What Dwells Within

When writing my last post, I stumbled upon Colossians 3:16-17. Immediately I knew I hadn’t found it by accident. I felt like it should be my new motto, that I should memorize it and post it on a wall somewhere. I don’t believe in having a “life verse” because if we are taking in God’s word regularly, there will be different verses for different times. It may be a verse that is exactly what we need on a certain day, or we may need to anchor ourselves to its truth for a month or a year. Our duty is to continue searching Scripture for what God has spoken to us, as our circumstances change and we grow in faith. I am prone to complain that my life never seems to change, and yet, I must take responsibility for making sure that I am changing. If we are not actively working to grow in our faith through spiritual discipline, we will regress. Recently, I heard a pastor use the analogy of a stagnant body of water, which will breed mosquitos! My challenge is to stop focusing on the outward circumstances of life and instead work on what is inside my heart. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” Paul wrote. It sounds like a prescription for my life.

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.

Colossians 3:16-17

I want to respond to Paul’s admonition by saying, “Yes, of course, the word dwells in me richly!” But if this were true, what comes out of my mouth would be different. Jesus said, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” (Matthew 15:18) If the word lives within me, it will be active in my life. Hebrews 4:12 instructs, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Memorizing Scripture is a good way to bring God’s word into our minds and meditate on it. But we must also submit to the way the Spirit uses the word to pierce our hearts. If we do not allow ourselves to be convicted, corrected, and molded by God’s word, then it is not ‘dwelling richly.’

On the other hand, Paul told us if we allow the word to live within us in full measure, our mouths will be “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God.” Wisdom is from God, and there is no better way to obtain it than from His word. The Spirit within us takes the word and gives discernment to apply it to our lives and to teach one another. When it comes to “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” I can’t be objective because I love to sing. I almost always have a song on my lips. What goes into my ears inevitably comes out my mouth. Since I have learned the power of music on my mind and my mood, I am careful to take in songs filled with truth and praise. What a positive impact this has had on my attitude!

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.

Psalms 37:30-31

Meditating on this portion of Colossians 3, I noticed that Paul mentions giving thanks three times in three verses (15-17). It makes me think of my Grandpa. He always spoke about having an ‘attitude of gratitude,’ and he lived it out. He used The Navigators method of Scripture memory, and many of the verses that he ‘admonished’ others with were about being thankful. When he was old, and someone asked him how he was, he would usually say something to the effect that he couldn’t complain, and then he would quote a verse about being thankful. First Thessalonians 5:18 was a favorite. By age ninety, he couldn’t remember the references anymore, but the message was still in his heart. Even when his memory was failing and his body was tired, he expressed thanks for any little thing you did for him. Grandpa wasn’t perfect, but he did his best to “let the word of Christ dwell in [him] richly.”

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Shortly after my grandfather’s death, I met with some missionary friends my grandparents used to host when they visited our church. They recalled that my grandparents were always happy. I look at their lives, and I know their happiness did not flow from wealth or ease. Rather, they lived with the joy that comes from being thankful for every blessing, instead of dwelling on anything that might be lacking. I don’t think it’s possible to complain when you are truly thankful. When you recognize God’s faithfulness in your life, you can’t help but have peace, which brings with it joy.

Writing this made me remember Operation Quit Complaining, from a few years ago. This process of growing in godliness requires constant review of the lessons we have learned. I needed to return to this lesson, this week, because I was letting myself wallow in tears and loneliness. Instead I should be counting my blessings and singing songs about God’s faithfulness. My grandparents set an example not that I should follow them, but that I should follow Christ. To do this properly, I must “Let the word of Christ dwell in [me] richly.”

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