Sunday, December 18, 2011

Inward to Outward

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” –Colossians 3:16-17

Paul sets for us two examples or patterns for our lives. The first pattern is this: the indwelling word leads to outward ministry. The second is that inward worship leads to outward service.

1. Indwelling Word
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”

The word ‘dwell’ means to take up residence. What a rich image! First, we welcome the word of Christ in through the door of our hearts. That is salvation. 2 Timothy 3:15 – “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wide for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Then, as we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, the word of Christ settles into our hearts. Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

We’re getting ready to move. Our apartment is in chaos. My office is in chaos. We’re packing boxes and getting rid of the stuff we don’t really need. When we move, we’ll go into a new place, and bring all our stuff through the door. We’ll set boxes in different rooms and slowly take to unpacking and settling in. That is exactly what happens with the indwelling word of Christ.

Letting the word of Christ dwell in you begins with hearing the gospel. It starts when we trust in Christ and place our faith in the word of God. But it doesn’t stop at salvation. The word of Christ continues to move into our hearts, getting more at home, discovering all the rooms of our hearts, eradicating and cleaning as it unpacks its truth within us. The indwelling word ought to grow within you until every desire of your heart is governed by it, every decision of the mind is directed by it, and every emotion controlled by it. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.

Matthew Henry said, “The gospel is the word of Christ, which has come to us; but that is not enough, it must dwell in us, or keep house…not as a servant in a family, but as master

This is not a new concept that Paul is introducing here. He is building upon the foundation laid in the Old Testament:

Deuteronomy 6:6 – ”And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.”
Deuteronomy 11:18 – “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul”
Psalm 119:11 – “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”
“in all wisdom”

Wisdom is the application of the word. If you are simply storing up knowledge of the word, you have failed to let it dwell in you richly with all wisdom. You’ve heaped up information, but you won’t know how to live.

This isn’t a self-discovered wisdom. It is the wisdom that comes from God. 

Proverbs 2:6-7 – For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly.”
Ephesians 1:16-17 – “do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”
James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
James 3:17 – “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gently, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

2. Outward Ministry

“teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”

John 7:38 – “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

The word of Christ dwelling in a believer leads to outward ministry to others. It starts with teaching and admonishing one another. Teaching is to impart instruction or to instill doctrine into one. It is to explain or expound some truth. Admonishing is to warn or exhort, to caution or reprove gently. These are ministries of the Word. I like the picture that 1 Thessalonians 1:8 gives: “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth It gives picture of the word going out, echoing throughout all our spheres of influence.

It is important to note that teaching and admonishing are first and foremost to ‘one another.’ This is discipleship: multiplying the word of God to those of the household of faith. A quick reading of Acts, the time of fastest growth in the church, will show you the emphasis of the word of God in discipleship.

Acts 4:4 – “However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to about five thousand.”
Acts 4:31 – they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
Acts 6:4 – “but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
Acts 6:7 – “then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly”
Acts 8:4 – “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
Acts 8:25 – “So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.”

You get the picture. The word of God was the focus of all ministry, especially in discipleship.

Paul sets the example for believers in admonishing and teaching. He isn’t simply giving instructions, he is modeling it for us. Look at Colossians 1:28-29 – “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to the working which works in me mightily.” It is the same pattern in our own lives. As the word works in me mightily, I in turn warn and teach every man.

There are various ways to teach and admonish. Paul suggests three here. Psalms means to play on a stringed instrument. In 1 Corinthians 14:26 we read, “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” The goal is edification. The goal is building up. Hymns are songs in praise of God. Spiritual songs are songs with a focus on the Lord. Psalm 119:54 – “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.” Revelation 5:9 – “And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”

The Indwelling Word leads to Outward Ministry.

3. Inward Worship

“singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”

It is easy to sing with our voices. It is easy to methodically chant out the songs we sing each week. But it is hard to sing with grace in your hearts. The singing that Paul is talking about here is not just an external melodic noise. He is talking about singing with a graciousness that comes from the divine influence. It is true, heartfelt worship to the Lord.

Psalm 28:7 – “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him.”
Psalm 71:23 – “My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing to You, and my soul, which You have redeemed.”

True worship has become an obscure thing in our culture. Worship is all too often equated with singing choruses or songs. Very little emphasis is put on worshipping the Lord from the heart.

Matthew Henry said, “when we sing psalms, we make no melody unless we sing with grace in our hearts, unless we are suitably affected with what we sing and go along in it with true devotion and understanding.”

I suggest to you that if you are not singing with grace in your heart to the Lord, your outward singing is of no value to God. It is empty, grace-less singing. The same principle applies to any act of worship. If you are not praying from your heart or serving from your heart or teaching or preaching or doing anything else that is an act of worship, if it is not from the heart it is not worship.

We can do a number of different things to help foster that attitude of worship within our hearts. One of those things is to do things that help us focus on the Lord and His salvation. Fill your mind with things from above, not with things from below. Fill your heart with thankfulness. Fill your thoughts with the Word of God. Fill your lips with words of praise.

4. Outward Service
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Inward worship leads to outward service. If your service is motivated by anything other than worship, it is not biblical, God-centered service. More likely than not, it is motivated by pride and a desire to make yourself great. Think about it: If we’re not worshipping, we’ve probably filled our hearts with something else, something sinful. If we’re not worshipping, we’re not serving. If we’re not worshipping, we’ve put ourselves on the throne. Every deed you do, every though you think, every emotion you feel, and every word you speak must be done as an act of worship to the Lord.

God desires that even the smallest deed and the quickest word be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. So let me ask, if you were to evaluate the things you do and the words you say, would you be able to put a stamp on it that read: “In the name of the Lord Jesus?” Can you say that your words have been spoken in the name of Jesus? Can you say that your thoughts have been in the name of Jesus? Can you say that your deeds have been done in the name of Jesus?

Proverbs 3:6 – “In all your ways acknowledge Him”
1 Corinthians 10:31 – “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Colossians 3:23 – “and whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,”

When you worship from the heart, you cannot but help doing things in the name of Jesus. Your worship will be your heart motivation for all things. And after you do what you do or say what you say in service for the Lord, your heart will overflow with thankfulness that God has enabled you to serve Him. 

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