Heart Attitudes for the New Year (Colossians 3:12-17)

Sunday, January 11th, 2015
Sermon Series: Colossians

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Heart Attitudes for a New Year

Five attitudes that should characterize God’s people

Colossians 3:12-17

You may not know it, but the US government’s website lists the most popular New Year’s resolutions. Some congressman probably authorized the study for a couple million. Here are the top ten:

10)  Drink less

9)  Take a trip and travel

8)  Pay off debt and save more

7)  Be less stressed

6)  Eat healthier

5)  Work out

4)  Learn something new

3)  Quit smoking

2)  Volunteer more

1)  Lose weight

I’m sure that millions were spent to bring you those statistics.

It seems like the turn of the year is when many people assess their life and plan to make changes. You think about what you liked this year, and what you want to do better in the next.

Jonathan Edwards, the great American pastor-theologian made resolutions at various points in his life. He recorded them all together, with the date, and showed a resolve to live for God each day. One of my favorites is, “Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.”

Yours might have been a little more mundane. Maybe you resolved to do less laundry and wear more deodorant this year. How many of you made resolutions this year? Whatever resolutions you have already made, I wanted to bring you a challenge for the New Year from God’s Word. This is a challenge to you individually, and a challenge to us corporately as a church–five heart attitudes for a New Year.

Paul wants us to adopt five heart attitudes for the New Year. Well really, he would say that you don’t need to wait for January to do this. These are heart attitudes that flow out of your position in Christ.

In our culture right now, there is a lot being made out of how you self-identify. Are you straight, homosexual, transgender, or polyamorous? Are you Hispanic, Latino, Spanish-American or American? Are you white, Caucasian, northern European or German? Are you Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Tea Party, Green or Colbert Nation?

I don’t know how you identify yourself to others. Maybe you start by describing your ethnic heritage. Or maybe you describe who you’re related to—“I’m Stevie’s mom.” Or maybe you describe yourself by what you do in life. Regardless of your ethnicity, your life’s work, your political views or your family–if you’re a Christian, then Jesus is to be your foundation.

“Christian” should be the most core, most central self-identification. And what Paul has to say to us is rooted and grounded in that truth—that who you are in Christ is most important. Open your Bibles to Colossians. Your identity in Christ is what drives every New Testament command in Scripture. You can see this in Colossians 1:13 to 14, 21 to 22, 2:13 to 14, 3:2 to 5, and 3:9 to 11. Who you are in Christ is what should drive everything in your life.

So it’s no surprise, that when we get to our passage today in verse 12, he calls us chosen, holy, and beloved by God. He is calling back to mind these amazing truths of our position in Christ. God chose us for salvation in Christ, though there was nothing good in us. God made us holy through the active obedience of His Son, Jesus. And because we are beloved by God, His Son suffered on the cross for us.

And if those things are true for you–because that is your identity, Paul describes five attitudes that should characterize God’s people. And you’ll see that each one is rooted in the cross and grounded in who you are in Christ.

1  Clothe Your Heart with Love  Verses 12 to 14

Colossians 3:12 to 14, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”

The command is to “put on”–it was most commonly used in the Bible for getting dressed. John the Baptist was clothed with camel skin and a leather belt–it uses the same word. Herod put on his royal robes, and Jesus had his garments put back on after being scourged–same word. Paul is saying that we are to actively clothe our hearts with these attitudes.

I have two girls, ages 5 and 7, and every week in my house there is “active clothing” going on. They come downstairs dressed for ballet, for gymnastics, for tea, for princess, for playing outside. They clothe themselves in many, many, many different ways.

In verse 12, Paul lists five ways we should clothe ourselves–compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And they each are grounded in the Gospel.

Paul commands us to have a heart of . . .

Compassion–a love for the unlovely, an unnatural concern for those in need

Kindness–living in a way that benefits others, having grace that oozes out of you

Humility–our age is one of self-love and self-promotion, humility is modesty and selflessness

Gentleness–willing to suffer injury rather than inflict it on others, meekness

Patience–not getting angry, an ability to wait without getting worked up internally

Now usually when I think about these attitudes, I think about how different my life would be. But Paul makes clear that other people need you to have these attitudes. Other people in your home need you to be compassionate and kind and patient. Other people in our church need you to be humble and gentle and patient.

Verse 13 says that the outcome of these attitudes will be that you bear with one another, and you will forgive each other. This makes it clear that Paul is talking mainly about life in the church. And that means we need you to be compassionate and gentle with one another. You can’t get frustrated with somebody here–you need to give them grace.

You want humility in others, so please—please put on humility yourself! Bear with one another. Forgive one another. Don’t wait for an apology. Don’t wait for them to admit their wrong. Overlook sin whenever you can. Don’t hang onto it. Maybe the sin feels so great. It’s so huge that you just can’t let it go. I’ve talked to believers who want someone else’s head on a platter. Was wrong done? Yes. But can you forgive?

Paul ends by saying, “Just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you forgive others.” So let me ask you this–if you cannot forgive someone, tell me what it is that Christ cannot forgive in you? If you cannot get past what they’ve done, tell me whether there is something in your past even greater that Christ was willing to forgive, and not count against you? Again we return to the Gospel.

We have compassion on others—because we know how bad we were in our heart

We are kind to others—because we know how we were won to Christ through grace

We are humble people—because we know who we are is not by our doing

We are gentle with others—because we know that the bad treatment we receive is still better than what we really deserve

We are patient with others–because we know the time it took us to be won to Christ and how long it’s still taking to become more like Christ

The saving love of Christ should be the active motivation for our heart’s attitudes. Our heart is different because we are forgiven by Christ. The driving force is love. We love others because Christ loved us. That’s Paul’s conclusion in verse 14, “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” At the core of all these heart attitudes is love. Clothe your heart with love.

Love bonds us together in unity. Love for others is the central mark of salvation. First John 4:12, “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” First John 4:21, “And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”

Every church of regenerate saints should be marked by unity. Faith Bible Church should be marked by unity, because we are to love one another. So I’m pleading with you today, love one another. Clothe your heart with love. Remember who you are in Christ. See His love for you, then show that off to others.

If you’ve been in a new visitor coffee or attended a new members’ class where I’ve taught, then you’ll have heard me say this, but here’s my guaranty to you. We will sin against you, whether by accident, ignorance or even intentionally, one or more of the FBC leadership will sin against you if you stay here long enough. We are still sinners, just forgiven ones.

So the question is, what will you do? Can you love others? Can you forgive others? Can you bear with one another? I know that Jesus has done that with you. But I’m just asking–when you have a complaint, do you love them enough to manifest compassion and kindness, or do you talk to others? When you are impatient about someone not responding, not emailing, not listening to you–what will you do with your heart?

2  Let Peace Rule Your Heart  Verse 15

Now I don’t mean that you need to find inner peace. That’s one of the lies of the world that is continually marketed to us. We need to move past the negative and cultivate peaceful practices throughout our day. But you don’t need to practice Feng Shui, do yoga or spank your inner child in order to have peace in your heart.

Look at Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Paul says that the peace of Christ should rule your heart. Here is what he means. For the Christian, the sins of your past are forgiven and done away with. The challenges of the present are being worked out for good. The future is sure because God will never let you go. It is the peace of Christ towards God which He accomplished on the cross.

This is not a command for your life to be full of peace–there is no promise of that in Scripture. In fact, there is promise of trouble for believers. But the reality that you are at peace with God will keep you at rest. Ephesians 2:13 to 14, “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.”

We are not joined together because we all worked hard enough to be here. We are not joined together as a church because of our economic status, our ethnicity, or our relationships. We are called into one body because of the person and work of Christ, who is our peace.

There may be a super-typhoon in your life, while you feel like you’re barely hanging on–but Christ is there. He has brought peace between you and God. He has brought peace within the church. He will bring peace to your trials and struggles. This truth that you have peace through Christ is to be what rules your emotions.

The word Paul chooses is unique. The actual picture is of an umpire calling a game. Paul is saying that the peace of Christ is to be the umpire of your heart. The reality of redemption is to judge how you feel. The fact that you are forgiven should rule what’s fair and what’s foul in your life.

This is what’s also meant in Philippians 4:6 to 7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

So what heart attitudes do you need in 2015? You need to clothe your heart in love. And you need to let peace rule your heart and be the umpire of your emotions. His peace should rule over your thoughts every day, and especially Sunday. If you have felt threatened, or hurt, or slandered, or gossiped about, or ignored, or passed over–remember who you are in Christ. Remember what Christ has accomplished for you.

Turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter 2. This is one of my favorite passages that displays the peace of Christ being manifest. First Peter 2:21 to 24, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

How is the peace of Christ to rule your heart? By remembering what He has done for us. And through imitating His righteous life. So when you’re being reviled and slandered, when you’re suffering, when you’re being threatened, and persecuted, and treated unjustly–resolve to let peace rule your heart. And with that, Paul says to . . .

3  Have a Thankful Heart  Verse 15

It’s just a small note at the end of verse 15. Look at Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful”–a small, but critical attitude of the heart.

How does a mom feel when she cooks a meal for her family, and then people sit down to eat and complain about things they don’t like? This happens in our household. We’re eating some amazing BBQ pork and hear, “Can’t we have mac-and-cheese?” At church picnics, we have started to laugh when people complain about the type of food being served. “What part of free are you struggling with?”

It’s easy to complain and not be thankful. So if God provides you with everything you need, and he owns everything, and he feeds all the birds of the air, and he clothes plants with such beauty–if he made creation for you to enjoy, if he has promised good to you, if you have seen his faithfulness in days past, if you know his forgiveness and mercy in your life . . . how can you avoid being thankful?

An unthankful heart is a mark of spiritual pride.

An ungrateful heart that complains is blind to the work of God.

You are not thankful when you believe that you deserve something better.

You are not thankful when you believe that you have been treated unfairly.

You are not thankful when you are at the center of your concerns.

Christians are to be the most thankful people. Scripture calls us again and again to be thankful. Ephesians 5:20, “Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.”

First Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Now do you notice a common thread between these two passages? They are both connected to Christ. We give thanks in Christ Jesus. Our thankfulness is consistently tied to our salvation.

The same is true here in Colossians. The command to be thankful is strongly connected to the command for Christ’s peace to rule your heart. Your thankfulness to God is grounded in your salvation. If you know God’s mercy in your life and His care of you, then you will be thankful.

And Paul adds there in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, it “is God’s will for you.” If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution, this might be a good one–just sayin’. How about, “I resolve to be thankful for everything that happens, because God wants this for me. I resolve to be thankful every day to God, because I’m not getting what I deserve. I resolve to be thankful every day to God, because I’m getting an eternal reward that was awarded to another.”

Who you are in Christ should drive everything in your life–everything you think, everything you feel. It should all be filtered through your identity in Christ. That’s why Paul says to:

1) Clothe your heart in love

2) Let Christ’s peace rule your heart and be the umpire of your emotions

3) Have a thankful heart, and . . .

4  Get the Word into Your Heart  Verse 16

This is Paul’s next command in Colossians, verse 16, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

This week, I read an article online about how fifteen minutes per day in the Word adds up. Most of us think that an hour a day to sit and read would be amazing, but life won’t allow it. Thirty minutes is the goal, but we sometimes fall short. So the article was written to challenge you to try fifteen minutes per day.

Fifteen minutes per day equals two hours per week, which equals more than eight hours per month, and over ninety hours per year. That’s about two work weeks spent reading the Word, and just fifteen minutes a day will result in that. I don’t know how much time you get in God’s Word each day, but God says that you need to get the Word into your heart.

Literally, it needs to dwell in you. You dwell in your house or apartment–you live there. You know all the ins and outs, nooks and crannies of that place. In the middle of the night, when there’s no moon out, I can walk from my bedroom upstairs, down the hallway, down the stairs, through my house and into my garage with no lights on–right? You know your house–you spend time there. It’s all familiar to you.

In the same way, the Word needs to live in you. It needs to know and have explored all the places in your heart. It should dwell there. Look at Romans 8:11, “[God] will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Using the same language, Paul describes how the Spirit of God dwells in believers.

So get this, God wants His Word to dwell in your heart in the same way that His Spirit inhabits you. As one author said, and I wrote it in your notes–“The Word in the heart and mind is the handle by which the Spirit turns the will.” I don’t know what your devotional life is like, but I do know that God wants you and me regularly in the Word. You can draw a direct line between one’s intake of the Word, and one’s progress in Christ-likeness. It’s not the only means, but it is a primary means. So get the Word into your heart.

Pray and plead with God that He would make you see its value. Job 23:12, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” Psalm 119:10 to 11, “With all my heart I have sought You . . . 11 Your word I have treasured in my heart.”

There are so many things that we treasure. We value a good night’s sleep. We love to watch sports. We see the worth in diet and exercise. Do you see the value of the Bible in your life? Paul says that when the Word of God is abiding in you, that you will have wisdom to instruct and warn others.

Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” This doesn’t mean that you’ll start to live in a musical, breaking out into song when you have something to say (although that’d be entertaining).

But on the patio, when you’re in conversation, if you’re in God’s Word, you will know how to respond to crisis, to conflict, to challenge. And it may be a passage that you share. And it may be a line from a worship song that comes to mind. But the words of Christ will come back and be a help to you.

One of the things we regularly hear from guys in Training Center is this–they say, “My neighbor was talking to me about what’s happening in their family, and suddenly, the passage I needed came to mind.” When the Word of God is dwelling in you, it comes to mind and it comes out in what you say. It affects your relationships with others–teaching and admonishing.

And it affects your relationship with God–singing. A steady diet of the Word changes how you think. Your hearts become more thankful to God. That’s the end of verse 16. You’re singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. It’s not vocalized, it’s not articulated thanks. It’s that your heart is happy in Jesus.

Instead of the latest Taylor Swift song bouncing in your head, you’ll find that lyrical praise to God is bouncing around in there. And what you share with others will be a byproduct of that genuinely thankful heart. So again–Paul is challenging us to think and feel in a way that matches our identity in Christ. For 2015, God wants you to . . .

1)  Clothe your heart in love

2)  Let Christ’s peace rule your heart

3)  Have a thankful heart

4)  Get the Word into your heart

5  Live out Christ’s Heart  Verse 17

The fruit of these heart attitudes is going to be manifest in how you live. Colossians 3:17, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Paul is saying again that who you are in Christ is what should drive everything in your life. This is a consistent message of Scripture. First Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Even back in the Old Testament, Proverbs 3:6, “In all your ways acknowledge Him.” Whatever you do–in word or deed. Do it all in the name of Christ. What Paul means by “in the name of Christ” is that you are to act in a way that, when people see you, they think of Jesus. You are to act consistently with who Christ is and what He wants. You are to live in a way that represents Him well.

Second Corinthians 5:20, “We are ambassadors for Christ.” In 2009, the US sent an ambassador to Luxembourg who spent most of the budget on the house, alcohol and travel, was aggressive towards the staff prompting multiple people to quit or ask to be transferred to countries at war. After two years of this sort of behavior, this person was forced to resign.

Thankfully, this is not typical for US ambassadors. Their job is to represent and communicate for the US government. As a Christian, you are an ambassador of Christ. You are to represent Him and communicate to others for Him. You are to live out the heart of Christ in this dying world. To some you will be an encouragement and blessing–a joy and help to them, pushing them towards Christ. To some you will be distasteful and a bitter pill, reminding them of the despair of their own lives and the tragedy of sin.

Second Corinthians 2:15 to 16, “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?” That is really the question–who is adequate for these things?

Who is adequate for this–who is sufficient for this? My heart is supposed to be continually clothed in love. Christ’s peace is supposed to overwhelm my fears and anxieties. I’m supposed to have a thankful, grateful heart about everything that happens. My heart should love the Word of God more than food. And I’m supposed to do everything like Jesus would do. Who could do that? Who is adequate for these things?

The answer—no one. You can’t. And yet God can. He has done it through Christ. Jesus lived the perfect life you never could. He had a “heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” He was free of anxiety or worry, displaying perfect peace in His heart towards God’s plan. Though He was God, He also regularly gave thanks to the Father. Though He was God, He answered men and the devil with the Word, knowing it intimately.

And He did act in a manner consistent with His perfect holiness, so that when He was put to death, He was completely innocent. Even his enemies knew it. He actively lived the perfect life that you strive for. And in His death, He paid the price for every failure that each Christian would ever commit. So that as a result of placing your hope in Him alone for salvation . . .

you have been freed from bondage to sin

you have escaped the condemnation you deserve and it has been laid on another

you are declared righteous because of Christ’s perfect life being counted as yours

you have received the Spirit of God in your heart to secure you

you can be empowered by His Spirit to obey Him perfectly now

And when you get this, when you really grasp the awesome reality of who you are in Christ, then Paul’s commands start to make sense. And these seem like reasonable resolutions for 2015.

1)  Clothe your heart in love

2)  Let Christ’s peace rule your heart

3)  Have a thankful heart

4)  Get the Word into your heart

5)  Live out Christ’s heart

What I’d tell you is that your family needs you to pursue this. Our church needs you to make these resolutions. And our valley will benefit by you living out who you are in Christ.

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John serves as a pastor and elder at Faith Bible Church
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