He had no idea. A few months ago a friend of mine asked me to give a teaching. It meant something to him, but it meant more to me.
Andy is the director of the Bible College I attended right out of high school. He wanted me to teach the theme for the semester, the phrase “dwell richly” from Colossians 3:16.
It was the Fall of 1996 when I began studying there. Now, there I stood, in the Fall of 2016, exactly 20 years later. Twenty years. Twenty years from the time God began to work in my heart. Twenty years of God’s faithfulness. So for me, standing up there teaching this fresh batch of students the Word of God, I was greatly encouraged.
God has been so good to me. When I think upon the past twenty years, I am filled with such confidence in God’s grace and mercy. He has provided, led, opened doors, and given grace. That’s what it’s all about. God's grace. When I have been faithless, he has been faithful, for he cannot deny himself.
Grace. The overwhelming grace of God. He has been there for me every step of the way. He has given me no reason to doubt him.
Joshua 5:13 (ESV)—13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?”
During those early years of my walk with him, God used this little passage from Joshua in a significant way. Joshua led the people of Israel into the Promised Land, further than Moses could take them. I imagine pressure, the burden of strategy. As Joshua gazed at Jericho, a fortified city, on the horizon, I see a man with weight on his shoulders. Perhaps he felt a pressure on his chest, a difficulty breathing.
Then the Lord appeared. He seemed to be a man, at first, to Joshua. His sword was drawn. He seemed ready for a fight, but Joshua had given no orders, had dispensed no battle plan. Joshua asked, "Are you with us or against us?"
The man responded straightforwardly: "I am the commander of the army of the Lord, and I’ve now come. Take off your sandals. This is holy ground.” Joshua worshipped. As he did, I imagine all the weight and pressure and worry evaporated as he bowed in the presence of His King.
In those first years with the Lord, He used this story to help me see His plans for me. Plans that, like Joshua's Jericho revelation, don’t make sense unless God is alive. Plans that go beyond my own human intellect. Plans that break the connect the dots orderliness we are comfortable with. But plans that include the power of God. As a younger man, the Lord used this story to release me of burdens and pressures and worries of my own.
He still uses this story in the same way. Twenty years later, standing in front of the student body I was once part of, God still whispers these same themes into my forgetful heart.
Joshua had never been next to Jericho, only across from it. I feel up against obstacles, dillemas, decisions I have never been up against before. But he is faithful. He is there. His plans are better than mine. I am to trust in Him.
Study Guide — Colossians 3:16 / CCBC Fall 2016 Theme / Dwell Richly
Paul had only heard of the church in Colossae.
- Colossians 2:1 (ESV)—1 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…
Part of what he’d heard — Colossians 1:3-8
- Their faith in Christ
- Their love for all the saints and in the Spirit
- Their response to the gospel, as it bore fruit in them
In response, he prayed for them.
- To be filled with the knowledge of Christ’s will (Colossians 1:9).
Because it seems there were those who wanted to fill them with something else.
- Colossians 2:8 — See that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit.
- These enemies of the gospel liked the words fullness and knowledge.
So Paul’s prayer for them to know Christ’s will was a preview.
- His letter serves as the knowledge of Christ’s will.
- The fullness and knowledge are found in Christ!
- Colossians 1:28a — Him we proclaim!
- Colossians 2:3 — In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
- Colossians 2:9 — In Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.
- Colossians 3:3 — You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God!
All this is why we are to let His word dwell in us richly.
- Colossians 3:16 (ESV)—16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Define: Dwell Richly
But what does this mean?
- The fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Jesus (Colossians 1:19).
- The whole fullness of deity dwells in Him bodily (Colossians 2:9).
- The word of Christ is to dwell in us richly.
Meaning: to make one’s home, to be at home, to have a permanent dwelling, to reside.
- So this word is something that we must allow to become an integral and permanent living force inside us.
What: Word of Christ
But what must dwell in us to that degree? The word of Christ! But what is the word of Christ?
- The word is from Christ — Christ’s Bible — the message He proclaims.
- The word is about Christ — the Bible of Christ — the message that proclaims Him!
- NLT Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.
Temptation: to go deep elsewhere.
- There are treasures forevermore in Jesus.
- Our tendency: controversies, prophecies, doctrinal obscurities.
- Or: asceticism, legalism, rituals, mysticism…
Why is this exhortation even necessary?
Because it is not automatic.
Who is this exhortation for?
- You, personally — Because it is personal. You must decide.
- You, collectively — Because it is communal. The community must decide.
Why must we allow the word of Christ to dwell richly in us?
Our tendency: to make it about something other than Christ.
Our world: thirsty for believers who’ve drunk deeply of Christ.
Our alternative: gruesome.
The word of Nate is shallow, at best, and poison, at worst.
How do we allow the word of Christ to dwell richly in us?
Various means: memorization, journaling, and study.
Context of Colossians 3:16:
- One another