Leader Guide Sunday, December 16, 2018
Blessed Sermon Text: Psalm 32 Study Texts: Colossians 3:12-15 Sermon Recap: The main idea of Psalm 32 is, “The blessed trust the Lord for forgiveness of sins and steadfast love.” In Psalm 32, David remembers the weight of sin, specifically his unconfessed sin. Throughout the Psalm, he contrasts the sorrow and pain of unconfessed sin with the blessing and joy of those who have their sins forgiven. In verse 3, he bemoans the physical and spiritual effects of sin, but in verse 5, he celebrates that when he confessed his sins to the Lord, the Lord forgave him. David recognizes that true blessing, joy, and happiness await all those who confess their sins and receive God’s gracious gift of forgiveness. Because of Christ, we, like David, can cling to the promise of 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Sermon Connection: In Colossians 3:12-15, Paul commands the Church to put on the attributes of Christ - compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and love. These actions and attitudes are distinct from their previous way of life before Christ (vv. 5-9) and define the new community of God collectively as we reflect His nature to one another and the outside world. The key connection between Psalm 32 and Colossians 3:12-15 is the blessing that comes from forgiveness. In Psalm 32, David experiences this blessing in the forgiveness of God. In Colossians 3, Paul exhorts the Church to bless one another by walking in a consistent pattern of forgiveness toward one another. If God in His mercy has forgiven our sins in Christ, how can we who are in Christ not forgive the sins of those who sin against us? This pattern of ongoing forgiveness within the community of God brings blessing to those who experience it.
Lesson Plan Lesson Goal: To see how the community of God reflects the image of God by the way that we live in relationship to one another. Lesson Points: Point 1: Our New Lifestyle is the Result of Our New Identity. (v. 12) Point 2: Our New Lifestyle is Lived Out in the Context of Community. (vv.12-14) Point 3: Our New Lifestyle Leads to Peace with God and Others. (v. 15) 1
The Context: In the book of Colossians, rumbles of false doctrine were beginning to move through the Church, and Paul is writing to the believers to caution them from going down a path of “philosophy and empty deceit.” The tone of the letter suggests that it is preventive rather than corrective. In his attempt to remind the believers of the true nature of their faith, he appeals to their identity in Christ. In 3:5-9, Paul reminds the Colossians that they have been saved from a life of sin and are not to walk in the earthly, sinful desires of the flesh. Instead, having been chosen and set apart by God, they are to reflect the life of Christ since they have been raised to new life in Him. This new self is the defining mark of all genuine believers and rescues them from the futile life of selfishness and sin to the joyful life of mutual submission and love for one another. Opening Question: Why does God give so many Scriptural commands concerning how we as His people should live? There are a few different answers to this question, but the last one will give direction to this specific discussion. (1) God is set apart in righteousness, and He calls His people to be set apart like Him, reflecting His image. (2) God wants to eliminate confusion about what is right and wrong and what pleases Him. (3) In our fallen nature, we are prone to wander into sin and need consistency and clarity from the Lord about what is right. (4) God’s people are reflections of the God who has saved them. This isn’t only true on an individual basis. We aren’t simply individual reflections of God. We reflect God’s image (or not) in the way we live out the gospel collectively. The Church will not simply be defined by the individual lives of a few of its members but by the way in which the entire collective unit lives in relationship to God and others. Transition Statement: The commands of Scripture for God’s New Testament Church are not random. They are given to a people who have been saved by God to reflect Him in the world. The reason this is important to understand is because our new lifestyle is the result of the new identity we have in Christ. Therefore, our identity and our lifestyle should agree. Point 1 - Our New Lifestyle is the Result of Our New Identity. (v. 12) How does Paul’s affirmation of the Christian identity in verse 12 help us properly understand the intention of the commands that follow? The key phrase of this whole section is, “...as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved...” Paul is not giving us these commands for Christian living as a way to earn God’s approval. We already have it through Christ. We are chosen in Him. We are holy and beloved. And it’s from our identity as God’s beloved children that we welcome His gracious wisdom for our lives. So these commands should not be viewed as boxes to be checked that make us feel like better Christians but as opportunities to embrace the fullness of life that God offers his children. In John 10:10, Jesus affirms that the devil has come to steal, kill, and destroy, but He has come 2
to offer us the fullness of life. The new life described in Colossians 3:12-15 is the abundant life that God promises His holy and beloved children. How could we read these verses and walk away overwhelmed or discouraged? How does Paul’s identity affirmation in verse 12 protect his readers from that? If our Christian identity isn’t firmly rooted in the gospel (that God loves and accepts us based on Christ’s righteousness and not our own), then the commands in verses 12-15 can feel like an impossible task to fulfill. It’s an overwhelming list of attributes that we all know we struggle to live out, and in our inability to live them out, we can get discouraged and feel like failures. But if our identity is firmly rooted in the gospel, as Paul describes in verse 12, then these attributes will spill over as the overflow of our identity. We will desire to produce them in response to God’s gracious act of love toward us, and we will walk in the confident assurance of our Father’s love even as we fail, repent, and move forward in obedience. What is the actual imperative that Paul is calling the Colossians to do in verse 12? How does this protect us from passivity as we live out our faith in the community of believers? Paul commands them to “Put on” these attributes. While our identity is secure in Christ, and we can be assured of the Father’s love, we must consciously remember our identity and the actions that accompany our identity. We don’t accidentally stumble into godliness. Through the intentional renewal of our minds and dependence on the Holy Spirit, we must actively pursue this lifestyle among our fellow believers. Transition Statement: Now, as we look at the actual attitudes and actions that give evidence of our new identity, we’ll see that Paul assumes our Christian life will play out in the context of community. Point 2 - Our New Lifestyle is Lived Out in the Context of Community. (vv.12-14) List out the attitudes and actions that Paul says should define the Christian life. As a group, discuss how you see Jesus/the gospel at the heart of each of these commands? Compassionate hearts; kindness; humility; meekness; patience; bearing with one another; forgiveness; love. These attributes define the attitude with which Jesus walked and are descriptive of God’s attitudes and actions toward us through Christ. Verse 13 specifically calls our attention to this when it says that we are to forgive in the same way that the Lord has forgiven us. Paul’s desire in these commands is not simply to make us nice people but to see us grow in Christlikeness. By putting on these attributes, we are accurately reflecting the God to Whom we belong.
What repeated phrase shows us Paul’s expectation that the Christian life is lived in community? Paul uses the phrase “one another” or “each other” three times in verse 13, but even attributes like compassionate hearts, kindness, and humility assume that we are living that way toward other people. Which of these Christian virtues is the most difficult to live out as a community of believers? Why? Answers will vary. Leave time for multiple people to answer. How does life in community expose our weaknesses in a way that would otherwise go unnoticed? Why is that a good thing? Just like in a marriage or a relationship with a best friend, when someone knows you deeply, they know the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can’t hide or pretend to be something you’re not. The Bible calls us to community with other believers because it allows us to see where we might be proud, harsh, selfish, unforgiving, or unloving (the opposite of the attributes Paul lists). When we live in community, we are exposed, and this is a good thing! It provides us with the opportunity to see our sin, repent of our sin, and grow into the man or woman that God saved us to become. God uses community to mold us into the image of His Son. What is the connection between having our weaknesses exposed and the need for the ongoing forgiveness that Paul describes in verse 13? The result of having our weaknesses exposed is conflict. Whether that’s someone seeing a side of us that they didn’t know existed, or we see a pattern of sin in someone’s life over time, if you live in community long enough to have weaknesses exposed, conflict will quickly follow. Even for Christians, entering into conflict is unavoidable, because we’re all sinners, but living in conflict is a choice and is in direct opposition to what Paul says reflects the nature of God. If the community of faith is going to rightly image God, they must stand ready and able to forgive one another as God has forgiven them. The verb tense of “forgiving” can be expressed, “Forgive as the opportunity arises.” This means that forgiveness is an ongoing action in the body of Christ and is necessary in order for us to continue in unity and love for one another. It is not an uncommon experience for Christians to be hurt by others within the Church. According to verse 13, what is the appropriate response when that happens? Although this truth can be hard to accept, sin in the body is going to happen. We cannot expect everyone in the Church to be sinless in how they relate to us, which means that we must be ready to forgive often. We should “bear with one another,” meaning that we patiently persevere with others in their lives. In the event that there is conflict, we should not be afraid to voice it and move toward forgiveness and reconciliation quickly. The beauty of this process is that people don’t have to leave the body every time they are hurt. We learn to patiently 4
endure with one another, and in so doing, we reflect God’s patience and forgiveness toward us. Just as David was blessed when he received forgiveness from God, how are we blessed when we receive forgiveness from one another? Living in conflict is a terrible feeling. You feel the need to avoid certain people. You get nervous butterflies when you know you’re going to bump into them. You can’t have a meaningful conversation with them because of the “elephant in the room.” The blessing of forgiveness within the body of Christ is that we can live in unity and peace with one another by overcoming the offenses with a heart that is always willing and ready to forgive. Spend some time reflecting on how God has forgiven you. How does God’s forgiveness of our sins help us extend forgiveness to those who sin against us? As in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, we know that our sins against God are much more frequent and much more egregious than the types of sins that others commit against us. Knowing the extent of God’s forgiveness toward us, we then should be motivated to extend forgiveness to others. Transition Statement: As we look at verse 15, we see the effect of new life in Christ. When we are living out our new identity in the context of community, we enjoy the peace of Christ. Point 3 - Our New Lifestyle Leads to Peace with God and Others. (v. 15) Why is the collective unity of the body so important? Paul goes on in Colossians 4:5 to say, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders...” I t’s not just our individual lives that give evidence to the transformational power of the gospel. It’s when we collectively, as the people of God, can live in humility, selflessness, and service toward one another that the outside world sees a difference in us. It’s when they see a love and peace that is uncommon in any other group of people that they believe our testimony of God’s power at work in His people. Another way of translating “peace of Christ” is “the peace that Christ gives.” What is the “peace that Christ gives,” and how does that fit the context of the passage? Ephesians 2:14 says this about Jesus: “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” In His death and resurrection, Jesus brought peace between God and man by eliminating the offense of sin that brought enmity to our relationship. But peace with God is not the only peace that Christ brings. Our peace with God trickles down into peace in our human relationships as well (Eph. 2:14 is referring to Jews and Gentiles). With the Christian community as the context of these verses in Colossians, we know that our new lifestyle is marked by peace with others, meaning that we are always actively looking to remove obstacles to unity in our relationships. 5
How do the attributes of Christian living that were listed in the previous verses lead to peace among the body of Christ? It’s really difficult to live in conflict while we are actively seeking to love, forgive, and bear with one another. How does a heart of thanksgiving (verse 16) contribute to peace in the community of God? When we are living with thankful hearts for what God has done and what He is doing within and among His people, we aren’t consumed with all the things that aren’t happening that would lead us to be discontent. When we are thankful for a person’s spiritual growth, rather than complaining about the things they aren’t doing yet, it gives us an attitude of graciousness toward them that may not be present otherwise. The Big Picture While the practical aspects of the Colossians 3 life may seem daunting, we cannot miss the bigger picture of what God is doing in the community of believers. How many people would say that they don’t want their relationships with others defined by humility, patience, love, forgiveness, and peace? None! Which means that God has given us an incredibly gracious blessing in the Christian life. Through the community of believers, we experience the blessing of God by regularly seeing the attributes of God (love, patience, kindness, forgiveness) playing out in our relationships. And through the community of believers, we experience the call of God to regularly live out these attributes among one another. Application Questions ● Are the attitudes and actions of Colossians 3 playing out in our growth group? ● Are we, as individuals of the growth group, open to being held accountable to this standard of Christian living? If not, why? ● Are we walking ready to forgive in our growth group? ● Is your marriage relationship defined by ready forgiveness, bitter grudges, or somewhere in between?