God’s Enabling Love

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17)

If you still have your Bible open, look at Colossians 3:5. Notice verse 5 begins with, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you.” “Put to death.” Now go down to verse 12 and notice that it begins with, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones.” “Put on.” Put to death in verse 5, and put on in verse 12.

I want to read these two paragraphs together, and as I do, I’d like for you to notice the contrasts in these two paragraphs. There are things we as Christians are to put away, put to death, and things we are to put on. Here we go…

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:5-17) 

We have spent a lot of time on that first paragraph, and now we get to move on to the second. The Christian life, the living part of our Christian life, is a growing process of putting some things off and replacing them with things that are in line with and pleasing to God. The only way we know what is pleasing to God is by what He tells us in His Word.

Just before Paul takes us to a list of what we are to put on as Christians, he reminds us of who we are as Christians. Look at how he describes us. This is really good stuff, good news for you if you belong to God through Christ. He writes, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.”

Paul is not instructing just anyone here. He is speaking to those who have a special place with God. Those who are inside the fold of God, these are those of whom he speaks. Paul says, “as God’s chosen ones.”

You need to hear this today. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, if you have by faith trusted Him and are trusting Him for your forgiveness of sins, then this is who you are. You are God’s chosen one, holy and beloved.

Sometimes as Christians, I think we just need to let that sink in. I’ll say it again this way. If you are a Christian, then you have been chosen by Him to be so, and you have been set aside by Him, for Him, and you are loved by Him, you are dear to Him. We need to hear that often and we need to believe that daily. The world may hate you and may have been unkind to you, but the Creator, the One who controls all, the One who holds the future in His hands, and the One who holds your future in His Hands, a perfect future, He loves you, and He chose you for this.

We sometimes may struggle with being called chosen, but in the Bible there is not a struggle with this. We may say, “But I thought I chose Christ.” Well, you did if you are a Christian, but be assured, He chose you first. Do you know what this word translated “chosen” means in the Greek? It means “pertaining to being selected…Generally of those whom God has chosen and drawn to Himself.” It really means chosen. It is the same word that is often translated “elect.” Here is the thing – and I hope this pierces into the depth of your heart – if you are a Christian, He chose you.

Now let me ask you a question. Do you believe that God knows you? Does He know you well? Can He get into your mind and really know who you are? Does He know you better than anyone else ever could? I hope you are saying yes to all of my questions. He made you, He knows you. We cannot hide a thought from Him.

1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:1-17)

Does God know you? Yes, He knows you, He really knows you, and this is why election is so amazing. He knows you, everything about you, and He knows me, everything about me, and He still did what? He chose you anyways. He chose me anyways.

We need to grasp this and hold on to it. Because if this is true, then He even knew all that we would do in the future, and even with that knowledge He did what? He chose you, and He chose me! And He will not let you go.

Our passage says, “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.”

We are holy because of Christ’s work in us, and beloved. Do you now what that means? It means “to have a warm regard for and interest in another, cherish, have affection for, love.” This means that God the Father has a warm regard for us and is interested in us. He has warm feeling toward us, we are His beloved!

Now, why am I spending so much time on this? Wasn’t Paul just saying some niceties to introduce what he is really getting to now? Paul is really wanting to tell us about what we are to put on, right? Well yes, he is, and he does, and we will get to those, but what he says first, what we have looked at is not just empty or repetitious Christian words. They have meaning and they have purpose and I will propose to you that they lay the groundwork for the put on list we will get to.

There is something about knowing and believing and really living in who we are in Christ that enables us to live as we are called to live. If we really believe that we are loved by God, that He has warm regard for us, that He cherishes us and has affection for us, feeling toward us, and that He chose us in this position out of all the people on the earth, if we see who we are in Christ, where we stand with Him, then we are ready to live for Him.

If we feel loved and protected by God, and we are settled in that love and protection, then and only then are we free to reach out to others with extravagant love and care, no matter how they may act toward us, no matter how they may react to us. If we are protected by our God who knows us intimately and will never let us go, and whose love will never change toward us, and if it is there where we stake our identity, then we are free to really love others, we are free to move on to this list of what we are to put on.

If we don’t live there then we are forever trying to get our self-worth and love from whom? Those around us. And that taints true loving responses, it taints our good deeds toward them. It is not then love freely given, but it’s love-like actions that go out with strings attached. Our actions go out with a caveat that’s rarely said, but often understood as, “You better love me back, you better treat me fair, you better return kindness and make me feel good.” But if our worth is in Christ, there need be no strings, we are free to give while expecting nothing in return.

That is what I am proposing to you. So when you read things like, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,” don’t rush too fast to the list. Pause and take in who you really are in Christ. And then your heart will be ready to obey, obey freely as a loved one of God.

So, what are we to put on? First he says, “compassionate hearts.” This means concern over another’s misfortune, pity, mercy, compassion. Put on heartfelt compassion. This is a tenderness of heart. It’s a trait that Jesus carried with Him.

When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. (Mark 8:34)

The compassionate heart, Jesus’ compassionate heart prompted Him to do something. It was compassion that led to action, not just feeling sorry for people. His was primarily a spiritual concern, although not always spiritual only. We are to do as He did.

Now, think about what we have already talked about regarding our position in Christ. We are loved, we are chosen, we belong to God and can rest securely in Him and in His provision. That doesn’t mean life is not hard, it means that He will carry us through and we will reach heaven, paradise with Him. If we are not believing that and glorying in that, then we are likely to be living a life driven not by our position with God but by our circumstances. And so instead of seeing other people’s plight and reaching out to them with heartfelt, compassionate care, we may be thinking, “Woe is me, look at me, look how bad I have it, look at the mess I am in, or the mess that I am.” It is hard to be compassionate toward others if all we can see is our own worries and cares. Right? 

I want to show you another example of what I am saying, an examples that shows we can trust God with our stuff and that frees us to minister to others, this idea of resting in our position with God so that we can freely love other people. In 1 Peter 5 we see these familiar words…

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

The idea here is that we cast all our, your anxieties on Him because He cares for you. We see our position with God, that we are those whom He cares for. It goes back to the truth that God the Father has a warm regard for us and is interested in us. He has warm feeling toward us, we are His beloved! So we can give our worries to Him because He’s got that for us. He cares for us, He will take care of those things. 

But do you know what the paragraph preceding these verses speaks of? He is talking to elders specifically about ministry. He is talking about shepherding the flock, leading the church. This pastoral leading is to be done with great care, with great love.

1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4)

This is ministry, much like any ministry that we all do in that it takes a focus not on ourselves but on Christ and then others. And so after he gives us this, then we see verses 6 and 7…

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Here is the connection I am trying to point out. If we are going to love others with compassion and put on loving actions and responses, then we must be settled that God cares for us, that He loves us, and be satisfied there. 

All that we are to put on must be done, will only be done, when we understand who we are in Christ and how much we are loved by the Father. 

So, put on a compassionate heart as one who is dearly loved by God, chosen by Him. 

That is as far as we will get this morning into Colossians 3:12, but we will, Lord willing, pick up next time with the remaining four characteristics that we are to put on from verse 12.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12)