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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10.45am service, 2006-05-28

Text: Colossians 3:12-16

For the past 2 months we have been meditating on the theme 'Building a Spiritual House.' This spiritual house actually refers to the local Church. The Scriptures uses the house as a means of portraying the function and structure of the church (e.g. 1 Peter 2:5). A house is usually made up of various components such as bricks, steel bars and wood. 

However, one thing more is needed if all these components are to perform their role as building components: They must be properly joined together. Bricks need to be joined together with cement. If you were to pile bricks loosly one on top of another, without cement, all you need is one push to topple the pile. Likewise, steel bars or girders have to be properly welded together and set in concrete. Only then are they able to perform their role of providing strong support in columns and beams. Wooden planks have to be nailed together to perform their role. Without being nailed they would move out of place. Now, if you tried to build a house without doing any cementing, welding or nailing, you would probably have a flimsy structure that someone like the big bad wolf would be able to blow down without too much difficulty!

Now, the same thing will happen to the church which is a spiritual house. It consists of many individual components that called members. If these components are merely placed together without being properly bonded together, if will not take too much effort by the Devil or any stormy gale to blow the entire house down. It is only when the components of God's house are bonded well together, that the house will be able to stand firm and fulfill its purpose as a spiritual house for a long time. 

This morning's message focuses on this particular aspect of building the spiritual house ' the bond that binds us to one another within the church. It is always a joy to see new bonds developing whenever Lifers have the opportunity to meet and fellowship with one another. These bonds become channels of love and care for one another. This is why we plan and organise events that will provide more opportunities for fellowship. One of them is our monthly Sunday Lunch on every 3rd Sunday of the month - I urge all of us to make it a point to stay back after the service for this and use it to bond with your fellow members in church. 

There are also other bond-building opportunities besides this. Last year we had a church games day on 9 August, in which about 170 of us gathered in this sanctuary and were divided into a red team and a white team. After playing many interesting games devised by our young Lifers, the red team scored the most points and won the challenge trophy that was donated by one of our deacons. But more important than winning the challenge trophy was the bonds that were built and strengthened among Lifers. Last Christmas we also had the opportunity to build bonds in the Winter Rose Cantata where members got together regularly for practices. This year, we will be having a Church Vesper with the theme 'Affectionately Linked in Life' on 12th August, where there will be opportunities for sharing testimonies, songs, instrument ensembles and recitation of poems to edify one another. And coming up in just 2 weeks time we will be having our church camp at Tiara resort for 5 days and that will afford plenty of opportunities to build and strengthen bonds among members.

However, as helpful as such events are to build bonds among ourselves, they will not work at all if one very basic condition is not in place. And this basic condition is the willingness of all of us to build a closely-knit church. There must be a general consensus, a commitment and a common interest in all members of the church to build strong bonds with one another. It has to become a felt need for us. If this is lacking, then all the activities and programmes designed to promote closer fellowship in the church will avail very little. Attendance will always be low. All kinds of excuses will be given for not participating in them. And so the key question is: How can we all develop the willingness and desire to become a closely knit church?

For God's people, the strongest motivation to action always comes from God Himself. If we are thoroughly convinced that God wants us to be closely knit, and that this is not an option but really a command from Him that we must obey, then we will certainly make a concerted effort to become a closely-knit church. This is what we will see now as we look at our text in Colossians 3:12-16. Here, the first thing that the Lord wants us to do is to:

I. Change Our Perception of the Church (v.12)

We must regard our church as being very specially cherished by God. We see this in v.12: 'Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved' Here we notice that believers are described with three terms: the first is the term: 'elect of God' - this means that we are specially chosen and given the special privilege of being a part of the church. The second term used to describe us is the word, 'holy' - in this context it means 'set apart to God or by God.' And the third term is 'beloved' - this term denotes the special favour that God has shown to us. 

B. It is an Honour to Be Part of the Church

When all these three terms are put together they speak to us of how great and wonderful it is for us to be part of this entity that is called the church of God. It is no small thing. It is actually a great privilege and honour, and therefore we must now live within this church in a manner that befits such an honour. And what is this manner of life? Verse 12 tells us that life as God's elect, holy and beloved, must be characterised by compassion (the meaning of 'bowels of mercies'), by kindness, by humbleness of mind, by meekness and by longsuffering. 

B. We Have Responsibilities from Being Part of the Church

We notice that all of these five virtues have something to do with the way we relate to one another. They tell us about the responsibilities we now have as a result of being in into the body of Christ. Firstly, we should always be compassionate toward on another especially when there are brethren who are suffering or distressed, and bearing burdens that are too heavy for them to bear alone. In Galatians 6:2 we are told to bear one another's burdens. But sometimes excuses are made for not doing this. Someone might say, " I have enough burdens of my own to bear" Someone else might say, 'I would rather not be nosy to pry or meddle in the affairs of others.' 

Have we sometimes used the same excuses too, when a brother in Christ we know is facing problems in life? If we allow excuses like these to keep us from helping to bear one another�s burdens then we are not showing any Christian love. Instead of love, we would be showing a self-centred, conceited attitude, thinking that our own burdens are much heavier than the burdens of others, and we need to be helped rather than to help.

This is where we can learn from the example of the apostle Paul. When he wrote these words to the Colossians, he was actually in a Roman prison. He was greatly in need of compassion from others, and yet he wrote the 'prison epistles' which are Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. 

These 4 epistles contain some of the strongest words of encouragement that ever came from the pen of Paul. And so if you feel so burdened by your personal trials, learn to be like Paul. Look around you. There may be people who may be even more burdened than you and who are feeling down or miserable within even though if you asked them, �Hi, how are you?� you would get the polite but superficial reply, 'I'm fine, how about you?' People will open up about their problems only after the conversation has gone for some length, and we must be willing to take time to talk with them.

Continuing in v.12, we see that besides being compassionate we should also be kind to one another. A thoughtful act of kindness can go a long way to develop closer fellowship. It may be remembering a person's birthday, or keeping in touch with someone who has gone overseas for work or study. Some of us are not keen on being kind to others because of the fear that we may be misunderstood or deeply hurt by them. Then you may feel tempted to withdraw from others and keep yourself at a safe distance from others. But if you do this, how can you obey the command in v.12 to put on kindness? Therefore, to be kind, you must overcome such fears and come out of your comfort zone.

There may be a risk involved whenever you are kind to others: the risk that someone will let you down, or take advantage of your kindness. Whenever you show love, you are bound to make yourself vulnerable to being hurt either by someone who coldly refuses to receive your love, or worse still by someone who abuses your love. But please remember that this will not happen very often. The majority of Christians will not let you down if you take the initiative to reach out to them with love and kindness. 

The next virtue we need according to v.12, is humility of mind. A humble person always puts others before himself. (Philippians 2:3 'but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.') Humility or mind is not only about how a person sees himself. It directs us to look at others differently. It is willing to trust others. Pride often prevents individuals from trusting other people. A proud person would rather trust in himself. We must therefore be willing to trust one another. A close-knit fellowship is built on trust. When we trust one another, we can share our feelings and opinions with one another without any fear that we would be judged or taken advantage of. 

We should be able to be transparent and open with fellow believers, and not have to be on guard all the time, lest something we say should be used against us. If we are not able to trust one another with our love, then something must be terribly wrong with us. All of us who are truly in Christ should be able to trust one another and have no fear at all that we will be hurt or betrayed. So let us develop this humble virtue of openness and trust in our interaction. It can go a long way to build a stronger and closer bonds among members of the church.

And besides that v.12 says that we must be meek or gentle. You see, in any church there are bound to be differences. God did not make us all exactly alike. Each member has his or her own unique personality. Some tend to be rather strong and dominating. Others tend to be quiet and uninterested. And yet others tend to be highly-strung and very easily agitated. This variety of personalities makes the fellowship interesting but it can also present problems in fellowship. People may find it hard to get along together. 

But meekness is the virtue that can help us to get along well with any kind of person. Learn how to be gentle and accommodating with others. And also learn to be longsuffering or patient with others. Put up with one another's idiosyncrasies and be patient. Remember that we all have our own personal faults and failings. Sometimes we disappoint one another and even disagree with one another. And this may cause some friction. Nothing disrupts fellowship more than a quarrel between members. But how do we prevent quarrels from disrupting the fellowship?

II. Obey God's Commands Regarding One Another (v.13)

The answer is found in the next verse: by 'Forbearing one another and forgiving one another' we cannot be closely knit if we fail to do this. And in v.13 we see that we can forgive when we are reminded of the fact that Christ has forgiven us for so much greater faults and failings than what others have done to us. Here I would like to draw your attention to the words 'one another' used twice in this verse, and used also in v.16 ('admonishing one another'). 

Do you know that there are altogether 44 verses with 23 different commands in the scriptures that have the word 'one another' in them? If you have been following our Scripture memory verse programme this year you would have already learned to memorise 12 such verses. 

Hence this year's course is known as the 'one another' principle. Now the point I want to make here is this: You can't possibly keep these commandments on your own, in isolation. They are all meant to be observed in the context of life within the body of Christ. We can't possibly observe them if we are not regularly spending time to interact with other members of our church. And this constrains us to develop closer bonds with each other within our church. For only then we would be able to obey all the 23 commands regarding one another that God has given to us in His Word.

III. Exercise Brotherly Love (v.14)

The next verse tells us more about the bond that we should develop: v.14 'And above all things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.' The word 'charity' here is the well-known word, agape, which means love. There are really many places in the Bible where we are told to exercise such brotherly love. In John 15:12 Jesus said, 'This is My commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.' In John 13:34, He emphasises this by saying, 'a new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you.' And Christ went on made this the criteria for proving His true disciples. In the next verse He said, 'By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one for another.' 

Our Lord has made love for one another the distinguishing feature or hallmark of all true Christians. Why did Christ not choose some other virtue to tbe the distinguishing feature of His disciples? Why not humility? Or sober-mindedness? Or peace? Or zeal? There must be something special and significant about love. John says the same thing in his first epistle. In 3:14 he says 'We know that we have passed from death unto life (why?) because we love the brethren' In 4:12 he says, 'If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and His love is perfected in us.'

The reason why love is the distinguishing feature of a true disciple or true Christian is that it is the most divine of all virtues. 1 John 4:7,8 'Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.' This divine virtue called love must therefore be evident in your life if you are truly born of God.

In v.14 of our text love is called the 'bond of perfectness.' This means that it is the connective tissue or the glue that binds us together in the fellowship in perfect harmony. At the beginning of this message I used the analogy of building a house. 

I said that members in God's house that are not bonded together would be like placing bricks, steel bars and pieces of wood together without cementing, welding and nailing them. Love is the bond of perfectness that cements us, welds us and nails us together to build the spiritual house of God. And as a result of these bonds we all thrive and grow together as a spiritual house of God!

I would like to use an illustration from nature to help us to understand this a little better. If you were to go into a forest and look at the trees, you would get the impression that each tree is an individual, separate entity. But what you can't see is that beneath the ground, the trees are actually connected together through their intertwined roots. And trees can actually convey water and nutrients to one another through their roots! This is made possible by the Lord's wonderful provision of a unique fungus, called mycorrhiza. This special fungus grows on the roots of trees, and forms a network which links the roots of one tree with the roots of others. These links become little channels through which nutrients and water may pass from one tree to another. A whole forest of trees in therefore linked together like a community. If one tree has access to water and another tree has access to nutrients, and a third tree has access to sunlight, the trees can actually share these things with one another.

Love is just like that wonderful fungus, linking us by an invisible bond, as a closely-knit church. Through the bond of love, we share the blessings God has given to each of us. If someone is in need, that bond of love will supply to his need. If someone has abundance, that bond of love will bring the benefits to all the rest. In this mutual process of sharing through the bond of love, we can all bear one another's burdens, and strengthen one another. All of this is nothing less than God's plan and design for us, and it is really quite marvelous.

The early church in Jerusalem enjoyed such close-knit fellowship. Let us turn our Bibles to Acts 2:44-47 and read, 'And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people.' 

This is real church life as a spiritual house of God! A closely-knit group of believers who shared not only their time of worship together, but even their time outside of worship - going to members' homes and enjoying meals and activities together. Can we seek to emulate this in our church? Only if our attitude and perception is changed.

IV. Accomplish Common Objectives as One Body (vv.15,16)

Verse 15 gives us a good reason for doing this - because we are called in one body. This speaks of the oneness or unity that we should have in Christ. As one body in Christ we should now work together towards accomplishing common tasks and objectives. E.g. in v.16 - 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom' This means that the whole body is to make itself a rich treasury of God's Word. To let the word of Christ dwell in us means to let it become like a rich treasure stored up in our midst. We are to build up the biblical knowledge of each and every member in our church so that we will collectively build a rich treasury of God's Word. According to the same verse everyone can and should play a part in accomplishing this task 'teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.' All of us who are in Christ are on the road of learning and we should help one another to learn God's Word.

Application

Thus we have seen from God's Word that we will build a closely-knit church as we change our perception of the church, as we obey the Lord's commands regarding one another, as we exercise brotherly love, and as we seek to accomplish our common objectives and tasks as one body. 

All these are essentials for building a closely-knit church. It is this kind of church that will provide the conducive environment for spiritual growth, and for taking care of the needs of all members. And this is what we must now be willing to do according to God's Word. Let us therefore make fellowship time with other members a priority from now on. Get to know other members of the Church. Make it a point to talk with someone you don't know in church this morning, and keep on doing it every week. If every one is willing to do this, we will see the bond of perfectness growing in our midst. May the Lord help us to make this the hallmark of our Church.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25