This week, our journey takes us to Colossians 3:16.
16Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.— Colossians 3:16 (HCSB)
This verse shows us how to really have church - how to join together with others in worship. The Bible is clear that we’re not supposed to be “Lone Ranger” Christians, but we are to connect with other believers. Hebrews 10:24-25 says…
24And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, 25not staying away from our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.— Hebrews 10:24-25 (HCSB)
Let’s break this verse down phrase and phrase. What does it mean to “let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you”? The Gospel (the message about the Messiah) is a treasure, the depths of which we will not understand while we are here on this earth. However, the more we do learn about it, the fuller our hearts and lives will be. It should completely fill our hearts, to the point where we can see every thing that happens in our lives in the context of the freedom we have because of what Jesus has done for us.
How do we do that? That’s what the rest of this verse tells us. The first aspect is “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…” As we study the Bible for ourselves, there are two aspects that come together. First, we associate what we’re learning with what we already know, and the experiences that we have been through - this is our perspective. Second, we understand as God gives us discernment - a “Word from God” directly for us. When taken together, the perspective and discernment of each person is somewhat unique.
When we get together with other believers, who are also studying the Bible, we can learn from their perspective and discernment, and they can learn from our perspective and discernment. Listening to a traditional sermon from a man of God who has studied the Scripture regularly over the course of several years can be very enlightening. Sitting down together with a small group of believers and discussing a passage of Scripture can also be enlightening - God will use others’ viewpoints to help the entire group gain a deeper understanding of His Word.
The next way is “singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs…” Music has been a part of worship as long as worship has existed. The Bible says that the angels sing in heaven, and both the Old and New Testaments are replete with examples of music being used in worship. The book of Psalms is, in word form, the hymnbook of the Israelite church. Paul sang hymns regularly, whether he was in jail or in an established church. And Jesus even sang hymns! Notice what happened after He instituted the Lord’s Supper…
26As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take and eat it; this is My body.” 27Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you. 28For this is My blood [that establishes] the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29But I tell you, from this moment I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it in a new way in My Father’s kingdom with you.” 30After singing psalms, they went out to the Mount of Olives.— Matthew 26:26-30 (HCSB)
The way to do all of this is “with gratitude in your hearts to God.” As we learn more about Jesus, and begin to live an abundant Christian life, this gratitude should flow naturally from our hearts. But, even if we’re not “feeling it,” we should still express gratitude to God for all that He has done for us. Our continued existence on this planet is a testament to His protection, grace, and mercy; how much more should we be grateful for the blessings we have been given on top of that?
Some people think that they don’t need church - besides, it’s just full of a bunch of sinners anyway. Well, they’re partially right - Christians are nothing but saved sinners, and from time to time, they still sin. That Christians can know what sin is, believe one shouldn’t do it, but still do it anyway yet remain Christians, may be one of the most misunderstood parts of the Christian life. While some see it as hypocrisy, we know that it is the spiritual warfare, that struggle between the old man and the new man for cont`rol of our lives. However, just as one would not go into battle alone, we as Christians should not try to wage this spiritual battle without the company of our fellow warriors.
When group worship follows the guidelines given in Colossians 3:16, it becomes so valuable to us that we wouldn’t think of trying to make it on our own. I pray that, for each of us, our church experience will grow to approach the description Paul gave to the believers in Corinth.