Colossians 3:13-17 | Whatever You Do

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Whatever You Do

Colossians 3:13-17

Key Verse 3:17

“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.”

There was a time when it made a big difference whether one was rich or poor, scholarly or uneducated, native or of foreign stock, intelligent or dimwitted, well mannered or boorish, dark skinned or light. The world had for generations made distinctions between one man and another based on one’s social status or wealth and such. The world had always had its own standards in all things. What one man could get away with in life, the other man could not, simply because the one man had the clout the other man did not. But not since the advent of the Lord Jesus. When Jesus finally entered the scene of the world, he turned the world upside down. Jesus changed everything. He changed the standards by which men measure life and the world around us. He changed the way we look at the world and the way we look at ourselves and at others. The day that Jesus decided to be born in a manger rather than a palace; the day Jesus chose the riffraff from among humanity to build his discipleship ministry rather than from the elite Priesthood; the day Jesus crossed to Galilee through Samaria and stopped to talk with a Samaritan woman; on that day Jesus broke down every barrier that kept class and wealth and status and gender and color and race and such apart. And he created one class and upheld one standard that forevermore distinguished one man from another man. He said: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30) He alone is that eternal standard that will always and forevermore divide and distinguish one man from another.

There is yet another standard. Paul told the Colossians in 3:10, “and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” In this world man or woman may be of different in social status or cultural breeding or in wealth and education and such. But in reality at the heart of things, in the depth of their human heart and soul and existence, they are all alike— decrepit and degenerate. They are all fallen from the image of their Creator. They are all hopeless. Then Jesus came and turned the world upside down. And he changed everything. And while the world continues to consider the differences between one man and another in a worldly sense, Paul told the Colossians what really distinguishes one man from another from God’s point of view. “And have put on the new self”! In the sight of God, the only distinguishing mark between one man and another is whether the man is clothed in a “new self” or not. Ultimately to the Lord of heaven, there are only two kinds of people, only two classes, only two statuses, two races etc. The first are those who live their lives in the “old self” the fallen self, the self that will one day stand abashed before the judgment seat of God, because it remains far from the image of its Creator. And the second are those who have put off the old self and have put on the new self— that self that has been renewed in the image of its Creator through the grace of God and their faith in Jesus.

These words were words of truth for the Colossian Christians struggling in a world much like ours. “And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Look at verse 11. “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” As Paul tells them, here is where Christ has reached out with his saving grace and touched the hearts of the hopeless, forgiven them and called them to live a new life clothed in the new self— the self created and re-created in the image of its Creator. Paul reminded the Colossian Christians that they had been given a new life. They had been taken out of the world and its values and standards, and had been given a new identity in Christ. Regardless of where they had been before Christ came into their lives, now each of them was a new man, distinguished no longer by their worldly standing, but distinguished exclusively by the new life they were called to live. Last time we briefly mentioned about what had characterized the old self they had once lived from the new self they were given to live. In Chapter 3, Paul clearly states the characteristics of the old self as well as those of the new self. Today we need to look closely at the characteristics of the new self which Paul commands Christians everywhere to set their hearts and minds on.  We find them in verses 12-17.

In these verses Paul appeals to the Colossian Christians as well to all Christians to live the new life that has been given to us by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus. He appeals to us to set our hearts on the things that make the Christian truly a Christian. He appeals to us to practice the very things that are very much part of the image of God that was born and reborn in us by virtue of Jesus’ grace and our faith in him. He appeals to us as God’s chosen people. As his holy people. As his dearly loved by God. Read verses 12-14. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, 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. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” These are the very things that are part of the new self patterned after the image of God that has been given us to grow in as we make our pilgrimage from this world to the kingdom of God to which we belong. Paul gives the Christian these virtues to practice on a daily basis. The child of God, who is chosen by God and holy to him, who is dearly loved by God must clothe himself or herself with the very compassion of Christ. Compassion is that part of the heart that feels with the suffering of others and longs to comfort them in their suffering.

Here is the best example of what Christian compassion is all about. This is what Jesus felt when he saw the multitudes of people milling to him as if they had no home to go to, as if they had no one to care for them, as if they were orphans drifting in a cold and heartless world. The Apostle Matthew records how Jesus felt. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) This is not about Matthew but about Jesus. Yet we cannot stop to think about who made the observation. Matthew did. He was once a cold hearted and opportunistic man who had taken tax collecting for a living. He had bled people dry on many occasions in an effort to make his money and to live the life of ease and comfort he had always dreamed of. But now he records something that should have been alien to him— the compassion of the Lord for the seemingly worthless crowds of people. Only now they were no longer worthless in Matthew’s eyes. He had been blessed and changed by Jesus. His eyes had been opened to witness the endless suffering of people. His heart had been opened to feel their suffering in his own soul, as Jesus did. These crowds were annoying and demanding. But when the Lord saw them with eyes of compassion. He saw them as helpless people who had been harassed by the devil and made to sink so low in life as to care for nothing except to feed their hungry stomachs. The Lord also saw their greatest suffering was that they had no shepherd. And Jesus longed to be their shepherd and to lead them to the kingdom of God. If it were not for Jesus, we would really not know what compassion truly was. A mother may have compassion for her children. But in the world, a mother’s compassion does not ordinarily go beyond her children. Matthew had learned that, and in the new nature given to him by the Lord, Matthew not only recorded what compassion is, he also practiced it as a disciple of Jesus. He no longer saw people with eyes of greed, nor with eyes to see what he could get from them, nor with eyes of hostility. He began to see them with the eyes of a shepherd who felt their suffering and longed to end it. The only time suffering can truly be alleviated is when a soul suffering from sin receives the forgiveness of the Lord. Paul called the Colossian Christians to be compassionate. He called them to practice the shepherd heart of our Lord Jesus toward each other and toward all men as well.

To “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another”;  to “Forgive as the Lord forgave you”, belongs with the words: “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”. How hard it is to bear with one another, to forgive another a grave offense he or she had done to you; to feel compassion towards someone who had harmed and maligned you; to show them kindness when they had been cruel to you; to be gentle with someone who had been harsh and spiteful towards you; to be patient with the one who had spurned you time and again; to remain humble regardless of how many times you have been insulted and misunderstood and mistreated; how hard it is to forgive as the Lord forgave you because he has forgiven you more times and more sins that you could ever count in your lifetime. And because it seems impossible for you to forgive some things that have been done to you or said about you that scalded your heart and caused you pain and anguish. We are human beings who regardless of how much we stand on the grace of God and embrace the words of our Savior, we are still flesh and blood and we hurt when we are injured, and we struggle when tempted. Paul must have known how hard it is to forgive others, and to be patient and kind to those who have treated him like a criminal. Yet Paul in all honesty of soul wanted the Christians of all time, even us, to show compassion, and to bear with each other, and to exercise all the virtues of what it means to be men and women with a new nature, a new heart, created and recreated in the image of its maker. But this is the truth. These are the things that heavenly and of the nature of God and his holy image, and we must practice them on a daily basis. No one can force another to forgive or to show compassion. It must come from the heart. And it can only do so when a Christian never loses sight of what he was before the Lord found him and forgave him and brought him out of darkness into his wonderful light.

And if that were not enough, Paul goes on to tell them: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Above all these virtues put on love. It seems that what he tells us we must do is none negotiable. It is not an option for the Christian to put on all these virtues and more. God demands it of those who would grow in his image and reveal his love to the whole world. Christ death on the cross was the perfect revelation of God’s love for the world. As Christians who have been touched by that love, Paul tells us that we must put on love which binds all other virtues together in perfect unity. It was Jesus final command to his disciples that they love one another as he had loved them. And so this teaching comes down to all Christians, to the Colossians and then to all Christians of all time. And as we know it is not an easy teaching to take hold of, regardless of how many times we read it or study it in the Scriptures. Love is something that we must want as part of the new nature. And we can want it in proportion to how much we want Christ in our lives, to rule us and to guide us in our spiritual growth and maturity. Ultimately those who truly embrace love above all other virtues and hold it dear to their hearts, are those whose love for Jesus exceeds their love for themselves. We too must strive to love— to first love Jesus more than we love ourselves.

Read verses 15-17. “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 word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 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.”

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” And let it rule in your heart because we are not called to continue in the ways of the world, but because we are called to live a new life based on the Gospel which the Lord had called us to live by. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” otherwise everything else in the world will rule and it will not fare well for you if your purpose is to truly honor and glorify the Lord of glory. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” because God called you to a life of peace— and not a life of conflict. We may consider many things as we meditate on these words in verse 15, but we cannot but understand the heart of God who called us to peace. When Jesus gave his life on the cross, it was to bring peace for us with God. we were in enmity with God before Christ gave his life for us. After that, the Gospel teaches us that we have been reconciled to God, and that peace has been restored between God and us. Moreover, by the sacrifice of our Lord, peace has come to live in our hearts as well. It is part of the new nature which we have been clothed in. Before receiving Christ as Lord, nothing but anxiety and fear ruled our hearts. As such we were steeped in worries and insecurities that caused us to live in misery. Fear and anxiety are truly misery to the souls of men. But now Christ has died for our sins and has freed us from all that once caused fear and anxiety in our lives. And Christ has made it possible that we have peace— completely trusting God with our lives and our families and our future and all. When we let peace rule in our hearts, then we can come to God in every situation with faith and willingness to accept his counsel. (Phil 4:7)

Let the word of God dwell in you richly. This too is part of the new nature. To let nothing else dwell in our hearts except that word of God which gives life to us and brings us all the wisdom and grace we need to live every day as the holy children of God. And with it we are called to bless others and to help them in the word of God to find all that they need in order grow in their inner person and to grow closer to the God whom they love. Praise God for giving us his word. What can we say to that except thank you Lord that you have given us the instrument by which you have created the world. And this word has the same power to create and to recreate in us a man or woman who can grow pleasing to you in every way. Paul wanted to bless these Colossian Christians and to help them live the life that God had given to them to live in the new nature. But the new nature must also feed— and it must do so on the word of God. Every day we must learn how to nurture this new nature with the word of Christ. And as we grow we also must bless each other with the words of Christ as well. And we must do so with gratitude because we have been given his words to live by.

Paul’s last words in chapter 3 are these: “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.” “whatever you do” “whether in word of deed” whatever you do, all of it, whether you speak or act, there is a command here that seals us as Christ’s people. To speak and to act in his name, as his holy ambassadors, To speak words that will encourage and bless others. To act in such things as compassion and forgiveness and love so that his name may be glorified. When we lived in the world in our old nature, whatever we did, we did for the sinful nature. We did according to the selfishness of our own hearts. We did for our own good, our own welfare. We spoke what was on our hearts and minds, even if what we spoke injured and hurt others, even if it blasphemed the name of God. Once our hearts were dark and we acted according to the whims of our sinful nature. But as we have been forgiven and given a new nature, we are called to do everything for him and in his name. This leaves us with a tremendous responsibility to check what comes out of our mouths and hearts, and check what actions we take in response to everything in this world. We have responsibility, to honor Jesus with our everything. For in everything, we must be mindful of Christ. This is what the new nature, created in the image of God is all about. God gives us a new nature so that we might nurture it until it can glorify Jesus. May God bless you to be distinguished by the new nature God has given you. May God also bless you to take hold of the new self and make it obedient to Christ, so that it may grow in the image of God, and honor and glorify the Lord. Amen.

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