Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the saints which were at Colossae. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first eighteen verses of the fourth chapter. When we come to this particular passage of scripture we find the epistle written unto the saints which were at Colossae coming to a close. With these words the apostle brings this epistle to a close and closes it out similarly to how he closed out the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Ephesus. Building upon what the apostle wrote in the final verses of the third chapter the apostle now directs his attention to masters and their treatment of the servants which have been entrusted into their care. As the fourth chapter of this epistle opens it does so with the apostle instructing masters to render unto their servants that which is equal, and to do so because they too recognize that there is one Master who is in heaven. The more I read the writings of the apostle Paul—writings which were influenced by an encounter with Christ directly—and the more I seek to understand the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the more I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with the reality that everything we do in this life should be directly governed and influenced by Christ. The more I read the words which the apostle Paul the more I come face to face with the reality that the way we act, the way we talk, the way we think, the way we interact with others should be directly influenced, impacted and governed by the person of Jesus Christ. If Jesus who is both Christ and Lord is not the main influence within our lives then there is something drastically wrong with the way we are living our lives and conducting our business. We dare not make any attempt to love this life according to our own standards or even our own imaginations and ideas on how we are to live this life.
Perhaps the greatest question that could and should be asked is whether or not Christ is the sole influence within our lives. Years ago there was a popular catch phrase that was coined—a phrase that simply asked “what would Jesus do.” The entire crux and meaning of this phrase is that when we find ourselves in a difficult situation and don’t know what to do, we need to ask ourselves what would Jesus do. This phrase also has an additional meaning, which is simply that when we find ourselves acting and behaving in a manner which is uncomely and unwise, we need ask ourselves that which Jesus would do. I would dare say that one of the single greatest questions we can ask ourselves when considering how we are to live is to ask ourselves what Jesus would do. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—when was the last time you asked yourself what Jesus would say? When was the last time you asked how Jesus would think in such situations and circumstances? When was the last time you asked how Jesus would have acted or behaved in certain situations? When was the last time you asked yourself how Jesus would have handled and reacted to specific situations and circumstances which take place within your life? The biggest question we can and must ask ourselves is whether or not Christ is indeed our life, and whether or not we truly seek to pattern and model our lives after Him. There is a growing tendency to live our lives the way we desire and perhaps even see fit, and yet we do ourselves a great disservice and commit a great evil when we choose to think along such lines. I would dare say that if Christ is not our life, and if Christ is not the driving influence within our lives then we need to seriously take stock within our lives once more, and reevaluate how we are living our lives on this earth. How often do we truly spend examining and taking a look at our lives to see whether or not we are truly modeling our lives after Jesus who is both Christ and Lord? How often do we truly take inventory of our lives and consider whether or not Christ is the driving influence within our lives who governs how we think, how we act, how we talk, and the like?
I was recently impressed within my spirit concerning a very specific thought which I have been wrestling with each and every day since then. The thought is simply centered upon the words “Jesus wouldn’t have been affected by that.” The entire premise of this thought is centered upon the reality that there are too many events and circumstances which take place within and throughout the course of our days which directly impact and affect us. If we are being honest with ourselves, as well as with the living God we must wholeheartedly admit that we allow so many things to directly impact and affect us. If we are being honest with ourselves we must admit that we allow far too many things to “get under our skin,” and far too many things to bother us. If I am being honest with you who are reading this, I must emphatically declare that there are times within my own life when I give events and circumstances far more authority within my life than they need or were ever intended on having within my life. I must be honest and emphatically declare that I have allowed far too many things to “rub me the wrong way,” or to even “get under my skin.” There have been countless times when I have allowed words which others have spoken around me or perhaps even directly to me to directly impact me—how I think, how I feel, how I react, how I act, and even how I speak. I have often said that I am an incredibly outspoken man, and that I can mince words with the best of them, but please note and please understand that I am in no way boasting of such a reality. As I take a closer look at my life I must admit that I have allowed far too many words which others have spoken in my life to directly impact and affect me, and as a result I have allowed myself to release words that should not have even come out of my mouth. There have been countless times when I have allowed myself to get caught up in my emotions and have reacted in a manner that was not comely or wise. I am finding myself looking over my life and being displeased with how much I allow to influence and impact my life, and how I think, how I feel, and even how I respond and react.
As I am sitting here this morning I am absolutely and completely gripped with the fact that there is a tremendous need within our hearts and lives to look at Christ and to keep our eyes firmly fixed and firmly fastened on Him and Him alone. Within this particular epistle the apostle Paul wrote and spoke of our lives being hidden with Christ in God since we are dead with Him, and it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this reality and principle. I have found myself coming face to face with the reality that I have allowed far to many things to offend me, and have allowed far too many things to bother me, and the truth of the matter is that I absolutely shouldn’t. I fully recognize and realize that we are all a work in progress and that He who began a good work in us will perform it until the day of Christ’s coming, however, I am convinced that each and every time we allow ourselves to be directly and impacted by that which takes place around us within and throughout our lives we are allowing ourselves to fail to display the nature and character of Christ. I am finding myself desperately desiring that I might be completely and totally unable to be offended by anything anyone says or does. Imagine living your life in such a way that there is absolutely nothing anyone can say or do that would offend you in the least bit. Imagine living your life in such a way that it doesn’t matter what takes place around you, for because your life is so hidden with Christ in God, you are absolutely unaffected and unable to be impacted by what takes place. I can’t help but be caught up in the reality that there is a great and desperate need within our hearts and lives to come face to face with our own mortality and our own flesh, and recognize and understand the fact that we are called to display and model the character and image of Christ. We have been called to model and display the character and image of Jesus Christ who is our Lord and our Master, and yet there are countless times when instead of allowing Christ to be the driving force within our hearts and lives, we allow that which takes place all around us to have a far greater impact than it should within our lives. Pause for a moment and consider the reality of what it would be like to spend your days without every having to worry about being offended by a single thing anyone says or does around you, or perhaps even toward you.
This reality of allowing ourselves to be so caught up in heavenly places with Christ that we are completely unaffected by that which takes place around us is something I am convinced is desperately needed within our hearts and lives. With that being said, please note and please understand that I am not speaking of our being unaffected by that which we see out on the streets such as poverty, violence, homelessness, and the like. What I am speaking of and what I am suggesting is not that we allow ourselves to be unaffected by the needs of the orphans and the widows of our generation, or by the countless men, women and children who are hurting and desperately crying out for help. Please note that I am in no way suggesting that we are to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the needs which are present all around us in the streets of our cities, in our school systems, in our homes, in our communities, and the like. Please note and please understand that I am in no way suggesting that we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the tremendous suffering and affliction that is present among us in the earth today. That which I am speaking of is allowing ourselves to be unaffected by those things in our lives which—if we are being honest with ourselves—we have to admit that they should have absolutely no impact or affect on us. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—if you are truly willing to be honest with yourself and with the Lord, how much of what takes place around you has a direct impact on you? How much of what is said or done has a direct impact and affect on you within the course of your life, and even has the ability to ruin your day? How many times has something happened on your job that has so drastically and radically impacted you that it completely ruined your day? How many times have you driven or commuted home from work and the whole time you were headed home you couldn’t get out of your head that which took place at work? How many times have you allowed yourself to be so impacted and so affected by something someone else has said to you that it was able to completely dictate and determine the entire course of your day? What’s more, is that depending on how early in the day it might have happened—it could have very easily ruined the entirety of your day.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord Himself spoke in His famous Sermon on the Mount concerning that which was previously spoken in the Law. Consider if you will the words our Lord spoke, which are recorded for us in the fifth chapter of the gospel of Matthew beginning with the thirty-eighth verse: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away” (Matthew 5:38-42). Within this particular passage of Scripture we are directly confronted with how we react and how we respond when evil takes place within our lives. Jesus begins this particular passage by referencing what His hearers would have heard—namely, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. In other words, that which Jesus is speaking about is centered upon the reality of vengeance, of justice, and perhaps even of some type of revenge. What is so interesting and unique about the words we read in this particular passage is that immediately after Jesus speaks of that which we have heard—namely, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth—Jesus goes on to give us a new way of thinking and a new way of acting. Immediately following Jesus’ words concerning an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth Jesus instructs and admonishes us to resist not evil. I am convinced that this is perhaps one of the hardest things to do within our lives, for not only do we seek to resist evil, but we also seek to repay evil. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the twelfth chapter of the epistle he wrote to the saints which were at Rome: “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:16-21).
When I read the words which our Lord spoke in His famous Sermon on the Mount I can’t help but be absolutely and incredibly challenged with the reality that it is no small thing to choose not to resist evil. Please note that what Jesus is speaking of is not evil in the terms of wickedness, or sin, or transgression, of iniquity, or immorality, and the like. When Jesus speaks and declares unto those to whom He is speaking concerning our not resisting evil, that which He is actually speaking about is not resisting evil being done unto us. When Jesus speaks to His audience and instructs them to not resist evil, what He is actually declaring unto them is that they do not seek to control what happens to them within their lives. I am convinced that we do ourselves a great disservice when we choose to allow what evil may come upon us, what evil may befall us, and what evil may be committed against us. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first epistle which he wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth concerning this very reality. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the sixth chapter within this particular epistle you will find the apostle Paul taking this particular reality and expounding it all the more. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth beginning with the first verse of the sixth chapter of the first epistle:
“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revivers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:1-11).
The more I consider the words which Jesus spoke concerning our resisting not evil, the more I can’t help but be directly confronted with the words the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth. Within this particular passage the apostle Paul asks two specific questions—questions which are directly linked and connected with the words which our Lord spoke. In the seventh verse of this particular chapter within the first epistle written unto the Corinthians we find the apostle Paul asking these saints two questions: “why do ye not rather take wrong?” And “Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” These questions are absolutely incredible and challenge us to the very depths and core of our existence, for how many times do we attempt to control the evil that is committed against us within our lives? How many times do we seek to control the level of abuse that can be committed against us? How many times do we attempt to control various situations and circumstances which take place within our lives rather than simply allowing them to take place? Before I go any further I feel it necessary to declare to you who are reading these words that I am in no way suggesting that the wife who is being abused and beaten by her husband should roll over and accept what is being committed toward and against her. Please know that I am in no way suggesting that that child who is being physically molested or abused should roll over and take what is happening to them. I am not speaking of that women who is being raped rolling over and taking what has happened, or perhaps what continues to happen within her life. I am I am not speaking of that individual who is experiencing violence on the street and who is being assaulted by other individuals who have risen up against him. Of course in each of these situations and occasions there is the law which has been put into place in order to help in such situations and circumstances. I know there would be some who would read this who would think that I am suggesting that such individuals should roll over and accept what is happening to them and what is taking place within their lives. Please note that this reality is the furthest from the truth and is not at all what I am suggesting or speaking of. When I speak of choosing not to resist evil that takes place within our lives, I am not suggesting that the woman who is being raped, or the spouse who is being abused, or the child who is being molested should accept what is taking place toward and against them. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that I am not suggesting that such individuals should naturally accept what is taking place within their lives, and that they should not rise up and seek help to change their circumstances.
It’s worth noting that immediately after Jesus instructed His hearers to not resist evil, He went on to declare unto them that whosoever would smite them on their right cheek, they are to turn unto them the left one also. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to state and declare that if any one would sue them at the law, and take away their coat, they were to let them have their cloke also. The words which Jesus spoke in His Sermon on the Mount are incredibly difficult to hear, and are perhaps even more difficult to accept and live out. If we are honest with ourselves we must admit that we can and will seek to do anything and everything we can to prevent ourselves from being hurt by another individual. This is especially true when we consider the reality that we have already been hurt by one individual, and how we will fight tooth and nail to prevent ourselves from being hurt again by another individual. What’s more, is that more often than not, such individuals who have already been hurt by another individual may very well find themselves doing the hurting as a defense mechanism to keep others from being able to hurt them. The attitude and mentality is that of “if I hurt you first, you will be completely unable to hurt me at all.” I know there are those who are reading these words, and there are those who will read these words who have found themselves, or will find themselves in this place within their lives. In fact, there are individuals who will spend most of their time hurting others, and the simple truth of the matter is that what they are doing is nothing more than defending themselves from being hurt again. Jesus’ words strike at the very chord and foundation of our hearts and lives, for they are incredibly difficult to actually flesh out. If we are being honest with ourselves and with the Lord we will seek to do anything and everything to prevent ourselves from being hurt. We will do anything and everything to keep ourselves from being defrauded by another individual. This is especially true when we have already been hurt once, or have already been wounded once, or have already been offended once. More often than not the first time was incredibly difficult and could very well be perceived as being free, yet the second time, and any time after that will cost the other individual more than that which they were bargaining for. How many times have you yourself sought to control the situations and circumstances within your life, and have allowed yourself to resist evil—the very thing Jesus instructed us not to do.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus spoke unto the apostle Peter when he asked Him how often his brother should sin against him, and he should forgive him. Woah! Please don’t miss the tremendous reality and importance of what is found in this particular question which was asked by the apostle Peter, for the apostle Peter didn’t simply ask Jesus how often he should forgive his brother, but he asked the Lord how often his brother should sin against him, and he forgive him. The question Peter is asking is actually quite remarkable, for that which Peter is suggesting is that his brother—not even an enemy or a foe—is sinning against him. What’s more, is that it might even suggest that Peter is suggesting that his brother can sin against him seven times, and yet once the seventh time has occurred, and once the seventh transgression has been committed, the apostle Peter was free from exercising and displaying grace, mercy and forgiveness. It’s worth noting that the apostle Peter asked Jesus how often his brother should sin against him—and he forgive him—thus acknowledging the fact that he was to forgive his brother a certain amount of times. It’s worth noting that in response to Peter’s question Jesus emphatically declared unto him, saying, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” LIMITED GRACE! LIMITED MERCY! LIMITED FORGIVENESS! IS THERE A LIMIT ON YOUR GRACE? ARE THEIR BOUNDARIES TO YOUR FORGIVENESS? ARE THEIR BOUNDARIES AROUND YOUR LIFE THAT DETERMINE WHAT CAN AND CAN’T HAPPEN? HOW MUCH GRACE ARE YOU TRULY WILLING TO EXERCISE? HOW MUCH FORGIVENESS ARE YOU TRULY WILLING TO EXERCISE TOWARDS ANOTHER? When I read the words which our Lord spoke unto Peter, I can’t help but consider the fact that what He was doing was essentially taking the limits off within our lives—taking the limits off our grace, taking the limits off our mercy, taking the limits off our forgiveness, taking the limits off how much we are willing to take and handle. I began this particular writing by referencing the reality of the various situations and circumstances which take place within our hearts and lives would not have impacted and would not have affected Jesus—at all. In fact, if you read the gospels you will find that the only things that directly impacted Jesus was unbelief and the religious spirit—a religious spirit which is embodied with legalism and hypocrisy. The only two things Jesus ever grew disturbed with during His time within and His time upon the earth was the unbelief of those who He encountered, and the legalism and hypocrisy of the religious system and community of His generation. Other than these two realities, we would be hard pressed to find virtually anything that could even become a blip on Jesus’ radar.
HOW MUJCH DO WE ALLOW IN? This particular question must be carefully considered and answered, for I am thoroughly convinced that more often than not we allow more to enter into our lives, and more to impact and affect us than we should. I am convinced that even within my own life I allow far too much to directly impact and influence my life—my thoughts, my emotions, my words, and even my actions—than I actually should. While it is true that we are not to resist evil, I am also convinced that in addition to not resisting evil, we should also work diligently to ensure that those things which are said, and those things which are done unto and those things done around us do not directly impact and have any effect on us—upon our heart, upon our soul, upon our mind. I would absolutely love to live in such a place where absolutely nothing that is said, nothing that is done, nothing that is committed against me has any impact or affect on me. I am completely and utterly challenged by the thought that much of what drives us crazy, and much of what directly impacts and affects us would not have affected Jesus at all. I am convinced that much of what may very well bother us within and throughout our lives would not have bothered Jesus, and they wouldn’t have even been a blip on His radar. Oh, pause for a moment and consider just how much you allow you to directly impact and affect you each and every day. Pause for a moment and consider how many times and how often you allow words which are spoke around you, and words which are spoken to you to directly impact and directly affect you. I know that I allow far too many things which are said and done around me on a daily basis to impact and affect me. This is especially true when I am behind the wheel of my car, and even truer when I drive in the state of Massachusetts. If I am being honest with myself there are a number of things which bother me on the road and truly try my patience. When I am on the road I can’t stand when people don’t use their turn signals and proceed to make the turn anyway. When I am on the road I am bothered when others who are driving their cars deliberately cut me off in order to get where they are going. When I am on the road I am extremely bothered when those in front of my drive incredibly slow and don’t even drive the speed limit. I even have a difficult time with a vast majority of the MBTA buses which are present within the city of Boston, as well as in the surrounding towns, for more often than not, they are worse than everyone. I have often said that you will know that God is doing a deep work within my life when I can drive on the road and I am no longer impacted, phased or affected by those things which take place all around me. You know something deep is taking place within my life when I am no longer impacted and affected by what might be said toward and against me, and am able to allow it to roll off my back. I am convinced that one of the greatest manifestations of the work of the Spirit within my life is when I am no longer able to offended, when my spending habits and how I handle money changes, when I can no longer respond in kind to that which is spoken to me, and when all those little things which always use to bother me no longer do so.
Moving back to the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Colossae I am gripped with the words he wrote in the fifth and sixth verses. Consider if you will the words which are found in these two verses: “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Colossians 4:5-6). It is those final words that truly stick out to me when I read these words which the apostle Paul wrote, for it is with those final words the apostle Paul writes concerning our knowledge of how we ought to answer every man. When I read these words yesterday I couldn’t help but be struck with the tremendous reality of whether or not I know how to talk to others. Permit me to ask you a very pointed question—one that might seem strange even—yet one that needs to be asked: Do you know how to talk to others? What’s more, is not only do you know how to talk to others, but is your speech always with grace? Is your speech and are your words seasoned with salt? I would present you with the words which Jesus spoke first in the gospel of Matthew, as well as in the gospel which was written by Luke. “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is theneceforth good for nothing, but to be cast our, and to be trodden under foot of men” (matthew 5:13”. In the gospel of Luke we find and read the following words: “Salt is good; but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear let him hear” (Luke14:34-35). In direct response to everything that has been written within this writing I feel the great need to conclude this writing with a direct challenge to consider how we speak to and how we speak with those around us, and to truly and carefully and honestly look at how we speak to them. Are our words always with grace, and are our words seasoned with salt in order that they might bring healing to those we interact with and come in contact with. Oh that we would allow ourselves to be challenged by the words which the apostle Paul wrote, and that we would understand that Jesus would not have been impacted or affected by a fraction of what impacts and affects us within and throughout the course of our lives.