On Various Subjects
By Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
Text: Colossians 3:12-14. "Put on therefore, as the elect (chosen) of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness."
Introduction: This month, our focus is upon a God who is always ready to forgive. When we are willing to stop the blame game, to stop giving all our excuses, and confess our sin to God, taking full responsibility for ourselves, He forgives us completely. This is God's desire, because it is His nature. In Nehemiah 9:17, on a day of national repentance, a whole nation that had returned home geographically, expressed their desire to return home spiritually. The leaders of Israel led their nation in a prayer that claimed the name Elohay (el-o'-ah) Selichort (sel-ee-khaw') the God who is ready to forgive.
As we claim this glorious name of our Lord, we must confess that it is much easier to focus on God forgiving us, than us forgiving others. The ability to forgive others, is a real need in our lives. Everyone of us has been offended or hurt deeply by someone else. It is impossible to get through life without experiencing the pain of betrayal, disappointment, rejection, abuse or hardship, inflicted by people in our lives. The hurt or offense could come from a spouse or ex-spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling, a relative, a friend or ex-friend, a co-worker, an employee or an employer. As always, the challenge of life is our response to these hurts and offenses when they find themselves on our doorstep.
In Colossians 3, the apostle Paul calls us all to live the resurrected life. In verses 1-2 he says, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." What is the resurrected life? The resurrected life pictures a life that is victorious over the world! It is a life that identifies, idealizes, and imitates the life of Jesus Christ! This world views Jesus Christ and Christians as losers, but in eternity, we will be crowned as winners!
Living a victorious Christian life, is not a platitude, it is a practical way of living that sets us apart from the world! As believers, we are not to be "conformed," molded into the shape of this world, but rather "transformed" by a higher set of values and expectations. The apostle Paul lets us know that this life is not delivered by a "float along through life" mentality. The resurrected life is not a judge everybody else, put down everybody else, gossip about everybody else, so that we can look good, way of thinking and living. The victorious Christian life, is a focused, determined, obedient, self-evaluating, and self-denying way of thinking and living.
The apostle Paul goes on in this chapter to give every believer a check list, that will keep us busy for a lifetime, as we strive to live victoriously in this present world. Let's take a closer look at: Our Victorious Christian Check List
This Victorious Christian Check List is subdivided into three categories.
First, we are given a Put To Death Category. Verse 5a reads, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth." The word "mortify," literally means put to death. Everyday we encounter drives and desires, that if given freedom and opportunity, would destroy us! This is not a "look at your neighbor" category. Paul points his finger at each of us and says, "These things are living in your members, your soul and body! For all you think, say, and do, this category is for you!"
We must put to death in ourselves, "fornication." This refers to sexual immorality. It speaks of illicit sexual intercourse in all forms such as adultery, premarital sex, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, and incestuous relationships. I Corinthians 6 informs believers that their bodies are not for "fornication," but for the Lord! Our bodies do not even belong to us any longer! They have been bought! If you are saved, God has redeemed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, your ears, eyes, mouth, nose, brain, torso, arms, hands, legs, feet, and even your reproductive organs! All that we say, do, eat, drink or think, is to be for the good of others and the glory of God!
We must put to death in ourselves "uncleanness." This speaks of impurity, the contamination of our character that comes from loose thinking and loose living! Participation in wickedness and immorality, destroys and defiles your conscience, which in turn soils your character! This world has been sold the lie that sexual infidelity is not a character issue! You cannot be filled with fornication and not lie to yourself and others!
We must put to death in ourselves, "inordinate affection." This a state of mind that excites sexual impurity. What we permit into our minds by way of our eyes and ears, has either a positive moral effect on us, or a negative moral effect on us. It excites us to do good, or it excites us to sin!
Laura Ingraham, a conservative talk show host, has coined a new phrase. All across this country, she is crying out against what she calls, "the pornification of America." We are becoming a porn driven culture, and it has infiltrated every home, every church!
We must put to death in ourselves, "evil concupiscence." The word "evil" here speaks of that which is destructive and injurious. The word, "concupiscence" is a desire, a craving, a longing, for what is forbidden. We are to hate sin and the evil way, not tolerate it. Would you tolerate just a little fido feces in your chocolate chip cookies? What we tolerate in our lives, often becomes a desire. When we come to desire sin and the evil way, ....we are in trouble.
We must put to death in ourselves, "covetousness." This is the sin of wanting more, never being satisfied, or content with what we possess. It is greed. The apostle Paul calls this "idolatry," because it puts material things in the place of God. The voice of materialism tells us that if we possessed this or that, then we would be happy. A spirit of materialism measures people by the clothes and labels they wear! Which will it be, God or Gucci? Abstinence or Abercrombie? Godliness or Guess? The "new man" or Old Navy? Someone once said, "I've learned that if you give a pig and a boy everything they want, you'll get a good pig and a bad boy."
Have you crucified anything lately? Jesus said that as His disciples, we must carry a cross! A cross is an instrument of death! There are some things embedded in your heart and soul that need to be rooted out and mercilessly slaughtered by the power of the cross!
Second, we are given a Put Off And Put Away Category. Verse 8 begins, "But now ye also put off all these." The phrase "put off" means to lay aside as one would take off a coat or sweater and lay it aside. One of the first things we learn as we grow and mature, is to pick up after ourselves. When we take off our socks, we put them away, instead of letting them lie on the floor! As Christians, there are some attitudes and actions we must put off and put away!
We must put off and put away things like "anger, wrath and malice." The Greek word translated "anger" here describes a long lasting, slow burning anger, that refuses to be pacified. There are people who never "get over it." They keep animosity and anger alive, just as we would tend a fire burning inside of us. This Greek word translated "wrath" here, describes a flash pan, quick rising temper. When we keep the fire of animosity, resentment, and anger burning inside of us, it doesn't take much to set it off! Little offenses can reap the wrath of an angry individual! The Greek word translated "malice" here, describes a viscous mind that is looking to hurt and injure others when the opportunity presents itself. Some people have been harboring their anger, resentment and bitterness so long, that they are just plain mean! Cross them and they turn vindictive and vicious because they refuse to forgive.
We must put off and put away, "blasphemy." This is slanderous speech, which includes gossip. What do you talk about in a day? Are you constantly talking about people? If so, you are dangerous and small minded! The famous humorist Will Rogers once said, "The only time people don't like gossip, is when the gossip is about them." God doesn't listen to gossip, except to judge it. Before you speak, ....think. Ask yourself:
T Is it true?
H Is it helpful?
I Is it inspiring?
N Is it necessary?
K Is it kind?
If your words fail to rise and meet this criteria, then keep it zipped!
We must put off and put away, "filthy communication." This is foul speech, coarse humor, obscene language or profanity. A smart, sarcastic mouth that continually cuts and puts others down, is not becoming for a child of God! A "potty mouth" may be considered cute by the world's standard, but it is unbecoming for a Christian.
We must put off and put away, "lying." Verse 9a says, "Lie not one to another." A report in USA Today said that everyone fibs at least 50 times a day. We lie about our age, our income and our accomplishments. We often lie to escape embarrassment. To lie is to deceive by misrepresenting the truth. Most of the time, we are guilty of dealing in half truths, telling others part of the truth, the part that makes us and our cause appear righteous, and leaving out the part that implicates us.
What is in your life as a professing Christian, that you need to put off and put away? It is time for us to stop making excuses and get serious about cleaning up our lives, so that they "adorn" the gospel of Jesus Christ!
This brings us to our text. Here in verses 12-14, we are given The Put On For Display Category. The phrase "put on" means to be clothed with. It is one thing to put off bad attitudes and actions, and another to replace them with good attitudes and actions. Here in this passage, the apostle Paul reveals that there are certain obligations that come with being a Christian, one of which is forgiveness. Before we get to forgiveness, we must mention the other items listed here.
We must put on for display "bowels of mercies." The word "mercy" speaks of having compassion. It is love in action. This is a deep sensitivity to the needs and sorrows of others.
We must put on for display, "kindness." This is the art of being "dear" to someone. Someone who possess the goodness of heart.
We must put on for display, "humbleness of mind." A humble person is willing to forfeit personal rights for the sake of others.
We must put on for display, "meekness." A meek person is gentle. He or she does not seek to manipulate or coerce others to serve their own interest and end.
We must put on for display, "longsuffering." To suffer long is to be steadfast, possessing the ability to persevere. It refuses to respond to those who hurt us or have failed us, in a short, impatient, resentful manner.
We must put on for display, "forbearance." Forbearance is the ability to bear up, to stand up straight and stand firm under pressure to give in or give up.
We must put on for display, "forgiveness." Verse 13 says, "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." There it is! The child of God is to be characterized by a forgiving spirit. We have taken the time to cover the previous categories, because if we are not purposefully working the whole check list, if we are not focusing on living a victorious life for Christ, then we are not likely to be good at forgiving others! All of the above is interconnected!
What is forgiveness? The word "forgive" literally means to release or send away. The story is told of a little boy who was playing in the woods on a family trip, and came upon two baby skunks. As far as he was concerned, they were playful kittens. When his older siblings found him playing with the little skunks, they stopped and yelled, "Run. Skunks!" To which the little boy responded by picking up the baby skunks, placing one under each arm, and running after them! When we forgive, we release the skunks! Forgiveness is a merciful, redemptive response to someone who has unjustly hurt you. Forgiveness overcomes and releases negative (skunky) emotions such as resentment, anger, hatred, bitterness, revenge, and substitutes them with a more positive set of emotions.
When is forgiveness necessary? If we have put off and put away anger, wrath, malice, gossip, lying, and in their place put on compassion, humility, meekness, kindness, we no doubt will find ourselves needing to forgive less people. Forgiveness is needful in the mind and heart of someone who has been wronged. Verse 13b says, "if any man have a quarrel against any." The word "quarrel" means to complain or find fault. Those who have wronged or wounded us, are candidates for our forgiveness. We only forgive the ones we blame. Can we forgive someone without being reconciled? Ideally, forgiveness brings reconciliation, but not always. Can we forgive someone who is dead or is no longer in our lives? Absolutely. Can we forgive someone who refuses to accept responsibility for his or her actions? Yes! Can we forgive someone who refuses to accept our forgiveness? Yes! When we forgive someone, does it mean we condone their actions or behavior? No! We are never to overlook the evil or pretend it never happened. Forgiveness releases us from the effects of evil. Forgiveness is something we do more for ourselves, than others! We cannot control the hearts and lives of others, but we can keep our own hearts!
Why is it important for us to forgive those who have offended or hurt us?
We forgive because forgiveness is commanded. The apostle Paul us in verse 13, "Forgive others." Forgiving is not an option! Jesus said in Luke 17:3-4, "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him."
We forgive because it is consistent with our profession as Christians. Forgiveness reflects the very character and nature of God. Colossians 13b says, "....even as Christ forgave you." When we choose to forgive, we reflect the very character and nature of the God who has redeemed us!
We forgive because we have been forgiven a great debt of sin. In verse 13 of our text, Paul reminds us that we have been forgiven! He says, "....even as Christ forgave you." We are the recipients of God's forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has forgiven us! We would be hypocrites to do anything less! God has forgiven us the great debt of our sin!
We forgive because it is the door to our own spiritual and physical healing. A leader of the Warsaw ghetto once spoke of the bitter condition of his soul, because of his treatment at the hands of the Nazis. He said, "If you could lick my heart, it would poison you." A spirit of un-forgiveness is poison! More than a commandment or obligation, forgiveness is actually good for you! Forgiveness releases us from prolonged anger, rage and stress that leads to all sorts of physical problems such as cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, hypertension, cancer, and other psychosomatic illnesses.
What does forgiveness involve?
Forgiveness involves receiving God's enabling grace that is necessary for us to forgive. When we have been hurt, we discover that forgiving is not easy, and it is not within us.
Forgiveness is not natural, but supernatural. It involves releasing any desire for revenge or retaliation. We must release the offender of all sense of debt toward us. Instead of seeking vengeance, we must seek their good.
Is forgiveness instantaneous or is it a process? The answer is, "Yes." God can forgive in a single breath, however we often need time! C. S. Lewis wrote: "I think I have at last forgiven the cruel schoolmaster who so darkened my youth. I had done it many times before, but this time I have really done it." In many cases, forgiveness is a time process. Healing doesn't happen simply because we have spoken the words of forgiveness. While making a decision to forgive and speaking the words of forgiveness are important, forgiveness involves a healing process that often takes time to complete. We can continue to have feelings of bitterness and anger long after we choose to forgive someone, but it doesn't mean we have not forgiven. In those instances, we must remind ourselves that we have forgiven, and immediately confess our need to release those thoughts and feelings yet again. Someone said, "Forgiveness means totally giving up the hope that the past will be different."
We must put on for display "charity." Verse 14 says, "And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." The word "bond" speaks of that which binds everything together. The word "perfectness" means to finish off or complete. In this way, Paul speaks of "charity" or the love of God as a piece of clothing that brings everything together and makes it work! The women get the upper hand on this. They know better what brings the ensemble together! Paul is reminding us that the love of God is the driving, empowering, enabling force in our lives. I am reminded of our church focus verse in I John 4:16b, "...God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." The motive and mission behind every word, attitude and action, must be the love of God, or it is all worthless!
Your determination to forgive and live the Christian life, will be in direct proportion to your love for God. Your LOVE FOR GOD should be so great, it motivates you to aspire to live above this world's values and expectations, its actions and attitudes! What about your own personal Victorious Christian Check List? Which category needs attention? Is it the Put To Death Category? The Put Off And Put Away Category? The Put On For Display Category?
What needs to be changed in your heart and life?