It was an odd day, on the playground. One of best friends was being oddly annoying. I was on the swings. I don’t remember what. Being a sensitive third-grade boy, I was irritated that another student kept teasing me over liking a third girl that clearly in third grade I wasn’t interested in.
I took both my middle fingers and stuck them up and said that’s what I think about you.
As soon as the words hit the air, a whistle blew. Kyle principal’s office now. Oddly perplexed, not that I was in trouble but with what had come out of me. For the first time, I became fully aware not of myself, but of a nature inside of me. I felt like a monster.
Maybe you remember that first out of body experience where something arises out of you that you instantly want to stuff back inside. Maybe you wouldn’t use the harsh word of monster. In reality, we react to that internal nature in three ways: Embrace, ignore, or we control.
No matter the response to embrace, ignore or control it doesn’t actually change the inside. Maybe you feel exhausted because all your effort is spent keeping the beast in check.
When we try to manage our sin, what’s inside will always come out. The substance of our success is not ourselves. The story of Jesus is the substance of our success.
That’s why we are in this series: Substance. Let me do a previously on. A guy named Paul who used to kill Christians and then became one when he encountered Jesus is writing a letter to a new church. Paul is in prison and he is hearing that they are doing well, but they are going to start facing some pressure to turn away from Jesus. Paul knows that when you add to the message of Jesus you rob the story of its power. Yeah – I know but. Or, I better listen and learned but let me cover my bases. This decision is based out of fear.
There is no need to fear because Jesus fulfilled what was required by God so that you can experience real change. Paul reminds us of the fullness residing in Jesus and the reality to be lived for followers of Jesus.
In a time of fear or disgust about fear (which is the power dynamic) the substance that provides the antidote that we seek is the story of Jesus.
We pick up what Paul is saying in Colossians 2:11-13.
Paul recounted their conversion. Paul pointed to a bigger story. This story includes what is called the Old Testament in our Bibles. Circumcision was instituted by God to be a physical sign of the agreement between the people of Israel and God. It was never meant to be purely physical. It was to point to a spiritual reality that the people who had the physical sign and believed God was a part of the family of God. Paul says that these believers who weren’t Jewish didn’t have to become Jews. They were part fo the family of God when they put off the body of flesh (sinful impulses that dominate us). The agreement was fulfilled by Jesus and therefore, external signs were no longer required because the people could experience a changed heart. We have a propensity for drawing lines and boundaries where God does not draw lines and boundaries.
Paul says “no” you are part of the family of God when you “put off these desires” through your baptism. Baptism here is the removal of the power of sin over your life when you are buried [in the water] and raised. There are boundaries — you aren’t int he game if you are in the stands. You have to step onto the court in between the lines. Music, sports, there are lines — if you aren’t a believer you agree with sentiments. The question is not are there boundaries, but “who sets the boundaries?” As we discussed last week, when we set the boundaries its because we misunderstand Jesus, thus ultimately limit ourselves to truly experiencing life.
Sin is like pollution. It contaminates. Too often we want people to just deal with it, which points to our own selfishness. Selfishness is the antithesis of the gospel—because the “good news” is that we don’t serve a selfish God who thinks only of himself, but is totally himself in that he thinks of us.
Paul cites this story here because the hero of the story is Jesus and we enter into this story. Paul cites baptism in the midst of all these rules because it’s the single act that says, “I can’t conquer my fleshly impulse through additional rules or appeasing the outside forces. I conquer through surrender—surrender to Jesus.” Paul is saying that baptism and circumcision aren’t the same things. In fact, additional rules like circumcision aren’t needed because we are identified in Jesus—baptism shows that. If you have never taken that step of baptism—it’s time.
The Colossians are part of a bigger story by faith. This is extremely difficult for us. Because the day and age in which we live want physical markers to identify with. What marks us as the family of God isn’t our dress as in some religions, or by our ethnicity, or by our social class, what sets the family of God apart is the people who make it up from all walks of life from all backgrounds bringing the selfless love of God to the forefront of every part of their life. It’s stepping into a story that God has promised will go on for generations to come because it has!
The results of the bigger story are:
- Made Alive with Him – We are no longer bound.
- Forgiven – Cleansed from overstepping the line.
- God forgiving is forgetting in as much as seeing us united with Jesus, not in our sinful state. The love of God unleashed to rescue all humans from their captivity in order to bring them into the liberated family of God. This unleashed a cycle of forgiveness and connection. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is giving grace and getting life in return. Your eyes are wide open about what you are doing. You are not disillusioned. You choose something because of what you experienced in your baptism.
These truths are supposed to enable believers to cope with fear & pressure by having compassion. They cannot look down on anyone in disgust. You were there too. You are not the hero of your own story
We have a value at Generations called Story over Sin.
Story over Sin – Cultivating lasting relationships that discover how Jesus shapes our identity, our past, and our future rather than being defined by others or ourselves.
See, we aren’t the hero. If you say that you want to know that truth If you say you want to be able Song by Skillet, “it comes awake and I can’t control it. Hiding under the bed, in my body, in my head, Why won’t somebody come and save me from this, make it end? I feel it deep within, it’s just beneath the skin.
You may be wondering what action steps to take. Here are a few.
- Admit – You aren’t the hero and you cannot control the monster.
- Ask – Go to God and ask for His help. Ask for God to heal, restore, and show you the grace that He has promised.
- Practice – Put the way of Jesus into action. Try to follow him.
- Persevere – You will screw up. Keep going. God is gracious.