|REASONS TO GIVE THANKS
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
December 1, 2019
This morning we are looking at Colossians 3:1-17 and “Reasons to Give Thanks.
Being able to enjoy the meal with friends and not being the meal. A good reason to give thanks.
“Do you not know that the turkeys in a barnyard all run, but not all get away. Run in such a way that you avoid being Thanksgiving Dinner.” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
Technically today is the first Sunday of Advent - thinking forward to celebrating Jesus’ incarnation. But because of the way the calendar works we’re still connected with the Thanksgiving holiday. So today - coming to Colossians 3 - we’re going to focus on both.
The big picture of Colossians - Paul in his letter - has been pleading with the Colossians to not get sidetracked by the philosophy and religion and all of what’s around them but to stay focused on Jesus - God in the flesh and blood of our humanity. Do we hear “incarnation” in that?
And thanksgiving - because in what we’re coming to this morning - Paul is going to give specifics about what God has done for us through the incarnate Christ Jesus - that are huge and significant reasons for us to give thanks.
If you are able would you please stand with me as we come together before God and His word and read with our passage for this morning.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ Who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.
But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 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.
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one Body. And be thankful.
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. 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.
As we unpack this passage there are two Big Picture realities that we want to keep in focus.
First, what God has done for us - for me - for you - through the work of Jesus - incarnate - crucified - dying in our place - risen.
And second - as we touch on those truths of what God has done - to give thanks. Which is also something that God encourages us to do in this passage.
As we unpack Paul’s teaching, it’s okay to say - out loud or to yourself - and especially to God - “Thank you God for doing that. Thank you for making that realty for me.”
Paul begins: “If you’ve been raised with Christ.”
Since you’ve repented of your sin - died to your sin and your own self as your own god and the world’s way of thinking and doing life. And you’ve given your life to God - by faith trusting in Jesus as your Savior and His work on your behalf on the cross. Since, by God’s grace and Christ’s work on the cross you’ve been raised to new life in Jesus…
Meaning thank God that you are. Someone say, “Thank you God for raising me - that I’m alive in Christ.”
“Since you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above” - strive - desire - passionately pursue “where Christ is - seated at the right hand of God.” Where Jesus is as the authority - the ruler - the creator and sustainer and purpose of everything that is. Seek and keep on seeking what it means to be with Jesus.
“Set your minds on things that are above.” Meaning “Think heaven.” Get your mind wrapped around heaven. That indescribable future that we we’re a glimpse of in Revelation. The new heaven and earth. The new Jerusalem.
Like when we’re going on a vacation. The colder and wetter it gets around here some of us may be thinking about summer. Physically we’re got tests and papers and projects and work and Christmas to get through and more stuff beyond that. But in our minds we’re already thinking about vacation. We may be here physically but mentally we’re already there.
Somebody thank God. “Thank you God for a glimpse of what comes next and by Your grace making it possible to be there.”
Then Paul writes that we are to focus on our lives being “hidden with Christ in God.” Meaning when we are in Christ nothing is going to take us out of Christ. Grab the certainty of that.
Paul writes: When Christ appears we will appear with Him in glory.
Paul encouraging us to hold on to that truth. In whatever we experience today - between the life that we live here in the drama and distractions and discouragements of today and the life that’s ours there - when Jesus comes back there isn’t going to be any being separated from that - no more longing - cause we’re going to be with Jesus.
That is a reality that we need to meditate on and marinate in and can give thanks to God for the reality of it. Done deal.
Thank God that in Christ we - that you - that I - have that security.
Pulling that into the day-to-day of our reality. If we’re trying to drive forward while focusing backwards we’re going to get creamed.
Most of us tend to focus backwards.
Satan - loves to get us looking backward. Planting little seed thoughts in our minds about how we’ve messed up. About how we’re damaged goods. How all those loose ends back there are stuff we’ll never get past. How we’ve failed others. Messed up as parents and kids and whatever. The addictions and hang ups we drag along with us. How God may have forgiven us but there’s more that we have to do. God’s forgiveness only goes so far.
Every time we mess up it just adds to our feelings of guilt and doubt and failure and inadequacy. “See, you really can’t get past this.”
Which just binds us in guilt and doubt and depression and ugly attitudes about ourselves and others and ultimately we struggle to trust the truth of what God really has done for us by His grace in making us alive in Jesus.
Hugely discouraging. Epic failure in process.
“Setting our minds” means focusing forward - to what God - who has raised us - has done for us - done deal - by His grace.
Meaning we need to stop looking backwards and getting pulled back into all of that and to start looking forwards - and give thanks for Christ’s victory over all of that. To meditate on and marinate in the truth of what God has for us in Christ and give thanks and keep on giving thanks to God - continually focusing on the reality of what He has done for us - for you - for me.
Someone say, “Thank you God for making that realty for me.”
Coming to verse 5 Paul is going to give us two lists. One list are examples of backwards focusing and list number two is forwards focusing on God and what - because of Christ Jesus has done for us - that we thank God for.
List number one is a description of focusing backwards on where we’ve been. Because it is way too easy to go there. Sometime we’re focusing backwards and we don’t even realize it. So, Paul is going to give us examples of what that might be like so that we don’t go there.
Paul begins: “Put to death” which in Greek means... “put to death” - meaning exterminate it. Don’t just suppress our sin or try to control it or sometimes allow our minds to drift back to it or flirt with it.
Dead is dead. Deal with it decisively.
Let’s be careful. Paul is writing to those who are raised in Christ. We need to grab the deathly seriousness of Paul’s command (pun intended): Sin is self-destructive behavior. Always. Sin is killing us and it deserves to die. Either we kill it or its killing us.
Jesus: It’s better to cut off one of our body parts than to have our whole body end up in Hell. (Matthew 5:27-30).
Put to death sexual immorality - sexual activity outside of marriage that God says is to be only a part of marriage.
Put to death impurity - physical and moral impurity. What we think or do that is sexually impure. What we joke about. What we listen to. What we watch.
Put to death passion - or lust - emotional uncontrolled desire that’s focused on meeting my supposed needs at the expense of others.
Put to death “evil desire” - meaning a desire to do what’s evil. Sometimes we get caught up in doing something that inside us we know is wrong. Just talking theory here.
None of us has ever done something we knew was wrong just because we simply wanted to give in to the temptation and do it.
Put to death covetousness - meaning greed - being dissatisfied with what God gives us and wanting what others have.
Paul summarizes these as idolatry. Idolatry meaning that they have a greater place of honor and authority over our lives than God.
Paul writes that the wrath of God is coming down on these things. God is going to judge and punish these things because they’re not about God. They’re all about us.
Verse 8 - Paul writes “just put them all away...” “NOW” Not waiting for some future new year’s resolution. But all of them - now you must put them all away.”
“Put away” - the idea in the Greek is like tearing off old clothes - dirty - sweaty - grimy - stinky - shredded - old clothes. Strip ’em off. Burn ’em.
Put away anger which is all about… anger. Deep inside of us anger.
Put away wrath - meaning acting out rage.
Malice - which is about just pure viciousness - wickedness - towards someone else.
Slander is shredding someone else’s cred - their reputation.
Obscene talk which describes four letter words that now seem to have crept into mainstream Christian vocabulary - and jokes and comments - and words aimed at tearing someone else down.
In verse 9 Paul tells us to stop lying to one another. Stop the hypocrisy of claiming to be in Christ - being all religious on Sunday - but living in the world.
Why? Because we’ve put off the old self with its practices - these attitudes and actions - anger and wrath and so on. Why? Because you’ve put on the new self - which is being renewed in the knowledge after the image of its creator.
Then in verse 11 Paul writes about “here” - where? “Here” in this new raised with Christ life - there is no Greek or a Jew - circumcised and uncircumcised - barbarian, Scythian, slave, free… or whatever - bottom line: Christ is all and in all.
We’re constantly saturated with what Paul describes in the first part of his list. The world is focused on and saturated with sex. All that world driven sexual energy is focused on self-gratification. Which is where the world has been - is - and will be focused. The world’s version of sexuality is all about the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I. Self idolatry. Not God’s holy purposes for blessing us with our sexuality.
Along with all that sexual saturation comes the attitudes Paul describes in the second part of his list - anger and wrath and malice and so on. Not that those are wrong - except when all those are focused on me, myself, and I. Wrong unless they’re focused on the purpose that God has blessed us with the ability to express those emotions - which is for His glory.
It is so easy for us to get nudged off track by what we are saturated with and find ourselves focusing backwards and living with actions and attitudes that are hugely self-destructive.
Actions and attitudes and actions that are way too easy for us to succumb to when we make life all about us - taking care of our needs - focusing on how everything affects me. How I’ve been wronged. How I’ve messed up. How all this depends on my taking care of me.
Verse 11 - Greeks, Jews, and barbarians oh my. Is about the divisions we create when we’re operating by our own pride and egos. How we compare ourselves to others - slicing and dicing - judging and categorizing others because of us.
Paul is bringing our self-focused egos back down to size. When we start seeing these things creeping into how we’re living our lives red flags ought to be waving - sirens going off. Something is terribly wrong. We know that we need a huge dose of reality.
We need to stop lying to ourselves and to stop playing the hypocrite in front of our Christian siblings.
Whatever our background - ethnically - religiously - culturally - spiritually. None of us deserves to be here. None of us is holy enough. None of us is righteous enough. All of us have messed up royally - completely - totally. We’ve all fallen immeasurably short of God’s standard of absolute holiness - righteousness - perfection.
The only reason any of us is here is Jesus - incarnate - crucified - resurrected. Period. God. His grace. His mercy. His forgiveness. Christ Jesus in Whom we are raised.
So we can thank God that all that is how we used to live. We too once walked in all of that when we were living for ourselves we were caught up in all that. Caught up in what was all about us. Trying to deceive ourselves and others - lying about the reality of what was really going on in our lives.
Someone thank God for His honesty with us about all that. And the freedom - given to us in Christ - to choose to yield to His Holy Spirit power working within us - to kill all that and to open up to us a totally different life focused forward on Christ and what God has waiting for us in forever.
Coming to verse 12 is Paul’s second list is what it’s like for us to focus forward on God and what - because of Christ Jesus - we can give thanks to God for.
“Put on” is what most of us do every morning.
Anyone check your phone this morning to see what the weather was going to be like? And then figured out what to wear? We get dressed focusing forward on what’s going to happen during the day.
Spiritually - Paul encourages us - spiritually we’ve got to put on the right stuff. To put on the right focus. Focusing on what’s going to keep us moving forward through life - having the right attitudes and actions.
Focusing forward following God and not messing ourselves up by looking backward.
“Put on then” - these things. Paul’s second list.
Paul begins with a description of those who are in Christ - able to focus forward.
“God’s chosen ones” are the ones... God has chosen.
Which describes a lot of us. We’re the kid who usually gets picked last. Who has nothing to bring. No skills. No abilities. Laughed at. Voted least likely to succeed. But God has chosen you.
But God redeems us - repairs us - retools us - restores us.
Because of God - we’re like the utensils and pots and things that were used in the Old Testament - in the Tabernacle or Temple - set apart - for God’s use only.
God has a unique and holy purpose for your life.
Someone say: “Thank you God for making Me holy for you.”
“Beloved” means Jesus’ coming and living and dying and living for us. His work on the cross for us. Why? Because God chooses to love us.
God chooses to love us even when we don’t see ourselves as lovable and struggle to even love ourselves. God chooses to love us even when we want nothing to do with God - when we’re living totally offensive to Him. God choosing to love us and being committed to keep on loving us forever.
Someone say: “Thank you God for choosing to love me.”
Paul writes - you who are the chosen holy beloved of God - which is one huge truth for us to focus on - as God’s chosen holy beloved ones - put on compassion.
Paul writes put on “kindness.” Kindness reveals our compassion. Kindness is how we act out our compassion through a smile - a kind or encouraging word - a thank you note - a phone call - a text - helping others.
Compassion without kindness is apathy to the needs of others - emotional hypocrisy.
Third - put on “humility.” Someone put it this way, “All of us are made in the same mold, only some are moldier than others!”
It’s been said that the first test of a truly great person is their humility. They understand that greatness is not about them. That they could never do anything great except that it was God who enabled them to do it.
Fourth - put on “meekness.” Meekness is our strength under God’s control. Learning to submit our abilities and talents to God so that we can learn to use what He’s blessed us with for His glory.
Put on “patience.” Literally - long suffering - enduring someone else’s exasperating conduct without loosing it.
Paul describes patience as “bearing with one another.”
Which is not just “counting to ten” and hoping we’ll calm down but about what we do after we “count to ten.” Going on putting up with and working through things so that we can encourage and uplift and support and mentor exasperating people forward in life ever closer to Jesus.
And - Paul goes on - put on “forgiveness” - meaning “if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
A long time ago in a church really really far away I remember talking with a man who refused to talk with another man in the congregation. These two men hadn’t genuinely spoken to each other in over 30 years because of something that the one man had done to the other one and they’d never spoken about it. Never aired out their differences. That’s just ungodly wrong.
The Bible teaches - when someone wrongs us we need to go to that person and in private talk it out. (Matthew 18:15) We don’t get to hang on to our feelings of injustice or unfairness. We need to say how we feel - forgive what needs to be forgiven - and move on.
Then Paul writes - “above all these put on love - meaning the greatest of these is love - love pulls all the others together. If you got love you got it all.
What’s out there - what get’s called “love” is focused on meeting the needs of me, myself, and I. Hypocrisy in real time And the pain of that we see and feel. It’s where we’ve been and where live.
But God’s love is focused on sacrificially dying for the good of others. While we’re sinners Christ died for us. As His disciples we’re given the privilege of loving as He loved - even loving the exasperating people here like us and so proving that we’re disciples of Jesus.
Are we see what Paul is getting us focused on?
When life isn’t about us - love isn’t about us. We can love sacrificially. We can respond with compassion and kindness and humility and meekness and patience - bearing with each other - even forgiving each other - all of which is at the core of living together in harmony - in the church - even in our marriages and families and places where we do life.
That’s what life looks like in real time for God’s chosen and holy and beloved ones.
That all is reality in our lives because of Christ Jesus - incarnate - crucified - resurrected. Because of Christ Jesus - we can choose to put to death what is sin and to yield to the Holy Spirit working within us - and to put on then this totally different life focused on Christ and what God has waiting for us in forever.
Thank God for opening up that life to us - you - me - as His chosen and holy and beloved ones.
Going on in verses 15 to 17 Paul pulls together his teaching with what is about us together living all that out.
Paul writes: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”
The peace of Christ is to rule in our hearts. To bring order and settledness in the midst of our chaos, confusion, and concern.
Peace comes as we submit our hearts and our plans and people and our circumstances and even our life and ministry together as Creekside - as we submit all that to Jesus - to realize that even in the middle of the worst drama and disaster and disagreement and discouragement - God is still in control. And to get our egos out of the way and God rule and not us.
Then Paul writes: “And be thankful” Which almost seems like an afterthought. But it’s not. It’s a - slow down for the speed bump - reminder of the core of everything Paul is going for here.
None of any of this happens - living out who we are in Christ - raised - chosen - holy - beloved - putting to death and putting on - love binding us together - living with peace ruling in our hearts - none of that happens unless the focus is anywhere else but on God.
So - wait for it - be thankful for all of it which is yours - by God’s grace - in Christ - incarnate - crucified - risen.
Then Paul writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
“Dwell” is like long lost relatives that show up for thanksgiving meal and stay for months. They just move in and take over. Which is what God’s word should be doing in our lives. Never leaving and taking over.
Teaching is formal - like preaching.
Admonish is informal - the kind of study and sharing that happens at Life Groups.
Wisdom is the point of all that - the application of God’s truth - His word - taking God given knowledge and applying it into the day-to-day of how we can live our lives.
Paul’s example of music is huge. Music can help us embed God’s word deeply in our hearts. We don’t always remember sermons. But music is a powerful way to internalize God’s word.
So that - as the word of God dwells in us - penetrating and saturating and transforming us at the heart level - wait for it - be thankful for all of it which is yours - by God’s grace - in Christ - incarnate - crucified - risen.
Someone say: “Thank God for your word that transforms our lives.”
Then Paul summarizes: And whatever you do - in what you say and how you act - meaning - “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus”
The name of Jesus represents who He is - the God - our Savior - our Lord - the Head of His Church. As those who are raised with Christ the very focus of everything we do must meet His approval - must be to His praise - for His honor and glory - not ours.
“giving thanks to God the Father through him - through Who? - Jesus.
Paul again calling us back to his big picture of thankfulness.
Thankfulness being characteristic of every aspect of our lives. That keeps us focused on God not us. That opens us up to God’s ruling in peace over our hearts and to the authority and working of God’s word in and through every part of our lives individually and as a congregation.
Processing all that…
Pulling together Paul’s teaching and what all that can mean for us we head out into Mercedland during this season of Advent.
In the day-to-day of life we need to choose to keep focused on this: You are raised with Christ. You have life - real life - because of Him. Every day of your life is secure in Him - now and forever. God has a glorious future planned for you with Him.
God has chosen you. God is at work transforming you. God has set you aside as unique and special for Him. You are beloved of God.
Grab this: God really does love you. That love of God - He desires to grow in you and use in your relationships with others. His love comes out in actions and attitudes like compassion and kindness and humility and so - even forgiveness.
We may see our circumstances as an impossible dead end. We may see ourselves as complete failures. But God doesn’t. As we allow the sovereign God to have control over our life He will bring His peace into our life - guide you - me - with His word - and give meaning and purpose to our life - even using us - you - me - for His glory.
Aren’t those great reasons to be thankful?
Psalm 118:24 says - read it with me together: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
There are mornings when we don’t feel like rejoicing and being glad. We’d rather focus on ourselves and wallow in actions and attitudes that take us backwards. But if we can choose each day to be thankful - for Jesus and what we have in Him - that thankfulness will help us focus forward on Jesus and open us up to all that God has for us in Him.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.