15 Nov 2020


The Maturing Disciples at Home and with Outsiders

Speaker: Dn Lee Pang Wee
Sermon Title: The Maturing Disciples at Home and with Outsiders
Scripture Text: Colossians 3:18 – 4:6

Relating to one another under divine order at home v 3:18-4:1

Praying with steadfast watch and thanksgiving in private v4:2-4

Walking in wisdom and grace towards outsiders in public v4:5-6

Concluding Reflections

  1. If you are a husband, what can you do to make your wife’s submission a good and joyful thing? If you are a wife, what can you do to make your husband’s love a good and joyful thing?
  2. What advice would you give to a fellow believer who is finding it difficult to get around to praying?
  3. In what ways ought our knowledge of God’s grace affect our walk and words, particularly to ‘outsiders’?
Scripture: Colossians 3:18–4:6 (ESV)

18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 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. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

TRANSCRIPT

INTRODUCTION

Good morning. We continue our series from the book of Colossians with the
Theme – “A Maturing Disciple”.

Paul prays for the Colossians that they may be presented mature in Christ
(1:28, 4:12). What marks a maturing disciple? In the past weeks, our
Pastors have shown that the maturing disciple is one filled with thanksgiving,
who prays ceaselessly, acknowledges Christ is above all, proclaims Christ,
lives for Christ, is alert against false spirituality, and seeks personal holiness
and corporate unity.

In today’s passage, Paul shows how maturing disciples are to live at home,
when alone, and with outsiders. I have outlined the sermon with 3 points.

The first point is on the family. Christian lives are first lived at home. We are
most ourselves at home. Do you agree with this – that Christians are saints
abroad, but devils at home? If the gospel is not transforming lives at home,
then it won’t transform lives in the world. Because what the world sees of
the Christians are not real, they’re hidden behind masks. So Paul starts from
the home.

The second, how Christians are to live in their private life. How should he
mainly occupy himself in his private time and space ?

The third point – Christians in public life. Christians don’t just live at home
nor in private. The reality is – God has put us to be surrounded by the world.
Everyday we interact with outsiders.

Before we go on, note one thing. Christian life is not a matter of dos and
don’ts. Rather, it is a matter of who we are. We live as who we are. Ps
Daniel told us we are not what we once were. We have died. We have been
transferred into God’s kingdom. Our citizenship is now in heaven. We are
citizens of heaven even though we are on earth. So the instructions in this
passage are not about rules, but a reminder of how life in heaven is lived on
earth.

Now, lets start with the first point, from chapter 3:18 – 4:1.

Does this passage look familiar ? Yes, it parallels Ephesians 5 and 6.

Imagine, that day Tychicus was reading the letter in a house church in
Colossae. Gathered were the husbands, wives and children, and slaves and
their masters. First, they heard that Paul has been praying for them, and
that’s good. They heard who Christ is and what he has done, and that’s good
too, they know Christ a little better. And they heard Paul’s warnings about
the false gospel of circumcision of the flesh, and worship of angels. “While, I
don’t think this is a major problem here”, they thought to themselves.

And then they were reminded about who they were, and what they are now.
They are now raised with Christ. They are to put off their old self, and put on
the new self. “Yes, very good, that’s what a good pastoral letter should be.”
And then they heard ….. “Wives, submit to your husbands.”

And we can imagine, many started to perk up, and not a few wives looked
down with their eyes. What is Paul saying, why is he saying it?

Paul is not saying something new to the family. There is a God given divine
order kept in his word for the family. And Paul said it simply. First, he tells
each family member of his or her role. Each has a distinct role from the
other. Each can know what is expected of them. Then Paul gives the reason
why.

So when a Christian comes home, when he walks through the front door, the
question he should be asking is not “What should I expect of my wife, or of
my children, or of my servant?” No. Instead he or she should ask ‘What is
expected of me?”. Whether you are a husband, wife, child, father, slave or
master, God has a word for each of us – what is expected of me at home.

So lets us start with the roles. To make it simple, we give one word for each
role.

In verse 18, the word for the wife is ‘submit’. Wives, submit to your
husband. Do we agree?

Well, the word ‘submit’ does not mean a fearful surrender under a tyrant
husband. ‘Submit’ is something voluntarily given. It is not imposed. A
Christian wife who submits to her husband is saying, “Here I am, this is who
I am. I have my talents, I have my gifts, my qualifications, skills, it is all for
you”. The word submit means to ‘order under’, to ‘put yourself under the
order’. A Christian wife who submits to her husband is saying, “Here am I, I
voluntarily order my life under yours.”

Next, verse 19, the word for the husbands is ‘love’. “Husbands, love your
wives”. Why the word ‘love’? If the wife were to submit, why didn’t Paul say
“Husbands, rule your wives”, or, “Husbands, lord over your wives”. But
God’s Word instead says ‘love’. The word love is the same word to describe
how Christ loved the church. It means a person acts on the welfare of the
other, even if it costs him. So a husband is to put the interest of his wife
before him, in every action, thought and situation. Ephesians 5 tells us
husbands to love our wives as Christ loved the church. How? Paul illustrates
– husbands should love the wives as their own bodies. Our wives are now
part of us. To be harsh, or bitter with her, is to treat her as something
separate from our own body.

I write letters to my wife and children on their birthdays. In Chris’ recent
birthday, I wrote and told her I love her. Then I asked her to tell me what I
should continue doing to show love to her. I signed off, and felt I have done
a smart job. On her birthday, she didn’t mention the letter. A week later,
still nothing heard. So one day I asked her, “Did you receive the birthday
letter from me?” “Yes I did”. “And what do you think about my question –
what I should continue doing to show my love to you?” Her reply, “Aiyah,
how can you ask your wife how she wants to be loved… it should come from
you, you should know what to do….”. I scratched my head. Then I remember
Ephesians 5. God has given us his Word, plain and simple. Love her as my
own body. Think for her and do to her as I would for myself. So husbands,
the moral of the story – read our Bibles! And if you do, beware, you have no
more excuse!

Verse 20. The word for children is obey. Obey not for the sake of the
parents, but because parents are responsible to care for you. God has given
this responsibility to parents. Now, since this letter also speaks to children,
does it seem like there is an expectation by Paul that children would be
gathered with their parents, when God’s Word is read? Yah?

Verse 21 tells the fathers, “Do not provoke your children”. To put it in the
positive, ‘Fathers, encourage your children’. So the word for fathers is
‘encourage’. The role of the father is not to discourage, not to crush the
children. But this does not mean to molly coddle them. It is to build them
up, to hearken them, to strengthen them. For this, I myself am still learning.

One day my girls told me how when they were growing up, when they
shared something with me, I cared less about how they felt than about what
I thought was good for them. I was quick to give ‘fatherly opinion’, with all
good intention and love, which I thought would help them. But sometimes,
what they needed was not for me to tell them what to do, or not to do, but
to tell them I understand how they feel, and I am here for them, to
encourage them. Even to today, I am still learning how to do that. Only
recently, I began to understand how they have felt, thanks to the iPhone
Health apps.

The Health 360 program challenges us to walk 10,000 steps a day. But in
the last few months, I have back pain. So I walked less.

Very quickly, the iPhone Health Apps alerted me: “You didn’t walk as far
yesterday as you did the day before”. Thanks for the reminder. So the next
few days I tried to walk a little more to make up for it, and I thought I would
be commended.

Instead, it sent me this: “ On average, your this year’s step count is lower
than last year’s”. I know, thank you. I have back ache, lah. I will try. So try
I did, pushing myself up even more steps one day. And I thought I’d get a
sweet note from the Apps.

Instead, I got this: “One average, you are walking less this year compared
to last year.” Come on, man, don’t you know I have spinal column
compression, I can’t walk as much this year as last year. But I have put in
effort! Can you still give me a clap?

If you know who is the developer for this Health Apps, I would like to tell
him how I felt about his Apps. Yes, my spirit was crushed before my spinal
columns actually do.

God’s word tells us fathers what not to do – do not provoke our children.
Instead, encourage them, otherwise we may crush them.

V22. We know among the people gathered that day were slaves, translated
as bondservants. Among the slaves was one called Onesimus. We may
recall, Onenimus was a slave who ran away from his master Philemon. He
heard the gospel preached, was converted and found himself serving the
Lord alongside Paul and Ephrapas. And Onesimus carried this letter from
Paul. Could this explain the letter has more words for slaves?

The word for bondservants is ‘obey’. ‘Obey’ in everything? Some would be
alarmed. But Paul is saying that in everything that a Christian slave does,
unless it is illegal, he is now doing it for the Lord. Because they now serve
Christ, not man.

Chapter 4 verse 1, Masters are to give their bondservants a just and fair
treatment. So the word for Masters is give.

What do we think of this letter to the Straits Times on 29 Oct this year,
“People becoming inordinately demanding towards maids”? The writer asked
those who have domestic helper the questions:

  • Would they themselves clean the floors on their knees with hard
    cloths?
  • Or hand wash every piece of clothing, including the children’s army
    uniforms?
  • Or wash every toilet every day before 6:00 am in the morning?
  • Just because we are paying the domestic helper does not mean we
    have to give them unnecessary manual work.
  • What are we society becoming when we treat our guests to work like
    this for us?

How are you a Christian Master today? You are a master when your
domestic helper calls you ‘Sir’. You are a master when your staff call you
‘Boss’. What about the church? When a church has hired ministry staff, the
leaders and members of the church, sometimes unwittingly see themselves
as masters of the church ministry staff.

If today you are a Christian master, perhaps you are not alone with the
struggle in the following possible situations:

  • A Christian family with domestic help lives close to their extended
    family. They are deciding whether to give the domestic help an extra
    allowance and have her do some extra work for the extended
    household, or to encourage the extended household to hire their own
    part time helper.
  • A Christian business owner hired some staff. During this economic
    downturn, even though the business is doing OK, and the
    government’s Job Support Scheme has helped to cover the overheads,
    he struggles deciding whether to cut the staff salary, because
    everyone else is doing it.
  •  In a church, giving has dropped due to COVD19. Some leaders and
    members are suggesting to withhold the 13th month bonus from
    ministry staff so that the church won’t go into deficit. Others suggest
    instead to encourage and challenge each other to give more to the
    Lord, even though the economic situation is grim.

God’s word tells Christian masters what is expected of them – give. Give,
more than you ask of your servants or hire. May our Lord grant each
Christian master grace in making fair and just decisions in such situations.
But for each role, Paul also gives the reason. Let us now look at the reasons
by going back to verse 18.

Wives, submit to your husbands, as it is fitting in the Lord. The reason is
because it fits the divine pattern of order – Christ the Son of God who is
equal to God, Himself submits to God the Father.

Jesus says, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). He also says, “Father, if
you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but
yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

The divine pattern shows equality and submission can co-exist. God provided
this order to hold the institutions of family together. When the wife submits
to her husband, she also mirrors her commitment to Christ. When the wife
says Christ is her Lord, she accepts the will of Christ for her life.

There was a couple getting married. Both are active faithful serving
members of their churches. Both churches will miss them and their
ministries should ether one leave their church. Both churches share similar
tenets of faith.

Everything else being equal, the couple struggled with the question – should
the husband join the wife’s church, so to make the adjustment easier for the
wife? But the wife finally decides she should leave her church to join her
husband, even if it means big adjustment for her, even if it means giving up
all that she loves about her church and ministry. She decides she would
order her life under her husband’s. Out of her commitment to Christ, she
makes her decision to follow her husband.

Brothers and sisters, if you are soon getting married, or even if you are
single today, when the time comes for you to make such a tough decision,
you would not be alone. Others before you have also struggled. And our
Pastors and leaders would support you to make a decision that is fitting in
the Lord.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church, as Ephesians 5 tells
us The reason is it mirrors the way Christ loves the church, with the love
that seeks the interest of the wife.

Husbands and wives together mirror the pattern and order of Christ and the
church. That is why, verse 18 and 19 should always be considered together.
A husband should not just quote verse 18 and tell the wife, “See, you must
submit to me”. Nor should the wife just take verse 19 and tell the husband,
“See, you are to love me”. ‘Wives submit’ and ‘husbands love’ sets a
complimentary union that fits and pleases the divine order. Marriage on
earth is a parable of God the Son relation to God the Father, and Christ’s
relation to the Church. When society tries to do it differently, it tears the
fabric of family and leads to breakdown of order, peace and harmony.

Children, obey your parents, because it pleases God to vest authority upon
your earthly parents. They have the responsibility to provide care for you. To
disobey the parent is to disobey against God. The child who obeys without
bribes, negotiations, or threats is one who understands this principle.
Because it is the right thing to do. When the child grows up on God’s
principles, he’d live by principles, he’d act on principles.

For fathers, we are not to provoke out children, but to encourage them, to
strengthen them, so that we can bring them up in discipline and instructions
of the Lord. Parents, not teachers, have the biggest role to shape and mould
the child. Father has the primary responsibility because God has vested the
headship at home on the father, and delegates the responsibility to him.
Therefore it is us fathers, not the mothers, who will stand before the
judgment seat of Christ, and will give an account of our ministry at home.

We now come to the bondservants. Slaves are very much part of life and
work in the families during the first century. As Christian slaves, now they
are to obey their masters in everything because they now have a new
freedom in Christ: They now have freedom from working just to please the
eyes of their masters, to work as to the Lord, to please the Lord. They now
have freedom from rewards tied to man, because their reward is now in
heaven. Their new life in Christ has given them a new meaning to work and
reward. Could we apply this principle ourselves as employees?

And then Masters – the reason they are to give their servants just and fair
treatment, is because they too have a Master in heaven. The role of servants
and masters on earth are only temporary. Each of us has our Lord as our
Master in heaven, who is merciful, just and kind, and who first gave.

Let us close this section. Because family is very precious to God, he has
guarded it with his precious Word for them. To the world, it may seem
foolish and weak to relate to one another like this. But God chooses to use
the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, the weak things of the
world to shame the strong. How would the world see the Christian home,
when wives joyfully submit to their husbands, husbands gladly love their
wives, children rightly obey their parents, and fathers lovingly encourage the
children, and servants and staff heartily work as to the Lord, and masters
give as the Lord has given? Wouldn’t the world see a glimpse of life of
heaven on earth, smell a savor of Christ, and see the glory of God in the
Christian home?

Come with me now to chapter 4 verses 2 – 6. Hear what Paul says about
the private and public lives of a maturing disciple.

But one point to clarify. This does not mean Christians live one life in private
and a different life in public. In reality, the Christian lives only one life, and
that is the Christian life. One commentator says this way – in verses 2-4 the
Christian in private speaks to God about people, and in verses 5-6, the
Christian in public speaks to people about God.

Lets start with verse 2. “Continue steadfastly in prayer”. A Christian would
start doing certain things in his new life in Christ which he won’t do before.
At some points he starts to read the bible, joins a bible study group, and
starts to serve. But there is one thing which a Chrstian ought to always do,
and that‘s to pray. Prayer is a duty of every Christian. Not everyone who
prays is a Christian. But one who never prays before is never a Christian. So
V2 doesn’t say to ‘start to pray’, but ‘continue to pray’, because the Christian
first prayed when he prayed the sinner’s prayer. Thereafter he continues to
pray.

But lately, if you have not been praying, don’t feel guilty. Prayer is not
something you do because you have to. Prayer starts from being watchful
and thankful. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you aware of the things God has
done and is doing. Of the evils around us , the needs around us – the church,
fellow brothers and sisters, the world. The maturing disciple is watchful, he
discerns the spiritual situation around him. He is also thankful, he knows
God has a higher purpose for everything. When one is watchful and thankful,
he’d want to express it in prayer. He then seeks to be a gospel partner, and
prays for the gospel workers and their works.

So in verse 3 Paul tells us how we may pray as gospel partners.

  1. One. Pray for doors to be open, for God’s Word to be let in. God’s
    Word declares the mystery of Christ, and Christ is revealed. Now,
    mystery in the bible is not something that cannot be solved. But
    mystery in the bible means something that was hidden in the past by
    God is now revealed to us – the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  2. Two, for the gospel worker. God uses the agency of man to deliver His
    Word. So we are to pray for gospel workers, that when the door is
    open, they may know how they ought to speak, and with clarity.

Each week, our Herald Prayer Page has one or two items for us to pray for
Missions or Community service works. Let us use it to keep watch and give
thanks , and be a gospel prayer partner.

So the private life of a Christian mirrors the private life of his Lord and
Saviour. The gospel accounts show us how Jesus lived his private life in
prayer – early in the morning, during the day, at night, alone and wherever
he is – Jesus prayed, and he continues today, interceding for us.

A maturing disciple’s private life is therefore marked by prayerfulness, when
he remains watchful and thankful.

Lastly, the third point from verses 5 and 6. God’s Word for Christians in the
public.

The Christian life is surrounded by outsiders. It is not a life of a recluse or
self-isolation. Our Lord’s own life showed him very much in public. Outsiders
mean ‘outside of Christ’. They are lost in the world where the gospel truth is
suppressed, and may even be hostile to Christianity. How should a Christian
conduct himself in such an environment? The instruction is again simple.

First, he is mindful of his walk. The Christian walks in the wisdom of God.
Wisdom is practical applied knowledge. Paul’s prayer is we may be filled with
the knowledge of God’s will, in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Col.
1: 9). So wisdom has to do with knowing God’s will. And how to know God’s
will? It is to know what pleases God. We can know this from the Scriptures,
for example, listen to God’s word, like today, now. No time even for God’s
Word? We can pray and ask God to help us redeem our time, to re-prioritise
our life. So that we have time to join a CG, a prayer partner, and be
encouraged.

Second, he is to be mindful of his words. His words are to be gracious and
seasoned with Salt. Some foods you just can’t take without some salt. But
too much salt, a put-off. The right amount brings out the flavor. Salt is also
a preservative. It preserves the food so that it keeps the goodness in. When
our words are seasoned with salt, it brings out the savor of Christ, and gives
life to one who receives it.

By our walk, and our words, every Christian can bring the gospel to
outsiders. Me? But I am not a Pastor or an evangelist! Yes… evangelist
preaches the gospel when a door is open. So Paul asked for prayer that he
may know “how he ought to speak”. But all of us, our duty is to “know how
we ought to answer each person”.

See the difference, and an important principle here? Verse 6, there is also an
open door when outsiders ask about our faith. And when such a door is
open, we ought to know how to answer each of them. The point here is
sharing the gospel is not only the duty of pastors and evangelists. The
maturing disciples also share the gospel by answering to each person when
asked about God, with words seasoned with salt, laced with grace.

CONCLUSION

To summarize, today’s passage shows how maturing disciples ought to live
in the 3 areas – at home, in private, and in public.

Christians live distinctly not because of rules, not because of wanting to be
different, nor living out of fear of God. We would miss the point. The
maturing disciple lives distinctly because of who he is in Christ. He has a
new citizenship in heaven. Christ has redeemed him, paid the price for his
sin. He no longer lives in darkness. He now lives in the light of Christ, walks
in the light of Christ. He puts on the new self, and commits to follow in the
footsteps of his Lord and Saviour.

Now, today if you are not yet a Christian, and you listen in to this, and you
see Christian homes, or members of your family or friends who are
Christians, you’d know Christians are not perfect. Yes, Christians are sinners.
It is important to know you and I, we, are all sinners. It is also important to
know our sins can be forgiven. Christians are sinners saved by grace of God.
They live by the grace, mercy of God. And they live a hope, a hope laid up
for them in heaven.

Life on earth is strife and struggle. But Jesus says, “Come to me, all who
labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Jesus
invites you to find rest for your soul.

Let us pray.

Dear Lord Jesus, we thank you for giving us your word today. Help us to live our lives as your maturing disciples in our homes, in our private lives and with outsiders. We ask for your grace, that in whatever we do, in word or deed, we may do everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him. We pray in your precious Name. Amen.

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