Harold Bullock: In the living room at home, all kinds of problems can start. A marriage counselor told me years ago, problems start in the living room and move into the bedroom. He was a wise man. It’s out of how we treat each other that problems develop. There’s a passage in the New Testament that we looked at last week; it’s a passage that actually deals with both of these issues. It deals with a larger life, greater room. It also deals with how you interact with people, what happens in the living room. So, we’re going to dig into it.
When I trust Christ, when I first decide I’m actually going to trust Him and follow Him, then spiritually some things happen. We talked about them in depth last week that change things. I’m fused with Christ; His life begins to flow into me, sort of like a Siamese twin. Life is shared now with Him, but it’s His life flowing into me. I enter His death and resurrection, the Bible says. This happens spiritually; something passes away, and something is brand new in me. I become a new person with larger capacities. We use this image. I trust Christ; that’s me, my stick figure, just me and the way I am. Then, once I trust Him, His life begins to flow into me, and it creates a new me, a larger me. The problem is the other guy’s hanging around still. What I have to do now is I have to decide which one I’m going to pick as I deal with the situation in front of me. I now have larger capacities than I did.
Colossians 3:9 and 10 says, “You have put off the old self with its practices, and have put on the new self…” The thought is this is already done. That’s what happened when I trusted Christ; it’s already happened, and it’s happened spiritually. Because I have done that, now I need to do that because of who I am in Christ, a new person. Then, I need to act in new ways. It’s not acting in the new ways that make me a new person. It’s yielding my life to Christ. But once I’ve yielded my life to Christ, then I need to act in the new ways. There’s a new person here.
The new thing is not the same thing but a later edition. I used this illustration last week. It’s not like having a 2000 Chevy Malibu and driving it around grateful it’s still working, and then you get a 2020 Malibu. Now that’s nice; it’s better. It’s new, but it’s still the same kind, maybe a few things are new in its technology. But it’s basically the same kind. Rather the difference is this between the old life and the new life; it’s the difference between the Chevy Malibu 2000 and this--a 2019 Rolls Royce Silver Phantom. This has a lot greater capacities. It’s not just the same kind of thing. It’s not only new in the sense of more recent, it’s new in the sense of just a different kind. This is what’s happened to you if you’ve decided to follow Jesus Christ.
Spiritually, you have new capacities now, and they don’t happen automatically, though. The capacities are there; you actually have to use them. At a practical level what I then have to do since I have become new, what I have to do is I need to start to align my ways with the new capacities, the new reality. It would seem simple; it’s not. The major reason it’s not simple is me. There is a new me, but I’m still dealing with the old heart, the old lives. It’s been changed; Christ has moved in, but now I’m in the position of making choices. Before I would think about doing differently, but I would do like I’ve always done and sometimes with a vengeance. Now I think about doing differently; the capacities are there. I have to make some choices, so let’s take a look at this passage a little more in-depth.
I’m going to read through it; you will not remember it, but you can read it on your own later. What I’d like to do is take a look at it and then explain some of these things. This passage tends to be confusing to a lot of people, but it’s actually practically...it’s extremely useful. “If then you’ve been raised with Christ…” ...two things… “...seek the things that are above where Christ is…” This has to do with your goals. “...at the right hand of God, and then set your minds/mindset on the things that are above not on the things that are on earth.” You operate from one perspective or another, earthly or heavenly. Another...next section… “Put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you…” Literally, this is a pretty brutal term. It says, “strangle it to death.” It’s very aggressive. “Put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you: sexual immorality…” Here’s the section on desires. “...sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and covetousness, greed, which is idolatry, on account of these, the wrath of God is coming…” In other words, these things will bring real trouble into your life. Put them to death.
Next passage… “But now, you must put them all away…” And here’s a new list; these have to do with how we treat people in situations. “...anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another…” See, you put off the old self with its practices, and you put on the new self. We read that. Starting in verse 11, “Here (in the realm of Christ) there is neither...there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free man. But Christ is all and in all who belong to Him. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…” This list has to do with how we deal with people. “...compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…” That’s putting up with each other. “...If one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you…” Just like Christ forgave you, you forgive them. “...As the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” He uses the image of putting on, like garments. And lastly, you put on the girdle for the time, the belt, cloth belt that you wore that held everything in place and kept it available for whatever you needed.
So this is the instruction; if I trusted Christ, His life is now flowing into me from outside of me. I can now behave in different ways, either the old way or the new way. It’s a choice...a new and larger way. Picture for you...this is it. Before I was just stuck with me, now I have larger capacities. There are...new things open up to me, so to live the larger life in situations I’m facing, I have to shift some things. We’re going to take a look at that. You have...there are some charts in your handout that may help you as we go along. I’m going to comment on what’s in those charts. I put these together for you to try to make this passage easier to get and for you to be more able to use it in the living room.
First thing I have to change is how I process the situation in front of me. I have a normal way of processing it. I process it by how I see it and what I want. Particularly if it’s a difficult situation, I’m getting angry; that just makes all kinds of sense to me, but if I’m going to live the larger life, I have to pause and shift gears. I have to shift my mindset. I have to shift from how I see things to how God sees things. How I see things…”I see what’s going on here, and I know what’s important here! I know what I want to do!” I want to gratify my desires or yell and scream, but I know what I want to do. That one’s easy. I have to shift to how God sees things. A lot of times difficulty enters our life, and God has a bigger purpose in it. I don’t see it, and I miss it. A lot of times people enter our life, and they’re actually difficult people. But in the way we interact with them, God is going to do something in their life. But if we just slip into the old mode, the opportunity’s gone. I want to start thinking about how God sees this. God, please show me how You see this situation.
Then my goal...Again, I want to do what I feel. If I feel angry, I want to do angry. If I feel desirous, I want to do desirous. If I feel sad, I want to do sad. That one’s easy; the big question is what does God want. I want to seek the things that are above. What does God want in this situation? Father, show me how You see this. Father, would you please, please show me what You want me to do? Now what Paul does in the rest of the verses that he writes in this passage is He gives us some more specifics. So, I need a different mindset, a different look at things, and I need a different goal. A mindset, by the way, is something usually you choose. Normally we choose it out of how we feel. You’re going to have to choose it out of what your good sense that you know that God sees a different angle on this. You choose it; you choose that.
In situations I have to shift; not only am I processing because if I don’t shift it I’ll go after the same goals I always have, which is what I want right now. I’ll look at it the same way I always have, which is how I see it. I need new eyes; I need a different goal. Father, please show me. I have to also change my responses to two things. One is desires, and the other is people. Paul first deals with desires. Normally what we do is if we desire something, we really want something, we entertain that. And, we let our desires run. Now we may not immediately act on them, but we let them run like a dog loose. So, I have to change from, on the desires level, from letting desires run...that is feeding my passions...to reining myself in. Paul does not list a list of alternatives for these. What I’ve done...he moves on to relationships...what I’ve done is I’ve given you in your handout alternatives that are in other places in Scripture so that you would know.
The problem is you can’t just stop doing something. If I tell you to stop thinking about hippopotamus for the next 15 seconds, that’s very hard to do because trying not to think about hippopotamus you’re not thinking about hippopotamus. It’s there anyway; you have to replace it with something. If you don’t want to think about hippopotamus, think about hamburger or whatever else it is you like. If you think about that, you’re not thinking about hippopotamus. But if you try not to think about hippopotamus, it’s just right there. So, you have to replace things, move from this to this.
Now, I’ve given you some replacements here. First one is wrong sex. Sin lists in the New Testament usually start with this because it was so common, and it still is about the most common today. Wrong sex--the Bible says there’s only one way to handle this. You have to run; you do not stand under the pressure of sexual temptation. If you’re in a situation where you’re being tempted, you have to get out of there. You may have to get off the computer for that matter. You do not last; it’s like a mouse looking at a cat and saying, “I can handle you!” Good luck! You just have to get out of there. Leave! Run! Flee! You can check the Scriptures. Another one is filthiness or uncleanness. The word in Greek just means stuff that’s dirty. So, we talk about dirty stories and dirty jokes and dirty pictures. That pretty well describes the dirt. You can add worse to it. But let the dirt go; go for a high mind. Think on things that are noble, things that are good. Philippians 4:8 talks about that. Replace it. If you don’t replace it, it’ll just hang around.
Letting cravings grow; that’s what the word literally means in the Greek. It’s desire, but it’s just letting it...you’ve thought about it, and now you want it. Now you really want it, and now you’re just burning with it. Stop! Just stop it! You have to change. Contentment is the word in Scripture. Contentment is “It’s enough.” You know, I don’t have that, but what the Lord has given me is good. I’m going to start thanking Him for it right now. You start thanking God for what you have; the other stuff will begin to back off. Wanting the forbidden--we all hit points where we want what’s out of bounds, and God either says, “Not now or maybe later, but not now or not at all.” But we want it! Well, if you’re starting to want the forbidden, start thinking about your stewardship. These are your privileges, not just your responsibilities. So, Scripture says to guys if you’re looking at somebody else’s wife, start delighting yourself in your own. Hmmm. That’s intentional, you know, for a guy because guys have roving eyes. Rein them in. Rein yourself in. Use good sense. Rein yourself in. Start delighting yourself in your privileges. If you’re thinking about all the things you don’t have, then contentment is good. If you’re thinking about the forbidden, start thinking about what God has given. Start thanking Him for it.
If you’re greedy, I want more! It can be in all categories, especially money…the drive to have more money. Sharing...a good verse for that is Hebrews 13:16: “You share what you have. It pleases God.” If you start getting really into wanting more money, take some of the little money you’ve got and share it with somebody. It’ll break the power of that. I’m going to have to deal with my desires. There are ways to do that. These are the replacements.
Now, relating to people, I shift from doing damage to showing mercy. That’s the big theme in this. Doing damage--I do damage because I deserve better than they gave me. So, I might say things about them; I might bless them out. I might do all kinds of things, but I’ve got to make the shift from damage to actually showing mercy. Mercy is favor you give to someone who’s in a hard place. They don’t deserve it, but out of compassion, you give them help. So, I have to shift in how I treat people from one thing to another. From rotten attitudes, that’s the first set.
Paul mentions animosity, angry outbursts, and malice. Animosity is that subtle anger towards somebody. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that, but there are people that can just get you ticked to the point that you just don’t like them. You let it go. Animosity, it’s a kind of abiding anger; it just keeps on. It could be about what’s happened to you; you’re just made about that. Let it go. It’s not an angry outburst; it’s just that subtle anger. Let it go. Replace it with compassion. If you get really angry at your kids, one of the ways to calm your anger down is to look at the situation through their eyes. It does not justify what they do, but it will help. If you can look at what’s going on through their eyes, you’ll address it much better. Compassion is that kindness that sympathizes. Animosity, angry outbursts...AAAHHH! You know, we just let it go. Or malice, it’s not just anger. It’s that I don’t like them, and I hope the world falls in on them. Let it go. Let it go.
You move to the kind and helpful. That’s actually the word in the Greek; it’s a kind helpfulness. You move to humility. The reason why we start damage is because we feel like we deserve better than what I’m getting. Well, humble yourself. If God gave you what you deserved, what would happen to you? Humble yourself. You’re not better than they are; you may be right, but you’re still not better than they are. Then a word, mild and gentle, is the way it’s normally translated. You can translate it actually “tame to God.” I’d like to explain that word because there’s not an English word that really translates it. It’s sometimes translated “meek,” sometimes “gentle,” sometimes “mild.” Gentle has to do with actions; mild has to do with attitude. It’s hard to translate; it’s actually a word used of war horses. These were very powerful animals, could do tremendous damage, but they responded; they were tame and responded to the rider’s bridle control. They were this word; they were tame to the bridle, but they weren’t tame in the sense that they weren’t going to complain. They could kill you, but they’re going to do what the rider says.
This is a word that’s used for us over several times in the New Testament. It basically means that we know the situation. Though we don’t understand it, we know the situation is from God, so we don’t freak out or go bonkers. Rather, we respond to the Lord’s direction. We want His guidance in this situation, so we don’t immediately get angry or wig out and go running, screaming. We calm down; we respond gently. There’s a mildness in our attitude because we’re looking for His direction in this. It’s a very strong word but a very gentle word because it knows the rider knows what to do. The Lord knows what to do.
There’s also a change in the way we use our mouth. There are some verbal sins listed. One of them is abuse of speech; another one is obscene talk. Another one is lying. Abusive speech, well yeah, that’s just letting the words fly, flogging them verbally. Obscene talk is just filthy language. We get into that very quickly whenever we get angry. Just let it go. Lying--sometimes we lie to people so we hope they get hurt. Sometimes we lie to people because we’re guilty, and we don’t want to admit it. Just quit. Quit. That’s a part of what the enemy does. Instead verbally you forebear; that is, you don’t strike back. You just stop...no payback. It doesn’t mean you lie down and become a doormat, but you’re not into payback.
Then you put up with them, bear with them. You put up with them. God, thankfully, has put up with you and me, so I put up with them. I don’t fly off the handle, and then I forgive repeatedly like Christ has. If in a situation someone is going off, you forgive them the first time, then in just a moment you’re going to have to forgive them again and again and again and again. You’re strength under control. You’re not someone lost; you’re strength under control. Then you guide by love. Love is what’s best for them. You act not from what I want to do but what’s actually best for this person in this situation It may be that you set some real strong boundaries; there may be situations where you have to protect yourself physically, but your action is not simply, “I want to kill them.” Your action is “I want to use good sense and do what’s best.”
Valuing people, that’s another thing. I shift from valuing by social position to valuing by Christ-position. This passage mentions...Jew and Greek; that’s ethnicity. Uncircumcised and circumcised, that’s religious background; barbarian, the uncultured, they just don’t...they just were never trained in a proper society like ours. Scythian, these guys were basically tribal peoples. They were known to be savages, ferocious, and uncivilized. It was a nasty...almost a nasty word. Slave or free--slavery was practiced; they had all kinds of boundaries. People basically treated them like living tools. Free men, they could do what they wish within the law. Male or female is added in Galatians 3:28, man or woman. Before Christ, we all stand equal. His life, you see… He’s everything in the...I mean, He’s the center of the universe; His life is in me, and if you’re one of His followers, it’s in you.
What I’m dealing with standing here is not just you; I’m dealing with Christ showing up in you. You may wish He’d show up in better form, but He’s showing up in this person. We tend to judge people by their ethnic background. We’re a mixed bunch ethnically. We all stand on level ground. We tend to judge people by maybe the part of the country they came from or which nation they came from. In Christ, we all stand on level ground. Little ones who know Christ stand on level ground with me. I may have to train them, but we stand on level ground. We treat people in line with the Lord’s ways.
They have equal value with us. This doesn’t mean that our identities are insignificant. God made each one of us an individual, and He’s given us different heritages. It’s a part of who we are. I’m a certain part of the country, grew up in a certain type home; that’s a part of who I am. Some of those things I have to overcome; other things have been a real help to me, but that’s a part of who I am. Where you come from and what your background is is a part of who you are. Christ supersedes it, but it’s still a part of who you are. It also does not mean we have equal roles in all things. We don’t.
God’s assigned different roles by sex; you can read about them in Scripture. Scriptural opinion is there are two, male and female, and they tend to play different roles in life. Some of them, He’s assigned. Also by spiritual gifts...in the illustration in Scripture, some of us are feet; some of us are eyes. We play the role He’s given us, and then by His assignments in society. Wherever you’re at right now, wherever it is, may be a good place because you worked hard or a bad place because you didn’t. But I know this much; God will meet you right where you are and help you move forward.
There’s a larger life available, and this passage talks about that. I’ve given you a summary chart. Let’s take a look at it. I move my mindset from how I see things to how God sees. Father, please show me. This situation is really complicated; please show me Your perspective. From my goal to His goals, what do You want done, Father? I know what I want to do, but what do You want done? Show me quick because things are moving fast. From my desires, letting desires run to reining myself in using good sense. In relating from damage to mercy, whatever the situation is think mercy. That’ll get you started. From valuing on social position to Christ’s position, show respect.
So, how do you make the shift? To put on this new person in the situation I’m facing right now in the living room, three things I’d suggest. Number one: say, and then pray, and then obey. We teach kids this. Say what God wants done; nail it in your mind, if you know. It’d be good to actually memorize these verses. If you don’t know, ask God. Father, show me. If you say it, it will help you. Pray, “God, help me do this. I don’t want to. Change my want to.” I’ve prayed that one many times, and then obey. God, help me, and now I act in a larger way. If you ask God for help, the help will come. If you don’t choose to act quickly, it will disappear, so act quickly. Say, pray, obey. God has a larger life for you. When you trust Christ, it becomes possible, and God will help you in the moment to shift your mindset, shift your goals, shift how you deal with your desires, shift how you deal with people. So when the situation shows up this week and you’re in the living room and things are starting to ramp up, say, pray, obey. If you’ve never trusted Christ, yield your life to Him. That’s where the power to do these things starts.
I’d like to lead us in prayer. Father, thank you for giving us the possibilities of new things. As we’ve walked with You, we’ve already experienced changes. We pray that You would show us how to walk with You further into the changes. And for our friends who don’t yet know You, we ask You in Christ’s name for clarity for them in what they need to do and for the courage for them to go ahead and trust You. We look forward to all...to what You’ll do in our lives. As we look back, we see a lot of troubles and we see a lot of good things, and we know the future, one way or the other, lies in Your hands so we walk with You. We look to see a life not only new in time but a life that’s new in the very quality of it. In Jesus’ name, amen.