The King of Hearts (PDF Sermon Text)
Scripture Text: Colossians 3:12–17
In this sermon series about making peace, we have discovered a couple of things about peace. We learned that all people are without peace in their lives because they are not at peace with God. Having peace with God means having a right relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. Then, we learned last week about having peace in this world when the world seems to be falling apart. This might be a life threatening illness, or a serious change in financial circumstances, or even a madman who threatens your life. In those situations, the people of God can still have peace by running to God, Who is a refuge, a fortress, and a very present help in time of need. We can have peace in the most difficult circumstances by having a right relationship with God and by trusting in Him to work all things for good. Today, we look at another area of peace making that has to do with having peace with other people. God wants us to be at peace with each other. He wants us to be makers of peace with others, or as Jesus said, peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). But, how can we make peace with others, especially when they may not want to be at peace with us? What should we do? We will not answer all of those questions today, but we will hopefully lay some groundwork for this topic and explore it in some depth later. The first thing about peacemaking has to do with what we wear!
Put Off the Old Ways
Do you believe people who follow Jesus should be different from those who do not? People say such things as, “If that is what it means to be a Christian, then I do not want to be one.” Of course, we know that people ought to look to Jesus and not to His followers as the example. It is true, however, that Jesus’ followers are the only example of Him many people will ever see. God’s Word sets an expectation for how followers of Christ should be. In fact, scripture makes it clear that if you are “with Christ”, then you should be a certain way. Look at the following verses.
Colossians 3:1–2 1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Paul encouraged the Colossians to continue eliminating sinful behaviors from their lives and cultivating Christian virtues. We do this by seeking the things that are above. This includes seeking first God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:33) and living a life worthy of His name. Paul wrote that we have to “put to death” what is earthly or sinful in you. The language of putting to death indicates that we must take severe measures to conquer sin. We are to kill them from our lives. These are things such as evil desires, coveting, anger, wrath, malice, slander, lying, and obscene talk (v. 5). Paul basically listed two kinds of sins in these lists. The first list basically defined sexual sins, while the second list is essentially sins of anger. The behaviors in the second list are those that disrupt the peace of the congregation. These things do not define a person who follows Jesus.
When we confess Jesus as Lord and the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we are then a new creation with a new identity in Christ. However, what remains is to bring our behavior into line with our new identity. This is the part of sanctification, in which the Holy Spirit molds us into the image of Jesus Christ. This is an ongoing process in which our new self is “being renewed” (v. 10). However, it appears that there is also a choice for us to make. Paul uses the metaphor of “taking off” and “putting on” clothing. This is like taking off old or dirty garments and putting on new, clean ones. You should put off all those bad habits, just as you would discard an old suit of clothes that no longer fits you. Each day, we have a choice about what clothes we will wear. Most of us will decide to put off certain clothes that we wore during the night or the previous day. We will then put on new clothes for the new day. Likewise, we face a decision each day whether we will be like Christ, or be like the old person we once were. When someone treats you badly, you have the choice to respond to them with hate or with love. When someone receives a promotion, one that you think you should have received, you have the choice to respond with jealousy or with grace. When someone does something nice for you, you have the choice to be thankful or not. What clothes will you choose to wear each day?
Put on Jesus Christ
Paul called the Colossians to a holy lifestyle, one that would be consistent with their new identity in Jesus Christ. God calls each of us into a new relationship with Him and He expects us to represent the family name well. We should live up to what we say we are in Christ. This is not some works based doctrine. I am not saying that we have to do good in order to earn salvation and our place in heaven. Jesus has already earned that for us, we just have to receive it from Him. But, when we receive Christ, we should be a different people. If you belong to Jesus, then you should not look like the rest of the world. You should be like the following.
Colossians 3:12–13 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 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.
God chose you to be His people. His people ought to be holy, meaning dedicated to the service of God, set apart for Him. God’s people are also His beloved. He cherishes us. He loves us with a great love. As God’s people we ought to be…compassionate, kind, humble, meek, and patient. Those sound very similar to the Fruit of the Spirit, fruit that is the produce or the result of the Spirit’s work in our lives. The virtues listed here are those that contribute to a harmonious community life. To be at peace with one another, we must have these qualities. We must also bear with one another, or put another way, we should make allowance for each other’s faults. While we should strive for holiness, to be like Jesus, we should also be gracious to each another and realize that we all fall short. While we should not tolerate false teaching or sin, we should tolerate each other. This is why the next thing Paul mentioned is so vitally important in the lives of believers. We must forgive one another. Christians ought to be masters of forgiveness because we ought to know it so well. We should forgive each other because God has forgiven us so much. Peace is often made when people learn to forgive one another. But there is one more thing we should put on, and it is absolutely essential.
Colossians 3:14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Love and forgiveness go hand in hand. People who genuinely love one another should naturally be able to forgive one another. In fact, a defining characteristic of God’s people is their love for one another. Jesus said that it is our love for one another that will show the world that we belong to Him. That love binds everything together may suggest that love unites all of the other virtues. Just as God so loved us and forgave us our sin, so should we love one another and forgive each other. But wait, there is more.
Let the Peace of Christ Rule You
From love the apostle Paul then moves to peace. He called the church to harmony. This peace is similar to the Hebrew word shalom, which means a general sense of well-being and prosperity. It is the quiet disposition which arises when the people of God are committed to the lordship of Christ. Although the peace is generally an individual matter, such as the peace we each have with God in Christ, in this case Paul was addressing the whole church. Peace should guide all of the church’s collective activities. Whereas Paul wrote that we should “put on” the virtues of Christ, peace is, however, something that should “rule” in our hearts. Look at the following verse.
Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
We should let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. The peace of Christ should control us. It should direct what we think and what we do. Rather than a command for personal peace, the peace mentioned in this verse stresses harmony in the congregation. Thus, we are reminded that we are “called in one body”, the Body of Christ, which is the church. The basis of this peace in the church is the work of Christ, When differences threaten to harm the unity of the church, the peace that Jesus gives each of us must be the arbitrator that settles the dispute. If we are subject to Christ, the peace which He gives must regulate our relations with each another. People who have been reconciled to God and who enjoy peace with Him through Christ, should naturally live at peace with one another. Strife inevitably results when we are out of touch with Christ, Who is the source of true peace. Therefore, if we are all in touch with the Lord, we should be at peace with one another. Our individual hearts will be knit together in peace together.
One final thing before we move on; we should also be thankful. The combination of thankfulness and peace is a logical one. Generally a lack of peace results from self-seeking or dissatisfaction with things as they are. Thankfulness points one to the realization that all things are provided in Christ. There is no room for ill will or bitterness if thankfulness prevails. Thankfulness can be our response of gratitude to the grace of God. Everyone should be thankful to God, for life itself, for creation, and for God’s providence. If thanksgiving is due to God from all humanity for His gifts of creation and providence, how much more is thankfulness due to God from those who have received the incomparable gift of His grace through Christ? The church ought to be the most thankful people in the whole world because we have the most for which to be thankful.
Let the Word of Christ Live Within You
There is one last thing we ought to “let” into our lives. God’s Word should have prominence in our lives. If we are to be God’s people who are at peace with Him and we are making peace with each other, we need His Word dwelling within us. Some people seem satisfied with a simple tasting of God’s Word once a week, but they are really starving their souls. If you ate a meal only once a week, you would not be very healthy. Likewise, those who follow Jesus need to feast on God’s Word. Look at the next verse.
Colossians 3:16 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.
What does it mean to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”? Does this simple mean within our individual lives, or does it mean among the Christian community? Perhaps it is both. Since we ought to people of the Book, feasting on His Word, God’s Word needs to dwell in each of us through a regular diet of scripture. However, the collective sense may be what Paul meant. There should be ample time for the proclamation of the Gospel and Christian teaching when the church meets. Thus, we are to teach and admonish one another. This teaching must be based on the teaching of Jesus Himself; it must be unmistakably “the word of Christ.” The word of Christ probably refers to the teaching about Christ as well as what Jesus said Himself. Obviously, we cannot do this very well unless God’s Word is living within us. Along with teaching and admonishing one another, we ought to sing songs. Since this is closely connected to the “word of Christ”, it makes sense that what we sing ought to express, if not teach, God’s Word. Our singing should be an expression of our theology. Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs is one means of teaching and admonishing one another. When we gather together for worship, we are taught through proclamation as well singing.
In closing, becoming peacemakers involves embracing our new identity in Christ and living for Him. It means we constantly put off the old ways that defined us before we knew Christ, and constantly put on the virtues of Jesus Christ. We should want to be more and more like Jesus as we grow in our walk with Him. We should also let the peace of Christ rule in our individual and corporate lives. We should also let the Word of Christ dwell in our individual and corporate lives. One last thing is the goal of everything we do. We should know why we do any of this. God’s people do everything for the glory of Jesus Christ. Look at the following verse.
Colossians 3:17 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.
Whatever we say or do, we should make sure that we do it to bring glory to Jesus. This should be a goal in everything we do. Whatever decision we make as a church, we should be seeking the glory of God. If not, then we are only seeking our glory…and that is sin. We will spend more time on this one next week when we look at the Four G’s of Peacemaking. This is good news. Thanks be to God. Amen!