(Notes for a sermon to be preached on September 1, 2013):
In the first chapter of Acts we read that Christ commanded the Apostles and disciples to stay in Jerusalem. The apostles kept the command of Christ: they stayed in Jerusalem and waited for the Holy Spirit. They waited. They prayed. In time, the Spirit came upon them … and they spoke. They could not deny it. They spoke “As the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). The crowd came drawn by the words. Peter filled with the Spirit stood in their midst and preached.
At the end of the sermon we read
So those who received his word were baptized. Acts. 2:41
In Acts 3 we read of a man healed at the Gate Beautiful, entering in the Temple. A crowd again comes and so Peter preaches. The priests and Sadducees became
2 greatly annoyed because [Peter was] teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. Acts 4:2 (ESV)
So they arrested Peter and the others, leaving in jail them for the evening. Now, you might think this would end the trouble. But what the leaders did not realize is that the word was the trouble – not the apostles. The apostles merely proclaimed the Word. The Word kept working even when the Apostles could not:
4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. Acts 4:4 (ESV)
The Apostles were soon reason. When the church gathered, they prayed:
29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, Acts 4:29 (ESV)
In verse 31, we read that
They were filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31 (ESV).
Do you see the pattern? The Spirit comes. Their hearts are filled with words and they speak. Those Spirit wrought words are heard and men and women are transformed.
The enemies of the gospel did not understand the working of the Spirit and Word. Acts 5 records yet another incident of prison. This time, an angel comes and rescues them with this command:
20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” Acts 5:20 (ESV)
Not raise an army; organize a movement; change the government. No: God, through the angel, commands the apostles: go speak.
Do you see that God works by means of Word and Spirit? The Word of God did the work. When you see this, you find it everywhere in the story. For example, in chapter 8, we read that Philip began to preach the Samaritans –just as Christ had commanded in Acts 1:8. In verse 14 of Acts we read
Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:14-15
There it is again: The Word and Spirit transforming the human heart. It is the Word of God proclaimed and the word of God received that changes human beings. In Acts 12, Herod began a vicious persecution of the apostle. Yet this persecution did not stop God. God struck Herod dead. Then we read in verse 24:
24 But the word of God increased and multiplied. Acts 12:24 (ESV)
Those who sought to stop the spread of the church foolishly thought the power was in the men. They thought that by beating and imprisoning and killing men and women that they could stop the church. The enemies did not understand that the power was not in the people but in the word.
Acts 13 records the first missionary journey of Paul. In this chapter, we read a sermon by Paul. The next Sabbath, a crowd gathered, Jews and Gentiles. But they did not come to hear Paul. Acts 13:44 reads,
44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. Acts 13:44 (ESV)
Never go to a sermon to hear a man. Go to hear the word of the Lord preached. If you do hear the word of the Lord, then you have wasted your time. And look at the wondrous outcome of the word preached:
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:52 (ESV).
That power in the Word of the Lord is why we are here this morning. The word of Christ in the power of the Spirit has been set loose in the world, changing generation after generation of men and women. It has changed us – and it will change others. It has changed us – and, this morning, we will learn that it can change us far more. If you know Christ
You have put off the old man with its practice and have put on the new man who is being renewed in knowledge after the image of his creator. Col. 3:9-10
The Word and Spirit make a human being new; but that only opens the door to change. The Word and Spirit do not stop by making a woman or man new. They continue to work and work, renewing us in knowledge after the image of our creator. We’re going to see that from Paul’s letter, the Spirit’s words, sent to the church in Colossae.
The church in Colossae came into being not by Paul making a missionary journey, but rather by someone who heard Paul. A man named Epaphras from Colossae heard the word of God – perhaps while Paul taught in Ephesus. The Word of God traveled up the Lycus Valley with Epaphrus, where the seed sprouted and churches began in Colossae, and Hierapolis and Laodicea. If the story ended there, we would probably not know much of anything about these Christians.
At some point and for some reason, Epaphrus ended upon in prison with Paul (Philemon 23). And while there, Epaphrus unfolded a strange story to Paul. It seems the people in Colossae were being kidnapped and made captives. It was as if pirates invaded the valley and were capturing Christians and dragging them off to slavery.
But I don’t want you to think too much about ships and parrots, because Colossae is hundreds of miles from the ocean. Rather, I want you to think about talkers.
The Devil is much smarter than the human beings enslaved to do his will. While a Herod might think killing an apostle will do the trick, the Devil had a more ambitious plan. The Devil knew – and knows – that the power was in the Word, not in the people. The Devil knew that he could never ultimately succeed merely with prisons and murders. He needed something more dangerous and more subtle.
And so he sent pirates full of words up the valley to capture Christians. We know this, because Paul warns the Christians against them:
8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8 (ESV)
Look at those words for a moment. There are some words, some kind of idea which can actually capture human beings. Back in verse 4 of chapter 2, Paul had warned:
4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. Colossians 2:4 (ESV)
These were tricky words: they sounded good, they made perfectly fine sense; and yet the words were false. In verse 8, Paul traces these words back up to their source. First, he calls them a deceit and philosophy. Then he shows they come from “human tradition”. But look more carefully, he calls the ultimate source, “elemental spirits of the world” – If you have an NASB it says, “elementary principles”. Paul is using some strange language. What he means exactly is hard to tell. But we do know it was something wicked and dangerous; something demonic.
Paul is warning them off from these dangerous words. He tells them, Do not let the pirates take you captive. He warns them the words will sound good and the idea will make sense. But behind it all is something very evil and dangerous.
But he also tells them that these powers are nothing before Christ. You see, when Christ came to the cross he delivered us from our sins. But that is not all: Christ also defeated these demonic powers:
13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2:13–15 (ESV)
That part about “rulers and authorities” – that is a reference to some sort of spiritual powers in rebellion against God.
Someone here is thinking, That’s interesting and all. But I really don’t want to waste time talking about demons and demon stuff. If you don’t like what they’re saying, just don’t listen! But there is where you miss the danger.
The danger comes in the form of words – words which sound good, which make sense. They are words which sound right to you. The Devil is far too smart to come up to a Christian and say, Hi! I’m the Devil! Would you like some demonic deception?
The Devil will first use someone you’ll listen to – maybe even someone who doesn’t know that he’s doing something dangerous. Then the Devil will use language which makes sense, which sounds good. And here is the really dangerous part: All the Devil needs to do is to get you think that the Word of Christ is not enough.
The Sadducees and Herod and the Romans thought they could chain Christ by chaining Peter and Paul. They were wrong. The Devil then came upon another plan: Rather than chaining the men, he tried to chain the words. If he can keep Christians busy with anything else, he will prevail
The pirates in Colossae did not attack Jesus directly. There is no evidence that anyone said anything overtly against Jesus. Instead, they just wanted to add to Jesus.
Jesus is good and all, but … there is something which you may want to consider.
When the adulteress approaches, she doesn’t begin with “Divorce your wife!” She says,
Proverbs 7:16–18 (ESV)
16 I have spread my couch with coverings,
colored linens from Egyptian linen;
17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh,
aloes, and cinnamon.
18 Come, let us take our fill of love till morning;
let us delight ourselves with love.
It will be just a night. And so when the pirates came, they merely sought to add a bit here and there. But, just as my wife will not be pleased with a little adultery, so Christ will not be pleased with a little spiritual adultery.
You see, if the power is in the Word of Christ, the Devil merely needs to add to that word, and detract from that word and replace that Word. If Peter simply preached something other than Christ; if Paul simply preached something other than Christ, then the Devil has succeeded.
And so the Colossian pirates merely added to Christ.
In fact, these pirates actually said they would help the Christians become more holy and spiritual. They were talking about visions and angels putting off sin. Who here would not wish to become more spiritual, more godly, more holy? Who would not want a life which transcends our present place and brings up to worship with the angels? Who would not wish to never sin again? That is what these pirates offered.
Paul admitted these things looked good, but they would never work:
23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. Colossians 2:23 (ESV)
You see, what the pirates offered was good: a better life; holiness; spirituality. Perhaps if they were here, they would offer you a happier marriage; less stress at work; a better way to take care of your money; maybe teach you how to find a husband or wife; perhaps a better way to parent. Who doesn’t want such things? Which of you does not want to finally once and for all put your sin to death? I would love for you to have all those things.
But Christ has sought something better for you: Himself.
Paul, in the third chapter of this, commands the Colossians to be holy and loving and gracious. He commands them to live lives of complete transformation. But the key is how he commands this change. Look down at Colossians 3:16:
16 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. Colossians 3:16 (ESV)
That will be our text for the next few moments. It contains a single command:
Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly.
It contains two results of obeying that command: first it will change how you live with others. Second, it will change how you live before God. After that, we’ll consider some implications.
The Command: Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.
The command has two parts: The subject, “the word of Christ”; and the action “dwelling”.
You should have no difficulty with the “word of Christ”. It is means the same thing as the word of God or the Word of the Lord, or just the “Word” –as we saw in Acts. The great power of God in this world is the Word and the Spirit. The Spirit uses the Word of God to transform human beings.
This most certainly includes the Gospel:
Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15.
Now, all human beings from the moment of conception are corrupted by sin. As David said,
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalm 51:5 (ESV)
If you think that sounds unfair and untrue, it is because you don’t really understand sin. Sin is a bad act, lying, cheating, murder, and so on. But sin is also an infection, a condition – it is something we caught from our parents and give to our children. Sin is a vile action. But sin is also the corrupting force that brought in death and disease. Everything which troubles you in this life comes from sin: your own sin; the sin of others against; and the effect of sin in the world. We have all been poisoned; we are all infected.
Now think about it: You can’t trick someone without tricking them. A magician makes you think you are seeing one thing, when really you see something else. That’s sleight of hand. That is how sin works – it is deception; it is the very act of lying. It is a disease which tickles the heart and soothes the conscience until it is too late to escape.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
The entire universe has become corrupted with the sludge of sin and death. The stuff of creation which God once called “very good” has been subjected to frailty and futility and death. As Ecclesiastes reads, Vanity of vanities … all is vanity – a mist, a breath, a moment and then gone. Thus, nothing in Creation could save us from sin and death.
It was into that world that Jesus came. The Son of God
7 … emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:7–8 (ESV)
And in that act of dying, Christ took hold of my sin – he took the charges against me and nailed them to the Christ:
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
You see, when Christ was laid in the tomb, it was not over. For sin had no claim upon him; death had no power over him. And Christ arose, having
… disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2:15 (ESV)
The Son obedient to death has now been exalted by his Father:
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9–11 (ESV)
That is the good news. For everyone who receives that good news, for everyone who believes that Gospel and trusts to Christ for their salvation, there is salvation. For those who seek Christ as savior and Lord, he comes and makes all things new.
How does this happen? The Holy Spirit joins with the words of the Gospel, and I see my sin for the bitter rebellion against my God. I see Christ as beautiful
The rose of Sharon
The lily of the valley. Song 2:1
I throw myself upon his mercy. The Spirit of bondage becomes the Spirit of adoption and I cry out Abba, Father! It is to see the beauty of God in the face of Christ – that is the only right response to the Gospel.
The rest of Scripture gives depth and hope and application of the Gospel. It draws out the details and gives instruction on how to live worthy of the Gospel. You must know these words.
And that bring us to the second half of the command:
Let the words of Christ dwell richly
That must sink down into your heart. That Word of Christ must dwell richly in your heart.
And not just the gospel – you must know it all. You see, this book, from front to back is letter disclosing to me the wonder and love of God. He reveals my sin, and shows me a Savior. It is a
… lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105
In this book we find
…the words of eternal life. John 6:68.
Let those words dwell richly. Look again at your Bible at Colossians 3:16:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
The verb here, to dwell, is a cozy word. It means not merely to live somewhere, but to be home somewhere. Paul uses it to describe the Holy Spirit dwelling within a believer (Romans 8:11 & 2 Timothy1:14), of God dwelling among his people (2 Cor. 6:16); of faith dwelling in Timothy’s grandmother (1 Timothy 1:5) and of the word of Christ dwelling in his people –in our text.
Now Paul says that the Word must not merely dwell with us, but it must dwell richly. It is as if he said you must furnish your finest room for a guest. You must make all accommodation and place for this guest.
It does no good to take the word of God in our mouth if it does not settle down into our hearts. This is the great failure of many Christians – they do not exclude the Word of Christ — for then they would not be Christians at all. Sadly they give the Word room – a small room in the back; they let the word of God dwell with them – but not richly.
The Word of God is a guest; but he is not at home. The best room in the house has been given over to something, to someone else. The good furniture and the comfortable clothes have been given to the stranger. But the Word of God who should possess the richest room is told to make-do with the couch.
Beloved, this must not be. The Word of God must dwell in you richly. Have you not read of the blessed man, who
Delights in the law of the Lord
And in his law he meditates day and night.
But I hear the complaint, I would delight in the word – but it is so often dry. The blessed man delights, but I don’t. I tried, I really did. But can make no progress. I read and it’s words and sounds.
Perhaps you see nothing or little when you first look in the word. That comes from being too quick. No one becomes a dear friend in a moment. The depth of love in a marriage takes a life.
Let the word dwell richly.
I spoke with a man about watching birds. He said, sit quietly and wait. That is how we must come to Scripture. At first you will see no birds; but as you wait patiently and look about and listen carefully, you hear the birds move and then see a wing. Soon you will hear them sing. The expert hears beauty in the symphony that the novice does not know. The lover knows the slightest shadow that moves across his beloved’s face.
But we make such a racket when we come to the garden of Scripture. We stomp and grumble and pick up a phone to check some nonsense or other. Don’t sit down for the Bible with your smartphone in one hand. Don’t rush your time alone with the Lord.
Which of you would reveal your dearest secrets to a so-called friend who kept looking over your shoulder at the movie playing in the room?
We want immediate answers, when the Lord seeks an eternal marriage with his Bride. But we have no true hurry. Our impatience is a lie. We will live forever with the Lord. Come sit by the water and watch sunlight glint upon the text.
The 119th Psalm gives us a picture of the God’s Word dwelling richly in one’s heart. I am going to just run through the verbs used to describe how the Psalmist lives with the word of God:
1. He walks in it. v. 1
2. Seeks it with his whole heart.
3. Keeps it diligently.
4. Fixes his eyes upon it.
6. Living according to it.
7. Stored up.
9. Delights in it.
10. Meditates upon
11. Beholds wonderful things
12. Consumed with longing
13. Takes counsel from
14. Is strengthened by.
16. Clings to
17. Run in the way of
19. Inclines his heart
20. Longs for.
22 Hopes in
24. Does not turn away from
And so on. Here is the procedure: First, he takes it in: the word of God comes into his thoughts. There he meditates upon it; he studies it; he memorizes it; he ponders it and discusses it. The word of God becomes the object of his desire. He trusts it – for it comes from God. He does not turn away from it.
Wait a second, someone will say. Aren’t you making an idol out of the Bible? No! I will do no such thing. I do not want the book per se, but rather the God of the book.
You see, the Scripture is a love letter on which I smell the perfume of glory and catch a sight of my beloved. When a soldier treasures a letter from his wife, he does not love the paper and ink. No he loves the heart disclosed in the words. When the soldier holds the letter up to read, the paper becomes a window and he gazes upon his wife from afar. She becomes near as reads.
How much more so with the word of God!
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
The word of God is not mere words – it is the disclosure of God: God is in it. The Word of God is authoritative – it causes things:
5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:5–6 (ESV)
When God said, Let there be light – there was light. When the Gospel is proclaimed, Christ is in it.
Don’t fall into the trap of the religious leaders who thought they could chain God by chaining the messenger. It was not Peter, but Peter’s sermon which did the work. The physical world is real, but it is not ultimate. When you dig down through reality, you will not find some stuff there. At the very basis of the entire Creation is not matter in motion; no, at the very first you will find God, who rules and works by Word and Spirit.
God spoke and the universe became. God’s Spirit hovered over the waters. The universe came from God, from Word and Spirit. The Word of God is more than anything. The Bible is not God – no, but it contains the words of God and the Words which disclose God. I love the words because I love the Word:
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. John 1:1.
Oh friend, take these words down deep into your heart that the Word of Christ may dwell richly in you.
And look to see what happens:
The First Result of the Dwelling Word:
First, the words will come flowing back out to those around you:
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, Colossians 3:16 (ESV)
When the word of Christ dwells richly in your heart, it will gush back out onto those around you, transforming us all. You see, the Word of God does not merely bring us to salvation at the first – it works in our hearts throughout our lives and brings us to change upon change.
You have heard and read that Christians must teach and admonish one another. That is true – absolutely so. But let us think about this, for a moment. Are we called upon to teach and admonish in just any way? No.
First, look at the text. Paul specifies a content for this teaching and admonition: Paul does not mention personal experience, popular ideas, or your own “wisdom”. The wisdom is the wisdom of Christ, the wisdom of the Word. The teaching and admonishing come as the result of the word dwelling in the heart.
Our Lord made plain that we are to teach – but only what he has commanded: In Matthew 28:20, Jesus tells the church to make disciples by
Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
It is not teaching, but teaching what Jesus has commanded. And we looked at the teaching of Acts – they taught Christ. At the end of Acts 2, we see the church filled with fellowship, joy, worship, communion, praise – and all of this came from the fact that they
Devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching … Acts 2:42.
In Romans 15:14, Paul writes:
14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. Romans 15:14 (ESV)
But with what do they instruct one another? This comes at the end of the letter – they at least have heard the content of Paul’s letter. But Paul also has told them that their hope comes from their knowledge of the Scriptures (Romans 15:4). And in verse 13, immediately Paul’s confidence that they can teach one-another he writes,
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 (ESV)
That hope came from the Scriptures. And being filled with such hop and joy and the Holy Spirit they are fit to counsel one-another.
When you look through Paul’s other letters, you will see that time and again, the Christians need correcting because they have been busy instructing, admonishing, counseling, exhorting one-another in the wrong way. In Colossae, Paul writes specifically because they have been taking instruction which was not the word of Christ.
When you look through Timothy and Titus you will see that the primary job of the pastor in the church is to protect the doctrine. The pastor’s job is teaching – both what you must know, and what you must avoid. The very first instruction Paul writes to Timothy is;
3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 1 Timothy 1:3 (ESV)
I could go on, but I think the point is clear. We must exhort and teach and admonish and encourage one another daily.
At this point I want to first praise you all. This congregation does do that. I have seen it. I have been encouraged and rebuked. The youngest Christians in this congregation have poured on me the sweetest encouragement when my soul was must burdened. Many of you do not even know how deeply you have blessed me. And, if you have been so to me, I can only think that you must have been such a blessing to one-another.
I must praise you and encourage you to do far more.
But, I must also rebuke you. You and I have been guilty of declaring not Christ, but ourselves. We have taken the words of Christ and have hidden them from one-another. How so?
A dear sister comes to you in confidence. She has a great sorrow in her family – some trouble with her children or her husband. She unburdens herself. You pray for her and remind her that God is good. And this you have done well. But she continues and asks, What should I do?
And here, you begin to make disciples after yourselves. You tell her what you have done. You give her your experience and your advice.
Dear sister, you have closed to her the gates of God. You have shut her out of the Scriptures. It is the word of God which is living and active – not your insights.
So much Christianish malarkey gets published and said. Who cares about my experience and wisdom?
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV)
It is Scripture that has such authority – not you.
Oh the damage which has been done by this mistake. I oversee the counseling ministry here at CBC, and I must tell you that the hardest cases have often been situations where a well-meaning believer has given poor counsel to another. The counsel has been based upon expediency or experience or guess work, but not careful consideration of Scripture.
Now I don’t pretend to believe that I know all when it comes to this work. I am constantly studying and thinking and considering the Scripture and how it applies. I do not have confidence in my perfect abilities. However, I do have confidence in the power of the Scripture. Perhaps I do not know, but that does not excuse me from discovering an answer.
Now, I want you to consider, how often have you failed in this? How often have you given personal advice when what your brother needed was the Word of God?
A related but no less serious trouble comes when one misapplies the Scripture.
This comes first from a lack of confidence in the Scripture. You may think – the Bible is good, but there some places where some experience could help.
It more often comes from simple lack of training in the Scriptures and how they must be applied. I want you to go back to our discussion of the word of God dwelling richly. Do you remember the Psalmist who studied, memorized, meditated upon the Scripture?
You cannot apply the Scripture well without training. You must learn how to use the Scripture.
Think of it like this, Would you like just anyone to preach on Sunday morning? Giving counsel is no less a matter of understanding and applying the Scripture than is preaching or teaching. The greatest difference between the two is the number of people in the room. Counseling is private; preaching is public. Both require understanding and explaining the Scripture.
That is why we are seeking to help you better understand the Scripture and its application. Every week when you hear a sermon in this pulpit, the goal is not merely that you leave with information, but that you know better how the Scripture functions, how the Christian life is lived, how to better love God and your neighbor –and that you will be able to bring this truth to one-another.
We are also trying to provide you with additional training. On Sunday evenings, we will be providing specific training about how to do this thing of “teaching and admonishing” one-another. We want you all to be better equipped to intentionally disciple and counsel one-another.
Some of you will have greater ability and inclination and will learn enough to help with counseling in a more intentional manner. There are some difficult and serious problems which arise in the church which will take greater wisdom and knowledge to provide a biblical response. We want you to know how to respond in a godly manner when your friend shares of a crushing depression or having been abused as a child or learning that a wife or husband has committed adultery. These are grave matters and they deserve a careful response. To answer carelessly or mistakenly can cause great hurt.
If you are lying by the side of the road and you have a gushing chest wound, you should hope that a trained paramedic shows up on the scene. If you must settle for me, you’ll probably die – because I have not been trained to help. You don’t want someone who has no training to fix your car – much less operate on your body. Why do you think that care for your soul takes less skill and training than care for your garbage disposal?
So we are offering training on Sunday evenings. We also want you to know of training which is being offered by our church in combination with several other churches in Southern California and with the Masters College biblical counseling professors. Over the next three months, on one Friday evening and one Saturday day there will be training in biblical counseling. I will be one of the instructions as will other pastors from our area. We have information about this training conference in foyer. The organization is called the BCDA of Southern California.
For those who would like even more training so as to be part of the counseling ministry here at CBC, contact Shelbi Cullen – and if you can’t find her, contact the office and Ruth can hand your name on to us. There are already many men and women who have been training and working with counseling.
We need more people who have been trained to counsel. We routinely receive requests for counseling from people outside of our congregation – but as it is, we cannot always care for everyone who is already in attendance here.
We can also use counseling as a means of evangelism. If you think back over your own life and the lives of others, you know that God often uses crisis to get our attention. The world is a wreck and sin has done great damage. The Scripture has much to say in the face of loss and pain and trial. We need people who have trained and ready to help those people here the good news of Christ.
Second Result of the Scripture Dwelling Richly: Thankfulness
This point needs no great elaboration. The Scriptures reveal God to us and thus give us hope. As you exhort me, and I encourage you, we grow – ever so slowly, but truly – we grow in godliness. It seems glacial sometimes, but we grow toward Christlikeness; we grow in hope. We remind one another that our Lord has conquered death – and our recollection that sin and death have been overcome draws us evermore toward Christ.
We bring the Scripture to one, and in this book we read of our loss and God’s salvation. We read of the precious promises of life now and life to come. In this book we read of
Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col. 1:27.
When we read and know and meditate and hope we can have no other response but to praise, to give thanks, to rejoice. We want to burst out in songs of thankfulness and hope. Look at the words in our text. The Word of Christ does not merely result in teaching and admonishing, it results in a burst of Psalm and hymns and spiritual songs filled with thankfulness in your hearts toward God. What joy is here! Do you not see that you have been made new by the word of Christ? O, think of this!
Oh let me beseech you, for the Lord’s sake, for your soul’s sake, to value the gospel. Alas! What are we without it, but condemned malefactors, every moment liable to be called forth and hung up, as monuments of God’s fury, in hell! If ever a poor creature, in fear every moment of being fetched out of the prison and carried to the gallows, did esteem a pardon, sure I am ye have cause to prize the gospel. O sirs, how had all of us at this day been shut up under the law’s curse, in the dungeon of endless wrath and misery, had not the gospel opened the prison doors, knocked off our shackles and set our souls at liberty!
“The Pastor’s Farewell” George Swinock (vol. 4, 93)
Let the promise of eternal life settle down in your hearts and see what rose will bloom.
Redeemed how I love to proclaim it
Redeemed by the blood of the lamb
Redeemed by his infinite mercy
His child now forever I am!