For the past 3 weeks, we have been working through the book of Colossians. This is a church, very similar to the church in America, has been working through what it means to be a Christian, and been wrestling with the question of who Christ is.
We have talked about the truth, or belief that we serve a Savior who is King. We serve Christ the fully-God-fully-man, and risen Lord. We believe that the world was created through him, he is beyond our comprehension, and he is the one who is over everything below, on or over the earth.
And we have talked about the fact that, to serve God is more than just a head thing. We can know that God is God, and we can know that Jesus is his son, but to follow him, to be a Christ follower, we must do exactly that…we must follow.
When Christ conquered death, when he rose from the dead, he didn’t just win victory over Satan- which he did- but he won victory over the law, or over earned salvation. Over us proving our worth, and over us being enough.
And so we know, yes, we change. We see our lives become different than they used to become. We see our decisions take different paths and our ultimate. We see a big picture example of what God can do in our hearts and our lives. Completion. Peace. Joy.
That sounds great, right?
Thus far, we’ve taken a 30,000 foot look at this idea of Christ likeness. We have talked about the truth that Rules won’t save us, and that we need to be more like Jesus.
But let’s dive into this a bit more. Let’s examine WHAT a Christ-follower is to look like.
Before we begin, let’s take a few minutes and read the first part of our scripture today. It comes from Colossians 3, and we’ll be reading verses 1-10.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
There’s a story that I read to Ella. It’s a story that was read to me as a boy, and the fact that I get to read it to her is pretty fantastic.
It’s the story of a little bear named Corduroy.
Now, I don’t really have the time to read the whole book to you today. But, it goes a little like this…
We are born with a button missing
Or…for some of us…a few buttons missing.
I’m sure many of you know the story of Adam and Eve.
In case you haven’t heard the story, here’s a quick rundown. Adam and Eve were the first of humanity. They were man and woman, created in the image of God, born and living their lives in a perfect world. This world was filled with plants and animals over which they reigned. It was a true utopia. However, there was one guideline placed on Adam and Eve; they must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
That’s it. Just one tree. Not so hard, right?
But like a child told to keep his hands out of the cookie jar, they were persuaded by Satan to eat from that tree. Having eaten, they were instantly changed. Their eyes were opened to the reality of Good and Evil, and ever since, we deal with the ripples of that early decision against God.
Each one of us, when we are conceived and born into this world, is born like corduroy, incomplete.
We are born with a tendency to prefer ourselves. We are selfish. Choosing our happiness over that of others. You see this early on in a child’s life. They discover, very early on, how much they appreciate the word, “MINE.”
For you visual people out there….we were created to be a straight line. Our lives flowing out of us, and pointing continually towards our creator.
However, when sin entered the world and our hearts were bent towards sin that straight line began to spiral inward. Choosing selfishness over selflessness.
Choosing Anger over love.
Choosing hatred over forgiveness.
The Real state of the soul
At first glance, when you read this passage, you can easily begin to feel like Paul is being hypocritical by giving us a list of how we might become holy.
However, what Paul is doing is not so much telling us what to avoid, rather he’s painting a picture of what the fallen self, or our sinful nature. He’s painting who we are as people living away from Christ, away from the Kingdom, and away from the redemption of the Cross.
As you read through this list, you see: Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed. Through this, Paul is pointing to two parts of our fallen nature: Outward Manifestations, and inward cravings.
Let’s take a quick look at these two parts of human brokenness.
(Sexual immorality, impurity) These would be any wrongful act that we participate in, or act on. They tend to be pretty easy to see, and to judge. Rules and regulations are put in place to curb these outward actions. Things like murder, stealing, gossip, lying would make this list. However, you and I could spend all day creating a list of actions we should not do.
(Lust, evil desires, greed) Paul takes it a step further, though. While he says actions matter, and that we are no longer to live a broken, and sinful life, he also points to the fact that actions come from some place.
They come from the heart. Someone doesn’t just up and decide one day that they want to end the life of another human being. There is a road; a path that traveled inwardly that brings them to a place where to act upon that impulse is no longer foreign and no longer abhorrent.
They have indulged their inward cravings and in that indulgence, they have created a monster. What’s so difficult, though, is that no one could see their heart. No one could see what was happening inside of them.
This is how so many church leaders can lead massive churches, and lead ministries all while committing horrible and evil crimes against the innocent.
They lived a life spiraling inward, indulging their cravings, and in that indulgence, in that saying yes- over and over- they begin to act upon their cravings. Creating pain, suffering and injustice.
From Adam and Eve, it took one generation for the first murder to take place. Their son Cain murdered his brother Abel.
Sin, when left unchecked, leads us towards a life of disorder and chaos. Sin corrupts, and corrupts until it brings death.
You see this all the time, in the everyday lives of people…however, this is most public in the lives of celebrities and our artists.
One of my favorite writers is Ernest Hemingway. I love his style, and his story “The Old Man and the Sea” is this incredible story of a man’s struggle with life, with nature, and ultimately with death.
It’s beautiful. However, if you read about Hemingway, you’ll see this man who was tortured by what he had seen, by what he experienced. He lived a life filled with every pleasure he could achieve. He pursued women (married multiple times with no real interest in staying faithful to any of them), culture (lived in Paris and Cuba), and excitement (safaris, binge drinking and fishing).
He was a man that lived the life he was born to live, and in the end, used a shotgun to commit suicide. He was miserable, and unfulfilled.
This is the life we’re promised if we choose to live bent towards ourselves.
Some of you are probably thinking…wow! Debbie downer here…!
But I have good news!
Paul is telling us that it doesn’t have to be that way. He is offering a warning of what to expect should we choose death over life. But he doesn’t end with that…let’s continue with verse 11.
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
One of the most beautiful moments in this passage is when Paul re-addresses the church in Colossians. He says, “As God’s chosen people, holy, and dearly loved.”
As those who matter. As those who are chosen. As those who are beloved.
He isn’t saying, “You!”
He’s saying, “My love…be done with your old way of life. The way that brings you suffering and pain. And instead, follow me to life.”
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Be patient with each other. Forgiving often, and completely.
Because you’ve been forgive often and completely by your Master.
The image Paul uses throughout this passage is an interesting one. He uses the image of taking off an old garment, and putting a new one on. To remove the old, and replace with the new.
So, it’s also beautiful that he offers this blessing in 15:
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.
When a writer uses the word Eirene, they are talking about something on a national scale. They are talking about a nation at peace, free from war and from havoc. A nation filled with people who are living in harmony together. A nation living in Eirene is living bound by, wrapped up in peace.
This isn’t a selfish, individual peace that people so often seek out. This is a collective peace. A community peace. One that is between people. Including friends, enemies and family.
Eirene is also the word for peace used when the angels visited the shepherds 60 years prior to announce the birth of Jesus.
“Peace on earth!” They proclaimed. Peace has come to the nations!
One theologian talked about it this way,
“Within this realm of the new man there is no inferiority of one class to another; men and women of completely diverse origins are gathered together in unity in Christ, sharing a common allegiance to their Lord. Christ is all that matters; he permeates and indwells all members of his body, regardless of race, class or background.”
Paul is painting the picture of what life will be like, for those in the Kingdom, one day. We live in a world that is broken and spiraling out of control. We chase things we think will bring fulfillment, but they never do.
And so we are invited to take of the old way of doing things.
If we accept this invitation, we will experience two things:
First, we’ll experience God.
Despite what culture tells you, and what we see in movies, we cannot find ourselves alone. We cannot find ourselves isolated from others. And in the same way, we cannot fully experience God outside of the community of God.
Our salvation isn’t dependent on others…but if we want to live in the fullness of God’s presence, in the fullness of his grace and the fullness of his forgiveness, then you’ll need to participate in the community of the Kingdom.
Don’t believe me?
Have you ever been forgiven for something you did wrong? How did that make you feel?
Have you ever been loved? I mean, truly loved in spite of all your shortcomings and failures?
When you live in the kingdom, you experience what God is offering to each of us! Sure, we’re far from perfect (Hence the need for forgiveness!!)…but when community of believers is working right, it’s a beautiful picture of what we will experience once day.
Think about it. Think about a group of people who lived out compassion, peace, grace, kindness, humility, gentleness, forgiveness, and love!
Sign me up.
Second, we will find meaning
One part of interacting with God that is inescapable is that, if someone participates in that interaction, they can’t help but be moved. They can’t help but be driven into action.
To participate in the kingdom means that you become someone that God will use to change and impact this world. The beauty of serving God is that, when he calls you, he calls you to something that you were wired and geared to do.
You were made to follow Christ. You were made to be used by him. And to participate in that will bring a completion and fullness in your life that you will never find anywhere else, and it will bring the knowledge that you will be part of the coming of peace to the nations.
Whatever you do
Paul wraps up this section by saying,
“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Take on the robe of Christ, and change the world. Through both action and the spoken word. Do it in the name of Christ, and give him thanks for everything that comes from it.
This is the beautiful kingdom in which we live…and a kingdom we can look forward to.