Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. - Colossians 3: 14-17 (NLT)
Today we conclude our look at living the abundant Christian life as taught through the lens of Colossians Chapter Three. We have touched on topics ranging from our thought life to the spiritual clothes we must take off and wear every day as we advance in Christ and for the cause of Christ. We close the study however with a great flurry of teachings meant to enhance our lives and further the kingdom of God; always remembering that these two things are never exclusive. Once saved, there is no enhancement of our life if we are not advancing the kingdom. God's priorities must become ours.
The first point actually closes the thoughts from the last devotional where we spoke about the spiritual clothes we must make a conscious decision to put on each day. No one wakes up and gets dressed without considering what they are wearing. We do not leave the house without checking the mirror to make sure what we chose actually looks right. Paul uses this clothing analogy to explain how we must make the same conscious effort each day to clothe ourselves with the characteristics of Christ. We have looked at how we must choose to clothe ourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience but the key verses today addresses the one garment that binds them all together - love.
Love continues to be cheapened in modern day preaching. Love is now used as an excuse to strip out of the Gospel the things that might offend people or make them uncomfortable. The seeker friendly, purpose driven rationale pushes any substantive talk about sin and repentance out of the Sunday pulpits in favor on sermon series' on relationships and how to become a better you. Humanistic psycho-babble replacing Gospel truth. A mega church pastor was recently asked by Katie Couric what his church position was on topical sin issues and his answer was that his church "has a stance on love and everything else is a conversation." That is not the love of God beloved. God loved us so much that He refused to allow us to spend eternity in hell by sacrificing His only Son to pay for our sins. That is the Gospel, period. Preaching a gospel that avoids talking about sin and the need to repent is not "preaching love." It is not a "gospel of grace." It's just cruel. The love we need to clothe ourselves with is not this ooey-gooey carnal love that the world sells us. It is not this notion that everything needs to be artificially sweetened to the point where the mere utterance of the truth is deemed to be preaching disunity. The love we need to clothe ourselves with must be grounded in the stark reality that everyone we meet who is not truly saved is on a collision course with hell. I know we like to push the concept of hell out of our minds and it is no longer preached about but that doesn't make it any less real. We go through the motions of life sometimes looking at people like there is always time. Then the day comes when someone's time has run out.
But God said to him, "Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' - Luke 12: 20 (NKJV)
This is the end of the parable of the rich fool. Sometimes we all go through this existence as fools. Love is not a hallmark card. It is not a look in someone's eyes or imaginary butterflies in our stomach. It is not what philosophers and poets have offered up for the ages. It is the refusal to allow people on the outside of salvation looking in to go about their lives without telling them the Good News of Jesus Christ. That is what we must clothe ourselves with as Christians because it binds everything else together. Of what value is tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience without love? What good does it do someone to be treated with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience and yet never have their unsaved soul addressed? These things were not meant to be on display in lieu of love but rather because of love. That is what is so dramatically wrong with the vast majority of churches run under the seeker friendly mentality. They generally believe in clothing themselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience but they forget to put on the true definition of love. Treating people nicely does not save them from their sins. Only Jesus can.
The next point in the key verses deals with an interesting topic for us to consider when we are looking at living the Christian life. What have we allowed to rule in our hearts? I know it is a difficult question but it is one worth spending some time in prayer about to get to the bottom of. I will be the first to admit that always having peace rule in my heart has proven to be a challenge. So often we can let everything but peace rule our hearts. I know far to many drama Christians who let the latest drama rule in their hearts. Bitter Christians who allow unforgiveness to rule in their hearts. Fence sitting Christians who let doubt and the insecurity of their own salvation rule in the hearts. Carnal Christians who have heard too many cheap grace messages and allow sin to rule in their hearts. The key verse however explains that not only are our hearts supposed to be ruled by peace but only by the peace that comes from Christ!
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. - John 14: 27 (NIV)
The peace the world provides is fleeting at best and an illusion at worst. Peace from a stable job can be wiped out by lay offs and a declining economy. Peace from a stable marriage can be wiped out by one instance of weakness. Peace from a stable family life can be wiped out by one poor decision by our children. The peace Christ provides for us however is different because He never changes. He is the same God who spoke the universe into existence. He is the same God who tore down the walls of Jericho. He is the same God who delivered Daniel in the lion's den. He is the same God who used a rag tag group of fishermen and outcasts to turn the entire world upside down. He is the same God who saw the mess our lives were in and reached down to pick us up and put our feet on the solid rock that is Jesus Christ. In an ever changing and volatile world, He never changes. That means when the world upsets our apple cart we know the God we turn to has not changed His mind on any of the promises He has made for us. That means when the job gets downsized we magnify God and His promises of provision. When the marriage goes on the rocks we turn to the rock who can restore anything. When the child is wayward we turn to the one who never turns from us. That is what the peace of God is and that is what must rule in our hearts if we are to be found living the Christian life.
The next point addresses a commonly misunderstood Christian concept - unity. As members of one body, we are called to live at peace with each other. The Bible is filled with verses about the importance of unity. That unity however is not denominational in nature. Currently there are over 40,000 different denominations that consider themselves Christians! I had a friend ask me recently how could there ever be unity with that much disagreement. My answer is that we need to stop looking at the Body of Christ as a church building or a denomination. Some of these 40,000 denominations are clearly not Christian at all as they dismiss the core doctrines the Bible says must exist. The remainder however will all have people in them that are genuinely saved through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as a result of their repentance for their sins and faith in Jesus. All of them will also have people who think they are saved but truly are not. People who will say on the last day - "Lord Lord." All of these denominations will have solid preachers and false teachers. No one is exempt from the foibles of humanity. But the true sheep of Jesus Christ know His voice and they are who is unified. When Jesus comes back He will separate the sheep from the goats. That will be an individual process not a denominational process. Our unity must always be in Christ and the correct presentation of His Gospel.
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. - Romans 16: 17-18 (ESV)