Sunday, September 24, 2017


Luke 8:4-15
Introduction: I like mushrooms in my Chinese fried rice and maple syrup on my pancakes. Do you know the difference in how they grow? Mushrooms sprout up overnight and then wither away in a matter of days. Maple trees, on the other hand, grow gradually while learning to withstand the forces of nature that threaten their existence. They result in a majestic fruit bearing entity that lasts for generations. So, it can be with people who follow Christ.
            Unfortunately, some, wither away rapidly; others grow deep and strong and produce the fruit that God designed for them. In Luke chapter eight we will discover elements of a Christ-follower that produces this depth and substance to life. Just as Jesus was preparing and grooming the first disciples to be Maple Trees so we will discover that as we apply the lessons to our lives we, too, will grow and become Maple Tree style disciples.
            During his ministry on earth Jesus told a farming story to illustrate the importance of spiritual fruit bearing in his followers. In this story, we will see the seed and four types of soils that were compared to the hearts of people. (Luke 8:4-15).
            The Parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. Some of it fell on the road; it was trampled down and the birds ate it. Other seed fell in the gravel; it sprouted, but withered because it didn’t have good roots. Other seed fell in the weeds; the weeds grew with it and strangled it. Other seed fell in rich earth and produced a bumper crop. Are you listening to this? “Really listening? (Message Bible). In eastern practices, the seed was sometimes sown first and the field plowed afterwards. Roads and pathways went directly through many fields and the traffic made much of the surface too hard for seed to take root in. You may be asking what do these four different soils represent. What is the seed?  What does this have to do with me today?
            In the parable, the seed is the word of God and the soil represent four types of people.  I would call them, 1. The Skeptics 2. The Enthusiastic 3. The Compromisers 4. The Practitioners.

I. THE SKEPTICS: “As the farmer sowed some seed fell on the road, it was trampled down and the birds ate it up” The way side people are mainly the skeptics, the unbelievers, they hear the gospel preached over and over again but they never respond to it because the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts so that they won’t believe and be saved.
            Have you wondered why in spite of many wonderful Christian TV channels preaching the gospel, churches doing evangelistic outreaches, yet so many still remain un-touched by the Gospel? Even some of those who regularly attend church, and listen to inspiring messages every Sunday could also remain unchanged. Why? Because there truly is satanic opposition.
            The devil doesn’t want people to come to know the “Truth”, if they come to know the truth they can no longer be under his control, they will be free indeed.  Paul writing to Corinthians exposes the strategy of the devil, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The message of the gospel can be stolen by Satan if we let him.

            Other seed fell in the gravel; it sprouted, but withered because it didn’t have good roots. During one spring, we did some gardening and learned a few lessons in the process. One thing we learned that plants need water, warmth, nutrients from the soil, and light to continue to grow. In order for plants to survive and bear fruit their roots must go deep into the ground.
            If they are shallow they will wither and die quickly. The same principles apply to the followers of Christ. In order to grow and bear fruit for Christ, we need to go deep.
            There are some who respond to the gospel with great enthusiasm but never go deeper in their understanding of who God is and what his will is for their lives. Initial enthusiasm is great, but that is not the end in itself, we should learn to go deeper with God. That is why discipleship is so important. I encourage you to attend our Wednesday Life Group, where we will be talking about how to become a healthy disciple of Christ, ten traits of a vital (fruit bearing Christian).
            Let’s suppose you were enlisted in the army, it may be a great feeling initially but if you never attend the nine-week intense Basic Combat Training (BCT) where you were not only trained in skills but also in character by learning the core values of the army, such as receiving orders, loyalty, teamwork, duty, respect, selfless service, honor and integrity, you will never come out to be a proud soldier of the United States Army. Right?
            We cannot keep on surfing on the waves of enthusiasm, and excitement forever, sooner or later they will crash. When the rubber hits the road, what makes us stand strong is not our enthusiasm but our discipleship, which is our personal commitment to obedience. The crowds followed Jesus because they were excited about his miracles and message. Jesus was not impressed by their initial enthusiasm, he turned to them and said “unless you pick up your cross daily and follow me you are not my disciple.” That must have shocked them, every one left except the twelve. These twelve Disciples tasted the goodness of the Lord and they were willing to go deep with Christ. In the end, they became like the Maple Tree followers spreading the message of the gospel to the ends of the earth.

            Other seed fell in the weeds; (In other translations it reads thorns, but I think in this part of the world we can relate better to weeds) the weeds grew with it and strangled it.” When we first came to Sharon, we were surprised to see so many bitter-sweet roots choking up the trees like a boa constrictor. In our backyard Wilma and I went to war with them and removed a lot of bitter-sweet roots making room for the trees to grow.
            The seed that fell in the weeds represent, what I call “The Compromisers. These people hear the truth, they respond to it and they seem to be growing in it but along the way some things happen and they begin to compromise with the truth. They let other things (weeds) come in between them and God. What are these weeds?  It is important to take note of this, what are the 3 things that could easily cause anyone of us to stagnate in our Christian growth? 
            In the NIV it says it crystal clear; the word is choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures. Is it wrong to worry about life?  Is it wrong to become rich and enjoy pleasures? Most Christians nowadays would be quick to say No! there is nothing wrong with enjoying the good life.  Over the years I have come to observe a difference though in the life and the fruit of Christians who want to have it all and those who are willing to deny themselves certain legitimate riches or pleasures for the sake of the Kingdom.
            The world pushes us towards self-advancement; whereas Jesus calls us to a life of self-denial and sacrifice. Moses grew up in the palace, he could enjoy everything to his heart’s content if he wanted to, but when God called him to follow Him on the narrow way, Hebrews 11:25 “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” Are you letting the weeds grow in your spiritual garden? Are you letting the bitterroot like pleasures, and riches entangle you? There is a better path to choose. Come to Jesus, he will fill you with eternal joy and pleasures of his very own presence (Psalm 16:11).
            “Other seed fell in rich earth and produced a bumper crop.” The seed that fell in the rich earth represents the people I call, “The practitioners” They hear the truth, receive it, retain it and practice it through thick and thin hence they produce fruit. Similarly, the more truth of God’s word we practice the more growth we will experience. In the Bible, the word “hear” is often associated with obedience, and action. In the NT, several times Jesus emphasized the correlation between hearing and obeying.
            We all are familiar with a Sunday school story of “The wise and foolish builders” the main point in this story is not whether you should build your house on the sand or on the rock but it is about hearing and obeying. Matthew 7:24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man…Matthew 7:26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man.
            We attend church regularly and hear great sermons, or tune into Christian TV/radio listen to the best preachers, but ironically how much of it do we really apply in our lives       Why is bearing fruit so important? Because God is looking for fruit in our lives. John 15:1-8. What kind of fruit is God looking for in our lives? He is looking for the fruit of repentance (Matthew 3:8). He wants us to put an end to our past sinful life style and cultivate a God honoring life style. A life style that is in step with the Holy Spirit.
            God is also looking for the fruit of the Spirit in us, Galatians 5:22-23, “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” The more we are lead by the Holy Spirit the more of the fruit of the Spirit will be evident in us. He is also looking for the fruit of good works, “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” Col 1:10.
            We don’t do good works in order to be saved but we do good works, because we are saved and love God and want others also experience the love of God. Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16. This morning we have looked at how mushrooms and maple trees grow. We also learned about four different categories of people. Which category of people you might identify with? You may be a skeptic, have listened to the word all your life but never paid enough attention to believe it.
            You may be the enthusiastic, always looking for the next exciting thing but never making that commitment to go deeper with God. You may be a compromiser, you have heard the word but let the worries of this life, the pursuit of riches and pleasures keep you from bearing fruit for the Kingdom. May I challenge you to be a practitioner!  A follower of Christ who is not easily falling away because of discouragement or distractions but one who keeps being nourished by the Word of God and keeps growing and bearing fruit. Amen!

Sunday, September 17, 2017


2 Chronicles 7:11-16
Introduction: If you were living in Key West, Florida and heard the news that a Category 5 hurricane was heading your way how would you respond?  After weathering the hurricane when you return to your home of three decades only to find out it is ruined, what would you do?  We all have watched with shock some heart wrenching scenes of such devastation. These pictures caught my attention as they seem to convey the mixed responses of people to tragedy.
            Peoples responses are generally based on either fear, pragmatism, and or faith. Many have headed the warning and moved into shelters, hotels, friends and relative’s homes. Others took pragmatic approach, stored up food, water, gas etc. and were ready to brace the storm. Yet others no matter what happens could not seem to get over their foolishness.  I don’t know what to make of headlines like this one, “Damage heavy on Key West, but booze still flows.” Hurricane Irma took power, water and cellphone service, but she couldn't take this tiny island's party spirit — or the cold Coors Light.
            Many concerned people both in Florida and around the world took their position in prayer and interceded on behalf of Key West. At hope Church, we prayed that God would decrease Irma’s intensity to a Category 1 or send it back to the ocean. After praying I kept watching the news. I was relieved and praised God when I heard that it was reduced to a Category 2 storm and then to a Category 1 tropical storm. As if that was not bad enough, can you imagine what would have happened had it not changed its intensity and actually landed on Keys west as a Category 5 Hurricane? How could anyone explain, why it has suddenly changed its direction? As we speak millions are without electricity and running water. Food supplies may be running out. Many are struggling to terms with the aftermath. Let’s continue to pray for God’s mercy and his provision.
Let’s pray that many would turn to Christ during this crisis.
            When we see these back to back biblical portions natural disasters, terrorist attacks from within our own backyard, and a looming nuclear war threat, what goes through your mind? Have we gone too far from God as a nation? Have you wondered who sends these natural calamities? Maybe you are going through a personal storm of some sorts. What should be our response when we encounter natural disasters and life-threatening situations? Let’s see how a battered nation dealt with these types of devastations. A CALL TO PRAYER. 2 Chronicles 7:11-16
            Let me give you some context to this passage. 2 Chronicles covers the period from the beginning of Solomon’s reign (970 BC) to the Babylonian exile (586 BC). During this time, the Israelites desperately needed a new look at the past. Their ancestors had also been torn from home, beaten and dragged off in chains to serve as slaves in a foreign country.
            In Babylon, a new generation grew up knowing little of the Israelite past: the covenant with God, the promised line of kings, the magnificent temple in Jerusalem. When captive Israelites were finally allowed to return home, they found a pile of rubble. The book of 2 Chronicles was written to those refugees who returned. For that dispirited group of people, the author recounted the glory days of Israel. He wanted to restore the Israelites faith, courage, confidence and bring hope to their future. Though this passage directly deals with the remnant Israel, but the lessons are applicable for our times as well. 

            Vs 13“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land or send pestilence among my people.” Whenever there is a natural calamity the environmentalists’ quick to jump in saying the cause is Global warming or Climate change. While some of these disasters can be attributed to absolute irresponsibility, some are beyond our understanding, explanation and control. In insurance circles these are called, “Acts of God.”
            Therefore, let’s look to God this morning for some answers. The scriptures tell us that God has absolute power over nature. “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.” Psalm 89:8-9. “The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.” Psalm 104:2-4
            In the passage we read, God was saying to the Israelites that he had the power to shut up the heavens so that it won’t rain, or send locusts to eat up the crops and send plagues (like Ebola) that would kill thousands of people. If God is truly in control, He must be able to control weather events and natural disasters. The question then becomes if God is truly good, how could He allow so many people to die as the result of something under His control? God is not necessarily in the business of sending hurricanes, storms and earthquakes to torture people. But at times he allows these natural calamities for a reason. In some cases, he may use nature’s force to focus our attention on Him and the greatness of His power. I am reminded of a familiar story in the Bible, Jonah in the belly of a fish. But what landed him there in the first place, what lessons did Jonah learn from that horrible experience and what would he tell us about Gods greatness?
            As we know out of disobedience, prejudice and the stubbornness of heart Jonah started to run away from God on a ship sailing to Tarshish. But God wouldn’t let him go away very far. The Lord sent a mighty storm on the sea, the ship was threatened to break up. The mariners were afraid and each began to pray to their god. Jonah was fast asleep in the lower deck of the ship. They came to him and woke him up and asked him where are you from and what do you do?
            Listen to Jonah’s response, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” The men were exceedingly afraid.” Upon his suggestion, the mariners threw Jonah into the sea and God provided a Big fish that swallowed Jonah and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD.” After three days and nights being in the belly of the fish Jonah repented and prayed, then God commanded the fish to throw Jonah out on to the shore.
            The key lesson here is you cannot run away from God too far, he will catch you. This story is a stark reminder to all of us to know who actually is in charge over the wind and the nature? When God allows a natural disaster to come our way is to draw our attention. He uses these calamities to show the world His power and teach his children obedience and prayer.
            Coming to our context, the recent two back to back hurricanes, Harvey and Irma have left millions devastated. Many have lost their properties, and several lost their lives. Could it be that the Lord has allowed these two storms to bring our nation back to its knees? Could it be possible as a nation we have gone too far from worshipping the true and living God, and began to worship our own idols? It would have been more profitable if our president tweeted during these difficult times calling the nation to repent, pray to God and seek His mercy and favor. It is the responsibility of the leaders to send out a call of prayer during the natural calamities.  
            Can God prevent natural calamities from happening at a certain time and place? Has he done it in the past? The answer is a resounding yes! James 5:17-18 teaches, "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit." Recently, we have seen God, how God decreased the intensity of the Hurricane Irma to a category one, otherwise it could have been much more of a catastrophe. What can actually move the mighty hand of God and avert a disaster? It is prayer! Not the kind of prayers we pray at our meal times. But prayers that come from a heart that is desperate, humble and repentant. God answers such prayers.

            Vs 14, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” You may have seen this verse or heard it quoted by pastors and preachers a like each time there is a huge crisis or natural calamity. This verse has often drawn me to my knees in repentance and prayer. This is a sure criterion, when it comes to seeing the gracious hand of God moving towards may it be a whole nation or individual, and experience His redemptive and healing power.
            “It starts with my people, who are called by my name” It is a narrow promise but can have wider implications. Then, it was to the nation of Israel, but now it applies to all those who call themselves Christians or followers of Christ. As the saying goes that, “there are no atheists in the trenches” points to the fact that just about everybody in trouble prays to whoever might be there to listen. They cry for help. And sometimes, no doubt they are helped as they asked to be.
            But Christians however have received a special call to prayer, have seen the power of God at work as a result of prayer. God is calling us to humble ourselves, repent of our sins and turn away from our wicked ways and seek his face and pray to Him. Then he will hear from heaven and forgive our sins and will heal our land. Do you think our country needs healing? How about you, and your family do they need healing? Does your marriage need healing?
During the service, we have heard a powerful testimony of Mercy, how God has reached out to her and healed her. We rejoice with her and give praise to God for her healing.
            Our God is not the respecter of people. He can bring about a similar miracle in your life too. All you need to do is to repent of your sins and cry out to God from your desperate situation. God will hear your prayers and come to your rescue. There is a call of God going out not only to a few intercessors, but to all of his people to pray. Because the need is so great. My prayer is that we will hear his voice and commit ourselves to become the people of prayer. Amen


Sunday, September 10, 2017


Matthew 3:11-17 
Introduction:  One day I was talking with an Unitarian Church member, he asked me is Hope Church still a Baptist Church and do you still dunk people in water? I said, yes, we are still the Baptists and we still dunk people in water. But why do we baptize people in the first place, is it because we are Baptists or is there another reason for it?
            When it comes to church traditions and practices Jesus made it simple. He instituted and established two ordinances for His Church. They have been prescribed and ordered by Jesus Christ and practiced by the Church. The early Church is known for practicing those ordinances. Acts 2:41-42, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
            From these two verses we conclude, Baptism and Communion are the two ordinances that are to be followed by the Church of Jesus Christ. Over the centuries Christians have kept up these sacred traditions. Today, we will have the privilege of witnessing four believers getting baptized after the Church service in lake Massapoag. I would like to share a few thoughts on the purpose of Baptism, the significance of baptism and who should be baptized. Matthew 3:11-17.
Background: It was during the 1st century AD, a man named John, later on came to be known as John the Baptist. He was born in a priestly family. His parents were Zachariah and Elizabeth. John was sent by God with a message. John proclaimed a message of repentance. Many, were confessing their sins and getting baptized in the Jordan river. John said to them, “I baptize you with or in water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with or in the Holy Spirit and Fire.”

            The concept of Baptism was familiar to both the Jewish and Greek audience of that time. Ancient Israel had a ritual purification practice called, Mikveh or mikvah. After the destruction of the Temple, the mikveh's main uses remained as follows: By Jewish women to achieve ritual purity after menstruation or childbirth before they and their husbands may resume marital relations. By Jewish men to achieve ritual purity. As part of the traditional procedure for conversion to Judaism. To immerse newly acquired utensils used in serving and eating food.
            Most forms of impurity can be nullified through immersion in any natural collection of water. A Biblical example we see here is the Syrian commander Naaman the Leper, who was instructed by Elisha to dip himself seven times in Jordan River 2 Kings 5:14.
            The word “baptize” comes from a Greek word, “Baptizo” meaning “to dip” or “dip into dye or to immerse.” It is also used in ancient writings of vessels which are cleansed by immersing them in water. The word baptizo’ was especially prominent in the dye trade. A cloth would be dipped or immersed into a bucket of dye.  Or the material was “baptized” in dye. When the cloth was removed from the bucket of dye, it had a distinct and new appearance.[1]  
                Christian denominations argue about which method sprinkling or immersion, the infant or believer’s baptism is the right way. We want to be respectful of those who believe in infant baptism, but as we look at the word meaning and scriptural incidents we see more evidence for believer’s baptism through immersion in water rather than infant baptism through sprinkling. In our Church, we dedicate babies to the Lord, and baptize believers by immersing them in water.

            First reason, we baptize people because Jesus himself modeled it so when they get baptized they are following his example. In the passage we read, “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. Have you wondered what was the need for the sinless son of God to be baptized like the rest of us sinful people?
            There were several reasons for his baptism: The first mentioned here, was “to fulfill all righteousness.” His baptism indicated that he was consecrated to God and officially approved by him, as especially shown in the descent of the Holy Spirit and the words of the Father, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” All God’s righteous requirements for the Messiah were fully met in Jesus.
            Secondly, at Jesus’ baptism John publicly announced the arrival of the Messiah and the beginning of his ministry (Jn 1:31–34). Thirdly, by his baptism Jesus completely identified himself with humanity’s sin and failure (though he himself needed no repentance or cleansing from sin), becoming our substitute, 2 Cor 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Fourthly, Jesus’s baptism was an example to his followers. Not only was Jesus baptized but he commanded his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that he had taught them. The disciples went out and obeyed the lord’s command, of baptizing, discipling and teaching. The tradition continues.

            Various denominations argue on who should be baptized, when should be baptized and how. Some don’t even baptize people stating that baptism has nothing to do with salvation. In the midst of conflicting views, let me clarify a few things. First things, First. Baptism cannot and will not be able to save people from their sin. Only Jesus can save. Salvation is a gift from God. According to Romans 10: 9, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
            Coming to Church doesn’t make you a Christian anything more than going to McDonald makes you a Hamburger. What saves you is when you actually make the confession saying that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead then you will be saved and become his. When John the Baptist was baptizing, people were repenting of their sins first and then getting baptized. The main criteria for salvation is not baptism but belief. Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mk 16:15-16
            What would be right time to baptize someone? In the scriptures, we see people were baptized soon after they got saved. Here are a few examples: On the day of Pentecost after listening to a message from the Apostle Paul, 3000 people repented of their sins and were baptized. Acts 2: 41. The Ethiopian Eunuch was baptized after believing in Christ. (Acts 8). Saul was baptized soon after his conversion on the road of Damascus (Acts 9: 18).

            The relatives and close friends of an Italian army officer named Cornelius were baptized after professing their faith (Acts 10:47). A jailer and his entire family were baptized in the middle of the night after believing in the words of Paul. (Acts 1631-34). These scriptures indicate that immediately after getting saved, the next step a believer ought to take is baptism.

            Baptism has a beautiful symbolism. Paul equates Baptism to an identification with the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:3-4.
            Metaphorically speaking, when we go into the water we are letting our old man (flesh) die and be buried. And when we come out of the water, we are now beginning a new life with Christ. It is important here to understand the Greek concept of Baptism, how a cloth dipped into the dye takes on the new color of the dye and looks that color, similarly a believer who is fully immersed into Christ, takes on the identity of Christ and starts to look and live like little Christ.
            Keeping that in mind, Paul writes to Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.
            Something else happens in Baptism, we will be entering into a covenantal relationship with Christ and his Church. As members of Christs new found family we get to enjoy the privileges and share in the responsibilities. This morning it is our joy to see four believers expressing their faith in Christ by taking their next step of baptism.
            Let’s welcome them with arms open wide into our Hope Church family. Let’s enfold them into our discipleship process. Let’s support and cheer them on as they embark on this new journey of faith. Above all let’s be committed to pray and encourage them. So that together we will glorify God by becoming devoted followers of Christ. Amen


Sunday, September 3, 2017


Colossians 3:9-17 
Introduction: Eugene Peterson the author of the Message (the Bible in contemporary language) explains why we need the Church. “The church is the primary arena in which we learn that glory does not consist in what we do for God but in what God does for us.” “Church is the textured context in which we grow up in Christ to maturity. But church is difficult. Sooner or later, though, if we are serious about growing up in Christ, we have to deal with church. I say sooner.”[1]       We come to church, not to do something for God, but to let God clean us up inside out. Church is like a spiritual laundromat where God through the blood of his son, washes our sin stained lives and turns them into Christ reflecting lives.  Last, week we looked at what church is and what it means to be the Church. In our study, we looked at how we all are interconnected with one another and connected to the head of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ. We also learned that God gave each of us a gift, and those gifts are meant to be used not to please ourselves but to serve others in the Church and in the community.
            In this postmodern, and highly liberal town of Sharon how can we survive and thrive as a bible believing Christian community? How can we remain viable, relevant and impactful as a Church? The answers to these questions lie in understanding our primary purpose, why God wants us to be part of the Church, which is that we may Grow Up in Christ. We will also look at how our Growing Up in Christ impacts the way we see ourselves, one another, the way we conduct our Sunday worship service, and the way we serve in the Church and the larger community where we work and live. We will leave with principles from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the believers in a local church in the City of Colossae. Colossians 3:9-17

Background: Colossae was a city in Phrygia, in the Roman province of Asia (part of Modern Tukey). Colossae was a thriving city in the fifth century B.C. Although Colossae’s population was mainly Gentile, there was a large Jewish settlement. Colossae’s mixed population of Jews and Gentiles manifested itself both in the composition of the church and in the heresy, that plagued it, which contained elements of both Jewish legalism and pagan mysticism.
            Paul wrote to the Colossians to oppose the false teachers. He reminded them that Jesus is supreme over everything. While explaining the nature and the function of the church Paul identifies one overarching principle which is, “Growing up in Christ” and its implications. What does Growing up in Christ look like in a believer?

             Vs 9-10, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Paul was reminding the believers that they have taken off their old self with its practices and now they have put on the new self. In this “take off & put on” analogy a Greek word used for taking off clothes. Like one who removes his dirty clothes at the end of the day, believers must discard or put away the filthy garments of their old sinful lives.
            How can believers put away the old habit patterns of sin, such as anger, malice, slander and lying? By continually renewing their minds in the knowledge of Christ. In other words, “Imitating Christ in all manners of life.” Salvation is a gift from God and it is a once and forever act of God. When we have accepted Christ as our savior, we are born again. The old has gone and everything has become new. Just like a baby is born complete but immature, the new nature is complete, but has the need and capacity to grow in the knowledge of Christ.
            Paul was encouraging the believers to embark on a journey where they become progressively more like Jesus Christ. It is a life long journey of the awareness and the application of the gospel truth.

            Vs 11, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” Growing up in Christ means to grow into the likeness of Christ as individual believers. But that is not enough, collectively the body of Christ must realize its unity and destroy the age-old barriers that separated people. Christ came into the world precisely to break down those barriers and to offer salvation everyone.
            Romans 10:12-13, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” During Paul’s time and even now people are widely divided and segregated around religion, class, culture, gender and socio-economic barriers.
            The Colossian Church was comprised of a wide variety of people. There were the Jews, the Greeks, the circumcised and the uncircumcised, barbarians (all those who had not been trained in Greek language and culture, the uneducated masses), Scythians (An ancient nomadic and war like people, noted for their savagery). Slaves & Free, a social barrier had always existed between slaves and freemen. Though they were all different, one thing they had in common, they were all sinners, and in need of a savior. Without exception Christ had saved all of them.
            Therefore, Paul was encouraging the believers to see the work of Christ in themselves, and see Christ in all their fellow believers in faith. Let me illustrate, in the recent devastation in Houston Texas where flood waters displaced thousands of people. The rescuers went in boats and picked up everyone who were stranded and brought them to safety.
            Whether they were democrats, or republicans, gay or straight, citizens or illegal immigrants, rich or poor, they all were in the same boat. Likewise, we were all once caught up in the flood waters of Sin. God had mercy on us and sent his son Jesus Christ to save all of us.
            After explaining the need for the Colossian believers to grow up and become more like Christ, and see Christ in themselves and in all the other believers, Paul makes three bold assertions. Vs 12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility and gentleness and patience.” Let these bold truths sink into our spirit this morning. Firstly, we are chosen by God. It is God who chose us not we chose him. Can you imagine what that really means? Among all the people you made the team! You were hand-picked by God to play in his team. If that doesn’t excite you, I don’t know what will?
            Secondly, we are already made holy because of what Christ has done, so let’s behave like we are holy. Thirdly, we do not have to perform inorder to be loved and accepted by Christ, because we are dearly loved. Here comes our response to God who has done so much for us already.  In view of what God has done through Jesus Christ for the believer, Paul described the kind of behavior and attitude God expects in response.

            Paul describes in these verses how a growing up believer in Christ should conduct himself or herself in the community of believers where they were graciously placed by God. For lack of a better word, these instructions of Paul are like the “By-laws of all Christians. When we try our best to live by them, they serve us to live in peace and harmony with one another. Let’s un pack them: Christians are called to put on a heart of compassion.  
            In Greek it literally means, “bowels of compassion,” Implying the internal organs of the human body as used figuratively to describe the seat of the emotions. These days we see a lot of people who are passionate about social justice, climate change, racial, and gender equality and so on. Passionate people are the ones who will get things done, but in the process, they don’t realize they might be hurting others in order to achieve their cause.
            Christ on the other hand was not only passionate but compassionate. To be compassionate means, “To have a sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Consider these passages where Christ moved in compassion. Matthew 9:36, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Out of compassion:
            He raised the only son of a widow from the dead (Lk 7:10-16). He healed the sick (Matthew 14:14). Gave the blind men their sight (Matthew 20:34). The world needs more compassionate people, and you can be one of them. There are whole range of things Christians must put on, such as kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. There is much we can talk about these virtues, but for now Paul was urging us that we must put on these virtues? Because, naturally we do not exhibit these qualities because they are not with in us. These all are part of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-25. We are to ask the Holy Spirit to give us this fruit, and by his help can we live out these beautiful virtues.
            Vs 13-14, talks about the importance of forgiveness and what binds all these virtues in perfect unity. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” If we want to move forward as a church, and live in peace with one another we must pay close attention to these two verses of scripture. Where two or three gathered together, problems develop. Egos are bruised, plans get disrupted, angers flare up, temperaments clash and so on. What is the remedy for these and many other problems?
            It is to be patient and be forgiving of one another. We are admonished here, if we have any grievance against someone, we must be patient with them and forgive them as the Lord forgave us. When we recognize, how wicked and un loving we were, and how gracious and forgiving Christ was towards us, do we have any reason not to forgive those who might hurt us either intentionally or unemotionally? Let’s not hold back in extending grace and mercy to one another. Above all let’s put on love, for love covers multitude of sins.
            We are exhorted how to conduct our worship service in vs15-17. We are to be the students of God’s word as we teach and correct one another. We are to use psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in our worship to God. Whatever we do either in word or deed we are to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus with gratitude.
            I envision, at Hope Church we embrace these virtues and endeavor to put them into practice. We also provoke each other to live out these live giving virtues. On this communion Sunday, may we take a moment and check our hearts. Let the Holy Spirit convict us, if there is any bitter root growing, or resentment, or unforgiveness towards a brother or a sister. Let’s repent and ask Jesus to forgive and cleanse our hearts. When we leave this place let’s take proactive steps to forgive and to be reconciled with others where needed. Amen

[1]  Eugene H. Peterson, Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ