Faithlife Sermons

New Year's Sermon 2023

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Bible Reading

Colossians 3:1–4 CSB
1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.


Well 2023 is finally here. We are officially in a post-pandemic world and yesterday was the last day of 2022.
There are these key moments in our lives aren’t there, where momentous things happen, where life changes forever, and we are different to what we were before.
These moments where everything changes are perfect opportunities for us to consider, to reflect on life as it has been and what we want to change or need to change going forward.
And we know that don’t we. This is the time of the year when we have made new years resolutions about losing weight, about excercising more, about spending more time with the family, spending less time on social media and more time in our Bibles.
It is also the first day on which our resolve has been tested. But being the 1st day of this year, most of us have stuck to our resolutions.
Most of us…
Let’s see how we go in a couple of weeks or a couple of month’s time.
Because let’s face it - real change, real improvement requires more than a decision to do something. I can decide today to be ripped and muscley and to be great at excercising, but that decision has no power unless it is followed up by action.
That initial change, the decision, has to be followed up with going to the gym, eating healthy, pumping weights and saying no to the delicous cheesecakes my wife makes.
And without those followup little decisions, my initial decision to get healthy won’t mean anything. It will actually have been a self-deceiving decision.
And so today, as we reflect on the year that was, and as we plan for the year to come, we need to do that in a way that reflects who we are in Christ.
And so let’s have a look at how the Bible guides us to do this well.
The first thing we need to see is that need to remember our Right Foundation

Built on the Right foundation

Colossians 3:1a (CSB)
1 So if you have been raised with Christ,
What is your core truth? Your core identity? What makes up who you are? When we think of ourselves what is the first and foremost thought that comes to mind?
You see our sense of Identity, who we are forms the foundation of how we live. Our identity is the driving force that dictates how we make our decisions. In some ways our identity is the programming in our head that determines not only the what we do, but why we do it.
If for example we are deeply committed environmentalists. If our core identity is that we are saviours of the planet, then that will drive our actions. We will chose to wash our plastics before we put them in our recycling bins. We will eat less or no meat, believing that this is good for the environment. Wherever possibly clothes will be from the second hand shop, regardless of how much money we make.
And so on and so on. These actions are determined by our identity - who we are.
Or again, consider someone who lives a “sold out instagram life”. Someone like this is has an identity that is shaped primarily by the need be admired/liked by others. And so significant and extensive amounts of time is spent getting the perfect shot, the right lighting, the right angle. Exposing just the right amount of skin to get the likes. This person’s thoughts and opinions are shaped not by deep critical thinking, or by deeply held beliefs, but by whatever the current political or cultural hobby horse is.
Our identity drives us so strongly that we aren’t even aware of it’s influence.
But our sense of identity dictates not only what we do, but why we do it.
If our identity is tied to the planet, we will do anything to save it, because we must, becauyse that is who we are.
IF our identity is tied to our insta followes, we will do anything to appeal to them, because we must, because that is who we are.
Our identity, not only dictates what we do, but also why we do it.
Now notice what Paul is saying here to the Collossian church in the first part of verse one and v3
He is using Identity language.
“So if you have been raised with Christ...”
Colossians 3:1
1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Colossians 3:3
3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
This is identity language - this is foundational stuff.
who are you? According to the Bible. As a Christian who are you?
You are dead, and you have been resurrected with Jesus - thats who you are?
When you became a Christian, you died. Your old self was killed. And now, you are raised with Christ. You are a new person, a new person who has been raised with Jesus.
This is your foundation. This is your why - this is the centre of who you are, this is your identity as a christian.
Is this how we think of ourselves?
When someone asks me, tell me about yourself, who are you? What are the things we tend to go to?
We think of our Jobs, we think of our familieis, we think of the things we enjoy doing, the causes we are passionate about, our children, our hoibbies, our interests.
But when you become a Christian, the thing that happens to you is that a new identity is installed in you that supercedes and overrules and overrides all of those things.
First, you are now a Christian. Someone who died, and who has been made alive again.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul puts it this way.
2 Corinthians 5:17
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!
This is your foundation.
This is the heart of Paul’s argument. One must lose everything, including the memory of who one was before; and one must accept, and learn to live by, a new identity, with a new foundation.
N. T. Wright
Is this how you see your life? IS this the thing that drives you?
How do we know if our identity has been captured by our salvation? How do we know if we are living like this? How do we know if we have really put Christ as teh centre of who we are?
As we consider our plans for 2023, how can we know whether they are really Christ-honouring?
Well Colossians 3 gives us the answer in the form of a diagnosis.
IF your foundation is right, then your focus will be right.
So How is your focus?
Do you have a right focus?
You might think you have a right foundation, so let’s test it against our focus.

Living with a Right focus

Colossians 3:1–3 (CSB)
1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
This is what Paul is saying in these verses. If your foundation is right - if your identity has been transformed into the living identiy, if your old self has truly died, then you will change your focus.
You will want what Jesus wants, and you will think heavenly thoughts.
Seek the things above, where Christ is, seat at teh right hand of God - So Want what Jesus wants,
And set your mind on things above, not on earthy things. Think heavenly thoughts.
Now both of these statements, are grounded in Jesus’ completed work on the cross. Notice, we are to seek the things above, - the heavenly things, where Jesus is seated at the right hand of God.
This was a place of authority and honour. This was an indication that Jesus work, particularly his salvation work on teh cross, where he took the sins of all believers, paid for them, and set us free from the consequences of our sin, this work was finished.
And so now, Jesus is seated in the place of honour, at God’s right hand.
And so because JEsus has been glorified, because his work is finished, because salvation has been accomplished, and he has been exalted, now then think about Heaven stuff, not earth stuff.
Because earth stuff is pointless, compared to that heaven stuff.
Earth stuff passes away, earth stuff is temporal, earth stuff might be interesting, but earth stuff is not eternal.
Heaven stuff though - heaven stuff has to do with the very nature and power and majesty and glory of God. Heaven stuff lasts forever. Heaven stuff has substance, has weight.
So think about heaven stuff.
Now we know from the rest of the letter what that the things that were getting the Colossian Church in trouble, the earthly thoughts, the earth stuff that was getting them stuck.
Was getting them derailed from thinking about the heavenly stuff.
And these were various philosophies, human traditions, the desires of the flesh, and man made rules and religions, especially a form of self-denial called ASCETICISM.
And what was happening is that the church started giving more attention to these things, that the focus of their thoughts, the focus of their actions as a church drifted away from JEsus. The central figure, the point and the purpose of their very identity.
But now friends, do you notice - the colossians are not alone in this are they. The church globally, but also us as individuals can suffer from exactly the same thing. Where our decisions and our plans do not revolve around what will bring honour and glory to Jesus.
When we plan our year for 2023, is Jesus’ honour and glory the yardstick by which we measure our success?
And I am putting my hand up here too, saying we all have this problem.
Is Jesus really the centre of our relality. Or do we plan around earthly things?
LEt’s just think about this together for a second.
Let’s consider the broad plans we have for next year:
What are your plans? What are my plans?
How do we go about planning for a year?
I don’t know how you think about this, but here is the way I plan:
I first of all think - ok, well when are teh school terms. Because my children are important, and so I can’t really do anything, about their school semesters, and so these dates go into the calendar first.
Then we start to think about when might be a nice time to have a holiday. Could we take the kids out for aday or two here or there, yes, this might work, and then we can extend our stay a bit longer there. etc etc.
Then we think about what social clubs, sporting clubs and events we might like to be a part of. Oh yes, i like board games so i will join that club, no not so much into footy, so i probably won’t join that.
My kids will need to learn how to swim, so we will join the best swimming club, and so on.
Does this sound familiar, surely you have a similar process?
But do you notice, what is missing from all of that?
Where is Jesus?
School, holidays, board games, swimming schools and clubs, these are all earthly stuff that will pass away. They are important, but they should not set the agenda of my life!
Whether I join one social club or another, as a Christian who has died to self and raised in Christ, the decision should not be which one has the better games, It should be which has the greater opportunity to serve Christ.
Whether I go on a holiday or not, and where I go, and when I go has to be made in lifht of Jesus being seated at the right hand of God, and what would serve him best as the one who deserves all honour and authority.
Those are the heavenly priorities that should drive our decisions. That is how we know our foundations are right.
What are the earthly things that stop you? What are the earthly priorities that organise your life? What are the earthly, but important, things that take Jesus out of the centre of your existence?
1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
So how do we do it?
Having established that we need to have the right foundation, being raised with Christ, having seen that we need the right focus, how do we do it?
How do we change so that Jesus is the centre and the core of our exisitance?
Our hearts need to be captivated by our right future

Captivated by a Right future

Colossians 3:4 CSB
4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
So how do we actually do it day by day? How do we go about living with Christ at our core, at out centre? How do we maintain a Christo-centric priority?
Well our text has a somewhat surprising answer.
We need to be captivated by our right future with JEsus.
Check this out.
When Christ, who is your life, appears...
So he is talking about the future coming of Jesus. Now what will happen when Jesus returns is that he will come in glory to judge the living and the dead.
Now we have to appreciate that this is a terrifying time for everyone who isn’t a Christian.
You see Jesus will come, and everyone who has ever lived will be resurrected and brought before King Jesus.
And he will judge each person.
And the criteria of judgement that Jesus uses will be this: how was your life lived?
How did you live your life?
The basis of our judgement is our works...
Now i can see already the heretic police are starting to walk through the front doors, ready to remove me from the pulpit. Because surely that isn’t what we believe is it?
The whole message of teh gospel is that none of us, none of us, can live a sinless life. And that even a single sinful action, even a wrong thought earns each one of us death, eternal damnation, eternal sepration from God.
Each one of us is destined for eternal punishment, if we do not accept the free gift of life offered by JEsus.
When we trust in him, when we believe in him, when we accept that he stood in our place and took our sins on his shoulders, then we are set free from our punshment and we receive eternal life.
And what does Ephesians 2:8-9 say about this?
Ephesians 2:8–9 CSB
8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast.
How then can I say that on judgement day, our lives will be judged by our works?
Because that is what the Bible says!
And not just once.
Here are just a few examples:
Romans 2:6–8 CSB
6 He will repay each one according to his works: 7 eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but wrath and anger to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth while obeying unrighteousness.
1 Corinthians 6:9 (CSB)
9 Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom?
James 2:14–15 (CSB)
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him?
So our final judgement is according to works.
But now how does this work?
How can we be both saved by grace, through faith, as a free gift so that no one can boast, and at teh same time that God will repay each person according to their works in the final judgement?
How do both of those things hold together?
If we have been paying attention to what Paul has been saying in these verses, we find the solution.
Colossians 3:1–4 CSB
1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Did you notice it?
Here is teh solution:
If you are a Christian - You are dead.
and now, you live in Christ.
You ahve been transfered from your body of death, your sinful body, and you are now in Christ.
So you will still be judged according to the works of the body you inhabit spiritually. It’s just that that isnt your body. You are in Christ now - and you will be judged according to works, just not your works.
When Christ, Who is your life, appears, then you will appear With him in glory.
That is your future. That is the thing we need to be captivated by. Our right future.
Because here is the truth, the more captivated by that future, the more deeply that reality seeps into our lives,
the more our current lives will reflect the life of Christ.
Our works, our actions, our lives will line up more and more to the perfect life Jesus lived for us.
Because teh judgement is coming, Jesus will appear one day. And all Christians will appear with him in glory.
And on that day you will be judged according to works.
And if you are a Christian, that will be a glorious day. And you will forever live in eternal and ongoing gratitude for everything JEsus has done for you.
And you will be In Christ fully.
And you will never be broken again. You will never be hurt again. You never be able to hurt anyone else again. And you will enter eternal life, surrounding Jesus who will be forever be your eternal king. And he will truly be your life - forever.
How much does this captivate your thinking? How enamoured are you by this reality? When you make your plans for 2023, how much does this reality impact how you live your life?
The more captivated you are by the beauty of this future reality, the more your life will refelct Jesus in the present.
So… are you captivated by a right future? Because if you are you will live with a right focus, built on the right foundation.
So are you captivated by this right future?
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