Today will be our second last message in our series on the book of Colossians. We’ve been looking at Paul’s Christianity in a Nutshell – or at least, that’s what we’ve subtitled it. But it seems to be a fitting title. As we’ve been looking at this letter to the church in Colossae, we’ve answered many of the questions of what Christianity is all about. Who is Jesus? Why did He die on the cross and rise again from the grave? What difference does it make to us? What does it actually mean to be a Christian? How do we live in close relationship with God on a continuing basis? How do we have victory over the sin that so easily gets us off track?
Paul has addressed all of these questions and more in this short little letter to the church in Colossae. So I hope that over these past few weeks, you’ve really been encouraged and spurred on in your own walk with Christ and that you’ve been able to apply some of these principles that we’ve been learning. I know that I sure have.
Now these last couple of weeks, our focus has been on our new nature. That is, the new desires of our heart that we get when Christ comes to dwell within us. It’s our desire to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and to please God – instead of following our old sinful nature which just wants to please ourselves.
We read two weeks ago how Paul says to “strip off our old sinful nature”, and to “put on“ or “cloth ourselves” with our new nature. And we do that by keeping our focus on Jesus – by setting our sights on the realities of heaven – not getting caught up in the things of this world.
Then last week we dug into that a little deeper and we identified some practical ways to do that. We talked about following the leading of the Holy Spirit every moment of every day – and how, by filling our minds with God’s Word, by teaching and counseling each other with the wisdom God gives, and by worshipping God with a thankful heart – we can actually hear what the Holy Spirit is saying so we can follow Him and walk in our new nature, close to God continuously.
And it’s this idea of continuously walking in our new nature that springboards us into our passage this morning.
We ended last week in mid-paragraph. I’m not sure how your Bible has all the verses divided up on the page, but I think in all of the Bibles that I’ve seen, verses 16 & 17 of Colossians 3 are always lumped together. In fact many Bibles lump together everything from verse 12 to 17 into one paragraph.
But you might have noticed that we stopped last week at verse 16 – without including verse 17. Now, why did we do that? Well, let’s read through our passage this morning and I’ll see if I can explain my thinking: Start at verse 17 and we’ll go down to the first verse of chapter 4.
“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
20 Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.
22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. 23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. 25 But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites. 1 Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master—in heaven.
Colossians 3:17 – 4:1
Now in my mind, when I read through that, it sure seems to be a hodgepodge of instructions. It’s like the misc section – a little of this, a little of that, a little of something else. It’s like reading through some of the Proverbs – it seems to be just random bits of good advice.
But actually, I think it’s that verse 17 that gives it all a common theme. It’s like a bridge between everything Paul just told us about our new nature and all these seemingly random bits of good advice. So let’s look at verse 17.
And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
Paul’s telling us, that since we are living in our new nature – since we’re following the leading of the Holy Spirit in every moment of every day – everything we do will be a reflection of God. Everything we do or say, we do it all as a representative of the Lord Jesus. It’s like we’re His ambassadors. We speak and act on behalf of our King. Whatever Jesus would do – that’s what we’re doing.
And so to give us some concrete examples of this, Paul goes through some of the different relationships we have in life: Husbands and wives – how can we represent Jesus in our marriage? Parents & Children – how can we reflect Christ in our families? Slaves & Masters – how can we be ambassadors of our King in our workplace? The idea here is that no matter what position we find ourselves in, (whether we are a husband or a wife, a child or a parent, a slave or a master) everything we do or say should be a reflection of our God. So let’s go through those different examples this morning.
Paul starts with husbands and wives. He says in verse 18 & 19.
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.” Colossians 3:18-19
Now honestly, quite often these verses can be a hot button topic – people tend to cringe whenever they hear these verses. But that’s because our culture has so twisted its meaning into something that the Bible never intended. You see, Paul’s not being chauvinistic. He’s simply instructing husbands and wives to take on the attitude of Jesus Christ and apply it to their marriage relationship. We are to represent Christ even to our spouse.
That means, Husbands – you need to love your wife like Christ loves you. And wives, you need to submit to your husband like Christ submits to God.
And if you need some examples to follow, husbands – look at Romans 5:8. Here’s how Christ loves you.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
When we were still God’s enemies, He loved us so much that He died for us. That’s some kind of love – and that’s the kind of love that we need to have for our wives.
It’s pretty easy to love our wives most of the time. When they’re thoughtful, and pleasant, when they make you supper and say how wonderful you are – it’s easy to love your wife. But what happens in those times when they aren’t so perfect? (And I know that doesn’t happen often – but on the rare occasion when they’re not) – when they get short tempered, when they treat you unkindly, when they make unreasonable demands of you, when they ignore your needs… Do you still unconditionally demonstrate your love to your wife? Do you continue to serve her? Do you continue take care of her needs? Do you continue to cherish her? That’s how Christ loves you.
And wives, here’s how Christ submits to God.
“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
We talked a few weeks ago how Jesus Christ was indeed God – the Creator of the Universe. He didn’t have to submit to anyone. Yet because of His love for us, He gave up his divine privileges to become a frail human being and He humbled Himself in obedience to God and He died on a cross in our place.
This is the same attitude you wives must have towards your husbands. You may very well be as capable or even more capable than your husband at many things. And you are certainly no less important or no less valuable.
But in your role as a wife, God has called you to love you husband by submitting to His leadership. I found a good definition of submission on the internet.
“Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.”
This is God’s design – and it works really good. When husbands unconditionally love their wives – its easy for the wives to submit to the leadership of their husbands. And when wives submit to the leadership of their husbands, it easy for the husbands to unconditionally love their wives.
And I know there is a lot more than could be said on this topic, but I think we’ll save that perhaps for one of our upcoming Growth Groups – so watch for that in the future. But for now, I want to go back to our main point – and that is being a representative of Jesus in everything we say or do. Husbands – show the love of Christ to everyone around you – including your wife – by loving your wife as Christ loves you. Wives – show the love of Christ to everyone around you – including your husband – by submitting to your husband as Christ submitted Himself out of love for you.
The next set of relationships that Paul talks about in this passage is the parent/child relationship. How can we reflect Christ in our families?
20 “Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.”
Ok, so let’s start with the children. What was Christ’s attitude when it came to obeying His Father? Well, we already read the passage in Philippians about how Jesus humbled Himself in obedience to God when He died on the cross. In fact, there is a verse in Luke that pretty much shows us the same thing. This is while Jesus was praying just before He was arrested and crucified.
“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:42
Jesus was not looking forward to what He was about to go through. To say the least, it was not going to be a pleasant experience. But Jesus was still willing to obey His Father. Jesus wasn’t obeying because He had to – it was a willing obedience. He said “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” And children, teens, or grown ups still living with your parents – this is the kind of attitude that you are to have towards your parents. A willing obedience. Not a reluctant obedience or a grudging obedience. But a willing obedience.
My brothers & I all love the Calvin & Hobbes comic strips – I don’t know if you guys read those anymore. We’ve got the whole collection of books. And in one of the books that we have, Calvin has this little poetic saying:
“Mom and Dad can make the rules and certain things forbid – but I can make them wish that they had never had a kid.”
That’s not the attitude that reflects Christ. We need to have an attitude of willing obedience. Obeying your parents – not because you have to, but because you want to. Because you recognize that God has put them in authority over you. Because you recognize that they love you and want the best for you. That’s the attitude that reflects Christ.
And on the flip side of that, Paul also address the fathers. He says…
“Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.”
The King James version says “Provoke not your children to anger.” But you know, even as good Christian dads, sometimes I think we do. Now I’m not talking about being abusive – clearly that goes completely against the character of Christ. That goes without saying.
But I think sometimes in more subtle ways, we provoke our children – we aggravate them. Not on purpose, but in our moments of thoughtlessness, it happens. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean:
One way we can aggravate our children is by having double standards. Where we tell them not to do something, but we go ahead and do it ourselves. Maybe we punish them for bad-mouthing a teacher, but at the dinner table, they hear us bad-mouth the leaders of our government. Or maybe we’re always telling them to share their toys, but we don’t let anybody touch our stuff. Simple things like that, things that we don’t even think about, can be aggravating to our children.
Another way we might aggravate our kids is with broken promises. “Dad, you said you’d play with me after supper.” “Well yeah, but I’m really tired – maybe another time.” That’s discouraging stuff for a kid. I guarantee that kid slowly walks away with a wounded heart.
Or how about criticism without encouragement? Dads have a reputation for making sure their kids know what they did wrong – but its a lot less common that we tell them what they did right. Certainly, our kids need discipline and correction, but along with that, they need encouragement too. Without that encouragement, it is so easy for them to lose heart.
Are you staring to get the picture? Fathers, do not aggravate your children. After all, you are the #1 influence of your child’s view of God. What they think about you, that’s what they think about their Heavenly Father.
So how well are you representing God to your kids? If you aggravate them in these ways – by having double standards, breaking your promises, always being critical, being unreliable, being unfair, being absent – living like that tells your kids that their Heavenly Father is like that too. That’s sure not the picture I want to paint for my kids.
I want my kids to know that their Heavenly Father is always there for them – He’s never too busy. He’s always gracious and kind. He’s always forgiving – no matter what the offense. What He says is absolute – He doesn’t change His mind just because it’s inconvenient. I want them to know that they count on their Heaven Father.
You all probably know the passage in 1 Corinthians 13 – the “Love chapter”. I was looking at a couple of those verses this week and I wondered if my kids could take out that word “love” and put in “My Dad.” Could your kids read it like this: (Put in “My Dad” instead of “love”)
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Isn’t that what you want your kids to say about you? How well are you representing Christ to your kids? Remember, whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus.
The last set of relationships that Paul talks about in this passage is the slave/master relationship. He says in verse 22.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. 23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
Now I don’t think any of us are slaves in the way that Paul was thinking when he wrote this, but certainly all of us at one time have worked for someone else – so I think this applies well to us. And its the same principle here that we’ve been looking at all morning. Whatever do we or say, including how we work, we do it as representatives of Christ.
Imagine for a minute what kind of a worker Jesus would have been. By trade, Jesus was a carpenter. Now I don’t know if that meant He built houses or fine furniture or whatever, but we can be pretty sure that He would have spent several years working for other people.
So what kind of worker would he have been? Would he show up at work late – and go home early? Would he cut corners and cover up mistakes instead of fixing them? Would he charge for hours he didn’t work or take extended lunch-breaks? Would he spend his lunch hour griping about his boss? Would He sluff off whenever the boss wasn’t looking?
Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous – Jesus would never do that. So neither should we. We need to represent our Lord well at our workplace. You might be the only “Jesus” your co-workers ever see. So we’d better paint an accurate picture.
And masters or bosses, foremen, managers – whatever term you want to us – the same principle applies to you.
“Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master—in heaven.” Colossians 4:1
Think about all the blessings that our Master in heaven has poured out on us. Think the undeserved favor we have. How kind and gracious and generous is our Master! Should we not reflect that – even in our business dealings?
“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17
Let us be good and accurate ambassadors of our King. Let us represent Him well. Whether we are husbands or wives, children or parents, slaves or masters – whatever position you find yourself – you are the representative of Christ. Let’s represent Him well.