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 one thing is clear in the Bible, it is that we as Christians are to be saturated with Jesus Christ. We are to be fanatical about our Lord, and what He has said, and what He wants for us, and what He wants for this world. We are to be those who are carrying out His will, His plan in our lives. If we are here for Him, then we are to live for Him, we are to make Him known, we are to make little of our ourselves and make much of the Lord Jesus Christ, who loves us and who chose to give Himself for us, and even today who stays with us and intercedes on our behalf before the Father. He is the one for whom we should live.
But we are in these bodies and we have minds that can wander and do sometimes wander away from a focus on our Savior. We have desires that pull us off the path of God’s revealed will. I don’t mean those desires pull us away against our will, but lure us away, convincing us that sin is better than living for Christ. We are too easily enticed by sin and evil. Sometimes we have fears that drive our behaviors, that may keep us from giving ourselves wholly to Him. We have anxieties that try to persuade us that God is not sufficient, that we need more than what He has given us. We may sometimes believe He is not in control as a loving Father, so we must control. We have lusts in our hearts that tell us we need more than what He has given us so we strive for more, at times to the neglect of simply being content with what we have. Instead of saying, “Thank you Lord for your provision, your kindness, and your love,” we say, “I need more.” And we may sinfully and foolishly go after what is not ours to have.
It is like, “Yes, I want to follow Christ, but for now I need to graduate and plan my future, I need to dedicate my time to my career to gain security, I need to focus on my children for now, and when they are gone I’ll focus on Christ.” We are too often divided within our own beings. We think there is such a thing as secular and sacred, instead of seeing all as sacred and all of life as for God, to be lived for Him.
Part of our challenge is to live primarily as a Christian, to live first of all as a follower of Jesus, and to do so in such a way that all of our pursuits, our dreams, our desires, come into line with that first priority. It is what Paul meant when he said, “To live is Christ.”
And so, since we are sometimes divided in our minds, we attempt to plan our future, right? We are going to go here, do this, and what are our plans for the future based on? Where is our rudder, how do we choose our plans? I mean honestly, what is the basis for our plans, for our lives? Is it comfort, prestige, ease? Is it just what is normal in society? Or are we first of all saying, “I am a Christian, I am here for God’s glory, I am here for a short time in the span of eternity, how can I best live for Him with the skills I have, the resources given to me? How can I make Him known? How can I be that light on a hill that shows His glory, His love, His holiness?”
Paul has been leading us in Colossians 3 to consider life – our lives, this gift of life that God has given each of us – in terms of belonging to God through Christ. As Christians we belong to God, through Christ. Let me say that again, let this soak into our minds. As Christians, we belong to God through Christ! We are not our own, we have been bought with a price, and the price was the very blood, the life of our Savior Jesus Christ. I want you to keep that thought in mind as we continue to look at Colossians 3:16-17.
First, to address this idea of being saturated with Christ, Paul says this at the beginning of verse 16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” I think we could, as Christians with the Holy Spirit in us, we could center our lives right here.
Now again, we are talking about living for Christ, being saturated with Christ, not just in name only, but in all that we do. So it makes sense that the word of Christ should “dwell” in us richly. To dwell means to take up residence. As some would say, he who dwells in the house is the master of the house, not just a passing guest. This is a settled-in dwelling. The word of Christ is to occupy us as Christians. It can be likened to the idea of saturation. Paul says we are to let this happen in us, to welcome the word of Christ into our lives, into our way of living.
This does not mean that we should occasionally read our Bibles or simply attend church and hear Bible teaching. This is much more than that. It is instead like taking in God’s Word in a way that it produces in us meaningful conformity to God’s will. We read, we meditate on what we read, we pray for the Spirit to enlighten our reading, and what we have learned begins to affect our thoughts and our behaviors. Do you see how that is different than scanning a few verses each morning in order to check “quiet time” off our list? It is much more even than reading a great volume from God’s Word; even that is not necessarily becoming saturated with it.
When Paul says that we are to “let” the word of Christ dwell in us, He must be saying that we can prevent that from happening. I love the way we get to participate in our own sanctification or spiritual growth. We can make choices. We can engage with God’s Word, pray through it, invite it into our lives, or we can ignore it, minimize it, and choose another path. We are to let it in, invite it in!
He also says it is rich. There is a richness in “the word of Christ.” It is rich, this makes it an inexhaustible source of spiritual resource. It is intellectually stimulating, it challenges us, it moves us, it informs our minds and our consciences, it convicts us of sin, and it points us to gospel truth. Being rich is usually associated with a great deal of money, but in this case we are to take in the richness of God’s Word.
We live in a day where the Word of God is routinley misused. We see this in the news, in social media, terribly so in social media, in blogs, books, and even in many churches. The Word of God is used by many as a tool to prove a personal point or to convey a preference. We must be careful, we must be careful to be sure that we are rightly dividing the Word of God, understanding it as God intended, not in a way that is agreeable to society or cultures, but agreeable with God’s intent.
Now, think about this, think about the whole idea of being a dwelling place for the words of our Lord, think about that. God wants His Word, His very Word to dwell in and take up residence in you. This isn’t true for every person alive, but this is true for every believer who is alive. This is really special. I mean that God would choose not only to save you, but that He wants His Word to abide in you. And this is not just for you, but so that you can be a mouthpiece for Him. He wants you to not only be able to live your life consistent with His Word, but He also wants you to be able to take His Word and make it useful for other people. He wants you for this, He wants you to do this.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another.” The word of Christ dwelling in you richly, we see, is not just for your benefit! It is also for the benefit of others around you. If the word of Christ is in us, then it can be used to help others. If it is in us, it will come out in our relationships with others. In chapter 1 verse 28 we saw similar words…
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)
In that verse it looks more like an activity of the apostles, like it is Paul’s duty, and as a group the apostles’ duty to teach and warn. But it is not just the leadership’s responsibility, but every Christian’s. If Christ’s word is in us we should be able and willing, and even with great joy and passion we ought to teach each other and admonish one another, warn each other where we see problems.
We can bring the light of Scripture to bear on each other’s lives. It is a mutual activity among Christians, and should be ongoing. No one is above being in a place of ignorance regarding sin. Each of us are susceptible to being emotionally blinded to our own sin and faults. We can all get caught up in self-justification regarding our behaviors and thinking. And so we have a whole church, the body of Christ whom we are to live with, live around, who can step in at any time and say, “Wait, have you thought about this? Wait, I see and hear you doing such and such, do you know what God says about that?” These are conversations that ought to take place among church people and conversations that ought to be accepted, received, if it is directed at any one of us. We should listen and even thank God that there are people around us who care enough to have hard conversations with us.
To teach is the positive side. It is to instruct from God’s Word. To warn has more to do with confrontation, it is addressing hard things, specific sin, and encouraging a change in thinking and behavior from what is displeasing to God. This is community living, it is people joining together to grow together with each other in God’s grace. As we saw last week, it is to be done in love for sure.
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14)
So, though warning through admonishment may at times seem hard, it must always be wrapped and delivered in a heartfelt, genuine love in the way God’s grace invades our lives.
This rich indwelling of Christ’s Word in us also leads to worship, worship through singing – “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” This rich indwelling of God’s Word comes out in such variety!
Paul is addressing a church here, and he elevates the importance of corporate singing to be included with teaching and admonishing one another. I find this really interesting. There is much debate in our day about music in the church. At least we can be confident right off the bat that music is appropriate in the church, as it was a part of first-century church life.
He lists three types of music. These three types most certainly have some overlap, and we may not be completely sure of each of their differences, however we can at least loosely define them. Psalms would be the Old Testament book of Psalms. Hymns are only mentioned here and in Ephesians 5:19, which serves as a parallel passage to this one.
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart (Ephesians 5:18-19)
Hymns are sometimes understood as festive songs of praise. In fact there are some New Testament passages that are understood to be hymns that were sung. We find them in places like Colossians 1:15-20 and Philippians 2:5-11. Maybe I should sing them for you. Just kidding, I wouldn’t do that to you!
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
These passages are thought to be hymns that were sung in the early church. They contain such rich doctrine.
Spiritual songs seem to describe other musical compositions, like gospel songs.
Now here is one thing I find interesting about music mentioned here, and really this is what primarily drives our music selections here at GBFC. The mention of music is in this paragraph that’s about interacting with one another and teaching and warning, right? Music is at least in part about instruction. And if that is true, then I think the most important aspect of music in the church are the words, the lyrics. Not the musical sound, not the volume, not the variety of instruments, not whether we have books or a screen, not whether we stand or sit, but what are the words proclaiming through music? Are the words solidly proclaiming the truths of God? Are they flowing from God’s Word? Are we singing truth?
This is important because the music is to be instructive. Would we speak truthfully and carefully accurate in a sermon and then lace the service with heretical or silly lyrics in the songs we sing? I hope not. Words matter, words teach, and so we look at the words carefully as we do in other forms of teaching that takes place.
Many of you have asked, what is the most important aspect of our music? Well, here is the primary answer: the lyrics. Are they true?
And so we hope that as you sing and as you hear repetition of songs here, that they are songs you can put in your mind and be reminded of who Christ is, who you are, what He has done for us, what your future holds, and other doctrines of the faith.
I would hope that, if on any given Sunday the preaching falls flat, and the prayers seem cold, I would hope that at least the music informed our souls, because the words are rich and they are true.
Lastly Paul says this…
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 3:17)
We are to do all things, everything – eat, drink, work, socialize, play, homework, parent, sing, dance, sleep, drive, swim – everything in the name of Christ and in a spirit of thanksgiving to the Father. If we are doing something and we cannot do it with a clear conscience for the glory of Christ, then perhaps we ought to do something else. If you can’t watch that movie for the glory of Christ, then pick another movie. If you can’t listen to that music, visit that website, read that book, if we can’t go to that place for the glory of Christ, to honor Him, then we need to rethink our plans. If we can’t say that word in that way for the honor and glory of Christ, then choose words differently. We are here for Him, we are His children in Christ, we are not to live for ourselves. Everything we do is to be for Him, for His honor, for His glory – everything.
And so here we are, we are here to be vessels of His indwelling Word of truth, saturated with His Word to such a degree that those words come out of us to teach, and warn, to sing songs of truth and praise with thanksgiving, doing everything in His glorious name.
This is who we are to be. Did I just describe you? Not perfectly I know, but this is the path that we are to be on, this describes where we are to be headed, who we are to become, and by God’s grace and in His power and for His glory we can get there. Let’s pray for that!
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 3:16-17)