Sunday, 13 November 2016

Colossians 3:1-17 Rules For Holy Living

Instructions:

On packaging for a iron:
Do not iron clothes on body.

On a Japanese food processor:
Not to be used for the other use.

On a child's Superman costume:
Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.

On a Swedish chain saw:
Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals.

Emergency safety procedures at a US summer camp:
In case of flood, proceed uphill. In case of flash flood proceed uphill quickly.

On a Harry Potter wizards broom:
This broom does not actually fly.

Rules on a tram in Prague:
Beware! To touch these wires is instant death. Anyone found doing so will be persecuted.

On a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle:
Some assembly required.

On a blowtorch:
Not used for drying hair.

On a toaster:
Do not use underwater.

New Life With Christ

First two chapters of letter Paul has focused on what Christ has done.  

Now in chapter 3 the focus shifts, onto more practical matters – onto how we should live as Christians.

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 Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3:1-4)
Or as The Message puts it:

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.”

First thing to note:

You have been raised with Christ (v1)

Extraordinary statement – of earth shattering significance.

When we become Christians, we move from death to life.

ILL. Popular TV series, Walking Dead, about world following a zombie apocalypse – they are literally the walking dead. But we were the walking dead, before we came to faith in Jesus.

Paul makes clear before we came to Christ, we were dead in our sins, but now through faith in Jesus we have been raised to new life.

Paul in Ephesians (2:1-2, 4-5) writes ‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world… But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.’

Christ has led us from death to life.

As Christians we share in both the death & resurrection of Jesus.  

Paul in Romans 6:3-4, 8 writes ‘don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life…. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.’

ILL – paper in Bible

Through baptism & faith in Christ, our lives become one with Christ.

So that when Christ died on the cross, we died with him. When Christ rose from the dead, we rose with him. 

That is why in Col 3:3 Paul writes “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Significance, Security, Acceptance

What every person in life is looking for is

Significance
Security
Acceptance

The world teaches us that:
  • Significance comes through performance + accomplishments
  • Security comes through status + recognition
  • Acceptance comes through appearance + admiration

But these equations don’t add up.  Only Jesus can provide the significance, security and acceptance, we are all looking for. That is what it means for our life to be hidden with Christ in God.

Emily Harmon, writing in a blog about what it was like to come to faith in Jesus said that before she came to faith in Jesus she didn’t feel good about herself or her life. But when she became a Christian, things started to change. She writes:

My life finally had meaning… And I began to realize how important it was for me to continually stay centred on [Jesus}, because without him as my focus, everything falls away.

My identity is found in Christ… I know where my meaning comes from. I don't have to go looking anywhere else to find it. Anything else I may try to hold up as something to complete me is always disappointing, because it can't define me. Only Jesus can. And as bad as things may seem sometimes, I can truthfully tell you that I have an amazing life. Even when it seems like everything is falling apart, I still have a peace inside of me, because those things can't ruin me. Even if my whole world fell apart, Christ would still be there. And he tells me who I am, not anything or anyone else. For this reason, I am joyful.

This is what it means to have your life hidden with Christ in God, knowing where your significance, security & acceptance come from, and that no person, or no event can take that from you. As Paul writes in Romans (8:39) nothing can ‘separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’   

Set your mind on things above

Because we have been raised with Christ, Paul appeals to us to ‘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.’ (Col 3:2-3)

We are to set our hearts AND minds on the things above. Literally to seek after Christ, make him the focus for our lives, our families, our relationships, our jobs, our communities, our church. To ‘set your heart on things above’ is also about viewing life from God's persepective and seeking what he desires.
 
ILL: Richmond Mission Week 1996-standing in railway station

Often we reduce the message of the Gospel to how do we get to heaven when we die. But it’s so much more than this.

Dallas Willard - The Gospel is less about how to get into the Kingdom of Heaven, after you die, and more about how to live in the Kingdom of Heaven before you die.

When we set our heart & mind on the things above, we begin to understand God’s vision of bringing heaven down on earth.  That is why we pray ‘Your Kingdom come, your will be done, ON EARTH, as in heaven.’

Our calling as Christians, is to help bring heaven down to earth.

Josh Ross in his book ‘Bringing Heaven to Earth’ writes “The gospel is more about this world than the next. It is the story of God’s work in restoring a broken world and broken people…. Christians have asked this question for far too long: If you were to die tonight, where would you go? We need to start asking, if you wake up tomorrow morning, what will you live for?” 

Our focus needs to be the things above, the things that matter to God. 

CS Lewis in Mere Christianity wrote:  If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither.

Set your heart and mind on things above.

Sexual Sins

Paul goes on to write…

THEREFORE (always important word in Paul’s letters)

‘Put to death, whatever belongs to your earthly nature.’

The earthly nature, refers to the sinful nature, the old self, which Paul calls us to put to death.

Although we have died and be raised to new life with Christ, we are still a work in progress, and still face temptation. As Paul himself wrote “I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19) 

To ‘Put to death, whatever belongs to your earthly nature’ it the conscious daily decision to live according to God’s value’s & rely on the Holy Spirit’s power. 

Paul lists two sets of sins, the first five refer to sexual sin, ’sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.’

Sex is a tremendously important part of life, it is given as a gift of God, but to be used within the context of marriage between husband and wife.  But like all gifts, it can be misused.

The Greek word that Paul uses for sexual immorality is porneia, where we derive the term ‘pornography’, which refers to any form of illicit sexual relationship. Paul considered any sexual relationship outside marriage to be sinful.

The world we live in, is very similar to the world that the Christian in Colossae were living in, in terms of its attitude towards sex.

Results published in The Lancet as part of the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles found
  • People are having sex at a young age
  • People are having more sexual partners (this has doubled from 3.7 in 1990 to 7.7 in 2013)
  • More people cohabit
  • Attitudes towards sex, sexuality & marriage are changing
This change in attitude is also taking place amongst Christians.

Then there is pornography.
  • Research by NSPCC  revealed that 53% of 11-16 year olds had seen explicit material online, almost all of them before the age of 14
  • Pornography is a huge industry worth billions.
  • It is having a massive impact on people.
  • It distorts reality 
  • It damages sexual relationships within marriage 
  • It portrays people as objects to be used
  • It devalues sex, as God intended it
  • It can promote sexual violence towards women. 
  • It’s an issue that affects many Christians. Research by Premier Christianity magazine suggesting Four in ten practising Christians in the UK say they have a 'porn addiction' and over 50% admit viewing adult content online on a monthly basis.
Just as you would remove a diseased limb from a tree, so these sinful practices need to be cut off, to be put to death.

Sins of Anger

Paul goes on to say you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.’ (Col 3:5-8) 

Paul makes it clear that the sins of anger need to be taken just as seriously as sexual sins, and can cause untold damage to people and to churches, destroying unity, breaking down trust, tearing down relationships, and leading to conflict. Gossip, lies, back biting, outburst of anger, crude talk, swearing, and so on, have no place in the life of a Christian or the church.

Take off the old, put on the new

Paul goes on to talk about taking off the old & put on the new (verses 9-10).

ILL When my children come home after playing outside, and their clothes are covered in dirt, before they put on new clothes, they first have to take off their old dirty clothes.

This is what we are to do. We are to take off the old self, the life we had before we came to faith in Jesus, with its harmful habits, attitudes & actions, and put on the new self given to us by Christ, and guided by the Holy Spirit. 

ILL Imagine you’ve spent all your life where the same old rags. They’ve been patched up time after time, they’re hanging limply off your body, there are holes everywhere, and it smells. And then one day, someone offers to take these rags from you, burn them, and give you a new beautiful set of clothes, ones that will not spoil, will not fail. You would be mad to refuse such a wonderful offer. This is what Jesus has done for us.

Clothe yourself

Each morning when you get up, you make a decision about what you are going to wear.
This is the uniform that we are God’s people are called to clothes ourselves with:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Col 3:12-14

When you wear a uniform, it says something about who you are and what your identity is. When we clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness & patience, we identify ourselves as belonging to Christ.

As new men and new women in Christ, every day we need to deliberately put on these qualities of life every single day, because you are a new men and women in Christ.

Compassion - is what we would call a "heart of pity." Have genuine sensitivity and heartfelt sympathy for the needs of others.

Out of compassion comes kindness – the outworking of compassion - a smile, a kind word, a pat on the shoulder, an invitation to lunch, an offer of help.

Many centuries ago, a certain young man from a rural setting went to live in a large city and fell in with the wrong crowd He lived a wild and life, becoming involved in many hurtful things which almost destroyed him. But he heard a preacher one day and though he did not particularly appreciate his preaching, he was struck by the man He went to hear him again, and soon that preacher was able to lead him to Christ. That young man was St Augustine. This is what Augustine wrote of Ambrose, pastor of the cathedral in Milan: "I began to love him, not at first as a teacher of the truth, which I despaired of finding in the church, but as a fellow creature who was kind to me " What an open door kindness can he!

The third quality is "humility." CS Lewis said “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”  We are not to consider ourselves in any way as superior to others. A modern proverb puts it well, we are to remember that "all of us are made in the same mold, only some are moldier than others!"

The fourth quality is "gentleness," which is sometimes translated as “meekness” which is not weakness, but "strength under control." Jesus described himself as being ‘gentle & humble in heart’ (Matt 11:29) Gentleness is the exact opposite of rudeness and abrasiveness.

The fifth quality is "patience.” Literally, long suffering.

The last quality is "forgiving one another"---"Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Our model, is Christ's treatment of us. That is what he did when we came to him. The first step to forgiving others, is understanding how much God has forgiven us. Corrie Ten Boom said ‘Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment & the handcuffs of hatred.”

And other all these virtues we are to put on love.
Love like a belt holds everything together.

As Jesus himself said,  ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ (John 13:34-35)

We cannot practice all the other virtues, if there is no love. Without love we are nothing.
CS Lewis said “Don’t waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

Do all things for Christ

Finally Paul writes ‘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.’ (Col 3:17)

As Christians we represent Christ at all times – wherever you go, whatever you say. Our calling is to seek to bring honour & glory to Christ in everything we say & do, and to do it with a spirit of thankfulness. Ruth Graham had for years a sign over her kitchen sink that said, "Divine services held here three times a day." Washing the dishes can be an act of worship if you do it in the name of the Lord, as unto him.

ILL – Brother Lawrence - a 17th-century Carmelite monk

If you love someone you will do things for his or her sake that you do not particularly like doing. That is the point here. If we love the Lord we offer to him the activities of our day; we do everything with a view to his glory. Fill out your income tax forms with that in mind! Meet with your boss, or your employees, "in the name of the Lord Jesus." Buy your groceries in the name of the Lord. Do your homework in the name of the Lord Jesus. Thus, you are labouring, not for the world or its benefits, but for Christ. What a glorious picture this gives of the whole of life under the Lordship of Christ.