Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sermon: Colossians 3: 1-17 Raised With Christ

Today, we’re thinking about the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. On Sunday past, we thought about what that meant in terms of Jesus being worthy to be praised, and worthy to rule over the universe. This morning, however, I want to focus in more on what the ascension means for us and our daily behaviour.

To start with, here’s a question to consider for a moment: Does the ascension make any difference to us in daily life? When was the last time that you thought about the ascension, and where Jesus is right now. Perhaps you haven’t really thought about it. We maybe don’t make as big a deal of it as we should, but for Paul, who (as you’ll remember) encountered the risen, ascended, glorified Lord as he appeared to him on the road to Damascus, the ascension means everything!

Look at verse 1. Paul is saying that where Jesus is, then we are too - because we are united with him, we are raised with him. (Read). Which changes our priorities - we need to seek the things that are above, to set our minds on the things above. Instead of being consumed by the things of this world to which we have died, Paul urges us to recognise that we are united with Christ, that our life is in heaven, and to live by the priorities and values of heaven. That the source and power of our life comes from where Jesus is, in heaven.

Right at the heart of the passage, we see the change that has been brought about in us, which now has to be worked out by us and in us - ‘you have put off the old self with its practices, and have put on the new self.’ (9-10) We have died to this world, so need to put to death the sinful desires and actions that are still part of our life.

Notice, though, as we begin to think about this in more detail, that Paul isn’t saying that we just need to try harder, or that we need to do these things in order to be right with God - we simply cannot do that! Rather, our putting to death the sinful things in our life is the consequence of being saved. We have been justified - now we need to continue to be sanctified, becoming more like Jesus.

Verses 5-11 give us some of the things that we need to put to death - sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness, idolatry, anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, lying. Sounds like a normal day... They come so easily and so naturally - but Paul urges us to put them to death, to put them off. It’s like if you’re out walking and you slip into a mucky puddle - you’ll want to get out of the dirty clothes, you can’t bear to stay in them.

But while we are to put off these things, our old self, at the same time we are to put on (like a fresh outfit) other qualities, putting on the new self - those things that belong in heaven, that are part of the new creation: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, love, peace, thankfulness.

A complete turn around, I think you’ll agree - the former were all marks of selfishness, out for ourselves. The latter are marks of service, selflessness, generosity, as a result of what we have received from God himself. Verse 13 speaks of forgiving others because the Lord has forgiven you.

Verse 17 gives us the reason and motivation for all our actions as we seek to put on the new self. ‘Whatever you do... do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’ Doing something in the name of Jesus means to do it for him, seeking to honour him by how we do it - we can’t sin in Jesus’ name - but we can do those things which please him.

What are those things that we need to put to death, which hold us back and hamper us from enjoying resurrection-powered life? Where are the areas we need to grow in love/peace/joy/patience/compassion? Having identified those areas, we need to look up - to see Jesus reigning, triumphant. We live because he lives - he has overcome our sin and gives us the power and means to defeat our sin. Let’s pray.

This sermon was preached at the Midweek service of Morning Prayer at St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald on Wednesday 12th May 2010.

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