Embodied – Colossians 3:15-17

The following post is the manuscript of a Sunday teaching I delivered on May 24, 2020.

Growing up playing sports there was a common maxim, “Play for the name on the front of the jersey not the name on the back.” Usually, it’s your team or school, while the personal name is on the back. There have been different variations such as play for the one on the front so that they will remember the name on the back, or even play for the name on the front first and then remember whose name is on the back; do them both justice.

The idea was simple: the way in which you played the game was just as important as the outcome of the game. The way in which you played followed you off the court, field, mat, etc.

Paul is reminding the Colossian believers that they are playing the infinite game, one that goes beyond the metaphorical final buzzers in our lives. Winning arguments. Jockeying for power. Getting people to play by their temporary rules, the false teachers, were attempts to create a finite game, when we were meant for an eternal one.

Live in the present as the kind of human you will become. Two weeks ago we looked at the difference between the Christian community and other types of community. Last week we looked at how the new humanity is characterized.

In today’s teaching passage, the apostle Paul continues to describe the character of the church that is committed to the goal of the church, which is a goal of eternity in mind. 

How does a church know if it’s committed to the goal?

Here’s the great thing: If you are an unbeliever or you are disconnected from a church, you can use this question to look at Generations Church or other Churches.

Four ways a church knows if it’s committed to the goal of being the embodied Jesus in the world:

  1. Peace of God rules
  2. The Word of God dwells
  3. The reasoning is “because of Jesus.”
  4. The people are thankful

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body.” The rule of the peace of God means that peace should characterize the community of God’s people and that peace is a standard for discerning God’s will.

“Rule” translates a Greek verb that refers to the activity of the “umpire” who renders verdicts in contested situations. In general, Paul wants the Colossians to make “peace” the arbiter, the factor that should be given preference over competing concerns and interests. As the church makes decisions, in choosing between alternatives, in settling conflicts of will, a concern to preserve the inward and communal peace should be our controlling principle. Pray over preferences

Peace with God leads to peace with others.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs: The new human walks in the word of God and in worship with other believers.

Dwell in you.” This is a picture of permanence. It’s the difference between a tent and a house. A tent is temporary because it can be moved. The house has a foundation that put into the ground.

Teaching is theological and moral instruction. Admonishing is the kind of instruction that reminds, reveals, and rebukes in order to get someone into proper shape.

Music: The songs we hear play an important role in the formation into Christ-likeness. Charles’ role and the team’s role is important because nothing is worse than a catchy song that doesn’t teach the truth about God’s word.

Paul is urging the community as a whole to put the message about Christ at the center of its corporate experience. Keeping Jesus in mind…competing thoughts and priorities.

Keep it central without setting it aside. We all can’t admonish one another on Sunday morning…you must connect with people Monday through Saturday. Fight for relationships with others. Those moments when you watch a good show or have read a good book or your kid does something funny–with that same ease you are able to share what God is teaching you, how you received a blessing from someone else.

Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The new human lives their life, all their life, for Jesus. 

He will only seek to do the things that he may do in the name of the Lord Jesus, and he will persevere in the difficulty of doing such things, knowing that he is doing them in the name of the Lord Jesus.

To do all things in the name of Jesus does not mean simply utter Jesus’ name but to act always in concert with the nature and character of Jesus.

“The Christian (whether of the apostolic age or any generation), when confronted by a moral issue, may not find any explicit word of Christ relating to its particular details. But the question may be asked: What is the Christian thing to do here? Can I do this without compromising my Christian confession? Can I do it (that is to say) ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus’ — whose reputation is at stake in the conduct of his known followers? And can I thank God the Father through him for the opportunity of doing this thing?

Even then, the right course of action may not be unambiguously clear, but such questions, honestly faced, will commonly provide surer ethical guidance than special regulations may do. It is often easy to get around special regulations; it is less easy to get around so comprehensive a statement of Christian duty as this verse supplies.” – FF Bruce

You see this front and center in our vision “because of Jesus.” We want our actions to be traced back to the simple motive that’s connected to the love Jesus has for us. That same love shows up in a care for people and passion to know the God that loves us and proved it to us in Jesus.

How does a church know if it’s committed to the goal?

The peace of God rules. The Word of God dwells. The reasoning is “because of Jesus.” The people are thankful.

Embodied – Colossians 3:15-17

The following post is the manuscript of a Sunday teaching I delivered on May 17, 2020.

In 362 AD the Roman Emperor Julian wrote to a high priest of the pagan charities that the pagans need to equal the virtues of Christian, for recent Christian growth, was caused by their “moral character, even if pretended” and “they support not only their poor but ours as well, everyone can see that our people lack aid from us.” The character and priorities of Jesus embodied in the ancient world caused those who hated the Christians to be like them in some way.

While the norms of social service and community solidarity have been staples in our culture, the church is once again in a position to have the surrounding culture say we need to be like them. The church, those who are followers of Jesus, have always been meant to be an alternative community in our world. 

Paul’s thesis in this section: Live in the present as the kind of human you will become.

First, put to death sinful behavior. Second, embody the new humanity. Following Jesus means joining his new humanity. Resist the old, but aspire to the new. If Christ is all and in all.

The characteristics that led to the rise of Christianity are the very characteristics described by Paul into today’s teaching.

How is the new humanity characterized?

First, as people who remember their identity. Paul again roots action in identity. Identity is received from God rather than achieved by you.

Therefore, God’s chosen ones: some versions might say elect. Chosen ones, holy & loved, are boundary marking terms for those who have placed their faith in Jesus. This means that God has chosen the Christian to be something special in His plan. Their aspirations in life should match how God sees them through Jesus.

Scot McKnight in his commentary on Colossians says this, “We agree that the privilege of being elect carried with it a responsibility, a point not always remembered by some people today, more concerned to assert their rights than to accept their obligations.”

The moral vision is clear: these believers are to divest themselves of the ways of the flesh and death and to clothe themselves with the ways of Christ and life.

Second, as people who commit to the community. “Put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility.” Each one of the qualities mentioned in this passage expresses themselves in relationships. A significant measure of our Christian life is found simply in how we treat people and the quality of our relationships with them.

Heartfelt compassion: compassion comprises three elements – a need expressed, a response of mercy and love to that need, and an action that alleviates the need.

Kindness: “The ancient writers defined as the virtue of the man whose neighbor’s good is as dear to him as his own… It is used to describe a wine that has grown mellow with age and lost its harshness. It’s the move of the heart that translates to care and work for the good of those around them. 

We can say that humility (which was not considered a virtue among the ancient Greeks) is the “parent” of both gentleness and patience. Gentleness shows how humility will affect my actions towards others; I will not dominate, manipulate, or coerce for my own ends, even if I have the power and the ability. Patience shows how humility will affect my reaction towards others; I will not become short, or filled with resentment towards the weaknesses and missteps of others. What this depicts is a rugged commitment to the community via presence and advocacy in the journey to becoming Christ-like. 

When Ruth and I ran the Spartan with a few others it was an amazing experience. Throughout the people would help others, while still being committed to the goal of finishing the race. I experienced this commitment to the person and a commitment to the goal firsthand. Instead of leaving the person who lagged behind (me), those we were running with would encourage, coach, and even lift the person over the obstacle (not always me). Throughout the race it didn’t matter if you were running with us or competing with us, what was abundantly clear was the commitment to helping others. We were part of the Spartan community. The Church has a higher and more powerful goal in mind–helping people trust and follow Jesus together. Just like those in the Spartan race, people who commit to a community (the church) lift others around them.

A local church is a group of people from all different walks of life who are then able to exist in unity rather than divide. When you agree to be part of a church you are agreeing to place yourself within these types of relationships. If you are someone who is trying to explore what it might be to be part of Generations Church–this type of community is what we are attempting to pursue together.

Paul is not done yet. Third, as people who are motivated by Jesus’s model.

Forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” We are told to live forgiving one another, after the pattern of Jesus’ forgiveness towards us. Understanding the way Jesus forgave us will always make us more generous with forgiveness, and never less generous.

Forgiveness is a deep and loaded concept. CS Lewis once said, “Forgiveness is a lovely idea until you have something to forgive.” I could spend another hour discussing the nuances of forgiveness. Even at the mention of forgiveness some of you have tensed up. Every situation is unique. The temptation for us as we discuss forgiveness is to go, yeah, but what about…”

I have actually recorded a supplementary video that takes some more time and care for the nuances of forgiveness. It discusses the process of feelings and emotions which lead to unforgiveness. The video also shares distinguishing marks between forbearance, decisional forgiveness, and emotional forgiveness.

Hear where Paul is coming from. If we are to be the embodiment of Jesus in the world, then we must have the mindset and the actions to reflect his disposition and priorities of the world. Paul’s basis for forgiveness isn’t how it’s healthy for you, which it is, or how unforgiveness harms your life, which it does. Pauls’s basis is in Jesus.

When we consider the staggering debt Jesus forgave for us, “The forgiveness they have received is used to enforce the duty of forgiving others.” Most of you who are participating in this service might now think of yourself as a bad person in need of forgiveness. On this mid-week podcast, Jon and I will be talking about how our pursuit of being a good person and that mindset is the enemy of being the person God created you to be.

When one thinks of how Christ forgave you it should make us much more generous with forgiveness. Unless we are motivated by Jesus’s model we will opt for a lesser version of being human.

  • God reaches out to bad people to bring forgiveness to them; the habit of humanity is to not reconcile if the offending person is a person of bad character.
  • God makes the first move towards us in forgiveness; the habit of humanity is to only be reconciled if the offending party craves forgiveness and makes the first move.
  • God forgives often knowing that we will sin again, sometimes in the exact same way. It is the habit of humanity to forgive only if the offending party solemnly promises to never do the wrong again.
  • God bore all the penalty for the wrong we did against Him. In the habit of humanity, when one is wronged, one will not forgive unless the offender agrees to bear all the penalty for the wrong done.
  • God keeps reaching out to man for reconciliation even when man refuses Him again and again. In the habit of humanity, one will not continue to offer reconciliation if it is rejected once.
  • God requires no probationary period to receive His forgiveness; in the habit of humanity, one will not restore an offender without a period of probation.
  • God’s forgiveness offers complete restoration; in the habit of humanity, one may feel that they should be complimented when they merely tolerate those who sin against them.
  • Once having forgiven, God puts His trust in us and invites us back to work with Him as co-laborers. In the habit of humanity, one will not trust someone who has formerly wronged him.

We must choose to forgive over forget. It doesn’t make the wrong automatically right. Initially, it  does not lessen the pain. If you are struggling with unforgiveness then let’s set up a Zoom call this week.

Above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection: Love is the summary of all the things described in this passage. Love perfectly fulfills what God requires of us in relationships. “The other virtues pursued without love, become distorted and unbalanced.”

When Christ’s love becomes your identity, it re-orders all of your loves. It gives you the capacity to live in a world and love well, while not being crushed or isolated.

The tubes on the bottom interlock with the studs on top of other bricks. The studs get neatly wedged in between the tubes and the sides of every brick making them stick together firmly. The clutch power of LEGO® bricks has made it possible to create bigger and bigger sets without them falling apart.

Love is the super glue. Love are the tubes that enable you to construct a life that isn’t simply good, but is Godly. A Godly life is a great life because it begins with an identity received rather than achieved.

How is the new humanity characterized?

The love of Christ embodied in the lives of people.

Embodied – Colossians 3:5-11

The following post is the manuscript of a Sunday teaching I delivered on May 10, 2020.

On the opposite wall from me hangs a sign that says “Family — where life begins & love never ends.”

You probably have a few sayings like that hung around your house. Pithy. Inspirational. What would it take for that sign to be true–actually true–not just an idea? It would take a group of people in that home acting on that very conviction. This framework is not unique to the church. Most groups have some sort of mission or aim that it directs its members to achieve or be.

What sets the Christian community apart from other types of community groups?

Right now our world is longing for this answer. When the church understands the character and priorities it possesses innately as the body of Jesus–the world just isn’t a better place for it– it becomes a taste of heaven on earth for it. As we face pressures in our world, we must be reminded of who God has called us to be.

This is the precise place where we find ourselves in today’s teaching text. Let me give you the previously on…Colossians is a letter written to a church that is facing pressure to acquiesce to the philosophy of the world around them. This pressure comes from inside and outside the church.

Paul is writing to a group of believers whom he wants to remind them that their experience can catch up to reality. Paul wants them to aspire to be like Christ because through Christ God sees them as actually like Him. Therefore, they don’t need external practices to make them appear to be what they in fact actually are. Because we know that Jesus is really raised from the dead, then our identification with Him becomes real. 

Paul has set this all up to Colossians 3:5. In verse 5, we get another “therefore.” A tip whenever you read the Bible, whenever you see “therefore” you must ask “what’s that there for?”

Paul’s thesis in the section: Live in the present as the kind of human you will become.

Paul gives us two responses to the proposition: Live in the present as the kind of humans you will become.First, put to death, or get rid of sinful behavior.

To describe this new humanity Paul first contrasts their old way of living with their new way of living. Here’s an important piece to remember, Paul has commended these believers for their faith. So he is firmly aware that they know the difference. They have already undergone a change, but current pressures them back to their old way of living.  Paul mentions “put off.” This word picture here is that of changing clothes. You wore these desires that drive everyday life. You were ruled by them.

Paul’s lists mostly include a distorted sexual ethic and destructive speech. Paul is fully aware these believers are surrounded by a context and culture. Therefore, they need to be reminded that certain sins the culture around them are guilty of; these sins should not be present with them. Paul makes sure to remind them–the wrath of God comes on them.

There was an image of a dress going around a few years ago. The image divided everyone into one of two groups. People either said the dress was black and blue or the dress was white and gold. While the colors on the dress were debatable, Christian living should be as obvious as two different color of shirts 

To this fact, Paul continues “According to the image of Him who created him.” There is no way that Jesus would walk in any of these sins, so if we identify with Him, we won’t walk in them either. We should be eager to get rid of behavior that does not reflect that heavenly mind-set.

At Generations Church, we have a value called Progress over Perfection. Our desire is to become more like Christ. It’s his perfection that lives in and through us. We do not have to be perfect, however, we should see progress marked by increasing Christlikeness in our lives.

Those who are part of Generations Church, we must put these sinful actions off by identifying sin in our own life and naming it to Jesus. This habit individually provides the groundwork for the second response.

Second, the Colossian Christians are to collectively embody the new humanity. The response here is a frame of reference–with the eternal perspective in view, the church community the Colossians are currently part of should have no barriers based on ethnic identity, socio-economic status, background, heritage, etc. The renewal refers not simply to an individual change of character, but also to a corporate recreation of humanity in the creator’s image. 

Christians are saved through their union with Christ, and they follow Christ’s model and teaching in faith and ethics. The church as the embodiment of the gospel is an essential form of witness to a watching world.

This community differs from other major religions of the world where one’s ethnicity, place of birth, and family link faith and society, believer and citizen, doctrine and culture, and church to state. The church is composed of voluntary disciples. Biblically, one is not a member of the church on the basis of citizenship, ethnic identity, or birth into a particular group.

This work of the new creation not only deals with the old man and gives us the new man patterned after Jesus Christ; it also breaks down the barriers that separate people in society. Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free: The new man is part of a family, which favors no race, nationality, class, culture or ethnicity. Paul uses these descriptions because they were the barriers in the Roman world that were now broken down because of Christ. 

We want people to become like Jesus. The temptation will be to make them like us. This is what Paul has just addressed with the false teachers; people do not need to become like you in order to then become like Christ. 

Among new creation people it doesn’t matter if one is Greek or Jew or circumcised or uncircumcised or a Scythian or a slave or a free man. All those barriers are broken down. It only favors Jesus, because in this new family, Christ is all and in all.

Jews are still Jews in Christ; Gentiles are still Gentiles in Christ; black is black in christ; Latino is Latino in Christ; as a white male, I am still a white male in Christ. These earthly identities are no longer what is most important: solidarity in Christ is now the ruling paradigm for the new community. 

The Christian who lives in North American should have more in common with His Chinese brother and sister in Christ than the unbeliever in their town. We should never surrender the essence of the Christian faith in the name of a common essence.

So what does that mean for us?

  1. Identity emerges not from one’s ethnicity, heritage, or status but from Christ. If you are not a follower of Jesus — you are offered a new identity.
  2. Because of Jesus mustn’t be something we simply say, but something we live. If we are Christ’s body collectively then we must collectively put off sin. To collectively put off sin we must individually put off sin internally and externally while putting on Christ. Paul envisions a new kinship, the family of Jesus, in which Christ brings together what had always been separate. What I want to say–this means that we identity lines that we draw to divide must become lines we cross.

How does this happen? It happens through communion. We develop greater unity with Jesus when we commune with him. When we have a conversation with him. We develop unity with other believers when we commune with them, when we have conversations with them.

Communion leads to care.

As we look at two buzz words in our culture, racism and ethnocentrism. Let’s look to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. His murder was evil. We must call out racism.

The church becomes the locale for healing when we say it and then display it. It matters what you say on social media about something far away because it produces a witness in every day.

Further, we must identify ethnocentrism. It means that we have brothers and sisters in Christ in China and we won’t stand for the belittlement of Chinese Christians and the Chinese people.

Our union with Christ leads to a unity that is displayed in morals and care by a diverse group of people.

What sets the Christian community apart from other types of community groups?

Christ is all and in all.

Embodied – Colossians 3:1-4

The following is the manuscript of a Sunday teaching I delivered on May 3, 2020.

Close your eyes.

Picture the first thing you will do after the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order ceases.

It might be a place you will go to eat. Maybe it will be a gathering with friends. Maybe it will be the gym where you go to work out.

How clearly can you see it?

Right now, some of you see this picture crystal clear. Some of you are distraught because you feel like you can’t picture anything. Whether you can picture it clearly, or can’t picture something at all, what will make that picture reality?

Acting on what you picture. As we will say in this series, it’s embodied–to give a tangible or visible form.

A vision, a dream, a thought becomes reality when it is embodied. Some of us are living in a dream world that we never expect to make it a reality because we are unwilling to take action. Some of us are living so firmly focused on the world around us that we never dare to dream of more–a picture of what could be thus is seemingly foreign. Some of us see both the dream and the reality and have no flippin’ idea how the two get bridged because we don’t see how the dots can get connected. All three of these disconnects prevent us from seeing the vision of God be expanded through people. That has already been God’s goal–his will and his way manifested through people.

In the same way, the reality of Jesus bringing heaven to earth through His Church right now, while not always seen with clarity doesn’t make it any less real. The reality in heaven must become embodied on earth. The vision made manifest is not always the most practical. It’s not always the most heroic. God’s will embodied is composed of men and women who learn obedience through the Holy Spirit wherever they are.

Paul is writing to a group of believers whom he wants to remind them that their experience can catch up to reality. Paul wants them to aspire to be like Christ because through Christ God sees them as actually like Him. Therefore, they don’t need external practices to make them appear to be what they in fact actually are. 

If then you were raised with Christ: Paul here begins a section where he focuses on practical Christian living, with a clear understanding that practical Christian living is built on the foundation of theological truth. Because we know that Jesus is really raised from the dead, then our identification with Him becomes real. Now, if you are skeptical about the claim of the reality of Jesus’s resurrection, on this week’s episode of the mid-week podcast we will cover some basic evidence of the resurrection. 

It is only because we were raised with Christ that we can seek those things which are above. The idea of being raised with Christ was introduced back in Colossians 2:12, where Paul used baptism to illustrate this spiritual reality. Now, seeing that we are raised with Christ, certain behavior is appropriate to us. An inward resurrection drives external resurrected living.

“The opening verses of chapter 3 sustain the closest connection with the closing verses of chapter 2. There the apostle reminds the Colossians that ascetic regulations are of no real value in restraining indulgence of the flesh. The only remedy for sinful passions is found in the believers’ experience of union with Christ.”

Because we were raised with Christ, we should act just as Jesus did when He was resurrected.

  • After His resurrection, Jesus left the tomb. So should we – we don’t live there any more.
  • After His resurrection, Jesus spent His remaining time being with and ministering to His disciples. So should we – live our lives to be with and to serve one another.
  • After His resurrection, Jesus lived in supernatural power with the ability to do impossible things. So should we – with the power and the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
  • After His resurrection, Jesus looked forward to heaven, knowing He would soon enough ascend there. So should we – recognizing that our citizenship is in heaven.
  • After His resurrection, Jesus knew he would return to judge the earth and make it new. So should we — actively demonstrate what this new earth will be like so that more people will get to experience it.

To emphasize the implications of Christ’s resurrection, even more, Paul added the phrase, sitting at the right hand of God: Our attention is to be focused on the sovereign rule which Christ now exercises. The command to aspire to the things of heaven is a command to meditate and dwell upon Christ’s sort of life, and on the fact that he is now enthroned as the Lord of the world.” (Wright)

The logical conclusion, of your being risen with Christ, is that… Set your mind on things above: 

“The believer is to ‘seek the things… above.’ The word ‘seek’ marks aspiration, desire, and passion…. In order to seek these things the mind must be set on them.” The best Christian living comes from minds that are fixed on heaven. They realize that their lives are now hidden with Christ in God, and since Jesus is enthroned in heaven, their thoughts and hearts are connected to heaven also. Paul has now flipped the object that was hidden. The mystery of Christ has been made known to us so that we can be hidden in Christ.

Actively look & do not settle. This is not passive. 

Inevitably I end up coughing loudly or knocking something over to reveal my location so I can extricate myself from said contorted position. Horrible game. This, I think, is the kind of seeking we sometimes employ when attempting to “seek the things that are above.” We give the search little attention – 10 minutes in the Word here and there, a brief pause to pray or meditate – but are ultimately distracted by other things and aren’t fully invested in the search.

See, my kids might look for me for a few minutes but ultimately if you offered them a snack or a video game they’d abandon the search immediately without bothering to inform me. Isn’t that often what our seeking looks like? Half-hearted, easily distracted. 

We just got finished with looking at how the ascetic practices and rules will not curb self-indulgence, meaning, these won’t effectively move our eyes from self to what is above. So what will?

First, seeking God in a distracted world begins with picturing the end. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory: The promise of the return of Jesus is not only that we will see His glory, but so that we also will appear with Him in glory. Christ who is our life:  Sometimes we say, “Music is his life” or “Sports is his life” or “He lives for his work.” Of the Christian, it should be said, “Jesus Christ is his life.” There is a nuance between “Church is his life” and “Jesus is his life.” In our community groups, we will take a look at this nuance.

On that day, all will see the saints of God for what they really are, not as they merely appear to this world. “Paul, the prisoner, an eccentric Jew to the Romans and a worse-than-Gentile traitor to the Jews, will be seen as Paul the apostle, the servant of the King. The Colossians, insignificant ex-pagans from a third-rate country town, will be seen in a glory which, if it were now to appear, one might be tempted to worship.”

Second, Encounters with believers who embody the character of Christ. [One of my first encounters, in-laws with cars. Everyone had their own car.]

While ascetic practices won’t curb self-indulgence there are good practices that put us in position to be changed. Ultimately, these practices won’t bring change because that only comes from the Holy Spirit. What do other people’s encounters with you communicate about your encounter with Christ?

‘Earthly things’ are not all evil. Even things harmless in themselves become harmful if permitted to take the place that should be reserved for the things above.” When good things become God things in our lives, the people we encounter will be directed to something temporary instead of the intended eternal.

This is why we talk about progress over perfection: Disciplacing the temporary things that aren’t connected with Jesus from the driver’s seat of our lives. If we are connecting with Jesus, then the next interaction with the person should be different than the next.

Imagine what our world might look like if people saw Jesus as clearly in your life as they see a video on a smart phone. Imagine if their interaction with you catapulted their lives in a community of people who began to shape their life for the better. People would begin to experience Jesus wherever they lived, worked, or played.

 If this sounds like pressure to you, then please know this…we won’t get it right. Together we must return to the core of who Jesus is…a Savior who forgives us and then gives us the motivation to try again. Today, you have begin to experience newness of life through Him.

Substance – Colossians 2:11-13

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:

    1. Made Alive with Him – We are no longer bound.
    2. Forgiven – Cleansed from overstepping the line.
      1. 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.

    1. Admit – You aren’t the hero and you cannot control the monster.
    2. Ask – Go to God and ask for His help. Ask for God to heal, restore, and show you the grace that He has promised.
    3. Practice – Put the way of Jesus into action. Try to follow him.
    4. Persevere – You will screw up. Keep going. God is gracious.