Let the peace of Christ give you New Year resolve.
12Therefore, as Godís 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.
15Let 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.
It was two years ago that I gave up Pop Tarts as my new yearís resolution. In case you do not know, a Pop Tart is a breakfast food that you put in the toaster. The outside is some sort of pastry and inside there is an imitation fruit filling. Strawberry pop tarts had been my breakfast at least twice a week for a few years. Today I can proudly say that I have not eaten a pop tart in over 2 years. What an accomplishment! I can certainly be proud of keeping that New Yearís resolution.
Picking a New Yearís resolution is a common practice and it can be good. There are some things we could do with out, or things that should be added to our diet or routine. But one resolution, that doesnít seem to be so difficult. Choosing one thing to concentrate on in the New Year really isnít that big of a deal. Maybe at least two or a half dozen would be a good goal. In the verses for our sermon this morning the Lord has quite a few things he would like us to do. These are behaviors and attitudes that are expected of the believer. As Godís people who have been saved by the work of our Savior Jesus we behave the way the Lord would have us. As people who understand that when the angels sang about peace on earth they were singing about the peace of sins forgiven we naturally respond to that peace. This morning as we study these verses and contemplate our Christian life in 2006 in response to Christís peace, we pray that "The peace of Christ would give us New Yearís resolve." I. The Christian responds to Christís peace. II. The Christian is empowered by Christís peace.
The peace of Christ has been given to us by God. We just celebrated how Jesus was born to be the Savior of the world. On Christmas day we talked about the fact that he was born to redeem us from sin, death and the power of the devil. In a few months we will be celebrating Easter when we see how he did redeem us by his death and resurrection and we will celebrate the fact that he has brought us into a peaceful relationship with our heavenly Father. In these verses Paul addresses the Colossians and he addresses us as people who believe that we are at peace with God through our Savior Jesus Christ. Paul knows that Godís people respond to the peace of Christ.
When we talk about New Yearís resolve and responding to the peace of Christ, we are not trying to make people feel guilty. We are not trying motivate action by saying "What would Jesus do" or "look at what great need there is." Those things involve guilt and are not proper motivation for Godís people. Paul knew this and that is why he says at the beginning of verse 12. "Therefore, as Godís chosen people, holy and dearly loved" We are Godís chosen people. He chose us from eternity to be his own and in the course of our life he called us to faith. We are considered holy because when God looks at us he sees the perfection of his Son Jesus Christ our Savior. And we are dearly loved. That love was shown when Christ came, when he died and rose, when God worked faith in our heart and that love is shown to us every day of our life. That love of God in Christ is what our peace is all about. We are forgiven. We are heirs of eternal life. We are Godís dearly loved people right now. We are at peace through Jesus. We pray that the peace of Christ would give us New Yearís resolve as we naturally and thankfully respond to that peace.
In the second half of verse 12 Paul begins listing some of the resolutions we make in response to the peace we have with God. "Therefore, as Godís 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." There are four resolutions listed. We are to cloth ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility gentleness and patience. We are to bear with each other. We are to forgive whatever grievances we may have and do it the way we have been forgiven. And we are to put on love in all we say and think and do. I think we would all agree that those are some good resolutions to make. I think we would all agree that as people who know Christís love we would respond by doing these things. And I think we all would agree that those are some tough resolutions to keep. We have not done it in the past. What will make this New Year any different?
These New Year resolutions to respond to Christís peace are to be on going actions. We donít just do it once and say we have done our duty. We donít do it for a year or two and then say we are done. We are to keep on clothing ourselves and keep on bearing with and keep on forgiving and keep on putting on love our whole life long. Let us resolve that in the New Year there will be no losing patience with one another. There will be no holding of grudges. We wonít consider gossiping about a fellow believer and there is no chance that we will think more of ourselves and less of the person sitting next to us. That is the Christian response to the peace of Christ. Isnít it?
But even before we get very far into the New Year we start off feeling guilty. Because of our sin we donít have much resolve. We lack love and patience and forgiveness. We know that we excel at losing our temper, thinking selfishly and putting others down. Being honest we know that we donít have any resolve for responding to Christís peace. In fact as we think about our past, we are continually convicted of responding with sin. Sin makes a new year or a new day for that matter very scary because we know God punishes sin and we deserve his punishment for our sin.
Talking about resolve and response without the peace of Christ is a disheartening conversation. Trying to change behavior without Jesus is hopeless. In talking to these Christians and to us Paul realizes that for a Christian to respond to Christís peace a Christian has to be empowered by that peace. He says in verse 15, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." The peace of Christ is the referee of our heart. That is the picture behind the world "rule."
In a sporting contest the referee has the last word. His decision is final. People that have broken a rule donít much care for the refereeís decision. If there is a close call the person on the losing end may complain that the referee got it wrong. But the peace of Christ rules in our favor. It rules that we are not guilty of all the sins we have committed in the past. The peace of Christ rules that we stand as innocent before God. The peace of Christ puts our troubled conscience at peace. And the peace of Christ empowers us to resolve to live for the Lord in this New Year.
The Christian is empowered by what we call the means of grace. The means of grace are the good news that we are forgiven in Jesus as it is revealed in his Word and his sacraments. As we gather together for worship and Bible study we keep these means before our eyes. Paul says in verse 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." The Word dwells in us richly as we hear and sing and pray it in worship and have it applied to our lives in the sermon. It dwells in us as we study it with others and at home. It dwells in us richly as we think about it during the week and apply it to our every day living.
The Sacraments do the same. Today we celebrate the Lordís Supper to be assured of our forgiveness and also to be empowered to serve the Lord. In our new church we plan on putting our new baptismal font right up in front of the church so we see it every time we come into church and as we come to communion to be reminded that we are baptized children of God. This too empowers us as we resolve to let the peace of Christ rule our lives in the New Year.
On Mondayís I get together with pastor Heidrich from Rock of Ages and we study our sermon text in the original language. As we studied these verses we were amazed at how many pictures there are in the Greek words. That picture of the peace of Christ serving as a referee in our hearts is just one example, but there are many more. Also in the Greek of these verses the verb tenses are filled with meaning. All the things that God has done for us, like forgiving and loving us, these have been done in the past and the results continue into the present. But the verbs that talk about our action are present tense. There is no past.
That is a good reminder that the Christian is daily empowered by the peace of Christ and this peace is new every day. As we read in Lamentations 3 Godís love and compassion are new every morning. God does not hold our past sin against us. He forgave them and cast them into the depths of the sea. That glorious truth enables us to live our life the way Paul describes in verse 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." Think about what a privilege and joy it is for us to live that way this New Year. Thank God for the power he gives us through his Word to do it.
You can make all the resolutions you want. You can make all the plans for the New Year you want, but the fact is you donít know what will happen. Only the Lord himself knows. We certainly want to plan, but we plan with joy, recognizing that what ever happens the peace of Christ will be there in the New Year. We go forward celebrating the fact that our sins donít come with us, God forgave them in the past and this truly is a new year for living to the glory of the Lord in all we say and do and think. This is not just wishful thinking, this is what the peace of Christ empowers his people to be and to do.
As a congregation we have a big year ahead. We are planning for a new facility. We are planning for a preschool and possibly for a vicar as well. There are all sorts of ministry we would like to do. The Lord knows what will happen. But we know that the peace of Christ will give us resolve in the New Year, not because we are so faithful, but because Christ empowers us through his Word. Whatever happens in this New Year, may God grant that his Word go with us into 2006 and stay with us as a congregation and as individual believers always. And may God grant that the peace of Christ which heals our hearts and sooths our sorrows may continue to lead us onward all the way home to heaven. Amen.
Pastor Matt Brown
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (WELS) of Union City, Tennessee, Rooted in the WORD