Grace For The Journey
For some reason, I the rest of our study in the Book of Colossians, and began the series we just completed on “The Questions Of Jesus,” before we had gone through all the verses. I want to use the next several blogs to go back and conclude the study of Colossians. The last time we looked at this Book, we noted in the third chapter that the Apostle Paul is describing Christian living in terms of “putting off” and “putting on.” Like discarding old clothes that no longer “suit them,” Christians are to discard or “put off” old behaviors. We have previously examined some of the “old clothing” we are to remove from our spiritual closets.
In Colossians 3:12 and following, we now read about “dressing up” in new behaviors that bear likeness to Christ.
Verse 12 says, “Therefore…put on tender mercies.” Other translations say to “put on compassion” or “compassionate hearts.” Christians are to dress themselves up with compassion. It is similar to the next item of clothing, “kindness.” When people look at us they ought to see that we are “wearing” compassion and kindness.
If we are God’s elect, holy, and have the life of Christ in us we are going to look like the One who chose us. We ought to look like the One who set us apart, and loves us with a special love.
We are going to look like our Lord –
And our Lord was compassionate.
Remember the place in Scripture where the Bible says that Jesus looked out at over Jerusalem and wept over the people (Matthew 9:36)? He had a heart of compassion.
Because we are followers of Christ, He really is “in us.” Consequently, we too have hearts of compassion. Jesus fed the hungry, blessed the poor, and healed the hurting. So as His followers we will do the same. This will be our natural inclination when we “put on tender mercies.”
Can we feed every single hungry person? Can we bless every single poor person? Can we listen to every single person’s story and show compassion? No, we can’t “be there” for everybody, but consider this truth:
“You can’t help everybody,
But you can help somebody
In a way that you’d like
To help everybody.”
Who among us can’t help at least one person today?
Verse 12 adds another virtue that should be obvious in our lives, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility . . .” Humility is another characteristic of the new self, another item of spiritual clothing we are to put on regularly. I like how Paul describes humility in Philippians 3:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Taken together with these other virtues of verse 12 – these other kinds of spiritual clothing: “meekness, and long-suffering” . . .
We get a picture of a person
Who always remembers
His position in Christ
As the means by
Which to bless others.
Verse 13 says, “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another ….” “Bearing with” connotes the idea of “tolerating,” patiently accepting the varying personalities of our brother’s and sisters.” It goes right along with the next character quality listed in verse 13, “… and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” This matter of forgiveness is as plain a teaching in the Scriptures as that there is a God. There is no excuse for Christians’ failing to forgive another brother or sister.
Our Lord assumes we will do this. He has taught us as much in the model prayer in Matthew 6:12. He said we are to pray this way, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Or, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” He adds in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Remember later that Peter would approach Jesus and ask, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered him: “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22).
Going back to Colossians 3:13, note carefully exactly what the Bible says: “If anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”
Forgiveness is not an option.
If someone offends you, you are to forgive that person. Even if the person does not come forward and make it right, you must forgive. The Bible says in Mark 11:25-26, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
And lest we be quick to lose our patience with others who are difficult to “tolerate,” let’s consider the lengths to which our Lord goes to tolerate us! How has Jesus treated you insofar as “bearing with” you and “forgiving” you? Has He set the example that He taught? Does He forgive your offenses every single time?
Even as Christ forgave you, so you also must forgive your spouse, your wayward child, your mother, your father, your fellow brother, your sister, your pastor, your fellow church member. Forgiveness is something we must “put on” all the time.
Then Paul calls for what is arguably the most important “article of clothing” the Christian is to “put on.” And what is that? It is love. Here’s how the Bible puts it in Colossians 3:14, “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” Love is the glue that holds everything together. Love is what “produces” and “completes” the outfit. Love is the bond that brings perfection and completeness.
So put off the old and put on the new. “Put to death” or “put off” the old self – and everything associated with the old self – and “put on” the new, put on those things that suit you, that match who you are in Christ.
Here’s a practical way to live out these verses this week . . .
We have noted before that when we are tempted to sin, we must remember to say, “I’m dead to that, but alive to God in Christ (Romans 6:11).” Right after you have said, “I’m dead to that” – and you’ve “put off” the thing that characterized the old you – then surrender to God and obey His Word to “put on” the opposite virtue.
For example, when tempted to lust or commit sexual immorality, “put it off.” Kill it! Say, “I’m dead to that, but alive to God in Christ” and surrender to God, obey His Word, and then “put on” sexual purity.
When tempted to be bitter say, “I’m dead to that. I used to be bitter when I was not a Christian, but I’ve died to that old way of life. And now I choose to surrender to God, obey His Word and “put on” contentment and peace and joy.”
When tempted to not forgive, remember who you are: “Elect, Holy, and Beloved.” Then say, “I’m dead to unforgiveness, but alive to God in Christ, and so I now choose to surrender to God, obey His Word, and to forgive by ‘putting on’ forgiveness. It suits me!”
When you put on these new spiritual clothes, you will not want to put the old ones back on. You will like the way the new ones feel and fit on you. They were made for you. They match who you are in Christ. They look just right on you. You will not want to put on those old sins anymore if you will but put on the new virtues of purity, compassion, kindness, humility, forgiveness, and love – because you find a satisfaction in them that you cannot find elsewhere.
God honors your wearing what suits you. He blesses that daily dressing up. He grants you a greater joy and peace when you obey His Word. He shows you by your obedience that you are fully complete in Him.
Remember, the key verse of the Colossian letter is Colossians 2:10, “You are complete in Him,” complete in Christ!
Jesus Christ is the all-satisfying One in whom you are fully accepted and fully loved. The Bible instructs us to, “Seek, then, the things that are above and not the things on earth” (Colossians 3:1).
Tony Evans tells about an unnerving flight experienced by Frederick Page, a pioneer of modern aviation. Page was flying somewhere in the Middle East when he became alarmed by an unusual sound in the cockpit. It was a “chewing” kind of sound, the sound a rodent makes when it is gnawing through something. Knowing the sound might mean that a rat was chewing through the electrical wiring, Page grew concerned he might suffer sudden mechanical failure. His instincts kicked in when he remembered something he had learned years earlier in flight school. He remembered that rats cannot survive in high altitudes. So, Page pulled back on the aviator stick and flew the airplane as high as he possibly could. Having some trouble breathing himself, he listened carefully for the chewing sound to stop. Thankfully the sound did stop. Later, after Page landed his plane, he discovered the huge rodent lying dead behind the cockpit.
What’s the point of concluding my post with this story?
Many of us have some kind of “rat” gnawing in our lives. The rat of sin takes many forms. It could be a huge rat of sexual immorality, or pornography, or lust, or greed, or selfishness in a marriage, of fear, of bitterness or worldliness, or some other sin that incessantly chews and chews at us. If we do not deal with the rat of sin gnawing in our lives, we’ll eventually fall into a tailspin, “crashing and burning,” bringing ruin upon ourselves.
Paul teaches that we can put those sins to death by “putting off” the old and “putting on” the new, all the while “seeking those things which are above” (Colossians 3:1).
So, pull back on the aviator stick and go up! Set your mind on things above; get up their in the spiritual realm where you remember who you are and what you have in Christ …
and the rat of sin won’t be able to breathe and live.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”