In Simplicity of Heart

Simplicity

Sunday 05/16/21

Series: Maintaining this hope

Message – In Simplicity of Heart

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In Simplicity of Heart

As we have been going through the book of Colossians we’ve had a greek word sort of woven into the fabric of our teachings. That word is Epi-gnosis (epee- no-see) or (epi-gnosis). Which by now you know in the relational context in which it is used in this letter means to come to know someone through relationship or through relational exposure to them. 

Very much like a father training up a son in a family business.

Now as we’re looking through Colossians we have been looking for elements of the resurrection or rapture such as…

  • The actual future rapture and the effect on our lives the hope of it inspires
  • God’s passion for us in desiring eternal communion with us and an abiding home within us
  • Our response to His passion

In our last teaching we ended with three major thoughts.

  1. God’s wrath is the relational and rational response of His heart towards man’s rebellious, prideful and hatefulness against His Son and the work of the Holy Spirit in attempting to influence and woow their hearts towards love and obedience to the Father. As such God’s wrath is a response to man’s rebellion which comes from a deep longing accompanied with grief.
  2. The sins addressed in this chapter are all sins of passion for things other than God, which makes his longing accompanied by grief the result of unfaithfulness and adultery. 
  3. Our Life (our union & intimacy) with God is hidden in Christ, which means we will only find our union and intimacy with God the Father through love & relational commitment and devotion to the Son – Jesus.

Now it’s been two weeks since we were here, so before we rush into new territory, let’s refresh our memories of these things we covered by reading the few verses which lead up to where we left off…

Col. 3:1-7,

“(1) If however you have risen with Christ, seek [exert effort & energy in the pursuit of] the things that are above, where Christ is, enthroned at God’s right hand.  (2)  Give your minds to the things that are above, not to the things that are on the earth.  (3)  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  

(4)  When Christ appearsHe is our true Life–then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

“(5)  Therefore put to death your earthward inclinations–fornication, impurity [averice – extreme greed], sensual passion, unholy desire, and all greed, for that is a form of idolatry.  (6)  It is on account of these very sins that God’s anger [wrath] is coming,  (7)  and you also were once addicted to them, while you were living under their power.”

This is a whole and completed thought. It started with “if” “abide” “live” and it ends the same way. 

Give your attention fully to that which you said you are committed to. 

Those sins of passion for things other than God are the focus of God’s wrath against the world. 

His anger, which is against man for their dismissive treatment of His Son and the Spirit – is a longing unfulfilled which brings deep heart grief. 

Jesus addressed this same possibility in the hearts of those who know Him, in the parable of the sower and the seeds. 

This kind of heart we are talking about here, would be best aligned with the heart in Jesus’ parable which was open to the word and received it, but which also allowed the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of wealth and the DESIRE FOR OTHER THINGS – to enter in and choke out the influence of the Spirit who reveals the Word – to us Who is Jesus!

But now, that we are His, along with those sins of passion which we used to substitute for finding our pleasure and fulfillment in God, we are now also to set aside these things…

“(8)  But now you must rid yourselves of every kind of sin–angry and passionate outbreaks, ill-will, evil speaking, foul-mouthed abuse–so that these may never soil your lips.  (9)  Do not speak falsehoods to one another, for you have stripped off the old self with its doings,  (10)  and have clothed yourselves with the new self which is being remoulded into full knowledge so as to become like Him who created it.”

I want to remind you that the first list had to do with outward passions and allegiances to things other than God. This second list has to do with how we behave towards those who God loves by loving them and seeking to live in peace with them ourselves. 

Put another way, the first list had to do with removing our passions from deadly things, the second list has to do with redirecting our passions towards things that make for life or things that are consistent with union with God. 

The word “Remoulded” is also translated in some bibles as “renewed”. It means, to make new, which is from kainós (G2537), qualitatively new. To be renewed completely by God.

Both the Old and the New “Self” or “man” – is a word which when used in this place focuses upon the nature and character of a person. Like I’ve been telling you for a while now… all these things are issues focused upon our character. 

It means the disposition or attitude which is created and cherished by the new nature that Jesus Christ gives to the believer in opposition to the old nature which was part of the fall. 

“(11)  In that new creation there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free man, but Christ is everything and is in all of us.”

Now I am getting a little bit ahead of myself here, but this phrase and others like it in the scriptures (like the one found in Galatians 3:28) are many times taken out of context in order to force an ideology being advanced more in our day perhaps than in any other.

The idea is NOT to say that there IS no distinction at all. 

In fact, Paul himself writes quite clearly about the advantages of the Jew over the Gentile as well as the debt the Gentiles who have come to Christ OWE to their Jewish brothers [See Rom. 3:1-2 & Rom. 15:26-27].

He and Peter both also, point out the distinctions of both marital and social role differences between men and women, parents and children, owners and servants. 

So it is not only WRONG to use this passage to say that such distinctions do not exist since they are clearly supported as valid and incumbent upon us in Christ. The New Testament is SO clear on these points that it makes all arguments against them clearly and decidedly – intellectually dishonest.

What Paul is referring to here is that one person does not have any advantage above another in becoming a New Creation. A gentile can come into Christ and live out their new nature in Him as readily and freely as any Jew… as can any slave..as freely as can their master…and so on.

But this freedom is tempered with a character of loving servitude as Jesus came to serve and not be served…and THIS is where we have to ask ourselves…Where is my line in the sand? 

Where is it that God could ask me to go that I would say, “I will go to this point – but no further!”

  • “Am I willing to give all He is requiring?”
  • “Am I willing to live as God tells me to?”
  • “Am I willing to submit to His ways, rather than force expressions of selfish independence?”

Where is my line in the sand?

Paul says,

“(12)  Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own people holy and dearly loved, with:

  • Tender-heartedness
  • Kindness
  • lowliness of mind
  • Meekness
  • Long-suffering
  • (13)  bearing with one another
  • and readily forgiving each other
  • if any one has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, you also must forgive.  

(14)  And over all these…

  • put on love, which is the perfect bond of union;  

(15)  and let the peace which Christ gives settle all questionings in your hearts, to which peace indeed you were called as belonging to His one Body; and be thankful.”

Finally we ended with these words which will serve as our springboard into the rest of this letter…

“(16)  Let the teaching concerning Christ remain as a rich treasure in your hearts. 

In all wisdom teach and admonish one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and sing with grace in your hearts to God.  

(17)  And whatever you do, in WORD OR in DEED, do EVERYTHING in the name of the Lord Jesus, and let it be through Him that you give thanks to God the Father.”  

When we looked at the domestic expressions of this for husbands and wives, children with parents the word Huppotasso came to the forefront. As you know it means to voluntarily place yourself under another. This is important as we finish out this letter.

Paul told us…

“(18)  Married women, be submissive to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  (19)  Married men, be affectionate to your wives, and do not treat them harshly.  (20)  Children be obedient to your parents in everything; for that is right for Christians.  (21)  Fathers, do not fret and harass your children, or you may make them sullen and morose.”  

Then he moved on to our public lives…

“(22)  Slaves, be obedient in everything to your earthly masters; not in acts of eye service, as aiming only to please men, but with simplicity of purpose, because you fear the Lord.  

…and this is where we get the title of the message – in simplicity of heart.

Countless are the stories that have been told of the liberating effects of ridding ourselves of all of the unnecessary things in our lives, and nowhere is that MORE true than in our motives!

We burden ourselves down with all manner of unnecessary heart baggage of pride and selfishness -> what others think.

Even when we are trying to please ourselves or obtain some goal we have set either of performance, money, possessions, positions, image and such – much of that is not as much determined by ourselves as by what we believe others will think of us. This is only natural. In fact, it is part of our design, but it has been distorted and turned inside out.

We were designed for God’s pleasure and the sure knowledge that our very existence and lives generate that pleasure. 

Since the fall, however, we find ourselves in the unnatural position of uncertainty. Because we lives of divided loyalties in that we live in and partake of both “selves” which Paul addressed earlier when he said, put off the old self and put on the new – our inner compass which was set to spiritual north at our creation now exists in a constant state of fluctuation. 

We are constantly in some middle phase of being spiritually dressed, we find ourselves seeking to obtain our sense of security and rest in not only God but in distorted understanding of Him AS WELL AS our idols of other humans. 

If we would seek after and pursue the Lord with all our hearts – it would unite our hearts to fear His name. As such, we would live NOT for the uncertain and fickle pleasure of man but for the stable and sure pleasure of God.

Also, when we do this SO MANY inner struggles are replaced with peace.

I’ll offer you an example.

I have an exceedingly small lawn business which allows me to get all of my accounts taken care of in a day – even though I work alone. However, in the summer heat, by the end of the work day I am often burning up and just ready to get home into the a/c, take a shower and recoup. This physical state helps generate an emotional and mental state which, if I let it, can influence how completely I accomplish my work.

I know my customers rather well and I know if I left certain things undone – they’d never notice. Some yards I could simply not edge that week, others I could skip out on the weed eating or portions of it – and my customers would almost certainly never notice nor care. If I allow myself that liberty, then my conscience begins to agitate me, I find myself second guessing my decision and weighing that against how impossibly hot and tired I am and if my “integrity” is really worth all this effort.

Then, I find myself reminded that I am not doing this for them. They are not my employers – God is. As such what I do and how I do it is a clear statement of my honor for Him. This reorients and invigorates me. It drives me to Him for strength rather than my mind and will for guidance.

In this worldview I find my decisions are largely already made for me and my inner struggle regarding conscience, morality and physical comfort are taken out of the way. Life becomes simple. It is amazing how often I have found strength for the task I would have avoided by simply embracing simplicity of heart. I honor God…and thats the end of it.

Now I am not only freed from unnecessary baggage, but I am freed through simplicity of heart to worship and NOT sense any inner conflict between my worship and my outward actions. I am made whole!

It’s quite wonderful really!

Paul says…

“(23)  Whatever you are doing, let your hearts be in your work, as a thing done for the Lord and not for men.  

(24)  For you know that it is from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. Christ is the Master whose bondservants you are.  (25)  The man who perpetrates a wrong will find the wrong repaid to him; and with God there are no merely earthly distinctions.”

Notice that Paul brings up judgment here, so my bothered conscience which I illustrated in my example was not lying to me. This is a moral issue – a character issue – an issue of genuine love and worship for which I will receive a reward or suffer loss.

Again I am reminded of a song from Michael Card called, Things we leave Behind, which in itself also reminds me of the book, Pilgrim’s Progress.

It goes like this…

There sits Simon, so foolishly wise, proudly he’s tending his nets.

Then Jesus calls and the boats drift away, and all that he owns he forgets.

But more than the nets he abandoned that day, he found that his pride was soon drifting away.

And it’s hard to imagine the freedom we find, from the things we leave behind

Matthew was mindful of taking the tax, and pressing the people to pay.

But hearing the call, he responded in faith, and followed the Light and the Way

Leaving the people so puzzled he found, the greed in his heart was no longer around.

And it’s hard to imagine the freedom we find, from the things we leave behind

Every heart needs to be set free, from possessions that hold it so tight

’cause freedom’s not found in the things that we own

it’s the power to do what is right.

With Jesus, our only possession, then giving becomes our delight,

and we can’t imagine the freedom we find

from the things we leave behind!

Colossians 4:1-18,

“(1) Masters, supply your slaves with what is right and fair, since you know that you too have a Master in heaven.” 

“(2)  Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.”

“(3)  At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah–for which I am in prison–  (4)  so that I may reveal it as I am required to speak.”

“(5)  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the time.  (6)  Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.”

“(7)  Tychicus, a loved brother, a faithful servant, and a fellow slave in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me.  (8)  I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are, and so that he may encourage your hearts.  (9)  He is with Onesimus, a faithful and loved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here.”

“(10)  Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, greets you, as does Mark, Barnabas’ cousin (concerning whom you have received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him),  (11)  and so does Jesus who is called Justus. These alone of the circumcision are my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.”

“(12)  Epaphras, who is one of you, a slave of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always contending for you in his prayers, so that you can stand mature and fully assured in everything God wills.  (13)  For I testify about him that he works hard for you, for those in Laodicea, and for those in Hierapolis.”

“(14)  Luke, the loved physician, and Demas greet you.”

“(15)  Give my greetings to the brothers in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.  (16)  And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.  (17)  And tell Archippus, “Pay attention to the ministry you have received in the Lord, so that you can accomplish it.”  

(18)  This greeting is in my own hand–Paul. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.”

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!

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