Colossians 3: How To Interact with One Another
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I’m going to continue on in our study of Colossians by looking at Col. 3:16. If you’ll recall a couple weeks ago when Todd and I talked it was about how God changes us. We talked about how important it is to experience God’s forgiveness first of all. No one has a relationship with God until they receive the gift of his forgiveness . . .
But when we do have a relationship with God, he views us as new people, completely forgiven, completely accepted and loved . . . And it’s in this context that people can really change . . .
We concluded with some thoughts about what God begins to change with us in vv. 6ff. We pointed out that the majority of changes God brings about in our life have to do with how we relate with people. He teaches us how to love, which is the central need in a person’s life, as well as our greatest weakness.
What we’re looking at tonight are some thoughts about how we ought to interract with each other and the role of our meeting together, like this and other meetings.
The word of Christ
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Let’s talk about what this means and what it doesn’t mean. First of all, Jesus Christ is portrayed in the Bible as the member of the Trinity who communicates to us. He communicates to us by coming and living among humans as God in the flesh. By what he did and taught he communicated God’s nature to us. But beyond Christ becoming a human, the word of Christ is also recorded in the Bible. The teaching of Christ’s apostles embodies the teaching of Christ. For example, as an application of what Paul is talking about here, in Acts 2:42 Luke tells us that the early Christians used to gather daily and devote themselves to the apostles teaching. Paul also viewed himself as directly commissioned by Christ to communicate his word. If you read later in this book, for example, he instructs them to read this letter publicly and then make sure that other churches in the area get it also. So, for us today, the application of this instruction has to do with the scriptures.
He goes on and says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you.” The term “dwell in you” simply means that the word of Christ lives in you. It’s alive in you. It’s not a temporal or fleeting thing, like a moment of inspirition. You’ve made room in your life for the word of Christ.
Then term “richly” means that you are wealthy. It refers to people who have a lot, like kings and rulers. He’s saying that our possession of God’s word, the scriptures, ought to be like that. We should be rich in our kowledge of the scriptures.
This would not mean that you have a weekly encounter with God’s word, or that you hear someone teach it to you once a week. For many Christians, they would consider that a healthy dose of God’s word. “Hey, I go to church once a week!”
Example: Let’s just consider, what does it take to get rich with money? Sure, every now and then someone wins the lottery (just enough to keep suckers coming back week after week). But I know of no spiritual counterpart to the lottery. The way you get rich spiritually is the same way most people get rich today, you have to earn it. A once-a-week dinner that someone prepares for you would be a starvation diet by anyone’s measure.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say most Christians are dirt-poor when it comes to God’s word.
Example: Through the years I’ve shared with people some of the lengths I’ve gone to in order to become wealthy in God’s word. I know I still feel the need to grow here and have been very convicted about that lately. I’ll share with people how hard I’ve worked at memorizing. Or I’ll show them my library, or share some of the studies I’ve undertaken. And I’ll get this look from people where I can tell what they’re thinking. “That’s you, not me.” Why? Because they’re thinking, “You’re a teacher! I’m not! And I don’t intend to be, at least on the scale that you are.”
Let me tell you, first of all, that I have not conceived of myself that way, especially early on. I thought of myself as an average Christian. And I viewed the level of work I put in on the scriptures, on reading books, etc., as normal for every Christian. I viewed it as God’s will, God’s command to me, an average Christian. Because I knew passages like this one that said I should be wealthy in the word of Christ.
But let’s hold on to that distinction between teachers and non-teachers for just a moment. I’m going to show you something that may amaze you.
I want to conclude this section with some practical thoughts on how you can become deeper and richer in your knowledge of Christ’s word.
For one, I know most of you have been involved in study groups . . . The emphasis in these groups is to get you to do the work of study . . .
Secondly, classes are frequently offered here . . .
Third, you should be reading books. This is one of the riches sources I know of, and it happens all too little. Me and some other people have been working on a reading list . . .
Teaching and admonishing . . .
The fourth piece of practical advice is right here in the passage. Paul says, “as you teach and admonish each other. What he’s doing here is describing one way that the word of Christ can grow inside of you. As you teach and admonish one another, both you and the person you are teaching grow in your knowledge of God’s word.
Now I said I wanted to hold on to that idea that there are only some people who are teachers of God’s word. That’s not what I see here. I see Paul telling the entire church to be involved in teaching, at one level or another. Granted, perhaps not all of us should be able to do something like I’m doing right now. But you should be able to teach others God’s word.
Here’s a way of relating that we don’t see much in the world around us. We don’t see one person saying to another, “Hey, let me teach you about life,” or “Will you teach me?” For many people that would be virtually insulting. And yet, in the church God wants us to have the humility towards one another where we can teach and be taught by others.
Example: I remember the first time I was introduced to this notion there was this guy who very simply said to me, “I’d like to get together with you and study the scriptures together.” And my reaction was, “Wow! That’s great!” I was excited. I looked forward to it. And I’ll bet that it was scarey for him to bring that up. I’ll bet he wondered, “What’s Buck going to say? Will he be offended? Will he even want to?”
Example: I’ve done it the other way too, where I initiated being taught. I remember going to one guy and asking him, “Hey, I don’t know much about the Holy Spirit. Could we get together and study that topic?” Or there was another guy I remember virtually harassing, “Teach me how to study the Bible!” And I can remember grabbing him after a meeting after he’d kind of put me off a couple times and saying, “What about right now? We’ve got time right now we could go somewhere and study!” And we did. And it was exciting.
I’m just giving you these examples from my life because I know how it felt. But I’ve often considered myself a poor student. I’ve looked at other people who have worked much harder than me and been challenged and convicted.
But I know from experience that it is actually good to offer to teach someone the scriptures. And it’s good to be taught the scriptures. It is a great way of spending time with someone. And it can often lead to deeper personal relating. I really think this is the kind of thing that should be happening more often . . .
Example: And it doesn’t have to be one person teaching another. I remember my wife and I were involved in a study with another couple where we were more or less peers. And the way we handled it was to take turns. Each week a different one of us would come in with something prepared to teach the others. And it was a great time.
So I think this is something we could really stand to add to our times together.
Admonishing is a term that simply means to correct someone. And again we don’t see this kind of thing going on in the world around us. We see people growling at each other when they are personally offended. But we don’t see one person looking at another and saying, “I see something in her life I think I could help her with.” That’s the kind of loving concern that should be going on here.
And when Paul says, “with all wisdom,” he’s referring to what we talked about earlier, namley, you have to have something to say. You need to be rich in the word of God so you have something to say. You’ve got to have something to say. There are a lot of people who like the idea of teaching someone else. They aren’t shy about that. But they don’t have much to say. That’s a problem.
As you sing songs . . .
I want to conclude with a thought that’s kind of scarey for some of us here. Paul says that yet another way that the word of Christ can dwell within us is through Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. These are things that not many of us are involved with here. In fact, when I start to sing spiritual songs I’m often scoffed at or told to shut up.
Here is a way of relating to each other and God that we don’t get into that much. And I think it’s to our detriment.
Example: I was talking to Matt last week about this kind of stuff and how we don’t get into it and he made an interesting comment that I think is true. He said that if we got into this kind of stuff more, more people would be moved to give their lives to God.
I think there’s truth to that. On the one hand I think a person needs to think through his relationship to God, consider it, grapple with the truth. And there’s a lot said about that in the Bible. Paul says in Rom. 12:2 to give ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, because it’s reasonable. It makes sense to give your life to the God of the universe, who loves us and has the answers to life.
But there is another dimension to us, the emotional and the experiential. And they have quite an effect on us as humans.
Example: A couple weekends ago Amy and I were up in Chicago and we went to the Gospel Fest. They had some of the best singers and choirs from all over the country there. And it was a moving experience to here these people sing about how God is worthy. How God is so good. How God is so loving. It’s powerful. And it creates a response in me. It always has.
I don’t know what the answer for us here is. But I know that one step we should all be taking is to join in the prayer meeting we have every week. We try to make a point there of having a time where we praise the Lord and thank him. And for me those times of prayer can often have the same effect.