I have been asked a few times if I would be interested in filling the pulpit on occasion. I have hesitated, thinking that I was not qualified, nor had I studied the scriptures enough to preach, and I am not a dynamic public speaker.
It has been said that God does not call the Qualified, he Qualifies the Called.
Well, here I stand, having devoted time to study. As for being qualified, I am still an apprentice. I am thankful this is not a Pass/Fail assignment.
Many of our congregation remember a famous man in our small town, most everyone knew him as “Frog” Hull. If you knew him well enough to know his given name was Frank, then you share my deep appreciation and memories of a good man who passed away a few years ago.
I don’t see anyone who was there when he gave the Commencement Speech at my High School graduation in Lima. He officiated many ball games which I participated in back then and was admired for his fairness, integrity, talent for music, and sense of humor. These, along with his “Butte Tough” roots made him a delightful but sometimes challenging character to get close to.
He had 3 rules for public speaking.
Mr. Hull, I will try to follow your rules, please don’t blow your whistle unless I really mess it up.
His advice was this: Be Good, Be Loud, and Be Gone!
So, here we go!
Daniel told me he considers this passage one of the most beautiful in all of scripture. After my research preparing for today, I certainly agree with him. The message from Paul in verses 12-17 to the Colossians is the POSITIVE message as opposed to the verses immediately prior, that Daniel spoke of last week.
Much in line with the sermon series on the 10 commandments, as Daniel mentioned last week, Paul gives some “Don’t Do this” and “Take this off”, as in each commandment telling us to NOT do something, then telling us what TO do.
It is easier for me, thanks to Daniel’s arrangement of the sermon series, to talk about the “what let’s do”, the positive advice Paul gave the Colossians, and indeed for us to follow.
I found little if anything negative in these verses.
Perhaps the word “admonish” could be construed as negative. I looked up several different definitions, with the more common being “telling someone when they have done something wrong”, but an alternate definition is “to strongly advise someone to DO something”. I think that definition best reflects Paul’s intention here.
In last week’s sermon Daniel gave us the instructions from Paul to “rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or ncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Thanks for the great hand-off, Daniel, you made it easy for me to push the ball over the goal line today.
Today we are talking about what Paul tells the Colossians what they must do going forward as the chosen people, to walk with Jesus.
I thought it would be useful to recall a bit of history about Paul’s life and the city of Colossae, whose citizens were his intended audience.
Today the ruins of the city of Colossae can be found near the present-day city of Denizli in Southwest Turkey. It was a major trade center at the junction of 2 highways to Sadis and Pergamum.
We know that Paul was of the Jewish faith, under Roman rule a persecutor of Christians and was the attendant witness at the stoning of Stephen, before he converted to Christianity. Paul was chosen By God, became a disciple of Jesus and dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel.
In 1st Timothy Paul writes starting with verse 12: I thank him who has given me strength for this, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful by appointing me to his service, though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him; but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners;
After his conversion and becoming a disciple of Jesus, Paul studied scripture, learned to “think like a Christian”.
Free to have a Christian mind.
From the first verse of today’s scripture: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience. The Colossians were also chosen, and Paul is telling them how to live as God’s chosen people.
In the original Greek, the word for “clothe” is endyō (pronounced en-doo-O). Endyo defined is “to clothe, dress, putting on, worn” etc. This passage has been referred to as “The Christian’s Wardrobe”.
It is typical of Paul to locate our Christian lives between the past, speaking to what Jesus did for us long ago, and some time ago in our personal faith journey, and the future, the promise of what he will give us later.
Three key points came to mind as I prepared for this message today.
The first is that Paul's message is not about a set of “rules”, but a manner of living. Living the Christian Life. Thinking like a Christian.
Free to have a Christian Mind.
Putting on the wardrobe of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. In order to do this, we must study, read scripture, and seek to understand the message.
The EARLY morning men’s group has been reading and meeting to discuss “Disciplines of a Godly Man” by Ken Hughes. Last week one of the chapters we reviewed was Disciplines of the Mind. This is where I picked up a phrase you have already heard twice and will hear a few more times this morning.
Free to have a Christian Mind. I know what you might be thinking, but don’t worry there is no pop quiz today!
I could not help but feel God was looking over my shoulder as I read this chapter, at the exact time when I was preparing to deliver this message. It dovetails so well with today’s scripture.
Which again brings us to the first of the 3 points I would like to make today: Thinking Like a Christian.
I offer some of the insights I gained reading this chapter, and I am quoting some parts and paraphrasing others.
The human brain is the subject of ever-widening scientific wonder. Its ten billion cells are only a shadow of its complexity, because each cell sends out tens of thousands of tentacles that connect to tens of thousands of neighboring cells, each of which is constantly exchanging data impulses.
No computer will ever be able to think God’s thoughts and no device will ever be able to know the heart of God or do his works. But the mystery that resides between our ears has this capacity. It was indeed created for this – to have the mind of Christ.
Friends, we are free to have a Christian mind. It is within our reach, and developing it is our duty. A Christian mind demands conscious effort.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he tells them “brothers and sisters, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”.
Hughes provides an example of a Godly Man in Lieutenant General William K. Harrison. He was the most decorated soldier in the 30th Infantry Division in WWII.
The first American to enter Belgium leading the Allied Forces. Received every decoration for valor except the Congressional Medal of Honor. Chosen by Eisenhower to lead the negotiations to end the Korean War. A soldier’s soldier. As a 20 year old West Point Cadet he dedicated himself to reading the entire Old Testament once a year and the New Testament 4 times a year.
He maintained his dedication to bible study through war and peace until the end of his life. Age 90, unable to read due to failing eyesight, he had read the Old Testament seventy times and the New Testament 280 times!
Harrison’s devotion is a demonstration of a mind programmed with God’s Word. Those who knew him best said that in every area of his life, and in his responses to each of the great problems he faced, he was at all times informed by the Scriptures. People were amazed by his knowledge of the Bible.
This reminds me of my maternal grandfather, who could recite chapter and verse on command, without having to pull out the book and look it up.
What if we all spent one tenth of the time they did reading, learning and letting scripture tell us what to do in all decisions and actions?
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly” and “whatever you do in word and deed, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God”.
Free to have a Christian Mind.
The second bullet point is found in verse 13. Bear with each other, Forgive one another. If any of you have a grievance against someone, forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Presbyterians are all about forgiveness. It is a rock in the foundation of our beliefs.
I experienced what can only be described as an epiphany years ago about forgiveness. Our dear friend, and former pastor Freeman McCall and I were having a conversation while cleaning up the kitchen one morning.
The time was around 2006, when Saddam Hussein was convicted and about to be executed in Iraq.
Freeman talked about a what if:
Hussein, standing on the gallows about to have a noose placed on his neck, asks Jesus to be forgiven and accepts him as Savior.
And he would be forgiven.
I stood there in silent contemplation, Freeman said, “you don’t have to answer, but if you can even wrap your head around the fact that this is possible through Jesus, you’re STARTING TO GET IT.”
Since that day I have thought many times about what Freeman taught me that morning. I began to think more like a Christian.
Paul was saved. He was forgiven. No one is beyond forgiveness. All that is required is to accept that Jesus is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”.
Reverend Doctor Robert Rayburn, pastor emeritus at Faith Presbyterian in Tacoma put it best: Forgiveness is Love surviving sin.
The church is One Body under our savior Jesus Christ, forgiving each other and letting peace rule within our relationships, both here in this congregation and in our daily lives.
Free to have a Christian Mind.
Rayburns statement is a great segue to my third point: Cover it all with Love.
From verse 14: And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Paul’s instruction is to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts and be thankful. Letting the message of Christ dwell among us as we teach, and admonish one another with all wisdom, with gratitude in our hearts.
One thing my family will tell you about me is that I love ice cream. I eat it almost every night. Thinking about how Love fits in Paul’s message today, I compare it to making a hot fudge sundae.
Putting on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience is like taking the container out of the freezer, grabbing the ice cream scoop, bowl and spoon and scooping the ice cream into the bowl.
All good so far, and by itself very delicious and rewarding.
But at that point it’s just a bowl of ice cream.
The hot fudge is the love that binds it all together in perfect unity! The sticky, sweet, magic that makes it more wonderful, and perfect.
Topping it all with the love of Jesus and his love for us.
Three take aways for you today:
1 We are all Free to have a Christian Mind
2 Forgiveness is Love
3 Love makes it all Perfect
Friends, I ask you this: are you clothing yourselves in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience?
Do you have, or are you still developing, a Christian Mind?
Are you at all times thinking like a Christian?
Is there someone you need to forgive?
Is there someone you need to ask for forgiveness?
Is there someone in your life you think is beyond forgiveness?
Are you topping it all with true Love?
We are all still a work in progress, and that is OK with God.
Without digressing into something with no easy solution, I would like to throw this out there:
Once more, there are atrocious situations in the Middle East. In the most Holy of places, people are being slaughtered, and governments are casting blame for the death and destruction.
Of course, this has been going on for so many thousands of years it is hard to keep track of who started which war and what is the root cause of the hate for each other.
It is certainly a human trait, that the way we view our present is shaped by the way we view our past.
But friends, through Jesus Christ we can, and are commanded to, put the past behind us and move forward.
Our past does not dictate our future!
We cannot dwell in the past because we don’t live there anymore!
As Daniel told us last week: You can’t live the way you used to live, because you are not the person you used to be!
We are more alike than different. We are ALL made in the image of God!
What if: Everyone who is trying to wipe their enemies from the face of the earth listened to Paul’s message to the Colossians and followed his instructions.
What if: the people who are in a position to stop the insanity started to look at everything with a Christian mind?
It may be among the biggest asks ever, given how long these factions have been at war, but what if it actually happened?
What a wonderful world this would be.
Holy Father, thank you for giving us all our abilities, talents, and strengths.
You have given us a mind with unlimited capacity.
Your word guides us to use that power of the mind to always think like a Christian.
Whatever we do today, and in the days to come, help us to do it for your glory and in your name.
May all our thoughts, actions, and deeds, be of service to your kingdom.
Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.
In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.