Jesus Shaped Living

Jesus Shaped Living: Fellow Servants in the Lord




Sermon Manuscript: Fellow Servants in the Lord

We live in an era where the ability to connect with people has never been easier. Cell phones, email, social media…all of that has made communication incredibly easy. And yet, never before has it been more difficult for people to connect at deeper and more meaningful levels.

 Almost twenty years ago, a professor of Public Policy at Harvard, named Robert Putnam wrote a book about entitled, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. And in his work he “warns that our stock of social capital – the very fabric of our connections with each other, has plummeted, impoverishing our lives and communities.” When we speak of social capital we are saying our social networks have value. The people we know, the depth of those relationships, and the benefits that flow from those relationships determine our social capital. Putnam tells us loneliness, isolation and rugged individualism has exponentially increased in the United States over the last 25 years. Here are some of his findings:

•    Attendance at Club Meetings drop 58%

•    Family dinners drop 43%

•    People are having friends over 35% less

•    Church attendance is down 20% 

•    The amount of people who bowl is up 10%. The amount involved in leagues down 40%. Hence, the title of Putnam’s book is “Bowling Alone.”

 Well, if you’re familiar with the contents of the Bible, you should know that Christianity is a faith that is meant to be lived in the context of community. Or to put it another way, we need each other. Now that’s not to say that relationships aren’t difficult at times. Even within the church. I heard a poem once that went something like this:

To dwell with saints above

That will be glory;

But to live with saints below,

That's another story.

 But despite the difficulties, genuine relationships can be a powerful tool by which God works in our lives. As I think back on my own life, my growth as a Christian is inextricably tied to other people. People who taught me, people who were patient with me, people who encouraged me, people who loved me enough to correct me… people who invested in me.

 Here’s what I want you to see this morning: The gospel advances when we invest ourselves in the lives of others. It would be easy for us to gloss over these last 12 verses—thinking there isn’t much to be said. But every name here represents a person in the life of the Apostle Paul. But all of these people had partnered together with Paul for the spread of the gospel. And if we believe that the gospel is the good news—the greatest news, then wouldn’t we want to see it spread? Or to put it a different way, you and I can’t serve God unless we invest in the lives of others.  

Jesus Shaped Living: Conversing With God and Men




SERMON MANUSCRIPT: Conversing With God and Men

Like many of us I have been blessed with a cell-phone. Although, honestly, it sometimes feels more like a curse than a blessing. All throughout the day I receive email or text notifications often at inopportune moments. Nothing drives me quite as batty as being woken up in the middle of the night for a 10% discount offer from an online store that I shopped at 3 years ago or an important update from a website that I can’t seem to unsubscribe from or a blaring notification from the ESPN app in the middle of church.

 Lately however, I have been receiving texts of a different sort. These texts have begun to change my perspective towards the alerts that I get. I am actually looking forward to seeing what messages are being sent my way. Let me give you a couple examples of what I am talking about from last week. On Monday, I received a text that began, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,’ (2 Timothy 3:12) Even as we are persecuted the Lord is with us and will take care of us.” The texter then went on to ask for prayer regarding the Lord’s purifying work in the lives of those involved on a missions trip. On Tuesday, I received a sobering text following the news that a well-known preacher had walked away from his family and from Christ. The text, focusing on the importance of God’s word stated, “It creates a sense of urgency and deepening of my prayer life to know Jesus more intimately, personally. Jesus is not a formula...Our faith in Christ needs to be authentic. We must be poor in spirit and ask the Lord to instill in us a repentant heart”. This is just a small sample of communication that is happening in my discipleship group. We get together regularly and seek the Lord with regards to living out Christ before our coworkers, our neighbors, our friends, and our families.

 Am I beginning my sermon with a plug for D-Groups? Yes. Yet I have found immense value in being part of a band of brothers who have understood that a personal, deep, and obedient relationship with the Father means that we go before him in prayer. I am learning that there is something powerful about being part of a group of believers that take seriously the call share the mystery of the gospel with others. This leads me to today’s text. 

Jesus Shaped Living: At Home and At Work




SERMON MANUSCRIPT: AT HOME AND AT WORK

Joseph Parker once said that, “Real Christianity is both a doctrine and a life.” In other words, what you believe, and how you behave are not meant to be at odds with one another. You see, over the last 11 weeks we’ve been studying the book of Colossians. And shown to us is the pages of this small letter is the supremacy of Christ in all the universe. Jesus is…

             The one through whom everything was created, seen and unseen.

            The one that holds everything together.

            The one who has accomplished redemption and reconciliation through his blood.

            And the one who is your life, provided you come to saving faith in Him.

 These are truths not to be believed only, but lived. Because when a person comes to know these truths there should be a radical transformation. So far, Paul has applied these truths in some general ways. The fact that we need to put off remaining sin and put on instead certain qualities. But in the verses we just read, Paul gets more specific. And he gets much more personal. He takes the supremacy of Christ and applies it to marriage, family, and work. And I would submit to you, that these areas are perhaps the greatest barometer of how we are doing when it comes to living out the gospel.

 Something to think about this morning: Is Jesus supreme in my home? Does the supremacy of Christ give shape to my marriage and how I parent? Is Jesus supreme in job? Does the supremacy of Christ give shape to how I perform at work and how I relate to my employer?

 Last week’s passage ended like this: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” And when Paul said everything, he actually meant everything. Which is why Paul takes the next step to show us in this passage that we must bring all of life -  every sphere of our lives, every moment of our lives under the Lordship of Christ. Seven times in nine verses Paul references the Lordship of Christ. He should motivate everything in our lives. No sphere of the Christian’s life goes untouched by the influence of Jesus.

 A Not So Easy Text

I think we should begin, however, by acknowledging the fact that these verses don’t sit well with our modern social structures, especially as it pertains to marriage, gender, and the home. Whether or not you agree with every aspect of the #MeToo movement, you have to acknowledge the fact that our society needs to grapple with the abuse of power. In fact, many outside the Christian faith would say that these verses in Colossians 3 are supportive of the abuses of male authority. Not surprisingly, one professor at Harvard Divinity School calls these “texts promoting patriarchal violence.” But if that’s your understanding of these verses, then you haven’t really come to understand them as God intended for them.

 

Jesus Shaped Living: Putting on the New Self




SERMON NOTES: Putting on the New Self

Clothes can say a lot about a person. What you wear might indicate the kind of job you work, or your spending habits, or your personality. And as we all know, certain occasions call for certain attire. Well, I can remember one particular instance when I wore something that did not fit the occasion. When I was in seminary I was a part-time associate pastor at a church outside of Boston. And one particular weekend they were having a special dinner. And somehow I failed to realize that this was more of a formal event. And so I showed up wearing jeans and an untucked shirt. And when I got there I thought, “uh oh…I’m underdressed.” And it was too late. There wasn’t time to go home. And everyone else coming into the building was wearing their best attire; dresses, slacks, coats, ties. And here I am, feeling terribly out of place. And I thought maybe no one would really notice. And then someone kindly leaned over to me and said, “I guess you didn’t get the memo huh?” And now by God’s grace I have a wife who prevents me from making such mistakes.

 Well, in our portion of Scripture this morning Paul tells us about the kind of clothes that are fitting for the saints. And to be clear, he’s not talking about a cotton poly blend garment. He’s talking about the very character that should be worn by those who are walking in close fellowship with the Lord. In chapter 3, Paul uses the metaphor of taking off and putting on clothes as a way of helping us understand what should be true of those are believers.

 You see, in the same way we dress our bodies every day, we dress our souls. But the sobering reality is that at times we dress in the wrong attire. The character we dress ourselves in is not an accurate reflection of who we are in Jesus Christ. So we need to be asking ourselves the question, “Does the character of my life reflect the person that I am in Christ? What does my behavior and my attitude say about me? Have I put on the Lord Jesus Christ? (Romans 13:14), When people see me, what do they really see?”

 Taking Off and Putting On

Now to recap where we’ve been, Colossians has brought us face to face with the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ. He is the image of the invisible God. All things were created through him and for him. He holds all things together. He is the very center of the universe. And when a person becomes a Christian, they are then united to Christ Jesus forever. Our lives are then intertwined with the life of Jesus. So much so a Christian can say things such as…

 I have died with Jesus Christ

I have been raised up with Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ is my life
I have the hope of glorification with Jesus Christ

 And because of that, two things should happen: 1) We are to take off the old way of life. The habits, the patterns, the thoughts…everything that characterized our lives before meeting Christ should be removed. 2) We are to put on the new life. It’s not a matter of simply not doing certain things, but instead replacing them with a new way of life. New habits, new patterns, new thoughts. There should be nothing short of radical transformation that occurs when a person becomes a Christian. And an ongoing one at that, where our behavior is progressively being brought into line with our new self. If we’ve truly come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, then we need to dress the part. What we wear on the outside, should be a display of what’s on the inside.

Jesus Shaped Living: Dealing with Sin




Dealing with Sin

JC Ryle, the great Anglican theologian wisely said that “He who would make great strides in holiness must first consider the greatness of sin.” As we study the verses read for us this morning my hope is that we would do so by considering the greatness of sin. And by greatness I mean the serious nature and gravity of our sin.

 It's incredibly easy to gloss over our sin. We become skilled at rationalizing our sin so that we don’t really have to deal with it. But if sin is an offense to God’s very character, then why would we ever want to minimize or ignore its destructive power? Every time a believer comes face to face with their sin, from the depths of their should they should say, “I want to be done with this.” Have you been there? Do you ever think “Why do I keep doing the things that I do?” Do ever long to rid yourself of some habit, thinking, “If I could only be free from this!” Do you ever hope that some day that you will begin to see the fruit of righteousness outweigh the pattern of sin in your life?

 As much as I desire for us to come to grips with the severity of our sin, I’ve been praying this week that we would come to know and experience freedom from those things that enslave us most. I want you to know this morning that not only is this passage calling us to make a decisive break with the sinful tendencies we have carried into the Christian life - but it is possible. Think about the one sin that you simply wish you could be done with. I want you to know that Christ has made it possible for you to have freedom from that sin.

Union with Christ

And we’re reminded that we can have freedom because of one word in verse 5. “Therefore.” The term “therefore” points us back to the description of union with Jesus that we talked about last week in verses 1 through 4. When a person becomes a Christian, instantly their life is intertwined with the life of Jesus. We become one with him. And because of that, we live a very different life than before. Why?

because you have died with Jesus Christ

because you have been raised up with Jesus Christ
because Jesus Christ is your life
because you have the hope of glorification with Jesus Christ

 You see, our union with Christ gives us a whole new identity. As Christians, we’ve died to the old world and have now been raised with Christ into a heavenly world. And it's only because we have this new identity that we can live out the divine commands of Scripture. And not only are we enabled to see our sin put aside, but we must deal with it. If you’re a believer, it is impossible for you to be content with running from God’s will for you life - which is your holiness.

Jesus Shaped Living: Focused on the Things Above




Focused on the Things Above

What do you think about, when you’re not thinking about anything in particular? That may seem like a strange question at first. But it’s an important one. What do you think about, when you’re not thinking about anything in particular? In other words, when you’re not forced to think about something specific, where does your mind go? Where do you find your thoughts drifting towards? Put another way: What occupies your thoughts in the moments you are free to think whatever you want?

 John Owen, the great seventeenth century preacher, once said that “…voluntary thoughts are the best measure and indication of the frame of our minds.” If you want to know how spiritually minded you are, take an inventory of your thoughts. How often do you think about the glories of Jesus Christ? How often do you think about eternity? Do you find that your mind naturally gravitates towards these things?

 I think our text this morning presses us to ask such a question. The Lord, through the Apostle Paul, is urging us to see that our minds matter. Why? Because one of the keys to living the Christian life is to have the proper mindset. If we have any desire to live out the Christian faith, we can not do it without properly orienting our minds. Don’t believe me? Listen to what Paul says on two different occasions in the book of Romans:

 [5] For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. [6] For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6)

 [2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. (Romans 12:2)

 What happens with our minds is a matter of life and death. And the only way to experience true change, is to change our minds. The central idea of these four verses is clear, simple, and direct: Seek and set your mind on the things above. The only was to live out who we are in Christ is to orient our minds toward heavenly thinking.

 Now chapter three is a bit of turning point in the book of Colossians. In the first two chapters, Paul has laid out for us, in glorious terms, the doctrine of Christ’s supremacy. And from this point forward Paul is going to apply that doctrine to everyday living. And that’s not to say the first two chapters were impractical or wanting in application. But as the letter builds you begin to see an indispensable reality - believers are united to the supreme, sufficient savior who is is the center of the universe. And without that, all of our attempts at Jesus shaped living are a waste.

Christian Living in Him Alone




Christian Living in Him Alone

What could you add to somehow complete salvation? Or, to ask it another way, what is missing from God’s work of salvation that we must contribute? Perhaps, this seems like a foolish question, at least initially, because there is nothing missing. God, the creator and sustainer of the universe has considered the work of salvation through Jesus Christ complete. On the cross, Jesus, knowing that all things were accomplished, declared with his dying breath, “It is finished” (John 19:28-30). For the repentant sinner, who has confessed with his mouth and believed in his heart that Jesus Christ is Lord, there is salvation (Romans 10:9). We bring nothing to the cross  but still, Jesus graciously becomes the center of the believer’s life. We know this. And yet, isn’t it interesting how quickly human nature is enticed to grasp at new teachings that suggest otherwise? How tempting it is to think that we must somehow add something to salvation. How easily a person’s life can center on things that have the appearance of religion rather than the person of Jesus Christ. 

 This week we will continue our study of the book of Colossians. As you remember, the Apostle Paul likely penned this epistle from prison in the city of Ephesus. The letter is a response to a report that he had received from the faithful minister Epaphrus. It is likely that Paul had never met the believers as Colosse, yet just imagine his frustration as he was unable to personally address issues surfacing within the church. Of these issues, the most prominent seems to be the danger of false teaching.  Many commentators conclude that this teaching was a strange concoction of Christianity, pagan practices and distorted Jewish thought. Through what Paul labels “empty deceit” (2:8) these young Christians were being “deluded” (v 2:4) to stray from the clear message of the Gospel and consider Old Testament legalism, pagan mystery-cults, angelic worship, and the practice of denying physical indulgence to somehow achieve greater spiritual enlightenment. 

 In response to this, Paul gives the church three important exhortations:

  • Don’t let anyone judge you with regards to the law (vv 2:16-17)

  • Don’t let anyone disqualify you on the basis of asceticism (vv 2:18-19)

  • Don’t submit to legalism (vv 2:20-23)

 Today, we will examine each of these exhortations in turn. Yet, in order to do so we must consider Christ as the basis for our freedom. 

Union With Him




Union With Him

Do you not realize that Christ is in you? That’s a question the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his second letter to them. Do you not realize that Christ is in you? As we study our passage this morning, I think that’s a helpful question for us to consider. My fear is that many Christians live each day without an awareness of the indwelling Christ. And when we live without an awareness of this reality, we also miss out on fully experiencing all that belongs to those who are united to Christ.  

 When we talk about salvation, we often speak about it primarily in terms of what Christ has acquired for us. And certainly this isn’t wrong. Essential to the gospel is the fact that Christ has reconciled us to God through his sacrificial death. He has purchased redemption for us. He has saved us from our own sin, and from the condemnation and judgment reserved for unbelievers. But when we speak about our salvation, do we also talk about the reception of the living Christ? Do you we grasp the reality not only of the gift we receive in the gospel, but the giver who now lives in us.

 Rankin Wilbourne says it so well: “The greatest treasure of the gospel, greater than any other benefit the gospel brings, is the gift of God himself.” You see, Christ’s saving work is of no benefit to us unless we are one with Him. Central to our salvation is the fact that the incarnate, crucified, resurrected, and reigning Savior is living inside of us!

To give you an idea of how pervasive this is: Guess how many times the word “Christian” appears in the New Testament? Three. Guess how many times the phrase “in Christ” appears in the New Testament? One hundred and sixty five. In the eight verses read this morning, six times we find either “in him” or “with him” being used. So as we look at this passage, my hope is that we would walk away with a deeper understanding of the riches of our union with Christ. Because it is only when we begin to grasp the reality of Union with Christ that I believe we can say confidently, “He is sufficient.”

Walking in Him




Walking in Him

Walking is just one step away from falling. At least that’s why I learned when our son began to take his first steps. If you have children you know exactly what I’m talking about. When they begin to walk they are stepping out on unsteady legs. It takes some time, and a whole lot of falling, before walking becomes second nature to them. But they have to begin somewhere. Those months where our son learned to walk gave me the most to anxiety in my short time as a parent. And i’m sure that when he reaches adolescence I’ll have a lot more to worry about it!

 Similar to learning to walk as a child, is learning to walk as a Christian. We put our faith into practice one step at a time. Upon becoming a new Christian, there is a radically transformation that takes place. So much so, that Jesus described it as being born again. Not of flesh and blood, but by the Spirit. It makes sense then, that if we’re born again, we need to learn again how to walk. We need to learn what it means to live life differently.

 When a person becomes a Christian, regardless of age, we’re all infants. And the Lord does not save us so we can remain in that stage forever. Jesus did not sacrifice his life on the cross so that we could remain apathetic or be neutral. He died so that we could live not only in eternity, but to also live for Him now. The one who began a good work in us will continue to do so until the day of competition - the day He brings us into his eternal presence.

 Verses 6 and 7 of chapter two have much to teach us about walking with Christ. Now you have to keep in mind that Paul is writing out of a pastoral concern. In the same way that an overly anxious parent like myself fears their child will take a tumble, Paul is concerned that the believers in Colossae will succumb to false teaching. There’s a group causing trouble in the Colossian church. They’re trying to sell them on the idea that in order to really grow in the Christian faith they need to move beyond Christ. They need to supplement their faith in Christ with some mystical teachings - new teachings that promise to give them greater fulfillment and understanding.

 And this isn’t just an issue only common to the first century. The Church has always dealt with this. As C. S. Lewis once said, “Old error in new dress, is error nonetheless.” In fact, just this week someone forwarded me a link to some website being circulated, promoting the very same heresy. The person behind the blog claims to have had a dream where he claims that the Lord was inviting him and others to “to a new level of intimacy and revealing hidden revelations this year.” And if we would only add certain things to our faith in Christ then we could experience these things. Well, that may come across as appealing to some. But first off, the Lord has already revealed what needs to be revealed to you and it is in the person of Jesus and the pages of the Bible.

 The Apostle Paul combats that kind of error right here. And he does it by showcasing the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ. If Christ is truly preeminent and the reconciler of all things then we need not look anywhere else but to Him.

 Here’s what you need to know more than anything else as we study these two verses: Your daily walk should never take a single step away from the gospel. In other words, the pathway to a deeper, and more fulfilling, walk in the Christian life is not to begin with Christ and move on to something else. No, it begins with Christ and remains dependent upon him every step of the way so that every time we put one foot in front of the other we are becoming more conformed to His image.