Sunday, October 25, 2009

New Clothes

Despite the wet, chilly weather, we had a nice full sanctuary this morning, eager to enjoy one another's company and to worship the Lord. Pastor Brad greeted us warmly, and announced our semi-annual meeting after the service. Other announcements included:
1. Operation Christmas Child. Nov. 11 we will be packing shoe boxes in conjunction with the Adventure Club for distribution to children in need around the world. For more information visit Samaritan's Purse.

2. Teen Challenge Gala Banquet October 30
3. New Life Covenant will host a free Christmas concert featuring the music of Christina Deloach with a free will offering, proceeds going to a ministry in Africa.

After a time of worship and the offering, Joe Stapleton read from Colossians 3:1-11, the basis for today's message by Pastor Brad. After a time of prayer, we listened to another good sermon from Colossians.

New Clothes
A key point in today's message was that most things in life have two components: preparation and presentation. Both are essential and neither can be neglected.

Examples are all around us. Brad cited painters who must do prep work before doing the painting. Chefs do a lot of prep before making the final presentation at the dining room table. Darlene prepares for our services.

Brad applied this to the section of Scripture we were to address today. A lot of Christians simply want to know the rules, what to do and not do. But success in living a Christian life comes by understanding the preparation part, understanding the basis for our faith and how God is working in our lives.

As we approach today's passage, then, Brad felt it important to revisit the first two chapters of Colossians which are foundations for the latter half of the book. The "to do" rules are best understood within the broader context of this prep. Hence, Brad summarized his last several weeks of messages for us.

In Colossians 1:12-14 Paul wrote that the Father has qualified us to share in the inheritance of His people and rescued us from the dominion of darkness.

Colossians 1:27 is another great passage stating that Jesus is not "out there somewhere" but the glory of God is within us, "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

Colossians 2:6-8 then goes on to say that just as we received Him, we are to continue in Him, rooted in Him. Trees draw nourishment from the earth through their roots, and in the same manner our soul draws nourishment from Christ by being rooted in Him.

In verses 9 and 10 Paul warns against being taken captive by deceivers, and reminds us that we do not need anything else besides Jesus. Jesus plus nothing... He is our sufficiency.

Against this preparatory backdrop we turn to chapter 3. "Since, then..." It is a hinge point. The second half hinges on the first. "You have been raised with Christ..."

So, what now? "Set your minds on things above." It is our position in Christ that enables us to do this. Here and elsewhere Paul says we need to re-wallpaper our minds. "You died and your life is hidden with Christ in God."

Brad emphasized that we need to get certain thing in their right order, and understand what our part is and what God's part is, especially here. Our part is to count ourselves dead to sin, and God's part is to transform us. To make his point he used the metaphor of a caterpillar. The caterpillar can't turn itself into a butterfly by walking around all day. Rather, it climbs to a branch and gives up. The mystery of transformation occurs only when it has stopped trying, has died to itself.

In Galatians Paul states, "I am crucified with Christ nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me." (Gal. 2:20) This dying, being crucified with Christ, is a daily cooperation with God.

Where this leads is to the clothing metaphor. Brad brought some used, paint-spattered clothes and set them up front on a chair. It was not easy to see from the back, but the picture is clear enough. Paul instructs us to take off our old dirty, stained clothing and put on Christ. That is, take off your anger, bitterness, malice, slander and filthy language.

Brad explained these a little further. The word for anger is a slow burning anger, which undergirds the bitterness. Malice is intent, slander is the actual hurt, and filthy language the venom. It is a vivid picture of sin.

"The mouth is the billboard of your heart," he said.

The last portion of this passage flows out of everything previous.

5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Col. 3:5-11)

It is in the context of putting off the old that we can understand how to put on the new. You don't shower and get clean then put on your sweaty old work clothes again, do you?

It is Christ who renews us, and transforms us. When we put off the old, put to death the earthly nature, the miracle can happen then. The caterpillar can't take credit for becoming a butterfly, nor does he even understand how it happened, but his full potential is reached only when he comes to the end of himself.

At this we sang a new variation on the classic hymn, "Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord, to Thee."

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