8th Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 13 – C)
August 4, 2019
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Epistle from Colossians, which was read a few minutes ago.
Awhile back, I shared with you that I tend to have a lead foot when it comes to driving. It’s a constant struggle. I’m a little worried though what you will think if you knew I’ve also been in several accidents. In my defense, only half of them were my fault and one happened only because I forgot to put the car in park, and it rolled down a hill and into a wall. My most heartbreaking accident was when I wrecked my car just ten days after getting it. I loved that car and as it was towed away, I thought I’d never get another one like it.
Now if I were to ask you how my car was repaired, you would say that someone fixed it, right? Obviously, a smashed-up car can’t fix itself any more than a house can fix its broken furnace, or a shirt can sew on its own button. It’s the same with people, right? A mechanic can fix his own car, but not even a trained doctor would operate on herself, right? No matter how skilled we are, certain things are impossible to do without any outside help, and this includes our relationship with God.
Paul starts our Epistle for this morning by saying, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Notice that Paul didn’t say you’ve raised yourself. He didn’t say that you were dead and brought yourself back to life. That’s impossible! Paul elaborates on this in Ephesians where he says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” Before you knew God or believed in Jesus, you were dead. D.E.A.D. Dead! The physically dead can’t do anything for themselves, and neither can the spiritually dead. Like a smashed-up car or a doctor with a burst appendix, you needed help from outside yourself. That help comes from Jesus and Jesus alone.
John writes at the beginning of his Gospel, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life.” The Son of God who was intimately involved in the creation of the universe and everything in it gave you physical life and spiritual life. No one makes a decision for Christ or decides to believe in God. Paul has a lot to say on this topic, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses…God made alive together with Jesus… having forgiven us all our trespasses.” Your old sinful self was drowned in your baptism and through faith you have died to the power of sin and its guilt. You’re washed in lifegiving water that combined with God’s Word bestows on you faith, life, and forgiveness.
Your new life Paul says, “is hidden with Christ in God.” This means that no one can actually see your faith. We can see behavior that implies that you have faith, but it’s invisible except to God. This doesn’t mean that our faith is a secret. Rather, your faith is hidden in Christ where it’s protected. One of the prophets says, “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who take refuge in Him.” Your salvation, your forgiveness of sins, and your faith are guarded by God Himself, and no one, no one, can take them away from you.
Now that you have been given a new life with God, you must show it in every aspect of your daily existence. By giving us life, Jesus has given us something new to focus on, and it’s Him. We’re best served by always looking Him and by not being distracted by the things going on around us. We see a great example of this in baseball. Players are told to always keep their eyes on the ball, right? You can’t hit or catch the ball if you’re not watching it. Recently, there have been several fans injured by foul balls that smacked them in the head when they were looking at their phones. By being distracted by their phones, they weren’t focusing on the immediate danger of a foul ball. They took their eye off the ball.
As those raised from the dead by Christ’s death and resurrection, we must keep our eye on Christ who is our ball, so to speak. Paul says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry…anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk.” Put these sins, and the rest of your sins, to death by not focusing on them. Don’t look at your old way of life. Don’t look for the sins that were forgiven by the blood of Jesus. These sins are remnants of our old sinful self that was drowned in our baptism. As those who have been redeemed by Christ the Crucified, we put these sins to death every time they come back to life. If we look longingly at our past sins, if we look eagerly towards the sins of the future, we run the risk of encountering God’s wrath. Paul says, “On account of these the wrath of God is coming…now you must put them all away.” Think about all these sins that Paul lists, can any of them compare to Christ? Can any of them legitimately take Christ’s place in our lives? Of course not. Earthly things, Solomon says in our Old Testament reading are nothing but vanities. We think they make us look good or feel good or we enjoy them, when they’re all temporary things that make God angry! We must keep our eyes on Jesus, the Risen One who has given us new life and the power to put our old self to death.
We already decided that my wrecked Dodge Daytona would never have been able to fix itself. Well, it couldn’t have kept itself going either. A car can’t pump its own gas, can’t change its own tire, or replace its own headlight. When it comes to our spiritual life of faith, we can’t keep it going on our own either. We can’t rely on our strength and ability to remain faithful. We’re not going to stay faithful by bearing down or sucking it up or by finding some sort of inner fortitude. Jesus gave us new life and He renews that new life daily.
Paul says, “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.” Paul takes you back to your baptism. In baptism you receive the power that comes from Jesus who put all your sins upon Himself. In baptism you receive your new life because Jesus raised Himself from the dead. Paul says, “Christ is all and in all” and this means that He never leaves you on your own. You aren’t forced to struggle against your sins or your old Adam by your own strength. You receive power from Christ as He empowers, equips, and enables you to focus on Him and the new life He has given you. This happens when you come here to be fed with God’s Word and with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. It happens when you come for Bible study and Sunday school and sit at the feet of Jesus. This is why the survey the Board of Education has put out is so important to us. We want to know how we can help you grew in your faith and your understanding of God’s Word. Our Lord ss renewing you, strengthening you, and forgiving you, all so that you will, as Paul says, “appear with Jesus in glory.”
Not all the cars I wrecked were repairable, several times I got a new car out of the deal. Not necessarily brand new, but new to me. Was it better than the first car? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Cars are one thing, but the new life that we’re given by Christ is way better than our old lives. He took our lives that were wrecked by Sin and Death and gave us spiritual life here on earth and eternal life in Heaven. And what’s awesome is that none of this depends on us trying to fix ourselves, which would always fail, and instead comes from Jesus who does all things perfectly.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen