Genesis 1:26-31, Colossians 3:1-4, 12-17
June 17, 2012
What I’m going to say today will follow my thoughts from last week about Paul’s words, “Christ in us.” So, if you get a chance, read that sermon again sometime. You can go on the Church website, or you can take a copy from the back of the church. I think there are still some there. If not, let me know, we can always make more.
In short, Paul told us in Chapter 1 that we don’t just have Christ “beside us,” we have “Christ in us.” And that is our “hope of glory.” Then, in the next chapter, he goes on to say how our “old life” – our old nature – was “buried with Christ” in baptism, and that we were then raised with him to new life.
By the way, that’s the Baptist understanding of baptism. They say that when you’re lowered into the water, it symbolizes this “burial with Christ.” As Tony Campolo used to say, “When you are baptized you go down into the water and you are dead and buried! And if you don’t get the idea, we hold you down there until you do!” And then, when you are brought up out of the water, it symbolizes in a very real way, your resurrection with Jesus. Has anyone here been baptized that way? That’s pretty powerful imagery, which I sometimes think we miss in our version of that sacrament.
So the idea is, we have been buried with Christ – “co-crucified,” as Paul told the Galatians (Galatians 2:20) And we have been raised with him to new life. The idea of our being co-crucified was very important to Paul. He told the Romans, “If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:5) So then, because of our sharing in his death and resurrection, we have “Christ in us,” again “the hope of Glory.”
That brings us to this reading. At the beginning of Chapter 3, we read, “So then, if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above.” In other words, if you have “Christ in you,” you should be doing things differently. If you have Christ in you, it should change the way you live. And what follows is essentially an entire chapter about practical things, examples of how we do that. Paul is telling us a number of different things we should be doing now that Christ dwells in us. And then he concludes with the words, “Whatever you do, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
So, do we do that? Do we do everything “in the name of Jesus?” That’s a pretty tall order, isn’t it? Do we live our entire lives – everything we do, everything we say – in the name of Jesus? Is that even possible? I’ve always said that people ought to be able to know we are Christians, simply by the way we live our lives – by our words and deeds, as Paul just said. Think about that. If you didn’t tell anybody, would people know from your words and deeds that you are a Christian? Are you glad I’m not asking you to raise your hands on this one?! This is not easy! But we should try! That’s what I want you to think about today.
While you do, let me remind you of something. Let me remind you that we are made in God’s image. We read that story from Genesis this morning. And in Genesis, before all that business with the serpent and the apple – actually it doesn’t say it was an apple – but whatever it was, before that happened, men and women were created, not just in God’s image, but in perfect harmony with God!
Then came that “unfortunate moment.” Then came that event we refer to it as “the Fall.” And it was a pivotal moment in all of history. At that moment, humans rebelled against God! And they’ve been doing so ever since. That rebellion is the “Original Sin” that our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters talk about. Actually, we talk about it, too, but our beliefs are a little different. We believe, not so much that we are actually guilty of Adam’s actual sin, (and therefore need to be cleansed from it in baptism,) but rather that we carry within us the spirit of rebellion which all humans have.
That’s what we mean by “Original Sin.” If you think about it, that’s a lot harder to deal with than just a one-time cleansing for something that happened eons ago which “we really didn’t do.” We’re talking about our whole rebellious nature! That’s much harder to deal with, isn’t it? And, if you think about it, that human rebellion is the “original sin.” Because it leads to all other sins! And in addition to that, that rebellion causes the image of God, which humans had in the beginning, to been “marred.” You’ve heard those words before in our Prayer of Confession. “We have marred the image of God within us.”
Paul was well aware of all of that. And now he tells us that, in Christ, that image of God in us has been restored. But again, it’s not some one-time cleansing from “the Fall” that’s at stake. Paul knew that it was all about a constant, unending battle with that rebellious part of our “old nature.” And he knew that “struggle” was incumbent upon all people! This life of faith and devotion doesn’t happen without a struggle. It doesn’t happen “passively.” That is, it doesn’t happen “all by itself.” We need to be active about it. We need to “seek the things that are above” – intentionally!
But do we do that? I said before that doing “whatever we do” in the name of the Lord Jesus, is a tall order. It may even seem impossible. And so people sometimes get into the mentality of “why bother?” You know what I mean by that. They say, “I’m supposed to do these things, I’m supposed to grow in my faith, I’m supposed to become more like Christ, I’m supposed to ‘be perfect, even as our Heavenly Father is perfect’” (Remember, those are Jesus’ words!) “But,” they say, “those things are not possible, so why bother?”
Well, we need to bother!! We need to be active about our life of faith. We need to “seek the things that are above. We need to strive to do these things Paul tells us about in this third paragraph. Let me read a few of them. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, put on compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another.” That means “putting up with” one another! “Forgive each other,” he says, “as the Lord has forgiven you.”
How are you doing so far? Do you seek to be and do those things? Seriously. Put yourselves into this scripture. Are you striving to have compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience? Do you seek to forbear one another? Do you forgive? Anybody want me to stop?
Well, I’m not gonna! Paul goes on, “And above all, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” John would later write these words in his first letter. “He who does not love, does not know God, for God is love.” (I John 4:8) Remember, that love is action. It is about how we choose to treat one another. And those things, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, are all part of that choice!
Then he goes on. “Let the peace of Christ dwell in you richly.” I like that one! Does the peace of Christ dwell in you richly?” Actually, if you think about it, that peace is a benefit of doing all those other things, isn’t it?
Paul continues. And in this next part he gets even more specific about our life together in the church. He says, “Teach and upbuild one another, and give thanks to God in worship – together!” I think we can agree that’s important, but sometimes I wonder if it’s as important as it should be. We’re not just a gathering of people who happen to believe the same things! We need to strive together to be a “faith community!”
Well, then he gives this final thought which wraps it all together. These are the words I started with today, and these are the words I want you to remember. “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” I want you to let those words, “whatever you do,” go around in your head today – like a song you can’t stop singing. And I want you to be sure to choose – with God’s help – to work hard to do that. So remember, “Whatever you do…”
Eternal God, you call us to be people who are in the world, but not of the world. Help us to have the strength and the inspiration we need to be the people you have called us to be. By our words and deeds may we show forth Jesus Christ to the world. For we pray in his name, Amen.