Raised with Christ – Colossians 3:1-12

- David Lee 19th February 2017 Colossians

David Lee – Morning Service

 

Transcript

Bear with me while I move a couple of things …

I also need to change my jacket.
I’m told I look a bit silly in this but if you can look past that,
all will become clear in a bit…

As we come to consider our reading
from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians,
I’m going to pray for us
using his prayer for them from earlier in the letter.

Heavenly Father,
we pray that as we look at your word this evening
you would fill you with the knowledge of your will
through all the wisdom and understanding that your Spirit gives,
so that we may live lives worthy of you
and please you in every way
by bearing fruit in every good work.
And we ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

How do you escape those feelings of greed
that always leave you wanting more?
Always wanting the next promotion
so you have more money;
or the next amazing holiday
so you have spectacular holiday snaps to share?

What’s going to stop you having
sleeping with the attractive colleague
who you’ve been working long hours with
when they makes a move on you?

What will help you stay on top of your anger
when that friend lets you down again?

As you sit in a traffic jam caused by an pile up in front of you
how do you have compassion for the person
who’s had a life-changing injury
rather than getting wound up about the appointment
you’re just about to miss?

Where can you find the patience you need
to help your neighbour suffering
with the early stages of dementia
as they knock on your door
to ask the same questions day after day?

What’s going to give you the kindness
to explain to the junior in the office
how to do the really simple task for the 100th time
when they just can’t get their heads around it?

They’re questions worth asking
as they are the sort of people we want to be.

We don’t want to be greedy or unfaithful or angry.
We’d much rather be compassionate and patient and kind.

And I think that desire is true of all of us.
Whether or not you’d call yourself a Christian,
that’s the sort of person you want to be
because it’s a good way to live.

But for the Christian,
there’s the added motivation
– or rather the primary motivation –
of that being how God wants us to live.

As Paul prayed for the Colossians
and we prayed for ourselves a moment ago:
the Christian wants to live a life worthy of God,
one that pleases him in every way
by bearing fruit in every good work.

It’s the way we want to live.
But it’s a way we struggle to live.
It’s something we find really hard.

So how do we do it?
How can we change the way we live?

We could try with our own determination.
But will power alone won’t do it.

If you were with us on New Year’s Day,
I mentioned some statistics about NY’s resolutions.
Most of us were doing pretty well with ours back then
– if you’d failed your New Year’s resolution on day one
things must have been going pretty badly! –
but by this point in the year, six weeks in,
the statistics show that 1 in 3 of us will have given up
and by the end of the year only 8% of us
will still be going.

Just deciding to live differently doesn’t work.

And that’s something that Paul recognised.
In the verse just before our reading at the top of the page,
he says the rules we give ourselves
have an appearance of wisdom
but – end of the verse –
lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

In other words, they don’t work!

So what will?

Well Paul tells in in our passage for this evening,
which we’re going to turn to now.

 

Since you’ve been raised with Christ, set your hearts and minds on things above! (1–4)

And it starts with a reminder of the good news
at the heart of the Christian faith.

Have a look with me at the start of our reading;
page 1184 if your Bible has fallen shut.

Paul writes:

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 someone becomes a Christian,
they become so intimately connected to Jesus
that whatever has happened to him,
has happened to them.

It’s like getting in a lift:
when you’re in a lift,
you go wherever the lift goes.
Wherever Jesus has been,
the Christian has also been, spiritually speaking.

[Put one Russian doll inside the other]
So here’s Jesus and here’s the Christian.
And when Jesus dies
[Put Russian dolls on floor]
– when he goes down to the basement as it were –
the Christian,
by faith,
goes with Jesus down into death.

And as the Christian goes down into death with Jesus,
what Paul calls their old self
– that is, the part of them that wanted to be greedy
and unfaithful and angry –
was put to death.
It was crucified with Jesus.
[Nail old self to cross]

But it doesn’t end there.
In fact, our reading started
with the ascent from the basement,
[Pick up Russian dolls]
when Paul reminds the Colossian Christians
that they have been raised with Christ.

As Jesus was raised from the dead,
so was the Christian.

And the Christian was raised not just to earth
– the lift doesn’t just go to the ground floor! –
but all the way up to the penthouse
– all the way up to heaven.
[Open Russian doll] See, there they are!

If you’re a Christian here this evening,
you’re actually in two places at once!
Because Paul says that,
through your faith in Christ,
you have been raised to heaven spiritually.

And this is the starting point
for living the life we all want to live.

Paul says that as the Christian
sets their hearts and minds on things above
– that is, as they focus on where they are
through their faith in Jesus –
they can start to live a new life.

Which in one sense sounds like a remarkably quick fix.
But in reality it’s a day-by-day,
hour-by-hour,
minute-by-minute battle.

Because the setting of our hearts and minds on things above
is less of one-off flicking a switch
as you would do to turn a lightbulb on
[Switch]
and more of the continuous work
[use torch] of using a dynamo-powered torch.

Setting our hearts and minds on things above
is something we need to be doing all the time.

But why is that the case?
Why isn’t it a one-off flicking a switch?

Because, as Paul says in verse 3,
the Christian’s new life is hidden with Christ in God.

Now, that life being hidden is a really good thing
because it’s secure.
There’s nothing that can take it away from Christ.

But the problem with something being hidden
is that it isn’t obvious – you can’t see it.

If you’re anything like me you’ll know what this is like.
You want to look after your passport
so you put it in a really safe place.
But the problem with really safe places
is that you often forget where they are.
And so whilst your passport is really safe
– if you don’t know where it is,
no-one else is going to find it! –
you can’t see it!
It’s not obvious!

And so it is with the Christian’s life.
It’s hidden with Christ in God.
Which means that whilst it’s secure it’s also not obvious.

But what is really obvious is the world.
That’s all around us.
We can see that everywhere.
And because it’s right in front of us,
we don’t need to try to set our hearts and minds
on earthly things.

[Hold up torch]
Unless you’re constantly setting your hearts and minds
on things above,
they’re set on things below.
Just like my torch being off if I don’t do anything.
And so Paul says to the Colossian Christians:
as you remember that you’ve been raised with Christ,
and you set your hearts and minds on things above
rather than on things below,
then you’ll start to be able to live a new life.

 

Put to death your old selfish nature! (5–11)

And if our hearts and minds are set on things above
then we can out to death our old selfish nature.

That’s what Paul goes on to speak of in verses 5–9.
Have a look at those verses with me:

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.

I wonder if you noticed what all the things
that Paul tells the Colossian Christians
to put to death have in common?

They’re all selfish acts, aren’t they?

So the sexual immorality of having an affair
or acting out of lust
are not loving acts of self-giving
but cold-hearted, acts of self-taking.
They treat sex as something that’s exclusively for my benefit
rather than the good of the other.

And greed is me wanting something I don’t have.
And as well as it being something I don’t have,
more often than not it’s something someone else has.
Greed’s a selfish thing.

And the same is true of the other things Paul lists:
anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying.
They’re all things that are about me and what I want.

These are all things we’ll be tempted to do
if we let our hearts and minds
go to their default setting of focussing on earthly things.

But we can put them to death
if we set our hearts and minds on things above.

It may be that you’re thinking,
why do I have to put my selfish nature to death at all?
After all, hasn’t it died with Christ?

And you’d be right to think that: it has.
Your life is hidden with Christ in God.
That is where you are, spiritually.

But we’re also still down here on the ground floor
– we’re physically here on earth.
And so we still face the temptations of the earth;
we’re still tempted to act in accordance
with our old nature,
even though it’s dead to us.

So here’s how it might work with anger, for example.

Anger often comes from a feeling
that we should be in charge.

And if our hearts and minds are set on earthly things,
we listen to our culture’s spirit of entitlement
and we conclude that we’re entitled to get our way.

But then we come across someone
who stops us getting our own way
and prevents us from being in charge.

And because they’re stopping us
from doing what we’re entitled to
we get angry with them.

But if our hearts and minds are set on things above,
we’ll be reminded that we’re not in charge.
Jesus, who’s seated at the right hand of God, is in charge.

And we’ll be reminded that things don’t go well
when we’re in charge
as we remember that’s why Jesus had to die.

And so we don’t get to a place where we’re angry;
we’re able to put our anger to death.

And the same is true for lust, greed, malice, lying
– all the things Paul lists, as well as many others
which belong to our earthly nature.
As we set our hearts and minds on things above
– as Christians focus on where they are by faith –
they can put to death their old selfish nature.

 

Put on your new selfless nature! (10–12)

The second thing
that setting our hearts and minds on things above
enables us to do is put on our new selfless natures.

Let me read from verse 9.  Paul writes:

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. 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.

Paul says to the Colossian Christians,
because you’ve died and been raised with Christ,
you’ve not only taken off your old selfish nature
[point to cross]
– which was crucified with Christ –
[put on jacket] you’ve also put on a new nature.

And this new nature
which Paul calls us to clothe ourselves with
is radically different to our old nature.

Because rather than being selfish it is selfless.
That’s what ties together all those things in verse 12:
compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience
are all selfless attitudes.

To put on any of these characteristics,
we need to set our hearts and minds on things above.

Because if our hearts and minds are set on earthly things,
being selfless is a really hard thing to be.
Because we’re all too aware of the dog-eat-dog world
we live in
where we have to look after number 1.

But if we set our hearts and minds on things above,
you can be kind and compassionate.
You can feel what others feel
and understand where they’re coming from
rather than imposing feelings upon them
and assuming their circumstances.

And you’re able to be humble and gentle,
knowing that you don’t need to fight for your status
or climb over someone else to get what you want.

And we’re able to live like this
if our hearts and minds are set on things above
because that means they’ll be set on Jesus.
It means you’ll be looking to the one
who embodied all these things perfectly.

And you’ll be reminded of his humility, for example.
That even though he is fully God,
he became a man
and humbled himself by dying on a cross
so that you can be forgiven.

And knowing how his humility has served you,
and seeing what a beautiful thing it is,
you’ll be able to – and want to – serve others in humility.

And not only that.
Because as you set your hearts and minds on things above,
you’ll remember that because you’ve been raised with him
you have the power to live like this;
you’re know you’re able
to clothe yourself with a selfless life.

Have you ever heard it said that Christians
are so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good?

Well this passage would say the exact opposite is true!
It’s by being heavenly minded
that the Christian can be of earthly good.

Because it’s by being heavenly minded
– by setting their hearts and minds on things above –
that Christians can escape those feelings of greed;
can keep themselves from having an affair;
can stay on top of their anger at their kids;
can have compassion instead of getting wound up
when things don’t go to plan;
and can find patience and kindness!

Christians know that they’re powerless
to do any of this on their own;
but they also know that they’ve been raised to new life in Xt.

And as they day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute,
set their hearts and minds on things above
and not on earthly things
they can put to death their old selfish nature
and put on a new selfless nature.

And so if you’re a Christian here this evening,
when you find yourself struggling in the coming week,
here’s what you’re to do:
set your hearts and minds on things above.
Focus on where you are by faith.
Focus on where your life is hidden with Christ in God.
And from that place,
look to put to death your old selfish nature
and put on your new selfless nature.

And if you wouldn’t call yourself a Christian here this PM,
can you see how the Christian faith isn’t just
pie in the sky when you die;
but rather that by being heavenly minded,
Christians can be of the greatest earthly good.
The Christian faith isn’t just good news of life after death
but good news for life before death?

I’m going to give us a moment to reflect
on what we’ve heard from the Bible
before leading us in a prayer.