Paul wrote to the little congregation in Colossae with one goal in mind … to show them that Christ is all in all. Jesus is fully sufficient for all that life can throw their way. Christ is Our Hope. It is the Truth you heard in the Gospel, the cold hard reality of a Saviour who came in the Flesh to win freedom for His people – for all people, through His life death and resurrection. A Freedom now granted to them (and us) in Holy Baptism. Perhaps you’ve heard this before. Perhaps this isn’t really news to you any more. Perhaps you are wondering why we would spend four weeks talking about something so obvious. But just because it’s obvious that doesn’t make it unimportant. Indeed, this central message of Colossians and the Hope we have in Christ will always be the most important thing you can keep coming back to in this life. For Christ Is Our Hope in Life and in Death!
1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
You see dear friends, life for us Christians isn’t what it used to be! It can’t be about what it once was. It is now headed in a different direction, following a different path, finding meaning and purpose in different values. It is a cliché of story and movies, but those who have had a near death experience come back to their old way of life as changed people. Second chances, grant freedoms they had never seen or thought of before.
We have not only been in a near death experience – we have died. Remember last weeks’ talk about Baptism. In Baptism you Died in Christ. You rose in Christ. You are changed people with lives that are changed forever. The ultimate freedom of a second (and everlasting) chance. That we Christians have been raised with Christ, that we have risen together with Him, that we have been made partakers of His resurrection and its blessings in our conversion, this is the principal and most profound basis of all our Christian life. New Life in Christ is a Fact! It is completed. Done. We have died and we have been raised.
Just look at the startling words Paul uses to describe our life in Christ: you have been raised with Christ … your life is hidden with Christ in God … you have put off the old self … [you] have put on the new self … These statements describe the believer’s position in Christ. My new, eternal life is just as certain and safe as is Christ Himself. This is the intimate mystic union of the Christian with God. I am as close to God as is Christ. Any my union with God is as certain as is Christ’s union with God. Christ is THE Life. Christ is YOUR life. It is now a matter of certain faith (there but not fully seen or understood). In eternity it will be a matter of full experience.
But being alive in Christ, with that Hope of Life only He can give means that we must put to death what once was. As Paul goes on to describe it: seek the things that are above – Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth … Put to death therefore what is earthly in you … now you must put them all away … These statements indicate what we believers are to do as a result of our new life.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
In this worldly life Christians still have a flesh and, therefore, are still guilty of these sins occasionally, but not as a way of life. God gives us the strength to put these sins away. But we should not expect God to do our work for us. It is after all our life to live, even if it is done in Christ. All that is earthly in you has to do with the flesh, the old Adam. Paul is not saying that Christians are never to enjoy the things of this life. We can both enjoy and rejoice in the rightful use of all things which God has loaned to us.
To do any less is to fall back into the ways of the world. An outlook on life and death that has no room for God and No place for hope. This isn’t real life but slow death. Just consider how many people around us do everything they can to avoid any thoughts of death by keeping busy, by heaping up rewards and treasures, by finding ways of trumping the stuff of life. Or those who give in to the futility of it all because in the end everything is meaningless. Eat drink and be merry. If yo have an itch scratch it. If you have a want fill it. Live fast, play hard, die young – and don’t let anyone get in your way.
But that’s not the hope we have because that life and death is not for us. Our death, remember, is already behind us. Only Life lies before. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Life here is only prelude to the life that’s coming. And so we are called upon to become in daily experience what we already are through God’s grace in Christ
9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
And here the talk of life and death ends right back where it began – in Baptsim. What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
When we were converted, given new life through the life death and resurrection of Jesus, we put off the old man, the old sinful nature, like an old, filthy garment. This putting off, this laying aside, included also that of the evil deeds and practices in which the old evil nature of man delights, the denying of the flesh with all its affections and lusts. Die to the old, live in the new. Take off the old, put on the new. So long as we live in the flesh, this process goes on and on without ceasing; we must always be renewed in knowledge, growing in the knowledge of God’s Word and will, after the image of Christ who truly is all, and in all. Our one and only Hope in Truth, in the Flesh, In Freedom and in Life and death.
Why we would spend four weeks talking about something so obvious. Because this Hope we have in Christ and in Christ alone, will always be the most important thing you can keep coming back to in this life and beyond!