Letting the Peace of Christ Rule Your Heart
[Colossians chapter three]
Today I will continue (praise God that he gives me the internal fortitude and his Holy Spirit to empower me!) our study of the book of Colossians. Last week when we finished chapter two, the apostle Paul was elaborating on the fact that the Law of Moses had been fulfilled and was replaced by the commands of Jesus Christ because he himself became the new law, or a new sacrifice that took the place of the animal sacrifices of old. The shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins is an ancient concept dating back to at least the time of Abraham over 4,000 years ago, and it is discussed in detail in the book of Exodus, among others. But when Jesus was crucified and put to death on the cross, he shed his blood for all our sins once and for all. No more sacrifice was required, except for the personal sacrifice each one of us makes by accepting Jesus Christ as the Savior of our souls, and by voluntarily stepping aside as we give our lives, our minds, and our bodies up to Jesus. Let’s hold that thought while we delve into this portion of the Word of God as written by the apostle Paul.
“Since, then, you have been raised in Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and now your life is now hidden with Christ and God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and put on a new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Col. 3, verses 1 through 11, NIV)
“Since, then, you have been raised in Christ, set your hearts on things above…”. Paul is telling us here in unmistakable terms that we as followers of Christ had better get our priorities straight. When Jesus was raised from the dead on the morning of the third day, we who were dead in our sins against God were raised up with him. “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” Our lives should revolve around our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and of maintaining our salvation by obeying his commandments. Those persons who are obsessed with accumulating profits, particularly when it is done at the expense of others, or who are focused on acquiring material goods and status symbols, cannot do so and still call themselves worshipers of Jesus. Don’t forget what Jesus said, “You cannot worship both God and money.” Either we are spiritual or we are worldly. None of us can have it both ways, so pick one or the other. I will quote the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, “Choose today whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory.” This is a clear reference to the second coming of Christ. When He returns, those who have died in Christ will return to rule the earth with him. We will have the honor and privilege of accompanying Jesus at that momentous time. We will be part of a mighty Spiritual army of believers who will be returning right along with him.
“You must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other…”. This is (hopefully) self-explanatory. Refusing to let go of our hurt feelings, whether real or imagined, and carrying grudges on our shoulders is incompatible with our faith in Christ. In the same way, people who are always angry or people who have hot tempers, or who have hearts filled with rage, are simply not going to make it into heaven when they finally die. We can’t expect God to forgive our sins against him if we go around being unforgiving towards others. People who claim to love God and to be followers of Christ while harboring grudges towards other people don’t understand the true Gospel or are willfully ignorant towards it, and one is as bad as the other in God’s eyes as well as my own. Paul sums it up when he wrote, “put on a new self”. Discard the old you, the person you were before you got saved by accepting Christ as the head of your life. Put on a new self modeled after Jesus instead. There is no substitute.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have with one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Slaves, obey your masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Jesus Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.” (Col. 3, verses 12-25, NIV)
“Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have with one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Conversely, those who are cold, uncaring and mean people – especially those who enjoy being that way – people who are violent and who gloat over their brutality and their ability to kick some ass “just because”, those who are proud to the point of arrogance and conceit, and impatient people who want everything and they wanted it all as of yesterday; all these kinds of people and those who emulate them have no place whatsoever in the coming Kingdom of God, nor are their names written in the Lamb’s book of life that is prophesied in the book of Revelation (chapter 20, verse 12). Those who think otherwise are quite frankly delusional, having lost all touch with reality as far as I’m concerned. In doing so they deceive themselves, and they are going to be in for a very rude awakening at Christ’s second coming.
“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rules in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” The antidote to all of the above negative emotions and thought patterns is unconditional love. This goes far beyond having mere human affection or physical attraction for others. Our love for one another is and must remain unconditional, just as Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross showed Jesus’ unconditional love for us – if only we will believe in truth and with the utmost sincerity in our Savior, Jesus Christ. His eternal peace will rest within our hearts, but only if we practice all the positive human attributes Paul listed above. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…”. When one finds oneself in situations where they must deal with all types of people, if you’re not sure what your next step or next move is, simply ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing, or about to do, pleasing to Christ?” If it is, that’s good and you should proceed without delay or debate. If not, then step away from those people or that situation or you will get burned, that’s for sure. Leave permanently if you have to.
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t play mind games with each other since that is counterproductive and will ultimately doom your marriages to failure. Never, ever be or act abusively towards one another since that is completely contrary to the teachings of Christ. You kids be sure and obey your moms and dads because God is watching you. Parents, never act in an overbearing or domineering manner towards your children for the same reasons. Parents who have short tempers and lack patience raise children to be the same, because kids emulate and imitate what they see. If we want to raise Christian children then we must follow the teachings of Christ, and not doing so inevitably ends up in abuse, grief, strife and even criminal behavior that permanently damages kids, and nobody wants that.
“Slaves, obey your masters in everything…”. Slavery back in the days of Christ was a firmly entrenched institution that dates back at least 5,000 years, and probably more. There are some who smugly congratulate themselves that slavery no longer exists in America, but I have observed that slavery – economic slavery – thrives in the 21st century here in America and even more so around the world. The explanation is simple. If the take-home pay of any given individual worker or independent contractor does not meet the most basic needs of the worker and his/her family – that is, food, shelter, transportation, electricity, heating and medical needs and clothing – then that person is a slave. I have vehemently preached and taught against this very thing since I first entered the ministry in 2009, and I will continue to do so, God willing, until I draw my last breath! An injustice towards one is an injustice towards all, and I stand openly and forcefully against injustice in all its forms. So the modern interpretation of this verse is, “Employees, obey your bosses, even the abusive and the incompetent”, and there are plenty of those kinds as you know all too well. Try not to be overly concerned about this. The capitalist economic system we are all living under is in its death throes anyway, and when it collapses – and it will, mark my words – the present-day corporate business model will similarly collapse under its own weight. And that, dear readers, is something we can all look forward to.