Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan
Sermon Title: The maturing disciple seeks personal holiness and corporate unity
Scripture Text: Colossians 3:1-17
Seeking Personal Holiness (v1 – 8)
Seeking Corporate Unity (v9-17)
1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Blessed Sunday to all. Glad that we can come together again to sing praises to God, listen to His Word and for those in Jerusalem Sanctuary to participate in the Lord’s Supper.
I heard that one of the companies that has done well during this pandemic is Netflix.
In Sept, Netflix launched a docudrama titled ‘The Social Dilemma’. And it is based on many interviews of technology insiders who helped build platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter.
On Tuesday 3 Nov, the Life Section of the Straits Times did a full page feature on this docudrama.
Basically this docudrama highlights, how social media users have been monetised and manipulated without their knowledge.
It also draws a link between the rise of these social media platforms and the soaring rates of teenage depression and suicide especially among young girls.
The docudrama shows how algorithms behind these social media platforms are not designed to present the truth. For example, in one scene, the answer Google gives for the same question is dependent on who types in the question.
Quoting the producer of the show, the greatest negative impact of social media is this – “the micro-targeting, surveillance-driven advertising business model that powers our social media and search engines …. We are seeing misinformation and conspiracy theories go viral, we’re seeing polarization. And we’re seeing the impact on mental health in a really big way as well.”
I don’t think it is possible to isolate ourselves from Social Media completely. The world is going digital, we are becoming more comfortable with working from home and connections are getting faster with 5G around the corner.
I submit, as we navigate this dangerous digital future, not just for ourselves but also for our children, we want to thank God that we do not venture forward without any light.
As believers, we can take comfort that we have the clear and unchanging light from God Word.
As God calls us into His Kingdom, God in His wisdom does not remove us from society. Instead Jesus says we are still to be in the world but not of the world. And Jesus goes further and says, not just be in the world, be salt and light in the world.
We will be salt and light in this world when we live out the key verses of Colossians –
Col 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
And so last week, one practical implication of walking in Christ, is to take heed to the warnings about false spirituality. Remember the Air New Zealand scenic flight to Antarctica? We must not be on the wrong flight path.
In today’s passage, Paul moves to the other end of the spectrum. After warning about false spirituality, Paul now turns to True Spirituality.
So as believers who are navigating this dangerous world both offline and online, we are to reject false spirituality and we are to embrace true spirituality.
I’ve divided today’s passage into 2 segments. The first 8 verses, I’ve entitled – The maturing disciple seeks personal holiness. And for v9 to v17, I’ve entitled it the maturing disciple seeks corporate unity.
I would like to pose questions of the text and to then attempt to answer them from the text for us this morning.
Seeking Personal Holiness (v1 – 8)
Col 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses … Col 2:20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, ….. 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
(1) Why seek holiness? – Let’s ask the first question, why should we seek holiness? The way chapter 3 begins ‘if then you have been raised’ connects us back to Col 2:20. To be raised means we have first to die.
And so that is what Col 2:20 has informed us. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we have died with Christ. That means we have died to sin. The absolute hold of sin upon our lives has been broken.
And so now in Christ, we have been raised, we have been made alive. Col 2:13 says, we are now experiencing the freedom that comes with the forgiveness of our sins.
And so because we have been forgiven of our sins, we are now set free to live holy lives. Lives pleasing to God.
Since we now can live as children of the God’s kingdom. Thus we should no longer live as people who are still under the domain of darkness.
So why seek holiness? Because in Christ we have been forgiven and freed from sin. Because in Christ, we are alive and are children of God.
(2) What attitude must we have? Scripture says, seek the things that are above, set your minds on things that are above.
To seek and to set are action words. They are God’s commands, and so we cannot take it just as a suggestion.
And God says, don’t just seek once, it is a continuous action that we are to keep at. Keep seeking and keep setting our minds.
And it is for things above. Why? Because Jesus is seated at God’s right hand. Seek the things of Jesus, seek spiritual things.
And these commands are to be obeyed because Jesus is in the place of authority. He is seated at God’s right hand.
So what is to be our attitude? It is the attitude of complete obedience.
In the NIV, they translate v1 as Col 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (NIV).
It’s because to seek is to set your affections upon.
And so, our attitude of obedience covers both our hearts and our minds.
Social media advertising is targeted marketing. It plays upon our preferences, our likes and dislikes.
How is our media consumption increasing our obedience towards God in the area of our hearts and minds?
(3) How are we encouraged to persevere? Paul shares with the Colossian believers how he struggled in living out his calling at the end of Chapter 1. And we know that this is par for all Christians from the time of Noah right up to today.
So how has Scripture encouraged us in our perseverance towards holiness? Let’s look Col 3:3-4 for the answer.
Scripture says, we have died with Christ. That is our past. And we understand this to teach us that in Christ, the power of sin has been broken in our lives.
Church this is important to know, if not, we will live still as defeated people. People who just give up and say, I can’t fight my sinful self.
An important truth we need to internalize:
1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
The ills of social media can be overcome when we face it in the strength that God gives.
From the past now to the present. Our life is hidden with Christ in God. As a comfort, it means that in every storm, we can run to God who is our shelter. We can hide under his everlasting arms.
But this hiddenness has also another dimension. When taken together with v4, it means that our new life in God is for this time now, hidden, it’s not visible. Though we are in Christ, yet, Christ is hidden from us, in that we do not see Him with our natural eyes.
This is the tension of the Now and Not Yet. This is the tension we have to live with, between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming.
And finally, we can persevere because of the glorious certain hope of our future. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
At Christ 2nd coming, which we believe is a reality, we will realize in a fuller way, that Christ is our life. He is the one who has been sustaining us all along as we seek holiness.
And whatever trials and challenges in our perseverance towards holiness, when we see Jesus, we will realize that it has been worth it all. Because we will be glorified in Him.
(4) What must we flee from?
Col 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
Because of the Now and Not Yet, though in Christ the power of sin has been destroyed, yet because we are on this side of eternity, we still have to grapple with the effects of sin.
And so Scripture issues us another command. ‘Put to death what is earthly in you’.
Since Holiness is about things above, therefore, earthly, fleshing desires are not for those who have been raised with Christ.
That is a very strong word to use. It shows how serious God sees our sinful earthly desires. So literally it means we are to murder our earthly desires. We are to kill it, so that it cannot even have the slightest possibility of influencing us.
Here, two areas of sinful desires are highlighted.
Firstly sexuality – sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Our sexuality is God-given, but the boundaries are within marriage, of one man and one woman.
The word translated Sexual Immorality is the word ‘Porneia’ from which we have pornography. I’m sure it is no surprise to all of us that the Porn Industry is one of the biggest revenue generators on the internet.
Social media just makes porn more accessible and mainstream.
In these 5 descriptions which are all linked to sexuality, we see a progression from the external ‘sexual immorality’ to the internal ‘lust’, ‘greed’.
And Scripture says, the root cause is idolatry. We want to satisfy our sinful cravings and put ourselves as a priority above God.
The second area that is highlighted is that of anger. Put to death anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
Here it is from the inside out. Anger, when not given to the Lord, becomes rage and that is outwardly manifested as malice, slander and filthy language.
Interestingly in the lead up to speaking about sinful anger, Scripture warns us about God’s righteous anger. For all who do not repent and turn to God, God’s wrath will be poured out upon them.
For believers, the 2nd coming of Jesus is glorious – 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
But for those who do not put their hope in Jesus Christ, Jesus will come at His 2nd Coming as Judge and v6 is what they are to expect.
Church, let us double our efforts to share the Gospel so that v4 and not v6 will be applicable to our family and friends.
Finally, (5) Where is the power to live holy lives? The short answer is v1 we have been raised with Christ’. This we understand to mean that the power of the resurrection is also the same power that will enable us to live holy lives.
Remember in chapter 1, Paul already prayed for the believers:
Col 1:11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.
And this is I submit, best encapsulated in the Benediction which is often used from Eph 3:20-21.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
The ills of social media and the internet are dependent on electric power for our devises and our WiFi router.
So if we want to live lives of holiness in the digital future, our source of power, must be to connected with Christ and His resurrection.
Seeking Corporate Unity (v9-17)
Col 3:9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
True spirituality is when the maturing disciple seeks after personal holiness. Now in v9 to 17, we will see that true spirituality is for the maturing disciple to seek after corporate unity.
Paul ends v8 on the issue of anger in relation to speech. The vocalization of our feelings through our mouths.
And so he transits very smoothly from the personal realm to that of the corporate realm. True spirituality does not mean just obscene or filthy language, it also means not lying to one another.
Again we will ask a few questions and look at the text for the answers.
(1) What has Christ achieved (v11). Let’s establish why corporate unity is the focus of this section. Remember this is being read in the house church of Philemon. And so Paul is saying, here in this gathering, there is unity because of Christ.
Here is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all.
Remember there are both Jews and Gentiles in the church. There is Philemon a wealthy man and there is Onesimus his runaway slave.
In Christ, all listening to this letter are one. This unity has been brought with the precious blood of Christ. This unity is thus very costly and thus very precious.
(2) What then destroys unity? Since this unity is so precious, what then can destroy this unity? V8-9 says do not lie to one another, instead put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
What is the opposite of lying to one another? That is to speak the truth. And so Ephesians tells us:
Eph 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Speaking the truth in love builds maturity and unity.
Here I would like to highlight one thing. Normally it is the people who want to speak the truth that quotes this verse.
But let’s also be people who would accept the truth in love. Let’s not justify, let’s not say, you have misunderstood my situation.
May I submit, that for us to learn to speak the truth in love, we first must be able to learn how to receive the truth in love.
When there is no longer a culture of lying to one another but instead speaking and accepting truth in love, we will move towards growing into the image of our creator.
Col 1:15 reminds us that Christ is the image of the invisible God. And so, when we are conforming into the image of our Creator, we are basically growing in the likeness of Christ.
Church is this not want we want? Yes, to be like Jesus! Scripture says, it is possible in the correct corporate environment of unity.
So let’s not lie to one another, for that will cause us to forfeit such blessings of being moulded into Christ-likeness.
(3) Why we can be united?
Col 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
To make sure that we set our hearts and our minds towards striving towards corporate unity, Paul tells us the reasons why it is possible in v12 and v15.
Believers are God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved. Now church this is the language of the Old Testament. This is the language associated with the nation of Israel. This is typically addressed to the Jews, those who are the circumcised.
In the light of v11, where there no Greek or Jew, Paul says the language reserved for the nation of Israel is now applied to the church. To the local assembly in Philemon’s home. All believers are God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.
And so v15 adds, we are called into one body.
As we relish the privileges to be called God’s chosen, who are loved by God. Acknowledge also that a fellow Hermonite can also claim this equal privilege. For God has placed us all, in one body.
Church this is our reason to seek unity in Hermon. It has nothing to do with whether we have chemistry, that we share any common social or educational backgrounds.
Our unity is because Christ has chosen us.
(4) What must we become to promote unity? Since Christ has established unity, since He has called us into unity, what must we become to promote unity?
We see 7 characteristics we must develop – compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, forgiving each other.
These characteristics moves from the inside (compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience) and then to the external (bearing with others and forgiving others).
And if we cannot remember all these 7 characteristics, I submit, Paul says all this is captured in the verb ‘love’. All 7 characteristics are the outworking of Agape Love.
Again, if we look into details of each of these 7 characteristics, we would find that they are all exemplified in the life of our Lord Jesus.
So to become like Jesus will promote unity.
And Hebrews complements this by encouraging us:
Heb 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
(5) What are our guiding principles for sustained unity?
Col 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Unity can only happen when we meet together. Zoom and whatsapp videos help but only to a limited extent. They are a stop gap measure.
But when we meet, what is Scripture’s advice to be our guiding principles? 3 things Paul says should guide us.
Firstly the peace of Christ should rule in our hearts. The peace of Christ we know is achieved at the Cross. Through Christ blood we have peace with God. And at the same time, we have been reconciled with one another.
So this blood-bought peace should dictate, should undergird all our interactions. I’m sure we will all agree, functioning this way would definitely enhance unity.
Secondly, we are to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. That’s Scripture. And so it means in every aspect of our gatherings, Scripture is to be abundantly used. Let us soak in Scripture.
And we see too that even in the singing of hymns and praise songs, Scriptural truths can be conveyed. This happens when we choose lyrics which are based on a sound understanding of Scripture.
May I encourage us all, memorize and internalize the truths from these songs. And let us sing them to the Lord and to each other.
I’m confident that when we sing Gospel truths to one another, we will encourage each other and that will promote unity.
Finally, doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. This means acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus in every sphere of our lives.
It means in our speech and our deeds, it is according to the character of Jesus, it is in accordance to His principles and His priorities.
If Jesus permeates every aspect of our lives, I submit, we will be a very credible witness for Jesus. And with that, I’m certain the Lord can use us to grow the body of Christ.
Besides the dangers already shared with regards to the digital revolution. In a 2003 article in the Journal of Computer-mediated Communication, one additional highlighted effect of the Internet:
“The Internet decreases community – The Internet through its entertainment and information capabilities draws people away from family and friends. Further, by facilitating global communication and involvement, it reduces interest in the local community and its politics. At worst, it results in isolated individuals dealing unequally with large governments and organizations, in the kind of “mass societies” that political commentators warned about in the 1950s.”
Church, I trust that we have seen that God’s Word is still relevant to the dangers of the Internet and Social Media.
If we want to live out Col 2:6-7 and navigate this digital world as maturing disciple, Scripture exhorts us to keep seeking out personal holiness and corporate unity.
Almighty God, you word is living and active and sharper than any 2-edged sword. We thank you that it was relevant for the Colossian believers and it is also relevant for us today. May we take heed to your word and by the empowering of your Holy Spirt continue to be rooted and build up in Jesus and established in the faith. Amen.