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Category Archives: Colossians

What’s a wife to do?

Two generations ago, women were told to aspire to be a wife and mother. One generation past, women were told they could have it all—marriage, motherhood, and a fulfilling career. Today, women are told to ditch the husband and kids and focus on personal fulfillment. After all, marriage only exists to enslave women. Or so “the experts” tell us.

But if a Christ follower chooses to get married, what is her role and responsibility within marriage? What does Scripture say about these questions?

In Genesis 1:27-28, God gave Adam a task to carry out. He was to do the work of God by the will of God according to the word of God. He was to fill the earth and rule over it. But he couldn’t do it by himself. He needed someone to help him carry out his assignment. According to Genesis 2:18-20, Eve was created to help Adam do the work of God by the will of God according to the word of God.

From the very beginning, it was God’s design for the wife to be her husband’s helper, to actively assist, encourage, and support him in carrying out God’s task. It was God’s design. While men and women are equal in status, they have different roles and functions. The role of the wife is to help her husband accomplish what God has called him to do. (This means, gentlemen, we need to be in tune with God and know what his plan for us is.) The key recipient of her help is her husband. Oftentimes, the greatest competitor to the wife fulfilling her role is her children. While motherhood is important, helping her husband is her primary role.

While we might grudgingly agree that a wife’s primary role is helper to her husband, we balk at the idea that she is to submit to her husband (Colossians 3:18). When we think of submission, we jump to slavery or inferiority. But the primary meaning of submission is to arrange oneself under authority. In marriage, a wife is to arrange her life in an orderly manner underneath her husband.

From a biblical viewpoint, a wife voluntarily submits to her husband by respectfully bringing all areas of her life under his headship. It is a voluntary action. Her husband does not demand or force his wife to submit. She makes a voluntary choice. A woman is not to submit to all men, but only to her husband. Rather than do it grudgingly and resentfully, she coats her actions with the attitude of respect.

A wife submits to her husband “as to the Lord” because it is “fitting in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18). When she places herself under her husband’s authority, she is ultimately submitting to Christ. This is fitting and appropriate because it is God’s design.

A wife submits to her husband “in everything” (Ephesians 5:23-24). If he asks her to do something illegal, immoral, or life-threatening, she should follow God’s instructions. But outside of those exceptions, “everything” means “everything.”

She practices her submission with “a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:1-4). The word “quiet” doesn’t mean a wife doesn’t express her viewpoint and challenge her husband’s thinking. Rather, it means a sense of calmness and peaceableness. She doesn’t strive to take over when she feels her husband is making a mistake. She has a quiet trust that God is still in control.

Here are some principles to help put these ideas into practice:

  1. Rejoice regularly that God called you to be the Helper of your husbandand as you help, to “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23).
  2. Communicate your submission and respect so your husband feels respected.
  3. Forgive your husband for any past hurts blocking your submission.
  4. Depend upon the Holy Spirit to empower you to submit.
  5. Enlist spiritually mature married women to encourage you regularly for support and accountability.
  6. Pursue your own spiritual growth and don’t harbor resentment regarding whether or not your husband is the spiritual leader that he should be.

About 300 years ago a man lost his job in a customs house. He went home, broken-hearted, to tell his wife Sophia. To his astonishment she only beamed at him. “Now you can write your book!” He answered, “Yes, and what will we live on while I’m writing?”

Sophia quickly went to a drawer and took out a cache of money. “I’ve always known that you were a man of genius,” she said. “I knew that someday you would write an immortal masterpiece.”

“So every week out of the money you have given me for housekeeping, I have saved something. Here is enough to last us one whole year.”

That amazed husband went to his study and began writing. His name was Nathaniel Hawthorne. His book was The Scarlet Letter.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 10, 2013. It is part of a series on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Functional subordination

Over the next two weeks, I’m preaching on the roles & responsibilities of husbands and wives. I’m using a chart to explain that the Trinity models the concept of functional subordination for the church, marriage, and the family. Dr. Mark Bailey of Dallas Theological Seminary used the chart at a Couples Conference several years ago. I continue to find it helpful.

The trinity models functional subordination for the church marriage and family

 

Marriage roles & responsibilities

Over the next two weeks, I’m preaching on the roles & responsibilities of husbands and wives. Below is a chart I’m using to help compare and contrast the similarities and differences.
Marriage roles & responsibilities

 

Get the Word into your life

Jack Gilbert took a photo of me this morning as I was preaching. This was one of my slides for Colossians 3:16.

preaching 3-3-13

 

Saturated with Christ

Pollster George Gallup Jr. has long referred to America as a “nation of biblical illiterates.”

The Barna Group conducted a survey in 2009 to determine who held a biblical worldview. They discovered the following facts:

  • One-third of all adults (34%) believe that moral truth is absolute and unaffected by the circumstances. Slightly less than half of the born again adults (46%) believe in absolute moral truth.
  • Half of all adults firmly believe that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches. About four-fifths of born again adults (79%) concur.
  • Just one-quarter of adults (27%) are convinced that Satan is a real force. A minority of born again adults (40%) adopt that perspective.
  • Only one-quarter of adults (28%) believe that it is impossible for someone to earn their way into heaven through good behavior. Not quite half of all born again Christians (47%) strongly reject the notion of earning salvation through their deeds.
  • A minority of American adults (40%) are persuaded that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life while he was here on earth. Slightly less than two-thirds of the born again segment (62%) strongly believes he was sinless.

The study concluded that only 19% (less than 1 out of 5) of all born again Christians have a biblical worldview.

How did we get to this point?

I believe that a partial answer to the question is that we have neglected Paul’s instructions in Colossians 3:15-17. Every area of our life is to be saturated with Jesus Christ. We are to be saturated with the peace of Christ, the word of Christ, and the name of Christ. When our lives are saturated with Christ, we will overflow with thanksgiving.

The first instruction Paul gives us is that our lives are to be saturated with the peace of Christ. When that occurs, we will enjoy a greater sense of harmony in our relationships.

In the brief hours before he died, Jesus said to his disciples in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” Jesus gives us a special peace which he calls “my peace.” He gives us his own personal peace. It is not just the peace we experience when there is no conflict. It is a sense of wholeness and well-being, completeness and totality. But it is even more—it is the presence of Christ.

How can we enjoy this peace? Paul answers that question in the term “rule.” The word translated “rule” is an athletic term. It means “to preside at the games and distribute the prizes.” In the Greek games, there were judges (we would call them umpires) who rejected the contestants who were not qualified, and who disqualified those who broke the rules. The umpire was the one who took it on himself to decide what is right in a contest.

The sense here is, “Let the peace of Christ be umpire in your heart in the midst of the conflicts of life. Let it decide what is right. Let it be your counselor.”

When our lives are saturated with the peace of Christ, we will enjoy a sense of harmony with others. If we are out of the will of God, we are certain to bring discord and disharmony to the church.

An old story which comes from the Salvation Army in the last century tells of a strong-willed woman who had been nicknamed “Warrior Brown” because of her fiery temper. She was often belligerent and became enraged whenever she got drunk. Then one day she was converted. Her entire life was changed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

At an open-air meeting a week later, she told everyone what Jesus had done for her. Suddenly a scoffer threw a potato at her, causing a stinging bruise. Had she not been converted, she would have lashed out at the man furiously. God’s grace, however, had made such a profound change in her conduct that she quietly picked up the potato and put it into her pocket without saying a word.

No more was heard of the incident until the time of the “harvest festival” months later. Then the dear lady who had been known as “Warrior Brown” brought as her offering a little sack of potatoes. She explained that after the open-air meeting she had cut up and planted the “insulting potato,” and what she was now presenting to the Lord was “the increase.” Warrior Brown had allowed “the peace of Christ” to be umpire of her life.

The peace of Christ rules where the word of Christ dwells. The second instruction Paul gives is that our lives are to be saturated with the word of Christ. When that occurs, it will result in a heart of worship.

Believers are to let the word of Christ dwell in them richly. We are to allow the Scriptures to be at home in our hearts, and to let his teachings have full impact in every plan and every decision.

When the word of Christ finds a comfortable home in individual believers and in the new community, there will be teaching, admonishing one another, and thankful worship.

Teaching emphasizes the positive instruction of truth. Admonishing is the negative aspect in which warnings are given concerning the standards and obligations of God’s word. Both must be performed “with all wisdom” if they are to be effective.

When our lives are saturated with the word of Christ, our hearts overflow with thankful worship. This is seen in three terms Paul uses—psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Psalms are the Old Testament Psalms sung to a musical accompaniment. Believers compose hymns which consist of praises to the glory of God. Spiritual songs embrace all other forms of biblical truth which promote an emotional and lyrical response within the child of God.

Worship is not about us but about God. The word is God’s, the wisdom is God’s, and the thanks are due God alone. Worship that centers on the word of Christ should lead to a more mature faith.

Our lives are to be saturated with the peace of Christ. We are to be drenched with the word of Christ. In addition, our lives are to be flooded with the name of Christ. When that occurs, we will enjoy a greater sense of focus and purpose in our activities.

When we do something in the name of Jesus, we realize who the Lord Jesus is, we depend on him for results, we identify with him, we acknowledge his authority over us, and we submit to his will for our lives.

There are few exhortations in Scripture that are more comprehensive than this one. “Word or deed” takes in everything in life. “Deeds” can be preaching, teaching, eating, exercising, driving, cleaning house, shopping, visiting, working, playing (basketball, soccer, tennis, fishing, even watching)—everything! Our words are everything that passes our lips, even in unguarded moments. Everything we say or do is to be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

When we are saturated with the Peace, Word, and Name of Christ, our lives will overflow with gratitude. Verse 15 ends with, “And be thankful.” Verse 16 concludes with, “gratitude in your hearts to God.” Verse 17 says, “giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 3, 2013. It is part of a series on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. To download a copy of the sermon notes, please click on the link.

 

What the best dressed Christian is wearing

“Now that you live in New England, what sports teams will you root for?” I was asked that profound question this past week. It struck me that I will need a new wardrobe. I need to trade in my Seattle Mariners sweatshirt for a Red Sox hoodie. I have to give up my Seahawks t-shirt for a Patriots shirt. While I can still root for the Huskies, it will be of the UConn variety rather than the UW Dawgs.

In the same way my new address requires new attire, the apostle Paul explains that our new identity in Christ requires a new way of living. In Colossians 3:1-4, Paul explained that Christ changed our life. Now, we need to change our lifestyle. Like changing clothes, we are to take off our old sinful actions (3:5-11) and replace them with positive virtues (3:12-14). We are to dress consistent with who we are.

In verse 12, Paul uses three words to describe our new identity in Christ. We are chosen, holy, and deeply loved.

When it comes to being part of God’s team, all of us are first-round draft choices. Ephesians 1:4 says that God sovereignly chose each one of us before the foundation of the world.

We did not do anything to deserve or earn that choice. We didn’t have to worry about our speed in the 40-yard dash, our vertical leap, our GPA or SAT scores, our ranking on the Forbes 500, or any other measure of achievement. We did not do anything to earn or merit our salvation. God chose us because he loved us.

God chose us for a purpose. He chose us to be holy. The word holy means to be set apart from a sinful world for God’s unique possession. We are not our own; we belong completely to Him. Just as the marriage ceremony sets apart a man and a woman for each other exclusively, so salvation sets the believer apart exclusively for Jesus Christ.

The third term Paul uses to describe our identity in Christ is to say that we are “dearly loved.” We were made the objects of God’s matchless love.

Remembering who we are should change how we live. As those chosen, holy, and loved by God, our actions should reflect our identity.

This passage points out the tension of be vs. do. Paul describes what a believer is to be like, not what he or she is to do. I believe that God is far more concerned about who we are than with what we do. I think God does care about what we do. But who we are is more important. If we are the right type of people, we will do the right things. But if we jump to doing the right things, we may do them for the wrong reasons. Even evil people can perform good works.

The passage also addresses the tension of feelings versus actions. The first virtue Paul addresses is compassion. Do I wait until I feel compassionate and then act? Or, do I act compassionately regardless of how I feel? Do I wait until these characteristics are true in my life, or do I act as if they are true? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

I think the answer is “Yes.” Both emotions and actions are important. Ideally, both need to line up and be pointed in the same direction. Why we do what we do is as important as what we do.

That being said, remember that “clothe yourselves” or “put on” is a command. Paul tells us to put on compassion. He doesn’t say, wait until you feel compassion and then act compassionately. He says that we are to go to the wardrobe and to put on compassion, and then act as if that were true.

There are times when we need to be obedient and wait for our hearts to catch up with us. There are times where we are to act as if we were compassionate, and in the process of being obedient, we begin to feel compassion and care and concern.

The first piece of clothing we are to put on is compassion. Compassion shows pity and tenderness toward those who are suffering and miserable and in need. It is a deep feeling of concern for the needs of others.

The second item of clothing is simply “kindness.” One of the most beautiful pictures of kindness in the Bible is King David’s treatment of the crippled prince, Mephibosheth. David’s desire was to show “the kindness of God” to King Saul’s family because of his own love for Saul’s son, Jonathan. If David had acted according to justice, he would have condemned Mephibosheth, for the man belonged to a condemned family. David sought Mephibosheth and assured him not to be afraid. He invited Mephibosheth to live in the palace as a member of his family, and to eat at the king’s bountiful table.

The third garment we are to put on is humility. The world of Paul’s day did not admire humility. Instead, they admired pride and domination. People constantly vied with others to attain elusive glory and engaged in a constant game of one-upmanship. This pursuit of honor coaxed outward expressions of egotism and arrogance. That sounds like the storyline for reality TV shows like Survivor, American Idol, The Apprentice, and countless other programs. Humility checks the incessant quest to attain honor and to rise in the pecking order. Humility allows us to serve others without caring whether it is noticed or not.

The next garment we are to put on is gentleness, or meekness. Gentleness is not weakness; it is power under control. This word was used to describe a soothing wind, a healing medicine, and a colt that had been broken. In each instance, there is power: a wind can become a storm; too much medicine can kill; a horse can break loose. Behind the gentleness is a steel-like strength, for the supreme characteristic of the meek man or woman is that he or she is under perfect control.

Next in our wardrobe is the virtue of Patience. Patience is the quality of being long-suffering. When a person is long-suffering, he can put up with people who try his patience. He does not have a quick temper.

The next two virtues, forbearance and forgiveness expand on the idea of patience. Forbearance means putting up with others and enduring discomfort. Closely tied to forbearance is Forgiveness. The Christian who is truly patient will manifest this attitude by a willingness to forgive those they have grievances against.

Paul saves the most important item of clothing for last, love. “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

The apostle envisions a man dressing his body with the flowing garments of the day, and then it occurs to the man that as beautiful and fine as his garments are, they can never be worn with comfort or grace until they are held in place by a belt. So he adds the belt: “love.” It is possible to have some of the recommended garments and not have love, but it is impossible to have love and not have all of the garments. Love is “the grace that binds all these other graces together.”

Because God has chosen us to be part of his team, we are to dress consistent with who we are. We are to wear the clothes of virtue that demonstrate we belong to God.

This message was preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 24, 2013. It is part of a series on the book of Colossians. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Soul Surgery

medicine_surgical_theatre-PP-inkoutlineIf you are diagnosed with cancer, you don’t want a doctor who recommends you be tolerant of the disease. You don’t want a doctor who tells you the cancerous cells have a right to exist. No, you want a surgeon who will cut you without shedding a tear; one who will ruthlessly eradicate the cancer in your body; one who will use surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, any and every means possible to promote good health.

In the same way, the apostle Paul instructs us to perform surgery on our souls. We are to allow the scalpel of the Word of God to cut away and remove the sin in our lives. In Colossians 3:5-11, Paul tells us to exterminate all types of sexual sin (5) and to eliminate all types of social sins (8-9a).

Like a surgeon who removes cancerous cells from a body, like a gardener who pulls weeds from a garden, we are to remove sin from our lives. In verse five, Paul does not say we are to put sin in time out and give it a stern lecture. We are not to make it sit in a corner until it learns to play well with other. He instructs us to be downright intolerant and put sin to death.

Paul progresses backward from the evil act to the underlying motive. Immorality, the evil act, takes place because of impurity. Impurity comes from perverted passion and evil desire, which in turn come from the root sin of greed. Ultimately, they all represent idolatry—a worship of ME rather than God.

DSC_0151DSC_0153Two years ago, I discovered dry rot and insect damage in the deck on the front of my house. I could have filled all the holes with wood putty, slapped on a new coat of paint, and pronounced it good. However, that would have been foolish because the deck would eventually fall down. Instead, I tore down the old deck and rebuilt it from the ground up using new, pressure treated lumber.

To remove the sexual sins from our lives, we may need to unplug our TV. We may want to ask Sports Illustrated not to send us the annual swimsuit edition. Perhaps we need to install filters on our computers to keep us from straying to pornographic websites. Whatever it takes, we are to treat sin the same way we treat a field of dandelions. Dig out the roots and utterly destroy it.

In addition to exterminating sexual sins, we are to eliminate social sins (8-9a). Like taking off a dirty garment, we are to strip off hot tempers (anger, rage), sharp tongues (malice, slander, obscene speech), and deception (lying). This is a challenge in today’s world because we are so accustomed to anger, critical attitudes, lying, and coarse humor, even among Christians. We would be shocked and heartbroken to hear of a church leader who is addicted to pornography, but if they lose their temper in a church business meeting, we call it righteous indignation.

Rather than these social sins, our speech must be kind, pure, and true. Before speaking, we should ask ourselves, “Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true?”

Paul gives three reasons why we should perform soul surgery. The first is that there are severe consequences for those who continue to practice these sins (6). While people want to believe that God is only loving and kind, Scripture is clear that God also judges sin, even in Christ followers. In Romans 1:18-32, Paul portrays God’s wrath as his turning sinners over to themselves, allowing them to receive the just consequences of their actions. As C. S. Lewis said in The Great Divorce, “There are two kinds of people in the world—those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.’”

A second reason for getting rid of sin is that we have a new identity (9b-10). Sin was a part of our old life. But now we have been renewed. We are to build a life that reflects God’s image.

The final reason for putting off the evils of the old way of living is that our renewal is so radical it transforms all human relationships (11). It breaks down racial barriers (Greek or Jew), religious barriers (circumcised or uncircumcised), cultural barriers (barbarian or Scythian), and social barriers (slave or free).

Slide 1Richard J. Ferris, former chairman of Allegis Corporation, said, “Undeniably, some people in this world walk around with chalk on their toes because they stand too close to lines in life that must not be crossed.”

As Christ followers, we are not to have chalk on our toes. Because Christ changed our life, we are to change our lifestyle. We are to ruthlessly eliminate anything that does not reflect the image of Jesus Christ.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 17, 2013. It is part of a series on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.