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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. (Colossians 3:16)

1. What the Word Is

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. (Colossians 3:16)

Notice that God’s communication with us, which is normally referred to as the Word of God, is described here as the Word of Christ. That phrase is only used here and one other place in the New Testament, but it reminds us of a very important truth that we often emphasize here at The Orchard.

The whole Bible is one story and it is all about Jesus Christ. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “The Scriptures…  bear witness about me” (John 5:39). On the road to Emmaus, Jesus took two confused disciples through the Old Testament Scriptures, showing them “in all the scriptures, the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).

Jesus Christ is the central figure in the whole Bible, in both the Old and the New Testaments. In the Old Testament, he is hidden and anticipated. In the New Testament, he is revealed and enjoyed.

The whole point of the Bible is that we should come to know and enjoy and love and serve and believe in and live for Jesus Christ the Son of God, who is the Savior, the Lord of all.

This is the great theme of Colossians: In him, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (1:19). In him, God has triumphed over all the dark powers (2:15). In him, believers are rooted and built up and established in the faith (2:7).

The word of Christ, the Bible, is God speaking to us about his Son, or God speaking to us through his Son.

New thinking about the Bible

The Christian church has been in agreement for nearly 2,000 years that the Bible is the Word of God, one that speaks primarily about his Son, Jesus Christ. I say nearly 2,000 years, because about a hundred years ago some people introduced a new and very different view of the Bible.

Charles Darwin grasped the minds and hearts of many people with his theory of evolution, suggesting that the world could be explained entirely by natural causes and processes.

It’s fascinating to follow the story of how in the years that followed, some leaders in the church began to recast their view of the Bible in the light of evolutionary theory.

The church had always held the conviction that the Bible was God’s word to us. The church believed that God exists, that God has made himself known, and that the Bible tells us what God has said and what he has done. The Bible is essentially a story about God: God’s world and God’s Word to mankind.

But the new thinking turned all of that on its head. You can imagine how some began to say, “We’ve been told that the story is all about God. What if the story is really about us?”

If this were true, then the Bible would be the evolving story of human thinking about what God might be like. And the Bible would not be God’s words to us, but the record of our words about God.

If you believe this, then it is reasonable to conclude that it began very crude, and over time, our view of God has become more sophisticated.

These are two very different views of the Bible. In the one, the Bible is God’s Word to us. In the other, the Bible is our word about God. What you believe about the Bible will shape how you use it, and how you respond to it.

If you believe that the Bible is a human word about God, you may want to read it for inspiration, but when it does not fit well with your view of life or of the world, you will feel free to disagree and choose your own path.

If the Bible is merely a collection of human words about God, it will be natural for you to say, “That was then, but this is now.”

I want to make it very clear that in this church, we do not view the Bible as a collection of human words or thoughts about God. It is not our word about God, it is God’s Word to us.

Here’s how we say this in our statement of faith (from the Evangelical Free Church of America), and it is affirmed by everyone who becomes a member of this church:

We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises. 

2. Why the Word Matters

Why is this important? What difference does it make? Why should anyone care whether the Bible is our speaking about God or God speaking to us?

It makes all the difference in the world:  Here’s why…

a. If God has not spoken, his promises are replaced by our wishes

Think about some of the great promises of Scripture:

I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Heb. 13:5)

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.  (Acts 16:31)

My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory.  (Phil. 4:19)

Who said these things? If these words came from the mouth of God, if God said them, if they are indeed the Word of God to us, then they are promises on which we can depend. You can take them to the bank. You can build on them in every circumstance of your life.

But if these are human words about God, then they are not promises on which we can depend, but merely wishes arising from the heart of Paul or from Isaiah that we might also cherish.

If you believe that the Bible is our word about God rather than God’s word to us, you undermine the foundation of hope and replace God’s promises to us with our wishes about God.

b. If God has not spoken, his truth is replaced by our opinion

The Bible says that God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in love. These words are repeated no less than seven times in the Old Testament (Exodus 34:6, Nehemiah 9:7, Psalm 86:15, Psalm 103:8, Psalm 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2).

But whose words are these? If God spoke these words to Moses and the prophets, we can be sure that he is indeed gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in love, because he is the one who said it. He has disclosed this himself.

But if these words arose from the thoughts of Moses, David, Nehemiah or Jonah, then we do not have truth that we can count on for our lives today. All we have is opinion that arose from the experience of these particular men, and it may or may not prove true for us today.

When you buy into evolutionary theory, conversations in small groups around the Word of God go something like this… Moses believed that God is gracious and merciful, but others have a different experience.  What about you? What do you think God is like? How do you see him?

When the Word of God to us is viewed as our word about God, not only do his promises become wishes—which undermine the very foundations of hope, but his truth gets replaced by our opinion—and that undermines the foundations of our faith.

c. If God has not spoken, his welcome is replaced by our journey

The Bible is full of invitations:

Incline your ear and come to me. Hear that your soul may live; I will make with you an everlasting covenant.  (Isa. 55:3)

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.  (Jas. 4:8)

Come let us reason together says the Lord, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.  (Isa. 1:18)

Who said these things? If God said them (to and through the prophet Isaiah and the apostle James), then you can be certain that God is reaching out to us in love. That means we can come to him with confidence. We can enjoy a true and authentic relationship with God because he has invited us to come to him.

If these words were simply reflections of the thoughts or experience of James and Isaiah, they are only pointers on a journey. They tell us what others have found, but they offer no assurance that we will find the same.

If the Bible is viewed as our words about God rather than God’s word to us, you may have people reaching out and seeking after God, but very, very little finding. Why? Because what is lost is God reaching out in love through his Son, and what you have left is people seeking.

What’s at stake? If the Bible is our word about God rather than God’s word to us, then God’s promises are replaced by our wishes, and we lose the basis of hope. God’s truth is replaced by our opinion and we lose the foundation of faith. God’s welcome is replaced by our journey and we lose the assurance of his love.

Do you see how much is at stake here? The basis of faith, hope, and love all rest on God having spoken—giving us promises, telling us who he is, inviting us into a relationship with himself, and telling is how that is possible through his Son Jesus Christ.

When I think about all this, it makes me step back and breathe a big sigh of relief—thank God for the Word of Christ!

3. What the Word Produces

a. You will grow in strength against temptation

I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. (1 John 2:14)

John identifies different groups within the congregation in his letter. He writes some things especially to those who are older. Here he speaks specifically to young men. Notice what he says.

i. The Word of God abides in you.

The Word of God is going into your soul. It is settling in your inner life and it remains there. The result of this is that…

ii. You are strong.

You started out like little children. At one time you were spiritual infants, but now, even though you are still young, you are spiritually mature. And because of this…

iii. You have overcome the evil one.

There are victories over temptation in your life. Progress is being made.  You are growing up in Christ, and the reason is that the Word of God abides in you.

This is why it is so important for young families to find a church where they are rooted deeply in the Word of God. You don’t get this by going to a church that entertains your kids. You get this strength from a church and a youth group that is serious about getting the Word in their lives.

b. You will grow in effectiveness in prayer

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

Notice how effectiveness in prayer arises from the Word abiding in your soul: “If… my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.”

The strength of our praying shows how much or how little the word of God dwells, abides, remains in us. Your ability to pray well for your wife and your kids hangs on this. Where the word abides, the fruit will be seen in effective praying.

c. You will grow in wisdom and discernment

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom. (Colossians 3:16)

We live in a ‘how to’ culture in which many people are becoming more and more dependent on someone else telling them how to do even the most basic things in life.

Once the ‘how to’ thing takes root in your mind, it can be quite paralyzing.  You lose confidence. You feel that you will mess things up unless you can get someone else to walk you through what to do. The Bible has a great answer to this, and it’s called wisdom.

A rich and regular diet of the word of God will increase your wisdom. The Bible is the Word of God. It comes from the mind of God. Thinking God’s thoughts after him is the best way to grow in wisdom for every area of your life.

d. You will grow in usefulness to others

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom. (Colossians 3:16)

Here’s a healthy church in action: God’s people are feeding on his Word.  It dwells in them richly. As they speak about their lives, they are able to help each other see how the Word relates to the various circumstances of their lives.

Someone says, “I am really struggling with my 13-year-old daughter,” and explains some of the circumstances.

Someone else says, “Here’s what I learned from the Scriptures that helped me. Here’s the principle I applied.”

Not only are God’s people able to teach one another, but they are able to admonish one another, that is, they can spot where someone is straying down a wrong path and help get then back on the straight and narrow.

This kind of mutual ministry in the body of Christ is wonderful. It depends on God’s Word dwelling in his people richly.

How much more useful could you be to others if the Word of Christ dwelled more richly in you?

e. You will grow in joy and thanksgiving

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. (Colossians 3:16)

A rich diet of the Word of Christ always produces more joy and thanksgiving in the lives of God’s people than if you drift through life with your Bible closed.

Spiritual life is found and it is nourished by the Word of God. But if you ask people the question, Where is spiritual life found? you are likely to find one of three different answers:

The religious or communal answer

Spiritual life is found and fed in the people around you. This is the teaching of the cults: Join us and all will be well with you. That’s what the Pharisees believed. Don’t buy that one. Sure, fellowship is important to the spiritual life, but it is not a source of the spiritual life.

The secular or psychological answer

Spiritual life is found and fed from the instincts within you. This is the overwhelming consensus of our culture, The answers lie within you.  This is why so many Christians rarely read the Bible. They have bought into secular psychology and they feel that the source of life lies within them.

The biblical or theological answer

Spiritual life is found and fed from the Bible before you:

You have been born again… through the living and abiding word of God. (1 Peter 1:23)

Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)

So, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly!

4. Our Responsibility to the Word

Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. (Colossians 3:16)

Let the Word of God be the honored welcome guest of your life. Let the Word live with you let it remain in you. Don’t have a passing brush with the Word of Christ.

The Word of God can dwell in the life of a Christian believer in different degrees. Let there be plenty of the Word in your life. Give the Word an honored and prominent place in your life.

Is the Word of Christ dwelling richly in you?

How are you going to do this?

  1. Make the best possible use of Sunday
  2. Join a life group and keep the group centered in the word of Christ
  3. Establish a pattern of daily Bible reading and meditation

The book of Hebrews describes people in whom the word does not dwell richly….

Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  Hebrews 5:11-13

The word of God is like seed scattered by a sower. The same seed yields very different results. In some lives the seed is snatched away, like seed sitting on the surface of the path.

In other lives the seed gets choked by the desire for others things. You want to be a Christian, but other things are bigger in your life. They have your heart and your attention. The word grows in your life, but it gets choked, and very little comes of it.

Still, in others, the seed produced a bumper harvest. It can be 30, 60, or even 100-fold, depending on how richly the Word dwells in you.

Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. It will bring spiritual life. It will sustain spiritual strength. It will produce spiritual growth.


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