Big Idea: God calls everyone to live their faith out in daily living, not just inside a church building. The greatest ministry that the believer has is being a faithful witness and living out the gospel of Christ through obedience in every area of their lives.
We are in the third week of the series called “Beyond 52: Church Outside of Sunday Mornings.” It’s called Beyond 52 because there are 52 weeks in a year, 52 possible Sundays that you and I could walk through the doors of a church. However, the Bible’s vision of the Church is more than just a couple hours on Sunday mornings; it’s literally a way of life.
On the first week of this series, we talked about what church is. It’s not an event. It’s not a building. It’s not until believers gather together, that it’s actually a church. Most days of the week the church is scattered, but when believers gather together like we are here this morning, now church is happening. Even though, most gatherings are only once or twice a week, church is meant to affect every aspect of our lives. And because we belong to Christ, we are all an important part of the body. Christ is the head, the church is the body. (Remember wanting Jesus without the church is like wanting a decapitated head…and that’s just creepy.)
And yes, I’m going to keep putting that creepy thought into your head, because you just can’t have Jesus without the church. The two are connected and go together. A body won’t work without a head, and if you are a Jesus follower, you are a part of the body and your part simply just won’t work without the rest. We are designed to need the Head and each other.
And since church affects every aspect of our lives, last week we talked about relationships like:
Our relationship with Jesus: Just like our human relationships, a relationship with Jesus takes work. You have to spend time with Jesus, remove the barriers that separate you from Him, and verbally affirm your relationship. Tell Jesus you love Him. And before you start thinking that sounds like a lot of work, a relationship with Jesus is a whole lot easier and less complicated than a relationship with anyone else. Because again, the uglys only come from our side. He’s the forgiving one, the one who never gives up on us.
Our relationships with each other, as Christ followers: Jesus said look it’s as simple as this, “This is my commandment: (3 words) Love each other….Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” Which is a sacrificial love – giving all that you have, all that you are…to each other just like He gave to us. No matter how messed up or different we are, we are meant lean into the community of people who make up the church and when we do, God is glorified.
A believer is called to love their neighbors, and often the process of learning to love others starts with learning to love the Christian community, no matter how dysfunctional it is.
With Christ as the Head, and every member working, the body builds itself up in a sacrificial love. Then that love will build relationships with those outside the church; producing lasting fruit.
The greatest ministry that every believer has is being a faithful witness and living out the gospel of Christ through obedience in every aspect of our lives. So today, we are talking about Practical Living – true Christian behavior. We’ll take a look at Colossians which is a book all about connections, but Paul also has this really important part in chapter 3 about living a new life.
In this letter, Paul was writing to the people of Colossae, from behind prison walls to combat false teachings which were not only leaking into the Colossian church, but taking over it. The problem basically was that they were combining ideas from other philosophies and religions which were at odds with Christianity and even denying Christ as God and Savior. So to combat and correct this, Paul starts by stressing Christ’s connection with the Father and His sacrificial death on the cross for sin. But He also talks about the connection with each other as Christ’s body, and this new life we have.
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.
Jesus chose to die for you, for your sin. And when you realize this and decide to accept the free gift, making it a reality in your life, in your mind, you have now been raised to new life. So setting our sights on the realities of heaven means to strive to put heaven’s priorities into daily practice, concentrating on the eternal rather then the temporal.
3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.
Meaning we should have as little desire for worldly pleasures as a dead person would have.
Hidden means concealed and safe. A Christian’s real home is where Christ lives, concealed and safe. Knowing our real life, our real home is protected with Christ provides a different perspective on our lives here on earth. To “think about the things of heaven” means to look at life from God’s perspective and to seek what He desires.
4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
By being one with Christ, we will share in His victory over evil, over death, and over this world.
5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming.
“The anger of God” refers to the final judgement day when God judges these kinds of behaviors. So be aware and be careful.
7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.
You’ve already got rid of all of this, so don’t backslide. Cause look, when we accept Christ as our Savior, we are inviting Him to live in our lives. When we let Christ live within us, we change our moral and ethical behavior, so that He can shape us into what we should be. Does that mean you will be perfect, no. You still have free-will. But it does mean you should be working to change your thoughts, seeing from God’s perspective on this world and the things you do. Then you…
10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
All in all, your conduct should match your faith. “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” In other words, if you are a Christian, you should act like it. Putting on your new nature, being a Christian, means more than just making good resolutions and having good intentions. It means taking the right actions. This is a straightforward step that is as simple as putting on your clothes. You must rid yourself of all evil practices and immorality. Get rid of the old, dirty clothes.
Now I know in reality, it’s not as easy as it sounds to get rid of our bad habits and the things we’ve adapted to. But what’s so great about Paul is he doesn’t leave us hanging, instead he offers a strategy to help us live for God in true Christian behavior day by day:
12 Since God chose you to be the holy (sacred – set aside for a beautiful purpose) people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
Alright, so let’s break this down. Here’s Paul’s strategy for Christian living.
- Always be thankful: All in all, gratitude opens our hearts to God’s peace and enables us to put on love. So take an inventory of all you have. Or every night before you fall asleep, write down five things you are grateful for that happened that day – five things God did for you. Some days that might be hard, but I can guarantee you that once you get going, you will be writing a whole lot more than five. And when gratitude opens your heart, then you can….
- Let love guide your life: All the virtues that Paul encourages us to develop – tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience – are perfectly bound together by one thing…love. It’s real hard to be gentle, patient, kind, give mercy and be humble about it without loving first. That means seeing others like God sees them, loving them like He loves them. You put love on first, then everything else falls into place. And when we are doing these things like Christ does them, then and only then, that real love will bind all of us together. Which leads to the next one…
- Imitate Christ’s compassionate, forgiving attitude: The key to forgiving others is remembering how much God has forgiven you. Should it be so difficult to forgive someone who has wronged you a little when God has forgiven you for so much? And when gratitude has opened you up to love, and love has shown you how to forgive, then you can…
- Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart: The word rule comes from the language of athletics. Paul often got his point across using sports analogies because Greece, the home of the ancient Olympic games, was smack dab in the middle of Paul’s mission field, so people got it. In other words, Paul tells us to let Christ’s peace be the umpire or referee in our hearts. Our hearts are where we hold our emotions and feelings and is where conflict often starts. So Paul says decide between conflicts by using the rule of peace. Which choice will promote peace in our souls and in our churches?
Now to live in peace does not mean that suddenly all differences of opinion are eliminated, but it does require that loving Christians work together despite their differences. This kind of love is not a feeling, but a decision. It’s a choice to meet the others’ needs. And I’ll tell you, to clothe ourselves with gratitude and love leads to this kind of peace that Paul’s talking about, the peace of Christ between the members of the body.
Let’s see what Paul says next.
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
Remember, they had only the O.T. back then, and yes they had some access to it, but there were no printing machines so that everyone had a copy. And to top it off, most people couldn’t read, so why would they have a copy. So what did they do? They sang. Most of the stories and teaching about Christ were memorized and passed on from person to person in songs, poems, and psalms. So music became a really important part of worship.
17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
Meaning bring honor to Christ in every aspect and activity of your daily life…Only by being connected to Christ and continuing that connection, can anyone have the power to do this.
For a believer, living with Christ and according to His Word is not only for times when you meet in a building with other Christians. Each one of the qualities mentioned in this passage express themselves in relationships. A significant measure of our Christian life is found simply in how we treat people and the quality of our relationships with them. These relationships extend way beyond a Sunday service.
You are the church living outside the walls. The church goes with the believer. This means anywhere you go church is in session. Church does not only happen in the building where you meet on Sunday mornings, it also happens from the bleachers at a ball game and over the conference table at work.
When the local congregation is empowered to be ministers of the gospel wherever they are, church is not a burden, but a way of life.
Fred Rogers, who is best known for the beloved children’s show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, was an ordained Presbyterian minister and didn’t limit his ministry to the confines of a building. As he humbly lived out his faith across the airwaves, thousands of children and adults watched God’s love unfold every day.
Over the course of 31 years and 865 episodes, Mr. Rogers would use his “Neighborhood” to show the world as it should be— having mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience where neighbors love and support each other through difficult times of death, divorce, and danger. It was also a space where Rogers helped viewers confront their own fear and prejudices, leading them past them in his very gentle non-threatening way.
One example is just shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., during a time of racial segregation, when Mr. Rogers washed the feet of the character Officer Clemmons, who was the first African American man with a recurring role on a children’s series. Mr. Rogers preached and demonstrated God’s heart every time his program aired, and many who would have never stepped foot in a church building are better because of it.
If faith were only contained within the organized walls of a building, the church would have died decades ago. Where would the world be if the faithful kept their faith inside the sanctuary walls? Without a firm conviction that God is just and despises violence, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would not have had the courage to lead the non-violent movement for African-American civil rights. Without faith in the love and mercy of God, Mother Teresa of Calcutta would not have shown the world the preciousness of the poor and dying.
In other words, we would have done without some of the most moral voices of history. In many cases, the only way to show Jesus to the culture is in our daily lives.
Think of it this way, sometimes God works and does His healings in a walk with a friend, in a book club, through kindness from a believing coworker or classmate. When we limit God’s work to only a certain time frame or building, we miss the work He is doing through the true Church.
The Church is built on Christ, and it builds itself up in love. For a believer, loving others is a natural outflowing of our faith and a crucial part of building the church. The visible actions we take, rooted in love, may reach some people who would have never set foot in a church.
A little further in Paul’s letter, he says…
Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.
Make the most of every opportunity… Back to Church Sunday
On Sunday, October 4th at 10:30am, we’re hosting an outdoor worship and picnic at the York Springs Lion’s Club pavilion. This is an opportunity for you to invite your friends, neighbors, co-workers, family…anyone you can think of…to a place where they can hear the hope and good news of Jesus. It’ll be a laid-back event. You don’t even have to dress up. Everyone here is asked to bring a covered dish, everything else will be provided, and guests are not asked to bring anything but themselves and a lawn chair if they would like.
We are the Church and it is our part to invite people to know Jesus. When a believer makes the intentional decision to be committed to God and His Church, the church will bear fruit. And because there are so many people in need of hope right now, in need of someone to care about them, will you please make the most of this opportunity and invite anyone you can think of, anyone who needs hope, who needs Christ. Invite cards are available to help you. Now is the time to follow through and invite who God has been leading you to invite.