Remember the Context – Typically the epistles will offer lists of instructions, but never in isolation. The chapter breaks and section headings may segregate a set of instructions or commands, but the letters were written as a coherent whole. We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices . . . in view of God’s mercies. We are to walk in a manner worthy . . . of the calling we have received. We are to set our hearts on things above, where Christ is . . . the Christ presented in the first half of Colossians!
Remember the Mechanism – As long as we think lives are transformed by the pressure we can apply in our preaching, our ministry will be desperately restricted. Lives are transformed by pointing the gaze of listeners’ hearts toward Christ. In Christ, in Christ, in Christ . . . so walk worthy. The captivating truth of what God has done in Christ is preached, the Spirit works in the heart, an appetite to please God comes forth like sap in a fruit tree, and the instructions are there to guide the growth.
Forget the Short-Cut – It feels like a short-cut: just find imperatives, or turn some content into imperative, and then pressure people. You will even get encouraging feedback (the flesh loves this stuff!) But you won’t see much true, genuine, abundant growth. Forget the short-cut and preach the text, in context, pointing to the God it reveals, and the growth may be imperceptible (good fruit growth isn’t instant), but it will be definite, genuine, multiplying, healthy, Christ-honoring, loving, joyful, peaceful, etc., fruitful growth!