Colossians 3:12 - 4:6

One of life's frustrations occurs when we sincerely try to share a needed understanding with someone who hears but does not listen. It is frustrating because we care. It is frustrating because the person's refusal to understand will produce significant consequences. It is frustrating because all the pain and all the regret the person will experience is literally unnecessary. It is frustrating because we are unable to make the importance of what we share register in the person's mind.

Have you helped a young child draw in a dot-to-dot book? A completed dot-to-dot drawing gives a child a "big picture." When the dots are properly connected, the child has no difficulty seeing the picture. But it is a very simple picture. It has almost no detail.

How do dot-to-dot pictures work? Each dot is numbered. If you correctly connect lines between the dots in proper numerical order, you draw a picture. The picture is easily recognized when all the dots are connected in proper sequence.

For a dot-to-dot drawing to work, two things must happen. First, each dot must be connected in the right sequence. Second: dots must not be skipped, ignored, or treated as if they did not exist.

When we try to share an important understanding with a person who hears but refuses to understand, we want that person to see the "big picture." To help the person bring the "big picture" into focus, we want them to see the dots and connect the dots in proper sequence.

Perhaps the greatest frustration comes if the person connects the dots, sees the picture, and reacts by saying, "So what?"

  1. In the letter we call Colossians, Paul emphasized these truths to the Colossian Christians:
    1. Jesus Christ is spiritually unique and all sufficient.
      1. Jesus Christ makes it possible to leave the kingdom of darkness and become a part of the God's kingdom.
      2. Jesus Christ makes it possible to be redeemed and forgiven.
      3. Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God.
      4. Jesus Christ is the agent of creation.
      5. Jesus Christ is the head of the church.
      6. The fullness of God lives in Jesus Christ.
      7. Through Jesus Christ, God produced perfect reconciliation.
      8. The hope of glory for both the Jew and people who are not Jews is Christ in you.
    2. Because Jesus Christ is the all sufficient son of God, the Colossian Christians did not need Jesus plus something else to be spiritual.
      1. Jewish Christians did not need Jesus plus Jewish customs and rites to be spiritual.
      2. People who were not Jews did not need Jesus plus pagan religious experiences to be spiritual.
      3. So do not combine Christianity and Judaism or Christianity and paganism to create your own form and brand of spirituality.
    3. All they needed to do was to seek Christ.
      1. They needed to trust what God did for them in Jesus.
      2. They needed to trust what Jesus did for them in death.
      3. The key to becoming God's new humanity was trusting what God did and trusting what Jesus did.
    4. I fully understand that the message of Colossians goes much deeper than that, but I see that as the "big picture" Paul wanted the Colossian Christians to see.
      1. If you please, these truths were the primary dots that needed to be connected.
      2. I want you to see something extremely important.
        1. What Paul did went far beyond correcting their information.
        2. It went far beyond giving them correct knowledge.
        3. It went far beyond declaring that Christianity was superior to Judaism or paganism.
        4. Paul wanted them to understand what it meant to be God's new humanity.

  2. If they understood the meaning of becoming God's new humanity in Christ, what difference would it make?
    1. Read with me from Colossians 3:12-4:6.
      So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 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 richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven. Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
    2. Consider the differences produced by understanding the "big picture."
      1. Difference # 1: Paul said, "If you see 'the big picture' of God's new humanity in Jesus Christ, It will change you as a person."
        1. It will change your heart.
        2. You will be and act like God's chosen people, a holy and beloved people.
        3. It will change your heart by making you compassionate, kind, gentle, and patient.
        4. You will be tolerant and forgiving of each other in the same manner that Jesus was tolerant and forgiving.
      2. Difference #2: Paul said, "If you as a congregation see 'the big picture' of God's new humanity in Jesus Christ, it will change you as a group."
        1. You will develop the love for each other that produces unity.
        2. Peace will rule the hearts of your Christian community.
        3. You will be a grateful people.
        4. The word of Jesus Christ (remember that he is the all sufficient one) will rule your hearts.
          1. That word of Jesus Christ will make you wise.
          2. That word of Jesus Christ will move you to share your understandings.
          3. That word of Jesus Christ will move you to sing in heart felt gratitude.
        5. You will be a people who sing songs of gratitude to God instead of gripe; spiritually you will be guided by gratitude instead of discontent.
        6. Gratitude for Jesus Christ will touch everything you do and say.
      3. Difference # 3: Paul said, "If you see 'the big picture' of God's new humanity in Jesus Christ, it will change your relationships."
        1. Christian wives will treated their husbands appropriately.
        2. Christian husbands will love their wives and reject being bitter.
        3. Christian children will obey their parents.
        4. Christian fathers will encourage their children rather than exasperating them.
        5. Christians slaves will put their hearts as well as their bodies into their work.
        6. Christian masters will be just and fair to their slaves.
      4. Difference # 4: Paul said, "If you see 'the big picture' of God's new humanity in Jesus Christ, wisdom will determine the way you treat people who are not in the Christian community."
        1. You will make the most of every opportunity.
        2. You will be very thoughtful in what you say.

  3. I want to make some specific applications of what Paul said to Colossian Christians to Christians today.
    1. Our knowledge of the Bible and our knowledge of Jesus Christ has little meaning or significance unless three things happen.
      1. Our knowledge must change us as a persons.
      2. Our knowledge must change the way we treat people.
      3. Our knowledge must change our behavior in our relationships.
    2. In my lifetime as a Christian I have known men and women who were very informed, very knowledgeable about the Bible.
      1. If the criteria for determining expertise is information, we could call these persons experts.
      2. However, I would never encourage anyone to allow this man or this woman to be his or her spiritual example.
        1. These people were very knowledgeable, but were hard, judgmental, unkind, unmerciful, and had little compassion.
        2. To them, scripture was not to give people life and hope.
        3. To them, scripture was to be used to attack people.
      3. Nor would I encourage anyone to model his or her relationships after these people's relationships.
        1. They were not an example of how to love your family.
        2. They were not an example of how to love people.
        3. In fact, they did not get along with people well.
      4. Nor would I encourage anyone to behave as they behaved.
      5. These men and women could debate biblical technicalities with the best of them, and hold their own.
      6. But they knew little about being God's new humanity who lived for Jesus.
    3. To me, an obvious fact leaps out of Paul's message to the Colossian Christians:
      1. If you really understand who Jesus Christ is,
      2. If you really understand what God did through Jesus Christ,
      3. If you really understand the spiritual sufficiency of Jesus Christ,
      4. It will change your heart; it will change the way you treat people; it will change the way you behave.
      5. If you really understand, you want to be a part of God's new humanity.

In the context of tonight's discussion, there are religious people and there are spiritual people. Religious people are determined to do what they want to do. The Bible is just a book of information. Jesus Christ is no more important than any other religious consideration.

Spiritual people, with all their hearts, want to be God's new humanity. To them, the Bible reveals life. The source of that life is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the focal point of all history, and of eternity.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 6 August 2000
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