A Heart of Togetherness

These sermons began as devotionals for my family as we met during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. We have now begun to include our friends and the devotional has now become a full sermon. We are also recording our service and will begin posting those videos in the near future.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”                                                     Colossians 3:12-17 (NASB)

We are seeing the divide in our nation deepen in every facet of life. There is divide among the people of this country – from skin color to our climate to whether we should eat meat or plants – there is divide among the people. There is divide among our elected officials, people voted into office to look out for the wellbeing of those who elected them, in fact, the two major political parties of the country are fractured within the divide – there is divide among our elected officials. There is divide among businesses big and small, our health care workers and a broken system, there is divide in the sporting word and entertainment industry, it seems that everywhere we look there is the lack of A Heart of Togetherness.

Perhaps the divide that hurts the most and may be causing the most damage is the divide seen in the Christian church. We have seen bitterness and fighting over petty issues, in fact, entire denominations have split over much weightier issues. Most churches cannot even decide on which translation of the Bible to use and what the word means for today world; pastor preach watered down messages to fill their worship centers rather than seeing people enter and fill the Kingdom of God; entire denomination continue to fight over single words – there is divide in the Christian church. The Christian church is the one place divide should never happen! And yet, rather than A Heart of Togetherness, the Christian church is as divided as our country.

We are chosen of God, holy and beloved, to bear with and forgive one another; we love in unity and peace, called to one body, admonishing one another in wisdom and thankfulness, doing all things in the name of Christ, giving thanks to the Father, with A Heart of Togetherness.

With A Heart of Togetherness, we share one calling, in one body and reminding one another we have one teaching, providing instruction and warning in love and wisdom, while doing all things, in our speech and in our actions, in the name of Christ, giving thanks to our heavenly Father.

Our passage comes in the exhortation of Paul to put on the new self. He has just reminded the church at Colossae that the members of their body are dead to such things as greed, immorality, evil desires and impurity, all of which are nothing more than idols. Paul goes on to tell the church to remove anger, bitterness, wrath, malice and abusive language, for these are the things that lead to the wrath of God on the sons of disobedience. But Paul reminds them, you have been chosen of God so you put on the new self. The new self, Paul speaks of, includes three common callings shared by all Christians. Those three calling are the subject of our message this morning.

As we look at Paul’s reminder of the characteristics of our calling, we must ask ourselves one question, “Why is A Heart of Togetherness necessary?”

A Heart of Togetherness is necessary because we are called, we are cleansed, and we are changed in Christ.

The first common calling shared by Christians –

1). A Heart of Togetherness includes one calling in Christ.

We are chosen of God, holy and loved, forgiven and forgiving.

Being chosen comes at God’s initiative, He has gifted us with unmerited favor. The qualities listed in verses 12 and 13 are the qualities of Christ, characterized in His life. These same qualities are vital for a harmonious life within the church and, indeed, with all human beings. Paul says we are holy and beloved; We have been chosen to be holy – being separated or set apart; we have been chosen to be beloved meaning we are now able to receive the love of God through Christ, whereas we were once enemies of God, we are now loved.

The new self includes a new heart. We have been chosen to have a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. We have been chosen to compassion – mercy, pity and tenderheartedness that flows to the lost, homeless, hungry, elderly, orphaned, hurting and poor; we have been chosen to have kindness – a gracious sensitivity towards others shown by our genuine care for their feelings and desires; we have been chosen for humility – denying our selfish desires to rise above others to attain honor, power and position.

We have been chosen for gentleness – the willingness to make allowances for others; we have been chosen for patience – the willingness to endure wrong done to us without taking revenge. We have been chosen to wrap these five qualities together in love – the perfect bond of unity. Jesus was pretty clear about this love thing, it is not an option, opinion, a choice or a feeling – it is a command! Hear the words of our Lord in John 13:34-35, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

There is no room for discussion here, this is a command from our Lord and Savior to love one another. I have noted before that John chapters 13-17 is the most intimate time spent alone with His disciples. This passage comes during the final Passover meal Jesus spent with His disciples, right after Jesus has washed the feet of His disciples and after He predicted that one of them would betray Him. Jesus is speaking DIRECTLY to His disciples and this command is given to them for His CHURCH. The command to love your neighbor as yourself has been covered, this is meant specifically for the church and those who call on the name of Jesus first and foremost.

The love that Jesus commands is also the mark of a true disciple. Yes, people will disagree and not always get along, it happens. But our response to that disagreement is to be the difference between a true disciple and a worldly church member. If you can continue to love even during a disagreement, then the love of Christ dwells within you. If you say you love a brother or sister and yet continue to grumble and harbor bitterness, you are not a true disciple of Christ but a worldly member of the church. Love binds us together in perfect unity. Unity within the body of Christ is where peace reigns and leads to our perfection.

A Heart of Togetherness is necessary because we are called, we are cleansed, and we are changed in Christ.

Unity in the body leads us to the second commonly shared calling among Christians –

2). A Heart of Togetherness includes one body in Christ.

We put on love which is the perfect bond of unity.

The peace of Christ should characterize the relationships within the body of Christ, where the peace of Christ also brings thankfulness. The Greek word for peace means to be bound, joined and weaved together. We are therefore assured, confident and secure in the love and care of God, knowing God will take care of us no matter the problem or circumstance. This means we can be absolutely certain that God will NOT allow anything to overtake us! God will be our strength and strengthen us; He will be our encouragement; God will be our guide and sustain us; God will deliver and save us, giving us real life now and forever!

This peace is the peace of Christ; He alone possesses it; He alone can give it. A person can only know the peace of Christ as they come to know Christ. The choice is the believers, not all will automatically experience the peace of Christ, though we should. This is a command given by Paul, “Let the peace of Christ rule…”so the believer must once again make the choice – the believer can choose to allow the peace of Christ to rule or be unwilling to lay aside differences and let anger, bitterness and chaos rule their heart.

We must allow the peace of Christ to rule because we are called to one body! A body at war with itself is not a healthy body. Just look at our mortal body today and any of the numerous diseases we fight daily, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, the list goes on, but you get the point. A body that fights against itself is not a healthy body. We are not called to be a body divided but rather a body knitted together by love, the perfect bond of unity.

There is only one body of Christ, only one body of believers, only one church. This means that believers are to act as one, live as one and behave as one – we are to be a body of people in union with one another. We respond to the command for peace because Christ has brought His peace to your heart on a personal level. Christ brings His peace to all people who trust Him; Christ has brought His peace to the church, His body, and it is our privilege to know the peace of Christ. The point is this…the peace of Christ will only rule where the word of Christ reigns.

A Heart of Togetherness is necessary because we are called, we are cleansed, and we are changed in Christ.

Peace in the body leads us to the third and final commonly shared calling by Christians –

3). A Heart of Togetherness includes one teaching in Christ.

The peace of Christ rules where the word of Christ lives.

Because we have one calling in Christ and because we are one body in Christ, we also have one teaching in Christ – the word of Christ. The word is to live in us to teach us in all wisdom, that we might be able to teach and remind one another in all wisdom. To teach one another means to instruct in the word and to admonish means to remind one another of the warnings of Scripture – even believers need to be reminded of the truth and wisdom found only in the Scriptures – the word of Christ!

The word, therefore, is to dwell richly in individual members of the body as well as the body as a whole. As believers we make room for the word of Christ to make a home in our hearts. This means we cleanse the heart of the old and allow the word to set up permanent residence. Think of this as spring cleaning for the heart – throwing open the windows to allow clean, fresh air in and stale, musty air out; wiping down walls, doors and windows to remove the scent of the winter blahs to be replaced by the fresh scent of spring; vacuuming and cleaning carpets to remove the odor of snowy mildew to be replaced by the odors of fresh spring newness.

The word richly means the believer is not satisfied with a meager hit and run visit from the word. We must allow the word to make a permanent residence within our hearts. The word becomes the food that feeds our soul and fills us with nourishment and warms us to the bones whenever we read, study or meditate on Scripture. Think of this as the comfort foods we all crave, especially during the long, cold winter nights or when we become ill. These are the meals that not only fill and warm our bellies but also fill our souls with the love we felt at home. Maybe its mom’s mashed potatoes and gravy or macaroni and cheese, or mom’s fried chicken. Whatever the comfort food might be it warms us and settles your soul like no other food can.

A Heart of Togetherness is necessary because we are called, we are cleansed, and we are changed in Christ.

We are seeing how the divide in our nation is growing deeper and further apart almost daily now. In every facet of life, we see divide, from the people of the country to the elected officials, the business world, the sporting world, and entertainment it seems as if there is the lack of A Heart of Togetherness.

But the one that hurts the worst and may be causing the most damage is the divide in the Christian church, the place where divide should never happen. We have seen this morning how we share one call, one body and one teaching, all meant to bring us into unity or sharing A Heart of Togetherness, and yet, the Christian church is as divided as our nation.

So, what do we, as believers do with this? First, remember your calling. You are chosen of God as set apart and loved. Remove your eyes from self and fix them squarely on the One you call Lord and Savior. You have been forgiven so forgive. You are loved so love; you are called to have compassion, so be compassionate; be kind and humble, gentle and patient. You have a new heart, use it to foster peace among people but especially within the body of Christ.

Secondly, remember the body of Christ is to be one. Yes, there will be disagreements but do not hold onto those disagreements. Love as Christ has loved you, even in your flaws and with your faults, even in your sin. Love without condition, love fully and love from the peace that rules in your heart. Finally, remember the word of Christ. Read, study and meditate on the word daily. Allow the word to make your heart its only home, where it resides in the peace of Christ.

The heart that is filled with the peace of Christ, where the word dwells richly, overflows with thankfulness. This is the heart that does all things in the name of Christ, whether word or actions they are said and done in the name of Christ. Here again, as believers we have a choice – you can speak and act for Christ or you can speak and act for the world. We do all things I the name of Christ – we live, move and have our being in Christ; we trust and depend on Christ; we claim and represent the name of Christ – because this is the ONLY name acceptable to God the Father, thus we do all things in the name of Christ.

May we all be found with A Heart of Togetherness, doing all things in the name of Christ, the One who has given us one calling, one body and one teaching.

Amen and Amen.

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