4th January 2015
Mustard Seed Callington
Colossians 3:1-17 English Standard Version (ESV)
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is 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 what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity,passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice,slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts,kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another,
forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Happy new year to you all and may you be blessed in the church beyond all that you can ever imagine. God loves to bless His people and He delights in our faithfulness. Therefore our new years message is all about what God expects of His people in order that He might bless us accordingly.
I suppose that over the years you have heard many new years messages. It is a great opportunity to encourage each other for the year to come. We hopefully learn from the experience of the past and strive to go forward positively. The new creation is often a theme chosen by the preacher and I must admit that I was tempted to follow that pattern but as I prayed and considered what was best for us this morning my thoughts went to:
The New Years Resolution!
Just prior to midnight on Wednesday night we went out onto the promenade in Looe to watch the firework display that heralded the beginning of 2015. The prom was crowded to capacity with revellers of all ages, all it seems were expecting something special to happen at the stroke of midnight. We had been listening to them passing by our window now for 6 or 7 hours all with great expectations. They got noisier as the evening wore on and the alcohol took it's part in the celebration. A town full of people all hanging their hopes of a bright future on the ringing of the iron bell at 12.00 midnight.
The moment came the fireworks exploded into promising action and “oohs” and “aahs” abounded. On completion there was the customary round of applause, a hug and a grope, a few promises of undying love and a few emptied stomachs on the pathway:
new year is over!
The day of promise came and went but in nothing had changed. All of that money spent and the fun had made no difference at all. I suppose the well meaning promises of eating less, loving and caring more etc. have largely gone by the board now and once again normality has kicked in.
Oh well only 360ish days and we will have another new year to try again!
That all might sound cynical but it is none the less true. The great sadness is that Christians are often guilty of equally erroneous promise making. We often look for a new beginning on the first day of the week as we gather here in church, we are touched and challenged by the Word of God, we resolve to take it to heart but then in a moment it evaporates into thin air, challenging messages evaporate and we return to a mediocre Christian walk. But that is not how it should be.
In our passage the apostle Paul challenges the church to resolve to be better Christians. He instructs us to do 2 things which benefit both us as individual Christians but more importantly the whole church. We are to:
- Seek the heavenly things.
- Set our minds on heavenly things.
These are not options to take if we wish they are imperatives because of what God has done for us: Gospel challenge.
Christians we are to:
Seek the heavenly things:
Paul refers to these as the things that are above by which he means heaven. That is the place where Christ is seated in authority with God the Father. It is always good to be reminded that Christ is King and that he sits in absolute authority in equal proportion to the Father. This is especially true at Christmas time when we have been focussing upon the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is of course vital that we understand that Jesus became fully man but we need to remember that our tiny finite minds cannot rationalise what that means within the Triune Godhead. To us He might have needed to empty Himself of all but love but with God that could never be the case. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He was, is and always will be God the Son. The apostle John tells us that He is the creator for without Him nothing was made that is made and so Jesus although fully man on earth was at the same time fully God.
A mystery that only God can unravel.
In fact even angels marvel and wonder at this; what God has revealed is not always easily explained. That might not be too palatable in our day of science and learning but it is at it is and we have no choice but to accept it. It is through the saving faith that God gives us that makes it possible for us to believe such truths.
Paul is telling us to seek the things that are above.
What is it that is above?
It is God Almighty reigning over His Kingdom!
So what are we to seek?
Remember who Paul is addressing, it is the local church in Colosse; this letter is inspired by God's Holy Spirit and as such is equally for the local church worldwide in every age. Therefore that must mean the local church known as the Mustard Seed here in Callington is also included. This is what we must do:
We are to seek today:
- Fellowship with the Triune God. By this passage God's Spirit is leading to recognise Christ Jesus seated alongside God the Father reigning over His Kingdom. We are to seek Him!
- We are to seek to live as if we are in heaven already. Paul tells us that we have been raised with Christ, this is in the past tense therefore it has happened! This is another amazing mystery; we are already living as if in heaven. That is what being saved means:We belong to God's kingdom: NOW!We are a completely new creation, we are no longer in condemnation and are in complete and absolute fellowship with God. In His eyes we are at one with Him because He has imputed Christ's righteousness to us. Mystery upon mystery our sinful nature is gone and and has oncer and for all been dealt with upon the cross. No wonder angels are amazed at such truths especially as they see our foolish antics. We must seek to live as those who have been forgiven. To seek heavenly things is both challenging and difficult but we must be about the business of seeking them.
All of this requires effort, therefore we must:
Set our minds things above:
It is possible for us to seek something and even to find it but yet not to take possession of it! I was once looking out across the Bristol Channel and just a few hundred yards out to sea there was a small boat caught up on the rocks. The lifeboat was in attendance and the crew were calling to the men on board. The men on the stranded boat were in very dangerous waters and were clearly seeking help and salvation. They sought help and when it came they forsook all and were taken away to safety. They did not at any stage object and delay in order to negotiate the rescue of the boat, they were delighted to be saved.
Sadly as Christians who have been rescued we often go back to look for the boat of our old sinful life, but it has been destroyed in the torrent of God's wrath.
Our old ways were crucified with Christ and we must leave them dead upon the cross.
Therefore we must set our minds to the reality of our salvation. We now have a completely new life to live, we have died to the old ways and are now very much alive in Christ. Paul tells us that our life now is hidden in Christ. It has become intrinsically bound up in Him, He is our life and so when He raises up at the end of the age we too will raise with Him.
“Now I belong to Jesus and Jesus belongs to me, not for the ears of time alone but for eternity.”
We will be perfectly with Him one day in glory and here is yet another mystery. We are sinners saved by grace and are made complete in Christ Jesus now! That means that we have a duty of care concerning our very lives:
We must set our minds upon things above.
This is an imperative it is not a lifestyle choice, it is simply as it is and as such ought to be our greatest desire. If it is not then I seriously doubt your salvation and so you should immediately ask God for help to seek where He might be found!
How do we go about setting our hearts on the things that are above?
When God created the world He created man to work in the world. It is part of our very nature to work at all things. Salvation is outside of all of our efforts; that is God free gift to us. However once we are saved we must work out our salvation, we are not made to be sanctified automatons. As normal human beings we are marked and damaged by sin; but as those who are chosen by God we must work out how we can live our lives as holy people in a sinful world. This takes great effort; setting our minds on heavenly things is the foundation of living a Holy life! We must be holy because God is holy, we can only know what holiness is by looking at the character of God. And then we must become like Him.
- Paul tells us by getting rid of sinful ways which was the way we used to live. We were worldly, some were immoral, we were impure, we all had wrong passions, evil desires, we were covetous, idolatrous, all of these being the reason for God's wrath the bible simply calls it sin. Paul says we are to set our minds on heavenly things we must put away sin in all of it's disguises. Put them away says Paul, destroy them and never return to their ways. These are the things that offend God and are to be no part of our life any more but then Paul moves on to:
- Getting rid of ways that offend others. A number of years ago I spilled thiophenol (very, very smelly) over myself in the course of my work. Due to the smell nobody wanted to be near me, I did not even want to be with myself. I could not wait to change my clothes and to destroy them. I never once craved to put them back on because of the offence that they caused to myself and all around me. Paul says that our anger, malice, slander, obscene talk, lying are our old offensive clothes, as we set our minds on the things that are above these things are to be put away in order to be no longer an offence to ourselves, to the church or to Christ Jesus. We are not to store them somewhere for us to wear at the annual fancy dress parade where all things are once again acceptable, but they are to be totally destroyed within our minds. The church does not need them and neither do you. Instead you are to:
- Put on a complete and permanent set of new clothes. These are the robes of righteousness given by Christ Himself when He renewed your very person. This suit looks like this:compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, caring towards each other, forgiving, loving (this is the crowning glory which must deliberately be put on!) It is peaceful, harmonious, thankful.Does it remind you of somebody? Jesus is all of those things and so we are to be just like Him. He is the Perfect Human Being and we are to set our minds to be just like Him. We are His especially chosen ones, holy and beloved and so we must set our minds upon being like Him. Any other set of clothes is not acceptable in the church. Finally we must:
- Let the word of Christ dwell richly in us and as we do then we are to help each other to be the church. Not with big sticks or false promises but by teaching from the word of God . We will then put right the wrongs correctly, we will encourage each other, the songs that we sing will inspire and our thankfulness will be to God alone who is the only one worthy of praise.
Let us from now on seek heaven upon earth especially as we meet together and to put aside all ungodliness and to set our minds upon wearing the robes of righteousness because they are given by Our Lord and Saviour especially for us. Wear them with pride because they are yours forever!