By Simon ManchesterSunday 4 Sep 2016Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 19 minutes
Some of you may know that there was a man in this church ten years ago who had taken his family to America, and he was in the Real Estate business, and he was working way too hard. In fact, he was working so hard that his wife told him that if he kept going at the same pace, she would leave him. And he took no notice of this, and he came home one day, and there was the note saying that she had left, and she had taken the boys, and she had gone interstate.
While he was standing reading the letter, the doorbell rang and a pastor of a church that they had visited came in to see him, listened to the sad news and said to the man – you need Jesus Christ. And the man said – I need my wife. And the pastor said – you need Jesus Christ. And they sat on the bed, and he led him in prayer repentance and faith in Christ. And then the pastor said to him – I want you to contact your wife, I want you to take 100% blame for what has happened, and I want to ask you to offer to change or amend your behaviour in any way she declares and decides.
So he did this, and she agreed to be reconciled, she was subsequently converted, and this man began a new career trying to get a small business off the ground, and I have always remembered his testimony for two reasons. The first is that when one of the men at the new church discovered that he was trying to get his life on track and live responsibly, he gave him a cheque to help his business and the cheque was for $10 million. A tremendous help to business I would have thought! I never forgot that.
But the more important thing (somebody has just contemplated whether they could do that for me after the service!) and my comment is “Yes, you can”. The more important thing is the pastor had said to him in the face of all his difficulties – you first need Christ. The pastor incidentally was Michael Youssef. I am saying this to you because this is the message of Colossians that you need Christ and when you have Christ so much else flows from that particular blessing.
So this is a very brief letter that we are looking at – I want to ask you to turn up the passage if you haven’t already – chapter 3 verses 18 – 25 and we are going to think especially about these roles in the home.
If your home life is a little taste of paradise, well we praise God for that, and you may become a little dozy as I read these verses, and you are entitled to – you know in a sense. But if your home life is difficult and if for some of you your home life is quite desperate, I want you to know that God is very able, very gracious and that there is hope to be found in these verses. Sundays are not an excellent time for working out for what is going on in our private lives. We are singing, we are smiling, we are drinking coffee and behind the façade can be a lot of difficulties, a lot of difficulties.
There is what is called ‘the famous car park miracle’ where you drive to church, tension all the way, step out of your car and suddenly it’s ‘hello, praise the Lord, great to see you’ and then back in the car and tension all the way home. Well, these verses tell us that God has great resources for us.
So, Paul, the Apostle is writing the letter. It’s very profound what he is going to say to us this morning.
It’s very practical;
- it has to do with marriage
- parenting and
And if there is anybody here this morning and you are not married, you have no children or if work is a non-issue for you because you have finished work or because you are out of work, I want you to know that you will still find these verses very helpful because they come after the teaching of Christ, and he is the most important person of all. You will also find that these verses are good because they tell you that God is a God of wisdom and order and grace. You will find these verses may help you to equip others. You will find these verses may help you to equip you with your children and grandchildren, and you will also discover that these verses are pointing ultimately ahead to the day where we will come face to face, and all the problems of relationships will be removed, and we will enter into what God has planned for us – this great and gracious God that he has planned for us.
So I want to think about it this morning, firstly under three headings:
- Brief Words to New People
- Wise Words to New People
- Very Memorable Words to Busy People
First of all Brief Words to New People
Is it not amazing that the Apostle Paul writes one line to the Colossian church on how to be a wife or a husband or a child or a parent. Just imagine yourself in the Colossian church and you are sitting there, and you are next to your relative or amongst your relatives or maybe you are on your own because all your relatives are against your faith, and the Apostle Paul gives you one sentence! And you say to yourself – at that point – does he not realise that there will come a day where Dymocks Bookshop and Koorong Bookshop will have shelves of stuff on parenting and marriage and children? Does he not understand that life is very complex, and we need probably libraries of material to get through all the issues? And here is the Apostle Paul giving one sentence.
And so we ask again – have they been short changed? And of course, the answer is “No”. This question takes us back to the heart of the letter and the heart of the Gospel which is that if you have Christ you have all the resources for living in a new way.
I am not pretending that becoming a Christian means all your problems will be over. When you become a Christian you will get some new problems, and some of those new problems could very well be because of your faith in Christ but that you will also receive from his new resources.
- If I as a husband remember that I must love my wife and not be bitter with her
- If I as a father remember that I must not be bitter towards my children
- I also need to remember that I have all the resources of Christ to help me to put those simple things into place.
So you may be thinking this morning:
- I have a very difficult situation
- How difficult my marriage is
- You have no idea how difficult my children are
- You have no idea how difficult my parents are.
But you need to remember that Paul is not simplistic, but he is the one who has written chapters 1-3 and if you are a person whose faith is in Christ, well you have:
- love and
- wisdom from above in order to know and do his will
And you are given the power to be patient and to be joyful. And you are thankful because you have been brought from darkness to light, and you have been forgiven your sins, and you are therefore able in his grace to forgive other people. And you are learning to be discerning, and you are putting to death the sins of the flesh, and you are putting away the things that ruin relationships. You know that you are greatly loved by God, you are chosen, holy and dearly loved, and you are taking on board the priorities of wanting to be peaceful and to have the Word of God central and to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
You see the Apostle Paul is not asking the impossible – he is asking the possible. It’s as if he is writing to watering cans and saying ‘I want you to cover the garden at the back but I am going to give you the whole of the Warragamba Dam, you know filling by filling for you to do that’.
So this is very brief, but it is on the back of Colossians 1-3. And it is very practical – even though it is brief it is very practical, and we want practical Christianity. We often come to church and think to say something that hits the road and these verses are practical and concrete, and they hit the road because they tell us that when you receive new life from Jesus Christ, he will help you to live it out even behind the front door. And behind the front door can be a lot more difficult than even the local church. And behind the office door can be more difficult again.
So when Paul says in chapter 3 ‘I want you to seek things above’ – he is not impractical. You know some people hear the words “seek the things above” and think I am just going to ignore that – that doesn’t mean anything to me. But when Paul says “seek the things above” he means to put Christ first and so much else will follow. Get the first button on your shirt in place and the other buttons may well follow. So Paul says the priority is that you surrender to Christ and then if you are a husband you can love your wife. And if you are a father you can raise your children – this is practical, and this is concrete.
So it is liberating as well because Colossians is all about being free – the Apostle is not adding more burdens. If you were sitting there the first time this letter was being read and you heard your one line for the wife and the one line for the husband and the one line for the child and the one line for the father – you can say to yourself ‘this is so liberating’. I mean he could have given just pages and books of information and made us feel as those we could never absorb it but here.
We have been set free by Jesus Christ:
- We are set free from sin
- We are set free from guilt
- We are set free from judgment.
And now comes this simple instruction so brief, so liberating and so practical – so they are brief words, but they are to new people.
Wise Words to New People
The second point is that they are Wise Words to New People. Chapter 3 verse 18 “Wives submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord”. That’s all he says. And it doesn’t look very appealing and for some of you, it may not sound very appealing. But if you are a Christian you know how Jesus has submitted for your sake to the cross, and you know that that is a very impressive submission and a very effective submission, and you will also know that Christians are to submit to one another. So it is not as though just wives being submissive to husbands – all Christians submit to everyone in the sense that we all serve everyone – Ephesians 5:21.
And if you are a Christian woman this morning and you are a wife – you have already gladly submitted to Jesus Christ. He is your King and your Saviour, and now your King and Saviour says – this is what I want you to do:
Give your husband the freedom to lead. Let him take care of you. Don’t stop him from caring for you. Support his care for you. Support the role that God has given him because one day he is going to have to give account to Jesus for how he has cared for you. So don’t keep pushing in front as though you have got the job that God says he’s got the job for.
It seems that every institution in the world teaches the equality of its members but also the differences of roles.
- If you go to a school, you’ve got equality from staff and students – Everybody is a human, but you have got different roles
- If you are in a company, you’ve got equality, but you’ve got a difference
- If you are in Government, you’ve got equality, but you’ve got a difference
- If you are in the church, you’ve got equality, but you’ve got a difference
- If you are in the home, you’ve got equality, but you’ve got a difference.
This is how the institutions work, and it always amazes me that one particular lady I know who hates this all idea of different roles runs an institution with an iron fist where everybody does exactly what she tells them. And she wouldn’t for a second think of a person telling her what to do in that institution.
WIVES – verse 18.
So God’s wisdom, you see, is very wonderful and there will be peace when a wife encourages her husband’s leadership. There will be chaos, and there will be tension when she fights it.
Now, what does it look like in practice? I just have to do this in very broad strokes. The Christian wife won’t fight for the leadership in the home. She learns to take her very great gifts and sometimes her superior intellect and use that in support of her husband’s leadership. She uses all those things for his encouragement that he might play his role well.
Nor however is she a doormat and she should not be a doormat. If the husband abuses his role (and remember he is meant to be a lover) – if the husband abuses his role well firstly he is a disobedient fool to abuse his role – he is a spiritual pigmy if he abuses his role. She may need to speak to him very peaceably and carefully, and she may need to escape the situation until it’s safe to return but she has all the resources of Christ at her disposal to help her to encourage him to play his part.
So the husband and the wife are going to be living together, they are going to be thinking together, they are going to be planning together, and they are going to be working together, but her life is going to help his life be a life of loving leadership.
HUSBANDS – verse 19.
“Love your wives and do not be harsh with them”. Two things for the husbands – love your wife and do not be harsh. So simple, so liberating. The husband needs to make it his aim day by day to take the love which he has received from Christ and consider the welfare of his life – ALL THE TIME – hour by hour and day by day he must take the love that he has received and think how he can seek the welfare of his wife, her spiritual welfare and her physical welfare and if he will do that he will be a great lover. He doesn’t wait till she is perfect. He remembers that Christ has loved him the imperfect. He doesn’t stop loving when changes appear – that is to continue as Christ continues to love us in all the ups and downs.
And he is asking himself this – how can I make sure she is joyful in Christ and secure in life? And he puts steps in place to encourage her joy, her security as best he can. He is to take a lead in prayer; he is to take a lead in priorities, and he is to take a lead in Christian fellowship, and she encourages him.
He doesn’t wait until he is perfect to do this. He doesn’t say – ‘O gee she is a much better Christian than I am – I am a lousy Christian – I need to wait until I have got my act together before I can do this’. No, he waits until he has a great Saviour and he waits until she has a great Saviour and then he says ‘we have a great Saviour, let’s serve him well together’. That is how he does it.
And the little addition in the verse “Don’t be bitter” is very very interesting, isn’t it? Because when you are the leader and you are taking the role which is more perhaps influential, your words can be very helpful or unhelpful. And in the Commentary by Dick Lucas which is the Commentary written by a bachelor, he nevertheless is very shrewd in understanding the word and the world in which we live, and he says this in his Commentary –
“We easily deceive ourselves in these matters and men more readily than women to say “I love you” has always been conspicuously easy. It is again characteristic of the New Testament to give to Christians (in this case husbands) a practical test by which each may be able to recognise the geniuses or otherwise of his devotion to his spouse “Do not be harsh” literally ‘do not be bitter’. It is a salutatory reminder that bitterness easily creeps into human dealings and then it justifies itself so as to become even more deeply entrenched. A wife can disappoint a man’s hopes and ambitions – failing to live up to his unrealistic ideals for her and which are often an unconscious compensation for his inadequacies”
OUCH – it’s a searching comment. Tiredness and ill temper mean such feelings of disappointment quickly find expression in harsh words. And I notice that as we get older, it’s easier to get grumpy and to express that to somebody who will bear with it or take it but shouldn’t be getting it at all.
And chapter 3 verse 12 tells us that we are the sort of people that can ask the Lord to give us:
- In our speech.
CHILDREN – Verse 20
“Children obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord”. Notice that Paul expects children to either be present as the letter is read or to be told afterwards what God requires. And this is the simple sentence for the children – obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Now is sounds very moralistic, doesn’t it? It sounds very ordinary. But remember that the child is not obeying the parent to get the love of the parent. The child is obeying the parent because the child knows the love of the parent. And the child is not obeying the parent to win salvation; the child knows that salvation is a gift. And so the child is ideally living in the security of the gift of salvation and the love of the parents and in response to that, the child wants to spread the love which he or she is receiving.
So here is the opportunity for a child (a Christian child) to do more than just know all the answers and to do more than just play the game at home. But this very challenging test which is “will they put into practice what their parents who have been put in place to raise them to tell them to do”.
Obviously, of course, this obedience changes as they get older and obviously they will not obey their parents if their parents ask them to do something that is contrary to faithfulness. But it’s a very concrete test, isn’t it? And it would be interesting if the camera followed some children home who are answering all the questions in the Sunday school but could do with some improvement behind the front door.
So Paul is addressing the supportive member of each couple – the wife first, and then the child first and later the worker first because the wife can make the husband’s leadership easy or difficult, and the child can make parents parenting easy or difficult, and a worker can make a boss’s leadership a pleasure or a pain so he addresses the supportive one first.
FATHERS – verse 21
“Fathers don’t embitter your children, or they will become discouraged”. Here is an amazing sentence. He doesn’t tell them one thing to do – he just tells them one thing NOT TO DO. And the one thing is don’t embitter because the father (we might say the parent but especially the father) who has new life, new power as we know from Colossians chapter 3 is a very influential person. And the one thing that Paul is warning about here is that the father would provoke or nag to the point of causing the child to be despairing or discouraged or resigned to life.
And though the father and the mother could both do this, the father is more likely to do this. I know this from my home. And again Dick Lucas says – he is a bachelor but some wise words for fathers –
“Problem fathers are more likely to need this instruction; problem fathers are more likely to be the cause of problem children. If there are endless criticism and hard punishment, it is no use the father bemoaning the inability of his children to be strong and self-reliant like himself since he has used his strength to crush and undermine them”.
That’s the care we need to take, isn’t it, when we are fathers? How do we make sure that our children know they are loved and feel they are love?
So again the father or the mother needs to stop and think – how can I seek the Lord’s wisdom to help my children steer safely through this world without becoming arrogant, staying humble, without being a brat, ideally a believer? We need all the wisdom and the grace of God and without him, of course, we are helpless to do this but with him, there is great resource.
Now the third couplet this morning which has more to do with work behind the front door and behind the work door are these longer verses that follow.
In the 1st Century, of course, a lot of servants or slaves were actually in the home. But I suppose given the 21st Century we need to think about these verses much more behind the office door, behind the work door.
In the 1st Century, a lot of families had domestic servants or slaves and therefore we mustn’t think when we read the word “slave” that this is kind of like 19th Century American leg-iron slavery. These servants were often domestic helpers or sometimes tutors who were treated as members of the family. And you will see the Apostle Paul gives just a few brief words to these servants or masters, and he does not want to promote anarchy – he doesn’t say to the servants “leave on mass”. That would be to bring the name of the Lord Jesus into great discredit – no he wants Christ to be honoured.
And so he writes to show the slaves as you read in these verses here that they are in a great sense already free. They are free from guilt, they are free from judgment, they are free from despair, and they are serving Christ primarily. He is their new king, their new lord and their new boss and they are going to be rewarded one day by Christ and therefore there is great immediate help for the servant, the slave or the worker (verse 22). “Slaves obey your master, do it from the heart, working for the Lord”.
We might say to the worker today if you are a Christian, you are wonderfully free, you are somewhat provided for, you must look beyond your company, your business, your job description and see the Lord (who loves you) on the throne – the one you are working for. One day you are going to be unbelievably rewarded by him and therefore do it gladly for him because he cares for you, he loves you, and he watches over you.
And again, of course, we are going to need all God’s wisdom for serving him in this world because serving him in this world in many of the jobs that are around today are extremely complex.
- How to be a wise doctor?
- How to be a wise businessman?
- How to be a wise teacher?
- How to be a wise worker?
- We need the wisdom of Jesus Christ.
So lift up your eyes to your king, says Paul and remember that he will provide for you.
MASTERS – chapter 4 verse 1
We might say bosses – think of how you are to care for your workers, for your employees, remembering that you also have a master. So there you are – you are heading off to work, you look at your employees, and you think they live for my business. No, we have got to say – these are precious people – how do I make sure that I treat them as I am treated? And the Christian boss or the Christian CEO should be known for treating workers as precious people – not just means to their profits.
Notice that in so many of these verses from chapter 3:18 to 4:1 have references to the Lord Jesus. It’s as if the wife is to remember the Lord Jesus
- It’s as if the husband is to remember the Lord Jesus
- It’s as if the child is to remember the Lord Jesus
- It’s as if the parent is to remember the Lord Jesus
- It’s as if the employee is to remember the Lord Jesus
- It’s as if the master is to remember the Lord Jesus
He stands behind everything that we are doing.
Memorable Words to Busy People
No my final word this morning is Memorable Words to Busy People because not only are these brief words to new people and also wise words to new people but there are memorable words to busy people. You may not be able to remember a lot from the sermon this morning, but you may be able to remember the one verse that applies to you.
And I am walking out of this building today, and I am thinking to myself – the word which is addressed to me is “love your wife and don’t be bitter with her” and “don’t be bitter with your children” – that’s the message to me. I can remember that. I can walk out of here and I can say: “Lord, please give me the grace and the resources to put into practice what you wisely told me to do” remembering that not only have you come and died for me in order that I would have new life, but you are also able to give me the grace to put into practice what you have called me to do. And when I do put into practice what you call me to do, I will find that it’s a joyful way to live, the people around me will find that it’s a helpful way and you Lord, you will be seen to be great and gracious because your ways are always great and gracious, and that’s what he calls for us to do today.
Let’s pray –
Our Heavenly Father we thank you that you are a God of great wisdom and power. We thank you for giving to the believer new power to live as you call us to, and we thank you for giving us wisdom above and beyond our own so that we might act for your glory and the good of many.
We pray that you would strengthen us, that you would look in mercy and power in our homes. We pray that you would give special grace to wives, to husbands, to children and parents and we pray too for us as workers or employers that you would enable us to live to your praise.
We ask all this in Jesus’ Name – Amen.