Sunday, August 28, 2011

Christian Responsibilities – Colossians 3:18-4:6

Christian Responsibilities – Colossians 3:18-4:6
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 28, 2011 AM

We all have responsibilities in life. Some of us may take them very seriously while others may have never prioritized their lives at all. I remember very well how I had to learn what responsibility meant when I got my first dog. It meant I had to make sure he was fed, tied up at night, bathed when he rolled in something awful, and I had to train him to behave. Which it would have been a whole lot easier if he had not run away so often!

Paul knew that Christians have responsibilities as well. In his concluding section of his letter to the Colossians, Paul covered several subjects. He first outlined the responsibilities of the members of a Christian family. Paul further dealt with believers’ responsibilities toward Christian servants and their masters. Then he stated certain responsibilities believers have toward their church and toward non-believers. Let’s discover what Paul taught about Christian responsibilities.

READ: Colossians 3:18-4:6

Every home is just one big happy family all the time, right? WRONG! We all know that there are times in every family when we just want to throw up our hands and head for the hills! This is life. This is what it means to have a home and a family. Not all is roses, but it can be great if you are willing to accept your God-given responsibilities. Here in Colossians, Paul teaches us about...

I. The behavior of Christians in the home! (vv. 3:18-21)

1. How a Christian relates to their family reveals how they view their God-given role! Here Paul briefly set forth the relationship of the wife to the husband, husband to the wife, child to the parent, and parent to child. Paul was not setting up an authoritative hierarchy; rather, he was giving us the roles that exist within a good Christian home. Just as there are differing roles within all of God’s creation, families have them as well. A wife’s submission is voluntary, based on her appreciation of God’s role for her life. Paul is not teaching servitude or slavery, and notice he does not tell the husband to make his wife submit! Also notice that the husband is to “love” his wife with an unselfish love that gives rather than receives. He is never to be harsh. Such love always acts in the other’s best interests. Paul continues by writing that children are to “obey” their parents and not just, in what they choose to but in “everything.” Why? It “pleases God!” He relates that parents, specifically “fathers,” are not to “embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” The idea is one of constant nagging. Paul prescribed the behavior of believers as spouses, as parents, and as children. Christian families are to be characterized respectively by submission and love. Christian children are to be respectfully obedient, while Christian parents are to encourage their children. How a Christian relates to their family reveals how they view their God-given role! Paul teaches us about the behavior of Christians in the home!

EXAMPLE: Have you read about how many people are using their smart phones to make houses “smart homes”? With many of the phones being constantly connected to the Internet, when you are gone you can adjust the lighting, use web cameras to check on things, turn on outdoor or interior lights as you pull into the driveway, and you can even automatically feed the pets! As “smart” as that sounds, a truly smart home is one where the Lord is the focus. Paul writes that a smart home is one where the behavior of Christ is evident in family life. It is the behavior of Christians in the home!

While not every home is perfect, when God is at the center of a family’s life then it will be as close as God intends. Yet, we do not stay home all the time, do we? We have school, we have friendships, and we have jobs. In order for our families to be fed, clothed, and sheltered, we have to earn a living. Paul related that how a believer acts on the job says a lot about his faith walk. He teaches us about...

II. The behavior of Christians on the job! (vv. 3:22–4:1)

1. How a Christian behaves at work displays the character of Christ to others! In the first century, many of the early converts to Christianity were slaves, and they were accepted in the churches as full brothers and sisters in Christ. We can use Paul’s admonishment for our work ethic today. Why? Because Paul indicated that, their work ethic should be raised to a higher level because of their relationship to Christ! Christians are not to do just enough work to get by or to work only when their boss’ “eye is on [them] and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord!” Christians are to have higher principles than the world! “Whatever you do,” Paul admonishes his readers, “work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men!” Christians in today’s workplace should accept their job as gift from God, who has graciously given them the ability to perform those tasks. Our focus should be on our ultimate reward, not the “Atta boys” from others. Remember, we receive what we have worked for: “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism!” However, conversely a Christian boss should “provide” their workers with “what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” Paul was not advocating unionism or collective bargaining, but rather he was focusing on the behavior of a Christian on the job. The believer’s work is not just watched by their earthly boss, but by their Heavenly Lord. How a Christian behaves at work displays the character of Christ to others!

EXAMPLE: The other day, as I drove into the driveway, I realized that my neighbors were working at their jobs, raising their families, and serving in their churches just like me! I know this might sound kind of odd to you, but it really hit me that each family had some job they went off to everyday! It reminded me of the response of the American statesman Bernard Baruch when he was asked who he thought was the greatest personality of our age. This 94 year old responded, “The fellow who does his job every day. The mother who has children and gets up to get them breakfast, keep them clean, and send them off to school. The fellow who keeps the streets clean… The unknown soldiers—millions of them.” Paul would say that how a Christian behaves at work displays the character of Christ to others.

While both family and work are important aspects of our lives, if we leave out the next area, we will miss what God has called us to do in this world. We are to be part of the “called out,” to do Jesus’ work and will in the world. Christians not only have responsibilities to family and work, but they are to be an active part of the body of Christ. In Colossians, Paul teaches us about...

III. The behavior of Christians in their churches! (vv. 4:2-4)

1. How a Christian prays for their church says a lot about what they believe about the body of Christ! Paul used the imperative to encourage his readers to persevere in prayer. The word translated “prayer” is a general term for worship and prayer. Paul admonished the Colossians to be watchful or “wide awake” in their prayer lives. In other words, Christians need to be more devoted in impassioned prayer. Some of us are not eloquent speakers or astute scholars, but all of us can spend time in enthusiastic prayer for the needs of our church and those around us by “being watchful and thankful.” Notice too that Paul specifically asks for their prayers. “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” If you are not praying for your pastor, ministers, teachers, and other workers in your church you are limiting and weakening the effectiveness of your congregation! Why would I say that? Paul urgently related to them, “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should!” The idea is one of emphasis. Paul believed he was chosen to do what God had given him to do and he desperately needed his fellow church member’s prayers in order to do it effectively: “as clearly as [he] should!” Paul had to proclaim the gospel and they needed to pray for him! Paul knew that how a Christian prays for their church says a lot about what they believe about the body of Christ!

EXAMPLE: What does your routine involve? Perhaps it is getting yourself or your family ready for the day. Perhaps it involves getting off to work, children to school, caring for your home, and helping in your church. Maybe you do not think there isn’t much opportunity to be used mightily by God. Well, you are wrong! With all the emphasis on the extravagant these days, it’s easy for us to lose sight of the fact that God is the God of everyday living. It seems that we’re always looking for some great display of his power in our lives. However, what the Lord desires is for us to focus on doing his will from our heart every day, delighting in humble service for Jesus, especially in his body the church. In fact, Paul would say that how a Christian prays for their church says a lot about what they believe about the body of Christ!

Finally, we discover that the Christian does not just have a family to nurture, a job to work at, or a church to serve in, but we exist is to worship the Lord in all we do. In fact, wherever we walk, whatever we do, and wherever we live, we are part of the world the Lord has created! Finally, Paul teaches us about...

IV. The behavior of Christians in the World! (vv. 4:5-6)

1. What a Christian does with their spare time says a lot about their faithfulness! The phrase, “make the most of every opportunity” literally is “redeeming the time”. It comes from the world of commerce. It refers to going down to the market and making a purchase. The verb form indicates that such action is to be constant and habitual on the believer’s part. We must therefore exercise wisdom at all times in order to demonstrate that we are serious about our Christian living. Christians are to “be wise in the way [they] act toward outsiders.” Christians do this when they make sure their “conversation” is “always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” “Salt” meant the Gospel of Jesus. Christians should act and sound like Christians! This is also why Jesus reminded his followers, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’.” Why? Jesus related, “Anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37) In fact, Jesus would tell his listeners, “Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’” (Matthew 15:17-18) As someone once quipped, “We say what we mean and we can be mean with what we say.” Paul reminds us that the believer’s conduct includes his free time and his speech. What a Christian does with their spare time says a lot about their faithfulness!

EXAMPLE: I read a fable about a man who was browsing in a store when he made the shocking discovery that God was behind a sales counter. The man walked over and asked, “What are you selling?” God replied, “What does your heart desire?” The man said, “I want happiness, peace of mind, and freedom from fear… for me and the whole world.” God smiled and said, “Oh, I don't sell fruit here. Only seeds.” God has given us the “seeds” of the gospel to share with the world around us. What “seeds” are you sowing in the world around you? Paul would write that what a Christian does with their spare time says a lot about their faithfulness.

Conclusion:

Paul teaches about our responsibilities as Christians in four areas of life: 1) The behavior of Christians in the home, 2) The behavior of Christians on the job, 3) The behavior of Christians in their churches, and 4) The behavior of Christians in the World.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Psalm 32 - The joy of forgiveness!

Psalm 32 - The joy of forgiveness!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 21, 2011 AM

Who are the happiest people on earth you know? No, it is not necessarily those who go to Disneyland! Usually it is someone who has something wonderful to share like the birth of a baby or an anniversary of some kind. That is the way it was with King David in Psalm 32. He had something wonderful he just had to share. David had experienced the joy of repentance! In fact, in the process he had promised God that if he would be forgiven of his sin then he would spend the rest of his days telling others about the forgiveness he had experienced. This Psalm will give us an account of how David does that. David shares with us about the joy of forgiveness!

Yates, in writing about this Psalm, states, “Immediately we are confronted with the ringing declaration that not only gives an accurate picture of the experience of a human soul but rewards us with the universal truth that will transform lives!” Words seem to fail David as he describes for us his experience of being forgiven by God. He joyously sings, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” Forgiveness has brought joy and happiness. It always does. The holy heart of God had been fully satisfied with what David had done and found delight in taking David’s sin away! David now shares with us how he experienced the joy of forgiveness!

READ: Psalm 32:1-7


What is the most awful thing that has ever happened to you? Can you remember how it felt and what it was like? David remembered what his sin felt like. It was horrible. Sin should always be awful for the person who has a personal relationship with God. In pausing to look back at that horrible nightmare, David tells us how sin ruled him and how he suffered from its affects. For David, because of the joy of forgiveness…

I. Sin was now a dark memory! (Vv. 3-4)

1. The dark memory of sin fades in the shining light of God’s love!
1) David gives us a vivid picture of what it is like for the person who has a conscience concerning their sin condition (vv. 3-4). While he refused to acknowledge his sin (kept silent), his bones wasted away! David would cry, “O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.” (Psalm 22:2 NIV) It is because, for the person who is in sin, God always seems silent.
2) David knew that was a horrible place to be. The early Christians called it the “dark night of the soul.” It is as if the light of God and his eternal presence were gone. For David it was true. Now David could thank God because it proved his conscience was still alive and that the hand of God was heavy upon him! He groaned under its weight all day long and his strength was sapped because of it!
3) In another dramatic example the church at Ephesus had forgotten their “first love” (Jesus), and he reminds them to “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 2:5 NIV) Come back to God who loved you! Peter would remark that the person who has no conscience of his sin “is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” (2 Peter 1:9 NIV) David was not only conscience of his sin, but his sin was now a dark memory because of the joy of forgiveness!

EXAMPLE: I will always remember holding my father’s hand as Ed tried to do something to revive him. It was hopeless and he died. It is an awful memory indelibly etched into my mind. However, more awful and dark is the memory of not having Christ in control of my life! Sin’s dark stain should always bring revulsion and horror to the believer. If it does not then, the question begs to be answered, “Do you really know Christ as your Savior and Lord?” For the Godly person, sin is a dark memory best left behind through the joy of forgiveness!

Have you ever been in a deep fog? (No, not merely mentally, but rather an actual physical fog where you cannot see but a few feet in front of you.) You strain to see what is coming ahead and you can’t. You want to see clearly through the mist. You want to know what is ahead of you. Well, like a person coming out of a fogbank and into the sunlight, David finally comes to himself and sees clearly the way God provides restoration and forgiveness. Being in sin, for the believer, is like being in a deep spiritual fog. The joy of forgiveness brings us to…

II. Acknowledgment and confession of our sin! (v. 5)

1. Uncovering sin means prying loose the hardened shell of a sinner’s heart and letting God cover you with his love instead!
1) David acknowledged his sin, his iniquity, and he confessed his transgressions to the Lord. It was all opened to the Lord. David confessed these three things about himself: 1) his transgressions (peh’-shah -- meaning rebellion, 2) his iniquity (aw-vone’ -- perversity, warped nature), and 3) his sin (khat-taw-aw’ -- habitually missing the mark!). Notice how David was specific in his confession. He did not try to conceal his problem. He knew he was a rebellious, perverted, sinner!
2) The good news for us today is the grace of God because of Jesus Christ! The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV) When we confess our sins, we have Jesus to take them to for forgiveness! Jesus sympathizes with our weakness! He does not like our sin, but He does love us and we can acknowledge our sin freely and openly to him!
3) David could never have known what it was like to be forgiven if he had not confessed and acknowledged his sin. In a shout of praise, he yells, “And you forgave the guilt of my sin!” It is the cry of someone who knows that no dark blotched record remains. David would later write, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him!” (Psalm 103:11-13 NIV) David knew this to be true because he willingly acknowledged and confessed his sin!

EXAMPLE: I remember my Dad was always tougher on us if we tried to lie about something we had done. He’d say, “Boys, it will be a lot easier on you if you just tell the truth.” Sometimes I would wonder about that because we always suffered the consequences of the trouble we were in no matter what. Yet I do remember Dad would be easier on us if we confessed it and were truly sorry. We still had to face the consequences but it was easier! His punishment was not as harsh then. God tells us that if we are truly repentant, acknowledge and confess our sin he will never bring our sin to mind again! How wonderful to know that! It brings the joy of forgiveness!

If you had something wonderful to tell others especially if it meant life or death, wouldn’t you want to share it? We now find David bringing an exhortation to all who might listen to what happened to him and the joy of forgiveness. He wants every soul to be certain of the joys that repentance and pardon bring. As one pardoned, he shares the joy of forgiveness with…

III. A grateful testimony! (Vv. 6-7)

1. God is the sweet sugar of forgiveness to any sin-soured soul!
1) David’s song of joy is expressed best when he encourages us to, “Let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found!” David had come to know that God alone could be his hiding place, his protection, and his deliverance! For the Christian, Paul writes, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3 NIV) He knew this is how the believer could “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator!” (3:10) Paul continues, “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12 NIV) Only those with a grateful testimony of being forgiven could do such a thing because they were changed!
2) This is why David could sing, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” For the Christian, Jesus is our hiding place! Faith in Christ gives us the assurance of the gripping power of God. For this reason Jesus declared, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28 NIV) Once we are forgiven of sin, we are forgiven and hidden in God!
3) Anyone who knows Jesus understands how He delivers anyone who trusts in Him. Paul wrote about how he had faced extreme trials yet Jesus always delivered him. He said that Jesus “has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us!” (2 Corinthians 1:10 NIV) Paul’s grateful testimony, like David’s, is what anyone can enjoy when experiencing the joy of forgiveness! God does deliver us through faith in Jesus Christ!

EXAMPLE: I remember wondering, “How can something so sour make something so sweet and good?” However, that’s the way it is with lemons made into lemonade. My grandmother used to say, “Enough sugar can make anything sweet, except your grandfather!” Bitterness of the soul is usually caused by sin left unconfessed. A grateful heart begins with a cleansed soul. As I stated earlier, “God is the sweet sugar of forgiveness to any sin-soured soul!” The grateful testimony of David rings clear through the ages and is so much sweeter now because of Jesus Christ! William Kirkpatrick wrote, “Redeemed--how I love to proclaim it! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed through His infinite mercy, His child, and forever, I am. Redeemed, redeemed, Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed, redeemed, His child, and forever, I am.” It comes from the grateful testimony of the joy of forgiveness!

Conclusion:
Finally, we see how God speaks to those He loves. God will be our teacher, our counselor, and our leader (v. 8). Far too often, we are like stubborn horses, or worse, like foolish mules! Mule-headed we will not acknowledge our sin and experience the joy of forgiveness for ourselves. Instead, we will stubbornly remain in our sinful condition and wonder why so many bad things are happening to us! (Vv. 9-10) David earnestly pleads: “Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” We can as well if only we remember sins dark memory, confess and acknowledge our sin, and then we will be grateful in our hearts to God! It is found in the joy of forgiveness!
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.