[Steven: the final day is here, I’m on my second coffee already, and as Ying Yee wouldn’t often encourage us: the week has been exhausting but exciting – exciting to have our hearts exposed and the cure administered by a most loving and faithful heart donor and High Priest; exciting to have great discussions about life and faith (and books!); exciting to see how much has been learnt by delegates (and strand leaders alike!); exciting to see a bunch of Gen-Y and Millennials apparently not get the memo that you don’t go to conferences like this, sing the songs we sing, and submit to an authority far greater than themselves – and love every minute of it; exciting to be a part of investing into the eternity of others; and exciting to be praying for Steve, Keiyeng and their family as they take the next step of their faith journey down to Canberra. The end of conferences like this are always bittersweet, but here we are – and we are exhausted… but excited :)]
Day 5 | Morning Talk | Richard Gibson – Cultivated (Colossians 3:1-17)
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
The secret garden
Springsteen of Asbury Park
The song by Bruce Springsteen ‘The Secret Garden’ – a song of the idolatry of sexual liason of our age, but also a song about the frustration one feels because while Springsteen can access her in some intimate ways he’s frustrated about her ‘secret garden’ that he can never get access to.
In some ways this is what we’ve been talking about this week. God created human beings with a depth and hiddenness and an internal reality that is so complex and rich, that one of the great joys of a creatureliness is that we can’t conquer, own, and know perfectly another person. People are endlessly fascinating – because of the complexity and richness of their hearts.
Clement of Alexandria / Weeding and feeding
Long before Springsteen used the image of a garden for our internal world – for our mind and soul. The interest of the philosopher was for us to tend to this garden. The challenge for Clement was to keep the garden cultivated, tended, and looked after – to make it a beautiful garden. To plant lovely beautiful plans that honour God, and tearing out the weeds that dishonour God.
But for any gardener you’ll notice that weeding never stops. There’s always work to be done in terms of weeding, and constant feeding to do – constant watering, especially in the heat and dryness of Brisbane.
The cultivating of our hearts involves a lot of weeding and feeding. Weeding = repentance. Getting rid of those things that take root in the secret places in our life – the sins, fantasies that we might be feeding and watering… but to get rid of them. Conversely we have to feed our faith in God, trusting it, storing it up in our hearts, not getting stuck on it and never putting it into practice. This is what we look forward to as Christian people for the rest of our lives. Even some of the most godly older people are more and more aware of the noxious things in our heart – and that is kinda how Christian living is.
Jesus on storing up treasure (Matt 6:19-21)
The image Jesus uses here is a matter of investment – where we see true value is where we will invest in life.
Living to impress people (6:1-2, 5, 7-8, 16)
One of the ways in which we lay up treasures of ourselves on earth rather than up in heaven is living to impress people, to establish a status in life. It is in the moment that we are living to look religious that we can be ensnared by the total misdirection of our faulty investment.
6:1-2 – If you’re living to look righteous infront of people we need to be very careful – because we cannot expect to live to look good before others and be rewarded by God at the same time.
We live to be seen in our works and in our prayers.
While we may not intentionally seek praises – but we can get into the habit of praying in public, and rarely in private.
v7 – hypocrites love to draw attention to themselves by heaping up lots of words
v16 – and they can do it via public fasting
The problem: the constant temptation to turn our hearts away from God and turn towards seeking the praise of others. This is a constant temptation especially for those in full-time paid ministry: to focus on the externals and neglect the internals.
My worst lies have come from keeping up appearances in the Christian community. The worst lie is often, ‘I will pray for you’ – because I want to appear spiritual, I want to appear like the carer… and a week later I haven’t prayed… and never intended to pray. They were just a form of words that were intended to make myself look good.
How does one change from this habit? Turn from the audience of man towards the larger audience of One.
Pleasing the Father who sees in secret (6:3-4, 6, 9-15, 17-18)
Note how much the idea of secrecy is in these verses.
Secrecy safeguards sincerity. Recognition that God knows the deepest recesses of our heart means that we are prepared to practice our piety for his witness alone – because you are so convinced that God sees everything.
Serving wealth (6:24-34)
When Jesus started talking about treasure here is where he ends up – you cannot serve both money and God. You can’t navigate through life and make life decisions based on living for money and security vs God. Eventually you’ll collapse into the sin of materialism, living for physical comfort.
From v25ff we are reminded not to worry because our Heavenly Father knows what we need. The One who provided the heart transplant that we needed, the One who rewards what is done in secret, is the same One who knows our deepest needs and looks after us. Jesus goes about watering our faith in this One.
The illustrations of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field are an affectionate, gentle, and kind reminder of our loving brother. He’s gently tearing at the weeds of our hearts.
Our great fear about repentance is that we will be driven away or rejected because we will not match up to the standards God sets… and yet Jesus offers to come to him and find rest. We constantly forget the forgiveness and grace that is on offer – and this is why we meet and gather together constantly… to remind each other of the forgiveness and grace that is on offer!
Seeking first the kingdom (6:33)
The Father knows what you need more than anything else, and through Jesus we are told to set our hearts on his Kingdom and righteousness.
Jesus: the true treasure (Col 3:1-17)
Where your treasure is (3:1-4)
By our union to Christ by faith our whole lives are now reoriented. Our lives are now hidden with Christ. And that day when he appears in glory we will also appear in glory with him. A relationship with Jesus is to be a our true treasure.
Weeding: putting idols to death (3:5-11)
V5-10 is a whole range of weeds. You cannot show these things mercy, and you cannot coddle them – they will over run your garden if you don’t take action. The action we need to take: recognise that they are noxious and poisonous and repent of them.
- focusing on sexual immorality for a moment – the world’s lie and temptation is to find heart satisfaction in sexual passion – and you need to find the right person in the right circumstances and you’ll find satisfaction. And we so ache for this satisfaction we’ll chase for it on the computer screen… but there’s no treasure there.
v8 – Anger and malice – we can habour it and nuture our ‘righteous’ anger like our prized plant as best in show. When we are wronged we slander in order to feed and nurture the weed of anger.
Tear these weeds up and start feeding the flowers that ought to be there in our garden. The flowers found everywhere in Jesus’ life and ministry.
Feeding: putting on Christ (3:12-14)
Compassion and love – think of Jesus’ constantly meeting and healing the lepers. Humilty, the grace to put aside what’s best for me, to lay aside my status for the good of others (as Jesus did in Phil 2). Gentleness – the quality of not being overly impressed by ones own self-importance.
And all the other qualities are the qualities we need to be feeding.
V15-16 shows us how we feed it – we let his peace rule in our lives, go back to the cross and make it central, we never move on from the place where our forgiveness and transformation is found, and you make God’s Word absolutely central to your life. You listen, you read, you hear it explained, take it into your heart and put it into practice. At every opportunity we need to take God’s Word permeating through our lives together.
v17 – we honour his name – so that in all our activity we are honouring and actively treasuring Jesus as Lord. Constantly seeking to bring every word and deed, closing the gap between lips and heart, so that we honour Jesus with every fibre of our being.
Treasuring Jesus (Col 3:15-17)
[Steven: running out of time here – so Gibbo has to skip this point]
His peace (John 14:1, 27)
There can be a sense that in all this weeding and feeding we’re alone in the job. But we are not!
The theatre where God operates
- Filling with joy (Acts 14:17)
- Purifying (Acts 15:9)
- Opening to respond (Acts 16:14)
- Searching to hear (Rom 8:27)
- Making light shine (2 Cor 4:6)
- Putting concern (2 Cor 8:16)
- Strengthening (1 Thess 3:13)
- Encouraging (2 Thess 2:16-17)
- Directing (2 Thess 3:5)
Fellowship from the heart
We are responsible for each other’s hearts. It’s a matter of basic brotherly Christian life to keep asking each other, ‘How are you going – how are your thoughts, feelings and motivations? Are you responding to Jesus the way you should?’ If this is not a characteristic of the culture of your church then we prayerfully need to build that up – and we start here, with basic relationships that we begin to open up and reveal the hidden secret places that we can remind each other to weed and feed properly.
- Unity (Acts 2:46, 4:32)
- Mutual responsibility (Heb 3:12, 1 Peter 1:22)
- Ministry (Phil 1:6-7; 2 Cor 2:4, 6:11, 7:3)
- Mission (Rom 9:1-5, 10:1)
Above all else, guard your heart
Know that you are known – by God in the deepest recesses of your being.
Be aware of the symptoms and consequences– of a hard and stone heart
Put your heart in his hands – into the hands of our Father who loves us and cares for us
Tear down your idols
Clothes yourself with Christ – cultivate the love of Christ in ourselves
Love one another deeply – to the glory of God.
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Hebrews 4:7
[Steven: What a great final talk. It’s been an exposing week – the Word of God has stripped us naked, leaving us open to feeling the shame of it all… and yet the gospel has been clear, clothing us in Christ. Now clothed, secure, and loved, we can keep honestly opening up to each other. Let’s do it – for each other’s eternal joy rooted deeply in Jesus.]