26.10.14 Bible Sunday Luke 6.27-38 Colossians 3:12-17

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 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.

This reading outlines how we should live as Christians and why we should live in this way.
The letter to the Colossian church was written to combat false teaching about Jesus and how this affects Christian living. Earlier, in Chapters 1 and 2, Paul had taught about the supremacy of Christ who forgives believers though his death on the cross. He also warned against false religion which is without value.
Immediately before today's reading he had told the Colossian Christians to live for Jesus and put to death wrong things that come from the sinful nature.
Moving on to our reading today, we could summarise it, God's love and our response.
Paul starts with God's love. The foundation of our faith. Why we should behave, if you like.
    1. 12 “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved,”
Believers are part of God's chosen people. Chosen from before time. Chosen because of God undeserved favour, mercy, and love. Not because we are any more deserving than others but because we have received His love, enabled by His Spirit.

Believers are holy, the word means set apart for God and by God. This is not just about being forgiven by Jesus but is shown by the way we live. The motive for the way we behave is to be God's love.
First our qualities. In Galatians 5.22-23 Paul lists nine fruit of the spirit. Natural fruit arising from being one of God's people. The qualities listed by Paul, here, reflect the fruit of the Spirit and should be inspired by God living within us.

12b clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” The picture of clothing is found on a number of occasions in the N.T. Sometimes there is talk of taking off something that is wrong and putting on something(s) that is/are right. These virtues are to be covered, bound together, touched by love, verse 14. Like an overcoat.
These virtues or fruit should result in actions.

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

We all make mistakes and do things wrong, sometimes. It is part of our fallen, sinful, human nature. God has freely forgiven our sins. We have not earned it or deserved it. This should inspire us to forgive those who have sinned against us. Our ability to forgive shows that we have truly appreciated the free and undeserved nature of our own forgiveness in Jesus. Jesus said that people claiming to be Christians who condemn others are hypocrites (Matth 7.5) and those who are unforgiving will not be forgiven Matthew 6.15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Forgiveness can free us from holding on to negative emotions. It can heal. It can open the pathway for God to work in a situation.

There were identical twin brothers who never married because they enjoyed each other's company so much. When their father died, they took over his store and ran it together in a joyful collaboration. But one day a man came in to make a small purchase and paid for it with a dollar. The brother who made the sale placed the dollar on top of the cash register... and walked the customer to the door to say goodbye. When he returned, the dollar bill was gone. He said to his twin brother, "Did you take the dollar bill I left here?" "No, I didn't," answered the brother. "Surely, you took it," he said, "There was nobody else in the store." The brother became angry: "I'm telling you, I did not take the dollar bill."  From that point, mistrust and suspicion grew until finally the two brothers could not work together. They put a partition right down the middle of the building and made it into two stores. In anger, they refused to speak for the next 20 years.

One day a stranger pulled up in a car and entered one of the two stores. "Have you been in business very long here?" the stranger asked. "Yes, 30 or 40 years," was the answer. "Good," continued the stranger, "I very much need to tell you something... Some 20 years ago, I passed through this town. I was out of work and homeless. I jumped off a boxcar. I had no money and I had not eaten for days. I came down that alley outside and when I looked into your store window, I saw a dollar bill on the cash register. I slipped in and took it. Recently I became a Christian. I was converted and accepted Christ as my personal Saviour. I know now it was wrong of me to steal that dollar bill... and I have come to pay you back with interest and to beg your forgiveness."

When the stranger finished his confession, the old storekeeper began to weep as he said, "Would you do me a favour? Would you please come next door and tell that story to my brother?" Of course, with the second telling, the two brothers were reconciled with many hugs and apologies and tears. Twenty years of hurt and broken relationship based not on fact, but on mistrust and misunderstanding.

But then healing came; reconciliation came, because of that stranger's love for Christ.
Flowing from forgiveness is peace with God, and that peace should be reflected in relationships between believers. Jesus has reconciled us to God and believers should be at peace with ourselves, others and the world.  

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
We are blessed. We have access to Jesus' words in our Pew Bibles, perhaps in Bibles at home, on the internet, on smartphones and tablets.

On Bible Sunday we give thanks that this message lives on through the gift of God’s Spirit-inspired Scripture (2 Timothy 3.16) and because of those saints and scholars, and organisations such as Bible Society, who interpret and translate it into languages we can understand, we have it in our heart language today.

But, how can the message of Christ dwell in us richly if we don’t have it? Of the world’s 7,000 languages over half still wait for even one book of the Bible – so Bible Society, in partnership with others, is working on 500 translation projects at any one time.

Bible Society works in over 200 countries, through a network of over 140 Bible Societies, involved in the provision of most of the world’s Bibles– by translating it, producing it and distributing it and by helping people to read it, engage with it and to share it with others – but there is still much to do.

In China the Bible has gone from being a banned book to a best-seller. Less than 40 years ago during the Cultural Revolution it was illegal to have a Bible, if you were caught with one it would have been burnt or destroyed. In 1987 Amity Printing Press was opened in China in Nanjing – and Amity now has the capacity to print one Bible every second – which is amazing, but that’s nowhere near enough for the Christians in China – it is estimated that one million came to faith in the last year alone!

One lady that received a Bible when they were given out in a rural church recently was 78 years old. As her friend wept behind her, she shared that she had been a Christian all of her life, but this was her very first Bible that she was receiving that day.

Think how thankful and grateful that woman was. This passage encourages us to be grateful and thankful for all the good things God has given us, and especially forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus.

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, We are to use God's word to teach us how to live the right way and correct us when we go the wrong way.

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. We are to do everything “in the name of Jesus”. As His representative. Reflecting His example and teaching. Like an ambassador representing a foreign King. This should be done in an attitude of gratitude, giving thanks to God the father through Him.