Before I get into the teaching for today, I want to share something with all of us who call Epic Church home. The vision of Epic Church is to see an increasing number of people in San Francisco orient their entire lives around Jesus. This means we are seeking spiritual growth in the life of every person and it means we’re on a mission to reach more people with the good news of who Jesus is. And one of the ways we can help accomplish both goals is through consistent or recurring giving.
2 Corinthians 9:7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Recurring giving is a powerful way to make a pre-decision for our practice of generosity. We currently have right at 300 individuals or couples or families who give to the mission of Epic on a recurring basis. Our goal over the next three weeks is to add 30 recurring givers. Giving consistently establishes a habit of generosity in your life and it helps our church plan for future ministry. We are so grateful for the hundreds of people who already do this. If you would like to join them, you can let us know of your commitment by completing the card in your seats and we’ll turn those in towards the end of this gathering. And for those of you watching online, you can find this same card in a digital format by going to epicsf.com/recurringgiving.
How we see ourselves and each other determines so much about what we think, how we live, and what we expect. This means whatever I assume about who I am and whatever I assume about who you are will dictate how I treat you, how I respond when you hurt me, and what I believe about both of our futures. This is why we have to keep talking to each other about our true identity.
Who are you? How do you see yourself? Who told you who you are?
Are you living out of a false self or your true self?
They say, “Be true to yourself.” Okay, but which self? I’m calling today’s message, “Letting Our Truest Selves Emerge”. Our text is Colossians 3:12-17.
Colossians 3:12-17 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Before God tells us how to live, God tells us who we are.
Before we do anything for God, God tells us who we are.
Before our actions show it, God tells us who we are.
And this is how our passage begins today. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved”.
“One of the tragedies of our life is that we keep forgetting who we are and waste a lot of time and energy to prove what doesn’t need to be proved. We are God’s beloved daughters and sons, not because we have proven ourselves worthy of God’s love, but because God freely chose us.” Henri Nouwen, Here and Now
Chosen – by God. Let thank sink in. From the moment we’re little kids, we live with a longing to be chosen. By a friend. By a team. By the man or woman. By the company. And yet, you have been chosen by the God who created the entire world. He wants you.
Holy. Set Apart. Distinct. We belong to Jesus, which has significant implications for how we live.
Dearly Loved – We lose sight of this so often, usually based on what we have done or what we haven’t done. Let me remind you that our heavenly Father speaks the words over us that He spoke over Jesus before Jesus had done anything – “This is my daughter or son, whom I love; with her or him I am well pleased.”
There is a deep connection between our life with God and our life with each other.
How we live out this instruction as the Epic Church community will determine how much love is present, how much grace is present, and how much unity is present.
Now that we know our new identity in Christ, let’s wear it. Let’s live into our truest selves. I do not have to wear this wedding ring to be married to Shauna. However, when I wear this wedding ring, I’m displaying that I belong to Shauna. When we put on these virtues, we are displaying that we belong to Jesus. These virtues are compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Robert Mulholland gives an entire chapter to our text for today in his book, The Deeper Journey. He is very helpful in helping us understand what these virtues mean.
compassion – when you feel someone’s pain and share in their hurt
kindness – a sincere consideration for another person, a sensitivity to their tenderness and weakness
humility – taking the low position and considering others to be of great value
gentleness – it comes from a radical abandonment to God in love that frees us from the defensive, protective, self-promoting structures of the false self; it introduces the presence of unlimited grace into the relationship
patience – a willingness to allow God to work in his ways, in his time, in our lives and the lives of others
We cannot put on these virtues unless we are immersed in the lives of others. If I keep my distance from you and you keep your distance from me, we might feel like we’re part of a great community. But we have been called to be proximate to each other; it’s the only way we can put on these virtues.
How can you tell when spiritual growth is taking place in your life? Here’s one way we can know. Think about the actual person or the kind of person who is the hardest for you to love, to have compassion for, to be kind to, to be humble around, to be gentle towards, to be patient with. When these virtues begin to increase in your interactions with the people who are hardest for you, you will know that more of Christ is being formed in more of you.
Matthew 5:46-47 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
You can also tell that spiritual growth is happening when we begin to bear with each other and forgive each other. We spent April and May doing an entire series on forgiveness called Time to Make Up. I encourage you to go back and listen to those messages and especially the one Pastor Will did on May 28. His main verse was Colossians 3:13. But there is one thing I saw when looking at this verse and it was quite convicting to me…and I don’t want to be the only person here feeling convicted.
So, here it is:
Bearing with each other means letting each other be who we are.
Quick disclaimer before we go any further: This doesn’t mean we condone each other’s sins or that we don’t confront one another over harmful patterns in our lives. It means we let each other be who God made us to be. If you’re like me, you would love to control who people are and how they are. I mean, I have a vision for everyone’s life. How about you?
Who in your life do you need to let be who they are?
Spouse? Kids? Roommates? Relatives? Coworkers? Anyone on our staff team? Any leader in our church? Any person you’re leading in our church?
“Though it’s not easy, Jesus calls us to live together as a family of faith and commitment. In community we learn what it means to confess our weakness and to forgive each other. In community we discover what it means to let go of our self-will and to really live for others. In community we learn true humility. People of faith need community, for without it we become individualistic and, at times, egocentric. As difficult as it is, community is not really an option in the spiritual life.” Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Direction
While we do need each other, we need more than each other.
To become our truest selves, we need more of the presence of Jesus.
We’re told to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. One commentator states that this word “rule” is an athletic term that means to act as an umpire. If the peace of Christ is meant to be the umpire of our hearts, does anything need to shift for us?
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another. Just to be clear, this does not only apply to those of us who teach on this platform. This is something our entire community is called to do with each other.
Why was this important for the Colossians to know? Because, as we’ve learned, there were false teachers coming into the church – sharing things that weren’t true and claiming these things were from God.
If the word of Christ is not dwelling in you personally, you won’t be able to bring it into the lives of others in this community.
We could be telling each other things in this community, claiming these are truths from God…but it could be the exact opposite of what God has said.
How do we do this? We share God’s word with each other. This is the essence of what we share with one another. But the virtues we’ve mentioned should be how we share it with each other. We should absolutely share our convictions from Scripture, but we should do so with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We tend to either make compromises on God’s word or on godly character.
Gratitude marks our lives and gives us a song to sing.
What is your song in this season? We’ve been building a growing worship culture here at Epic because we want gratitude be a constant in our lives and in our church.
WHATEVER you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. There are some things you can never do in the name of Jesus.
Is there anything you’re doing that can ever be done in the name of Jesus?
Confess. Repent. It doesn’t go with your truest self in Christ.
But there are so many things in our everyday lives that can be done in the name of Jesus. This gets to our motives and our ambitions. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Whose glory are you living for? What are your true motives?
"It is not waht a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything." A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
All of life can be sacred: Relationships, Family, Work, Rest, Eating & Drinking (1 Cor 10:31), Leadership, Resolving Conflict, Pursuing Justice, and How We Spend, Save, and Give Our Money.
Who are you? Whose are you? You are invited to belong to Jesus.
If you belong to Jesus, are you living out of your truest self in Christ?