Challenge and Comfort

Colossians 3:15-16:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 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.

Dear Friends, I would like to share some thoughts from Revd Kevin Jones which have both challenged and comforted me. Kevin was sharing a Bible study on Colossians Chapter 3.

The challenge came when he highlighted the fact that Paul suggests we are to put off our old ways.

  1. We change our spiritual condition. We move from death to life ‘You were dead in your sins, but God made you alive with Christ (Chapter 2:13)
  2. We change our kingdom. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Chapter 1: 12-13)
  3. We change our standing. We were once enemies, now we are reconciled. ‘Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you’ (Chapter 1:21-22)
  4. God comes to live within us. ‘For in Christ all the fulness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fulness in Christ. (Chapter 2: 9-10)

Kevin goes on to explain that because we are changed people there are things that are needed to be put off – sins of the heart ‘sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed which is idolatry (Chapter 3:5). These inward sins are not seen openly but God sees, and the attitude of our heart will eventually show. Through confession and repentance, we need to put off these inward temptations.

The second category is our words. People cannot see our hearts but they can hear our words. ‘You yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language . . . . Do not lie to one another (Chapter 3: 8-9). We probably sin in our words more than in any area. Do you suffer from foot in mouth disease? It comes from the old self not from Christ; there is no excuse for addressing a brother or sister in Christ with ‘anger, rage, malice, slander filthy language or lies’. Our words betrays our hearts, better to say nothing than wound a brother or sister in Christ. We are to put these things off like old worn out clothes.

Following the putting off of the old it is important that we replace our old attitudes by putting on the new. ‘Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge, in the image of its Creator (Chapter 3:10). The test is how we treat each other, ‘As God’s chosen people, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Chapter 3: 12-13).

Wow! The more I read and thought about Colossians it made me realise how challenging it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It is hard to put off our old ways and even harder to embrace the new. As I was processing the challenge, I was grateful for the comfort that Kevin pointed in Chapter 3: 15-16, as we are facing up to the challenge of being a work in progress we have three comforting guiding lights to experience.

  1. The peace of Christ: ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. The word for rule is ‘referee’ or ‘umpire’. The Holy Spirit will remove our peace when we sin, the moment we lose our sense of peace, the Holy Spirit is calling us back to confession and repentance. When the referee blows the whistle, we have broken the rules and the game stops. When we lose our peace, we must stop and put right the offence before continuing our walk with Christ. The presence of peace or absence of peace is our guide, ‘The peace of Christ is to rule in our hearts’. (Chapter 3: 15)

  2. The guidance of the word. ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’. God’s word speaks into our situation; the Bible makes a distinction between the ‘Logos’ the eternal word and the ‘Rhema’, a specific or ‘now’ word. The preached and the prophetic word can speak directly to our situation so that the eternal word becomes the ‘now’ word for us. Most importantly, God will never inspire us to do something his written Word specifically condemns. The word and the Spirit are one, in their guidance, and in all guidance leads to holiness. Rationalising our sinful behaviour will not bring back the peace of God. The rule is simple in matters of morality, the Word is inspired and reason is fallible, as Doctor Martyn Luther discovered; reason must be captive to the word of God. This is an unchanging principle of guidance.

  3. The heart fixed on praise: Praise has a strong link with thankfulness. ‘Sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God (Chapter 3:16). Praise focuses our spirit on God and changes our attitude. There has been a rediscovery of praise over the last 30 years. People have come to see praise and worship as a means of entry into God’s presence (Psalm 100:4). Those who enter through the gates of praise find praise is more than singing, it is entering whole heartedly into the joy of the Lord through the expression of a song. This is an instruction to be obeyed, rather than a suggestion to be considered. ‘Sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God’ (Chapter 3:16).

If we are to be fruitful we must learn to put off the old self, with its attitudes and words that wound, fix our minds on Christ and put on the new self, with a changed attitude. We must listen to the guiding peace of the Holy Spirit and let the Word of Christ dwell richly in us as our hearts are thrilled with praise.

I found this article both a challenge and a comfort. It was challenging to me as I considered my motives and attitudes, but it was also a comfort in the sense the 3 guiding lights offered me hope and encouragement. There is always the danger of complacency creeping in which means we can sail through our Christian life without really considering if we are staying close to God. It can be difficult to face up to the consideration of our behaviour, which is either being influenced by the world or Gods standards. I am so grateful the guidance is there to encourage me and keep me on track.

There will not be a letter next week, I will be concentrating the 3 church councils that have been convened, we will be wading through the guidelines, considering the implications as we seek to discern the way forward. Please uphold us in your prayers and ask that we might feel the peace of Christ, be guided by his word, and have our hearts fixed on praise.

God Bless