************ Sermon on Colossians 3:14 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on July 11, 2013

Colossians 3:1-17
"The Christian's Uniform - Love"
TASC # 5

"You have [died and] been raised with Christ ... Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves ..." (Col 3:1,12).

I've been challenging you to wear the Christian's uniform of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and so on. Each morning you decide what to wear for the day – pants, shirt, shorts, socks, shoes. Likewise, I've been challenging you to consciously put on the clothing, the uniform, that shows you are part of the family of God.

I've told you the reason we are to wear the Christian's uniform. I keep reminding you that we have died with Christ and been raised with Christ. Meaning what? Meaning that in Christ your sin has been paid for and in Christ you have been raised to new life. Therefore, says Paul, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

We've looked at compassion – the ability to weep with those who weep. We've looked at patience – the ability to handle what ordinarily causes people to become angry. We've looked at kindness – which means we give care to someone with a need. Today we look at love.

I Love is an Overcoat
A I want to start with the place of love in the Christian's uniform. Think of compassion as a pair of pants. Think of patience as your shirt. Think of kindness as socks and shoes. So, what is love? Love is the overcoat that completes the uniform (PUT ON COAT). Paul writes, "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity" (Col 3:14).

You are all acquainted with the great love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. Paul tells us that the Christian's uniform is incomplete without love:
(1Cor 13:1-3) If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (3) If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love completes the Christian's uniform. Love ties the whole uniform together.

One of the things that all tourists to England want to see is the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Can you imagine one of the soldiers standing there dressed only in his underwear? Can you imagine how ridiculous he looks as he marches back and forth and presents arms? The Christian's uniform without love is like you and I dressed only in our underwear.

So, in the great love chapter Paul tells us that love is patient and love is kind (1 cor 13:4). But he could also have said love is compassionate and humble and gentle. Everyone of the Christian virtues includes love. Every part of the Christian's uniform requires love as the finishing touch.

II The Clothing to Take Off
A I read an article on the Internet yesterday about the drug wars in Mexico and Columbia and Guatemala. Do you know who does most of the killings? The most vicious killers are the sicarios – hired assassins – who with shotguns, pistols, icepicks, and daggers have killed presidential candidates, judges, newspaper publishers and reporters, district attorneys, assorted army personnel, and police officials. Last year they killed over 7,000 people in Columbia. In Mexico, more than 18,000 people have been shot dead or had their heads hacked off in drug-related killings in the last three years. In Guatemala there were 6,000 drug-related murders in 2009.

Now, here is what will shock you. These sicarios are children recruited as young as six and trained to be professional killers by the time they are fourteen. Imagine that! Child-murderers. Children trained to kill. These are not baby killers, they are babies who kill. How can love flourish in such children? Hatred and murder need to be taken off before love can be put on.

I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor. I am to put away all desire for revenge. I am to put away envy, hatred, anger, and vindictiveness. Only then can I put on the overcoat of love.

B I showed you some artificial fruit yesterday. They look like the real thing. But they aren't the real thing. Touch them, feel them, try to eat them and you quickly realize they are counterfeit.

Satan want us to be satisfied with artificial fruit to keep us from getting the real thing. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus identifies the artificial fruit of the Pharisees:
(Mt 5:43-45) "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' (44) But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."
The Pharisees tried to restrict love by restricting their definition of neighbor. At best, they said a neighbor is a fellow Jew; at worst, they said a neighbor is a fellow Pharisee. As for all others, they are not neighbors and you don't have to love them.

The Pharisees had an artificial love. Their love was limited to people who were like them. This is not what God looks for in your life and my life. You see, love is unlimited – it is given to anyone, anywhere, anytime regardless of the circumstances.

It is too easy to condemn the Pharisees. But are we any better? Generally, we have few problems in loving our friends – after all, we have picked them because we like them and they like us and they share our values.

In every church there are ornery, difficult people. These people make it hard for other Christians to love them. It is easy to love those who are popular, pleasant, and kind. It is hard to love the conceited, the unsuccessful, the whiners and complainers, the pushy, the obnoxious. Jesus tells us we have to love these people too and not just those who are our friends. Those who deserve love the least need it the most.

But what about others? Are we able to love illegal immigrants, ex-convicts, drug-abusers, homosexuals, and those with AIDS? Are we able to love those whose theological viewpoint is different than ours? A story about me.
An elderly man was dying in the hospital. Only two of us were allowed in the hospital room at a time. I ended up alone in the waiting room with one of the sons. He was homosexual and he had AIDS. In those days the average person didn't know much about AIDS. It frightened us because we were not entirely sure how it spread and we knew it was always a death sentence for those who caught it.
I was scared. I admit it. I asked the son how he was feeling. I showed compassion. I asked if I could read the Bible and pray for his healing.
Afterwards he said, "I expected you to say something about my sin." [Obviously, I didn't have to.]
When I left I shook his hand – something most people did not do back then.
All I did was love him.
The next time I saw him he was close to death. When he died the family asked me to do his funeral.

The story doesn't end there.
Another family was watching me. Very closely. A very traditional and conservative family. They had a big family secret. They, too, had a gay son with AIDS. When their son died I was asked to do another funeral.

Pharisees would never do anything like this. It is scary. It is risky. It takes you out of your comfort zone. And it exposes your love as counterfeit and artificial.

To put on love over the Christian's uniform I need to get rid of what is false and counterfeit and limited.

III What is Love
A Love is so misunderstood and misused today. To some people, it is a feeling – that sticky and selfish affection that boyfriend and girlfriend have for each other. To another, it is a Santa Claus type of love that withholds nothing and exercises no discipline. To still another, it is that syrupy-sweet, sugary-coated attitude that sees no evil, hears no evil, and speaks no evil.

Love is not a feeling. It is a command. Love is not tolerance and permissiveness. It is a command. Love is not sugary sweetness. It is a command.

B Love is a command. What kind of command is it?

In the Greek language there are four words for love. The first is "eros." This is a "getting" love. "Eros" is usually associated with sexual love. This kind of love can easily become selfish or shallow.

A second word for love is "stergo." This is a "caring" love. This is the love we show when we help a neighbor, realizing we are dependent and obligated to each other as fellow humans.

A third word for love is "philos." This is a "sharing" love. This is the love between friends who share interests, attractions, sports, and so on.

A final Greek word for love is "agape." This is a "giving" love. This is a love which compels one to sacrifice for the benefit of the other person. This is a love which keeps on loving even when the other person doesn't respond; agape love keeps on loving without asking for anything in return.

What is love? The Greek word picked by Paul is "agape." He commands us to give for the benefit of the other person. He commands us to give without thinking about ourselves. He commands us to show compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience without thinking about ourselves. He wants love to be our overcoat.

IV The Example of God in Christ
A The best example of a giving love is God in Christ. You know the words:
(Jn 3:16) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
It isn't eros love or stergo love or philos love that takes someone to the cross. It is agape love that makes someone die for our sins.
(1 Jn 4:10) This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Every major event in Scripture has God's love behind it: Creation, Exodus, Exile, Return, Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, Second Coming. It all speaks of God's unending love.

God has such a steady, passionate love for His chosen people, for His holy and dearly loved children.

B Now, the point of Colossians 3 is that God's love will never leave us as we are. God's love is a purifying fire that makes us new and lovely and returns us to God's original design of righteousness and holiness. It is a love that clothes us with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

Since, then, you have [have died and] been raised with Christ ... clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

This is the Christian's uniform. My prayer is that you wear it all the time. Amen.
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