The New Me (2)
- Grace and Peace Fam! It’s great to be with you as always.
- Let me just start by thanking you for coming out tonight and for the sacrifices it represents in what it means to follow Jesus
- Tonight I want to include you in on what we’re learning in RUF @ WSSU as we’re working our way through a study of the book of Colossians called: Jesus + Nothing is Everything
- Jesus + Nothing is this persistent theme that the Apostle Paul writes to this church in Colossians as they worked through what it means to be a new gospel-centered community but I want us to see that they too wrestled with what it means to follow Jesus even in a culture that questioned its validity
In Colossians 3:1-11 we read:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4 When Christ who is your[a] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[b] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.[c]
7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.
8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self[d] with its practices
10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave,[e] free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Paul writes with this sense of literary progression so it important to have some context for how we get to this point so know that we began the series with the first chapter on the preeminence of Christ, acknowledging that in Jesus the long awaited desires of God’s people are fulfilled as he comes as the righteous redeemer who brings about the salvation that makes us the very family of God and Paul describes this by writing a truly poetic narrative about Jesus that presents him as the very image of the invisible God - This is important because it means that to know and love Jesus is to know and love God the Father in Heaven and reveals to us the unique unity that they share as Father, Son and Spirit
- The second chapter is about pressure - Its the pressures of the world around us as well as the pressures of the worldliness within - Its the reality of trying to live as Christians in a world that clearly opposes not only what we believe, but here in chapter 3 I think we’ll see even more clearly that what is truly at stake for us, is at the core the questioning of our very identity as a people who seek to live in the way of Jesus
- I’m sure many of you can relate to the identity crisis of faith - It's the wanting to enjoy life while the commitment to faith in Jesus pulls us seemingly in a different direction - For most of us, this is exactly the root cause of the fraudulent activity in our lives - It’s easy to recognize the pressures that this world presents but if your anything like me you know that the real war that rages, is in my own heart - It’s easy to fight the enemy that stands in front of you but what about the enemy within - The enemy of anger and resentment and pride and selfish ambition - The enemy that turns even good things into idols that distract us away from the things of God which leads Paul to ask in Colossians 2:20, ‘if you have died with Christ, why do you still seek to be alive to the things of this world?’
- I love questions - Great conversation in many regards happens simply from the ability to ask good questions - You know after losing my brother to Covid I was stuck - I could not move past the questions of why him and why now? Why a man who just wanted to be a faithful pastor, husband and father and it was not until then that I saw a Christian counselor for the first time in my life - He didn’t have the answers to those questions that only God himself could answer but he did ask questions that truly by the power of the spirit changed me - Tonight we’ll see Paul ask us something helpful that will reveal much of what’s truly going on in our hearts - I learned something this week from studying the question that Paul opens with here in this third chapter - Its something about how good questions reveal much about our competence and character and as Christians and non-Christians alike this is essential
- I know you probably hear me talk about competence and character, especially as Christians and think that definitely needs some clarity so let me just suggest that as a Christian our competence rests in understanding the very nature of the gospel itself - While we often get stuck in discussion about stuff like justification and sanctification and glorification we forget the simplicity of the gospel message that its “At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away, It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day!” - I can remember as a little boy every night my grandmother sitting on her bed reading the Bible aloud - She never had more than an elementary education because she grew up in an era where it was more valuable once she was big enough to work and care for her younger siblings than go to school so she struggled to read and even as kids we’d have to help with some words and yet still she understood scripture as the story of God at work throughout all of redemptive history to bring about the saving grace to a people he would call his own - She knew that from the ‘In the beginning’ of Genesis to the ‘Surely I am coming soon’ in Revelations is the essential truth that we have been saved by grace through faith
- Character I think is far less complicated though - I mean for those who acknowledge that there is a God who not only created us, but in his mercy though we had become the very enemies of him, he has graciously reconciled us to himself - It's like the judge who hears our case is also the one who prosecutes you with his righteous wrath only to then defend you and though without question you’re guilty he serves the sentence you deserved and you’re now free to walk in his righteousness - How could a God like that, who is truly righteous and just, not make demands on our lives to live in his way? - How could we not seek to embody who he is to a sin sick world that needs to know of the saving grace of Jesus and we do this by being a people of great character that stands against the pressures of the world to live out the one thing he asks of us: to love God and to love others - this Jesus says, is the greatest commandment
- Know fam that to live with this distinct competence and character of being shaped by the gospel has to mean that there must be then a new me - The new me is a member of a new humanity that isn’t about black and white, it isn’t about politics or money of where your from but the new me isn’t even about me, but it's about Jesus this is why Paul says stuff like: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) or in 2 Corinthians 5:17 he says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
- This is the new me fam So look at verse 1 it says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” - Ya’ll know I love scriptures’ literary beauty and this is a prime example of this because you know that the word if can be used as both a conjunction or as a noun but notice here Paul breaks our grammatical rules and uses it as both simultaneously - Don’t believe me, watch this - See the if here is used to show not only a connection between all that we’ve seen throughout chapters 1 and 2 but the if also is intended to reveal a definitive truth of what I call the new me crowd - The new me crowd is a people who have grasped what it means to live with the gospel as central to all of life and yet still the if here is also intended to cause some self reflection that maybe that’s not you
- Maybe you’re apart of the if crowd who comes to RUF to explore the truth claims of Christ, to find out if this Jesus guy is who he say he is and if that’s you know that I’m grateful you’re here because we want this to be a safe space to come to know more of him
- Notice though, that Paul in this instance is talking to a specific if people, he’s talking to the new me crowd because one of the new me distinctives is the fact that they know that they too have been raised with Christ - They know what it means to once be far from God and dead in their sin but have been bought with the price of Christ’s blood that was shed on Calvary’s cross and raised to new life in him
- Look at what he tells the new me people because he gives some specific instructions for them he says, if you have been raised with Christ (to do what?) To seek the things that are above - Now I know that this is not the way that you are I are taught to think is it? - I know the way our world works is to just find a way to do me, to grind for what I want in life to have success my way, to have a instagram kind of life that’s full of me being happy and doing fun things with beautiful people just to make everyone around you envious so how could this crazy Paul dude tell you to seek the things above, to find happiness and completeness in Christ alone and not in the things that satisfy our own selfish desires
- How can I seek the things above knowing that means that its going to cost me something, its going to cost some friendships, is going to cost some vocational choices, its going to cost chasing wealth and affluence and finding contentment in him - What if seeking what’s above just means you’ll just be a lil’ local church pastor in the poorest, neediest part of the city, loving and serving people only to die and be forgotten so that his glorious gospel might be preached among those who need to hear of its truth and not stand on the stage to preach to thousands or write books that will top best seller lists
- You know what’s really crazy about it though, its that its above where Christ is and yet we still need to be encouraged to look there for him - Our vision is so laser focused on what we perceive life should be, we fail to look up to the life he’s called us to live - I didn’t get to meet Jack Miller but he was so incredibly influential to so many people who have been influential to me that I feel like I know him well, he once said: “God wants us to pray that we might have the courage to live before him in ways that are not natural to us.” - Where does the courage come from to live in this not natural way of life, it comes from being raised with Christ, seeking the things above
- Verse 2 says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” - I love this verse because while the first verse tells us to seek what’s above, which is to look there for something, here Paul tells us to set our minds on the things that are above - See not only do we need to change where we’re looking, but we need to change even in the way that we’re thinking - In Romans 12 Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. - See to live the new me way of life is to live with a transformed mind so that you know not only what the will of God is, but that you would also know what is: good, acceptable and perfect
- Look at verse 3 and 4, he says, “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.” - I know verse 3 appears to be a bit of an oxymoron - I mean how can you be dead and have life at the same time? - Know fam that for the Christian it's at death that life truly begins as death to our sin is to be alive in the spirit and to be hidden in him is a reflection of security - The security of our salvation that rests in the finished work of Christ as he has achieved salvation for us
- Verse 4 though is an absolute life changer - I don’t know about you but as I studied this verse this week I read this and I had to do some self evaluation, to check my own heart because if this is true for us as believers this is the kind of truth that has to change both your head and heart - Paul says that, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” - I just want to ask you a question and I’m going to leave it alone, but let me just ask you: Is Christ your life? I mean, no I’m not asking if your saved or if you trying to be a good person but is he your life? Is he central to all that you do and think? Is he at the core of all your relationships and career choices and every other part of your life? Is Christ your life? - Notice though that its not until Christ who is your life appears that you appear with him in glory - You want to know the secret to eternal rest in Him, live with Christ as your life
- In verses 5-7 it says, “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.” - Let me just challenge you against thinking that these verses are just calling people out on particular sins but rather to reflect that within each of us the spirit is at work exposing our sin that we would put to death all that is keeping us from growing in him
- It is our sin that makes us worthy of God’s wrath - This is Paul making a eschatological argument, it's a reflection of the end time reality that Christ will return and he will judge righteously
- In verses 8-9 we read, “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.” - This is the reality of the new me crowd - It’s the putting away of the false narratives of this world to walk in the competence and character of being the new me
- There is one critically important grammatical detail I don’t want us to miss because here he writes in the past perfect tense which means that the event that he’s writing about is a reference to action that has taken place at some point in the past so know that the putting away of these things is something that in Christ you too have already conquered which is precisely why he concludes that it is by this knowledge that you are being made in the image of the creator
- Finally look with me at verse 11, it says, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” - If you were to come to Large Group at WSSU you would find its pretty unique because we have this cool mix of students but there are some families who also call our Large Group home
We know Christians have been widely recognized so much for what people perceive we are against so my students wanted our RUF to be known by what it is we are for so we’ve adopted this idea of RUF @ WSSU exists: For Jesus. For WSSU. For the City.
Because we truly wanted to live these values out its shaped the way that we do ministry, so one of the ways we do this is by doing small groups and bible studies on campus while our large group meets in the sanctuary of historic black church in the hood
This gives us this unique mixture of not only ethnic diversity but some deep socioeconomic diversity - One of my ministry hero’s is Dr. Martin Luther King who in 1960 was on the news show Meet the Press and he was asked about the divisiveness of Christians saying that Sunday mornings are the most segregated time of the week which is regrettably still true in 2022
Notice though that here in verse 11 Paul describes a community that in Jesus, it does not share the divisions of culture but rather finds in him there is distinct unity and why does this happen, Paul says because Christ is all and in all - Let me just lovingly as your brother tell you as a people who live knowing that Christ is all and in all, we cannot be comfortable with an RUF that does not reflect the all of this university and the all of our world…Let’s pray!