The Harmony of Love

August 6, 2023 ()

Bible Text: Colossians 3:12-17 |


The Harmony of Love | Colossians 3:12-17
Andy Lindgren | August 6, 2023

The words we’re going to be looking at this morning are found in Colossians 3:12-17. I invite you to turn there this morning as we prepare to look at that text together.

If you lived in Leipzig, Germany in 1750s, and if you liked to eat cheese or fish, you would have noticed something about the wrapping that the cheese or fish came in. In that day cheese and fish would have come wrapped in paper, and if you would have looked closely at that paper you would have seen black marks, lines and little dots. That’s because the paper wrapping the fish was actually music. They were musical manuscripts. They were, in fact, the only copies of musical manuscripts of a local composer who had kind of fallen out of favor in the eyes of a lot of the musical community at that time. And paper was so rare in those days that it was reused a lot and it was sold. It was actually fairly valuable, so that paper was sold to the local fish guys and the cheese guys.

That composer’s name was Johann Sebastian Bach. Of course, he is now recognized as one of the greatest composers—if not the greatest, depending on who you ask—that the music community has ever seen.

Something distinguishable about Bach was his use of bass. People have said that Bach wrote from the bass line up. The whole concept of the bass line was very foundational to the way that he approached music. Bass lines are those lowest notes in a song, the lowest register. If you can see the bass guitar here has thicker strings than just the normal six-string acoustic guitar over here. That’s to give it that deeper register, that really low resonance. The bass line is what rattles your windows at a stop light when the person next to you is showing off his sound system. It’s kind of like the dance floor that gives the rest of the song something to dance on top of. It’s like the keel of a ship; it keeps things steady and smooth and moving forward.

One of the most interesting examples of Bach’s use of the bass line was in a piece that, fortunately, did not end up in the trash, called The Goldberg Variations. It survived; we have it, unlike the St. Mark Passion, which did not survive. The Goldberg Variations are arranged in 32 sections of music, and throughout these 32 sections of music Bach takes the listener on a musical odyssey. He builds a cathedral that’s just so amazing and so breathtaking, what he’s able to accomplish with this music. There’s so much variety there. But one of the amazing things about it is that he used it repeating the same exact bass line in all 32 sections. All 32 sections of The Goldberg Variations have the same bass line.

Nowadays it’s not that unique for a bass line to repeat in a song, especially in pop music. That’s to be expected. But with the amount of complexity The Goldberg Variations has, it is astounding that he was able to pull that off using the same bass line.

The text we’re looking at this morning has what could be called the bass notes of the Christian life. They’re virtues and actions that show up again and again from Genesis to Revelation, and they are, so to speak, the bass notes that God wrote for us to have in our lives that he could build a majestic display of his glory out of. So let’s read the text together.

“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 you 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.”

This morning we’re going to be looking at this text from three different perspectives:

1. The Display of Love
2. The Priority of Love
3. The Ability to Love

1. The Display of Love

As Pastor Brad showed us last week, there are various sinful behaviors and patterns in our lives that we’re told to put to death in the Christian life. Now this section, after Paul finishes telling us what to put to death, he turns around and tells us what to put on, this clothing metaphor, so to speak. In verse 10, in the passage that Pastor Brad took us through last week, he talks about this new self that we put on, “which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

So, this new self . . . what does this image of the creator look like that Paul’s talking about? He shows us right here. He lists six virtues: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and love, which he singles out, and we’ll come back to that later.

These virtues lead to horizontal actions, actions directed toward others in human relationships. These actions including bearing with one another; forgiving each other, which Paul stresses by saying, “The Lord forgave you, so you must forgive”; letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts—and most likely what he means by this is the peace of that reconciliation God has accomplished between God and among others. We’re to live out that peace in our relationships. We’re to let the word of Christ dwell in us. That word most likely means the gospel or the proclamation about what Christ has accomplished, what he’s done on our behalf. Then “teaching and admonishing one another,” something that Paul mentioned earlier, back in chapter 1.

These virtues also lead to vertical actions that are directed to God. Worship through song. The highest achievement that any human being can reach is to worship their Creator. Doing everything in the name of Jesus and giving thanks to God. Paul mentions thanks three times in this passage, and that’s no surprise. Thanksgiving is a strong theme that runs throughout all of his writings. If you remember in Romans 1 he actually uses thanksgiving as part of the essence that distinguishes a believer from a nonbeliever. The idolater who does not worship God is someone who is not thankful to him for what they have, but a Christian is.

This is a portrait of what a person is meant to be. We find a similar portrait in the Fruit of the Spirit. We find a similar portrait in the Sermon on the Mount, setting forth what we’re meant to look like.

God reveals to us in his word that he designed us to reflect him. In Leviticus 19:2 he said, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Then Jesus said in Matthew 5:48, “You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

What is he like? In Exodus 34:6-7 God gives a character description of himself to Moses. Moses asks to see God’s glory, and God gives him this character description: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.”

We hear in this text parallels with our main text this morning—love, forgiving, slow to anger, graciousness. This character description of God is echoed again and again throughout the rest of the Bible. The prophets use it, the psalmists use it. It’s even lurking beneath the surface in the opening to John’s Gospel in a profound way.

Paul sums this all up in Ephesians 4:24 in a different way by saying, “Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

This likeness of God language brings to mind the image of God, which we read about in the Genesis creation account. Throughout creation the Lord keeps pronouncing things good, and then when he comes to human beings he says they are “very good.” In Job 38 it says the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy at creation—most likely referring to angels rejoicing at creation. In Proverbs 8 God’s wisdom is actually personified, and the personification of that wisdom says that it rejoices in the inhabited world and in the children of man.

So you have Scripture using all of this rejoicing language of the creation. The question is, why is that? One thing we know: it’s not because God was meeting a need in himself. God already had a perfect image of himself. The Son is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” God already had perfect love within himself, the Holy Spirit, that bond of love, so to speak, between the Father and the Son; who is himself actually God as well, a divine person, the divine nature. So God had everything he needed. He had an image of himself, he had perfect love and community in the three persons within the Godhead.

So this rejoicing was not because he had an unmet need that he was finally meeting in creation, but he was rejoicing because he was extending his glory. That inner glory, that inner communication, that inner Trinitarian love was now going to be displayed in an outward fashion. He created us in his image so that we could participate in his bliss.

An illustration that helps me with this is one I’ve heard various versions of over the years. I heard it first from A.W. Tozer and then a different spin on it from John Piper. Imagine that in creation God was setting up a gallery of mirrors around himself. These mirrors are at 45-degree angles that are designed to reflect his glory both upward to him and then outward to the rest of creation. So he sets up one mirror and he says, “It is good.” He sets up another mirror: “It is good.” The creeping things on the ground, those are good. The trees producing fruit, that’s good. It’s good, it’s good.

But then, when he comes to human beings, he sets up a full-length mirror. It’s bigger than all the other mirrors because in that mirror, in that image of human beings, he sees more of his glory than he does in any of the other mirrors. We are created in his image; we are rational beings. We have moral agency. We are able to reflect God’s morality. Certain attributes that he has we’re able to reflect.

Just imagine the angels at creation. They’re seeing this new work God’s doing. He’s creating the world and all of this, and they’re looking at all this. Then they see Adam and Eve, and they’re astounded, because they see in Adam and Eve a more perfect reflection of their Creator. They see more of his glory in them than they see in anything else. He created us to reflect his glory.

So Paul, when he’s writing to this church in Colossae and he’s talking about living the Christian life, putting things to death, putting all these virtues, living out these actions, he’s essentially saying, in a way, that “you are living out a microcosm of God’s purpose for the universe within this church body. You’re to be mirrors reflecting God’s glory up to him and then out to each other. You’re to be worshiping him, praising him in song, singing hymns and psalms, giving thanks to him, doing everything in the name of Christ and loving one another, forgiving one another; reflecting his goodness and glory to one another.”

Or, as Jesus put it in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

We were crafted—designed—to reflect God. We were composed as songs to bring attention to God, to sound forth his beauty and his goodness.

You know, the world says to find your true purpose, to find who you really are, those bass notes of virtues and actions, “You just do what feels good to you. As long as it isn’t directly harming someone else, you just play whatever you want to your heart’s delight. That’s how you find your true self. That’s how you find purpose. If you’re sad, if you’re depressed, if you’re struggling, it’s because you haven’t found that inner bass line that’s in there somewhere that you just have to stumble upon and find whatever’s in your heart, and that’ll do it.”

The word of God tells us exactly the opposite of that. It’s when we find the bass line that God originally wrote at the beginning that reflects his character, his attributes. The more like Christ we become, the more our true selves we actually become. We don’t lose our personality the more we’re conformed to Christ, we actually find more of our personality the more we’re conformed to him.

Do you think about the purpose of your life often? I mean, how often do you think about, “Why am I here? Why am I alive? Why do I have a mind and heart and emotions? Why do I have these various abilities? Why am I a moral being that can do right or wrong? What’s the purpose of my life?” Do you realize that you’re a mirror, that you were created to be a mirror? Do you realize that you were written, composed to be a song for God’s pleasure, to draw attention to him?

You know, it was St. Augustine who said, “If only people would realize that they are mirrors, that they are images, then perhaps they would see through that mirror him whose mirror it is, so that he who is now seen through a mirror may one day be seen face to face, that they would find a purpose for their existence.”

Secondly, are you displaying these virtues and actions in your life? When people describe you, would they use these virtues and actions that Paul lists in their description?

2. The Priority of Love

This brings us to the priority of love. In verse 14 Paul writes, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

There’s that clothing illustration again. That word “harmony” can also be translated “unity.” It’s like this belt that goes around all the other clothes and they hold it all in place. There’s this unity, there’s this harmony that is supposed to be in a person’s life that is not there if love is not there.

This priority of love is something that’s sounded again and again throughout Scripture. I’ll just mention a few examples.

In Galatians 5, remember the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—similar to the passage we’re looking at. But notice Paul mentions love in the first spot.

In 2 Peter 1, when Peter writes his list of virtues in the Christian life, they build up and culminate and come to a climax with love.

In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul actually uses other virtues to define love. He says, “Love is patient, it is kind,” so on and so forth. All these other virtues he arranges around love as primary.

Then, of course, he goes on to say that love is even greater than faith and hope. Think about it. When faith gives way to sight in heaven and hope gives way to fulfillment, love is going to endure forever. It is foundational to our very existence to love God and love others, as Jesus put it in Matthew 22:37-39 when he said you must “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.”

Then listen to this: the entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments! He says, “You want me to distill all the Old Testament for you, all the commands in there? Fine, I’ll do it. Love God, love others. That’s the very essence of what is demanded of you by God as your Creator. It’s what you were designed for.”

Love is so vital that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3,

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

You know, I think the piano can help us visualize what Paul’s getting at here. Imagine the piano as our human nature, right? A piano has various notes on it. In the 1 Corinthians 13 passage, think of these notes as spiritual gifts. Paul’s dealing with spiritual gift problems in the church in Corinth. People are boasting in them, people are measuring each other by them. He says, “Listen, you can have the greatest spiritual gifts of everyone, you can have the greatest faith, you can be the greatest theologian this world has ever seen—have all knowledge and fathom all mysteries—but without love, this is what God hears.” [Discordant piano] No harmony, no unity.

Now, in the passage we’re looking at this morning, imagine these piano notes as virtues in the life of a human being. You don’t have to be a Christian to exercise virtues, right? That’s an ability God’s given us by common grace. Christians and non-Christians alike can show love and compassion. A celebrity can go into a hospital and give tons of money and really relieve suffering, really do good to those suffering children, but if it’s done without love this is what God hears. [Discordant piano] There’s no harmony there, there’s no unity. Yes, the pieces are there, the notes are there, but it’s not pleasing to God.

What love does is love brings harmony. [Piano chords] It’s that harmony and unity that God intended when he created human beings. It’s only achieved.

That’s why St. Augustine said, “Of all the gifts that God gives, love is the greatest, because without love none of the other gifts matter for anything; they don’t avail.”

It’s a love that’s defined by holiness. It’s not culture’s definition of love. If you just say, “You need to love,” there are a lot of people in our culture today that would agree with that and applaud it. But once you actually start talking about what you mean by love you’ll come to very different definitions. The love we’re talking about here is completely centered on God. As God is the center of his universe, as he is the center of reality, so love puts him in the center of all of our virtues, of all of our spiritual gifts. We love God for his sake and we love others for God’s sake as well, because they’re created in God’s image.

Jonathan Edwards put it this way: “Nothing is of the nature of true virtue in which God is not the first and the last.” As George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards’ biographer, summarized Jonathan Edwards’ interpretation of the apostle Paul, which I believe is correct, he said, “True love is love that resonates with God’s love and is in harmony with it.”

There’s a recognition, there’s a correspondence there. This means that without love all the good you do, although it does others good, will do you no good. God requires love to harmonize all of our virtues.

In Romans 8 Paul talks about how “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God and it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed it cannot.” The mind that is set on the flesh cannot please God. Paul is very emphatic about this. There’s no pleasing God while your mind is in the flesh, while you are facing away from him. All God will ever hear from your life, no matter how virtuous you are, no matter how kind you are, no matter even how loving you are in a certain sense, in an external sense—all that matters for nothing without the love that God requires.

Think of it this way: that mirror that was designed to reflect God, in the fall all of humanity flipped completely backwards. Now, instead of facing God, we’re facing the ground, we’re facing the dirt, we’re facing darkness. As John tells us, we love the darkness. That light of God’s holiness, that light of God’s presence shining throughout his universe, when it meets people who have turned their back to him and not their face, as Jeremiah puts it, he finds hard and impenitent hearts. All of the activity in our life ends up being a tragic storing up of wrath.

Think of it this way. When I was a kid, at one point my parents had a car with black vinyl upholstery. On a summer day, when my brother and sister and I would run to the car—no one wanted the middle seat, so we’d try to get to the car first—if I got to the seat I wanted and I looked through the window and saw a spot of sunshine shining on the seat I was going to sit on, if I was wearing shorts I would get in and I would sit carefully so that the skin of my legs wouldn’t touch that spot, because it was hot. That black had been absorbing that sunlight and sucking it in, and it burned when I touched it.

Well, that’s what a life is like that’s not facing God. Imagine the back of that mirror as all black. It’s faced away from God, loving the darkness, doing its own thing. That light from God that’s meant to bless them and please them is instead being absorbed by that blackness, and it is storing up wrath. It’s such a dangerous position to be in.

Or think of it like a football player. He has the ball, right, and all of his effort, all of his training, all of his intelligence that goes into his game, he’s running with the ball, makes the touchdown, only to realize he ran to the other side. He made the touchdown for the wrong team. That’s what a life without love is like. All of your effort, all of your moral energy, all of your spiritual gifts, all of your theological training is for nothing without love.

Or, to borrow imagery from Jonathan Edwards, imagine two flowers side by side. One is getting water, one is not getting water. The flower is meant to have both sunlight and water, and that sunlight is like the presence of God and the water is like love. The flower that has love, that has that water, that light makes it flourish. It opens up its petals and it opens and it lifts its head towards the heavens and it’s flourishing and growing. But that other flower, without water, the same sunshine, the same light hitting it, without that water makes it shrivel up and turn brown and face downwards until it eventually dies.

We must have love. We don’t want to find ourselves in the position of the Pharisees. Many of the Pharisees probably had more of the Old Testament memorized than any of us ever will. They loved their families, they were good citizens, they were faithful church attenders, so to speak. They attended synagogue. They had all these externals in place, and they had virtues. They were very serious about virtue. They were very serious about living in a way that pleased God in the way that they saw it. But they had a fatal blindness, because they had not love. Jesus looked at them and said in John 5:42, “I know that you do not have the love of God within you.”

Therefore, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.”

Love is essential. We must have it. What does God hear in your heart? When he listens to your heart, does he hear harmony or does he hear discord? Do you have that essential love?

Think of people who, going through the throes of adolescence, in their bedroom at night, holding their Walkman to their chest, with their headphones, their eyes hot with tears, listening to a song that’s getting them through. They love this song. It’s their favorite song.

As adults one day they go to a concert and that band’s reunited and they’re on stage playing, and they can’t wait to hear that song that meant so much to them. They’re waiting to hear it. But the bass player goes rogue and he just starts playing whatever he wants to. His notes make no sense. Not only do they not go with the song, they don’t go with any song. He’s just going all over the place! Eventually, you would demand that that bass player get replaced on that tour, because he’s ruining the song, that beautiful song that you loved so much. You can’t hear it because the bass is overpowering everything else!

That’s what it’s like with love. At the end of time, God is going to have a concert that’s going to go on forever, celebrating his glory, and he’s not going to let any discordant, unified music be there. Love is essential. We must have it.

3. The Ability to Love

This brings us, lastly, to the ability to love. Like the Sermon on the Mount, the words in this passage look pretty good framed on the wall, but these are hard to live out.

How can we as Christians live out this calling? I want to point you to some words in this text that are so vital that keep you from turning a text like this into legalism and show you the glory of the gospel.

In verse 12, when Paul starts, he says, “Put on then as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved . . .” “Then” is just a little, bitty word in the Greek. It’s just three letters. It’s one of those connective words. It can also be translated “therefore” or “so,” which means Paul’s referring to something he had already been talking about. So we go back and we find this statement in Colossians 3:1-3, which Pastor Brad has been unpacking for us these last couple of weeks. We read this:

“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. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Paul said the secret to putting these things in your life to death, in putting these virtues on, it all comes down to union with Christ.

St. Augustine put it this way. He said,

“So whatever took place in Christ’s crucifixion, his burial, his resurrection on the third day, his ascension into heaven, and his sitting at the right hand of the Father, was done in such a way that Christians might live within these mysteries, which are historical facts and not merely mystical utterances.”

If you remember, the apostle Paul in Romans 5 talks about this covenant that every human being is in with Adam. When Adam sinned, every human being sinned. When Adam fell, we all fell. We were in a covenantal relationship with him, and everything that happened to him as our covenant representative, our covenant head, happened to us. But in Christ we are admitted into a new covenant that he is the head of. So when he died on the cross, everyone included in that covenant died with him, died to sin. When he rose from the grave, everyone included in that covenant rose with him with resurrection power to work out holiness in their lives, and ultimately one day to actually be physically resurrected from the dead.

Or think of the mirror again. It’s faced over and it’s been there so long the hinges are rusted. It’s faced in the dirt, it’s loved the darkness. But in conversion, when God gives the gift of faith and repentance and drops the blood of Christ and the oil of the Spirit on those hinges, that mirror flips over and we’re able to reflect God again and the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us, and we are able to start to actually live out this calling. We’re actually facing him again. Even though we were turned away, we repented, we’ve turned, and we’re facing him.

So begins the process of sanctification in the Christian life, this progressive reflecting of his glory until we reach perfection.

Have you ever wondered why angels are described as rejoicing over our salvation as human beings? Remember in Luke 15 angels in heaven were rejoicing over one sinner who repented. Then Peter talks about angels longing to look into the things of the gospel. They’re literally interested in it. They’re curious about it. They want to know. They’re interested. They’re invested.

You say, “Why is that?” Angels have access to the beatific vision all the time. They have the perfect vision of God. They see the glory of God. They have no sin clouding their vision of God. So why are they so concerned about us?

It’s because they can see—when we come to the Lord, they see another mirror that’s reflecting the glory of the God they love so much. They say, “There’s another mirror! I can see God’s glory in a spot where it was only dark before. This is amazing!” Or they hear a song, they hear music, where they only heard noise before. They see the glory of God in the heart of someone who has come to Christ. They rejoice; it pleases them.

These glorious facts that Paul was pointing to—that if you’re a Christian you have died to sin’s dominion over you and you have been raised—the old you in Adam, he says, is dead. He doesn’t say “weekend.” He doesn’t say, “He’s been tied down; keep an eye on him. He might untie and come back, so watch out for that.” He says the old you is actually dead. The you that was in covenant with Adam, the you that was under condemnation of the law, does not exist anymore if you’re a Christian—literally does not exist. You’re as likely to find the old you that was in covenant under Adam, under condemnation of the law, as you are to find the bones of Jesus in a tomb in Jerusalem. That’s what Paul’s saying. If you’ve been raised with him, you have died.

Now you say, “Hold on. Wait a second. That can’t be right, because I’m a Christian. I’m convinced I’m a Christian. I have assurance of my salvation. I really love the Lord. But you don’t know the sins I struggle with. I come to church and you guys think I’m holy because I’m here; you don’t know what goes on in my heart. You don’t know the ways I’ve hurt people. You don’t know the things I’m tempted with. So that can’t be true! He must be still alive.”

No, he is dead. Paul says that that old man has died. The problem is that sin still lives in your body. He makes a difference between the old you in Adam and your body and sin hiding out in your body. As Pastor Brad pointed out last week, we have this war we’re to wage on sin. We’re to be killing it. Why? Because the sinful nature finds all these nooks and crannies and cracks and crevices to hide out in in our minds, in our wills, in the members of our body—in our eyes, in our fingers, in our tongues. It hides out.

Paul explains further in Romans 6:11-14.

“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Paul makes a distinction between the old you that is dead and the you that has sin alive running around in your body. Since you have died with Christ, he says, if you’re a Christian something has happened to you that forever changed your relationship to sin. Though sin still lives in your body and it still tries to get dominion, don’t let it. Don’t let it convince you, because it actually can’t. It’s actually impossible for sin to have dominion in the heart of a Christian, although it will try to convince you that it can. That’s the battle. The battle is to ground ourselves on these gospel truths. That old me is dead. Sin cannot have dominion over me. Therefore I’m not going to let it have a field day in my body. It can’t take the throne anymore; Christ has the throne. I’ve been raised, I have the resurrection power in Christ. Therefore I will not let sin reign in my mortal body. I won’t let it reign, because the gospel tells me it can’t have dominion over me anymore.

Since we’ve died and been raised, since these are facts, we seek the things that are above. We put on love, we present our members to God as instruments for righteousness. We present our minds, our eyes, our tongues—everything about us—to God. We’re reflectors to reflect his glory back to him and now to others.

We say, “Okay—hands. I’m not going to give my hands over to sin, to do sin. I’m going to give them to God instead.” We have this ability now to go back to the piano. We actually have an ability to play. When we set our hands on the keyboard of our hearts, after we become a Christian, we discover that our left hand knows how to play a bass line, our right hand knows how to form chords and to play a melody. We’ve been given that ability; we’ve been given spiritual power. Remember, we’re a new creation! The old is gone; the new has come. The old you that couldn’t play any of those notes, that just banged on the keys and it was discordant, is dead. Now you have the ability. You can play a new set of keys.

Secondly, remember who you are in Christ. Okay, so we can play. Our hands are on the keyboard. We can make music now. But what about the wrong notes we still play? What about indwelling sin? There’s gospel hope for that too.

In verse 12, notice how he addresses Christians. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved . . .”

Did you know all three of those words are used to describe Christ? I believe what Paul’s comforting them with there is the truth of justification: that Christ’s righteousness covers us, that we are counted as righteous even though we are in fact not completely righteous yet. We’re counted righteous because Christ’s righteousness has been given to us.

I mean, think of Christ’s life compared to these virtues and actions that we’re looking at. Think of his compassion. He’s in the garden, soldiers are coming to arrest him, one of them, named Malchus, gets attacked by Peter. Peter cuts off his ear. Malchus is standing there holding the bloody side of his head, and Jesus goes up to the man who’s taking him to the cross, remember, touches where the ear had been, and heals him. We’ve never seen compassion like Jesus’ before.

Think of his kindness to the lepers that came to be healed and him reaching out his hand to touch these people who haven’t been touched in years, most likely.

Think of the humility that Jesus showed in his incarnation, lowering himself, being born and put in a stable, being made human on our behalf. Think of his meekness as he stood before his accusers like a lamb being led to the slaughter, not opening his mouth, staying silent.

Think of his patience with his disciples. All of the petty sins, all of the squabbling, all of the unbelief they showed throughout his ministry—think of the patience he exhibited to them.

Think of the forgiveness he showed from the cross itself. Can you imagine being nailed on a cross and asking God to forgive the very people who put you there?

Think of his esteem for the word of God, the way he used it in debates against Pharisees and Sadducees; how he would make debates turn on just a phrase, on just a word. How much he loved the word of God, how much it dwelt in him!

Think of his teaching and admonishing; how faithfully and lovingly and accurately and uncompromisingly he taught and admonished people. Think of the Sermon on the Mount for an example of that.

Think of his thankfulness to God. Remember how he prayed, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to children, for this was your good pleasure.” Jesus worshiped his heavenly Father in his role as a man, in his human nature.

Think of how he sang to God in worship. Did you know the New Testament actually tells us Jesus sang a worship song? The night he was betrayed it says, “Then they all sang a hymn,” after the experience in the upper room before they went out.

He’s fulfilling all these righteous demands on our behalf.

Finally, think of the love Christ showed. “No greater love has a man than this, that he lays down his life for his friends.” And no greater love was ever exhibited than what Jesus had to go through to lay down his life for his friends.

Remember, in the garden he prayed, “Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me. Let not my will but your will be done.” He got the answer from his Father and he took that cup and he drank that bitter poison, every last drop, for everyone who would believe in him.

The cross shows us that there never was a man who loved God more and loved people more than the Lord Jesus Christ. All of that is applied to us, imputed to us, as if it were our righteousness, as if we lived that obedient life. He fulfilled the law for us, and this gives us comfort. Not one thing we can do can improve our legal status but for God, because we can’t improve on what Jesus did.

Think of it this way: we’re a Christian, and inside that studio of our hearts we’re at our piano, and yes, we’re making music—it’s real music, it’s really pleasing to God—but we keep hitting these wrong notes. We have sin; there’s always a section of the song we screw up on. But there’s another piano in there with us. It’s shinier than our piano. It’s always in perfect tune, unlike our piano, and at that piano sits Jesus, playing the same exact song as us, but playing it louder than us. When we hit the wrong notes, he plays the right notes louder, so that we’re justified before the heavenly Father. When our fingers fumble at the keys, his fingers fly over them.

If you’re a Christian, something happened that forever justified you before God. You have a mediator. That’s why Paul writes that we’re to do everything in the name of Jesus, that we’re to give thanks to God the Father through Jesus. It’s only through Jesus that God receives our worship, and it’s only through Jesus that we receive the love of God.

We can rejoice that we are chosen, we are holy, we are beloved, we are forgiven. We let this gospel word of what Christ has accomplished for us dwell in our hearts, remind ourselves of it, meditate on it, get familiar with the Scriptures that teach this to us, memorize portions of Scripture that teach this, preach it to ourselves, tell it to ourselves.

Finally, in closing, remember who you’ll be in Christ. We’re going to follow that “then” word again back up to Colossians 3:4, where we read, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Something happened that forever secured a future for you without sin. You will appear with him in glory if you’re a Christian. If you’ve been raised, you will appear. It’s going to happen.

Think of that mirror again. Yes, we’re in this walk of sanctification. We’re reflecting God, we’re really glorifying him, really worshiping him, really reflecting his glory out to others, but that mirror has cracks and spots on it that would represent indwelling sin.

Remember the sin hiding out in the cracks and crevices of our bodies that’s still there, that we have to put to death? That surface of the mirror, although God can see that reflection of himself in the Christian, it’s still not a perfect reflection. It’s not a glorified reflection. But one day it will be. As St. Augustine said, “The day when we all shine with one harmonious light.” All of the mirrors will be arrayed around God and there will be no spots, no cracks, seeing his reflection perfectly, the way he originally designed it to be. The day when the music of our human nature will play no wrong notes and it will be perfect.

It’s like what Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:27, “that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” We will appear with him in glory, holy and without blemish.

1 John 3:2-3 says, “We know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

You get the similarity between John’s logic and Paul’s logic? You’re going to be pure. It’s going to happen. You’re going to make it. Therefore, live like it! That’s where you’re headed. That’s your destiny.

We see this in Paul’s longing. Paul sometimes writes about looking forward to the redemption of the body, to be fully clothed, to have this glorified body. That’s not only because Paul had gotten beaten up a lot and his body hurt (although it did); it wasn’t only because he was getting older and he had the regular aches and pains that go along with getting older, because he had that too. I believe Paul’s deepest motivation for that longing of that body was to have a body that would be free of indwelling sin, a glorified body, where sin could find no hiding place. There would no longer be that gnawing, that pull of temptation, and he would be free from it for eternity. That’s what we have to look forward to, and that’s what motivates us to pursue holiness in our life now.

If we’re facing temptation we can say to ourselves, “Wait a second! There is no future for me in sin—literally. If I’m a Christian, I’m facing a future of sinless glory, so this thing I’m being tempted to now is literally a waste of time. There’s no future for me in sin, so I’m not going to give in to it.”

It also means all of the effort we put into our sanctification—all of the two steps forward and the one step back, and we think we’re getting better in this area but we slip backwards—all of that frustration, all of that effort is not futile. We will appear with him in glory. This reality that Paul is exhorting the church in Colossae to, it’s going to be literally fulfilled forever in perfection. Therefore we’re to get about it now. We’re going to let holiness excite us.

You know, at the piano, instead of just going there and saying, “Okay, I’m going to get to this part of the song again where I always screw up. I know it’s going to happen, and I’m so frustrated, I’m so discouraged with myself—” instead of having that mindset, we look across the room to Jesus playing that part perfectly, and we say, “How did he do that? Okay, I’m going to pay attention. I’m going to put effort into this. I’m going to look. Okay, he went over there and then his left hand’s doing this,” and I’m going to work on that. I’m going to push into this. I want the glory of his perfection to shine out in my life.

“I’m going to beat this pornography. Jesus didn’t look at any woman with lust; he never did it. How did he do that? Let me look at the keys. What did he do in his life?”

Gossip. “He never cut people to shreds with his tongue in gossip behind their back to hurt them and to defame them. I’m going to pay attention; I’m going to put effort into this, because that’s where I’m headed. I want to play what I’m going to be playing forever. I want to start playing it now.”

In closing, we were created to reflect God, we are required to reflect God, and in Christ we’ve been given the ability to reflect God. What a gift! So put on these virtues; put on love. Sing to him, do everything in his name. Give thanks to him. Present your members to God as instruments for righteousness. Live out this calling that Paul is presenting to the church in Colossae, until that day when the surface of your mirror is smooth and perfect, with no cracks or spots; until that day when your face shines like the sun in the kingdom of your Father; until that day when all of those wrong notes are going to fade away and the only sound left will be the sound of your perfect harmony reverberating throughout the corridors of the house of your Father who is in heaven. Let’s pray.

Father, we are so thankful for the gospel. Lord, it’s astounding, these facts that we read in your word, Lord. I pray that your Holy Spirit would work them into our hearts, that you would open our eyes, that these things would be so real to us that we would live them out; that you’ve given us everything we need, Lord, for a life of godliness by your divine power, that we are connected to by being connected to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. We can live this life you’ve called us to, Lord, and we thank you for the gift of justification, that while we work through our imperfections, while we work through our remaining indwelling sin, that you would look on us with eyes of acceptance and compassion and mercy and love. You are not ashamed to call us your children, Lord. You’re not ashamed to have us play music with you.

Father, I pray for anyone who is listening to these words this morning, Lord, that does not know you. Their mirror is still flipped around in the darkness. If they do not know you, I pray that they would come to know you in a saving way, that you would give them the gift of faith and repentance, that they would see the beauty of holiness and submit themselves in worship to you. In the name of Jesus we ask all of these things, amen.