Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17)
We are at the end of a three-part series called The Character of Corporate Worship, in which we are examining the qualities of a faithful worshiping community by walking through Colossians 3:1-17. Two weeks ago, part one focused on how our union with the risen Jesus orients us heavenward, creating a culture where people can thrive in their new identity (v. 1-4). Last week, part two examined how tolerance of sin damages such a culture by undermining our union with Christ (v. 4-11). And this week, part three will explore the relational and liturgical habits of a congregation that worships faithfully (v. 12-17).
An Atmosphere of Human Flourishing
Every culture has specific behaviors and habits that demonstrate its value system. And a Christian culture of worship is no exception. As people in the business of aligning creed and conduct, we reject certain behaviors, while embracing others. This is why there are dos and don’ts in the life of the local church. God’s grace to us in Christ isn’t only redemptive; it is also instructive.
In v. 5-11, Paul has shown us how damaging the don’ts can be when they go unnamed and un-dealt with. Now he wants to flip that around in v. 12-17 to focus on how life-giving the dos can be when people’s lives have been saturated with the power of the risen Christ. This is why he gives another laundry list, this time exchanging the vices for virtues (cf. 12-13).
What’s striking here is how such behavior is infused with the character of Christ Himself. Paul isn’t going to let us settle for keeping up appearances. Rather, he’s saying, “Christ now lives in you. His grace is invigorating you with endless spiritual resources to redefine every relationship in terms of His love. Press your life into Him and He will give you more of Himself.”
When we put on Christ, we are clothed in the whole wardrobe of His Kingdom with love definitively adorning the whole outfit. This is why Paul says in v. 14 that love is “the bond of perfection” (lit. translation). All these godly virtues are generated in the putting on of Christian love. It becomes clear, then, that this is so much more than dos and don’ts. It’s a matter of the affections being ruled decisively by the peace of Christ (v. 15). “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27) empowers us to love one another as the peace of the Gospel prevails within.
Moreover, a culture filled with people whose hearts are ruled by the peace of Christ is an atmosphere of human flourishing. It is an environment of relentless thanksgiving where the word of Christ dwells richly in men and women whose souls are fully alive. And it’s what God desires to create at LifePoint by giving us all a unique part to play as our union with Christ forms us for greater glory. When we gather, each one has something to contribute for the “building up” of the church (cf. 1 Cor. 14:26).
The Singable Gospel
One primary expression of this is found in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Therefore, it’s no accident that LifePoint’s liturgical practice involves lots of singing. After all, the Gospel is so singable. As Paul states in v. 16, this is one way we teach and admonish one another.
Songs teach. They get the most important things through our thick skulls in a way that nothing else can. Lyric and melody put Good News in our mouths and hearts to make us feel at home in God’s Story. And that helps grow in all the ways that matter most to Him. Your singing does that for me, and my singing does that for you. One worship leader wisely said, “We don’t gather because we need more music. We gather because we need more of Christ through one another” (Matt Oakes from Make, Mature, Multiply, p. 144). Each voice matters.
Christ at Center Stage
If the church is going to build itself up in love (Eph. 4:16), it is crucial that our relational and liturgical habits be shaped by Christ. His supremacy shows up in how we relate to one another. And it shows up in how we sing, too. Therefore, when we are intentional to do everything in His name according to His indwelling Word (v. 16-17), it makes Him profoundly un-ignorable. When He takes center stage, people notice.
In conclusion, Jesus died to dress you in your real Sunday best: compassion, kindness, meekness, patience, and–above all–love. Your new clothes cost Him everything. Think about that for a second. It’s very profound. And it may just humble you enough to set fire to your old wardrobe, which is so passé now that you’re a new creation in Christ (2 Co. 5:17). Thus, if we take our cues from Colossians 3:1-17, I guarantee we will see human flourishing in ways we could have never imagined. We’ll end up seeing just how dramatic and seismic Sunday can be–for you, for me, and for everyone who will take their union with Christ far more seriously than they take themselves.
Liturgy for Sunday, February 22, 2015:
Call to Worship: Psalm 34:2-3, 8-9
Confession & Assurance: John 1:10-13
Benediction: 1 Kings 8:57
Follow our Spotify playlist for this Sunday.
How to Prayerfully Respond:
1. Has your union with Christ affected how you view your relationships with others? How might you put on love when coming to church this Sunday? Think and pray about how you can demonstrate Christian love toward others in word and deed.
2. What about singing? Is singing something you enjoy? Why or why not? Ask the Spirit to put a joyful song in your heart.
3. Pray that LifePoint will be known as a place where people relate to one another in love. Pray that it will be a place that is known for its joyful singing. Ask that God will do a remarkable work among us through Word and Spirit this Sunday.