In an interesting turn of events, both sermons Sunday at my church included Colossians 3:17. Now this wouldn’t be unusual if one person gave both sermons. However, I gave the evening one and the Associate/Senior High Youth Pastor gave the morning one. We prepared our sermons independently, without any discussion with one another, yet they focused on a lot of the same issues. What I wanted to cover but didn’t because of time he addressed. And I believe the same was true of his – what he wanted to cover but didn’t due to time I did. Now when we’re dealing with a sovereign God, there’s no such thing as coincidence. Things happen for a reason. Maybe we don’t see or understand the reason, but there is one. And because there is one, we have verses like Colossians 3:17 that tell us as Christians how to act and behave:
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. – Colossians 3:17, NASB
The impact on my life of this little verse was first felt about 18 months ago. It was chosen as the camp verse for the youth summer missions camp we take our youth group to every summer. And during that camp I started to really meditate on what it meant. Sure, I had read it many times before. At the beginning of camp I had it committed to memory. But I hadn’t taken it apart, and really applied it to my life. As I started to do so, I became very humbled and very ashamed. Even now, as God brings about aspects of my life and puts them under the magnifying glass of this verse, I am continually humbled and ashamed. There is so much we do in life that does not honor this verse. There is so much we do where we don’t even think about why we’re doing it. We just do it. But this verse says that’s not acceptable. We must put active thought and intentional effort into our actions. And that’s how verses like the following make more sense:
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16, NASB
We’re always “on.” We’re always visible. And our Enemy will look to expose our every mistake, our every sin, to those around us. He wants to tear the message of the Cross down. He wants to invalidate the Gospel in the eyes of those who have not come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. The best way to do it is to expose the people who say they follow that message as flawed individuals who are no different than anyone else. If the message is so great and so life-changing, why aren’t we any different than the rest? That’s his strategy and he’s been using it effectively against us. Following Colossians 3:17 doggedly and devotedly in our life changes the game.
But I said it was humbling. I said it made me feel very ashamed. And it does. When you take the time to reflect on certain actions and/or certain decisions and you ask, “Did I do this in the name of the Lord Jesus?” and you know the answer is, “No,” and then you ask the logical follow-on question, “So why did I do it?” you will be confronted with how self-centered many of our decisions are. At least, I was. And that hurt. I’m supposed to live a life where “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) But upon careful self-examination, I find I’m really, really far from that mark. I can understand why Peter fell at Jesus’ feet and said, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8) But Christ doesn’t depart. He sticks by us. He stuck by Peter. He sticks by you and me. But He still expects us to honor Colossians 3:17.
Here’s my challenge to you for the weekend. I know it’s Thursday, but you’ll probably want the extra day. Take some time to examine your life and pull apart the pieces. Look at whether or not each one honors Colossians 3:17. Be honest with yourself. If it doesn’t, ask yourself if it can be so in your life. Some things can be, but we prevent them. For instance, if you’re a Sunday School teacher, why are you teaching Sunday School? Is it really to glorify God? Or is about being recognized for that position, or because you were asked to do it and felt obligated, or because of some other reason? Even things we say is a good thing may not be if we’re doing it for the wrong reasons. But if we change the core reason for why we do them, if that’s a heart change for us, then they’re fine. If we can’t, then we need to let them go. Other things are never going to glorify God. Things that are rooted in sin fall into this category for sure. Those should definitely be eliminated. Still others fall in an in-between category. For instance, exercise. Determine the root reason you do it. Is it so you can be healthy to be used by God? Or is it because it’s expected? Or is it so you can look “good?” The motivation for our choices is key.