One Big Happy Family

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The Gospel utterly transforms all of our relationships for the greater.

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Since today’s service is a family service I thought we’d break from our series in the book of Revelation and preach a sermon entitled “One Big Happy Family” out of Colossians 3:12-17.
The book of Colossians is one of my favorites because it’s short, practical, focused on Jesus and the way he changes everything.
Not everybody in this room is married or has kids (widowed/divorced/empty nest, etc). So instead of preaching a sermon on marriage or parenting in particular - I thought we’d do a general message on family.
Everybody has a family. You didn’t get to choose them. Some of us love our family. Some of us hate our family. Some of us don’t even know our family so God gave you a different family even if they’re not biologically related to you.
Interestingly enough, the Bible refers to Christ’s Church as a family several times.
Christians in general and local churches in particular are family. Each local church being part of the larger family of God.
Ephesians 2:19 So, then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household,
Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.
1 Timothy 5:1-2 Don’t rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters with all purity.
Jesus himself when being told that his family wanted to speak with him reached his hands to his disciples and said, “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)
The church is a family. And healthy churches need healthy families. This was true in the first century and it’s true today.

Household Codes

It’s one of the reasons that the New Testament epistles often contain “household codes.” The passage we’re looking at in Colossians is followed by household codes. They weren’t completely uncommon in ancient literature.
Paul includes them in his epistles because he knew the powerful and influence of godly and healthy families.
In other words, if Christians could take the way of Jesus and apply it within the home/local church then we could change the world and advance the mission of Christ to make disciples.
Many things in life can’t just be taught. They must be seen. They must be experienced. And that’s certainly true when it comes to God’s design for the family.
So we’re going to look at Paul’s letter to a church family in Colossae and make application for our own church family in general and our individual families in particular.

The Power of Community

A well ordered life can attract people to Christ. No doubt about it. But even more attractive than a well ordered life is a loving Christian community.
This is true of godly marriages, godly homes and Gospel grounded and loving local churches. There’s an attractiveness of our “life together.”
Colossians 3:12–17 (CSB)
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. 14 Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
The passage presents us with multiple for having ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY through the Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s ONE family. There are not multiple families of God. He has ONE family. One Lord. One Faith. One Baptism. One Gospel.
It’s a BIG family. There are people in this family from every tribe tongue and nation. There are people in the local church from every background you can imagine. Young, old, rich, poor, red, brown, yellow black and white. Our Christian family is a BIG family.
Finally it’s a HAPPY family. It’s a family that reflects the joy of the Lord. A family wherein peace, love and happiness shine. A family marked by gratitude and contentment. That’s the kind of family we can have in Jesus.
This is the kind of family we can have in our church. This is the kind of families we can have in our homes.
In fact, learning to love other people well in your church family can help you love others well in your home. Learning to love well in your home will make you a better member of your local church.
So how do we arrive at that place?
Paul gives us the framework in this text.
Let the love of Christ lead
Let the peace of Christ rule
Let the Word of Christ dwell

Let Love Lead

The first leg of this framework is to let the love of Christ LEAD in your home.
Paul begins this passage by listing off several different virtues: kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness and patience. It’s almost easy to just dismiss it because there are so many examples.
But he follows that list of virtues with the statement “above all else...” When you hear a phrase like “above all else” you better pay attention.
He also says that love will hold all of these other things together in perfect harmony! (literally translated “love which is the bond of perfection…”)
The idea is that love acts as a bonding agent which will enable something to arrive at it’s intended destination. (SONG: Love will hold us together… all you need is love)

The Bond of Love

Love is the perfect bonding agent. Love is what holds something together until it arrives at its intended destination.
We have mission and a vision as a church. It’s important to all of us. Guess what? We’ll never arrive at our intended destination if we lose our love for one another.
We all have hopes and dreams for our families. You have hopes and dreams for your marriage. You want your kids to become certain kinds of people. Guess what? You’ll never arrive at that destination without love.
We have personal dreams and goals. We strive for greater and greater things. But the thing we need more than anything else if we’re going to arrive at that destination is LOVE.
Will power is NOT a strong enough glue to get you to that destination.
Discipline and intelligence is not a strong enough glue to get you to that destination.
Money and talent and public recognition - it’ll bond things together - but it’s not strong enough to get you where GOD WANTS US TO BE.

Real Love is a Verb

It’s got to be love. And not the wishy washy love that’s been emptied of any real sacrifice or significance.
True love is not just pleasant feelings for someone. True love is a commitment to the welfare of the beloved.
True love is a VERB, an action, an active interest in the welfare of the beloved.
What does that look like practically speaking? That’s where the list comes in.
Paul does the same thing in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast.
Really this list of seven things in Colossians 3 is just a summary of that larger treatise.
Compassion (the opposite of indifference. Have a heart. Sympathize with a person’s suffering)
Kindness (the opposite of meanness. Lend a hand. Help alleviate the suffering.)
Humility (the opposite of pride. It’s actually compound word for a humble mindset. See yourself for who/what you really are. Sober judgment. In Phil 2 it’s followed by putting the needs of others ahead of yourself )
Gentleness (opposite of brashness. It’s a mild and even temperedness. Take a chill pill)
Patience (two greek words: macro, thumia = put up with a lot of crap. Long-suffering. Long fused person. Don’t be allergic to unhappy circumstances. It’s comes with the territory of putting others ahead of yourself.
Forbearance (this is similar to patience but more related to when someone else gets on your nerves. Dancing on the line. Not touching you not touching you!)
Forgiveness (forgiveness is what you do when they cross the line. It means to no longer treat someone as if they’re guilty of the wrong they committed against you.)
Love is what enables all of these actions and these actions are what enable us to get to where Christ wants us to be in our home and in our church.

The Power For Love

Notice Paul leads this whole list by reminding these Christians they were FIRST LOVED by God.
Why? Because we’ll never love LIKE God unless we remember we’re loved BY God.
As beloved children love your children.
As children unconditionally accepted by God unconditionally accept your children.
As children who’ve been forgiven, forgive.
As children with whom God is patient, be patient.
Here’s how Spurgeon put it. “Christ loved you before you loved him. He loved you when there was nothing good in you. He loved you though you insulted him, despised him and rebelled against him...He has loved you in your backslidings and loved you out of them... His loving heart is eternally the same...”
When you let the love of Christ dwell in you, reminding yourself of his great love, it’s what enables you to lead with love in your dealings with others.
Above all else, put on love.

Let Peace Rule

Not only should let the love of God lead in our home. We should also let the peace of Christ rule in our home.
Colossians 3:15 (CSB)
15 And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.
Paul’s idea of peace comes from the Hebrew word “shalom.” It means wholeness, well-being, or prosperity. For believers, our wholeness and completeness comes from our relationship with Christ. It’s from Him and in Him.
The word translated “rule” means to control or the be determining factor of.
The best illustration I’ve ever heard on this is that Jesus Christ acts as a referee or traffic cop in your heart saying what will and what will not upset you. In some ways your feelings are your feelings. But what you decide to do WITH you feelings is what determines your peace.
What does this look like in the context of the local church or your individual family?
Well peace doesn’t mean the absence of disagreement. Peace just means the absence of hostility. So even when you disagree you treat one another with dignity, honor and respect.
Like a traffic cop, peace keeps things from escalating and getting out of control. When an emotion or person or response is getting too hot or going the wrong direction the peace of Christ blows it’s whistle and brings things back into order.

How Peace Rules

How does this work itself out practically speaking? Especially in the context of the local church or the home? The answer we actually already covered in verse 13.
I love the way the KJV translates it because both words start with F.
Colossians 3:13 (KJV 1900)
13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
Two words: forbearance & forgiveness. Forbear and forgive will These are the mechanisms You’ve got to do both if you want to keep the peace.
Forbearance is "brushing it off.”
Even when something/someone ANNOYS or upsets you to the max. They haven’t crossed the line but their dancing pretty close. “Grin & forbear it.” Just brush it off. It’s like dandruff.
Forgiveness happens when somebody crosses the line. When somebody doesn’t listen to the whistle of the referee, when they cross the line and cause a deep hurt.
Forgiveness is “letting it go.”
Not because they deserve it but because Christ has forgiven us and has called us to peace.
Forbearance and Forgiveness are what keep a root of bitterness taking hold in your heart. They keep you from shipwrecking in your faith and burning down your relationships.

Why This Matters

This matters so much because we are ONE BODY.
Our unity is something Jesus prayed for. Our love for one another is something Jesus put first and foremost.
Why? Because his Church is THE ONE VEHICLE for displaying his message.
There’s no plan B. There are not multiple bodies of Christ. Multiple vehicles for advancing the Gospel. We are it. So we’ve got to learn to live at peace with one another.
Rom 12:18 “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
The power for this kind of peace keeping comes from the same source as the power for our love giving: Christ himself. Remember who you are in Christ.

Let The Word Dwell

So let love lead. Let peace rule. Thirdly and finally let the Word of Christ DWELL in your home.
Colossians 3:16 (CSB)
16 Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus he essentially says the same thing but instead of saying let the word of Christ dwell he says be filled with the Spirit.
Being filled with the Spirit of Christ and being full of the Word of Christ are one in the same thing. (Eph 5:18)
In that way - this part of the frame work is the most important because it’s what makes the other two frameworks possible.
Without the Word dwelling deep in your heart you’ll fail to remember God’s love for you.
Without a proper knowledge of God’s love for you you’ll find yourself incapable of loving others.
Without Biblical instruction and biblical wisdom and biblical encouragement these things that we’ve been talking about become much more difficult to do.
Our love is a Spirit-empowered, Gospel-motivated love. Our peace is a Spirit empowered, Gospel motivated peace. Our gratitude is a spirit empowered, Gospel-motivated gratitude.
If the Word of Christ isn’t dwelling inside of us then these other things will manifest themselves among us.
When it come to building a healthy family (in the church or in the home) the Word does the Work.
That’s why our church is committed to expositional preaching.
That’s why one of the most important things you can do for your family is to have them in a church that believes and teaching the Scriptures.
That’s why family devotionals and “as you go” lessons of discipleship and Bible stories are so crucial. They lay a foundation of Spirit-inspired content that the Holy Spirit can use to shape us who’re we’re called to be.

Practical Application

With those three keys in place, I want to close with some practical application. These are five things we can do within the Church OR within the Home to powerfully display the life changing power of the Holy Spirit in our life.

Learn The Word

The First is to learn the Word of God and live it out
This has to come first or nothing else will follow. The Word of Christ, in this passage, is probably Paul’s way of talking about the Gospel.
You need to be at home in that Gospel and that Gospel needs to be at home in you.
The only way that’s going to happen is if you’re engaging the Scriptures daily and daily reminding yourself who you are in Christ: “chosen, holy, dearly loved, etc.”
This is only going to happen if you’re reading the Scripture on a regular basis. Read books about the Bible to better understand it. Attend worship services or conferences that help you learn the word.
And remember that increasing knowledge of God’s word is linked with your willingness to live out what you already know. Extra light only comes to those who walk in the light they’ve already been given.

Just Let It Go

Practical application (#2) “let it go.” Forgiveness and forbearance don’t happen until you learn to let it go.
It doesn’t mean you have to forget. It doesn’t mean you have to be best friends with the person who wears you out. (some Christians are just going to always get on your nerves) But you’ve got to let it go.
Whether they cross the line and take it too far or if they just dance on the line and make you want to scream - Let. It. Go.
Listen for that little referee in your heart blowing a whistle. The peace of Christ will rule in your relationships insofar as you listen to that whistle and let it go.

Let Them Hear It

Practical application (#3) “let them hear it.”
There’s an emphasis in this text not just on letting the Word of Christ dwell IN you but also letting the Word of Christ flow through you.
Speak the word. In your relationships, in your small group, at the gym or in the coffee shop. Take what the Lord shows you in your time together with him and share it!
This could be positive encouragement, reminding someone of God’s promises & faithfulness - or an admonition or warning because you’re seeing something they’re not able/willing to see. Either way, let them hear it.
Did you notice how often Paul mentions gratitude in this text? Gratitude felt needs to be gratitude expressed! You have no idea the power of a simple and sincere Thank You. I’m grateful for you. But it’ll never encourage them or lift their spirits if you keep it to yourself.
The same is true with forgiveness or offenses. If you’ve released someone from the debt they owe you then let them know. If you’ve been grieved by someone let them know. Some of you are angry and upset at people and that other person has NO IDEA. Because you never let them hear it.
There is power in your words. The power of life AND death. So lets open our mouths and speak the truth. Speak the Word of Christ. That’s how you’ll promote thanksgiving.

Love Them Through It

The final application point and potentially the most important is to “love them through it.”
If love is the most important thing. If Jesus said the thing that will set us apart and mark us as belonging to him then the most important point of application is to let love endure in our homes and in our church.
Several years ago I heard a sermon build around a seminal question. Wasn’t a great sermon but it is a great question. It’s a question we should ask in the high tides and low tides of life in the home and in the church.
The question: what does love require of me here?
I love that question because it links the word love with the word require. It implies that love will cost something. Christian love is costly love. It’s sacrificial. There’s no such thing as love without sacrifice.
The kind of love that Christians display towards one another ought to be sacrificial. Sacrifice your time, money, energy, etc. Love through service.

Sacrificial / Persevering

And don’t just love them. Love them THROUGH it. That means keep loving even when it’s hard. Keep loving even when you don’t feel loving. Keep loving even when you want to bounce.
Remember, love isn’t about them. Love is about you. Love isn’t FOR them. Love is FOR God because he first loved you.
That’s the only power strong enough to hold things together until they arrive at their intended destination.
God doesn’t love us because we’re lovable people. He loves us in order to MAKE US INTO those lovable people. Love granted to underserving people will transform them into something better than what they are.


Let love of Christ lead in your homes. Let the peace of Christ rule in your homes. Let the Word of Christ live in your home and we can change the World.
Not just any love, not just any peace, not just any word will do. The love of Christ, the peace of Christ and the Spirit inspired Word of God.
Imagine if you lived this way for just 30 days? What would happen? Who might be drawn to faith in Christ as a result. We’re going to take a few moments and respond in light of that question.
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