Sunday sermon 4 August at 10.30am – From the inside out

Readings: Colossians 3:1-17

Matthew 7:24-27

Message:                                                                                            Bible Sunday August 2013

So how sturdy is the house of your life?

I love the photo we saw in the children’s chat – the one of the floating house.

Please watch the video about their story here:

They were a pretty sturdy family – you heard from them in the video. The impact of the Bible and the preached word of God is very exciting.

The Bible society’s campaign this year is entitled “Let the Bible transform your world”  It’s really what it’s all about.

The reading from Colossians is rich with pictures of that transformation. It comes when we surrender our lives to Jesus – who is identified as THE WORD OF GOD – HIS message through his life and words.

But we don’t just read about transformation of people’s lives in the gospels.

We go back to the letter of Paul, Peter, John and James  – all of which were written earlier than the gospels – to read about the power of this gospel of transformation.

So in Colossians 3 Paul writes to the Christians about their transformation when he says:

Col 3:1  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Col 3:2  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

If founding your life (your house) on the foundation of Jesus’ words is not a strong enough image, Paul talks about the reorientation of our hearts (our passions and loves) and our minds (our ideas, vision, thinking and plans) – which are to be set on “things above” = on God, on Jesus seated at the right hand of God, and on His purposes.

Why? Because when we give our lives to Christ we no longer live for ourselves. In Jesus’ terms we are to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 5)

In Paul’s terms – we are dead: Listen again: Col 3:3  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

And when your life is over, he says this: Col 3:4  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

The consequence of this new status, position and orientation (always look for the word “therefore” and ask what it is there for!).

Because of this new standing and goal in life – and our dying in Christ we are to kill of our old habits:

Col 3:5  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Col 3:6  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  

Col 3:7  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. Col 3:8  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Col 3:9  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

Paul always gives the good things after listing the bad ones (like he does in Galatians where he lists the fruits of the Spirit.

So here he lists the good things that are the consequence of this new orientation in our lives – heavenward. He weaves the good things into the long instruction he gives the Colossians Christians. We would do well to take these seriously as Browns Baysian Christians:

Col 3:9  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

Col 3:10  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

The picture here is a little different. We have dying to self. We have looking heavenward. Now we have a change of clothes – taking off the old self and putting on the new self.

Out of this comes a new and inclusive community bound up with Jesus:

Col 3:11  Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

He goes on to expand on the change of clothes image:

Col 3:12  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col 3:13  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Col 3:14  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

And as if to sum all this up Paul says this:

Col 3:15  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Col 3:16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

How do we experience transformation?

Ultimately – through the word of Christ dwelling in us richly!Words have power.

God creates through his spoken word:

Gen 1:1  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Gen 1:2  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Gen 1:3  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Words need to be consumed totally. He gives his prophets words to speak and even eat – symbolically:

Eze 3:3  Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.

Eze 3:4  He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the house of Israel and speak my words to them.

In Jeremiah 15:16, we have similar language: “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”

Jer 15:16  When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.

And of course the Psalms talk about this inner working of the word of God:

Psa 119:9  Beth. How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.

Psa 119:11  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

The same Psalm 119 – 104 verses later says:

Psa 119:105  Nun. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

And Psalm 19 reminds us again that we need to consume his words:

The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. (v9) Psa 19:10  They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

Even in the last book of the Bible we read about John the apostle in his old age – who writes:

Rev 10:9  So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.”

Rev 10:10  I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.

Eugene Peterson in his brilliant work called “Eat this book”  writes at length about Jesus the Word of God and about the power of the Scriptures.

He refers to Revelation 10:10 as a challenge to us.

There is an aspect of this encounter with the Bible that is unpalatable.

If we are serious about it – we move beyond just the sweet taste of scripture.

We are not in control of this process of transformation.

We read the Bible – but it actually reads us.

We stand before it challenged.

Peterson writes:

It starts out sweet to our taste; and then we find that it doesn’t site well with us at all; it becomes biter in our stomachs. Finding ourselves in this book is most pleasant, flattering even; and then we find that the book is not written to flatter us, but to involve us in a reality, God’s reality, that doesn’t cater to our fantasies of ourselves.

He also writes:

“We are fond of saying that the Bible has all the answers. And that is certainly correct. The text of the Bible sets us in a reality that is congruent with who we are as created beings in God’s image and what we are destined for in the purposes of Christ. But the Bible also has all the questions, many of them that we would just as soon were never asked of us, and some of which we will spend the rest of our lives doing our best to dodge.

The Bible is a most comforting book; it is also a most discomfiting book. Eat this book; it will be sweet as honey in your mouth; but it will also be bitter to your stomach. You can’t reduce this book to what you can handle; you can’t domesticate this book to what you are comfortable with. You can’t make it your toy poodle, trained to respond to your commands.

This book makes us participants in the world of God’s being and action; but we don’t participate on our own terms. We don’t get to make up the plot or decide what character we will be. Eat this book, but also have a well-stocked cupboard of Alka-seltzer and Pepto-Bismal at hand.”

Eat this book?

Can you really take it all in?

It’s risky.

It will change you from the inside out.

 Amen

 

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About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on August 4, 2013, in Sunday Morning Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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