Summary: Sermon 16 in a study in Colossians
(“Relating According to the Spirit”)
“Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. 20 Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. 22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. 25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. 1 Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven."
It may be an unfair thing to ask this question the way I’m going to ask it, because it will be sort of like asking you to not think about an elephant. There, you just thought of an elephant, didn’t you?
But I do wonder, and this is my question, how many of you if asked what being a Christian means, would answer that it means believing in the death and resurrection of Christ and having your sins thereby forgiven so that some day you will go to Heaven.
Well, your wording might not be exactly like that, and I think many people would not be even that detailed in their response, but I do think that is close to what a large number of professing Christ-followers would say.
In his book, “The Divine Conspiracy”, author Dallas Willard cites Gallup surveys that say 94 percent of Americans believe in God and 74 percent claim to have made a commitment to Jesus Christ. He then adds,
“These figures are shocking when thoughtfully compared to statistics on the same group for unethical behavior, crime, mental distress and disorder, family failures, addictions, financial misdealings, and the like.” Gallup polls cited in ‘Christianity Today’ magazine, June 21, 1993, p.30
The concern Willard expresses in the early chapter of his book is that for too many Christians their faith is about being forgiven and eventually going to Heaven, but is not translated into any real change in their life now; as though it does not occur to them that God could play any significant role in the here and now. His first chapter is entitled, “Entering the Eternal Kind of Life Now”, so you can get an idea from that where he is going.
In chapter two, “Gospels of Sin Management”, the author says this.
“The sensed irrelevance of what God is doing to what makes up our lives is the foundational flaw in the existence of multitudes of professing Christians today. They have been led to believe that God, for some unfathomable reason, just thinks it appropriate to transfer credit from Christ’s merit account to ours, and to wipe out our sin debt, upon inspecting our mind and finding that we believe a particular theory of the atonement to be true – even if we trust everything but God in all other matters that concern us.” Dallas Willard, THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY, HarperCollins Publications Inc., 1998, pgs 38, 49
I have to agree with the author of this book. My own past church experience has been one of hearing a great deal about coming to Jesus and believing in Him for salvation – from Hell to Heaven – and forgiveness of sins.
But whenever portions of scripture like the one before us today were preached on it was done with a sort of legalistic, guilt-trip tone that had everything to do with the average believer’s failure to live according to these admonitions, and little or nothing to do with God’s ability to be the primary influence in family and work life so that we might actually live successfully with one another in the way Paul describes.
Could that be because even many pastors and preachers do not really believe that the good news of the good news is that it is pertinent and vital for our lives in this world?
Well, the Apostle Paul certainly believed that it was and the only differences between the folks he first wrote to and the people reading his words today are all external. The inside of each human heart from the beginning to the present looks exactly the same and the gospel is as unchanging as the God who provided it, and the good news for the true Christ-follower is that He never commands us to do anything that He is not ready at the waiting to help us complete.