“How Will You Do 2013?” Colossians 3:12-17
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Keep a straight face”? Or, how about, “Getting hitched”? The English language is full of phrases that we use and hear all the time, even though we may not necessarily know what they mean or how they originated. One I caught myself saying the other day was, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” You probably use that one at times as well, but, like me, have no idea why. How many of us have actually ever skinned a cat? On second thought, that’s OK. Keep that one to yourself. We really don’t intend it to be taken literally. We don’t know why or how to skin a cat. But, we do know that there is more than one way to do something. As humans, we have choices about how we do something. As we get ready to begin a brand new year this week, it is good for us to remember this truth. It is good to know that we get another chance to do things differently.
Our Scripture texts today–2 Samuel, Colossians 2, Luke 2:41-52–are very timely for us as we begin a new year. They are helpful in informing us how we can do things differently. 2 Samuel reminds us that Hannah had a choice to make about Samuel’s future. Luke propels us from the manger to the Saturday School room Jesus just couldn’t get enough of as a youngster, choosing to stay there and do things differently than others in his family and village. And then there is Paul’s letter to the Colossian church, giving them specifics on how they could do things in the new life they had received in Jesus. That’s where I would like for us to spend some time this morning–in the specifics. Let’s consider that there are various ways to do 2013, but there is one that is best; one that stands out the most here in Colossians 3.
The Colossians existed together as a church, just like we do here today. They were a group of people who had heard the good news of Jesus and had given their allegiance to him and to the Kingdom of God he represented. They were growing in their faith, but, like us, needed encouragement about their new identity in Christ and of their new mission in the world. The encouragement can be found throughout the letter, especially as Paul gives them a challenge to live out five virtues in the Christian life–compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. In case they had trouble remembering all five, Paul provided a helpful summary: And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.(v.17) All they really needed to focus on was doing everything in the name of Jesus. The virtues would come as a result.
William Loader, in a commentary on this text, put it this way,
3:17 is another famous verse. It amounts to an assertion of God’s being. Let God be God – in your life, the God whom we know in Christ. In another way it takes us back to the generating force which makes sense of all the exhortations. Out of an ongoing relationship with the God who is generous and active in love, we can allow ourselves be drawn into the same mode of being. In such a context, thanksgiving is like sharing a deep sense of oneness as well as a lasting gratitude. Connecting to God is connecting to freedom. Connecting to such freedom opens to us the possibility of love and enables us to be free from making others serve us and well being.[i]
“We can allow ourselves to be drawn into the same mode of being” as Jesus. In other words, we have the choice to make about how we do life. You had this choice in 2012, did you not? This time last year, you had a decision to make about how the year would go. Or, rather, how you would go through the year. You could do everything in your way or you could do things in God’s way. Maybe you are like me in that you set out to do things in God’s way, but looked up every once and a while and noticed that you were doing things your way. You carried the name of Jesus, but you didn’t do things in it. As you look back on 2012, what name do you see? Yours or Jesus’? Most of us, I think, have both names written on our year. My hope is that you are seeing Jesus’ name more than yours.
Whether we are ready or not, though, the year is coming to an end and we are provided with a whole new one. How can we do things differently? How we can live in such a way that we are like Hannah doing things differently than other moms in her town? How can we be like Jesus, doing life differently than the other children his age? How can we be like the new life Paul described to the Colossians, living with the fab five virtues: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience?
I think this kind of change in how we do things begins not with resolutions, but actions. Paul described the virtues of this kind of life as articles of clothing, asking the church at Colossae to put each of them on. It was their choice to make. They could walk around in their old tattered rags or they could put on their new outfit. Doing so was an action in and of itself. Even if they had not been compassionate or kind or meek or forgiving or loving in the past, putting on the clothes would help them live out their meaning. Putting them on was putting them into action.
The same thing is true for us today. We must move into this New Year with the brand new wardrobe of Jesus. We must put on these clothes, one at a time, as we step into the New Year. You may not feel too compassionate right now, but put compassion on and see what happens as God works through you to help those who are hurting around you. You may not feel patient these days, but slip it on over your head and see what happens as you bear with the frustrations of life. Kindness may be the farthest thing from your mind, but put it on and you will be amazed at how kind you will be to the people God has placed around you. The same thing goes with the other articles of this clothing. Instead of making a long list of what you think you should do, start doing them, in the name and manner of Jesus.
We can also do 2013 differently by allowing spiritual growth in our lives. Paul saw that the Colossians needed to grow into maturity. The opportunity of growth in their lives was up to them. They would need to allow it, like soil that receives a seed. Paul put it this way, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom . . . Did you catch that “let” part? It was up to them. It was up to Jesus, too, as he allowed God’s word to dwell in him to the point where he lost track of time.
Spiritual growth is up to us as well. God is constantly providing the seed to grow and flourish in us, but we must allow it to go down deep inside of us. Again, this is an action thing. Be proactive by waking up tomorrow and reading your Bible. Start a good habit of studying the Bible with other people in a Sunday School class next Sunday. Start the year off by memorizing a new Scripture verse, that it might dwell in you and be available when you need it the most. However you do it, do it in the name and manner of Jesus.
Finally, do 2013 differently by having 365 days of thanksgiving. Don’t settle for just one day in November to give recognition for the provision of God in your life. Do it when you wake up and realize you are still here. Do it when your feet hit the ground, recognizing you can still walk. Do it when you sit down to eat, seeing that the food on your plate came not from your hand, but God’s. Have thanksgiving when you look around and see your family, knowing that God has placed them in your life. Lift up thanks to God when you come to church, being grateful that God has given you a spiritual family. And say words of thanksgiving when you enter a difficult time in life, acknowledging that God goes through it with you. When you do all of this thanksgiving, however and whenever you do it, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus.
So, yes, there is more than one way to skin a cat. And there is more than one way to do the New Year. May we resolve with action today to do it in the way, in the name, of Jesus.
Audio of Sermon: