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Faithlife

Spiral of the spiritual life - 21 March 2004 PM

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The spiral of the spiritual life[1]

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 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.

                                                                                        Colossians 3:15-17

It is just possible that you might find these words familiar – echoing as they do the teaching of Paul in both Ephesians and Colossians.

These three verses beautifully encapsulate the secret of the Christian life. They do so in a few memorable phrases.

If I had the use of a data projector tonight I would put up a picture of what is at once one of the most beautiful shapes in nature – and also one of the most powerful – a SPIRAL.   But before I get carried away with that I want to ask you to look at these verses and see if you can see what they have in common with each other – because that common refrain is, I believe, one of the performance indicators of the Christian life.

Can you see it?

It’s something that quite worries me – because I have to confess that it is isn’t as evident in my life as it should be – and yet Paul squeezes it into each of these three wonderful verses.

v 15  be thankful

v 16  with gratitude in your hearts to God

v17   giving thanks to God the Father through Him

I suggest to you that you can measure your spiritual progress by the extent to which gratitude and thankfulness is evident in your life.

IN verse 15 thankfulness is the natural consequence of a heart at peace

In verse 16 thankfulness is the recurring theme of worship

and

In verse 17 thankfulness is the accompaniment to all that we do for Jesus.

 

 

If this is so then I am concerned about the quality of my spiritual life – for mine is not marked by enough gratitude.

I suggest to you that if you look out at the world outside the community of faith you will find that this commodity is rare too.

People are not by nature grateful – they grab what they can get – and desire more, being seldom satisfied.

But if it is true of the unbeliever it is true too of the believer who has not much considered what God has done for him or her.

Lord forgive me for my ingratitude.

 

Perhaps the reason I am not at peace is because I am not thanking you for the peace to which you called me.

 

Lord forgive me that it is not a recurring theme in my ministry.

 

Surely if I let your word truly indwell me – I would be more grateful.

 

Most of all, Lord, forgive me that my life for you is not marked with gratitude as it should be. It is an indicator of my failure to do ALL in YOUR NAME.

 

I suggest to you – before we look a little more closely at these three verse you consider the presence or absence of thankfulness in your life.

Are you content?

Do you constantly tell God how thankful you are for all He has done?

NOW let’s take a closer look at Paul’s statements about the REAL CENTRAL ISSUES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE

I call it a SPIRAL because it begins at the centre and works outwards – and as it does so the spiritual energy it releases becomes more evident.

In nature the spiral can be of immense beauty – but when you consider the dynamic spirals of our physical world you see perhaps what I am getting at –

At it’s simplest level the water leaving the drain rotates

The weather systems move in cyclonic or anti-cyclonic patterns

See the immensely powerful spiral of a hurricane as viewed from space

See the galaxies…..

Now I must come clean and accept that this is the preacher exercising his imagination – there is no spiral actually mentioned in these verses – but I hope as you take the picture home with you, you will see the force of the argument Paul is making.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 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.

In this recent spell of windy weather we have seen the force of the wind – and we recall that – at the centre of each such system is an area of calm.   You will find that calm at the heart of Paul’s argument:

Verse 15 – PEACE IN YOUR HEARTS

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 

There are three aspects to this PEACE:

(1)   It is the PEACE OF CHRIST

The central strength of the Christian life is not a human attribute – but something that is ALL OF CHRIST

Jesus told His followers  “My peace I give you….”

Not as the world gives

Not such as can be taken away

At the heart of the spiritual life is the EFFECTIVE OUTCOME OF CHRIST’S REDEEMING WORK:

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

It is HIS WORK – His peace.

Do you have that peace?

(2)  It is to RULE in your hearts

Of course I know that you are aware that the word rule means ARBITRATE

We allow all kinds of people and ideas to decide what is successful in the ordinary world.  If we are not careful the believer allows those same influences to MAKE DECISIONS in our lives too.

Paul’s converts were in danger of allowing the Judaizers to do that for them – or the people with strange ideas about philosophy and value systems to destroy their peace.

It is CHRIST who must make the decisions for them – and for us.

He wants us to be sure that the outcome will always honour God – therefore let Christ’s peace be umpire in your hearts.

To sort out the turbulent cross currents – to resolve the inner conflicts – to award the prize.

(3)   This is the HALLMARK OF THE CHURCH

“since as members of one body you were called to peace”

The central peace at the eye of the powerful storm-spiral of the Christian life is also a matter of UNITY between individuals in ONE BODY

At the edges of that central focus – where we begin to relate to others – there too the PEACE OF CHRIST MUST RULE

It must show in our CORPORATE life as well as in our personal life.

PEACE – this is the FIRST PRINCIPLE – the next moves outwards a little more:

Verse 16 – CHRIST’S WORD IN YOUR WORSHIP

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 

Observe that – as we move outwards from the centre of the spiral the analogy becomes more ACTIVE

If the PEACE OF GOD rules in our hearts – then there will be EVIDENCE IN OUR LIVES AS BELIEVERS TOGETHER – especially so in the worshipping community:

(1)   It begins with Christ’s word

This includes His teachings as well as the Old Testament.

The teachings of Jesus and all His comments upon the Law and prophets and writings must be the source of our shared richness.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

The you here is plural.  It is something that comes out of sharing.

 

(2)   It enriches our FELLOWSHIP

“dwell in you RICHLY”

Too often we regard the Word as a source of PERSONAL or INDIVIDUAL nourishment – without recognising that it must be EXPERIENCED COLLECTIVELY.

Paul uses two words to describe this:

“…as you TEACH  and ADMONISH each other”

This means a sharing of meaning – and a sharing of application.

There is place in the worshipping community for ENCOURAGEMENT and also WARNING

We should belong to a community that teaches and warns

A community that demonstrates the word of Christ in moth affirmation of each other and of the truth.

This is a shared ministry.

(3)   It is rich in VARIETY

As we saw in Ephesians – so here – there is variety in worship that is a product of the indwelling peace and the ruling WORD of Christ.

In harmony  and with purpose: showing itself in that GRATITUDE WE SPOKE OF EARLIER

to God in your hearts…

And finally the SPIRAL WIDENS TO INCLUDE AND EMBRACE THE WORLD OF CHRISTIANS AT WORK:

Verse 17 – DO IT ALL IN THE NAME OF CHRIST

17 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.

It’s a good name for a DIY centre – and a good name for a Christian Community – DO IT ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus

(1)   All in the name of the Lord Jesus

Christians can be very busy people – and a church can be a very busy place – but if it is not doing in His name it is pointless and ineffective.

Our trouble is we don’t see it like that.

We don’t measure progress by GRATITUDE and we don’t’ measure it’s effectiveness by whether it is done in HIS NAME!

And to be in HIS NAME means of course to be in accordance with His CHARACTER.

With PEACE at the centre

His WORD at the hub

Everything DONE IN HIS NAME

 

(2)   It combines WORD and DEED

“whether in word or deed”

I guess we don’t always apply the same criteria to each of those.

Remember GRATITUDE is the hallmark – and gratitude is expressed in WORD and in DEED

(3)   It is all-embracing

Paul does not specify an activity – or even hint at it – he uses one of his favourite words “WHATEVER”

This has a bearing on all that we do – not just the publicly seen or heard, not just the parts that are witnessed by others

“WHATEVER YOU DO”  “DO IT ALL”

Here then is the MARKER OF SPIRITUAL ACHIEVEMENT -  GRATITUDE TO GOD

 

And here in the analogy of the spiral:

 

 

 


                                                                        WORD

                       

                WORK                              PEACE


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[1] Compare 3 1-5 the realignment of the spiritual life

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