Convicted: Introduction

February 4, 2018 Series: Convicted

Passage: Colossians 3:1–3:17

02.04.2018      Convicted Intro

Scripture: Colossians 3: 1-17

 

It’s a catchy saying that you can find on memes for social media, mugs, wall hangings, t-shirts, etc. I’ve heard it a bunch of times in my life and my guess is you have to. It goes: If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict?

 

Like any good preacher who intends to use a quote in a sermon, I tried to find out who first said it. And I went to the most reputable of all sources: google. And I found nothing. I did find this…in one of his books former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden wrote: “If I were ever prosecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me.” So that’s what we’ll go with. Either John Wooden said it or he changed up a well known saying slightly and put it in his book. And google picked up on it and here we are.

 

Oftentimes we think of faith and belief as private matters. Or if not private matters, personal matters. To look at you today I don’t know what sports teams you support, unless you happened to wear your football jersey to church today. To look at you I don’t know which tv shows or movies you like. To look at you I don’t know which political party you ascribe to. While not matters of belief as it applies to Jesus, they’re certainly personal aspects about us. And the same can be true for our capital f faith. To look at you, to look at someone, I can’t tell by their outward appearance if they are a Christian.

 

And so we ask questions like if you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict?

 

At the root of this question is the notion that your faith should somehow make you different. Having faith in Jesus, being a follower of Jesus should cause you to live differently. The assumption here is that there’s something about the Christian faith, there’s something about the Christian life that when authentically lived, we can tell by looking at your life if you are a follower of Jesus.

 

Now there are two ways to take that notion. One way is how it can often come across, but hopefully not how we’re going to do it here, and that’s judgmentally. There are ways that Christians can talk about living out their faith that has as the spoken or unspoken conclusion that if you aren’t doing these things then you really don’t have faith. Or that my faith is better than yours. Or that I’m a better Christian than you. We turn acts of faith into weapons that we hurl at other people. In fact the question if you were on trial for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict can easily be made to have a biting judgmental edge to it. Said in a certain way, in a certain tone it can easily sound like we’re saying someone isn’t Christian enough.

 

That’s not what we aim to do here.

 

I like the way Coach Wooden put it. “If I were ever prosecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me.” For him the statement wasn’t about anyone else than himself. There’s a way in which we can ask this question of ourselves and others that is not meant to be a judgement, but is meant to encourage us in the ways we are already living out our faith. That can call us to look at the choices we are making and see if they are in line with the values we hold. That can help us do this together.

 

We see this same theme played out in Paul’s letters. In the first decades after Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection Paul went around the Greco-Roman world telling Gentiles, non-Jews, about Jesus. And he started churches. But after he got a church up and running, he’d leave, he had more churches to start. In order to help those early churches stay resilient and grow, Paul wrote them letters settling disputes, reminding them about Jesus, and telling them how what God was doing in Jesus should mean for their lives.

 

Paul writes one of these letters to the church in Colossae. Paul’s letter to the Colossians is a relatively short book, its only four chapters. One of Paul’s shorter letters to one of his churches. But he accomplishes a lot in a very short amount of time. In the third chapter he talks about what Jesus has to do with our lives. I’m gonna read the whole thing, but then we’re going to come back to the beginning and break it down in sections. Because Paul is one of those writers who does a whole lot in only a few sentences. Unlike me, who accomplishes very little in a lot of sentences. Here we go.

 

Colossians 3:1-17

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and 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. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and 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.

 

Paul immediately begins by locating our reason for doing good and living a righteous life. It’s because of Jesus. We have been raised with Jesus, so we are to set our hearts on the things of Jesus. That is, things that are heavenly, things that are eternal, things that are of God. Paul makes explicit the connection between Christ’s eternal life with God and our lives that are now lived in Christ.

 

Paul says that we have died and our life is now hidden with Christ in God. I want to flesh this out a bit more because it’s about to come into play in what Paul says next. One of the things the earliest church believed about baptism was that in some respects is was a literal death. You were immersed in the water and shared in Christ’s death. And as you were pulled out of the water you were raised to new life in Christ just as Christ was raised from the deal. So when Paul says that you have died he’s not speaking metaphorically, at least not as we tend to mean when we say metaphorically. Clearly people hadn’t literally died. Otherwise who is he writing to? But for Paul, what died in baptism, the self that died in baptism, was the most important part of the person. Whatever it was that made you you, Paul would say, died. And has been raised to new life in Jesus.

 

The closest approximation I can make for this is when we talk about giving our life over to Jesus. People will talk about conversation as the moment they gave their life to Christ. And Paul would say if you have given your life to Christ, your life is no longer yours. Because you’ve given it to Jesus. So if you’ve given your life to Christ, then set your mind on the things of Christ. Because it’s not your life anymore. It’s Jesus’. You gave it to him. We’re gonna pick Paul back up here and return to this notion in a minute.

 

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

 

Paul says that if your earthly self has died, then its dead. And so are the things that go along with it: anger, rage, malice, slander. Lying. Sexual immorality. These are the things that you have put to death in your baptism.

 

Let’s bring it back to our way of saying it. If you have given your life to Jesus, it’s his. And does a Jesus life include lying? Did Jesus lie? Does a Jesus life include slander? Did Jesus slander? Does a Jesus life include sexual immorality? Was Jesus sexually immoral? You’ve given your life to Jesus, it’s time to put away all the things that aren’t part of a Jesus life.

 

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

 

So I could do a whole sermon on this, but I won’t. Basically, Paul names a number of ways that humans divide themselves from one another. And then says that in Christ these divisions break down. What’s crazy, and I’m just going to point it out and let it sit, the division of Gentile and Jew, the division of circumcised and uncircumcised, is a division set up by the Old Testament, by scripture. And in Christ that division fades.

 

But once again this points to how, if we have given our lives to Jesus, the ways that we divided ourselves from each other have to fade. Because Jesus is in all. And if your life is not Jesus’, what would divide you from someone else no longer exists. Because of Jesus.

 

So we have set aside all of these things, the behaviors, these ways of living, these divisions. What are we to pick up? What are we to do? Next Paul begins to say positively how we are to live in our new self, how we are to live a Jesus life.

 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

Now we have a list of what it means to live a Jesus life. And it means clothing ourselves in the attitudes and attributes that marked Jesus’ life. Be compassionate. Be kind. Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Forgive. Love.

 

When we think about the life of Jesus as recorded in Scripture, those virtues sum up what Jesus’ life was about. And we are called to those same virtues. Because we have given our lives to Jesus. So we should live according to the way that Jesus lived.

 

Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. Let the message of Christ be among us. Go to church! And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Isn’t that what it means to live a Jesus life? Isn’t that what it means to give your life to Christ. That whatever you do in word or deed, that it would be in keeping with who Jesus is? That it would be something Jesus would do? That it would highlight, speak to, be emblematic of the life Jesus lived?

 

Can I confess something to you? Can I be honest and real for a moment? I think that I want to give my life to Jesus more than I actually want to give my life to Jesus. I want to give my life to Christ, I want to let Jesus be my Lord, I want my earthly self to die so that I might be raised to new life in Jesus. I want to give my life to Christ. But then I want to take it back again.

 

I want to take it back again when I’m running late and the car in front of my won’t get out of my way. I want to take it back again when I’m stressed out, have too much going on, and my kid won’t listen for the hundredth time today. I want to take it back again in those moments when I’m feeling sighted or I’m feeling sorry for myself and I just want to respond in anger.

 

I want to take it back again when Apple puts out a new phone. Or when I feel like my TV is a bit too old. I want to take it back when I want a little bit more for myself, more stuff, more money, more. I want to take it back when desire turns to greed.

 

I want to take it back in those moments when I want to live my life the way I want to live it. I wonder if you ever feel that way? When you know you want to give your life to Jesus, when you know living a Jesus life calls you to one thing, but you really want to do the other. I feel like that conflict hits me a lot. And in those moments we have to choose.

 

This month we are going to look at what it means to live a Jesus life. John Wesley, who founded the United Methodist Church had three simple rules for Christian living. They were 1) do no harm, 2) do good, 3) attend to the ordinances of God. If we did those three things than our lives would provide enough evidence to convict us of being a Christian. So in each of the next three weeks we are going to look at those three things.

 

I want to end by once again saying these sermons are not meant to serve as judgments. I am not your judge, you are not mine, and we are not each other’s. But we are each other’s teammates. These sermons are meant to give us things to ponder, things to consider. They are meant to serve as mirrors we can hold up to our lives. And then as teammates we can encourage one another. We can applaud success. We can say you’ll get em next time when haven’t performed the way we want to.

 

I want to give my life to Christ. But I need to remind myself what giving my life to Christ looks like. What it entails. So that I can really can give my life to Christ and really live a Jesus life. If you’d like to give your life to Christ as well, if you’d like to live as Jesus called us to live, then I invite you to join with me and allow these three rules to hold a mirror up to our lives. And perhaps when we are through we will live a little bit more in line with the values and virtues of Jesus. Maybe our lives will provide a bit more evidence that we are in fact Christian. Maybe, if we were put on trial for being a Christian, we would be convicted. Let us pray.

More in Convicted

February 25, 2018

Convicted: Ordinances

February 18, 2018

Convicted: Do Good

February 11, 2018

Convicted: Do No Harm