city. I've got to help the impoverished. I've got to do all these things. All good things, except for, if God didn't tell you to do them, you're going to be burned out and frustrated and exhausted because you're trying to impress God with how radical you are, and that is a warping of the gospel.
So what happens for you, young man or young lady, is that you develop the new legalism - that radical living becomes your new legalism. And it can be poisonous for you. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not for lazy Christianity. I'm not a proponent of going, you know what? You ought to do nothing. You ought to just sit around, do nothing. Just have another Bible study. You've got like twenty that you're doing during the week right now, and you're not doing anything with them. You're just like the Dead Sea. Everything flows in, nothing flows out and you're so salty, nothing can grow in you. I've been...hey, I'm rested. And you're eleven o'clock. And it's raining. All right. Some of you are saying...the cool thing is, the people right on the back - you're all smiling too! That's fantastic because I can see you. I have x-ray vision. I can see you.
All right. So, here's what I'm trying to say to you. Don't get caught up in the things that want to warp the gospel, because ultimately the gospel is not about that we need to be radical to prove ourselves to God. The gospel is about how God has done a radical work through Jesus to radically transform us. That's what the gospel is. I don't want you to be confused about those things.
In fact, when we see the radical work that God has done - we can actually look at it in Colossians chapter two, look at what it says in verses nine through fifteen. It says, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands." That's radical surgery, by the way. "Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."
This is the radical work of God on our behalf - that you and I were so deep in debt because of our sin to God that we could in a million lifetimes, could never pay God off, but God did this: he became a human being. It was the fullness of God in bodily form in the person of Jesus who lived sinlessly among us, preached the kingdom of God to us all, went to a cross as a sinless substitute for you and I, so that our indebtedness papers can get stapled to the cross just where he is, so that he would be the one who in his sinlessness and in his perfection would pay the price for our sin debt, so that we could then be reconciled to a holy God. This is a radical transformation that has occurred. The guiltless given for the guilty. The sinless given for the sinner. This is an incredibly radical transformation. This is what I don't want you to miss, because this is the heart of the gospel because God is the initiator in this process.
So, I've got more to say than I've got time to say it. Here's the thing: when we trust in him, when we really believe the truth of the gospel, we are transformed. But if what I said before is true - and I believe that it is - that the only life that is worthy and pleasing life to God is a Spirit filled life, which is what Paul was getting at, then what does that look like? All right? What does that look like?
Well, look with me again, chapter one, I want you to start again in verse number nine and we're going to continue reading through it. It says, "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way:," Here's how it looks. "...bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
So what does it look like? Well Paul says that a life that is worthy and pleasing to God is a life that's governed by the Spirit, and here's how that will look. First thing he says, is that it will bear fruit in every good work. Right? That's the everyday living that we have. That's not just the things that are really incredible and impressive, but it's the everyday living that we have. We'll bear fruit in every good work.
The second thing that he says in this text is that we will grow in the knowledge of God. That this is what it looks like to live a life worthy and pleasing to God that's filled with God's Spirt. We'll grow in the knowledge. And that word knowledge doesn't just mean that we've got it stored in our head. It means experientially - that we know, that we've experienced.
And then the third thing he says is that we'll be strengthened with all power, or with his power to have endurance, patience, and thankfulness. This is a part of what Paul was praying for the people at Colossae, and that in truth I was praying this exact prayer for all of us this morning when I was just on my knees asking God to do this among us. I'm just asking him for this in my own life and in your life.
So he transforms our everyday living, but here's the thing: we've got to cooperate with him in the process of what it looks like to grow in grace. Now listen - here's where some people get confused. Some people get confused whenever you hear somebody talking about spiritual disciplines or things that you do that are helping in your growth in Christ - you know like, oh, oh, you can't do that. Stop! Salvation is a work of God. God initiated it, God fulfills it, God completes it. It is his work, not ours. It is his work, not ours. It is not of works, lest any should boast. Salvation, and by the way justification - making it just as if we've never sinned - justification. Those are works of God, and that's not really to do with us. It is a gift of God, not of works unless any of us should boast.
Sanctification - we must cooperate with the Spirit of God within us. We've been transformed, but we now - we now yield our will willingly to the Spirit's power within us to see the outgrowth of Christ's likeness in our own lives. Well why in fact would Jesus say, if you love me, obey what I ask you to do? Because we are willfully submitting ourselves to be shaped into the image of Jesus. So, I don't want you to be confused by those things - that there is one side of the salvation spectrum, and it's all God's, but once we have been transformed we are now cooperating with God in the process of our sanctification. Yes it is He that is setting us apart. It is He that gives us the energy. It is He that begins the good work in us and carries it on to completion. There is no question about that. But he asks our cooperation.
So, with that, what would that look like? Because that's what we're trying to get at. What a life that is worthy and pleasing to God, filled with God's Spirit, looks like. What would that look like? Well it looks just like it does when you're trying to do some of the radical changes that you're making at the beginning of the New Year. When you're trying to lose weight or you're trying to build some muscle and go to the gym, or you're trying to fix your budget or whatever. Here's what it means: some things have got to go. And some things have got to replace them. You've got to put off some stuff and put on some stuff. Right?
It's not rocket science, but Paul outlines this for us. In fact, we see it in Colossians chapter number three. Look at what he says beginning in verse number five. "Put to death," (or put off) "therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all."
So Paul's reminding us - here's the first thing that we have to do. We've got to put off some stuff. And here's where I'm trying to help you understand that intention has to be coupled with direction. O.k.? It can't just be, I've got some good intentions of putting off my lust. I'm going to get rid of that. O.k. What are you going to do? What are you going to do? Because this isn't just about, you know, I got to get rid of that. I've got all the intentions in the world of getting rid of that impurity and sexual immorality and lust. Well, what are you going to do about that? Well, if you really need some help, here's move number one. Remove yourself from some of the scenarios that cause it. That's just scenario number one. This isn't how you live. But this is just what you do to begin. So, if you spend undue amounts of time late, late at night on computer screens looking at - male or female, depending on who you are - and it's causing this inappropriate lust and immorality and impurity that's going on in your life - well then, here's a trick: stop it. Do something. Tell someone. Tell them to check up on you, help you out. Whatever it takes, but somehow remove yourself from that kind of scenario. Right?
Now, you need to actually grow through that and start to learn that the people that you're trying to fantasize and personally fantasize about are actually human beings for which Jesus died, and that they have a dignity and a worth of their very own. And by the way it's someone's son or daughter, and you sure wouldn't want that happening with yours. So you have to start remaking the way that you view the world that you live in and even those kinds of functions. They don't exist for your personal pleasure. And by the way, you say well, then they wouldn't be doing what they're doing if they didn't exist for my personal pleasure. Listen. They may be doing what they're doing because they are blinded by a world and a system that they live in. Maybe some of them are doing those things, not because they want to, but because they have been oppressed into doing it. Maybe they got caught up as a fourteen year old in sex trafficking, and it's the only life that they've ever known. You ought to have compassion for those people as opposed to using them for your explicit sexual fantasies. We've got to re-work all this in our minds.
So we've got to put some things off, right? How do you put off greed? Well, I mean start with, if you wander aimlessly around the mall all the time, maybe you should stop doing that. But I got to have it. But I want it, and every time I'm in there I've got to have it. Well then stop going there. See, I'm partially Italian. I got it. I'm around Italians so much that I start picking it up. What are you talking about? My Italian's terrible. Ciao. That's all I got. O.k.? So, but you know what the better cure for greed is? Generosity. That's the better cure. You start being generous, and all of a sudden you stop being stingy and greedy. O.k.? So you got to put some stuff off, right?
How do you put off - he talked about here, there's neither Jew or Gentile. How do you put off racism? I'll tell you how you put off racism. You start with befriending a brother or sister in Christ who's not like you. That's how you start. Because so much of it is based in fear and misunderstanding and all those kinds of things. You start by befriending and pulling in some people that are not like you. In race or in culture or in ethnicity, whatever that looks like, as brothers and sisters in Christ because we're family. We're family. And so you begin. That's how you start putting off some of those things that Paul's talking about.
How do you put off classism? Well, you start by trying to invite some people into your world that aren't like you socioeconomically. That may be they've got a lot more than you, or they've got a lot less than you or whatever, but you try and figure that out. Instead of making assumptions and being angry and bitter about certain things, any way you slice it we just have to start - we have to put those things off. We have to start agreeing that these are inhibitors to the Spirit of God working in our lives.
But then he says, you've got to put some things on. Look in verse number twelve, chapter three, Colossians three. "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves," (or put on), "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful."
See, ultimately what's going on here, when we start putting things in place, here's what I don't want you to miss, because you can start to work the gospel here, too. O.k., so I've got to put compassion in place of that. I've got to put humility in place of that. Don't misunderstand. You can't manufacture those things. I don't want you to be confused. You're going, you know what? I've tried and I just can't. Man, good. That's a good beginning. You can't. God is the manufacturer of all of the life of the Spirit. So when we talk about the idea where Paul said in another place the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness - when you start hearing all that, that's actually the life the Spirit produces in you, not that you manufacture yourself. You're not a manufacturer, you're just a distributor. This is what God is going to do, so I don't want you to be confused by this. You've got to press in to him, because he is the one who provides these things on our behalf that we can then walk with him in them.
You see what Paul's doing here, I got a few things. You guys good? You staying with me? O.k, that was twelve of you, fantastic. The rest of you are going, I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. Where are you taking me? I'm scared of you. All right, listen. Paul's just saying, and I'm talking fast because I've got a lot to tell you. Paul is saying in Colossians, in a long hand form, what he said in Romans in a shorthand form. When he talked about putting on things?
Listen to what he said in Romans, chapter thirteen. "Rather, clothe yourselves," or put on, "the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh." You see, Paul here in Colossians is saying long hand what he actually just says shorthand. What he's saying is put on Jesus.
Now, here's the good news. If you have already put your faith in Jesus, you've already put on Christ. Paul tells that actually in Galatians. I know I'm staying with Paul but I'm trying to follow his logic here, right? He tells us that in Galatians chapter number three. "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." So that's the good news.
So ultimately, Jerry, then what's being said here in Colossians when he tells us to put on Jesus, put on compassion and humility and love and all these things that are representative of the life of the Spirit? What's he saying? Listen. He's saying be what you already are. That's what he's saying. Be what you are. You have already been radically transformed. Now live out of that place. Live out the reality of what you are. You are different, you are transformed. Cooperate with God in the process.
But let me get even more specific because Paul gets more specific in the text. How do we get to this place where we are becoming what we are? Well, here's the first thing. You've got to dwell with the Word of Christ. You have to dwell with the Word of Christ. Listen to what it says in chapter three verse sixteen. "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." Let the message of Christ dwell with you richly. That's talking about not only corporately do we have to let the message or the Word of Christ dwell in our midst richly, which basically today I have been saturating you with the Word, pouring it over you, because this is what the text is requiring of us today, and saying we need to dwell with it and we need to sit with it. And we need to do that on a personal level as well, because if you want to be transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus, then you need to know the God who made you, and the way to do that is the way that he has revealed his heart and his character and his truth in his Word. This is how you do that, man.
And then the second thing is you have to devote yourselves to prayer. Listen to what chapter four verse number two says: "Devote yourselves to prayer." That's where I got that from! "...being watchful and thankful." See, that's not rocket science, right? I'm just taking this right from the scripture. Prayer and the Word have to go hand in hand because we're listening to the voice of God even as we're talking. It's not a monologue.
In fact, I love what Andrew Murray said. He said it this way. He said that "Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue; God's voice is its most essential part. Listening to God's voice is the secret of the assurance that He will listen to mine."
And then I also like what in more recent history - Andrew Murray is from a long time ago - a woman named Stormie Omaritan said in her book the Power of a Praying Woman - she said, "We will never be happy until we make God the source of our fulfillment and the answer to our longings. He is the only one who should have power over our souls."
You see, at the end of the day, ladies and gentlemen, what we have to understand is Paul's prayer in the very beginning here, in Colossians chapter one, he's actually showing us how it's answered through the course of the book of Colossians. So, remember the three things that I've talked to you about, that basically you bear fruit in every good work, and that you grow in the knowledge of God and that you would have a - be strengthened by his power for endurance, patience, and thankfulness? Well, how does that happen? How do we bear fruit in every good work? By putting off the things that inhibit the life of the Spirit and putting on Jesus. That's how we bear fruit in every good work. How do we grow in the knowledge of God? We dwell with the Word of Christ richly - corporately and personally. How are we strengthened with his power for endurance and patience and thankfulness? Through spending time in prayer, listening to his voice and responding to what he says.
You see, ladies and gentlemen, this is what Paul is doing through the course of the book of Colossians and what I want us to get is that we've already been transformed - radically transformed - if we put our faith in Jesus. We've been radically transformed. But, we need to continue to live in that space of saturating our lives with prayer and the Word, because what will happen is that we will begin hearing the voice of God and learning to do what he says.
Here's the thing. It keeps us from a warped gospel, because when you do that and you begin to listen to God, God may say to you, I want you to care for your aging, dying parents during this season. That's what I want of you. He might say to someone over here, I want you to influence that work associate that has moved into the cubicle next to you. I want you to show them Jesus. O.k. He might say over here, I want you, student, to be able to influence that circle of friends that you have in your school. He might say to the young parents, hey, I want to make sure that you listen to my voice because I want you to invest the reality of the gospel in your children. He might say to somebody over here - I want you to move to the Middle East and serve me there.
Guess what? None of those is more radical than the other. Do you know why? Because all God wants of us is to hear his voice, and do what he says, because his job is to change the world, not ours. He'll use us. He'll work through us. But he's the one that knows how its all supposed to go. So, listen to his voice, do what he says. This is how we get to a life that is worthy and pleasing to God, that is a Spirit filled life.
Now, I know that in listening to this message, almost everybody in here - I'm giving you credit - everybody in here has good intentions of doing what we've just talked about. But is intention enough? Nope. It requires direction. So, I'm going to give you some space here in the last few minutes - I don't want you to go anywhere. If you don't have to move, please don't. It's distracting people. If it's not an emergency or something. I'm going to give you some space here the last few minutes to think about directionally what you need to do.
So what's going to happen is you're just going to be here reflecting. You're going to see the screens that are going to prompt you to begin reflecting or thinking about certain things. And I want you to do just what the screens tell you. Now, here's the thing. You're going to get, instead of just staring at the screen figuring out when it's going to turn, there's going to be four slides total, o.k.? Four. But instead of just staring at the screen the whole time and not thinking about what it's actually talking to you about doing, you can just concentrate, if you need to close your eyes or whatever, there'll be an audio prompt that you'll hear and then you can look up an know that the slide just changed and here's instruction number two, o.k.? So that's what's about to happen. I want you to take the time to reflect, because intention's not enough - we need direction as well. So take an opportunity to look.
Slide 1 - Ask God to give you a heart to know Him and obey Him more deeply.
Slide 2 - Ask God what He wants you to do to better saturate yourself with His Word. Listen for His voice, then write it down and share it with a friend or spouse by the end of the day.
Slide 3 - Ask God what He wants you to do to better devote yourself to prayer. Listen for His voice, then write it down and share it with a friend or spouse by the end of the day.
Slide 4 - Ask God to give you wisdom and understanding by the Spirit so that you will obey Him in all things.
I want you to reflect on some of that. If you haven't had time, make it a take home assignment, reflect, and think and write down and talk about it. How you're going to bring direction to intention, because ultimately this is what it looks like for us to be able to put off and to put on, and to grow in the likeness of Jesus, so that we can have a life that's worthy and pleasing to God by being Spirit filled, by walking in the Spirit.
So, if you're here and you've never embraced Jesus, I pray you'll come by the Fireside Room in just a few minutes when we dismiss. A pastor will be in there. We'd love to talk to you for a few minutes just about what it means to find forgiveness of sin and to be reconciled to God. We'd love to talk to you about that. And for the remainder of us, I certainly pray that we'll have the opportunity to put direction with intention and begin a process of what it means in this New Year to really surrender ourselves to the Lord Jesus. Listen to his voice and then just do what he says. Its always the best idea to do what he says. Its always the best idea. Doesn't matter what it is. Its always the best idea to do what he says.
So Father, help us to do that, I pray in Jesus name. Amen. I love you folks.