When You’re Rubbed the Wrong Way

Please read Colossians 3:12-17 in your Bible.  I used the NIV for this post.

Successful conflict resolution (peace-making) is the work of all genuine disciples.

The ability to get along with others requires a great deal of effort.  Our natural tendency is to push for our own way, even at the expense of relationships, and that’s where unity dies.  Whether in good times or in bad, it takes intention and effort to get along.

How do we resolve conflicts and settle disagreements before unity is lost.  We learned Wednesday night that God’s word suggests casting lots to decide the winner (see PBS 18:18).

In other cultures, differences were sometimes settled by fatal duels.  As odd as this may sound, there was a time in history when two men attempted to settle their dispute by casting lots AND having a duel!

French novelist and playwright Alexandre Dumas, best known for his novel, The Three Musketeers, once had a heated quarrel with a rising young politician.  It was decided that the only way honor could be satisfied was by a duel.  However, the problem was that both men were excellent shots and they feared a duel might result in both of them being killed.  For this reason, they cast lots to determine which of them would be spared, the loser was to shoot himself.

Dumas lost the drawing.

Pistol in hand, he withdrew in silent dignity to another room, closing the door behind him.  The rest of the group waited in gloomy suspense for the shot that would end his brilliant career.  It rang out at last.

His friends ran to the door and flung it open.  They were shocked to see Dumas standing there unharmed, the smoking pistol in his hand.

“Gentlemen, a most regrettable thing has happened,” he announced.  “I missed.”

Fortunately, God has given us better ways to resolve our differences.  In Jesus Christ we have the ultimate means of getting along with one another, even with people who rub us the wrong way.  Let’s learn about Jesus’ way of peace as we look at Colossians 3:12-17.

  1. Take the high road (12-14).

God chose you to take the high road.  Paul’s teaching about God choosing His people (for example Romans 8:33; 16:13) is always for the purpose of emphasizing grace.  Verse twelve describes our God-given identity in three terms:

– CHOSEN = God chose us to faithfully represent Him in this world & be rewarded in heaven.

– HOLY = to be set apart from the usual, worldly uses to serve God in unusual, spiritual ways.

– DEARLY LOVED refers to the love God has for His children; unconditional love, full of grace.

Verses13-14 describe our God-directed activity

– BEAR WITH EACH OTHER is an important biblical command. See 1 Corinthians 13:5 = [Love] is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Proverbs 12:16 = Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.  Proverbs 19:11 = A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

– FORGIVE AS THE LORD FORGAVE YOU. Follow His example; forgive and forget.  See Psalm 103:8-12 = THE LORD IS COMPASSIONATE AND GRACIOUS, SLOW TO ANGER, ABOUNDING IN LOVE.  HE WILL NOT ALWAYS ACCUSE, NOR WILL HE HARBOR HIS ANGER FOREVER; HE DOES NOT TREAT US AS OUR SINS DESERVE OR REPAY US ACCORDING TO OUR INIQUITIES.  FOR AS HIGH AS THE HEAVENS ARE ABOVE THE EARTH, SO GREAT IS HIS LOVE FOR THOSE WHO FEAR HIM; AS FAR AS THE EAST IS FROM THE WEST, SO FAR HE HAS REMOVED OUR TRANSGRESSIONS FROM US.

– OVER ALL THESE VIRTUES PUT ON LOVE, WHICH BINDS THEM ALL TOGETHER IN PERFECT UNITY. LOVE “binds” all virtues together because it is the chief virtue.  It is what motivates us be virtuous.  PERFECT UNITY is the outcome.  It is the condition of the fellowship in which people love one another.  See 1 Corinthians 13:13 = AND NOW THESE THREE REMAIN: FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE.  BUT THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE.

Peace cannot be forged if your mind is on “getting even.” Taking the high road sometimes requires letting go of our “rights.”

God has demonstrated the way he wants us to live.  God always acts in holiness and love in perfect balance.  He always does what is best for us.  The entire Bible is a record of the various ways God has demonstrated these attributes.  He calls us to follow His example because He knows then we will truly act in ways that are in our best interests.  When we choose self-interest instead, when we prefer our petty dramas to His high standards, then we’re walking the toxic road of sin.

  1. Actions are more important than feelings (12).

We act differently because we live in our NEW SELF.  In v. 10 Paul wrote about “putting on” our NEW SELF, as if this new life in Christ were a change of clothes.  He continues that image in v. 12.  However, unlike a change of clothes which we can easily see, this improvement of character may be a little more difficult to perceive.  Here’s how we know we’ve made the switch; we know it’s happened when the virtues listed in verse 12 become part of our character.  These virtues closely resemble the Fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 and there we learn that these marks of godly character are a gift from God by means of the Holy Spirit.

– COMPASSION = is one word made by combining the Greek words for affection and sympathy.

– KINDNESS is a friendly willingness to help the needy.

– HUMILITY involves seeing yourself as God sees you, not falling into the extremes of narcissism or self-loathing.

– GENTLENESS is consideration for others that goes so deep one is willing to waive one’s “rights” to revenge.

– PATIENCE endures trials without exasperation.

It’s genuine because it comes from God.  It’s true that putting on a red hat does not make me a fireman.  Similarly, verse twelve is not about putting on these virtues in a hypocritical way, to make others think we are God’s children.  These are all virtues that come forth through action and we all know actions speak louder than mere words.

  1. Make Christ the center of every conversation (16).

Verse sixteen is not limited to worship though it sounds like it, with the mention of teaching, admonishing, & singing.  It’s really about consistency; if our conversations have a different moral character inside and outside church, what does that say about the genuineness of our faith?  It says, as James taught, that we all struggle with our tongues (see James 3:2).

In the very next chapter Paul wrote, LET YOUR CONVERSATION BE ALWAYS FULL OF GRACE, SEASONED WITH SALT, SO THAT YOU MAY KNOW HOW TO ANSWER EVERYONE. (Colossians 4:6).  This is what Paul meant by LET THE WORD OF CHRIST DWELL IN YOU RICHLY.  THE WORD OF CHRIST doesn’t only mean the Bible, but also the person of Jesus Christ.  The word RICHLY means “having ample room,” or “having great treasure.”  Jesus should dominate our thinking and as He does, He will be expressed more abundantly in what we say and do.

We should ask “WWJD?” and “WWJS?”  S = SAY.  If we would ask ourselves, “What would Jesus say in this instance?”  The act of stopping to think about it would help us avoid sins of the tongue.

  1. Passionately pursue personal peace (15+17).

We’re promised peace the passes UNDERSTANDING.  This is obviously not the kind of peace the world can give, the kind that is more than avoiding conflict or calming fears.

Instead, it is a settled state of mind, a feeling of contentment, and an attitude of patience that is BEYOND UNDERSTANDING because it is from God, not our circumstances.  This kind of PEACE is so profound that it cannot be lost because troubles or trials appear.

Peace is to RULE over us and our relationships.  The word RULE originally meant “to act as an umpire.”  This means every situation that pits Christians against one another must be resolved in a way that leads to PEACE.  There is nothing fake about this; this is the highest-possible-standard PEACE described in verse fifteen.

We are called to PEACE.  We are called to PEACE as much as we are called to salvation: PEACE is the foundation of our relationship with God and our relationships with one another.  If we truly follow Christ we will value this peace much more highly than we will the little things that tend to divide us.  We will prize this PEACE and guard it against self-interest and factions.

This kind of PEACE always produces a grateful response as it directs our attention to God: this response is described in two phrases in verse seventeen.

– WHATEVER YOU DO, WHETHER IN WORD OR DEED, DO IT ALL IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS. In these three different ways Paul expressed one thought; all that you do, do it as a disciple of Jesus should.  (This will logically exclude sinful activities.)  This includes all parts of our daily living but excludes all things that are not of Christ.

– GIVING THANKS TO GOD THE FATHER THROUGH HIM. When you think of this fantastic PEACE God gives, gratitude is the most appropriate response.  Plus, when we express our thankfulness, we direct the attention of others to God.

ENCOURAGEMENT AND ACTION:

  1. YOU ARE LOVED = Loving God leads to loving others
  2. THERE IS HOPE = Home and Church are the training sites for love and the world is the place where we practice love. With God, we can DO THIS!
  3. HOW TO GET STARTED = take the steps of “UNITE.”

U = “U” as in You (in texting language). Unless you seek peace, it will not happen.

N = Note your feelings & own them by talking about them with “I” statements.

I = Inform the other person about your desire for peace.

T = Talk about how to avoid this situation repeating itself in the future.

E = Enjoy a healthier relationship as you put your solutions to work.

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Why’d He Do It? Our Salvation (Part Two)

(Please read Colossians 1:13-23 in your Bible.  I’ve prepared these remarks using the NIV.)

Jesus gave up His life so we might live eternally.

“The actor who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s 2004 blockbuster The Passion of the Christ says he has been shunned by Hollywood since taking the role.

“Jim Caviezel was a regular name on cinema hoardings before agreeing to take the lead in the controversial, bloody retelling of Christ’s final days. He headlined the 2002 remake of The Count of Monte Cristo and starred opposite Jennifer Lopez in the 2001 romantic drama Angel Eyes. However, Caviezel told an audience of churchgoers in Orlando, Florida on Saturday that he had ‘been rejected by my own industry’ after choosing to join Gibson’s cast.

“Gibson, he said, had initially offered him the role, only to call him back 20 minutes later and beg him not to take it. ‘He said, ‘You’ll never work in this town again.’ I told him, ‘We all have to embrace our crosses,’’ said Caviezel. He added: ‘Jesus is as controversial now as he has ever been. Not much has changed in 2,000 years.’

“A passionate Christian, Caviezel told the audience at the First Baptist Church of Orlando he had learned to accept that the destruction of his acting career was a price worth paying. “We have to give up our names, our reputations, our lives to speak the truth,” he said.

“The Passion of the Christ was an enormous box office hit in 2004, taking more than $600m worldwide after attracting huge numbers of religious filmgoers.”

<Ben Child, writing for the Guardian, in 2011. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/may/03/jim-caviezel-passion-of-the-christ on 4/1/16.>

I did a little follow-up research and found that his acting career moved from the big screen to the small screen where he has worked steadily since making these comments in 2011.  While I was there, I also found out some interesting facts about Caviezel and the filming of The Passion of the Christ.

  • Dislocated his shoulder during the filming of The Passion of the Christ (2004).
  • Was struck by lightning during the filming of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004). Assistant director Jan Michelini was also hit (for the second time during the shoot). A crew member said “I’m about a hundred feet away from them when I glance over and see smoke coming out of Caviezel’s ears.”
  • Shortly after accepting the role of Jesus Christ in the Mel Gibson film, The Passion of the Christ (2004), he realized his initials were the same as that of Jesus (J.C.) and that he was the same age most religious scholars claim Jesus was when he was killed (33).
  • While filming the whipping scene in The Passion of the Christ (2004), one of the whips missed the steel board on Jim’s back and cut a 13-inch gash into his back.
  • Portrayed Jesus Christ a second time in the Word of Promise audio bible.
  • Republican.
  • During the filming he had pneumonia and suffered hypothermia.

<Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001029/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm on 4/1/16.>

As tempting as it is to comment on “Jesus” being a Republican, I believe I’ll just let it pass.  Instead, I want to remind you what we learned in part one.  Jesus Christ is the icon (“image”) revealing God the Father to us.  We who believe are, in turn, to be the icon of Jesus.  You’ve just read about how difficult it was for Jim Caviezel to be the on-screen icon of Jesus.  Do you imagine that your day-to-day walk of faith should be easy?  Have you heard Jesus describe the life of faith as taking up your own cross, enduring suffering in order to portray Jesus where you are?  The vast majority of us will never see our portrayal of Jesus on the “silver screen,” but that’s not why we’re doing it anyway.  We’re not acting.  We are the reality of Jesus in the world around us.  Relish your part.  Realize you’re part of an ensemble.  Make your portrayal of Jesus as real as the Spirit gives you grace to make it.

<Review: 1. Jesus is supreme (15-19).>

<NEW>

  1. What Jesus has done for us (13-14, 20).

First, as indicated in verse thirteen, He has RESCUED US.  The Greek word for RESCUE means just what you’d expect: “to liberate, save, or deliver someone or something.”

In this case, Jesus liberated, saved, and delivered us FROM THE DOMINION OF DARKNESS.  In the Bible, DARKNESS is symbolic of ignorance, falsehood, sin, and evil.  To be rescued, then, means that Jesus has informed us of the truth and forgiven our sins.  He’s done everything needed for us to start over.

The second thing is also revealed in verse thirteen: He has transferred our citizenship from this world to heaven; He BROUGHT us from the DOMINION OF DARKNESS to the KINGDOM OF THE SON.  The word translated as BROUGHT refers to people who are “reestablished” in a new place.  In civil documents of the day, this word was used to refer to transfer of citizenship from one country to another.  A military strategy of the time was to take away as captive members of a conquered nation; they would serve their conquerors as slaves.  In either case – civil or military – the word pictures a large group of people migrating from one place to another.

Paul is using it in the military sense in verse thirteen; we were captives to sin.  But Jesus conquered sin and has taken us back from our place of slavery.  He

has BROUGHT us to our true home. The DOMINION OF DARKNESS is in sharp contrast to the KINGDOM OF LIGHT which all SAINTS inherit, according to verse twelve.

Third, in verse fourteen we read that He has redeemed us from slavery to sin (IN WHOM WE HAVE REDEMPTION).  In their legal system, slaves could be released from bondage in two ways.  One: if they were purchased and set free by their new owner.  That would be called REDEMPTION.  Two: if they were won as prizes in a war or offered as tribute by a conquered nation, the conqueror could set them free.  This was called EMANCIPATION.  Again, I think Paul prefers the military imagery in this passage.  Jesus emancipated us by conquering our enemies of sin, Satan, and death.

A fourth saving act is found in verse fourteen; Jesus has forgiven our sins. The word translated as FORGIVENESS literally means “to send away.” When God forgives our sins, He sends them away.  He forgives and forgets. We are to do t same; forgive as we have been forgiven.

The fifth act mentioned in this passage is that He has reconciled us to God (v. 20).  The word RECONCILE means “to change.”  This passage is full of changes by Jesus.  Notice the scope of this: ALL THINGS are reconciled to God the Father.  The salvation Jesus provided has universal scope, but of course, not all persons will receive it..

From DARKNESS to light (13).

From slave to free (14).

From guilty to forgiven (14).

From God’s enemies who are alien to His purpose, to His family who prove useful for His kingdom (21).

From unholy to holy (22).

There is no middle ground here. We were utterly hopeless and He saved us to the uttermost.

  1. How Jesus did it (21-23).

In verse twenty-two we learn that  He did it IN HIS FLESHLY BODY THROUGH DEATH.  It sounds morbid, but the shadow of the cross extends all the way back to the baby in the manger.  Christmas is not worth celebrating without observing Good Friday.  Jesus was born to die.  God’s plan called for a human body because the sacrifice of a human life, the shedding of human blood was the only way to reconcile God and man.

But not any human life would do.  Jesus lived as the only and ever God and Man in one.  We must always defend the dual nature of Jesus as if our lives depended on it, for that is literally true.  If Jesus is not who the Bible says He is then we are not saved.

Look again at verse twenty-two.  There it states that He did it TO PRESENT YOU HOLY AND BLAMELESS AND IRREPROACHABLE BEFORE HIM.  HOLY means separate from the godless aspects of the world in which we live and morally pure. BLAMELESS means that we are no longer guilty of sin.  Only our God who forgives and forgets can make His children BLAMELESS.  IRREPROACHABLE is a legal term referring to a person who cannot be charged with a crime.

In other words, this is a moral, emotional, and spiritual state which we have no means of achieving on our own.  It is a state of grace.  In His grace God the Father chooses to clean us up, to mend our ways, and make us an acceptable “bride” for God the Son.  It is God the Spirit who lives in us and with us and accomplishes this transformation.  It is a metamorphosis that makes a caterpillar flush with envy.

And finally, in verse twenty-three we learn that He did it FROM THE HOPE HELD OUT IN THE GOSPEL…PROCLAIMED TO EVERY CREATURE UNDER HEAVEN. HOPE is a biblical term for a thing God has promised.  Because God has promised it, the thing is certain; it will come to pass.  Though you do not hold it fully in your hand now, you can be certain that one day you will.  It is not the same as a wish or a desire.

That is the basis for the Good News – the GOSPEL to which the Apostle Paul and every breathing believer gives a life of service.  That is the basis for a message that deserves to be taken TO EVERY CREATURE UNDER HEAVEN.  This is another nod to the universal nature of the Gospel

Don’t miss the condition on which our receipt of the Good News is based: IF YOU CONTINUE IN YOUR FAITH, ESTABLISHED AND FIRM.  Genuine faith, the kind that allows us to participate in the glorious Resurrection, is a life-long commitment.  It is real when it lasts.

I want to conclude with a quote from John Maxwell’s book, Think on These Things –What Does Hope Do For Mankind?

Hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest. Hope motivates when discouragement comes. Hope energizes when the body is tired. Hope sweetens while bitterness bites. Hope sings when all melodies are gone. Hope believes when evidence is eliminated. Hope listens for answers when no one is talking. Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping. Hope endures hardship when no one is caring. Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing. Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking. Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging. Hope dares to give when no one is sharing. Hope brings the victory when no one is winning.
<Retrieved from http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-david-dewitt-quotes-encouragement-victory-livinghope-845.asp on 4/1/.16.>

May your most endearing hope be to accurately reveal Jesus by living as He lived.

 

Why’d He Do It? Our Salvation (Part One)

(Please read Colossians 1:13-23 in your Bible.  I have cited the NIV below.)

Jesus surrendered His life on the cross so we might live eternally.

One of the errors that threatened the first century Church, one of the reasons Paul wrote this letter, sounds very familiar to our ears as it is a growing error of our age as well.  It is the failure to understand who Jesus Christ is.  The understanding that is part of true and saving faith is that Jesus Christ is both God and Man.  Anything else is false.

One of the oft-repeated things said about our youngest generation especially is that they want Jesus but they don’t want the Church.  That’s error enough, but what really matters is the Jesus they want is one who’s been watered down to the level of political correctness, a Jesus that avoids offense at all costs.  Anything other than the biblical view of Jesus is a false, worldly creation, impotent to save and not worth worshiping.  Easter is robbed of its meaning and is a superstitious celebration of Spring.

I’ve learned a new word this week: “glurge.”  Dictionary.com defines glurge as “stories, often sent by email, that are supposed to be true and uplifting, but which are often fabricated and sentimental.”

(Retrieved at http://www.dictionary.com/browse/glurge on 3/24/16.)

I learned this word because I almost shared a glurge with you to introduce this morning’s message.  It seems that a story has been circulating around the Internet since 2001 that tells how Dr. Robert Schuller’s teenage daughter Carol (NOT Cindy), was in a motorcycle accident having a leg amputated. As the story goes this accident lead to an exchange of letters between Carol and actor John Wayne. Allegedly, Carol’s letter lead to “the Duke” receiving Jesus as his Savior three weeks before his death.

(To see this used as a sermon illustration by Jimmy Haile, (“Hope for the Hopeless,” 7/16/2011), go to http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-sermon-central-staff-stories-christianwitness-79891.asp to see it largely refuted, go to http://www.snopes.com/glurge/duke.asp or https://www.truthorfiction.com/johnwayne-schuller/.)

Unfortunately, the only parts of the story that can be confirmed as true are Carol’s accident and John Wayne’s death.  If the rest of the story were true, you’d assume that Dr. Schuller would have told such an inspiring story in his own pulpit, but he never did.             Too many people have decided that the Bible and the view of Jesus it presents are a “glurge.”  They deny the truth of Easter and some go so far as to deny that Jesus existed.

And with these denials, they forfeit their only hope for life.  Only the true Jesus offers any hope for a life of meaning in this world and eternal life after death.

You may not have known it before now, but part of the reason we’re here this morning is to celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ is NOT a glurge and that just as He lives, so shall all who – by faith – put their complete trust in Him.

  1. Jesus is supreme (15-19).

Verse fifteen states that He is the IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD.  The word IMAGE has two meanings in the biblical Greek language.

The first is “likeness.”  As you might expect, this refers to a reproduction of appearance such in a mirror or other reflective surface, or a portrait intended to be as realistic a depiction as possible.  One way the ancients honored their rulers and heroes was to put their eikon, their portrait, on a coin.  Wait.  We do the same thing, don’t we?  On a physical, scientific level, this sounds like nonsense: how do you reflect someone who is invisible?

The second is “Manifestation.”  This is not a physical reproduction, but an emotional/personal/spiritual one.  It can truly be said that Jesus reflected God the Father in thinking, feeling, morality, and spirituality.  This is the meaning Paul intended.

The Greek word in question is eikon, from which we get an English word familiar to computer users and Orthodox Christians: “icon.”  In computer usage, an icon is not a program, file, or website, but a picture that you associate with a program, file, or website, and the means of accessing them.

According to Genesis 1:26-27, God created humanity in his IMAGE; to be an “icon” that points back to him.  A problem arose when our parents Adam and Eve sinned against God.  The stopped being an accurate representation of God.  Sin marred them and they were no longer a manifestation of God’s presence.

William Barclay commented on this word, “’Look at this Jesus.  He shows you not only what God is; he also shows you what man was meant to be.  Here is manhood as God designed it.  Jesus is the perfect manifestation of God and the perfect manifestation of man.’” (The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 118.)

Also in verse fifteen, He is the FIRSTBORN OVER ALL CREATION.  In their culture, the firstborn son enjoyed privileges and rights that none of the other offspring held.  He was his father’s representative and primary heir.  In the Old Testament, this title is reserved for the Messiah.  But here FIRSTBORN is a title of honor and rank more than a statement of birth order.  Paul’s use of the term is not to imply that Jesus was created, but that He existed before creation and holds authority over creation.

That is why Paul wrote OVER ALL CREATION. God the Son played an active role in creation, as Paul makes clear in vs. 16+17: it is stated so plainly and forcefully, no comment is needed.

We need to appreciate this point because it makes the Incarnation so much more powerful; it gauges the depth of His sacrifice.  Think of it: the Creator made Himself subject to creation!

In verse eighteen it is written that He is the HEAD OF THE BODY, THE CHURCH.  In this Greek, the word HEAD has these two meanings.

The first is what we’d expect from our own use of the English term.  A person who is “head” of an organization is its leader, its chief executive officer.

The second is unfamiliar to us; Greek scientists considered the head to be the source of the body.  In intercourse, the man supplied the head and in gestation, the limbs and body descended from the head.  So they thought of Jesus as the source of the Church’s existence.

In Hebrews 12:2, Paul identifies Jesus as the AUTHOR of our FAITH.  Jesus is the Writer, the Originator of the story of the Church.  Whether or not we’ve taken the story in the direction the Author intended, well, that’s a discussion for another day.

One of Paul’s frequently used metaphors for the Church is THE human BODY.  In this physical life, the head guides the body.  The function of all the organs and life itself depends on the brain inside the head.  The Church is called the Body of Christ so that we never forget from whom we came and always maintain the greatest possible reflection and imitation of the life of our HEAD, Jesus Christ.

Also in verse eighteen, He is THE BEGINNING, THE FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD.  These phrases sound like repeats or restatements of what we’ve already learned.  But the details of the Bible are important, so we know this is not just repetition.  Instead, it reveals a new truth and looks ahead to the resurrection of the faithful to eternal life.

By virtue of His death and resurrection, Jesus is the BEGINNING of the resurrection that puts God’s people in heaven.  The Resurrection of Jesus set into motion a series of events that have been playing out in human history ever since, events that will culminate in His Second Coming and our being raised to eternal life.

Here the word FIRSTBORN does mean first in the sense of order.  Jesus is the first person to be resurrected from death to life.  This means our resurrection will be similar to His.

In vs. 19 we read that IN HIM ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD WAS PLEASED TO DWELL.  The focus here is on the word FULLNESS.  It means that the entirety of what it means to be God could be found in Jesus.  He is not a “second rate” version of God, but God in flesh.  Picking up the picture of an “icon” again, we can say that Jesus is not just a sketch of God, but he is a full and personal testimony to all that God is.

I like the part that says THE FULLNESS OF GOD WAS PLEASED TO DWELL in Jesus.  Remember that on more than one occasion in His ministry years, God the Father expressed His pleasure with Jesus by means of a supernatural voice that came from heaven itself!  In the Greek the word DWELL suggests a permanent residence, not a temporary one.  The divine side of Jesus’ nature is permanent; He always has been God and He always will be God.

In verse nineteen Paul wrote that He has FIRST PLACE IN EVERYTHING.  The phrase FIRST PLACE is a description of authority.  Having a divine nature, Jesus also exerts divine authority over EVERYTHING.

This is what Paul wrote to the Philippian believers; in response to Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, God the Father recognized His ultimate authority: THEREFORE GOD ALSO HIGHLY EXALTED HIM AND GAVE HIM THE NAME THAT IS ABOVE EVERY NAME, SO THAT AT THE NAME OF JESUS EVERY KNEE SHOULD BEND, IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH AND UNDER THE EARTH, AND EVERY TONGUE CONFESS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Let’s look one last time at that Greek word eikon which is so important to our understanding of why Jesus was born into the human family in the first place; why He ministered, then was killed and raised to life.  Jesus is the means by which God became personal to His people, a revelation of man’s ideal and God’s eternal nature.

Here’s what William Barclay wrote, “Eikon…was the word which was used for portrait in Greek.  But this word had still another use.  When a legal document was drawn up, such as a receipt or IOU, it always included a description of the chief characteristics and distinguishing marks of the contracting parties, so that there could be no mistake.” (The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 118.)

One of God’s purposes in this text is to remove all doubt about the person and nature of Jesus Christ.  He was and is God.  It’s mind-boggling to think that God would choose to become part of His creation; that He would suffer insult, pain, and death at the hands of people He created.

What grand motive would compel such a choice?  We’ve spent the last seven weeks examining several motives.  Today we’ve begun to look at the effect of Jesus’ choice:  our salvation.  Jesus did it to save us.

Primarily, this was to save us from eternal death, to bring us to life just as He had been brought to life.  Jesus wants to share His life with us.

But it isn’t just eternal life Jesus wants to share.  It is, secondarily, abundant life in this world.  Abundant life is found in choosing to be like Jesus.  It is experienced when we act as icons of Jesus, personal manifestations of His character, acting in obedience to His will.

Working on Your People Skills

  (Please read Colossians 4:2-6.)

MESSAGE: Aim at infusing life in your conversations with God and others.

A husband and wife were chatting with some friends when the subject of marriage counseling came up.             “Oh, we’ll never need that. My husband and I have a great relationship,” the wife explained. “He was a communications major in college and I majored in theater. He communicates real well and I act like I’m listening.”

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/jokes/read/322825

That, by the way, was a joke.  Some people believe that a sense of humor is to be hung up by the door of a church just like their coat.

When this is based on the notion that God does not have a sense of humor or that spiritual folk are supposed to be more serious, that’s just plain wrong.  God’s sense of humor can be plainly seen in the duckbill platypus and the person in the mirror!

http://www.humorpower.com/blog/2006/07/humor-skills-what-people-find-offensive/

One excuse for being excessively somber is that you run the risk of offending someone by telling a joke.  This sounds legitimate, so I did a little research and found an expert to shed some light on this.  Mr. John Kindle is a humor specialist (a great job if you can find it!) in Las Vegas, Nevada.  He has a blog called “Humor Power,” and thus is a very reliable source…

He listed 12 reasons people give for finding a joke offensive.  One thing stood out in the article.  It’s widely accepted as fact that 2% of people will take offense at anything you say and do.  I say, why let the crabby minority ruin the fun for the 98% of us?!!

But if you’ll permit me to be serious for a moment, we all can work on our people skills.  We can all intend to get along better.  That kind of improvement must obviously start with having the love of God in our hearts.  That’s why our passage for this morning concerns both our relationship with God and our relationships with one another.

CONTEXT: Paul wrote this letter while in prison, directing the church to avoid falling for the traps of false teachers and choose life instead.  J. Vernon McGee titled this chapter: “Fellowship of Christians is hearty.”

COMMENT:

  1. Have life-giving conversations with God (2-4).

Paul uses 3 words to describe a lively prayer ministry.

“Devoted” = DEVOTE YOURSELVES TO PRAYER. In the Greek, the root of this word means “to be strong.”  It refers to a strong attachment to the person or thing indicated in the sentence.

How are we to be devoted to prayer?  Devotion can be demonstrated in the QUANTITY of time we give to prayer.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 urges us to PRAY CONTINUALLY.  Devotion can be demonstrated in the QUALITY of our prayers.  This is not a matter of choosing the right words or having the right feelings; it means to enter deeply into fellowship with God.  We learn that by quietness and listening, and by repeating God’s words back to Him – use the Bible as a guide for deep prayer.  Devotion can be demonstrated in CONSISTENCY.  When times are hard, God’s people pray harder and they pray more: they don’t give up on prayer.

WATCHFUL.  For what are we watching?  We’re to be watching for opportunities!

– Opportunities to pray.  Not just when people are sick or have other needs, but to express joy and praise as well.

– Opportunities to serve.  Helping others is a gateway to bringing God into their lives.

– Opportunities to witness.  Telling others about Jesus is one of the most exciting things a Christian can do.

Watch your words and deeds.  We must safeguard the purity God’s forgiveness imparts.  We need to help others see that God’s way is the best way.  Watch for the in-breaking of heaven, especially in the form of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Ordinary moments of life can be occasions for spiritual insight, visions, and revelations of the joy we’ll have in heaven.  We have a future, a new life, an eternal home with God.  In this life, He grants us glimpses of that life, to encourage us.  We don’t want to miss out on these experiences.  The Bible says we are visited by angels occasionally and we have the Holy Spirit always.  How can we hope to hear God’s messages if we don’t watch and listen?

Don’t confuse watching with waiting (inactivity, passivity).  As the old preacher said, “If you’re going to pray for a good crop, you’d better have a hoe in your hand!”

THANKFUL.  For what are we thankful?  Don’t wait until November to be thankful – practice it all year ‘round!  You may be surprised to see the transformative effect it has on your life and others.  More importantly, thankfulness directs our attention to God.  That is the most redemptive direction in which we can look.  Prayer should be like breathing; inhale with your asking & exhale w/ thanksgiving for God’s answer.

Lively prayer also focuses on God’s will for your situation.  The example in this situation is Paul requesting prayer for his ministry.  He asked for things he could be confident were in line with the will of God.

– OPEN A DOOR FOR OUR MESSAGE is asking God to provide opportunities for ministry.

– THAT WE MAY PROCLAIM THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST.  For Paul, this MYSTERY was something that was previously unknown being revealed by God; fulfillment of prophecy.

– FOR WHICH I AM IN CHAINS.  His CHAINS represented Paul’s commitment to the Gospel and it

spotlighted one of Paul’s needs: freedom.

– THAT I MAY PROCLAIM IT EASILY.  God-given opportunities are precious; we need to act on them as effectively as possible.  This requires speaking the truth in love with grace.

2. Have life-giving conversations with others (5-6).

BE WISE IN THE WAY YOU ACT = A wise person knows actions speak louder than words.

Especially TOWARD OUTSIDERS.  The unchurched, unsaved, unbelievers.  This is obviously not meant to make the church sound exclusivistic or stand-offish; it is a practical acknowledgement that MOST people are OUTSIDERS and we must act and speak WISELY to help them become INSIDERS.  Besides, if you know you’re headed to heaven, why wouldn’t you work to take as people as possible with you?

Notice it says BE WISE – what’s that?

– Be REAL.  Tell the truth in your own personal way.

– Be SENSITIVE.

— Be sensitive to the person; listening for their story so you can weave it with Jesus’ story.

— Be sensitive to the context; act and speak in ways appropriate to the situation you’re in.

— Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit; God will give you words and direct you toward effective means of ministry.

— Be sensitive to yourself.  The Holy Spirit will guide you with your intuition and feelings.  Respond appropriately to feelings that are clearly positive or negative and be wary of situations about which you have conflicted feelings.

– Be a FRIEND first; let God make converts.  We must not be driven to press for a decision in every conversation.

The purpose of this kind of wisdom should be obvious; to MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY. This is what I call “Opportunity Evangelism;” let the Spirit make you aware of an opportunity to witness and then follow through to do the deed and speak the words He gives you.  The meaning of the Greek word for OPPORTUNITY means to purchase something with the intent of making a profit on it.  Take a similar attitude to the encounters you have with OUTSIDERS.  Invest in others wisely so you can turn a “profit;” bring them to Jesus.

This approach recognizes the biblical truth that no one comes to the Father except as they have been lead by Him.  So – as He reveals to us persons whom He has already been leading, we will help folks whom God has prepared, not just buzzing around on our own.

The first part of this is about actions, but words are important too, so we must take care to choose good ones.  One aspect of self-control is choosing the right words.  In fact, James 3:1-12 identifies control of one’s tongue as the PRIMARY form of self-control!  The Bible identifies many different sins of the tongue; that’s a subject for another time.  On the other hand, there’s just one way to get it right and that is to guard our speech.

– The first place to guard it is at the source: the heart.  Jesus said, “OUT OF THE OVERFLOW OF THE HEART THE MOUTH SPEAKS.”  (See Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45.)

– The last place to guard it is at the lips.  Paul wrote, DO NOT LET ANY UNWHOLESOME TALK COME OUT OF YOUR MOUTH, BUT ONLY WHAT IS HELPFUL FOR BUILDING OTHERS UP ACCORDING TO THEIR NEEDS, THAT IT MAY BENEFIT THOSE WHO LISTEN.  (Ephesians 4:29)

Paul offers a three-fold definition of purposeful and wise conversation, the type that pleases God.

– FULL OF GRACE.  Wow!  Forgiving and forbearing; loving as God loved you.  The right words in the right way at the right time.

– SEASONED WITH SALT.  Conversation is a sensory experience, so don’t be tasteless.  Salt is also a preservative; it keeps conversations from becoming rotten.

– Knowing HOW TO ANSWER EVERYONE.  Obviously, we have to study the Bible before we can know what it says and use it to explain and defend the truth.  What’s not required is that we “win” every argument.  In fact, if you’re arguing with someone that may be proof you’re already on the “losing” side.  It’s enough that we stand firm in our faith.

Take a look at the “People Skills Test” in your bulletin.  Would you like to guess what the problem is?

* “We are doing our part.”

* “Can you make a little time in your busy schedule to take care of this?”

* “He won’t answer the phone.”

* “That division always goofs it up for everyone.”

* “I looked and you still haven’t done it.”

The problem is that all of those statements are, to one degree or another, accusations.  They all imply that the problem is the other person.  They could easily put the other person on the defensive, and communication problems will undoubtedly be the result.

Communicating in a civil and constructive manner is a problem in our society.  The internet and mobile ‘phones offer an illusion of anonymity and people feel uninhibited.  They put their worst thoughts into words and fling them into the public eye without any forethought.

Let’s be clear.  Saying, “At least I’m being honest” is not going to cut it.  God’s standard for speech is much higher than that!  In fact, let’s take notice of the fact that this passage addresses prayer (conversation with God) directly alongside conversation with one another.  This leads me to think of a simple rule of thumb: Think before you speak and think twice about saying something to someone else that you would never say before God!

Christians are called to be neither offensive nor invisible.  True wisdom is found in the middle of these extremes, responsive to context and the Spirit’s guidance.  Our words and deeds must reflect a Christ-like spirit which is loving and considerate.

And finally, a plea for balance.  I’ve seen too many church discussions end with, “We can’t do that.  So-and-so will be offended.”  I’ve also seen Christians censored in the public square with the excuse of not offending atheists or Muslims.  Well, no offense, but we all need to GROW UP!  Doing the right thing is almost always going to offend someone!   One way we can achieve balance/moderation is by asking, “Do they have a legitimate offense?”  If not, proceed and deal with the offense if it becomes a problem.  If yes, then reconsider – start over or let it go if necessary.