So our reading today is from the book of colossians chapter 3 So if you have a Bible and you want to look up the the passage, it's colossians 3 12 to 17. The the words will appear on the screen as well. If you don't have a bible, you can follow along. Let's hear what God is saying to us today.
Clossians 3 verse 12. Therefore, as god's chosen people wholly and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive 1 another if any of you has a grievance against someone 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 1 body you were called to peace and be thankful.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish 1 another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the spirit singing to god with gratitude in your hearts. 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. Tom. Hi. Good morning, everybody.
Nice to see you. If, we haven't had a chance to meet. My name is Tom, and I'm on the staff team here, and, a very warm welcome. And, if you are tuning in online. It's lovely to have you.
And, if you're here with us for the first time, it's great to have you. This is a a sermon series that we've been doing for some months now, if you're new to it this morning, we've been working our way through chapter 3. This is written by Paul. He was an apostle. He was a man specially set apart by god to travel around the world and to testify to the good news of the lord Jesus Christ.
He was not the 1 who planted this church started by a man called epaphras, who was a friend of Paul's, and epaphras has gone back to Paul, who is in prison and has given him a report of the church, both the good things and the concerning things, and, this letter was written to the church in Coloso, by Paul, in response to that. And, I trust that we've greatly enjoyed working our way through it together. And our focus really is just going to be on 1 verse, colossians 3 verse 16. If you're in a home group, there'll be a chance to explore the 17 a bit later in the week but here's our our focus sentence for the day. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly, as you teach and admonish 1 another with all wisdom through Psalms, hymns, and songs from the spirit singing to god with gratitude in your hearts.
Father, it is your desire that the message of your son, the lord Jesus Christ dwell richly within us as individuals and among us as your people. And we pray that you would use these next few minutes together to that end. That this time together in your words thinking about this subject would cause that message of Christ, to more richly abide within us. And we pray in Jesus' name, amen. Well, I want to, begin by taking you back to some some pretty shadowy dark days.
We're going back in time to the fifteenth century. The early part of the sixteenth century, in Europe. And for many, many thousands of ordinary people, so farmers and stonemasons, and, butchers and bakers and tailors and weavers and winemakers, thousands and thousands of ordinary people For them, the only hope of knowing anything true about God from the Bible was what they could pick up from the priest. In their local church. The only way that these people could know whether they had assurance before god was if the priest heard their confession and told them that they were right with God.
The only way that they could know and interpret and apply and understand the teaching of the Bible was if the priest opened it up to them and applied it and interpreted it for them. And that was very difficult because the priest often spoke in a language which the common people would not have really understood. And so it was pretty dark days If you were looking to know about God, but you did not belong to that priestly class of people. You needed them. And this is why the Protestant Reformation was such good news for both Europe and the world.
Because in the Protestant reformation, people like Martin Luther and others, they went back to the sources They went back to scripture itself. They learnt the languages and accessed the word of God as it had been given so that they could check what the priests were doing and saying by what God himself had actually said. And so they went back to the sources they discovered the truth and they unleashed it upon the world. And 1 of the texts which became very, very important was 1 Peter 2 verse 9 where Peter says to the church you are a chosen people a royal priesthood. You church are a chosen people, a royal priesthood.
And that became known as the priesthood of all believers that in Jesus Christ All of the gathered people of god are the priests. Martin Luther, if we can have this quote up on the screen, said this, It is pure invention that pope bishops, priests, and monks are to be called the spiritual estate princes, lords, artisans, people that work with their hands, and farmers, the temporal or the worldly estate on the contrary All Christians are truly of the spiritual estate, but there is among them no difference at all but that of office. In other words, what he's saying is that the offices of elder and pastor and Deacon and so forth are still important, those are still important, but away with this extra priestly class of people who they think that we need away with that priestly class. He's trying to say that the Bible teaches that we do not need a special class of person to mediate the presence of God to you. You do not need a man to go between you and God to make things right.
Why? Because that job's already taken. There is already 1 man who mediates between people and God, and that is the man Christ Jesus, the great high priest. Luther wanted to say that you do not need a priest to show up with a magic key to unlock and interpret all of the scriptures for you but rather all people ought to have the Bible in a language that they can understand so that they can know and interpret it and apply it to 1 another. That's what the reformers wanted.
They wanted everyone from the king of the land to the Stone Mason in the village to have the same access to the Bible so that they could all read, interpret, understand, and apply the word of god, the priesthood of all believers. Now the reformers were also keen to stress that this doesn't mean that every single person's interpretation is equally valid. That was 1 sort of heretical offshoot. That if we don't need to go to church and we don't need to hear the Bible talk because all our own interpretations are equally valid, well then we can say do and believe whatever we want. Now they didn't say that, but this was their emphasis that the people of God in the Bible are to be involved altogether in the application, and the interpretation, and the understanding of the Bible.
Really important. Now for us, we live sort of 500 years on from the reformation, and we may not quite appreciate how important that is because you might be here and think, well, yes, you know, who would have thought anything different? I mean, yeah, that's that's so clearly right. And so we may not appreciate what a blessing that discovery actually was, but it's critical that we understand it afresh for at least 2 reasons. Firstly, because in the last few weeks, looking at colossians 3, we've seen the sort of people that god has called us to be.
We are to be holy, we are to be loving, we are to be patient, we are to be kind, we are to be gentle, we are to put to death sin, and clothe ourselves, with these sorts of virtues. But how is that gonna happen? How are we actually gonna grow in that life only as we all get involved in teaching and admonishing and applying the word of god to 1 another. It does not just grow within us as we all gather to listen to what 1 bloke at the front thinks. The way these virtues will abound in us is as we all take part in word ministry amongst the congregation.
That's 1 reason why it was an important discovery. Secondly, and just perhaps more personally. It might be here, it might be that you're here, and you you feel as if you've got no gift that you can contribute. It might, you might feel as if you've got no ministry, everything seems to be taken. All the rotors seem to be full.
What can I possibly do here? I don't think I really have a ministry to offer. Well, Paul would say in colossians 3 16, that every single Christian has a vital ministry to 1 another. Being on Rotus is good and important but here is a vital ministry for all the members of the church of God. That is to teach and admonish and to share the word of god with 1 another.
You see what he says? 3 verse 16. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish 1 another With all wisdom through Psalms hymns and songs from the spirit, let the message of Christ dwell among you. Now, what is this message of Christ? Well, it's worth remembering that at the time this letter was written the new testament did not exist in the form in which we have it today.
So it had not been completed and compiled and put together and published, and it was not available in every bookstore in Colosse at the time. And so what they would have had is a collection of stories about Jesus, his teachings. Perhaps some of those were written down but the message of Christ here refers primarily to the good news declaration of what Jesus Christ has done for his people in the world. And if you want a summary of that message of Christ, you can turn back to chapter 1 and verse 21. Here's just 1 way of, understanding it.
Once you were alienated from god and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior but now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you wholly in his sight without blemish and free from accusation. So what is this message of Christ in 3 verse 16? It is that good news. That once you and I were alienated from God, that we were separated from him, that he was a stranger to us because we wanted to live in our sin and in our evil behaviour, but now by god's grace, Christ has come. And though he did not deserve it, he went to a cross on that first Easter and he hung there nailed to that horrible piece of wood, and he took all of the evil behavior from my mind and my heart He took all of the sin that has been a hallmark of my life, and he bore it on himself in my place.
So that by the blood of that cross, I can be reconciled, put right with, made 1 with God, my father. That is the word of Christ, the message of Christ, and Paul says church, let that message dwell within you, richly. Let it dwell within you richly. The sense is to have that message and to use it in your life. So you might imagine it and you may not have 1 of these, but you might imagine it like a a fine China tea set in your house.
Let's say it's something that you've inherited, something that you've stumbled upon, something that you treasure very much, your fine China tea set. Now, there are a number of ways in which you can treat that tea set. 1 of those is to keep it in a locked cabinet and to never under any circumstance, get it out for anyone. And so it's there in a cabinet behind a pane of glass And those who come into your house can admire it through the glass. They can look at it.
They can see the thin film of dust that is collected upon it because it's never used. But it's not coming out under any circumstance. That way of using it, it's like a museum piece, isn't it? It's there in your house, It's in your mind so to speak, but it's like a museum piece, just something that's there not to be used. The other way to use it is to make sure that you get it out.
And you show it off, and you drink hot tea from it, and you serve it up with cakes, and you enjoy it with your guests, you both have it and use it. You don't have it as a museum piece. You have it as a living piece that is actually in use in your life. Paul says, let the message of Christ crucified be like that second way of using the t In other words, you have it and you love to use it. See, it might be that you're here and you say, I've known I've known that gospel for years.
I've known that for years. I heard that when I was a kid, that's just the ABC's. Paul would say yes, but is it a living thing in you? Is it alive in you anymore, or is it under lock and key? It ought to be a living thing.
This is what he's saying. The the gospel and your testimony and your baptism ought to be like not just a guest who passes through your house, but the master who lives within your house. And dwells within you and is something that you get out and apply in all the situations of life so that when you're at school perhaps and life is hard and you're not as popular as you once were and you feel a bit on the edge, but that's when you get out the tea set and you think Christ died for me, and though they may not like me, I'm loved by the most beautiful important person in the world, and I'm thankful that though life is difficult, I'm a child of god, or that when you lose your job, you get out the tea set and you think, well, I've lost my job, but I know Christ loves me, and I know that he's promised to take care of me, and I know that I'm still employed in kingdom work, and I will be forever. And and all that you know is brought out onto the dining table. Let the let the message of Christ dwell richly among you in the sense that it is something that you use and apply in the situations of your life.
That's what he's saying. That it dwell within you individual, but the focus of this text is actually the corporate side, isn't it? 3 verse 16? Let it dwell within you, well, that's true, but also he says, let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you all teach and admonish 1 another. Now it's interesting because those words teach and admonish are actually used by Paul 1 other time in chapter 1 verse 28.
And if you look back to chapter 1 verse 28, You'll be able to see how he uses it. Chapter 1 verse 28. He Christ is the 1 we proclaim admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom. So that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. Do you see that?
So those 2 words teach and admonish are the words that Paul uses of his own apostolic ministry. Christ we proclaim teaching and admonishing. That's our job as apostles, but here in chapter 3, he says, and by the way, that responsibility is way too vast for just 1 person to take on. You all need to be involved in what I've been called to do, which is to teach and admonish 1 another. You all have a part to play in proclamation, teaching, and admonishing.
You see, as we started with those pre reformation days, we do not want to have a situation where only 1 person at the front or a class of people are able to do the teaching and admonishing. That is just out of sync with how the new testament understands word ministry. We don't want that. And we don't wanna be like the cults I mean, it isn't, it is 1 of the hallmarks of cults when you study them, that all of the teaching has to come through 1 person. So they gathered together in order to read the material of and tune into just what 1 normally man, what 1 man happens to think about god and how we ought to live.
That's very characteristic of cult groups. And we don't want to be like even some otherwise, you know, good Christian ministries where basically the entire thing when you look at it has been constructed around the character and the personality and the stage presence of just 1 person, that there wouldn't even really be a church if that 1 person stepped down because it's all built around him. That is not what Paul seems to be teaching here, but rather that we all are involved in teaching, which means just making things clear and admonishing, which means both encouraging and correcting, we all ought to be involved in that type of word ministry. Here's 1 Corinthians 14, verse 26 and perhaps we can get that up. Thanks, Mandy.
This is another part of Paul's teaching. What then shall we say brothers and sisters, he's writing to the church? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. Now, it's possible to spend a long time arguing about the definition of some of those words But when you stand back and look at it and say, okay, what's the big thing he's teaching there?
Well, he seems to believe that everybody has a role in the teaching and the bringing forth of truth in the gathered community. You notice all of those things are what they're word based, aren't they? Him, instruction, tongue, yeah. We are all to be involved in speaking in such a way that the church of god is built up with the word of god. And so this is 1 of the reasons why here, we don't just have the Sunday gatherings but we have all kinds of other groups like sisters act which we've heard advertised today.
It's why we do the media fast as a church family It's why we have home groups. It's why we have women's bible studies. Because we want as many opportunities as we can to get as many people as we can involved in word ministry so that we can all speak to each other and build 1 another up in the word of god. And as we've seen, the reason that really matters is because we will not grow in compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility. We will not grow in those things unless we are all involved in sharing the word of god with 1 another.
Now it might be that you're here and you think, okay, that all sounds, you know, that all sounds good and I'm on board with that but I'm just naturally, by temperament, a very quiet person. And I don't really like to share my observations or my opinions or my insights on the sermon or when I'm in a bible study, I'm 1 of those people who just wants to sit back and drink in what others are saying. And that's fine. There are people like that who just naturally prefer not to put their front foot forward and like to just listen. Or it might be that you're here and then you're an international, and it's just jolly hard work when you're sat in a bible study and you don't speak that language that everyone else is speaking to the same extent.
And you wanna say stuff because you can see stuff but you don't quite know how to say it. And that's, again, that's fine. We're just thankful that you are trying and you wanna come and be part of it. We want to encourage you that. But it's worth saying that if you're 1 of those people who is quiet all the time and doesn't like to share what you see in the word of god, because you don't think you've got anything valuable to say because you don't think your observations from the text are worth hearing then that might owe more to pride than reality.
Because according to Paul, everybody has stuff worth sharing. Everybody can see things if they're a child of god in the word of god that others might need to hear. And anyway, the truth is how do you know what might encourage or admonish somebody else? How do how do you actually know that How do you know that your observation from that bible study is not exactly what somebody else in the group needs to hear? Sometimes we just are better not to trust our own evaluation of how insightful our our ideas are.
You see, if you think about it, how often, I mean, how does admonishment normally work? If you take a home group illustration, how does admonishment normally work? Not the case usually that somebody comes to the home group ready to admonish me that they come prepared to reprimand me, about something. Normally, the way that it happens is, as you share something that you've seen in the word of God and you want to apply to your life. Even your act of sharing it admonishes me.
So you might say at the end of a study, I've been really struck by this, none of my colleagues know anything about Christ. And I really feel based on this, I I'd love an opportunity this week. And I sit there hearing that and the lord whispers to me, yeah, when was the last time you you prayed for a colleague? When was the last time you even sort of thought like that about the mission field that you've been given? Now you haven't deliberately reprimanded me there You did not plan to do that, but the lord in his kindness used your observation in order to admonish me and encourage me.
Isn't that very often how it how it works? And so I would encourage you not to underestimate the impact of the things that you have to say about the word of god. Because it might be that what you have seen in this sermon or what you have seen in a bible study is exactly what somebody else needs to hear. Of course, it needs to be done with wisdom. He says that, doesn't he?
There is a appropriate tone and there is appropriate timing when it comes to sharing things, tone and timing can be as important as content sometimes, but it is just not true to say Yeah, this is why the church has elders so we don't have to do any of this. It's not true. We are all called to teach and admonish and to be involved in this ministry together. Now if that's true, which, I hope I hope you think it is. The question is how can we do more of or how can we grow in this teaching and admonishing 1 another?
Well, here's the answer from the text which might surprise you. We need to we need to sing. We need to sing sing loudly sing from our hearts sing sing more. See the connection in 3 verse 16. See it with me.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish 1 another with all wisdom Now how now how's that gonna happen? What's the next word? Not a rhetorical question. What's the next word? Through through.
As you teach and admonish 1 another through Psalms, hymns, and songs from the spirit, singing to god with gratitude in your hearts. You'll probably know that singing has always been a part of Christian life throughout the ages. If you look at the gospels, you see Christ and his disciples very early on, they would gather together and he would teach them, but they would also they would also sing together. Pliny, who was, an ancient governor of Befinia, is recorded in some of his documents that he wrote port about Christians to the emperor trajan. And in his report, he described them this way.
He said the Christians gather at dawn to sing a hymn to Christ as God. That's what they do, empatragen. This is what they're up to They gather a dawn to sing a hymn to Christ as God. He was not a Christian writer. If you go back in our own history in this country, to the great awakening, and you look at the ministry of people like the Wesley's and George Whitfield.
1 of the ways in which the trins of the great awakening were carried into the hearts of the people was through the hymns and the songs of people like Charles Wesley. That they would be preaching about the new birth and about justification by faith alone, and 1 of the ways they got those glorious gospel truths into the minds of the people was through song. That was how they got it to dwell richly within the congregations, the truth. By providing them with and leading them in the singing of hymns and the singing of songs. So singing has always been a crucial part of church church life together.
And you notice the emphasis on singing. Notice the emphasis on singing. It doesn't say let the word of Christ dwell richly within you as you hear music played to you. Doesn't say that. It says it happens by singing.
It says you sing that the word of Christ will dwell richly within you. And therefore, if you find yourself in a place where the music at the front is so loud and all the lights have been turned off so that you cannot even see let alone hear what other people are saying. Well, that's out of sync with what Paul is teaching here. He says it's really important that you hear each other sing. Of course, there are different styles.
You know, there are Psalms, there are hymns, there are spiritual songs. There are churches that vary in how they do it, Some prefer more modern, some would rather the organ and no drum kit, and there are, there's space for many different styles But brothers and sisters, he's saying make sure that you can hear each other sing. You need to be able to hear each other because the word of Christ will dwell only as you sing together and notice his emphasis as well on truth. It's the word of Christ that needs to be sung. And that was very important in the context of this letter because as we've seen, there were false teachers in the church and they were talking about and I guess trying to lead people in the worship of angels.
They were into mystical worship celebrations. So who knows, but that they were gathering people together and having angel worship songs? And the whole culture would have been intimacy with god is found through the mystical. Interimacy with god is found in singing things that you don't quite understand. Paul says, away with that sort of mysticism.
We want the word of Christ to be sung. We want the message of the gospel to be sung. We want truth about the sovereignty and the goodness and the works of god to be sung. It has to be true. See what he says?
Sing it. Let it be true and the word of Christ would dwell richly within you. You see, it is the case, isn't it? That when we sing together in church, it is not just a response to the word of god. It is an extension of the word of God.
It's not the case that we have our Bible time close it And then it doesn't really matter what we sing because we're we're just sort of responding to what he said a moment ago. I think Paul would see it much more as an extension of word ministry. It's another way in which the word of truth gets into your heart and does that teaching and admonishing work as you sing truth together. That's what we want, isn't it? She go to places sometimes and you can't help but think.
What what is the emphasis here? It seems to be that there's less concern with what we're actually singing and more a concern just to whip up a certain type of atmosphere in a room. We don't want that. What we sing is really, really important and that we can hear each other is really, really important. Because it's the way in which the word would dwell richly within us.
And it struck me this week that singing together is a way in which we unite together. See, we've seen that haven't we in colossians 3 that love and peace and being together is a big priority for the apostle. I think singing together is 1 of the ways in which we strengthen our unity because if you think about it, it's 1 of the only times in congregational life where we all say the same thing at the same time. I know in some other traditions that are more liturgical, they would say lots of the same thing at the same and I think there's good reasons to have that and some good reasons to avoid some of that, but in churches like ours of which there are many, well, at a baptism and a dedication, we might say the same thing altogether, but week by week, it's singing, isn't it? Singing is the time when we all say the same stuff at the same time.
And what that means is that you and I might have very different ways of understanding, a sort of a secondary part of the Christian life. And we might disagree on that, and sometimes we might robustly disagree on that, but when it comes to singing, I'm gonna sing with you, be thou my wisdom, and be thou my true word, and Christ my hope in life and death, and only Christ Christ alone, my hope is found. And we're all gonna say that together. And we might have differences on other secondary issues, but we're gonna say that together. And that's gonna that's gonna unite us.
It's gonna bring about the sort of things that Paul thinks are really important in colossians 3. It brings unity, doesn't it? And again, another reason to sing is because it helps this word dwell richly within us. I'm sure you've all seen those videos of people who've got dementia, or it might be that they've got some other degenerative memory, a brain condition. And, if you've ever seen them, or if you know people like that, often it's the case that they've forgotten holidays that they've had, and they've forgotten addresses that they've lived at, and they've forgotten certain people in their lives but what can they often remember better than anything else?
It's the combination of truth and tune, isn't it? Together. And even though they can't remember, even what they had for breakfast, when they hear the first few notes of Jesus loves me this I know, that that it rushes back out of some chamber that is still alive within them. It's as if the water is in a is in like a rock. And the tune is the stick and when the tune smacks the rock, the water comes gushing out from somewhere within them.
And that the truth mixed with the tune has embedded itself into their mind and their heart. So that perhaps when they need it most, it comes out. That's what music can do. It can allow the word of Christ to dwell within us richly. It can teach and admonish us even if everything else has been forgotten.
And so brothers and sisters, I would encourage you to sing and to sing loudly and to sing from your hearts And I would encourage you to be thankful for our musicians who really do care about hearing us sing and making sure it's true so that the word of Christ can dwell richly within us. It is not the case in every single church. I can tell you that. It is not the case in every single church that such concern is given to truth and singing. We ought to be very thankful that we're in a place where those things where those things actually matter.
And so sing and make a plan to sing. Make a plan to sing. You see it might be. And this is not intended as any kind of correction to anyone. Okay?
Let me just say that up front. It's not intended to be that. But it might be that if every single week you always sit at the very, very back of the room. Now, maybe you do that, and there might be good reason that. You you may physically, they're all just quivering in their in their chairs at the moment now.
It's not aimed at anyone. I promise you. It might be that there are good physical reasons flat. You need to get out or mental reasons. You need the space or whatever it is.
So, I understand all of that. But it might be that if you sit at the back week after week after week, you find yourself a little bit less connected to the worshiping life of the family of god. It might just be a little bit harder to hear. You might feel a little bit more exposed and less likely to sing You haven't got anything behind you except the car park. Week after week after week.
And again, it's not a command, something to go away and think about. But maybe it's worth varying it sometimes and coming nearer the front, so you're a bit closer. And instead of cars, you've got 300 voices behind you, singing, and you can hear, and you want to sing, and might be worth just varying that a little bit, or come to the evening service, where we sing again. It's a great joy not just to hear the word but to sing to sing sing from your heart, make a plan to sing sing for the person next to you who might 1 day have dementia? Who knows?
Maybe they 1 day will have dementia. And it might be that it was the worshiping life of the church in these days which put the word of Christ richly in them to serve them in those days. Sing loudly so that the person next to you, his marriage might be going through a really hard time, and they may feel like they're singing, but it's a bit lip service, at least they can hear you singing of Christ's goodness and his love, and that might serve them in ways that, you could never you could never have expected or anticipated. So you see, he says, let the word of Christ dwell within you richly, let it dwell within you as an individual, let it dwell among us corporately, as we teach and admonish 1 another, we've all got a part to play in this, we've all got things we can share and let us sing so that this word can dwell within us and so that we can grow in all the virtues we've been studying together. In colossians 3.
Let's bow our heads and ask the Lord to do it for us. Father we pray that the message of Jesus Christ might dwell among us richly. We pray that as individuals, it would not just be a message that we lock away and admire but something that we really get out and use. In all of life's situations. We pray that as a church, we would be looking for ways in which we can teach and admonish and encourage 1 another with what we have seen in the word of god.
And we pray that you would help us as your people have always been. To be a singing people so that the truth can dwell richly within us and we pray all of these things in Jesus name.