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The Richness of the Indwelling Word (Colossians Sermon 14 of 21)

The Richness of the Indwelling Word (Colossians Sermon 14 of 21)

December 16, 2007 | Andy Davis
Colossians 3:15-16
Abiding in Christ, Trials, Worship

The Peace of Christ is a Gift of God

I will never forget, and it's interesting this morning as we sang this song, Come Let Us Worship and Bow Down. I'll never forget this time, it was January of 1983, I'd been a Christian for just a few months, and I was being discipled by a man, Tim Schuman, who was working with the Ministry, Campus Crusade for Christ there at MIT. And he had taken me under his wing and he was training me in the Word, he was teaching me the Word of God. Teaching me the implications of what I'd done, of giving my life to Christ, and he was developing in me the habits of discipline, the spiritual disciplines of witnessing and all kinds of things. And I was just learning so much from him. He was an engaged man at that point, he wasn't married, he was going to get married later that year, that summer. So he had all kinds of time to give to me. And I remember, we were there in his apartment, and I think it may have been January of 1983 and it was snowing. And I was living at home with my parents at the time and it just got worse and worse. It does snow this time of year in some places in the country, it doesn't snow here. We have a sled we bought for the kids, we still haven't used it, so we're waiting. But up there it snows and it was getting worse and worse, and I realized I really couldn't safely make it home at that hour, so I called my parents, told them that I was going to stay over with Tim and they were fine with that.

And we just spent the evening in the Word of God. And he had a little fireplace and I remember it was burning with a little fire that he'd made, it was warm in that apartment. And time came to go to bed and he went into his room and I lay down on the couch there in a sleeping bag, and he put on this music by the Maranatha Singers. And their voices sounded so silky and smooth like they floated down from heaven, I'd never heard it before. It was perfect singing. And they were singing that song that we sang, Come Let Us Worship and Bow Down, and I felt a presence in the room. 

As I looked at the snow floating down and I looked at the fire and as I was thinking about the things we'd learned in the Word of God, and the presence was peace. A peace that I had never known before. It was the peace of Christ. His name was Jesus, and He was ministering to me in a way I have seldom experienced it since then. I just knew that I was at peace with God and God at peace with me. And all of those elements come together in the text we're looking at today, the Word of God dwelling richly in our hearts. The peace of Christ ruling over our hearts. Singing psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, the worship, all of that coming together for me that night, and I'll never hear that song again without thinking of that night.

It was so powerful, such an experience for me that I got rid of my introduction that I was planning to use this morning. I'll use it another time. But I thought to myself, "The peace of Christ is a gift of God, is it not?" A rich, full experience of knowing that God is at peace with you and not only that He is at peace with you now, He will be for all the eternity. Isn't that a beautiful thing? And that's what this season is all about. That's what Christmas is all about, God ministering peace to a world at war. And that's what our text is talking about. Let's get it in context, Colossians 3:1-17 give us four major elements of a happy, healthy, productive Christian life, and you can't give up on any of these things if you want to be fruitful and happy as a Christian.

Elements of a Happy, Fruitful Christian Life

We already saw in verses 1-4, a heavenly mindset, we need to set our hearts on things above where Christ is seated. We need to set our minds on things to come when Christ who is our life returns, and we will live with Him forever. Heavenly mindset, we saw that. We also saw in Verses 5-9, the need for vigorous warfare against sin. You cannot feel peace, you cannot experience peace if you don't put sin to death by the power of the Spirit. You can't be fruitful in the Christian life if you're not at war every moment with indwelling sin. And so we talked about that as well, vigorous warfare against sin. Last time, we talked about the new community that God is working around the world called the church. And how He takes individuals and radically transforms them, makes them new creations and then puts them together in community in ways that are remarkable, really miraculous. And, “here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, Barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all.” And there's a unity, a union together. And we can walk together in Christian community, in Christian love, because we are new creations in Christ, verses 9-14. And we talked about that last time. Now, this time and the next time that I'll preach on Colossians, not next week but the week following, we're going to talk about hearts saturated by Christ. The Christian heart saturated. We're going to look at two elements this morning, the peace of Christ ruling our hearts and the Word of Christ richly dwelling in our hearts. And the next time that I preach on Colossians, we'll talk about the name of Christ motivating our hearts. What is our motivation for everything that we do? And finally gratitude or thanks to Christ given constantly by our hearts.

The Peace of Christ Ruling Your Heart

Denied to All Unbelievers

So let's look at the first of these four elements, and that is, the peace of Christ ruling in your heart. Look at verse 15, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." We live in a turbulent world. We live in a world at war, constantly churning. It says in Isaiah 57:20-21, "The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire. ‘There is no peace’, says my God, ‘for the wicked’." There is a sense of turbulence, of churning, when people are not at peace with God and God not at peace with them. That's the vertical aspect. Therefore, horizontally, we've got all kinds of broken relationships, all kinds of issues, because an individual's heart is not at peace with God. He's not at peace with himself, and therefore he's not going to be at peace with those immediately around him, there's going to be strife and conflict in the family.

There's going to be problems in the marriage. There's going to be problems in the parenting relationship. There's going to be problems brother to sister, brother to brother, sister to sister, there's going be problems in the family. And then because of that there's going to be problems in the church and in the community, there's going to be strife, there's going to be conflict, there's going to be issues all the time. And because there's strife in the community, there's going to be problems in the nation, and because nations are not at peace with each other, there's going to be warfare. That's just the history of the world. And it all stems from individual people who are not right with God, they're not at peace with God. And this peace which is spoken of so sweetly and richly in this verse, Colossians 3:15, is a gift of Christ to His people.

Impossible to Counterfeit

It is impossible for Satan to counterfeit it. He can't counterfeit it. People try to counterfeit, they try to get at a place of peace because their conscience is afflicting them. They do not feel at peace with God, they're not at rest within themselves. And so they turn to things to try to find an artificial place of peace, a refuge, an oasis.

They might turn to alcohol, and they might make themselves numb for a time. But they wake up with their head on fire, and they wake up with bigger problems than before they drank. As a matter of fact, it can get to the point where that alcohol becomes the biggest problem in their lives, so big that it dwarfs everything else. It's not just that, people also turn to medications, they medicate themselves to try to find artificial peace. This is a growing problem in our country. Psychotropic drugs or mood-altering drugs, more and more the answer for psychiatrists. As a matter of fact, a lot of psychiatry begins and ends with a pill. As people try to find peace, they're not at peace in their own hearts, they're not at peace with God, and so they take medications. The numbers are staggering, the numbers of those that are using psychoactive drugs has gone from 131 million in 1988 to 233 million in 1998, I believe those are worldwide statistics. Here in the States, maybe 20 or 30 million people are on these kind of drugs. And the annual take is about $6.3 billion, on these kinds of medications.

People also resort to other things, to mood music, aromatherapy, I've never tried that one. I've smelled some good smells in my life, but I never thought of it as aromatherapy. Especially this time of the year with the potpourri and the candles and all, it's wonderful but I don't find my peace from that, I hope you don't either. Or a good hot bath, yoga, meditation, breathing techniques. Some people get addicted to physical exercise, the proverbial runner's high, and so they'll exercise. I saw people up in Massachusetts in January and February, running across the Harvard Bridge, and the wind chill was like 30 below and they're running. I think that must be an addiction, there's something going on there that's not right. Do some calisthenics at home, do some exercises, this is strange, but the runner's high. Or others resort even to materialism. There's a new phrase called "shopping therapy," and people kind of indulge in it this time of year. It's true, the first reference to shopping therapy was in the Chicago tribune on Christmas Eve 1986, this is a quote, "We've become a nation measuring out our lives in shopping bags, and nursing our psychic ills through retail therapy."

None of these things, however, is going to bring the kind of peace that's mentioned in our verse today, none of them are. All of them are counterfeits. If your conscience is accusing you of sin, if you're afraid to die and face God on Judgment Day, none of these flimsy techniques can bring you peace, none of them. Your hearts will be restless until you find at last your rest in God. And the reason for that is sin. "’There is no peace’, says my God, ‘For the wicked.’ "

A Gift Given by Christ Alone

This is a gift given by Christ alone. Look at verse 15, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." Christ is the peace-giver, He alone can give peace to troubled consciences and to troubled hearts. Jesus said in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." Jesus in John 14, verse 27 is promising a peace the world cannot give. Those other avenues and other type of things like that can produce a temporary feeling of peace or tranquility, but it's like the morning mist that disappears as soon as the heat of trouble comes in life. Jesus gives a peace that will last forever and ever. He is the prince of peace, and He means to bring a peace to this world that will last for all eternity.

And so it says in Isaiah 9:6-7, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end." That's the kind of peace that Christ comes to bring. The government will be on His shoulders, He will reign on David's throne, and He will bring in in the New Heavens and the New Earth a peace we can scarcely even imagine. Isaiah 2:4 it says, "He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." Isaiah 11:6, "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them." Those are expressions of perfect peace, and Jesus alone can give it.

Now, there are two different ways to understand this command, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. The first is objective, the peace of Christ is objective peace. And the second is subjective, the peace of Christ is an experience or a sense of peace. The first is a status of peace between us and God, and the second is a feeling or an experience of peace. Now, as we look at the first, the objective peace, it's somewhat like the status of peace between our nation and Great Britain. Twice, we were at war with England, but the most recent of those is almost 200 years ago. That's over. There's been a status of peace, we're at peace with England. We're at peace with Great Britain, a status of peace. At one point, we were enemies of God and God was our enemy too. We were at war with God. Look back in Colossians 1, in verse 21. It says there in Colossians 1:21, it says, "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior." We were alienated from God. We were enemies of God. God was at war with us too, and what a terrifying thing it is to have God as your enemy. The God who created heaven and earth. The God who spoke, and the universe came into existence, planets, the cosmos, the stars, all of that just by the word of His power.

Imagine having that kind of power, that kind of creativity, focused like a laser beam on your destruction. That's the way I think of Hell, a terrifying thing to have God as your enemy, and Colossians 1:21 says, "At one point, all of us were alienated from God and we were enemies of God." God was at war with us, whether we knew it or not. We could not necessarily feel it. We might have felt the kind of unease in our souls, unable to be at rest and at peace, as I've mentioned a sense of that, but the real issue is that our status with God, was that He was at war with us and we with Him, that was the status of the relationship. How we felt moment by moment didn't change that at all, but now it lasts because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, because of His blood shed on the cross, God is at peace with us and we with Him through faith in Christ. And that is the meaning of the season. That is the reason that we celebrate the gift of Christ, is it not?

If I can just say, if you were brought here today by a friend or you've just come to church, you haven't been in in years and you're not at peace with God, you know it. You can just sense it as I'm preaching. You know that God is not at peace with you because of sin. Can I urge you to come to Christ? Can I urge you to be justified, to have all of your sins forgiven through simple faith in Christ? Your works will not do you any good, and you know it. You may have tried some of those things I was mentioning earlier before. You may have turned to drugs or alcohol. You may have turned to other things to try to bring you temporary peace, and you know they don't work and your heart is restless. You haven't found peace, come to Christ, be reconciled to God, be reconciled to Him through faith in Christ.

Look at what it says in Colossians 1:22, "But now He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in His sight without blemish and free from accusation." Oh, how sweet is that? To be able to stand before God, free from any accusation. Christ Jesus who died is at the right hand of God, is interceding for us, and He is our righteousness. He is our peace and He is speaking to the Father on our behalf, and we are free from any accusation, how sweet is that? And as the foundation of our experiences of peace is that objective peace we have, where it says in Romans 5:1, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." And that doesn't change like the stock market or NASDAQ. It doesn't go up and down. It is or it isn't. And if you are in Christ, my friends, it is. God is at peace with you and He will be forever more. It has nothing to do with your behavior. It has nothing to do with your attitude or your circumstances. It is an objective peace you have with Christ.

Subjective Peace: An Experience of Peace Like Christ

However, I do not think that that is what Paul is talking about here. I do think it is the basis of it, but I don't think it's what he's talking about, because he's saying, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." And there I think we're talking about a subjective peace. A sense of peace, a feeling of peacefulness that comes over your heart. Now, the basis of it is knowing that God is at peace with you. Amen. Just knowing that God is at peace with you, you can have feelings and experiences of peace, and so we should, just like Jesus. How would you like to be like Jesus? Asleep in the midst of a storm in a boat. You got your cushion under your head and you're sleeping like a baby. The disciples are all thinking that they're going to drown and Jesus is asleep in the center of His Father's will, knowing very well He wasn't going to drown that day. What did He have to be worried about? And so He was asleep.

And that peace of Christ is just put on display, especially at the end of His life, wasn't it? After He worked it all out with His Father in Gethsemane, He knew He was going to die. He had accepted that, He stood up from His prayer time and He went out and the display of peace is supernatural. He steps out to this band of soldiers, 600-plus soldiers, perhaps. They were out there to arrest Him. And He takes charge of that situation. "Who is it you're looking for?" He crafts a place of security and rest for His disciples so they can escape. "Let them go." He's in charge of His own arrest. That's incredible. And He goes from there to Ananias's house and they're questioning Him, and some man strikes Him, and He turns serenely to this man and said, "If I have spoken wrong, then bear witness of it, but if I told the truth, then why did you strike me?"

Now, there's a question that man could think about for days and weeks to come, maybe he eventually came to Christ. Who knows? I hope so. But Jesus is at peace even when getting struck. He's at peace in front of Pontius Pilate. Pilate's the one all churned up. Pilate doesn't know what to do. He's an innocent man but he doesn't want to let him go, and back and forth. He goes out, he goes back in. He's not at peace. Jesus knows what's going to happen. He's going to die. And He knows that out of that death, there's going to be a countless multitude from every tribe and language and people and nation believing in Christ, and coming to full forgiveness. And so, He's ready to die and so He's just talking to Pilate. "Are you a king?" That's a threatening question. "You're right in saying I'm a king. Absolutely, it's the truth. “For this reason I came into the world and for this I was born to testify to the truth. And everyone on the side of truth, listens to me." Oh, the peace of Christ. And then while nailed to the cross, His life blood flowing out, He is quoting scripture. He is saying to the thief on the cross, he's saying, "Today you'll be with me in paradise." He's taking care of His mother and setting up a relationship with John. He's at peace.

Would you like to know that? Would you like to walk in the peace of Christ? Well, you are commanded to actually. Here in verse 15, if you're a Christian, you have the power to do the same. Let the peace of Christ dominate you. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. Some day, when Christ's work is finished in us and in all that countless multitude of the elect, from every tribe and language and people and nation, when He's done with all of His saving work, and we have moved over into the new heaven and new earth, some day you're going to sit on some beautiful, new earth mountaintop, and you're going to look down on a world reborn, the beauty of which I cannot describe right now. It's going to be a perfect world. And Jesus will be there and so will some of the brothers and sisters in Christ and this is some time with Jesus, there's plenty of time with Christ. We've got eternity. And you could see a beautiful river, maybe the river of life, flowing clear as crystal, like silver thread down at the bottom of a beautiful valley.

And perhaps you'll be able to see some new earth eagles, if there will be that, kind of soaring. And you feel the wind on your face and you know that you will never again feel pain, there's no regrets, there's no bad memories, there's nothing but peace. And you will sit there at peace and there's no threat of war, that's over forever. And you will be in community there and you will see the handiwork of God and you will feel the peace of Christ perfected then. Set your heart on it. And let that peace of Christ rule. Let it dominate.

Practically: Bible Intake and Bible Contemplation

Now, how? You say, "Practically, how do I do that? I can do it alright here at church, or I can do it in my quiet time but once the day starts and things start getting busy, and things start getting difficult... " It's amazing the curveballs that Satan throws at you. It's amazing the different things that come. "How can I let the peace of Christ rule in my heart?" Now, first of all, what does that mean? Rule. Well, the word was used of a referee or an umpire at one of the games, like the Corinthian or the Isthmian games and the Olympic games and he was the judge that would sit and preside over the games, and he would decide who was disqualified or make rulings or judgements, etcetera. So you could almost see Christ, in His peace, sitting in the throne of your heart just judging the things that come in, the thoughts that come into your heart, the events of your life, for the purpose of peace. Just ruling over your heart for the purpose of peace. That's what it means. Let the peace of Christ dominate, let it rule in your heart. Well, how do we do it practically? Well, I think we start with the Word.

We'll get to the Word in a moment. But meditate richly on the Word. Let your mind be transformed by the renewing that the Word alone can give. Romans 12:2 says, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind and then you'll be able to test and approve what God's will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will." But what is His will for you? What is He doing? Is He not saving you from sin? Isn't that what He's doing? And doesn't He still have some work to do in that? Absolutely. And do you suppose that that work is going to be painless? I tell you it isn't, it's going to be difficult. Therefore you should “count it all joy because God is doing some work in you, when there are difficulties and circumstances.” And so you can know that “God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and have been called according” “to His saving purpose”. And His saving purpose is that you and a great multitude from all over the world be conformed to the image of Christ. And now you're in it. You're in sanctification. It's going on, trouble's coming. And you say, "I expected it, I knew it was going to come, I'm ready for it, you're working on me, Lord. Thank you." Let the peace of Christ rule just by saturating your mind in the Word of God, understanding right doctrine.

And this one I got from Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I've mentioned it before, but it's so powerful. You need to preach to yourself. Get Lloyd-Jones' book, entitled Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures. Do you ever struggle with depression? Do you ever struggle with discouragement? You need to fight. And one of the number one ways Lloyd-Jones says that you fight is by preaching to yourself. What does he mean by that? Well, he picks up on Psalm 42 in verse 5 which says, "Why are you downcast, oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." This is what Lloyd-Jones says. He says, "The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us, instead of talking to ourselves." This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of the unhappiness in your life is due to the fact that you were listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You've not originated them, but they start talking to you. They bring up that problem from yesterday that was unsolved. It's taking over. It's coming to you.

Your self is talking to you. Now, the Psalmist's approach here, in Psalm 42 was this. Instead of allowing the self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. "Why are you cast down, oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me?" He takes the bull by the horns, you see. And he begins to talk to himself. Do you do this? Do you do it out loud? Now, that's a different matter, but you need to preach to yourself. Maybe you need to start by preaching out loud. And just remind yourself, why are you thinking these dark thoughts? Why are you so troubled, why are you so anxious? Isn't there a God in heaven? Doesn't He rule over all things? Doesn't He love you? Isn't He taking you to heaven to be with Christ? Why are you disturbed about this? Aren't you going to see God's power at work in this situation? You have to talk to yourself. Take what you know is true about God and His sovereignty and His providence and all that, and apply it to your circumstance.

Then you can let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. And put your hope in God. Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." There's so much I could say about this, but it really is a conscious choice on your part to let your heart be troubled, to let your heart be tormented by circumstances. Jesus said don't do it. "Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." It's a matter of faith. Isaiah 26:3-4 says, "You will keep in perfect peace Him whose mind is steadfast, because He trusts in you." I love that. That's NIV. Perfect peace. The Hebrew is "shalom shalom." You'll keep him in shalom shalom, a full, rich experience of peace, if your mind is stayed on Christ. It's mental discipline. I'm not going to let the problems get me down. I'm not going to dominate my thoughts with those issues, those problems. I'm going to just trust Christ.

 Your thought life. Psalm 131, verse 1 and 2. "My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too difficult for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me." Is that your experience? It's a matter of thought control. It's a matter of quieting yourself, as though you were John laying your head on Jesus' breast at that Last Supper, and just say, "I don't need to worry about it. I don't need to worry about these things. I don't need to be troubled by it. Jesus is in control." And prayer, above all things. Philippians 4:6 and 7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus. You're setting peace as a guard over the door of your brain, and you're not letting anything in that's going to disturb your soul. But you're going to trust Him with everything.

The Word of Christ Richly Dwelling in Your Heart

Then it says, "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly," verse 16. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing songs, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." The principle here is that the Word of God is essential to your ongoing life as a Christian. The Word of God is the Alpha and the Omega of faith, and it's every letter in between. Faith operates based on the Word of God. You hear a promise of God, and faith springs up and believes. And those promises, those words from God carry you all the way through to the Omega day of your life. And so therefore, you must feed your faith on the Word of God constantly. It troubles me when Evangelicals, when Baptists, take and wrap up into one thing the beginning of the Christian life, say, "You need repentance at the beginning of the Christian life. You need faith at the beginning of the Christian life. You need to hear the Gospel at the beginning of the Christian life." All those things are true. You just need to do it the rest of your life, and that was just the first day you really repented, the first day you really believed, the first day you really trusted. But that goes on the rest of your life.

So you've got to feed your faith. You've got to make it rich. You've got to put rich soil around the root system of your faith, and that is the Word of God. Now, what does it mean to have Christ's Word dwell in you? The word "dwell" means live. You can imagine like an apartment set up in your heart for the Word of God. I think about that rich woman who knew the prophet Elisha, remember? And Elisha would come from time to time and they'd have a meal, and she says to her husband, "I tell you what, why don't we set up an apartment, a home for this man of God? He is a man of God. Let's put a bed in there and a table and some furniture, and let's just... So whenever he's in the area he can stay." And so it was. She set up an apartment up on the roof of her home, and Elisha came and lived there. And you know the story, 2 Kings, chapter 4. Can I urge you to do that for the Word of God? Make room in your heart for the Word of God. Set up a place for the Word of God to come and live with you.

Now, this time of year there's a lot of traveling that goes along and a lot of house guests. And there are some good house guests and then there's some bad house guests, you know what I'm saying? I know I can touch some raw nerves here because there's family involved. The general rule of thumb is three days, wasn't it? And then it starts to turn a little bit bad. But if it's a long journey they're coming from we can extend that a bit. Why should they come such a long distance for just a few days? But there are house guests and then there are house guests. Like the ones that come and eat up all your food and leave you with, get this, I read this on the Internet, a $500 phone bill to Europe. Okay, that is not a good house guest. Don't do that, friends. That's not Christian. That's not loving, okay? But she left a $500 phone bill. It was a college roommate, and then years later she came to visit and she stayed for four weeks. Ate a lot of food and made a lot of phone calls. That's a bad house guest.

The Word of God will make you rich. The Word of God's not going to eat your food and take all your possessions. The Word of God is going to make you rich. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. You can imagine the Word of God coming, and then you go to see the room that you've opened up for it and there on the wall is a Rembrandt painting and in the corner is a Michelangelo statue and on the floor is an expensive Persian silk rug. That's what the Word of God does to your life, it enriches you. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. Well, how do you do that practically? Well, you take the Bible in and you think about it. That's it. You take the Bible in by reading it and by hearing good preaching and teaching, and then you think about it. Read through the Bible daily, every single day, and meditate on and memorize the Scripture. Martin Luther said that he studied the Bible as he gathered apples. First he shook the whole tree that the ripest might fall. Then he climbed the tree and shook each limb, and then when he had shaken each limb he shook every branch, and after that he examined every twig, and then he looked under every leaf. In other words, search the Bible whole through and through, and find blessing in every word, take it seriously.

Not like water running through a pipe, "There, I've done my reading." How quickly can you do your daily reading? That's not it. Time yourself and try to save time every day, read it faster and faster, that is not it. You take the Word of God in and you let it marinate, you let your mind be transformed by it, meditate on it, you dwell on it richly. It's not a dry, boring forced march through the pages of the Bible. But the Word of God is living and active and able to produce richness in you. Most of the best stories that I read when I was a kid had to do with treasure. Hidden treasure, pirate treasure, galleons sunk in the Spanish Main, that kind of thing. I loved reading those kind of adventure stories and even to this day I read a book on treasures found in attics, like the Declaration of Independence and all that kind of thing. I just get excited about that kind of thing, maybe that's materialism in my heart, I don't know, I just love those adventures.

The Word of God is the rich treasure of life, the rich treasure of life. Look at Colossians 1:27, Paul loves to talk about wealth, he loves to talk about richness. Colossians 1:27, it says, "To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you the hope of glory." The riches of this glory. Look over at Colossians 2, verse 2 and 3, "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." He loves that word "riches" or "treasure". Just as Jesus likened the Kingdom of Heaven to treasure hidden in a field. Or the Psalmist said that, "The Word of God is better than fine gold, yea, than much fine gold." Psalm 19. Whereas Paul, as he gets to the end of all this incredible doctrine, Romans 11:33, "Oh, the depths of the riches, of the wisdom, the knowledge of God. How unsearchable His judgments and His paths beyond tracing out."


Now, what are the rich effects of the Word of God on an individual Christian and on the Body of Christ? Well, there's a lot of things, but it starts with wisdom. It says, "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom." The Word of Christ brings you rich wisdom, it makes you wise. We are surrounded by foolishness in this world, aren't we? But that's not the foolishness that bothers me, it's the foolishness in here that bothers me. The foolishness of my own heart. The Word of Christ has been given to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. And so I love Proverbs, how it begins, the first five verses, it says, "The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel. For attaining wisdom and discipline, for understanding words of insight, for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life doing what is right and just and fair, for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young, let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance." And so the Word of Christ gives you wisdom. Wisdom identifies the best destination and the best journey to get to that destination, both of them, wisdom covers all of that, and the Word of God gives that to you.


Secondly, it's teaching. It says, "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish with all wisdom." As you teach. Now, what is teaching? It's the imparting of spiritual truth, spiritual data, of information. And it is in this way that the body of Christ is edified or built up. The body of Christ is a work in progress, some of you may have even seen posters or have them up, "Be patient with me. God is not finished with me yet." Or, "I'm a work in progress." The Church is a work in progress, we are people who are works in progress. But how does the work progress? It progresses by the Word of God. And teaching is the imparting of building-blocks for your soul, so that the city of truth can be built up inside you. It is intrinsic to the Great Commission. Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Teaching's at the center of the Great Commission. Building up the Body of Christ, in the knowledge of God and of His Word, for practical obedience to all of His commands, that is what the Word of Christ is for.

The ministry of the Word of God was at the center of the work of the apostles, from the very beginning. You remember that first day in Pentecost, 3000 were added to the number that day, and it says, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer, the Word of God." And then, when the Reformation came, those great leaders, all of them, one after the other, were great teachers of the Word of God. Martin Luther was, he said, "At core, a teacher of the Word of God. The Word of God did all the work," he said. "While I spent time with my friends, while I enjoyed time with my friends, the Word of God was running all over Germany, and reforming the Church." All he did, he said, was simply teach and preach the Word of God. All of them, John Calvin was a great teacher of the Word of God. So, teaching.

I love what Charles Spurgeon said about this, he was teaching pastors about their sermons. He said, "You need to let your sermons be rich with teaching, fill your sermons with teaching." This is what Spurgeon said to his students. He said, "Sermons should have real teaching in them, and their doctrine should be solid, substantial and abundant. Put plenty into your sermons, gentlemen. After hearing some discourses I've been reminded of the request of the farmer's boy to his missus, when eating his broth. 'Missus,' he said, 'I wish you'd let that chicken run through the broth a little bit longer.' " Have you ever heard a sermon like that? You wished that the chicken had run through the broth just a little bit longer; it's watery, there's nothing substantial. It may have titillated your ears but it didn't change your heart. You didn't learn anything. So my desire is kinda of let the chicken kind of cook in the broth, just let it be rich and full. And you're just eating a full-bodied stew when you hear the Word of God preached here. And so also the Bible for Life teaches.

 We need to teach the Word of God fully. And it says also admonishing. Admonishing is the negative ministry of the Word of God. Teaching and admonishing everyone, that's warning somebody. It's basically like one of those Old Westerns where they get on their horses and they ride out and they head out sin at the pass. You don't want a sin to come and destroy the village and so you're going to go out there and head it off at the pass. You see what's coming. With the wisdom that God's given, you say, "Brother, you're in trouble. Sister, you need to stop doing that, this is dangerous." This is at the core of counseling. This is noutheteo, the Greek word for admonishment. It's at the core of counseling, warning each other based on the Word of God. That's what the Word of God does. And then finally there is worship, rich, full worship. As you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. The pattern for godly worship is revelation response.

God reveals. We respond. God unfolds Himself to us in His Word and we are blown away by it. We are moved emotionally and we break out in song. Some of us do. We break out in song and we sing and celebrate because of what God has done. I was talking last Friday to Michael Card, I had some wonderful time with him and he's just a modern hymn writer. He's a godly man who loves to sing. But he says he's troubled by what he sees is the role of music in local church life. He said when he was growing up in a Baptist church, Baptist churches were, for the most part, stationary revival meetings. And basically all they did was preach the same simple Gospel week after week to get people saved. And there wasn't any depth to the preaching. There wasn't any discipleship going on. It was just saving people week after week, so they thought. He said, "Now, many churches are like a stationary concert." And he said, "I would rather go and just have us read the Word and sing, and I'm a musician." He actually said this. He said, "I want to know." He said, "Some of those churches have abandoned teaching and preaching. They just don't do it anymore and all they do is sing." And he wants to stand up and say, "Wait, wait, wait, what are you worshipping? What are you so excited about? What's moving your heart? You don't seem to know anything about Christ."

No, it's gotta be revelation and then response. God reveals and we respond. Probably one of most profound times of a personal worship I have ever had in my life. I will never forget this. It came the Sunday that I preached my final sermon on Romans in this pulpit. I'll never forget it. And I had to do something that's difficult for me, and that is to take a whole book and boil it down to one sermon. I love the details. I love the truth of the Word of God. But I did, I put all 16 chapters into one sermon. And then I went over that sermon that morning just to prepare for preaching and I was blown away by the goodness of God in loving a sinner like me. I was moved to tears. It was bad. I couldn't keep preaching as I was practicing that morning. And I said, "This is not good because I have to conquer this before I get up in front of hundreds of people and preach." At the end of that time I said, "You know what song we need to finish this all off? How Deep The Father's Love For Us." I just love that song. And I had a sense of the depth, of the scope of God's love for me and Christ that morning.

And I went to Eric and I said, "Eric," 'cause he had chosen a good closing hymn, but I said, "Is there anyway we can move over and sing How Deep The Father's Love For Us?" And Eric's got the sweetest spirit and that involved putting in inserts that very morning and he said, "I'd love to do it." And we got done with prayer here in the parlor and I walked through and they were practicing it. I almost couldn't make it to the back. I almost couldn't make it. I was with one of my children and we walked to the back, I came around and sat down on that little stairway back there that brings us down to the children hall and I just sat down and wept. And I wept for probably 90 seconds without explaining myself to that child, they were troubled. "You alright, Dad?" "I'm fine. It's happy, not... " I could barely speak. "It's happy not sad." What was going on in me that moment? You know what it was? It was truth brought out by music. It was the two of them, together, it was the truth and then the spiritual aspect of music, which is a powerful medium, which brought out true worship in me and I was moved. Now, that's what worship's all about, isn't it? Good hymns have good doctrine in them and they're skillfully written in ways that we normal people can't do, but composers can do it and they can just reach to our heart and bring out emotions based on truth. That is worshipping in spirit and truth and I love to see it.


So how do we apply these things? Well, the whole sermon has been application, Because we're in that section of Colossians. Let me speak some practical words to you. Start with my practical advice on peace. Is it important whether you're at peace today? Whether you feel peaceful today? I tell you, it is. The fruit of the spirit is peace. Let the spirit administer peace to you today but follow the instructions here. Renew your mind with the promises of God. Figure out what God is doing in your life. He is sanctifying you and making you holy, that's not going to be an easy process, so expect difficulties. When those difficulties come, remind yourself what God is doing in you. "In this world, you will have trouble," Jesus said. "But take heart, I have overcome the world." Guard your peace in Christ. Secondly, know the Word of God. Make a resolution that in 2008, you're going to read through the Bible in a year. There are 15, 20 different good programs you could follow, but find one and follow it. Take in the Word of God in breadth. Just get a sense of the whole scope of the Word of God.

 But along with that, I urge you to choose a portion of scripture and memorize it. Memorize it in depth and study it in depth, maybe Ephesians or a book of the Bible like Philippians, or maybe a passage of scripture, Romans 8, some Psalms. Memorize them and study it in depth. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. Know the Word of God, and study it carefully, and teach it to one another. In the halls, encourage one another, build each other up. Say, "You know, there's something I just learned in my quiet time this morning. I want to share it with you."


And admonish one another. Don't just let a brother or a sister slip off, slip away from Christ, but bring them back. Let's be the Body of Christ to admonish one another. Pray for the developing of a counseling ministry here. It's a goal for 2008, that we would have a stronger Biblical counseling ministry in our church.

Worship: Both Private and Corporate

And, finally, enrich your life with worship. Sing. Do you realize you're commanded in this verse to sing? And you may think that you're excluded because of a lack of talent. You're not. Sing and make music in your heart to God. I think the corporate worship setting is the best place for bad singers to sing. I can speak from personal experience. I offer a special apology to those who sit right around me every week. Alright, you guys hear me. I don't have a terrible voice but I don't have a great voice.

When we have our morning devotions, we're at our worst singing, we laughed about it this morning. We are not making a family recording like the Von Trapp family singers, we're not doing that. But sing, sing. It troubles me when I think about it, and Eric and I have talked about people that come all the way here to worship and they don't sing. I don't understand that. Sing. You're commanded to do it. Stand up and sing. If you don't know the song, probably by the second go around, you'll know it. So sing the second verse at least. But sing and make music in your heart to God. Close with me in prayer.

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