Sermon on Colossians 3:12-17
Text: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 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. 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.
When I was growing up, we had the tradition of opening one gift the night before Christmas Eve. We had our choice of all of the gifts that were under the tree. Of course, it was not too difficult to decide which gift to open. You could always tell which box contained a toy. It wasn’t until years later that I realized what my mother was trying to do. She had purchased some clothes for my sister and me to wear for Christmas and she was hoping that was the gift that we would open. It was a great plan, but who wants clothes when you can get a toy? This morning, we are going to talk about clothes that we have received because of Christmas. We are encouraged to CLOTHE YOURSELVES IN CHRIST. 1. Imitate His Holy Qualities. 2. Seek His Spiritual Gifts. 3. Offer Him A Praise-Filled, Thankful Life.
Before we talk about the way that we live our lives, we want to look at our motivation for doing so. Why do we want to live this way? The apostle Paul gives us an indication of the reason as he describes us as “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.” (Verse 12) We have been chosen. Before the world began, God chose us out of all of humanity to be his people. He wanted us to be with him for all eternity. Because of our natural sinfulness and the sins that we commit every day, we could not be with him in heaven. We would have been separated from him in hell. This draws our attention to the words, “holy and dearly loved.” Because we were not holy on our own, Jesus chose to love us and come to this earth. That is what we celebrate at Christmas. He loved us so much that he lived a holy life for us. He gave us that holy life in exchange for our sinful life. He then, bore our sins on his shoulders and went to the cross. There every single infraction that we had ever committed was paid for in full. God chose us. God dearly loves us. God has made us holy. This has all been done for us. Now, how can we thank him for all that he has done for us?
We get several ideas of how we can do so as we seek to imitate our Savior. We are encouraged to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Verses 12-13) We will take a few moments to explore each of these concepts. “Compassion” is the quality that Jesus displayed when he saw the crowds “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) His heart went out to these people who were hurting in so many different ways. Some were physically hurting. They all were spiritually hurting. We imitate Jesus when we see others who are hurting and, rather than ignoring it, we are moved to do what we can for them. The next quality is “kindness.” This was demonstrated by Jesus in his saving acts for mankind. While we cannot serve others in this way, we are moved to love others and help them. Paul mentions “humility.” Think of how Jesus demonstrated this. He, the Lord of all creation, left his throne and became the world’s servant. Jesus says of himself, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) This attitude will show itself in our lives as we put the needs and interests of others ahead of our own. It will not always insist that it must be done our way. Jesus spoke of “gentleness,” when he said, “I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) Jesus could have come to the earth in all of his majesty and glory. However, as we see so often in the Scriptures, when sinful mankind comes into the presence of holiness, there is terror. Instead, Jesus came meekly and gently, so that mankind could approach him and learn from him. When we are gentle and meek, cautious people will want to learn more about our Savior.
The next two qualities are closely related, patience and bearing with each other. Jesus showed this so often as he dealt with people, especially his own disciples. How often didn’t they do or say something that was completely wrong? James and John asked for the positions of prominence in Jesus’ kingdom. Peter denied knowing Jesus three times in the courtyard of the high priest. Yet, Jesus didn’t dismiss them or say that they were not worth the effort. He continued to love them. In the same way, we will have people who will do or say things that hurt us, whether intentionally or not. As we seek to imitate Jesus, we want to be patient with them. We want to bear with them. This is not always an easy thing to do. We would rather be rid of those who cause us trouble. Yet, as difficult as this might be to imitate, the next is, at times, even more difficult. “Forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.” Again, we look at how many times Jesus did this. One of the most striking examples is when Jesus was being nailed to the cross. Instead of being angry with them and wanting to get even with them, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) As we seek to imitate our Savior, we will want to forgive others when they sin against us. As motivation, Paul reminds us, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Our Savior completely and totally forgives us. He does not hold grudges. In light of this, may we imitate our Savior’s love for us and forgive others for whatever grievances we might have.
As we seek to imitate our Savior’s qualities, we will find that we enjoy gifts that come from him, as well. Paul writes in verse 15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” The peace of Christ is the peace that is ours because of what he did for us. We are at peace with God, both now and for all eternity. Because we are at peace with God, this peace rules in our hearts. The word “rule” has the idea of refereeing or making a decision. Christ’s peace rules. It settles things. Strife and competition are removed from Christian relationships because the Prince of Peace has brought mankind a peace which the world cannot give. The believer who accepts the peace treaty signed in Jesus’ blood will seek to cultivate peaceful relationships within the body of Christ. This unity in Christ that believers have will not allow them to war against other members of Christ’s body, any more than they would war against the body’s Head, Jesus. We have peace.
Furthermore, we are encouraged to “be thankful.” Since I am at peace with God, with myself, and with other members of Christ’s body, I have the right frame of mind to have a thankful attitude toward all of God’s gifts. I am not only aware of all of the wonderful ways in which God blesses me. I receive them with thanksgiving. I see God’s amazing love at work in my life as he gives me all that I need for my body and life. I also thank him for all of the spiritual blessings that he showers down upon me. I thank him for the faith that he has created in my heart. I thank him for his Holy Word, where he reveals to me how much he loves me. I thank him for the Sacraments, where my faith was created and is sustained. This thanksgiving is put into practice as I use the wonderful gospel message for myself and to serve others. This is what Paul is talking about as he writes in verse 16, “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.” As the Word of God dwells in me, I use it to teach those who do not know what God has done for them. I use that Word to bring back those who are straying from the truths of God’s Word and godly living. I use the truths of God’s Word to praise him. This gift of thanksgiving, especially for God’s spiritual gifts, is something that is mine as I clothe myself in Christ.
Verse 17 brings us full circle to where we began this morning, “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.” We want to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, that is, as a result of the faith that has been created in us that trusts that Jesus is our only hope of salvation. We want to do everything in such a way that gives thanks to God the Father for all that he has done for us. It is interesting to note that Paul mentions our words and our actions. Others cannot see our thoughts, nor are they affected by them. However, our words and our actions do touch others. As people listen to us and as people see what we are doing, that affects how they see us. It, also, reflects on our relationship that we have with God. We want to live and speak in such a way that people see what Jesus has done for us and has done for them, as well.
Unfortunately, when we look at the ways we are given to imitate Christ, we seek that we have often been poor copies. We have not loved others as we should. We have been impatient. We have not forgiven, but held onto and nourished grudges in our hearts. We have not always been thankful for all that God has given us. At times, our words and actions have been anything but that which glorifies God. As we come to this realization, may we come to our God in repentance. We confess our many failings. We also come trusting that in Jesus Christ our sins, including these failings, have all been forgiven. Having again heard that wonderful message, may we go forward with the full intent that, whatever we do, whether in word or deed, we do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
When I was a child, I wanted that toy under the Christmas tree, because I thought it was so important. I was happy with it for a while, but it was soon replaced by other things. My mom tried to give me something that was useful, something that I could wear as I had opportunity to share with others the good news of Jesus’ birth on Christmas Eve. We have all been given clothing by our Savior. It is the robe of holiness that is ours by faith. Clothed in this robe, may we proudly proclaim, by our words and actions, what our Savior has done for others as well. Amen.
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