All Saints Day
November 5, 2000
Victory Over Death
John 11:32-44
Over the course of the summer I’ve attended the funerals of two family members. Separated by two weeks, both were quite unexpected and devastating. Many “why?” and “what if?” questions run through your mind, and sometimes it seems as if there is no understanding, peace and assurance to be found.
As I struggled to make sense of the confusion and pain, the story of Lazarus came to mind — especially that shortest of verses: “And Jesus wept” (v. 35). What comfort there is in resting in the security that even though I don’t always understand my God, He always understands me. For as the prophet Isaiah said, our Savior is “a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”
I. The humanity in Jesus’ sorrow (vv. 32-35)
As she is on each occasion that we meet her in the gospels, Mary is humbly addressing Jesus at His feet. Deeply distressed over her recent loss, she cries to her Lord: “if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (v.32). The same thought crossed my mind while carrying the pain of losing someone dear to me. I too wanted to cry “if only You had been here.” And I expected, as I often expect under the weight of life’s burdens, that my Lord would answer with a stern and unforgiving voice: “Why don’t you just trust!”
What a different response we see here, however. We often forget that the Lord Jesus understands our pain. Our losses are shared by our Savior though He is at the same time confident of His victory over the sin and death that has brought such pain.
As Jesus wept over the loss of Lazarus, the Jews observed how deep His love was — infinitely deep, as is His love for the world.
II. The purpose of Jesus waiting (vv. 36-42)
In verse 36, we observe some of the Jews, no doubt in their frustrations, asking why such a healer as Jesus didn’t save His friend. But Jesus was in complete control of the situation. And though the loss of a loved one was painful, there was something of greater importance — the manifestation of the glory of God.
Those present were commanded by the Lord to remove the stone, even disregarding Martha’s practical warning of the stench that would come from a person laid in the tomb four days. Jesus addresses His Father and thanks Him for having heard His prayer. The way the Lord prays here implies that He already had sought His Father and was granted the assurance that Lazarus would be raised. Jesus now prays in order that those around Him might believe.
Do we too not share the opportunity to display God’s glory as we trust Him in the midst of trials?
III. The power in Jesus’ voice (vv. 43-44)
After praying to His Father, Jesus “cried out with a loud voice ‘Lazarus, come forth'” (v. 43). And “he who had died came forth…” (v. 44). In obedience to the call of the Lord, Lazarus came forth wrapped in the linens in which he was buried. The power of Jesus’ call was cause for belief as the next verse tells us, and it still is! As F. F. Bruce reminds us in his commentary on this passage: “The shout which calls Lazarus back to life is a parable of that coming day when all who are in the tombs will hear the same quickening shout and come out.”1
What is your response to the Lord in times of trouble and distress? We have the blessed opportunity to know Christ in both His humanity and in His deity and trust Him during those difficult times. For our Lord cares to the point of tears, yet remains victorious over sin and death.
1F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983), p. 248.
Proper 27 (B)
November 12, 2000
God Our Provider
1 Kings 17:8-16
George Muller’s autobiography provides a source of great testimony to God’s providential care. A man trusting in God for every need in his ministry to orphans, convicted that he was to never share those needs beyond the confines of his prayer closet, Muller recounts instance after instance of the Lord’s faithfulness to His people and His work.
Taken from his journal entries, this is but one testimony of several like it: “October 9 [1838]. Today we were brought lower than ever. The money for milk in one of the houses was provided by a laborer selling one of his books. The matrons in the Boy’s Orphan House had two shillings left this morning. We were wondering whether to buy bread with it or meat for dinner when the baker left seventy-five loaves of bread as a gift.”1
Our text today tells the story of a widow and her son and a visiting prophet who were also in need of bread, and it reminds us that God is faithful to provide for the needs of His own.
I. God promises to provide for Elijah (vv. 8-9)
Prior to verse eight, Elijah prophesied that there would be a great brought in the land. An epidemic of Baal worship was spreading across the nation, and the Lord, through His prophet, was attacking it at its heart. Baal worshipers relied on their god to make the rain; now Elijah was proving who was really sovereign over the rains. Elijah literally means “Yahweh is my God” and he certainly intended to demonstrate it.
During the beginning of the drought, (God provided Elijah with water from the brook of Cherith where he was told to stay, and He provided food by way of ravens. But soon the brook dried up, and now the word of the Lord tells Him to go to Zarephath where a widow will care for him.
II. Elijah responds in obedience and faith (vv. 10-13)
If I was Elijah, and I listened to the Lord and ran to this town and found this widow, I’d be a little disappointed. Not only was Zarephath the heart of Baal worship, but this lady was preparing herself and her son to die because of the famine the drought produced. But as his name implied, Yahweh is his God, and he was entrusting himself to his Provider.
Though the widow’s resources had been nearly depleted, Elijah asks her to bake him some bread. As she explains her circumstance, he assures her that God will provide, and that she ought to continue preparing the meal for all of them.
III. God follows through with His promises (vv. 14-16)
I see a sharp contrast between the faith of Elijah and the widow and much of the Church today. Notice that I’m not making our local body the exception. We are in great need of a faith that will lay down anxiety and get moving at the Word of the Lord.
His Word never returns void or empty. “The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord” (v. 16). So why are we so quick not to trust the promises of our Lord today during times of spiritual drought?
We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses testifying to God’s faithfulness. Let us learn from those who have walked before us and remember the words of our Lord Jesus: “if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” (Mat. 6:30). (Jonathan Kever)
1George Muller, The Autobiography of George Midler (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1984), p. 103.
Proper 28 (B)
November 19, 2000
Prayer of the Faithful
1 Samuel 1:4-20
How easy it is to walk into the trap of self-sufficiency in life, and when the storms brew around us, to allow that pride to reveal itself in the form of anxiety.
In the movie, Shadowlands, which portrays the events of C. S. Lewis and his wife from the point they meet until her death, there is a scene which grips my heart every time I watch it. Lewis is dealing with the pain of his spouse suffering from cancer. He has been confidently giving lectures on and off throughout the movie with this central theme: “Pain is God’s megaphone to arouse a deaf world.”
Now that pain has become a sobering reality in Lewis’ life. As a friend approaches him in the hospital, and the subject of prayer is brought to his attention, Lewis makes this statement: “I don’t pray because it changes God, I pray because it changes me.”
I think that quote holds a powerful truth in regards to prayer. So often we only focus on what prayer accomplishes for us and not on what it accomplishes in us. As our text today reveals, prayer not only brings blessings through an answer of yes, but it builds faith and brings peace of mind. For in prayer, we can have the confidence that we are casting our concerns at the feet of a caring Father.
I. Hannah’s tribulations (vv. 4-8)
As the book of 1 Samuel opens, we find Elkanah, Hannah’s husband, offering portions of his sacrifice to both his wives. The text mentions that Hannah’s womb had been closed by the Lord; she had no children, and her rival would “provoke her bitterly to irritate her.”
Not only was the constant aggravation of her rival a cause of suffering, but the fact that the Lord had closed her womb troubled her.
We must understand that at this time child-bearing was considered a great blessing and infertility a curse. As Robert Bergen states in his commentary: “There is an inescapable irony. … The same God who in the Torah commanded humanity, and specifically Israel, to be fruitful and multiply had made Hannah the Israelite incapable of fulfilling the divine command.”1 Why does God give us such pain?
II. Hannah’s faithfulness in prayer (vv. 9-18)
Instead of allowing her great sorrow to overwhelm her to the point of stagnancy and numbness, Hannah took her concerns to the Lord in prayer. Instead of trying to build her own shack to shelter her from the storm, she ran to the house of the Lord for protection. There she prayed and wept bitterly, offering up her concerns.
Hannah’s prayer was so intense that Eli the priest thought her to be drunk. And he approached her in order to rebuke her. But Hannah, with humility, explained to Eli that it was her spirit that was oppressed. As she went her way, the peace of God, like that we read of in Philippians chapter four, was guarding her heart.
Oh what we could learn in the Church today by following such examples. What is our first response to the trials the Lord gives us? Do we attempt to build our own shelters, or do we follow the command of James and consider them joy knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance, and that endurance works to complete us? Do we dwell in anxiety or seek the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds? Do we build shelters of self-sufficiency, or bow our knees to the sovereign Lord?
III. God’s faithfulness to Hannah’s prayer (vv. 19-20)
Would that we have such an expectant faith amidst trials. Hannah’s prayers were answered and God’s purposes achieved. God intervened on her behalf by growing her faith and giving her a son. We do not receive often because we do not even bother to ask, and more often, when we ask, we do so with such little faith.
Frances Vander Velde, a mother of eight children, well acquainted with the problems and discouragements of family life, writes in her chapter on Hannah: “Prayer is power. We as Christians have the tremendous possibility of speaking personally with the Supreme Power who directs our lives and the destiny of all things. When we, in our deep need, come into vital contact with God’s might and mercy, things are bound to change.”2
1Robert D. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel vol. 7 of The New American Commentary (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996) p. 66-67.
2Frances Vander Velde, Women of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1957), p. 115.
Christ the King Sunday
November 26, 2000
Dreaming Like The King
2 Samuel 23:1-5
These words comprise David’s farewell address to his people. As he approaches the end of his life, he focused on the positive aspects of his life, the ideals for which he strived yet never fulfilled.
Israel’s history to that time was a nightmare. We read about kings who were faithless, disobedient and murderous; about God’s people who were unfaithful and fearful; and about children who raped and murdered their siblings, rebelled against their parents and dishonored the God who called them to faithfulness. Nevertheless, David dared to dream of the way things ought to be.
I. David dreamt about the awesome power of God. (vv. 1-2)
When the Israelites clamored for king, Samuel warned them that their king would be one who was a taker, not a giver (1 Sam. 8:11-15). David, however, understood that godly leadership was not a product of power politics but of the grace of God. Notice that in these verses, God raises the leader and exalts Israel’s anointed king; it is God’s word that is spoken through the king.
For all David knew, he would spend his life as shepherd. God, however, raised him from a shepherd of sheep to the shepherd of God’s chosen people. This was not something that David planned or manipulated through power politics; rather, it was God’s choice.
Jesus’ life parallels David’s. Despite humble beginnings (John 1:46; Lk. 2:7; 2:24), Jesus new that His earthly life and ministry originated in, and was empowered by, the awesome power of God (Matt. 1:20; Lk. 4:18; Rom. 1:34; Phil. 2:5-11). Jesus, the true King, was a giver, not a taker (Matt. 11:28; 16:19; John 4:14; 11:22; Gal. 2:20).
II. David dreamt about the faithfulness of God. (v. 5)
This verse sounds ludicrous because we know that David was an unfaithful husband who committed murder to cover his own sin. We know that he ruled his kingdom well, but his family life was in shambles. To be honest, David’s “house” looked more like verses six and seven than verses two and three.
Nevertheless, David never completely forgot the One who raised him to leadership, the God of the covenant. David might not have been faithful to the covenant, but he trusted the covenant God who was faithful.
David cannot be defined completely by his sins. We see him as a kind ruler, a humbled leader, a grieving father and a penitent sinner. David’s sins were never the last word because he could dream about better days, about a faithful, forgiving God.
Jesus too experienced the darkness of sin, yet He too trusted in His heavenly Father. Despite knowing that the religious and political powers would unite against Him, He could declare that death would never defeat Him (John 2:19).
While being tried before the Sanhedrin, Jesus had no reason to be confident. Nonetheless, He could proclaim, “From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:50).
Like these two great kings, we walk by faith, not by sight. We can dream of better days.
We live in a world fraught with strife. Thus, it takes a special person to be able to dream about a new world, someone who can look beyond what is to what ought to be. David was such a person. So was Jesus. Today, Richard Foster is such a person. Foster “sees” priests and pastors praying together for peace. He sees a people combining evangelism with social action. He sees clan and ethnic rivals loving each other.
Foster writes, “I see a people… from every race and nation and tongue and stratum of society joining hearts and hands and minds and voices declaring, ‘Amazing grace! how sweet the sound — that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.'”1
Do you see these things? Foster does because he knows how to dream like the King. (Keith Durso)
1Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), 274.
First Sunday of Advent
December 3, 2000
Gifts That Last
Luke 21:25-36
It would be hard to list most of the Christmas gifts we have received. Some of these gifts excited us. Others were duds. Most, however, are gone — gone from our lives as well as from our memories. If we really wanted to give a gift that would last, we would give Jesus, whose “words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33).
The setting for Jesus’ astounding statement is a discussion concerning the destruction of the Jerusalem temple (Luke 21:5). Unlike the temple, Jesus proclaimed that His words will last. Coming from someone else, these words would offend us. However, they come from Jesus Christ, the Word of God (John. 1:1, 14), and thus, for those who receive this Word as a gift, they become the gift that lasts.
I. Jesus spoke inviting Words
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). In this Man, God personally entered our world to invite us to Himself (Matt. 11:28-30). We often get invited to social events. Sometimes we are expected to bring gifts (birthday parties, wedding showers); other times no gift is expected, just our presence.
Accepting God’s gracious invitation means that we bring our lives to God, who in turn gifts us for the edification of the church and of the world. Jesus’ invitation is the same as it was two thousand years ago. The beauty and the power of His invitation lay in the fact that He knew no prejudice. Everyone was invited. Jesus invited the Jew and the Gentile, the rich and the poor, the religious and non-religious, the talented and clumsy. His words are as relevant and as powerful as when He first said them. He still says to us all, “Come.”
II. Jesus spoke redeeming Words
Jesus’ invitation to relate to the lining God creates a new life. We read in the New Testament about changed lives: the conversion of Paul, the acceptance of the Samaritan woman and the forgiveness of the woman caught in adultery.
Church history also provides examples of changed lives. There we read about Augustine’s conversion from a life of debauchery to a life of service and John Newton’s conversion from a slave trader to a life of “Amazing Grace.” Believers in every generation have known that no matter what their lifestyle has been, God accepts them (Luke 15:11-32; John 4) and challenges them to a life of holiness (John 8:2-11).
When the past is redeemed and the present is filled with purpose, Believers can experience the abundant life that Jesus promised (John 10:10). Jesus’ mission was to redeem those whose past and present were lost (Luke 19:10). Through Christ, God continues to offer redeeming words.
III. Jesus spoke comforting Words.
Jesus’ invitation to relate to the living God also creates a sense of peace in Believers. In the midst of a world of death and destruction, of pain and violence and of rejection and dejection, echo the words of Jesus. Jesus told His disciples that even in the midst of the chaos that was to come, His words would endure.
Jesus’ words comfort us because we know that despite the fragility of life, God is faithful and will not abandon us. In death as well as in life; in sickness as well as in health; in prosperity as well as in poverty; in doubt as well as in certainty, God promises us the gift of His presence (John. 14:14; 16:33; Matt. 28:20). As Frederick Dale Bruner observes, in the pain and destruction of the present age, Jesus’ words “will keep disciples alive. ‘How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word.'”1
We want to give and receive gifts that will be appreciated and enjoyed. The chances are, however, that these gifts will eventually fade away. To receive the gift that lasts, listen to Jesus because ultimately it is not the words that that invite, redeem or comfort, but the Word who continues to speak them. This Word is God’s lasting gift to us. (Keith Durso)
1Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew: The Churchbook (Dallas, TX: Word, 1990), 878.
Second Sunday of Advent
December 10, 2000
Is God Fair?
Malachi 3:1-4
Have you ever been in the middle of a fogbank? When a fogbank moves in, your vision is blocked. There are times when spiritual fogbanks roll into our lives blocking our spiritual vision. When this happens we often ask, “Is God really fair?” The people of Israel in Malachi’s generation were having a difficult time trusting God because of the spiritual fogbank in their lives. They too wondered if God was fair.
I. Reminding ourselves of God’s promises (v. 1)
Chapter two of Malachi poses the question, “Where is the God of justice?” God responds in 3:1 by promising to send two individuals. The first is a messenger to prepare the way. In the ancient world, when a king was planning to visit a city, he would send a messenger ahead to pave the way for his visit. Similarly, when the U.S. president is planning to visit a foreign country, often the U.S. Air Force Band will fly in a week before to prepare the way. So in response to their question, “Is God fair?” God says, “Before my justice comes, I’m going to send my messenger to prepare the way.”
The second person promised is God Himself. In response to their question, “Where is the God of justice?” God says, “First the messenger, then I myself will show up.”
Where is the God of justice? God’s answer is to enter our world through His Son Jesus Christ. In Malachi’s day, Israel had to choose between doubt and unbelief. Doubt says, “I don’t see God’s promises fulfilled in my life, but I still believe them.” Unbelief says, “I refuse to believe” In the spiritual fog banks, God invites us to remind ourselves of His promises.
II. God’s refining fire (vv. 2-4)
The obvious answer to the question in verse two is that no one can stand before God’s judgment. Our lives are pictured in two specific ways in these verses. Our lives are first portrayed as a precious metal that needs to be refined.
Just like a precious metal that needs refining, so our lives must be refined for us to be able to stand. To remove these impurities the metal worker refines his metal. The refiner heats the metal until it liquefies, and then he scrapes off the impurities that bubble to the surface. The refiner knows the metal is pure when it becomes a liquid mirror and the refiner can see his own image reflected back.1 As our refiner, God’s ultimate aim is for us to reach a point where God can see His own image reflected back.
Our lives are also portrayed as a valuable piece of clothing that’s been stained. God the launderer is washing the stains out of our lives, scrubbing us clean, soaking us pure.
Once cleansed and refined, we can stand pure in God’s presence at the end of the age. God is preparing us, refining the impurities out of our lives, scrubbing out the stains in our lives, getting us ready to stand before Him at the end of the age in all His majesty. In the spiritual fogbanks of life, viewing our pain as God’s preparation can help us trust Him when life doesn’t make sense.
III. Anticipating Our Future (v. 5)
Finally, we see God’s promise of judgment on the rest of humanity. These various categories here describe people who reject God and His ways, people who persist in living lifestyles that dishonor God. All of these sins are forgivable, but these are people who refuse to receive the forgiveness God offers, Judgment will one day come, and no one will slip through the cracks. During times of injustice, we can anticipate the future by reminding ourselves of God’s future judgment.
Is God fair? It’s an honest question when spiritual fogbanks cause us to lose our way with God. When life doesn’t make sense, our tendency is to question God’s justice. God invites us to trust Him during those times by reminding ourselves of His promises, by viewing our problems as His preparation in our lives and by anticipating the future. (Timothy Peck)
1A. Robinson, “God, Refiner of Silver” Catholic Biblical Quarterly II (1949), 188-89.
Third Sunday of Advent
December 17, 2000
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Philippians 4:4-7
During the Los Angeles riots in 1991, Rodney King asked the question, “Can’t we all just get along?” We often have trouble getting along with each other in the Christian community. Paul’s letter to the Philippians bears all the characteristics of an ancient “friendship letter.”1 Because of this, Philippians gives us principles for getting along with each other in the context of Christian friendships.
Many of the Philippian Christians were having trouble getting along with each other. Because of this, Paul gives them principles for resolving conflict between Christian friends.
I. Enjoying our friendship with Jesus (v. 4)
Paul wants us to enjoy knowing Christ. But conflict is a joy killer. When conflict comes, our joy often retreats. Paul wants us to find our joy in our friendship with Jesus, not our circumstances. This is why Paul commands the Philippians to find their joy “in the Lord.” When we’re looking at circumstances for joy, conflict drives it away. If we enjoy our friendship with Jesus first and foremost, then we’ll have joy even in the midst of our conflicts with each other.
II. Trusting God to defend us (v. 5)
When we get in a conflict with a friend, we want to be right, but Paul tells us to let gentleness rule our relationships. This word “gentleness” means reasonable and sensitive in contrast to being irrational or distorted in our thinking. God wants this reasonable sensitivity to characterize our relationships.
Paul is also quick to remind us that Christ’s second coming is near. When Christ returns at the end of the age, He will right every wrong and undo every injustice. Knowing that Christ will return enables us to respond to people with gentleness, even those who have wronged us. To God, winning a conflict isn’t nearly as important as responding gently.
Do we believe that God is big enough to defend us? If so, it will effect the way we respond.
III. Trusting our conflicts to God in prayer (vv. 6-7)
Conflict with people causes anxiety. When we’re not getting along with a friend we tend to stay up at night worrying about it. God’s remedy for this is prayer. We’re to let our gentleness be evident to people, but we’re to also let our needs be made known to God in prayer. Seeking God’s solutions to our conflicts in prayer enables us to discover a sense of peace in the midst of the storm. Like a submarine that’s safely below the surface during an intense storm, we find serenity in the midst of the conflict through God’s peace.
The word “guard” here is a military term that means to set up a perimeter so an enemy can’t advance on a city to attack it.2 As a Roman colony, the city of Philippi had a garrison of Roman soldiers guarding its city gates day and night. In the same way, God’s peace will set up a guard against emotions and thoughts that provoke worry. God’s peace prevents our emotions from getting out of control. God’s peace protects us from the “what if” thoughts that bombard our minds during times of crisis. Prayer really is an act of trust.
Rodney King asks our cities, “Why can’t we just get along with each other?” Paul would answer that, as followers of Jesus Christ, we can and must get along. When Jesus’ death was approaching, He sought the Father and prayed for the church. Included in that prayer was a request for God to make His church one. We experience that oneness when we are faithful to follow God’s principles for resolving conflict. (Timothy Peck)
1See Gordon Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (New International Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1995), pp. 2-14.
2Ibid., p. 411, n. 58.
Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 24, 2000
Mary’s Song
Luke 1:46-55)
Christmas — the incarnation — is a unique event in history. As Mary begins to realize her role in this remarkable event, she offers a song of praise and thankfulness to God — a response that is appropriate for each of us at this special season of the year. Notice first of all:
I. The Response of the Servant (w. 46-48)
The title often attributed to this song is “the Magnificat,” which is the Latin word for “praise.” Mary’s response to the incarnation is a joyous song of praise to God and of submission to His purpose.
To magnify is to praise — to declare His greatness. Just as Mary praised God from her soul, from the totality of her being, so we should raise God with all that we are: our thoughts, our words, our actions. All that we are should weave a tapestry if praise to God.
Our proper response to the incarnation is praise. But that is not all that takes place in Mary’s song. Notice also:
II. The Reflection of the Divine (vv. 49-50)
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Mary offers a beautiful picture of the characteristics of God; she offers a reflection on the divine.
She identifies God as mighty. Clearly the incarnation reflects the creative power of God.
Mary also notes the holiness of God. In the midst of a holiday season often marked by materialism more than faith, we should remember that the incarnation is rooted in the holiness of God.
Mary sings about the mercy of God as well. Mercy is based not on what we deserve, but is given out of love. A merchant uses the ledger to keep track of what is owed; God, in His mercy, wipes the ledger clean. What better reflection could there be of the mercy of God than the gift of God’s Son in Bethlehem?
III. The Result of the Incarnation (vv. 51-55)
What is the result of Jesus’ entry into human history? The result is a revolution.
It is a moral revolution (v. 51). The coming of Christ means the death of pride. As we look at the life of Christ, we realize there is nothing in ourselves in which to glory; Christ helps us see our lives for what they really are, which precipitates a moral revolution.
It is also a social revolution (v. 52). The coming of Christ means the ultimate rejection of unjust labels and divisions between people. When we realize that Christ died for each one of us, then it becomes clear that every man, woman, child is of infinite value. How can we then treat some justly and others unjustly?
It is also an economic revolution (v. 53). In a world without God, it is logical to get all you can for yourself, no matter what. But Christ reversed the meaning of poverty and wealth: He showed that the one who is truly rich is the one who gives of himself and his resources; the poor man is the one who grasps greedily to what he thinks he owns. It is only in losing our lives that we truly find them.
What a revolution Christ brought! The wisdom of man has become the foolishness of God. Have you experienced the revolution that Christ can bring to the human heart? (Michael Duduit)
First Sunday after Christmas
December 31, 2000
New Nature Resolutions
Colossians 3:12-17
We are here today on the eve of what some of the more technical minds might call the “real” new millenium. Whether or not you think this is true I leave for you to discuss. But whatever we call it; it’s definitely a New Year, and with the New Year comes new beginnings, a chance for a fresh start.
How many resolutions have you heard promised in the past weeks? Everything from loss of weight to watching less TV to spending more time with family has probably been thrown into the mix.
Well today I’d like to look at a list of resolutions given by the apostle Paul. In the context of the passage, these certainly aren’t “New Year’s” resolutions. However, they are resolutions; in context, they are new nature resolutions.
I. Our new position (v. 12a)
The apostle begins this verse with the word “so” which leads me to the conclusion that what he just said before is important in understanding what he’s about to tell us.
In the beginning of chapter three, we see that, as Christians, we have died to our flesh and to our former ways of living when we were seperated from Christ. We were once children of wrath characterized by the pursuit of worldly desires. Paul is making an important distinction for us to keep in mind in regard to our new positions. Here he uses the image of death and life to draw the contrast; inverses 9-10 the image changes to that of the “old self” verses the “new self”
The “new self” has a new nature; not a complete and perfect nature, for the present tense of the verb in verse 10 reveals that renewal to be a process. But there is a definite distinction. As Romans six reminds us, we are no longer slaves to sin, and as the beginning of verse 12 reminds us, we are the elect of God, holy or set apart for His purposes, and we’re His beloved. What a blessed state!
II. Our new character (vv. 12b-14)
As we put on the new self in faith, we are to put on our new character. When those around us, both fellow Believers and Non-believers, look at our lives, we should be characterized by these things: “a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another…” (vv. 12-13).
Above all else, we ought to be characterized by our love. This is the chief attribute, for it is the perfect bond of unity. Understanding our positions alone is futile; knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
I once heard John Piper say at a conference that “if our theology doesn’t serve our doxology; it’s worthless!” If our knowledge of our new nature in Christ doesn’t overflow into love for Him and obedience to Him, then we are walking as the old self. How foolish it is to attempt clothing ourselves with old dirty rags when we’re already wearing the white robes of forgiveness.
III. Our new calling (vv. 15-16)
We are called to allow the peace of Christ to rule our lives and to let the word of Christ richly dwell within us. What does this look like? Paul describes an expression of such living as teaching with all wisdom and admonishing one another with Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and singing with thankfulness in our hearts. We are a distinctive people, set apart and characterized by a love that overflows into ministry to others.
Are you living up to your new nature resolutions? Do those around you see your forgiveness and the love of Christ and the bond of unity displayed in your character and your calling? May we take time to ponder our great state of forgiveness as those called of God and walk in a manner worthy of such a calling. (Jonathan Kever)
Sermon Briefs in this issue provided by: Jonathan Kever, Managing Editor, Preaching; Timothy Peck, Pastor, Life Bible Fellowship, Upland, CA; Keith Durso, Professor, Campbell University, Buies Creek, NC; Michael Duduit, Editor, Preaching

Share This On: