SECOND SUNDAY IN EPIPHANY January 20, 2019 Colossians 3:1-11
1Therefore, since you have been raised with Christ, strive for the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
5Put to death, therefore, the components of your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. 7When you lived among them, you also used to walk in these ways. 8But now you must put aside all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.
9Do not lie to one another, since you have taken off the 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
In the name of Jesus Christ who has stored up treasure for us in heaven, my dear friends,
Let me begin this morning by asking how many of you who are married or are dating have a picture of an old flame in your wallet, cell phone, setting on your desk or posted on social media? That just wouldn’t be tolerated would it? You want your spouse or the person you are considering as a spouse to only have eyes for you. Holding on to and displaying photos of that other person means you have a lingering love for them.
In the chapters of Colossians that precede this text, Paul writes about the love relationship Jesus has established with us by calling us to faith in him. This relationship began at our baptisms where Jesus connected us to his death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. “Therefore, since you have been raised with Christ, strive for the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” In summary Paul is saying, “Jesus, the new love in your life, lives in heaven. Keep that picture of him in your mind. Only have eyes for him and the things that are associated with him.”
Why does Paul need to tell us this? It’s because all of us have an old flame in our lives. We were born in a love affair with Satan and all the earthly natured things associated with him. That relationship was abusive and put us in eternal danger.
When my son Caleb was in high school he went with some of his friends to a local restaurant that serves buffalo wings. It was his first time there, so he was unfamiliar with the menu. Without giving it much thought he ordered the number seven meal. When the waitress brought his order to the table he noticed his friends were all giving him a weird grin. When he asked why they said, “Those are the second hottest wings on the menu.” Since he’s not big fan spicy hot foods, he wasn’t going to touch them. Then one of his friends offered to give him a dollar for each wing he ate. Satisfying his hunger and earning a dollar at the same time was too much to pass up. After downing the first wing his hunger was partially satisfied, his mouth was comfortably warm, and he got dollar! It was all good. So, he started in on a second wing. As he finished it, the searing burn set in. What started out as satisfying and rewarding had become absolute misery. At that point he decided the pain wasn’t worth the dollar or the satisfaction of his hunger.
Our relationship with Satan and his earth mindedness does the same thing. He promises to satisfy the cravings of our earthly natured old self through sexual immorality, impurity, lust, greed…lying, anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. Pre-marital and extramarital sex initially satisfies a craving. But the hunger is never really fulfilled. Then comes the pain of feeling used, abandoned, and contracting a disease. Greed, the hunger for things, is initially satisfied by obtaining them through any possible means but soon follows the searing heat of crippling debt, a shattered family because of working extra hours, or jail time for theft. Lying to avoid blame or to take advantage of someone else initially keeps you out of trouble and brings a profit. But inevitably one lie leads to another. The truth comes out. Trust and respect are lost. Turning our anger loose, hurting those who hurt us, spreading rumors all taste so sweet in the beginning. In the end they burn us. “Because of these, the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience.” Paul calls all these sins idolatry. They are evidence we love evil and Satan more than God. Unlike spicy buffalo wings the burn will become permanent if we continue our love affair with Satan and earthly things.
For this reason Paul writes, “Set your mind on things above.” By that me means “set your mind on Jesus.” Jesus purchased a place for you by his side with his blood. As Paul says, “your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Satan has suffered nothing for you and he never will. He doesn’t love you. He has nothing to give you. All his promises fail. But Jesus sacrificed everything he had for you: his life for your life, his perfection for your sin, his reward from God for your punishment. He promised victory over Satan for you and he kept it. What wondrous love.
Such love attracts all our attention and affection. We love him because he first loved us. When you truly love someone, you can’t stop thinking about them. You feel incomplete without them. You want to be with them and you are constantly thinking of some little or big thing you can do to express your love. Jesus is in heaven. In him we are complete. We want to be with him face to face and share in his glory. So we set our minds of things above, we have a heaven mindset. With this mindset we are constantly looking for ways to express our love for Jesus while we wait for him to appear in glory.
Paul shows us how we can do just that. Like a set of dirty clothes remove and put aside everything that displeases Jesus like anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. In their place put on the new self which is being renewed in the image (the mindset) of God. God controls his anger every day. That’s why we are still alive. Therefore, control your anger. Forgive others as God has forgiven you. God has never lied to you. Speak only the truth as he does. As God loves everyone equally, likewise you love everyone equally. As Paul wrote, “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free, but Christ is all and is in all.” If you really want to show your love to Jesus, love the person next to you. That’s the heaven mindset that comes from being completely loved by Jesus.
Let’s go back to the pictures in your phone, hanging at home or setting on your desk. I doubt the ones you have on display are of people who hate you and you hate in return. They are images of the ones you love and who also love you. In this book we have an image of the one who loves us most and we love most. Carry it with you. Look to it often. Be reminded of the glory that awaits you where he is. Remember “Christ is all and is in all.” In him you are complete. Amen.