Our text – Colossians 3:12-17
The theme, “God expects believers to put on Christlike character”
It isn’t very hard to recognize the career of some people because of the clothing they wear. We identify with those in the military because of their uniforms or a New York State Trooper. Those who wear lab coats in a hospital are recognized as medical personnel. You can recognize the children who attended a Catholic school because of their uniform. In our Scripture for this morning, the Apostle Paul contends that believers in Jesus Christ should also be recognized by their appearance. The “clothing” that identify believers in Christ as God’s people should never go out of style and should always be beautiful, appropriate, and suitable for every season of life.
Paul is appealing to the Colossian believers, as God’s elect, holy, and beloved people to put on those clothes or characteristics found in Colossians 3:12. Before we look at these qualities we need to look at what Paul says first. He begins with these words, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved”. It’s very clear from these words that we are the object of God’s everlasting love. Therefore, each command He gives us, is motivated by His love for us, including His command for us to “put on” or clothe ourselves with:
Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with “COMPASSION”
The first article of clothing Paul tells us to put on is compassion. Compassion involves feeling another’s pain. To show compassion you must feel with another and not just for a few seconds. It means entering into the pain of another person and truly sharing that pain.
Despite his busy schedule during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln often visited the hospitals to encourage the wounded. On one occasion he saw a young soldier who was near death. “Is there anything I can do for you?” asked the compassionate President. “Please write a letter to my mother,” came the reply. Unrecognized by the soldier, President Lincoln sat down and wrote as the youth told him what to say. The letter read, “My Dearest Mother, I was badly hurt while doing my duty, and I won’t recover. Don’t sorrow too much for me. May God bless you and Father? Kiss Mary and John for me.”
The young man was too weak to go on, so Lincoln signed the letter for him and then added this postscript: “Written for your son by Abraham Lincoln.” Asking to see the note, the soldier was astonished to discover who had shown him such kindness. “Are you really our President?” he asked. “Yes,” was the quiet answer? “Now, is there anything else I can do?” The soldier feebly replied, “Will you please hold my hand? I think it would help to see me through to the end.” The tall, gaunt man granted his request, offering warm words of encouragement until death stole in with the dawn. Lincoln showed compassion and entered into the pain of that soldier. It involves seeing things through the eyes of another and taking time to do so.
Compassion involves extending mercy to the one who has fallen. In the life and ministry of Jesus there is a stark contrast in the way He dealt with people and the way others dealt with people? For example, Jesus reached out to the Woman at the well who was treated as an outcast by society. He had dinner with Zacchaeus the despised tax-collector. He extended mercy to the woman caught in adultery. He embraced the children that others thought a nuisance. He forgave Peter, the friend who betrayed Him. He expressed love to the crowd that crucified Him. In other words, when the crowd was pointing fingers Jesus extended friendship. Do you realize how difficult this is? We love to engage in “neighbor bashing”.
We are more likely to point fingers than embrace; condemn rather than support. We are prone to assume the worst about another rather than looking for the pain in their lives. We need to intentionally go “against the flow”. It means drawing close when others pull away. It means standing up for someone who cannot defend themselves. It means loving the one everyone else hates.
Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with “KINDNESS”
The Greek word for kindness is also used to describe a lovely quality of wine that has grown mellow with age. In other words, it has lost its harshness. That’s what kindness is, treating another without harshness. Kindness is treating a person with respect and honor. It is ascribing value and dignity to another. We live in a stressed world. A word or act of kindness can make all the difference in the world.
A story has been told of an eccentric old man who carried an oil can with him everywhere he went. If he passed through a squeaky door or a stiff gate, he applied oil to the hinges. His practice of lubricating made life easier for those who followed after him. Nearly every day we encounter people whose lives creak and grate harshly with problems. In such situations we face two choices, either to aggravate their problems with a spirit of criticism or to lubricate their lives in the Spirit of Christ
Some people we meet carry unbearable burdens and long for the oil of a sympathetic word. Others are defeated and feel like giving up. Just one drop of encouragement could restore their hope. Still others are mean and sin-hardened. Such people can become pliable toward the saving grace of Christ through regular applications of the oil of kindness.
When we receive Christ as our Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit indwells us and equips us to bless others. If we’re prepared to pour out God’s oil of helpfulness and kindness every day and everywhere, beginning at home, we’ll minister Christ’s beauty and the oil of joy to many hurting people. So, perhaps the old man with the oil can wasn’t so eccentric after all.
Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with “HUMILITY”
Humility is the opposite of pride. Everyone can recognize pride in another; however, we aren’t so good at spotting it in ourselves. Consequently, humility is easier to talk about than to practice. Humility is anchored in an accurate understanding of our own worth. It stems from understanding that we have received everything from Christ. It is recognizing that anything we accomplish has been through His work in us. Humility comes when we understand our own sinfulness in light of His magnificent mercy. Humility is not belittling things we do well, its remembering that we do them well because Christ works in and through us. We have no basis for pride, but rather we have every reason for humble gratitude.
Historian Stephen E. Ambrose believes that heroes made the United States “the best and greatest country that ever was.” He attributes its greatness to presidents like Washington and Jefferson and to explorers like Lewis and Clark. Ambrose wrote, “God had nothing to do with it. It was people that made it.” That view centers on the noteworthy contributions of men and women, yet it fails to recognize that behind the scenes, God guides and controls, the rise and fall of all nations.
While preparing this devotional, my thoughts turned to King Nebuchadnezzar who thought he was responsible for building his great kingdom. He boasted, “is not this great Babylon, that I have built … by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30). Those words were still in his mouth when God humbled him so he became like an animal and ate the grass of the field. Seven years later he declared, “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth” (Daniel 4:35). So my brethren, let’s not be deceived by our own accomplishments. It’s God who works in us, giving us the desire to obey Him and the power to do His will (Philippians 2:13). The Lord is the One who is worthy of praise and He deserves the credit.
Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with “GENTLENESS”
Gentleness in our society is seen as a weakness. We are taught by everyone that if you want something you have to insist on it. You need to get louder, not softer. We are proud of the times we flexed our muscles and won. We want to be confident and self-assured. Unfortunately the result is often an attitude that is rude, abrasive and obnoxious. Gentleness is a trait also known as “tact”. It’s the character trait that leads you to relate to others with tenderness, softness and compassion. If you want to know what it means to be gentle, look at Jesus? When remembering the life of Jesus, one cannot pass over His many encounters with those that needed genuine care. With understanding and love the Lord healed the sick, raised the dead, and cast out demons. His gentleness led Him to care for those that needed Him the most.
Here was the Creator of the universe in human flesh. How did He desire to spend His time? Not in grandeur or might as one would expect of a king, but among the sick, the poor, and the “lowly in spirit.” This is the fruit of a gentle spirit. In the same manner, Paul instructs us as believers to live our lives with a gentle concern for those around us. We are to show compassion and patience to all we meet. Ephesians 4:2 says that we have been called to walk with “all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love…”In as much as His ministry was to the weak, it was also to those who hated and despised Him.
As children of God, we can glean more about gentleness from these stories than possibly anywhere else. Jesus Christ, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, was mocked, beaten, and killed by those He came to save. In all of this, being both stronger and wiser, He showed total gentleness to those that hated Him. In his letters to the first century churches, Paul stresses the importance of imitating Christ in this manner. We are to be gentle in responding to those that are “out to get us.” A gentle spirit is commanded of us when we rebuke or teach others. A spirit of hatred or revenge is not of the Lord, but of the devil.
As Christians, we need to follow Jesus’ example in correcting the worldly issues we encounter with a spirit of gentleness. 2 Timothy 2:24, 25 commands us, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.” So, my friend as you evaluate your life, I pray that you may make it a point to show gentleness to every person you know.
Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with “PATIENCE”
Patience isn’t easy for many people, especially those who drive to the one-hour photo shop, take their clothes to the one-hour cleaners, and get breakfast, lunch, and dinner at a drive-through window. We cook dinner in microwave ovens and gulp down remedies that offer “fast, fast relief.” Overnight mail is too slow, and we get irritated waiting for a fax. The people we live, work, play, and worship with can absolutely upset us. They can be obstinate, frustrating, selfish, insulting, and it’s hard to be patient with them, and even harder to wait patiently on the Lord. Yet, patience is part of God’s overall plan for maturing us as believers in Christ. It’s a lost skill we all need to cultivate in our lives! To construct a new building may take only a year or so, but God takes a century to grow a sturdy oak tree. So too, the Lord may seem to be working slowly to accomplish His purposes in our lives, but His grand designs take time and patience on our part.
So, if we want to become more patience we need to let God have His way in our lives. Every time we follow Him rather than our own desires we make progress in our spiritual life. Every time we act toward another as He has told us rather than by our instinct we reflect Him a little better. Every time we choose His way over our own, joy deepens. When we choose to deal with others with the compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience that come from God, people meet Jesus. And it is Christ, and Christ alone, who can transform, strengthen, and enrich any human life. Where do you start? Start here with each other. And there is no better time to begin than now.
Colossians 3:13, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye”
The command to forgive is most difficult simply because many times we don’t want to forgive. We want to strike back. We want justice and we want the other person to know the pain they inflicted. And if we can’t have justice we vow that we will never have a relationship with that person again, so we avoid and ignore them altogether. So, why does God make such an issue of forgiveness?
- Because forgiveness reflects God’s character.
When we forgive we reflect the Father’s love. The standard is: forgive as He has forgiven you. Forgiveness gives us the opportunity to extend to others what God has extended to us. Do you remember where you were when He found you? Can you recall the countless times you ignored God, rejected Him, and did what you knew was wrong? Even then the Lord reached out to you and offered His forgiveness. And when you received His love He promised He would “remember the past no longer”. You have been forgiven. When we forgive others we show that His Spirit is at work within us. When we forgive we demonstrate that we have not forgotten where He found us.
- Forgiveness releases us.
The alternative to forgiveness is bitterness and resentment. People, who refuse to forgive, hurt themselves. Bitter people are no fun to be around. They see the negative in every situation because their life is infected with these feelings of resentment and anger. People who are unwilling to forgive may feel that they are punishing the other person but the only person paying the price is themselves. Forgiveness not only releases us physically and emotionally, it also releases us spiritually. One of the greatest barriers to effective prayer and spiritual vitality is an unforgiving heart. If we allow the root of bitterness to spring up in our hearts against someone, our prayer will not be answered. An unforgiving heart binds the Holy Spirit’s ability to work. It becomes a barrier to an effective and fruitful ministry. An unwillingness to forgive disrupts our fellowship with God and steals from us the joy of knowing His forgiveness in our lives.
- Forgiveness yields power in the life of the one forgiven.
Just as God’s grace had a transforming effect in your life, your extension of that grace to others has power to transform them. In these painful situations we must keep in mind that every lost person matters to God. Paul endured all kinds of persecution and pain in order to share Christ. Jesus endured the pain and shame of the cross in order to redeem you. When we endure and forgive rather than strike back and resent, we open the doorway of grace to someone else.
THE CYCLE OF FORGIVENESS
John Plummer an American, who in the heat of wartime, almost killed Kim Phuc. She is Vietnamese, and when the napalm started to fall from the plane, she ran from her village for her life, hoping to escape the horror of napalm that was burning her skin. The man in the airplane was John Plummer. Assured that no civilians lived in the village, he had ordered the attack. According to a story in the Minnesota Christian Chronicle, Kim was invited to Washington in 1996 to speak at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
As she spoke, she said she would forgive the pilot if they were to meet. Incredibly, John Plummer was in the audience. He had heard that Kim would be there, so he came to hear her speak. After the ceremony, the two met. John repeated, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Kim replied, “It’s all right, I forgive you.” How could she forgive the one responsible for scarring her for life? Kim had become a Christian since the Vietnam War, and so had John. They understood forgiveness, how to give it and how to receive it. They had been forgiven by Jesus, and they were allowing the cycle of forgiveness to continue. So, how about us? When it seems you can’t forgive, remember how much you’ve been forgiven.
So far we have discussed six characteristics that every believer should be clothed with. The apostle Paul is writing to the Colossian believers is appealing to them, as God’s elect, holy, and beloved people to put on those characteristics found in Colossians 3:12.
Other characteristics, which every believer should be clothed with, in addition to compassion, kindness humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness. They are Charity, Peace, Thankfulness and lastly, we are to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord.
Colossians 3:14, “And above all these things put on CHARITY, which is the bond of perfectness”
Love is an important subject to the believer. When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was he responded with, “Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Thus, love is the chief virtue and unites the body of Christ, drawing people close rather than pushing them away. Love tears down walls of division rather than building them. Love understands rather than condemns. Love picks up those who have fallen rather than kicking the one who is down. Love causes us to work together rather than competing against one other. Jesus tells us we are to love one another as He has loved us. Then he tells us that “by this will all men know that you are my disciples.”
In his book, “The Best Is Yet to Be,” Henry Durbanville told the story of a little girl in London who won a prize at a flower show. Her entry was grown in an old cracked teapot and had been placed in the rear attic window of a rundown apartment building. When asked how she managed to raise such a lovely flower in such an unlikely environment, she said she moved it around so it would always be in the sunlight. Durbanville then reminded his readers of Jesus’ words, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9). We learn from this that we too must keep ourselves continually in the warmth of Christ’s love by obeying His commandment to love and serve others.
Colossians 3:15, “And let the PEACE of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye THANKFUL”
Here the apostle Paul exhorted the Colossians to let God’s peace ”rule” in their hearts. God had called them together as “one body,” and they had every reason to be thankful. The word “rule” in this verse was used by the Greeks to identify the role of an arbitrator. The arbitrator’s decision in a contest was binding upon the contestants. If we were to express the meaning of the Apostle Paul’s command in today’s language, we might say, “Let God’s peace umpire in your hearts.” Members of a local church do not have God’s peace in their hearts if they quarrel with one another.
However, if they relate to one another with forbearance, compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience and forgiveness, God’s peace will abide in their hearts. Being thankful is a key to letting God’s peace rule in our hearts. An unthankful spirit disrupts a harmonious relationship with God, because it communicates to God we aren’t happy with the circumstances and people He has brought into our lives. When we thank Him no matter what comes our way, we express our trust in Him with a desire to submit to His will and control in our lives. Such an expression preserves peace. If we know God’s peace we will seek to extend this peace to others.
An old story which comes from the Salvation Army in the last century tells of a strong-willed woman who had been nicknamed “Warrior Brown” because of her fiery temper. She was often belligerent and became enraged whenever she got drunk. Then one day she was converted. Her entire life was wonderfully changed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. At an open-air meeting a week later, she told everyone what Jesus had done for her. Suddenly a scoffer threw a potato at her, causing a stinging bruise. Had she not been converted, she would have lashed out at the man furiously.
God’s grace, however, had made such a profound change in her conduct that she quietly picked up the potato and put it into her pocket without saying a word. No more was heard of the incident until the time of the “harvest festival” months later. Then the dear lady who had been known as “Warrior Brown” brought as her offering a little sack of potatoes. She explained that after the open-air meeting she had cut up and planted the “insulting potato,” and what she was now presenting to the Lord “the increase.” Warrior Brown had allowed “the peace of Christ” to be umpire of her life.”
Colossians 3:16-17, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in PSALMS and HYMNS and SPIRITUAL SONGS, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”; “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him”
Much of life is a question of maintaining a proper balance. Any athletic team knows that they need a balance between offense and defense and between quickness and strength. In our personal finances we work to maintain a balance between income and expenses. In teaching we try to keep the proper balance between content and creativity. Too much emphasis on content and the subject becomes boring, too much emphasis on creativity and you have a lot of fun but communicate little. We all have to find the balance between diet, exercise and rest. Too much to one extreme or the other and we begin to obstruct healthy living.
There must also be a balance in our Christian life. There must be a balance between knowledge and application. In the book of Colossians we see that the first two chapter deal with right thinking with our knowledge and understanding. The last two chapters deal with application or how we live. The two go together hand in hand. The apostle Paul is urging us to be stable and balanced in our Christianity. Do you see how important this is in our society? What the church needs and what non-believers need are balanced believers who are stable, authentic, and who live their everyday lives with the Spirit of Christ Jesus. In Colossians 3:16-17, the apostle Paul gives us four characteristics of a well-rounded or balanced believer. These four characteristics are:
(1) God’s Word Living in Us – Paul tells his audience that we are to “Let the Word of Christ, dwell in you richly”. Paul encourages these believers to allow the message of the Bible to dominate, saturate and motivate their living. The word dwell means “to feel at home.” Paul urges us to have such a relationship with God’s Word that it feels at home in our life . . . or we feel at home with it.
(2) Our Ministry – We are to be involved in God’s ministry. Our text tells us that we are to “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom”. We teach someone when we help them understand something they didn’t know before. We have a responsibility to help each other grow in knowledge and understanding in God’s Word. However, we must also be willing to “admonish” one another. We are to teach and be taught; admonish and be willing to be admonished. This is contrary to the ways of the world. We live in a world that urges us to be independent. We are told to “pull our own strings” and warned not to become “dependent” on anyone. As a result of this teaching we have become isolated from each other. But this is not what God wants for His people. God calls us to be involved with each other.
(3) Music – One of the ways we are to teach and admonish one another is through “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”. In other words, we are to be a joyful, singing body. We should be celebrating grace! Someone has said that “a successful Christian life involves attention to three books:
God’s Book, the Bible;
The pocketbook; and
The hymn book.
There is wisdom in those words. There is nothing that expresses and touches the depth of our emotion like music. Some of the greatest memories of our life are tied to music. Music helps us establish roots. Think about the lyrics of some of the great hymns of the faith. Are you not stirred when you sing songs like: Amazing Grace, Since Jesus Came into My Heart, He Lives, It Is Well with My Soul, and Blessed Assurance? Can you really think about the words from “How Great Thou Art” and not be moved to tears: “And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in . . . that on the cross my burden gladly bearing, he bled and died to take away my sin.
But it’s not just the great hymns of the faith. Think of some of the choruses we sing: Happiness Is to Know the Savior, I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord; He Is Able, Isn’t He Wonderful, Sweeter than the Day Before, and Joy in My Heart. Thus, music touches the heart and soul of our being. Many of us sing “Pass it On” and remember a campfire someplace. Others sing “We are One in the Spirit” and remember our fellowship with a group of believers. Music is a part of who we are.
(4) God Honoring Consistency – The apostle Paul brings his thought to a fitting climax with the final words in this passage: “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.” (Colossians 3:17) It seems like the perfect conclusion doesn’t it? The person who is well-balanced should be revealing Christ consistently.
Kent Hughes writes, “There are few exhortations in Scripture that are more comprehensive than this one.”Word or deed” takes in everything in life. “Deeds” can be preaching, teaching, eating, exercising, driving, cleaning house, shopping, visiting, working, playing (basketball, soccer, tennis, fishing, even watching) – everything! Our words are everything that passes our lips, even in unguarded moments. Everything we say or do is to be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
It seems like a strange dog came to a preacher’s house, and his three sons soon became quite fond of it. It so happened that there were three white hairs in the animal’s tail. One day an advertisement was seen in the newspaper about a lost dog which fitted that description perfectly. “In the presence of my three boys,” said the minister, “we carefully separated the three white hairs and removed them.”
The real owner discovered where the straying dog had found a home and came to claim him. The dog showed every sign of recognition, so the man was ready to take him away. Quickly the minister spoke up, “Didn’t you say the dog would be known by three white hairs in its tail?” The owner, unable to find the identifying feature, was forced to leave. The minister said later, “We kept the dog, but I lost my three boys for Christ.” His sons no longer had confidence in what their father professed because he hadn’t practiced what he preached!
As born again believers in Christ, the world is watching to see if we truly believe what we say and profess to be. How can they tell? Well for starters they watch our lives! The test of genuine faith is a God-honoring consistency in our lives. However, even when we make a mistake and fail we should handle those situations in a Christian manner. We should be willing to take responsibility for our actions (no excuses or blaming others) and be willing to make things right with another. When you do the laundry you spread the clothes out evenly in the basket, if you don’t, the washer will make a terrible noise. When this happens, it means the load of clothes is unbalanced and needs fixing. As believers in Christ, we need to ask ourselves:
(1) Is our Christian life in-balance or out of balance? Are we banging around and making a lot of noise or are things running smoothly in your life?
(2) Do we need to begin reading the Bible? If so, find a good modern translation; something you will be able to understand. Then, dig in. Underline, meditate, memorize and obey.
(3) Do we need to let others into our life? Do we need to find a way to serve the body of Christ? If so, ask the pastor or deacon where you can help.
(4) Do we need to allow joy into our faith? Perhaps we should try singing to the Lord, paying attention to the words of the hymns we sing. Dare to express your faith in song. Don’t worry about those sitting around you and focus on the Lord who enjoys the praise of His children.
(5) Finally, do we need to incorporate our faith into our everyday living? Look for ways to be more God-honoring at the restaurant, at home, in the field, in the check-out line of a store. Be ruthless with yourself. Confront the excuses, expose the deception, and push for balance.
Of all the commentaries on the Scriptures, good examples are the best.