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Apr 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 3, 2022

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And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony Colossians 3:14

Intro: Preparing this talk was difficult

Not because there is nothing to say about love
– we could line the freeway from here to San Diego with books and papers written on love
• clinical studies, philosophical essays, poetic explorations,
◦ not to mention all the books by religious authors
• but all this information has made little impact on our nation
– maybe it was just a tough week week for me – too much exposure to sorrow,
• but it feels like love has reached an all-time low in the world

When mulling over this verse, a song came to mind

It is from the musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar”
(this play debuted at the climax of the hippie peace and love revolution)
– Jesus has been arrested and Mary Magdalene and Peter are trying to deal with it
Mary: “I’ve been living to see you
Dying to see you, but it shouldn’t be like this
This was unexpected; what do I do now?
Could we start again please?
Could we start again please?
I’ve been very hopeful so far
Now for the first time, I think we’re going wrong
Hurry up and tell me this is all a dream
Or could we start again please?
Could we start again please?
Peter: I think you’ve made your point now
You’ve even gone a bit too far to get your message home
Before it gets too frightening, we ought to call a halt
So could we start again please?
Could we start again please?
• they’re praying for a do-over, a second chance
◦ they followed Jesus all the way to Gethsemane,
◦ but now the journey has taken a sudden turn
• they want God to rewind history and produce a different outcome
– that’s how I feel regarding love
• we have crucified love repeatedly through the ages
◦ nailed it to the cross of greed, narcissism, and betrayal
◦ we need a cosmic reboot
• could we start again please, and maybe get it right this time?

Looking at verse 14, this is the third time Paul says “Put on”

The first time was in verses 9 and 10,
we have put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator
– Paul works with this idea of the old and new self in several letters
• in Romans 6-8, the contrast is living according to the flesh (old self) or Spirit (new self)
◦ flesh is our natural self, programmed by others throughout our lives in the world
all our fears and insecurities, anger and lust, disbelief and rebellion
◦ the spirit is our new self, formed and energized by God’s Spirit
• in 2 Corinthians and Galatians Paul looks at same thing from other angles
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17)
◦ the old verses the new
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20)
◦ not the “I” that has now died “I in Christ,” but the “I” that is now risen with Christ
– the way Paul presents it in Ephesians sounds more like our verse in Colossians
[you have been taught in Jesus] to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ep. 4:20-24)
• so this putting off and putting on is not a fashion statement,
◦ but a fundamental transformation
• your true self is spirit – and we find our true self in Jesus

The second time Paul said “Put on” was in verse 12
– that was where we began talking about the virtues
– today we come to his third use of “Put on”
• here is another addition to our ensemble, but with a slight change
◦ the virtues have to do with how we are with other people
◦ Paul’s focus now is how we are with God:
the peace of Christ, be thankful, and the word of Christ, and so on
• but before that, he brings us to love, which is a perfect transition
◦ because love is intersection of our lives with God and with others
◦ we frequently emphasize the greatest and second greatest commandments:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22:36-40)

Paul makes a simple statement about the role love plays

At least it looks simple at first
– biblical translators have a significant challenge
• there’s no exact way to say in English what a Greek phrase meant to the original audience
◦ so they try to help us by using additional words
◦ for instance, there is no Greek word here that means “harmony”
• the NASB translates this phrase, perfect bond of unity, but a Greek word for “unity” is lacking
– a few commentators believe Paul is talking about the virtues being bound together
• if so, love would be like a string that tie the beads of virtue together
◦ that’s lovely, and probably true of love, but it is not what I see here
• love forms the perfect bond – it is our lives that love connects

Although Paul did not use “harmony,” it is a good metaphor

My eleven-year-old granddaughter, Adrianna, is in her school choir
– later this month they will be performing at Disneyland
• she practices in the car to and from school
• sometimes she sings soprano to show me how it goes with the alto part
◦ the soprano and alto parts are harmonized
– harmony is not two voices singing the same note
• but two or three voices singing different notes that work together
◦ you can hear the harmony when right notes are played — the sound is pleasant
◦ if a note doesn’t work, what you hear is dissonance

What happens if you study two people in conversation?
– if you film them and closely observe their movements frame by frame,
• you discover minute movements occurring within milliseconds
◦ facial expressions and body language
◦ these micromovents appear in both the speaker and listener
• William Condon spent a year and a half studying such films and identifying these movements
Condon, “Listeners were observed to move in precise shared synchrony with each other’s speech. . . . Communication is thus like a dance, with everyone engaged in intricate and shared movements across many subtle dimensions, yet all strangely oblivious to what they are doing.”
– I have to remind myself to be a better listener
• what I find helpful, is look into the eyes of the other person
• I become more focused – then if I speak, it’s in harmony with what they have said
◦ otherwise, I spend the time they are talking, thinking about what I’m going to say next

Love is the glue that holds the spiritual community together

Most of us have heard the Greek word, agape
– it is not romantic love that is going to save the world
• it is a love with more breadth and depth
◦ a love that survives without the chemistry of the romantic high
• it is love that forms a nurturing bond
Paul refers to the community as a body and Jesus as the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God (Col. 2:19)
– “ligaments” translates same Greek word for “bond” — the love bond nurtures growth
• I’ve mentioned attachment theory several times before
◦ it has to do with the crucial importance of forming healthy bonds in infancy and childhood
• what about those of us who did not receive that?
Marion Solomon, “Research shows that a good relationship can alter earlier disturbed attachment patterns.”
◦ we can form bonds now that heal our broken selves
◦ in the process, we also bring health to the community

If what Paul says is not our experience where does it break down?

With me, it breaks down when I do not have a love for others that I can sustain
– I think my heart has something like a “love battery”
• when fully charged, I have enough love for everyone
◦ with partial charge, I have less love for people on the periphery or strangers
◦ a dead battery means I love only me; so I’m guarded, defensive, closed-off
• I need God’s grace, because it does not depend on me or my love battery
◦ everywhere that I am small and weak and powerless is a place for God’s grace to enter (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9)
– grace always does something new, something unexpected
• to “put on” love is first to surrender to God’s love
◦ we let him love us, down to our deepest wounds
Henri Nouwen, “. . . we know that everyone who has allowed God’s love to enter into his or her heart has not only become a better human being, but has also contributed significantly to making a better world. The lives of the saints show us that.”
God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Ro. 5:5)

Conclusion: My sixth-grade teacher did me a great disservice in my relationship with my dad

On the last day of my school year, she told him, “I don’t think your son is working to his potential”

I may never live to my potential in anything that I do
But in this one thing, I can live beyond my potential
With the love of God flowing through me,
I can love anyone he brings across my path

Through God’s infinite grace, let’s surrender to love
We want all Christians to put on love,
so God can save the world

Mar 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 27, 2022

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Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:12-13

Intro: Before fire engines, cities relied on the “bucket brigade”

Volunteers would rush to the scene of a fire and form a human chain
– beginning at a source of water–a well, river, or pond if close by–,
• draw water, and hand the bucket to the first person in the chain
◦ then the bucket would be passed from person to person until poured on the fire
◦ empty buckets would be returned down the chain, filled and passed again
• imagine, that the buckets stopped moving and no empties were returned
◦ someone runs down line to find the problem – and comes to two men just standing there
“I’m not passing the bucket to him. He’s a cheat!”
“I’m not taking a bucket from him. He’s a fraud!”
– in the meantime, the schoolhouse burns down
• if you’re in brigade, no matter what, don’t break the chain!

You and I have covered a lot of ground in the last three or four years
– some of the subjects we’ve looked at include:
• re-wiring brain’s owner’s manual to aid in transformation
• a brief survey of Leviticus to prepare for close study of Hebrews
• what the Bible has to say about the spiritual significance of the body
• what it means to read the Bible as a sacred text
• and we went through 1 Corinthians as a Primer In Things Unseen
– in all of this, we’ve been seeking a greater experience of God
• our journey aims at a clearer and more constant awareness of his presence
◦ as Paul said, our goal is to know Jesus
• but there is an important truth we cannot ignore
◦ we need each other in order to reach our goal
◦ a fully formed life in the Spirit cannot be developed in solitude

Paul continues to expand his virtue list, but with a slight shift

He provides images of how the virtues look in everyday situations
– for instance, last week we went over the virtue of patience
• how does that affect the way I interact with others?
• well, in some instances, I listen closely when I don’t want to
◦ my listening is not motivated by my need to hear the other person,
◦ but by the other person’s need to be heard
– what Paul says in verse 14 turns out to be invaluable
• it is natural to experience tension with others in community
◦ “community” can be home, work, a team, church, etc.
• Paul provides two ways to resolve the most common tensions

We tense up around certain people for a number of reasons
– we have a history with this person
conflict: we had a run-in with this person in the past
abuse: it did not have to be verbal or physical
◦ this person used me, took advantage of me, mistreated me
wasted time: you felt cornered and subjected to boring chatter
weirdness: left you confused or frightened
◦ you realize it would be impossible to please this person
– there is another type of tension unrelated to any specific issue
• “personality conflict” – we don’t need to look for a reason
◦ “There’s just something about that guy that rubs me the wrong way”
• it’s their look, their voice, mannerisms, general style
◦ there may be unconscious reasons
– for whatever reason, you cannot tolerate that person or communicate with them

The first way to resolve the tension is by bearing with one another

There is a general concern we need to share for each other
– the Christian family looks after the welfare of each member
• this is a basic element of decent human behavior
You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. . . . You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again (De. 22:1-4)

Paul doesn’t say you have to be “best buds” with everyone
– you do have to put up with us,
• after all, we have to put up with you too
• at any rate, let’s narrow this down to a feasible size
◦ we don’t have to put up with everyone in the whole world
(it’s okay to “unfriend” abusers and creeps–it’s the safe and smart thing to do)
◦ the circumference of this circle is our spiritual community
– I don’t know how to communicate this effectively
• I just know that even though some people are a little weird,
◦ it’s worth my time to love, accept, and care for them
◦ I sometimes discover a loveable, lonely human being
• it’s up to me to set limits and boundaries, and if I do that up front, there’s no need to apologize when our time is up
◦ I’ve found that anyone can surprise you and everyone’s story is interesting–if you’re willing to listen
Richard Lukas, “There is nothing glib here. Paul well knew the almost unbridgeable gulfs that exist between human beings. . . . But Paul is convinced of the power of Christ, not to bring people together while remaining just what they were before, but to change them so that a genuine meeting of mind and heart is achieved.” “In short, this kind of Christian unity is the result of genuine spiritual revolutions in individual lives, where the old nature with all its prejudices and hatreds is put off, and the new nature is put on.”

The second way to resolve tension is by forgiving each other

Paul prefaces this with, if anyone has a complaint against another
– do I need to say that this does not apply to serious violations?
• the majority of Paul’s first letter to Corinthians,
◦ was his response to complaints from church members
• what he addresses here are the normal irritations and gripes we have with someone
– I appreciate the honesty reflected in this statement
• there is no pretending that we are a fellowship of angels
◦ anyone could have good reason to complain about someone else
• Paul says, that’s as far as it needs to go
◦ forgiveness is a way to make the problem go away
◦ forgiveness is a release – a letting go
◦ the quicker we forgive, the sooner we enjoy peace and freedom
◦ hang onto an issue and it becomes a seed that grows into an obsession

Forgiveness is more complicated than bearing with one another
– it involves a personal interaction – an offense or trespass
• I use trespass intentionally, because Jesus taught us to pray
forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Then he added, For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses (Mt. 6:12, 14-15)
◦ I know Christians who squirm at this
◦ the refuse to believe God’s forgiveness is conditional
• however, there is one condition–and only one
◦ it is not if you prove you’re really, really sorry then you will be forgiven
◦ or walk for a mile on your knees in gravel,
◦ or punish yourself mentally with toxic shame and guilt; never forgiving yourself
– God made our forgiveness conditional,
• so we would have all the reason and motivation we need to forgive

Sometimes forgiveness is impossible
– we cannot even make ourselves want to forgive
• or make ourselves willing to let God make us want to forgive
– but at every point, God is ready to help us
• we have to ask – and he is faithful to work on our hearts,
◦ to walk us step-by-step to perfect forgiveness
• perhaps that’s why Paul uses the model of Jesus’ forgiveness
◦ he knows how difficult it can be to forgive those who crucify us

Conclusion: These virtues are not given us to do on our own

It’s not like we have to use whatever will power we have
– the virtues are not like learning good manners or rules of etiquette
• if that, they would be no more than a supplement to Law
– we have to be aware of, and open to the supernatural energy behind them,
for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Php. 2:13)
God will help us discern whether we need to bear with, or to forgive, or to set boundaries
But overall, our destiny is to build bridges, not barriers

Don’t break the chain!

Mar 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 20, 2022

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Put on then, as God’s chosen people, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience . . . . Colossians 3:12

Intro: The — word — I’ll — talk — about — today is —-

patience

I remember reading through Colossians many years ago
– in the first chapter, I came across a “power verse”
• what I mean, is a verse that makes a prayer for, or a promise of spiritual energy
◦ for instance, this is what Jesus did for his disciples:
[Jesus] called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases (Lk. 9:1)
Or, . . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8)
• Paul told the Colossians he was praying for them
that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of him . . . being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might . . .
◦ at this point I got excited and imagined myself working miracles;
exorcising demons, healing the sick, raising the dead
◦ but reading on, this is what I found
being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy (Col. 1:9-11)
– my immediate thought was, “What a rip-off!”
• I did not want to be empowered for patience

The typical place to begin a talk like this is with the word itself

It is a Greek compound, consisting of two words:
– one means distance (in space or time) and the other means passion (intense emotion, e.g., rage)
• the King James Version provides the literal sense with long-suffering
◦ the patient person must “suffer” discomfort, resisting the impulse to act out, and so on
• patience is the opposite of someone who has a “short fuse”
◦ God’s self-description in Exodus says, he is “slow to anger” (Ex. 34:6)
◦ in fact, we learn this virtue from God’s example–and the example of Jesus
But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life (1 Tim. 1:16)
– slow to anger is an important insight into the how of patience works
• it has to do with timing
soldiers who joined King David’s army are described as men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do (1 Chr. 12:32)
Elijah asked his servant Gahazi, Was [this] a time to accept money and garments . . . ? (2 Ki. 5:26)
◦ this rhetorical question assumes the answer is “No”
• do I understand the nature of the times?
◦ do I know what is the appropriate action for this moment?
◦ patience is accepting each moment for what it is and for
what can and cannot be expected from it or what can and cannot be done in it
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted . . . (Ecc. 3:1-8)

There’s a common misconception we need to correct

All my life I’ve heard variations of this advice:
“Don’t pray for patience, because God will send you more trials for you to practice it.”
– this is not faith and it is not even biblical
• it is superstition – like throwing salt over your shoulder
• another problem with this advice
◦ Nancy pointed it out to me this past week when she asked, “What kind of God do they think he is?”
◦ listen to Jesus teach us what kind God the Father is
Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? . . . If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him? (Mt. 7:9-11)
– we can ask God to help us with each of the virtues,
• especially the ones that give us the most trouble

I don’t think you and I need to be reminded of the saying, “Patience Is A Virtue”

In previous generations, this was used as a motivation
– I don’t know if many people are motivated by virtue today
• anyway, being patient with “things” we can’t control is a virtue
◦ traffic, waiting for water to warm up in the shower, elevators, etc.
◦ tp not be jittery with things telling them, “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon”
• patience with things is good,
◦ but patience with people is absolutely necessary
William Barclay [regarding the Greek word makrothumia says], “This is the spirit which never loses its patience with its fellow-men. Their foolishness and their unteachability never drive it to cynicism or despair; their insults and their ill-treatment never drive it to bitterness or wrath.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Scratch the surface of impatience and what you will find lying beneath it, subtly or not so subtly, is anger. It is the strong energy of not wanting things to be the way they are and blaming someone or something. This doesn’t mean you can’t hurry when you have to. It is possible even to hurry patiently, mindfully, moving fast because you have chosen to.”
– we have to be patient with people, because we’re all imperfect
• in Matthew 18, Jesus tells a story about two debtors
◦ one is forgiven, but refuses to forgive debt of the other
◦ the story is not only about forgiveness, but also patience
Both men, in turn, begged, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.”
• why is a person who visits a doctor called a “patient”
◦ because healing requires patience

Patience works relational magic

In the famous “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians,
– this is the first word regarding what love is
Love is patient and kind (1 Cor. 13:4)
• think of that! The first thing love must be is patient
◦ patience is the key to preserving and protecting relationships
◦ patience is how we build and repair relationships
• do you remember what Jesus said was greatest commandment?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets (Mt. 22:37-40)
And Paul, Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law (Ro. 13:8-10)
◦ St. Augustine applied this insight to the virtues
Augustine, “I hold virtue to be nothing else than perfect love of God.” “Therefore, where charity is full and perfect there will be no remains of vice.”
◦ commenting on this, John Langan wrote,
Langan, “Augustine then understands the moral life of the Christian as the progressive development of charity, which is the one explanatory entity that underlies the activity of all the virtues.”
Notice how this ties all the virtues together in love–as here in Colossians 3:14
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
– if we think of all the virtues as separate items,
• then we might be tempted to focus on one at a time
• but love is a complex mixture of various qualities
◦ like a bowl of fruit
. . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22-23)
– if I think I’m loving well in one virtue, tend to cheat on others
• we hear, “Everyone has a vice” or “Chocolate is my one vice”
◦ but if all virtues are manifestations of love, we can’t skimp
◦ we can’t dismiss the one that seem most difficult or unpleasant

Patience is a path to peace

There are two psalms that express poet’s stress, and both end with:
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD (Pss. 27:14; 31:24)
– Psalm 40 begins,
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined his ear to me and heard my cry.
• we are frequently encouraged to wait for God
The LORD is good to those who wait for him (Lam. 3:25)
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
the young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint
(Isa. 40:30-31)
• patience protects us from making matters worse
◦ the angry texts we write, but don’t send; the sarcastic rants we don’t post
◦ who knows how much unhappiness and stress we have dodged by keeping our reactions to ourselves?
– if we do not learn patience, the world will drive us mad
• the sun will not rise until it rises, or go down until it goes down
◦ all of our impatience will not hurry its daily journey through the sky
• patience is not resignation, it is not giving up
◦ nor is it doing nothing, but patience is doing what can be done now
◦ patience cannot be forced, but it can be cultivated

Conclusion: The cool thing about patience,

Is that every single day will give us opportunity to practice it
Our bodies will tell us when it’s time to be patient
(Our bodies will tell others when we need to dial down)

When it is time to exercise patience,
let’s remind ourselves, “This is an opportunity to love someone”
An opportunity to love God, love my neighbor, or even love myself

Mar 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 13, 2022

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Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness . . . . Colossians 3:12

Intro: The first detail to notice, is where we find meekness on list

Meekness is hiding behind humility
– we wonder, was it even necessary to include meekness in addition to humility?
• if we were to be honest, we don’t take meekness seriously
◦ it is a virtue no one wants – like patience or submission
• we read that Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek”
◦ but it doesn’t leave a strong impression on us
◦ it is not as compelling as poor in spirit or mourn
– meek doesn’t draw attention to itself – doesn’t make headlines
• no one asks meek for the next dance
• we want to be the opposite of meek
◦ we’re convinced that “You don’t get anywhere if you let people walk all over you”

Our negative impression of meek is not far from the Old Testament idea

Hebrew, anav: to see oneself in a inferior position or condition
– it was the status of the poor, or servants, or the “afflicted” (physically, mentally, or socially)
• we need to remember, Israel’s pride never failed to produce disaster
◦ what we read regarding King Uzziah is a recurring theme:
But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction (2 Chr. 26:16)
◦ humbling itself was Israel’s was path to restoration
But I will leave in your midst
a people humble and lowly.
They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD (Zeph. 3:12)
• at the same time, God had a special concern for the poor and oppressed
◦ the weak and helpless, such as widows, orphans, and foreigners
– in the Psalms, God grants the poor and lowly special favor
• so the psalmists confess their desperate and depressed situations
◦ they find comfort in poverty and affliction — they knew one day they would be rewarded,
◦ and so learned to live in humble dependence on God
• accepting their lowly circumstances, they found God’s good-pleasure
◦ their attitude has been described as “Triumphant waiting on God”
◦ so it is a tribute to Moses that
Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on face of the earth (Nu. 12:3)

We can certainly learn from the Hebrew Scriptures:
– that regardless of our circumstances, we must put our full trust in God

When we come to the New Testament, meekness takes on a different character

The Greek word suggests something more than a disposition
– it includes the effect a person has on others
• the meek person has a calming, soothing influence
◦ meek could be used in regard to taming animals
◦ the meek was a good-natured person
• meek was a “gentle friendliness” – the opposite of
◦ “roughness, bad temper, sudden anger, or brusqueness” (TDNT)
◦ it softened the edge of sound teaching and correcting others
The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness [meekness] (2 Tim. 2:24-25)
– according to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,
• in Greek culture meekness was
“a mark of the high-minded and noble, of the cultured, and therefore of the wise, who remains calm even in the face of abuse; Socrates is a model here.”
• the only Gospel that uses this word is Matthew, where it appears three times:
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Mt. 5:5)
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart (Mt. 11:29)
Say to the daughter of Zion,
“Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey . . .” (Mt. 21:5)
TDNT, “with the help of the fulfilled prophecy of Zech. 9:9, the entry of Jesus is depicted as that of a non-violent, non-warlike king of salvation and peace.”

You see, this is a different idea from the current definition of meekness

We think of it as a character quality that is empty – a lack of something
– having no will, no confidence, no fire
• we think meek is static rather than dynamic, idle rather than active
◦ to us, the meek person is almost a non-being, an “extra” on the set of life
◦ present, but easily ignored, overlooked
• the meek person stands down, stands aside, disappears
– for us, meekness doesn’t cut it – meekness looks cowardly
• human nature does not find gentleness compelling
• “gentle warnings” do not inspire compliance

In trying to address this wrong impression, preachers have told us,
– meekness is “power held in check” or “controlled strength”
• in other words, we know that compared to others,
◦ we’re stronger, wiser, better, but we hide it
◦ we act like we are less than what we are in truth
• I think those attempts to rehabilitate meekness miss the point
– meekness is a positive quality
• it isn’t a skill or act, but a character trait
• the meek person epitomizes a peaceful life
◦ they are unflappable, content, free-spirited,
◦ confident of God’s love and care

Our aggressive society sees meekness as a kind of cowardice

But if Jesus was meek, then he gives the word its true definition
– his story is one of strength, of bold claims, and obvious authority
• his enemies perceived him as a serious threat
◦ his followers perceived him as a provider and protector
• we never see him back down, hide in a corner, or run from danger
– Jesus was loving and kind, yes!
• but his love was strong and uncompromising
• Jesus’ life was rigorous and hard,
◦ but his touch was gentle

To be meek is no more or less than having Jesus for our example

Henri Nouwen tells a story about Trevor, a mentally challenged patient he cared for at Daybreak. During a time when Trevor was hospitalized for evaluation, Nouwen asked the hospital chaplain if he could visit him. The chaplain gave Nouwen permission and asked if it would be alright to host a lunch with him with invited guests–local ministers, priests, and hospital staff. Nouwen agreed, and when he entered the cafeteria, the first thing he did was look for Trevor. When he could not find him, the chaplain explained that the staff and patients never ate together and patients were never allowed inside the staff cafeteria. Nouwen said he would not stay for lunch unless Trevor could be there.

So it was that Trevor was sitting next to Nouwen as everyone settled into their places, engaging in small talk. Trevor asked Nouwen to bring him a coke, which he did and soon returned with Trevor’s coke and a glass of wine for himself.
Suddenly, Trevor was on his feet and with a loud voice announced, “Ladies and gentlemen . . . a toast!” Immediately there were anxious looks around the tables. I will let Nouwen tell you what happened next in his own words.

“But Trevor had no worries. He looked at everybody and said: ‘Lift up your glasses.’ Everyone obeyed. And then, as if it were the most obvious thing to do, he started to sing: ‘When you’re happy and you know it . . . lift your glass. When you’re happy and you know it . . . lift your glass. When you’re happy and you know it, when you’re happy and you know it, when you’re happy and you know it . . . lift your glass.’ As he sang, people’s faces relaxed and started to smile. Soon a few joined Trevor in his song, and not long after everyone was standing, singing loudly under Trevor’s direction.”
“Many people feel cursed—cursed by God with illnesses, handicaps, and misfortunes. They believe their cup doesn’t carry any blessings.”
“Trevor did what nobody else could have done. He transformed a group of strangers into a community of love by his simple, unself-conscious blessing. He, a meek man, became the living Christ among us. The cup of blessing is the cup the meek have to offer us.”

Conclusion: In spiritual formation, we learn about “the disciplines”

Specific rituals and behavior we practice regularly to promote our transformation
– the virtues are spiritual disciplines
Nouwen, “The are disciplines because we do not practice them spontaneously.”
• meekness does not come to us naturally
– practicing the virtues is all about us becoming different that we were
• the new self is a better person than the old self
◦ the actions of the old self are programmed and automatic
◦ even when we did not want to keep repeating the old patterns,
we stuck to the low path – trapped by our default settings
• but the new self is ready for this virtue list
◦ because Jesus shares with us his resurrection life
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. . . . having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God who raised him from the dead. (Col. 2:6-7, 9-10, 12)
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Ro. 6:4)

The virtues are not a new set of rules;
they are standard features that come with these new models,
empowered by the Spirit of God

Mar 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 6, 2022

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Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility . . . Colossians 3:12

Intro: Working our way down this list of virtues we come to humility

When I began thinking about this talk,
– it occurred to me you don’t need this message – look where we are
• this is not the hot spot on Sunday mornings–
◦ the place to be seen – you can’t brag about being here

Yesterday, walking Kona, I spoke with a friend who lives out of the area, and I mentioned that I had to get home to prepare my talk. He said, “I thought you resigned from being a pastor. What’s the name of your church.” So I explained that I am no longer a pastor (at least I do not go by that title) and we do not call ourselves a church. I told him about our small “spiritual community” and this morning he sent me the following text: “This fits you much better than a mega-church.” He knows me well.

• a woman, fairly new to our community, in one of our Zoom meetings,
◦ referred to us as a church, then caught herself
◦ “Oh, that’s not right. I don’t know what to call it; our ‘Cult by the Sea’”
– But, even humble as you are, pride tends to raise its ugly head
• the ego gets wounded – we feel need to defend ourselves
◦ our beliefs, our choices, our political views
• no one is immune
◦ so it’s probably worth our while to discuss humility

If you think about it, humility is vital for “intimacy” (our previous series)

In fact, this is true of all the virtues
– Psalm 133 begins,
Behold how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!

• the first image it uses to describe unity is this:
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes (Ps. 133:1-2)
• oil had many uses in biblical times: cosmetic (skin and hair), healing, and the sacred anointing
◦ but I have something else in mind other than “essential oils”
– we have to put oil into our car engines
• to keep all the moving parts running smoothly
◦ that’s because oil reduces friction
• oil change is necessary, because it collects sludge from the engine that could wear it down
– in every close relationship, humility works like (motor) oil
• it keeps interactions running smoothly, it reduces friction, and it carries away guck
• also, there are different oils for different types of machines
◦ sewing machine requires oil with less viscosity than car engines
◦ and likewise there are degrees of humility given the situation

We can see here how Paul’s metaphor breaks down

His put off and put off – like changing out of our old clothes into new clothes
– we would not say, “Put on humility,” as if we were putting on a T-shirt
• Paul isn’t saying it’s okay to be conceited or arrogant,
◦ as long as you act humble once in awhile
• it is only an act, if I’m doing something humble, while thinking, “I’m better than this”
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself [or herself] more highly than [they] ought to think, but think with sober judgment , each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned (Ro. 12:3)
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Php. 2:3-4)
– and while we’re here in Philippians, I might as well point out:
• every lesson we can learn re: humility, we learn from Jesus
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Php. 2:5-8)
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly [humble] in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Mt. 11:29)

I’m sure you could help me further develop this next point

What humility is not:
– “toxic shame”: to be ashamed of your “self” as opposed to feeling shame over an action
• I do this when I degrade myself with name-calling, “I’m stupid,” “a loser,” “hopeless”
• being obsessed with guilt, is not humility
humiliation: when you feel you’ve been reduced to nothingness
• treated like a non-person
• in scripture, it is what an enemy will do to a person
◦ or it is a punishment God inflicts on the arrogant
◦ later on, self-humiliation became the excessive ascetic practice of some monks
Paul warns the Colossians away from this:
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism–i.e., an exaggerated humbleness
These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Col. 2:18 and 23)
low self esteem or self-loathing
• if you hate yourself, you can’t think that means you’re humble
• it means you need to see a therapist
worm theology: the belief that in comparison to God’s majesty, we have no more dignity than worms
• we are made in image and likeness of God
◦ that is not small, it is not nothing
◦ more than once, Jesus emphasized your worth to God
We have misunderstood the virtue of humility
– we either under value it or overdo it

There will never be a “humility contest,”
– no award given to the most humble person
• Paul does hint at a competition in his letter to the Romans
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor (Ro. 12:10)
– I know that I tend to take myself too seriously
• I also know I sometimes fail to take others seriously enough
• in the social structure of the kingdom of God,
◦ there is no one below me
. . . the disciples came to Jesus, saying “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 18:1-4)
◦ on another occasion
You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:42-45)

Now we can begin to think about what humility looks like

Olivier Clement, “Humility should be practical and realistic.”
– humility is made real through voluntary service
For you were called to freedom . . . . Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
– humility is what makes it possible for us to apologize
– humility is what makes it possible for us to let go of an insult
Clement, “Humility makes forgiveness possible . . . .”
– humility is what pleases God
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Jas. 4:6)
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isa. 57:15)
Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me . . .?
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word (Isa. 66:1-2)
– I didn’t know what to make of Olivier Clement’s statement, “The mixture of sin and humility is worth more than the mixture of virtue and pride.”
• but then he quoted John Chrysostom (a fourth century preacher)
Chrysostom, “. . . remember the Pharisee and the [tax collector] . . . One relied on his own righteousness, on his own fasting and the tithes that he paid. The other needed to say only a few words to be free of all his sins.” (see Luke 18:9-14)
– humility is the necessary prerequisite for becoming a disciple
Arthur Deikman, Humility “is the attitude required for learning.” “Humility is the acceptance of the possibility that someone else can teach you something you do not already know, especially about yourself. Conversely, pride and arrogance close the doors of the mind.”

Conclusion: I don’t have much advice regarding how to become humble

One thing I can suggest is the consistent practice of confession
– pray the tax collector’s prayer, God, be merciful to me, a sinner!
You are not a worm – but neither are you an angel
You’re a human – so is everyone you know
We can confess our limitations and inadequacies – I can say:
“I don’t know about many things. I don’t know how to be humble”
If we do this, then Jesus will gladly teach us
Then we discover that by stepping down, we are carried up

Feb 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 27, 2022

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Put on then, as God’s chosen, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness . . . . Colossians 3:12

Intro: We are working our way through Paul’s virtue list here in Colossians 3

But this morning it is difficult to not be distracted by war in Ukraine
– millions of desperate prayers are reaching out to God to bring an end to it
• we’ve seen heartbreaking images and also steadfast bravery
• last week our theme was compassionate hearts
◦ and by your response to that talk, I know you are in pain for the many victims of this conflict

I am going to say three things about the Russian/Ukraine war and then let it go
1. the war is the doing of world governments, and no one is innocent
• Ukraine has waged war on Luhankst since 2014
◦ Russia has provided military aid to the Luhankst People’s Republic
◦ the U.S. has not acknowledged the legitimacy of the Luhankst independence
• governments act in their own interests, not civilian interests
◦ citizens are often victims of their government’s decisions
◦ and they are men, women, and children like us
2. the key issue is not how this proves we’re living in the end times
• our concern is for human lives right now – that they have shelter, safety, food and water
• we work and pray for peace in this present world
◦ locating where we are on an eschatological timeline is not the priority
3. already we are witnessing generous acts of kindness
• Poland has welcomed 120,000 refugees with open arms
• Tom and Alida Sharp lived and ministered in Ukraine
◦ he received this message from a former student:
Ruslan Ilchenko, “Friends and relatives from Russia call and write, The biggest thing that touches my heart from their words is when they cry and apologize for Putin’s aggression! They say: ‘We supported him regarding the introduction of troops into the LDNR to protect against Ukrainian troops, not to attack other civilian cities, and especially the “Mother City” Kiev. We are ashamed, forgive us if you can. . . .’”

I suspect that this one word, kindness, could change our lives

Compared to other human actions, the energy of kindness is weak
– a glance at the vice list in verses 5 and 8, we see powerful energy of:
• anger, malice, slander, sexual immorality, and greed
• there is an excess of anger in our country
◦ if not always out in the open, it seethes beneath surface
◦ sadly, it has become characteristic of many Christians
(those who scare me the most are the ones who say hateful things with a smile)
– however, if we let kindness work in our souls,
• we will find a strength in doing good we never knew possible
• kindness waters the earth with goodness and hope
◦ it washes and bandages every sort of wound
◦ kindness could heal the world

The poets and prophets of Hebrew Scriptures were captivated by God’s kindness

Oh, how abundant is your [kindness],
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you . . . (Ps. 31:19)
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good [kind]! (Ps. 34:8)
. . . in your goodness [kindness], O God, you provided for the needy (Ps. 68:10)
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever! (Ps. 107:1)
You are good [kind] and do good; / teach me your statutes
(Ps. 119:68)
Peter O’brien, Kindness “is a quality which God himself demonstrates in concrete actions.”
Thus says the LORD: In this place of which you say, “It is a waste without man or beast,” in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD:
‘Give thanks to the LORD of hosts,

for the LORD is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Jer. 33:10-11)
The LORD is good,
a stronghold in the day of trouble;
he knows those who take refute in him (Nahum 1:7)
– the reason one word can mean both kind and good is because goodness is embodied in kindness
• kindness is one way that goodness is materialized,
• one way goodness expresses itself

Kindness is the fruit that grows from a compassionate heart

Jesus qualified forgiveness by saying, forgive from the heart
– that is where kindness originates
• but it does not stay there
◦ it is possible to feel pity for someone and do nothing
• when we read that Jesus was moved with compassion,
◦ the movement itself was kindness
– kindness engages our bodies,
• it requires the use of our hands and feet, our listening and speaking
• and, because kindness is what we do with our bodies,
◦ it works within us even though we are showing kindness to someone else
◦ it works God’s love deeper into our organs, muscle, tissues, and bones
• even children know the inner experience of being kind

The Greek word is given interesting meanings in New Testament

Once, when Paul was at sea and the ship was battered by a storm,
– fearing it would be torn apart,
• the sailors passed ropes under the hull and tightened with winches
◦ Luke says,
. . . they used supports to undergird the ship (Acts 27:17)
◦ here the word for kindness is translated “supports”
• kindness can be a form of support – it holds things together
– then there is Jesus’ famous invitation in Matthew 11
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Mt. 11:28-30)
• in this instance, the word for kindness is translated “easy”
• to show kindness is to assist someone one with their burden
◦ to ease the load they carry
◦ by showing kindness, we make a person’s struggle or suffering easier

I don’t want to sell you on the health benefits of being kind

You can find that information online
– I would recommend Mayo Clinics “Kickstart Kindness” program
• but I will return to a point I made last week
• at least I tried to make this point
◦ the value of using the virtues spiritual exercises or practice,
◦ is that they free our minds of worldly obsessions,
and help us to become more aware of God’s presence
• this is what Paul is getting at with this list and why it follows,
. . . seek the things that are above, where Christ is . . . . Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Col. 3:2)
– when we perform a kind action, we move out of ourselves
• what happens when I move out of myself with awareness?
◦ I awaken to a larger reality
• not just the reality of other people and their suffering
◦ but the dimensions of God’s love, God’s kindness, God’s Spirit
◦ I also discover a “me” that is greater than my old self (v. 9)

Some of us question our usefulness to God
– maybe we don’t feel like we know the Bible well enough
• that we don’t have enough training to be good representatives of Jesus
◦ we have weakness that we imagine will hold us back
• or perhaps we’ve done things we’re now ashamed of,
◦ so we assume God wants to use someone more righteous
– but the thing about kindness is that weakness and failure do not disqualify us
• in fact, it is just the opposite; they make us more credible
◦ a favorite line from Luke refers to a paralytic that Jesus healed
he rose up . . and picked up what he had been lying on and went home (Lk. 5:25)
◦ he carried home the stretcher that had carried him
• what had been our dependencies and addictions
◦ are now sources of wisdom, empathy, and strength
◦ not only can we handle our own stuff, but we can help others with their stuff

Conclusion: Yesterday afternoon, I took Kona for a walk

I kept repeating the word “kindness” in my mind
It occurred to me that I was seeing others in a different way
I had a different sort of feeling about each person I saw
It seemed like I was prepared and primed for an opportunity

I realized that’s the life I want to live–
and I hope it’s the life you want to live
Try it this week,
put the word kindness somewhere that you will see it,
think of kindness, repeating the word in your mind
and see if that doesn’t enlarge your perspective and open your heart

Feb 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 20, 2022

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts Colossians 3:12

Intro: Growing up, every Sunday morning I polished my shoes

We had to look our best for church – besides that,
– I had a grandfather who taught my mom,
• “You can always judge a man by his shoes”
• if she lived by that rule, she would have never dated my dad
– Paul uses clothing as a metaphor – the changing of our values, attitudes, and behavior
• we are to discard our old lifestyle and become our new self in Jesus
◦ Peter makes a similar point:
Do not let your adorning be external . . . but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart . . . which in God’s sight is very precious (1 Pe. 2:13-14)
• as a guide to changing our spiritual apparel, Paul provides a list of virtues to compliment our ensemble
◦ today we’re going to begin working our way through that list

Paul’s first concern is that we know who we are

Can you see why this is important?
– Jesus’ critique of Pharisees:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me (Mt. 15:8)
you clean the outside of the cup . . . but the inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence . . . . For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Mt. 23:25-27)
• if all we have is a list, it will seem our lives are meant to be rule-based
◦ that’s how people make themselves pious without transformation
◦ and how they appropriate rules in order to pronounce judgment on others
• God works from inside out – virtues express who we are
Eduard Lohse, “In this list, the accent is not placed on a certain disposition, but on the action through which the new [self] reveals [its] identity. To be sure, were it only out of [our] own resources, [we] would be incapable of such actions. . . All these virtues are fruits of the Spirit.”
– in this instance, Paul emphasizes three words:
1. Chosen: Imagine growing up in an orphanage
• every night you pray that someone comes and chooses you
• I think it’s important for us to know that we’re wanted
Jesus to the disciples: You did not choose me, but I chose you (Jn. 15:16)
2. Holy: This is like a mark God puts on us
• how he identifies us as his people; we belong to him
You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy (Lev. 19:2)
3. Beloved: Grendal’s wife, Monica, recommended a YouTube video to me
• a message Henri Nouwen gave on being God’s beloved
◦ I just finished a biography of his life and learned that this became his passion in his final years
Nouwen in Life of the Beloved, “We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses and friends loved or wounded us. That’s the truth of our lives. That’s the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That’s the truth spoken by the voice that says, ‘You are my Beloved.’”
• this is what Paul is telling us – this is who you are

At the top of the virtues list, “Put on . . . compassionate hearts”

The Greek language behind these two words is colorful
– both of them refer to internal organs – our “inward parts”
• when Bible refers to our viscera–heart, kidneys, bowels–
◦ it is reaching for the most sensitive source of our emotions
Peter O’brien, Paul is “expressing strongly and forcefully what concerns the personality at the deepest level, especially in [our] capacity for loving.”
• these same two words in Philippians 2:1 are translated affection and sympathy
◦ they refer to emotions, longings, mercies, and empathy
– behind these words is the very nature of God revealed in Jesus
• when God gave Moses the fullest possible revelation of himself,
◦ the first words he spoke were:
The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious (Ex. 34:6)
And in Lamentations:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness (Lam. 2:22-23)
◦ Paul refers to God as
the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3)

In verse 13, Paul will define our forgiveness in terms of its quantity and quality
– it is to be identical to God’s forgiveness of us
• I believe this is true of each of the virtues
◦ all of them are reflected in Jesus Christ
◦ even the opening words, chosen – holy – beloved are used in reference to Jesus
• so if you need an example of a compassionate heart, you need look no further than Jesus:
◦ who when a leper came to him and said, If you will, you can heal me, we are told,
Moved with compassion [Jesus] stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean” (Mk. 1:41)
◦ when Jesus saw the crowds that had come to him,
he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Mt. 9:36)
◦ a woman who had committed many sins, loved Jesus much because he had forgiven her much (Lk. 7:47)
◦ then there was the adulteress that Jesus refused to condemn (Jn. 8:11)
– Jesus is the incarnation of a compassionate heart

There is one more thing I want to say about this
– several places in the New American Standard Bible reads, Jesus felt compassion
• this may seem like I’m splitting hairs,
◦ but for Jesus compassion was not a mere feeling
◦ he was compassionate – he was and is compassion itself
• feelings come and go
◦ they alternate through pity, condescension, disgust, and contempt
◦ but a compassionate heart produces a state of being
◦ it is an automatic and consistent attitude and response to others
– when Jesus told his disciples how to love everyone, the example he gave them was God:
and you will be sons [and daughters] of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful (Lk. 6:35-36)
• we cannot give greater emphasis to what Paul is saying than Jesus did in those verses
◦ what we experience from God, finds its home in us
◦ it reconfigures our inner parts

What is the opposite of a compassionate heart?

A hard heart – one that cannot be moved
– a hard heart can refer to stubbornness – and is related to a stiff neck
– it can be unfeeling – is never moved with pity or compassion
– a hard heart can be dense – stuck in old paradigms
• the disciples should have discerned something when Jesus fed a crowd from meager rations
. . . they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened (Mk. 6:52)
Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? . . . Do you not yet understand? (Mk. 8:17-21)
A compassionate heart is an open heart
– once we make a judgment about another person,
• we close off the possibility of a having different perspective
◦ we cannot learn something new about them
• a compassionate heart resists judgment
– the open heart makes room for all the other virtues
• room for peace and understanding
• room for new information and insights
• room for God to do something new and unheard of

God can do something with a compassionate heart

He can do something that connects the heart to everyone
– most everyone we know can look at a photo of a starving child,
• or the sad face of an abused puppy, and feel pity
• but few of us can look into every human face and feel compassion
◦ that is what God feels for every human person
◦ that is the ultimate work he performs in his children
– a compassionate heart can connect to everyone and everything
• a tiny mustard seed matters, because it shelters a mystery
◦ it not only contains the power of life and growth,
◦ but it is also a symbol of something infinite and eternal
• Evagrius taught, every created thing carried a revelation of God
“These he has produced, as the letters of the alphabet, so to speak, by his power and his wisdom, that is to say, by his Son and by his Spirit . . . .”
Olivier Clement, “The world is the gift of God. We must know how to perceive the giver through the gift.”
◦ a compassionate heart sees the world through new eyes

Conclusion: Now we know one item to add to our wardrobe

Every piece of clothing we wear, we put on for a reason
– for instance, we put on the whole armor of God to defend ourselves from the schemes of the devil
What is the reason for putting on compassionate hearts?
The answer is in the first two verses of this chapter
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Col. 3:1-2)
How can my awareness rise above my anxieties and distractions?
Is it even possible for me to put my mind on transcendent realities?
It is, if first of all I am willing to allow God to share with me
his compassionate heart
We are dressing up for this!
A greater awareness of the kingdom of God
An awakening to God in this present moment
A consciousness of things above and beyond,
to escape the prison of worldly things
and enjoy fellowship with our Lord Jesus

Feb 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 13, 2022

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And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son . . . . But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen Matthew 22:1-14

Intro: Two weeks ago I read a list of character qualities in Colossians chapter 3

Although it seems like Paul rattles them off,
– each one requires years of devoted practice to embody them fully
• I said then, it would be good for us to meditate on the qualities in that list
• I realize it would be very good for me – and we’ll start today
– so why are we in Matthew this morning and not Colossians?
• because Paul frames the list within a specific context
◦ before the character qualities, he produced a list of vices
◦ regarding those vices, Paul says,
now you must put them all away . . . seeing you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (Col. 3:5-10)
◦ then he begins the list of virtues with,
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved . . . (v. 12)
◦ the context, then, has to do with this allusion to putting off and putting on

That is why we being with Jesus’ parable in Matthew

Reading it, I find myself carried up and down with alternating emotions
– first joy at the prospect of the heavenly wedding reception
• then gratification, because Jesus exposes hypocrisy of his religious critics
• but then, I am disturbed and thrown off balance
– first, at the king’s retaliation against those who insulted him (v. 7)
• but I’m bothered most of all at the king’s treatment of one guest
• I identify with that person more than any other in the story

When something I read in scripture disturbs me, I pause and deep breath
– this is a parable–and parables speak through symbols and analogies
• to understand Jesus’ meaning, we have to interpret the parable
• even that isn’t enough–a full understanding requires insight given by God’s Spirit
– how it looks to us:
• this guy is thrown out of the reception over a technicality – a minor offense
◦ but remember, this is Jesus who is telling the story
◦ and literal clothing was not an issue for him
◦ the meanings behind the symbols are bigger than the literal object or idea
• the only people who were excluded from the reception were:
◦ those who excluded themselves by rejecting the invitation
◦ and a man who took being there for granted
• every other type of person was accepted, bad and good (v. 10)

The man’s offense was not merely a lack of respect or reverence
– but he accepted the invitation, thinking he did not have to change
• “change” is the first word of Jesus’ message
After his baptism and temptation: From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 4:17)
• not changing into wedding clothes symbolized a more significant failure
– Jesus had in mind people who pretend to be disciples, but aren’t
• if I can put it this way:
◦ this guy came and sat in the house of God with a godless heart

It might surprise you, how often clothing is mentioned in scripture

From the Garden of Eden, when humans first felt shame over their nakedness,
– to the last chapter of Revelation, where those who wash robes are blessed,
• clothes do more than cover the body
• clothing:
was expensive and calculated among a person’s assets (2 Ki. 5:22)
signified status – long sleeves of pampered royalty (2 Sam. 3:18)
– was like body-language–communicated emotional state
• joy and celebration
Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart . . . . Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head (Ecc. 9:7-8)
• torn clothes could signify frustration and anger (2 Ki. 5:7)
◦ or devastating grief (Job 1:20-21)
• sackcloth was a way of praying with the body
◦ it spoke of a person’s despair or desperation (1 Chr. 21:16)
identified women who were widows (Gen.38:14)
• and also identified people with contagious skin diseases (Lev. 13:45)
there are stories in scripture in which clothing plays important role in plot
• changing in and out of clothes (Gen. 38:14 & 19)
• using clothes to deceive someone (Josh. 9:4-5; 1 Ki. 14:2)
• David put off Saul’s armor, “This isn’t me” (1 Sam. 17:39)
• my favorite: the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ robe
◦ I read that story this week – at the same time I was reading in Leviticus
◦ the priests were sheltered in sanctuary so no one could touch their holy garments
(the touch of a normal person would violate the holiness that permeated the fabric)
◦ when the woman touched Jesus, he asked, Who touched my garments?
not because he felt he had been defiled, but he felt someone being healed
◦ he really did change religion — he brought God’s holiness out into the world

Now we have the context for Paul virtue list

Put off the old self and its vices – Put on new self and its virtues
– the image he uses is that of taking off old clothes and putting on new clothes
• get rid of old habits, the old lifestyle, the old person
• become your new person in Jesus
– can you hear your mom, “Take off that ridiculous shirt!”?
• it’s sort of like that
◦ the difference is that Mom’s concern was about image
◦ Paul’s concern is about identity
• image is about how we look – identity is about who we are

Christians in the first four or five centuries of Church history,
– were very fond of vice and virtue lists
• Paul provides several lists like this one in his other letters
◦ so did Jesus–for instance, the Beatitudes
• in time, they were streamlined into seven or eight vices and virtues
– one reason believers appreciated these lists,
• was that they provided clear boundaries and guidance
◦ the lists showed them how to keep themselves out of trouble and in God’s will
• but there was another more important and valuable reason
◦ these lists laid out a spiritual path for living in God
◦ the lists were an aid to prayer, helping them to clear their minds and keep their focus

One Beatitude sums up the purpose of all Beatitudes and virtues
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8)
– avoiding vices and practicing virtues serve this purpose
Olivier Clement, “It frees human nature to follow its deep instinct to ascend towards God.”
Arthur Deikman, “But piety, for its own sake is not the point. In mystical science, virtuous behavior is prescribed as a necessary step in the development of intuitive perception. Mystics . . . know that virtuous behavior leads to specific psychological effects essential to their goal.” “Traditional virtues are consistent with the underlying reality and provide the possibility of knowing that reality. Virtues prepare the mind for a more advanced perception.”
• Deikman warns, we can desire spiritual development for the wrong reason
Deikman, “Most people bring to meditation an acquisitive, self-centered orientation that is the cultural norm. According to the mystical literature, such an attitude determines the outcome of meditation. For this reason, the instructions that accompany the classical descriptions of meditation deal first with the necessity of ‘purifying the heart’ – developing a selfless orientation – before aspiring to special powers [experiences].”
– this will be our purpose in carefully reading Paul’s virtue list
• to wash the windows of our heart in order to see God with greater clarity

Conclusion: Last week I closed by saying,

“Even when you’re not praying, think about God”
– as I did that this week, I found my mind goes to deep issues
• “purpose of life” issues – “meaning” issues
– am I doing anything significant enough to give me:
aesthetic satisfaction before I die? Am I creating beauty that will last?
altruistic satisfaction before I die? Am I doing good for others that will be remembered?
gravity satisfaction before I die? Am I causing others to think about the deeper issues of life?
grace satisfaction before I die? Am I sharing anything that will free others and lift them up?

This is why we want a list like Paul provides
It is better for us than a list of the healthiest foods
Better than the best program for physical fitness
More valuable than lessons on how to amass a fortune
This is the sort of list that will help each of us continue to be a good person
and live the life of Jesus in such a way as to brighten the world

Feb 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 6, 2022

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For your name’s sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Who is the man who fears the LORD?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
HIs soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
Psalm 25:11-15

Intro: The heading of this psalm tells us it was composed by David

I usually try to ignore the Psalm headings
– if David wrote it, we’re tempted to locate an event in his life’s story that “explains” it
(for instance, explains the theme and mood of the psalm)
• Bible teachers who do not “get” poetry or do not like poetry frequently look for connections outside the psalm itself
◦ as though, if we do not know context, we can not know the poem’s meaning
◦ but poems carry their own meaning, and their context is normal life
• the psalms are general enough to fit everyone’s experience
◦ we must let them speak for themselves regardless of the author
– the “poet” who penned Psalm 25 was in trouble — he faced:
• the threat of many enemies whose hatred was violent
• he suffered emotional distress and physical affliction
• his guilty conscience told him he did not deserve help
◦ he needed something more than “religion” could provide
◦ he needed the assurance of a special closeness with God

Today I will give my last talk on “intimacy”

If you want to learn more about intimacy, you’ll have to consult an expert
– I’ve surveyed our closest human relationships – and today I’ll talk about intimacy with God
• the greatest intimacy that we can experience is with our Creator
• no one knows us better – and – no one loves us more
– the challenge of this relationship is, of course, on our side
• how well do we know him?
• but that is the good news of the “gospel”
◦ God wants us to know him, and to know him well
◦ intimacy with him is his desire and design
(that is why God has given us a Bible, and why he gave us Jesus)

Before I give you a method for developing intimacy with God

I have to tell you, there is no method for developing intimacy with God
– the Lord draws us to himself in his grace and by the energy of the Spirit
• we do not work our way into it
◦ it’s like our other intimate relationships
◦ it develops over time, simply by being together
• opportunities come to us every day, every minute of every day
– the experience of intimacy with God may stir our emotions,
• but it’s more than a feeling we get in prayer or worship
• it is a continuous companionship
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him (Col. 2:6)
◦ we received Jesus–as a gift
◦ we continue to “receive” friendship with him all our lives

When we went through Hebrews, a key idea running through the whole book was,
draw near to God – this is goal of our spiritual existence
Therefore, brothers [and sisters], since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus . . . let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith (Heb. 10:19-22)
• James simplifies the instruction:
Draw hear to God, and he will draw near to you (Jas. 4:8)
– to know more about God, we’ll want to study Bible or theology
• those studies can strengthen our foundation,
• but our goal is not an intimate knowledge of the Bible,
◦ and it is not a theological intimacy, but a relational intimacy
◦ the experience of intimacy is more important than knowing about it

For me, the most beautiful statement in this psalm is verse 14

“Friendship” translates a Hebrew word that implies intimacy
– a secret interaction, a shared closeness, an intimate conversation
• it is used to describe God’s secret assembly or council
For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD

to see and to hear his word
or who has paid attention to his word and listened? . . .
But if they had stood in my council,
then they would have proclaimed my words to my people (Jer. 23:18 and 22)
• it is as if God has a private office
◦ no one is allowed access except his closest friends
◦ the psalm tells us certain people are given that privilege
– it is a daring idea and one that few religions have attempted — that a human could be friends with a deity
• Abraham was the first to be called God’s friend (2 Chr. 20:7; Isa. 41:8)
◦ that leads to an interesting insight into intimate friendship in Genesis
The LORD said [to himself], “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed him? For I have [known] him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him (Gen. 18:17-19)
◦ God was so close to Abraham, that he could not hold back information he knew would affect his friend
• the New Testament is equally bold when it talks about “fellowship” with God
and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 1:3)

The next important word is one we do not understand very well
– “fear” – most everyone’s first reaction,
“Am I supposed to be afraid of God?!”
• first, you would be silly not to be afraid
◦ we have no concept of how immeasurably vast God is
◦ nor do we appreciate his “otherness” – how different he is from ourselves or anything we know
(God is not a human blown out to infinite proportions)
• however, that is not what is meant here
– fear is used as a comprehensive term for our total relationship with God
(it is an abbreviation for knowing, loving, and serving God)
• fear express the essence of a Creator and creation encounter
◦ fear stands for respect and reverence – it means we know our place
it means we take God seriously!
(this is why, in the Our Father, the first thing Jesus taught us to pray was, “hallowed by your name,” or, literally, “let your name be revered”
• ideas and concepts do not scare us
◦ we play with them – manipulate them
◦ God, however, is not a concept, and,
. . . without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he IS and that he rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6)

The second line of the psalm is as rich as the first
covenant is a major theme in the Scriptures
• the Christian Bible is divided into the Old and New Covenants
• what a covenant does is guarantees a relationship between two parties
◦ it can be a treaty between nations,
◦ a business agreement between partners or companies,
◦ a pact between two individuals
◦ or the formal commitment lovers in marriage
– God’s relationship with Abraham was a friendship covenant
• God’s relationship with Israel was a marriage covenant
◦ the most beautiful expression of this is found in a parable Ezekiel relayed
When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love . . . and I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine (Eze. 16:8)
• when Israel broke that covenant, God promised a new one
Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers . . . my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD (Jer. 31:32)
◦ the new covenant became effective when Jesus presented the cup to disciples and said,
This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood (Lk. 22:20)
– from the beginning, the goal of God’s covenant was intimacy
And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring . . . to be God to you and to your offspring (Gen. 17:7-8)
• this is always the very heart of the covenant
I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God (Ex. 6:7)
◦ we personalize it when we say, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (Song 6:3)
• it was always about God’s love for his people
the LORD appeared to [Israel] from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you (Jer. 31:3)
• this is the significance of God making known his covenant
◦ we discover the closeness that he offers us

Conclusion: Like I said, there is no method for achieving intimacy with God

But there is a matter of saying “Yes” to God – of accepting his offer
– we do that, not once in a lifetime, but every day
• like every relationship, this one thrives on communication
◦ for instance, this entire psalm is a prayer
• v. 4, Make me to know your ways, O LORD
◦ like our intimate knowledge of our spouse’s habits, quirks, and idiosyncrasies
Moses prayed, . . . please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight (Ex. 33:13)
– prayer is not:
• searching for the right words;
• “working” God (the way my grandchildren work me)
• or trying to evoke God’s pity; or convince him that he should help you
• it’s not trying to muster up the right kind of faith so we get what we want
Prayer is another interaction in an ongoing conversation
It is our here and now awareness of God
and that awareness awakens us to everything
There is no need to use lots of words in prayer,
what is important is having an awareness of his presence
Evagrius, “A single word in intimacy is worth more than a thousand at a distance.”

Otherwise, even when you are not praying,
think about God during the day
There will be many reminders in the world around you,
if your heart is set on thinking about your heavenly Father
After all, you are his and he is yours

Jan 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 30, 2022

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For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge Colossians 2:1-3

Intro: Occasionally Paul will share these rare gems

Brief statements, packed with profound concepts
– for instance, he has introduced the Colossians to a mystery (cf. Col. 1:25-29)
• everything about our transcendent God is mystery and hidden
◦ some things have been revealed
. . . the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints (Col. 1:26)
◦ the ultimate revelation of God is Jesus Christ – and that revelation keeps unfolding more truth
• the Colossians could reach the “riches” of God’s self-revelation
◦ they just needed encouragement to become fully familiar with him
– this was not an individual quest or project
• it was the journey of the entire community
• so one of the conditions was that their hearts were knitted together in love

For the past three weeks my talks have been about intimacy

If you find yourself interested in intimacy, it’s because intimacy is a human need
– without touch, we whither, without closeness we alienate
• it’s not a luxury – and it is also necessary for our spiritual development
• intimacy can occur naturally and spontaneously almost as side-effect of being together
◦ we do something together and a connection forms
◦ a relationship is established and if continued, it deepens
– we’ve looked at intimacy in the context of family and friendships
• today I want to talk about how it applies to the “church”

Now, from start, I admit we have to leap a couple of hurdles

First, “intimate” may not be the best word to describe our closeness in Christian community
– but how do you describe the relation of body parts to each other?
[Jesus] is the head of the body, the church (Col. 1:18)
• we could say that we enjoy unity with one another
• but that does not go as far as Jesus’ prayer that we be “one”
– if we spoke Greek, we could say we enjoy “koinonia”
• this word means to share something in common, a partnership, communion
• the bond that holds us all together in koinonia is agape (love)
agape has elements of familial love, friendship, romance, of compassion, and devotion
◦ but agape still goes beyond all these elements
– we have considered emotional intimacy, physical intimacy, and experiential intimacy
• perhaps we could talk about our “spiritual intimacy”

I think the second hurdle to leap is obvious, and that is “credibility”
– it’s one thing to idealistic – a dreamer, but it’s another thing to be delusional
• if I say, “Church is a place of intimate friendships,”
◦ I feel like I have to cross my fingers
• many people have been burned by churches
◦ like a mother who divorced abusive husband, and for that she and her children were banned from their church
– the general impression of church people is that they are:
• obstinate, closed-minded, judgmental, unloving, controlling, argumentative, hypocritical, and irrelevant
• pastors and their people can be painfully manipulative
◦ a classic example is when a preacher uses your love for God against you
“If you really loved the Lord, you would be on the mission field in Indonesia”
◦ guilt exerts a powerful pressure
(and the long term effect of guilt manipulation is spiritually and psychologically damaging)
– in a book I read recently, I found the following exhortation
(I will not mention the book or its author, because he has much to say that is good)
“If you know the mind of God, and do not share this knowledge with those who do not know, then what answer will you give to your lost friends and neighbors on the day of judgment? Upon hearing the decree of their condemnation, they may turn to you with terror in their eyes and say, “You knew about this? Why didn’t you tell me?”
• who came up with this scenario? this ugly religion?
• the purpose of this paragraph is to motivate (manipulate) the reader to do specific works to avoid an unpleasant experience in the here after

For me, the hard truth is that I must love unpleasant church people too
(even those who abused me from childhood to the present)
– these Christians whom I feel are misrepresenting Jesus,
• whose attitudes and behavior turn people away from the faith
• if I don’t love them, if I just criticize, reject and avoid them,
◦ I become just another version of the wrong thing
– we have to learn and adopt Jesus’ love for every person
• the misguided, misleading, bad advertisements, even abusers
• if we stop loving them, we stop holding out hope for them
◦ and we don not want to cancel hope for anyone

Paul provides instructions for developing spiritual intimacy

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 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.
Chapter 3:11-17
– consider writing out this list as a reminder and reflect on it
• also notice how Jesus is central to the lifestyle of spiritual intimacy
he is “all” and “in all” – we forgive as he forgave us
we let the peace of Christ rule in us
we let the word of Christ dwell in us
we do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus
– why does Paul keep coming back to Jesus?
• because we all need God!
• you’re not doing this on your own – you can’t! No one can
◦ this is the importance of our daily encounters with God
◦ our own experience of his love, goodness, beauty, strength
◦ so that through these moments with him, we receive his help for times of need

I want to turn now to two questions Henri Nouwen asks in Intimacy

Henri Nouwen, “Many are asking themselves if we are doomed to remain strangers to each other. Is there a spark of misunderstanding in every intimate encounter, a painful experience of separateness in every attempt to unite, a fearful resistance in every act of surrender? . . . We probably have wondered in our many lonesome moments if there is one corner in this competitive, demanding world where it is safe to be relaxed, to expose ourselves to someone else, and to give unconditionally. It might be very small and hidden. But if this corner exists, it calls for a search through the complexities of our human relationships in order to find it.”
– about the same time Nouwen published these questions,
• a Presbyterian pastor was answering them in a book entitled No Longer Strangers
◦ which he borrowed from Ephesians
So you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19)
Bruce Larson, “To me, the gospel is good news right now because in Jesus Christ we find a God who deals with perhaps the most oppressive and pervasive problem of our time—the problem of estrangement and loneliness.”
For Larson, the church that practices a relational theology becomes the “safe corner” we desire and need
– I am going to offer my answers to Nouwen’s question
• first, if we study and practice what Paul teaches here, we’ll find that safe corner
◦ in fact, we will become a safe corner
◦ we are not doomed to remain strangers
◦ already, we are no longer strangers

Where can we experience and nurture our spiritual intimacy?
– in prayer – praying together
• here I run into the same hurdle as when talking about the church
• prayer meetings have been notorious for their epic failures
◦ the seeds of church divisions have been planted in prayer meetings
– some people use prayer to draw attention to themselves through:
• the eloquence of their prayers
• the dramatic intensity and seriousness of their prayers
(intensity and seriousness are important; drama is for the theater)
• the amount of scripture they quote in their prayers
• their pious emphasis on the importance of prayers
(prayer is certainly important, but emphasizing it for attention is a distraction)
– then there are those who gossip in prayer
• or shouted at the devil rather than talk to God
• a lot can go wrong in prayer meetings before we get it right

I’m convinced that an awareness of God is where prayer begins
– a Christian mystic of the 6th century wrote,
Dionysus, “If we were on a ship, and to rescue us ropes attached to a rock were thrown to us, obviously we would not draw the rock any nearer to ourselves, but we would pull ourselves and our ship nearer to the rock . . . And that is why . . . in prayer we need to begin, not by drawing [God nearer to us] but by putting ourselves in his hands and uniting ourselves to him.”
• our intimacy with each other begins with our intimacy with God
– intimacy grows in prayer, because:
• we open our hearts and pray our deepest concerns and feelings with each other
• we labor in prayer together over shared concerns
• we confess to God our shared weaknesses
• we express to God our love, devotion, and adoration
• we are before God Spirit to spirit – and with each other spirit to spirit
◦ this is where intimacy is formed, not mind to mind or body to body,
◦ but seeing, knowing, and communing with each other spirit to spirit

Conclusion: One of the wonderful things about Christian community,

Is discovering how every other person is wonderful
Every other person becomes another spiritual resource
Comfort through hardship and sorrow
A wealth of insight and understanding
An encouragement and example
You see, we meet specific human needs by being who Jesus calls us to be