Sunday, March 4, 2012

Christian Meekness - from Colossians 3:12

Just playing with my audio recorder again.

The following are my teaching notes from our Sunday School class on Meekness from Colossians 3:12-13.

Colossians 3:12-13
12 “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

Intro:  Last week we began to introduce the subject of Christian Mercy.  Just as a Christian is to put on a Compassionate Spirit (defined here by tenderness, kindness and humility) so also the Christian must put on a Merciful Spirit (defined here by the words meekness, long-suffering, bearing with one another, forgiving one another).
We simply introduced the subject last week by pointing out, not that we need much reminding, that we all still carry about numerous short-comings and sins.  And that it is inevitable that within the local church our faults will at times cause injury to others.  And how we respond when we have been in any way wounded by a brother or sister in Christ is Paul’s focus now.  We are calling it a Merciful Spirit, and it is summarized by the 4 words or phrases in our text:  Meekness, Long-suffering, Bearing with one another, Forgiving one another. 

It is worth pointing out that Paul assumes Christians will be in such a close fellowship with one another that we are going to, at times, injure one another.  If there were no such close connection and fellowship, these instructions would seem rather silly.  You don’t tell virtual strangers going into a movie theater that to get the most out of this movie you will need to put on meekness and long-suffering with one another.  No.  They are strangers.  They don’t have to like one another or even know one another.  It is like when a young couple goes from dating to being married.  Now all of a sudden you have to love this man who can manage to put a dirty cup in the sink…but cannot seem to manage to move it ALL the way to the dishwasher.  As though they were miles apart.  And the strange thing is that his clothes seem to have the same problem with respect to the hamper. 

The point is that the closer the relationship, the more likely the opportunity for injury.  And Paul here in describing this Merciful Spirit clearly assumes a close relationship of believers within the local church.  Thus the need for Meekness, Long-suffering, Bearing with One Another and Forgiving One Another.


1)         The Beatitudes.  Blessed are the Merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.  Matthew 5:7.

2)         Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for tithing on their spices…but neglecting the weightier matters of the law: just, mercy and faith.

3)         In Luke 6:36 Jesus says to be “merciful, even as your Father also is merciful”

4)         Jesus tells the parable of the man who owed 10 thousand talents and was forgiven, and then found someone who owed him a mere hundred pence and cast him into prison for this debt.  Jesus said that when the king found out he was enraged and turned over that man to the tormentors.  And Jesus concludes by saying “likewise shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”

Micah the prophet summarized the importance of mercy well when he said :  "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8) 

Convinced then, I hope, that a Merciful Spirit is a high priority for the Christian, let us look together at these 4 words and see what really goes into the making of a merciful spirit.  And as we look at each of these words the burden of our hearts should be “Lord, make me this man.  Lord, make me this woman.  This Merciful Christian.” 


Paul says that if we want to foster a spirit of Mercy within the church, the first thing to focus on is Meekness.   

What is meekness?  It is a quality that often challenges us to define.  It is so closely associated with humility, that the 2 can often be confused.  Not only that, but the very word “meekness” often suggests a sort of wimpy weakness, which is actually very much the opposite of what it means.

What is Meekness?  How would you define it?  What would you say are the distinguishing marks of a “meek” person?   

Does anyone want to take a stab at “meekness?”   

One of the things that convinces me that we struggle to really grasp “meekness” is that fact that even good Bible dictionaries come up with confusing definitions.  For example, I have one Bible dictionary that defines it as an “equanimity of spirit that is neither elated nor cast down, simply because it is not occupied with self at all.”  Hmmm.  May be a good definition, but I’m not sure it makes it very clear.   

Probably the best way to define meekness is to look at a couple examples of meekness in the Bible. 

The Bible itself helps us understand meekness more by “example” than be mere “definition.”   

Example 1:  Moses - Numbers 12 – Notice Moses does not plead his own case.  Notice Moses does plead for Miriam. 

Example 2:  The meekness of Christ – 2 Cor. 10:1 

Here the context is Paul defending his apostleship.  The problem is that when Paul was among the Corinthians, he conducted himself is such a lowly, servant-like way that he did not have demeanor and glamour of the false apostles.  And Paul says that the standard of his behavior was the gentleness and meekness of Christ Himself.   

I am going to try to give you a definition of meekness and then give an illustration that will hopefully cement it in our minds.

Definition:  “Meekness is not doing, saying or even thinking toward someone who has injured us, what we really WANT to do, say or think…even though we could.”   

Let me try to give a silly illustration.  Imagine “Mike the meek” drives to pick up his friend Tom on the way to work every morning.  He tells Tom he will be there at 7:00AM so they can make it to work on time.  Mike gets there at 7AM every morning.  And every morning waves out the window and indicates he just needs a couple more minutes.  And at 7:15 he finally gets out the door.   This happens every day.  One day Mike accidentally sleeps a few minutes late and shows up at 7:10 at Tom’s house.  But Tom was actually ready at 7:00AM that day, and lets Mike know all the way to work the trouble he is going to be in because he really needed to be there on time.  Mike sincerely apologizes, says nothing about the dozens of days that Tom created a worse delay for him, and offers to help Tom with his work to make sure he isn’t behind for the day.   

That is meekness. 

Meekness is the companion of Humility.  Humility is the grace by which we do NOT boast of the goodness done toward us or through us.  Meekness is the grace whereby we do not COMPLAIN about the injustice or injuries we receive or the trials we endure.  Humility has reference to the good things.  Meekness has reference to the hard things.  And that is why Paul puts meekness first with respect to this spirit of Mercy. 

Jonathan Edwards, in his sermons on the fruit of the Spirit, spends considerable time giving the details of Meekness. 

In a very helpful manner, he explained what a “meek” spirit will NOT do.  And I just wanted to share briefly a few of his insights:

1)            A Meek spirit will not seek revenge.   Edwards knows his own heart well.  He knows that revenge is not limited to an immediate attack on someone.  Sometimes we endure a million dollar injury, and we get our revenge by paying it back 1 penny at a time.  Edwards puts it this way (read p. 71 – Charity and Its Fruit).

We can take much sinful pleasure in watching the slow suffering of those who injured us.  Remember The Count of Monte Cristo?  Sent to prison for years by those who hated him.  When he finally escapes and faces his enemy Fernand and has utterly ruined him.  He reveals that he, the Count, is actually Edmond Dantes.  And looking at Fernand’s puzzled expression Dante’s says “How did I escape?  With difficulty.  How did I plan this moment?  With pleasure.”

We can take our revenge on others simply by becoming cold toward them.  Not making eye contact with them anymore.  And all these things are the very opposite of meekness.  We have no meek spirit, and we are NOT merciful Christians, when we seek revenge – no matter what we prefer to call it. 

2)            Secondly, Edwards says that true meekness means that we must not cease to love our neighbor who has injured us.  True meekness allows for NO interruption in our disposition of love toward that person who has injured us.  Edward’s says “we may pity, but not hate him for it.” 

3)            Third, Edwards says that the truly meek person will not allow his or her generally calm and peaceful spirit to be aroused or disturbed by injuries.  See page 73.

4)            Finally, Edwards says that a truly meek spirit is willing to suffer great injuries over a prolonged period for the sake of the peace of the body of Christ.   

Martyn-Lloyd Jones in his sermons on the beatitudes says this about the Meek Spirit:  The man who is meek is not even sensitive about himself. He is not always watching himself and his own interests. He is not always on the defensive... To be truly meek means we no longer protect ourselves, because we see there is nothing worth defending... The man who is truly meek never pities himself, he is never sorry for himself. He never talks to himself and says, “You are having a hard time, how unkind these people are not to understand you.”  

Final Question:

1.            Why is Meekness so difficult?  What makes this virtue, so highly esteemed by God, so well exemplified by Christ, so difficult for us to obtain? 

2.            How do we become meek?
We become meek when we realize how much has been forgiven us by the Lord.  How much has been done for us by Christ.  How the Holy Spirit abides in us and does not abandon us when we pollute His house with our sin. 

No comments: