March 5, 2017 Sermon Titled: The Foundation Upon Which Discipleship Can Be Built

First Mennonite Church

March 5, 2017

 The Foundation Upon Which Discipleship Can Be Built

Text: Colossians 3:12-17

Last Sunday we saw Paul’s list of privileges the church has been given by God because of being in Christ, according to Ephesians. We also got to see the high expectations and responsibilities those privileges impose on the church. With both privileges and responsibilities in mind, Paul also gives a list of qualities members of the church should have in order to achieve the level of maturity and knowledge expected. The church, according to chapter three of Ephesians, should make known the boundless riches and the manifold wisdom of God’s grace to everyone and to all powers and authorities. The church, in Paul’s view, has the responsibility of displaying God’s holiness, desire for righteousness, sacrificial love and boundless compassion as Jesus did during his earthly ministry. That is what Paul meant when he said, that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:12, 13).

We also began to see that building up the church is what we call discipleship. And discipleship is the process of helping one another to develop a Christ-like character. But engaging in this process of helping each other requires mutual commitment and openness to one another to being instructed, counseled, corrected, affirmed, encouraged, and cared for in the church. That was the reason Paul’s first instruction is that we all should be “completely humble and gentle.” And that is the biggest challenge which we must overcome.

It is very interesting that Paul’s vision of the church of displaying God’s power and knowledge to the world begins by being completely humble and gentle. Paul does not call the church to overtake the world or to change the world through political power, but by being “completely humble and gentle.”

I said today we are going to look at the importance of patience as another major virtue necessary for discipleship. That is why besides the passage of Ephesians 4, where Paul calls for patience, I also want us to hear what he said to the Colossian church.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. A literal reading of this verse will be: “Clothe yourselves with bowels of compassion, kindness, etc.” but in our language today, we would say, “have a heart filled with compassion, humility, gentleness and patience.” So again, what is patience? The Greek word is makrothumia. Some Bible versions translate it “longsuffering,” which expresses much of the original meaning of this word. Patience is the ability to suffer for a long time without seeking to avenge the wrongdoing. Basically, patience is the strength to control our passion of anger for a long time without bursting out of control. And obviously the power to control one’s anger is beyond human strength. That is why patience is listed as part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, according to Galatians five. Yet, it is interesting that many people don’t want this fruit very much. We all want the rest of the fruit, well, at least love and joy and peace. But patience? In fact we hear people bluntly stating, “Do not try my patience, because you will regret it.” It amazes me when church people become so easily impatient.

Why do we need to be patient with one another? First remember that we are called to make every effort to keep unity of the Spirit in the body of Christ—that is the church. If we lack the power to control anger, or if we are easily annoyed, it will be difficult to stay together. Keeping unity of the Spirit will be impossible. But there are more practical reasons we need to be patient with one another. First, we all have different personalities, family, cultural or spiritual backgrounds and experiences. There are outgoing people and there are quiet ones. We do not see everything in the same way. We are not at the same level of spiritual maturity. We have different working habits. But here we are with one common goal: to help each other to collectively reflect Christ in his fullness to the world. Yet beside our differences, which make being patient necessary for unity of the Spirit and for discipleship, we need to realize that we are fallen beings. That is, we do not like being told what to do. Pride makes it difficult for us to accept correction. We do not like others “to intrude in our personal life, or business.”  We are afraid others would know our weaknesses, so we engage each other at surface level. We have great difficulty to engage in heart to heart conversations regarding our struggles and fears. And therefore, many of us walk alone along our spiritual alleys, with feelings of guilt, helplessness, and incompetency. So, even when we come together every week, it is possible to feel disconnected from the others. That feeling of disconnectedness is the result of not getting the support, care, and companionship of other believers.

Again, patience is an essential ingredient to being truly connected in the church. We can bear one another if we are patient with one another. But if at the least sign of difference we see or sense in the other we withdraw or push away our sister or brother, unity in the Spirit will always be elusive.

I think failing to acknowledge that we are all different is the first major reason we become impatient with one another. In other words, if we expect everyone who comes here to believe the same things as we do or to have the same views as we do, first we will be disappointed and then we will get irritated. Our differences should never be reasons for divisions or frustrations. Our differences should be reasons to celebrate. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? (1Corinthians 12:17).

Paul goes on to say, But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it (12:24-27).

Patience is essential where differences abound. The church is made up of all kinds of people. We are all different from each other. Pastor is different from John, Ryan, Jean and everyone else. And so are you. But if Pastor highlights their differences instead of what he has in common, Pastor will not benefit from the gift God has for him in the other three. Pastor will, in fact, see them as “problems” needing to be fixed. Or he will simply distance himself from Ryan, Jean, and John, thus failing to attain the unity of the Spirit. And as for the three, they might prefer keeping their distance from Pastor or refrain from full participation in church life. Besides, twill not share with Pastor when they are happy or struggling. But if Pastor emphasizes the common faith in Jesus and his calling, they all will want to support each other through prayer, share in times of need, and be mutually accountable to each other in love. That is the work of discipleship.

Dear church, if we want spiritual growth and unity of the Spirit, then patience is not optional for us. Patience is a fruit we all must cultivate and exhibit. Every time you see signs of difference in others ask God to give you his grace to bear patiently those differences. Every time you hear something that is different from how you think or believe, share with openness and humility your own views. I must admit I have difficulty with this and therefore am very aware of my own struggles with patience.

Everyone God has put around us is not to frustrate us because of his or her differences, but for us to learn humility and patience, but most importantly to enrich our lives. I know you cannot help but continue being different to from me, but I want to thank God for the reason of your being different from me, otherwise my world would be boring.

Let me close with Paul’s words again:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Pastor Romero