- 1 August 2022
- Stuart Robinson
I want to speak to three foundational concepts or ideas or truths that inform who we are (indeed whose we are) and how we should live:
- My identity
- My responsibility
- My personality
Let me read again, though, some of the text from Colossians and a few verses we didn’t hear in the readings.
This is Colossians 3:12-17.
12 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.
First. My Identity.
I did an Ancestry DNA type test recently. The results were kind of interesting.
My forebears come from Europe, Eurasia, the Balkans, the British Isles, the Middle East and Melanesia (and that includes New Guinea, the Pacific Islands and Australia). Basically, I hail from planet earth.
Good to know!
For me, a much more satisfactory – and eternally significant account of who I am is given in Colossians 3:12 where I (along with all who have placed their lives in Jesus’ hands) am spoken of ‘as [one of] God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved’.
With intent, says St. Paul, God has called me into relationship with himself – I am an object of his choice.
Further, the text (of verse 12) tells me, I am “holy”. The word means I’ve been set apart by God, for God. I am his.
And, I am dearly loved.
Well that is remarkable, don’t you think?
For all my faults and failings God elects to bathe or lavish me in his love.
1 John 3:1 puts it quite beautifully: ‘see what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’
There was once a queen who had suffered much from her rebellious subjects. But one day they surrendered their arms, threw themselves at her feet, and begged for mercy. She pardoned them all.
One of her courtiers said to her, ‘Your Majesty, did you not say that every rebel should die?’
‘O, yes,’ replied the queen, ‘Indeed I did…but I see no rebels here’.
I love that story.
Through Christ my rebellion has been forgiven. I’ve been reconciled to the Sovereign. I’ve laid down my arms and have been given a fresh start; loved, enfolded, secure, known.
And what is more I am part of a family. The plural, ‘people’ is used in verse 12 (and Paul is of course writing to a small church).
I am one of God’s chosen people.
Through Christ, I’ve been chosen for relationship with God and with all his children. It’s familial language, do you see?
Who am I?
I am a member of God’s family – chosen by God and for God. And that took place the very instant, I received Christ Jesus as Lord – as we were reminded in Colossians 2:6, a couple of weeks ago.
My grandchildren have this game called, ‘What am I?’ You pick a card and without looking slip it into a band that you wear on your head and then ask the other players a range of questions to try and work out who or what your card says you are. Guesswork and mirth are the object of the exercise.
When it comes to knowing who I am in Christ, there is no guesswork: I am chosen by and loved of God. I am a member of his family, the community of faith. I am precious, held and secure.
Second. My responsibility.
Jane taught school for more than 30 years and she always enjoyed the first parent-teacher interviews of the first term. She was interested to see how the children in her class reflected the family likeness – not just in appearance but in mannerisms, demeanour, turns of phrase; even in the way they sat – or in the way they didn’t pay close attention to what was being said!
Reflecting the family likeness – that’s our responsibility.
To be ‘holy’ v.12 means to be like Jesus.
And you see the Christ-like virtues that we are to embrace there in verses 12 and 13 – ‘compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and – forgiveness’.
We are, the text says, ‘to forgive as the Lord forgave us’ – v.13.
As Jesus took the initiative and willingly embraced the consequences of my sin (and in passing, Colossians 3:5ff references the symptoms of sin-sickness that include…greed, impurity, anger, rage and slander), we are to take the initiative and forgive those who have caused us pain and grief.
This is critical for our life and witness in Christ.
We will struggle to truly know God’s love and peace and we will be constrained in our call to live as agents of Gods love and peace (vv. 14, 15) – if we are not willing to forgive those who’ve sinned against us.
And if that sounds familiar – it should; we pray it every Sunday: ‘Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us’ (Matthew 6:12).
Last. My Personality.
And I’m using the word personality as it applies to disposition or character.
God’s holy people are to be characterised by thankfulness or gratitude.
v. 15 – be thankful
v. 16 – sing to God with gratitude in your hearts
v.17 – do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Do you see it? Gratitude and thanksgiving.
The story is told of the Sunday school teacher asking her class of 6-year olds, ‘what must we first do to receive the forgiveness of sins?’ ‘Sin miss!!’ said Jaimie in the first row!
And how right Jaimie was.
We have all sinned and through Jesus we’ve been forgiven a huge debt. We owe him our all.
We’ve been put right with God, adopted into his family, born-again by his Spirit, set from sin’s rule and death’s grip.
Now, in my experience, a failure to grasp the enormity of God’s mercy and grace and kindness – and our attendant lack of joy and gratitude, is tied directly to our familiarity (or lack of it) with God’s word and God’s promises.
That’s why St. Paul says to his friends in Colossae in v. 16, ‘Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, through psalms, hymns and spiritual songs…”.
Familiarity with and regular exposure to the message of Christ, the gospel, the word of God – especially in the context of meeting with the people of God, informs our world view, re-kindles our hearts, and engenders a spirit of thanksgiving and worship and praise.
Charles Wesley grasped this truth with great clarity and in 1742, penned the lyrics to the hymn, ‘O For A Heart to Praise My God’, with which I’ll close (as a prayer).
O for a heart to praise my God,
a heart from sin set free;
a heart that’s sprinkled with the blood
so freely shed for me:
A heart resigned, submissive, meek,
my great Redeemer’s throne;
where only Christ is heard to speak,
where Jesus reigns alone:
A humble, lowly, contrite heart,
believing, true, and clean,
which neither life nor death can part
from him that dwells within:
A heart in every thought renewed,
and full of love divine;
perfect and right and pure and good —
a copy, Lord, of thine.
Thy nature, gracious Lord, impart,
come quickly from above;
write thy new name upon my heart,
thy new best name of Love.