Colossians 3:1-11 sermon, 2019 Set Your Heart on Your Hidden Life
Ever tossed rings over the tops of milk jugs, throwing a baseball at stacked cans or climbed a ladder suspended sideways without tipping off? These are all carnival games. And by far, the most lucrative games are those where the participant overestimates their chances of winning. You can shoot a basketball, but are you skilled when the hoop is purposefully set higher than the standard ten feet? You can climb a ladder, but what if the ladder is fixed at one point so you’re center of gravity must stay exactly in the middle like a tightrope walker, but on on all fours?
You want to be that hero walking around with the giant teddy on your shoulders. But many of them are rigged with secrets that make them money pits that give you next-to-nothing chance for success. They are lucrative for the owner, because you overestimate your chances to win.
What if you watched a YouTube video first or as you first entered Six Flags, some brilliant hacker exposed the secrets using physics and scientific analysis? You’d find it a whole lot easier to walk right on by, skipping the money pit altogether.
Well, what’s it like when someone is born into this world, filled with promise and hope and life? People want to be self-reliant, independent, I can do this ladder climbers, but it’s rigged! Hell’s fiery floor is lined with independent, self-reliant people. You want as untroubled, carefree life as possible? Will you ever be troubled by sin? Is it not better ultimately to listen to God, who troubles us with his Word and then gives us triumph in his Son as the great celebration of his eternal love?
You see - life is rigged - Satan has it all wired by appearances to look like you’re supposed to go on some long, winding road of self-discovery and personal journey - with plenty of ups to enjoy and a few downs “you can deal with”. But it’s rigged, aimed at keeping you thinking only about you. Life is not to be independent though it looks that way on the outside, but always, as Paul says today, with Christ - yes, hidden with him.
There’s divine company to be trusted, relied on and enjoyed from cradle to grave. Scripture is your front door counselor, before you bother with a first step in self-righteousness, waste a life pursuing satisfaction through pleasure or wealth, follow the typical yellow brick road Satan has laid that doesn’t lead where it seems to lead. Set your heart on him.
What’s special about today is that Paul takes the idea of two roads through life (one to eternal death and one with the Lord forever) and assumes you know it already. You’ve “seen the YouTube” by the Spirit. This is insider-speak to the insiders. Paul reminds you today of the road you’ve been down already -
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above… Something we’ve already had happen - continue to pulse in the veins and steer our hearts. When Paul says we’ve been raised with Christ, he’s talking about being a believer and he knows just all that comes with it. It means the Spirit has taught you about God’s holiness and your sin, a real Satan and a real Savior, heaven and hell with nothing you can take with you.
But Christ, he’s different. He takes his own and keeps them forever. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
It’s hidden. My life - what is my life - I must learn from the get-go and at the front door to answer with - let me show you him. What he did for me. I will never look by appearances what perfectly befits a Christian friend or example. I will always have to tell you about my hidden life that is Christ.
Says this at the gate of the fair, from the beginning. Think of what a statement baptism really does make and what a gift it really gives! That’s what Paul means by being raised with Christ and “you died” - or you know nothing of Jesus’ death on the cross and what he died to, what was paid there, and why you needed baptism as a circumcision of your heart. You who have died already by this word, you who live to confess this creed, by the Spirit in the Word you have seen your sins at the cross and continue to take them there pleading and also trusting in sure mercy of God to find in Christ. So, continue to speak in the same way to sin when you are tempted!
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Paul knows how intrinsic these desires and behaviors are to our sinful nature - like the Colossians, we can regress - once thought this was sinful, now I’m more iffy on it, less serious. Though God stays the same. The apostle is urging for your story to stay as unchanging as your God.
So the reality is that we are going to be face-to-face with all of these all the time and need a framework, a protocol, a spiritual armor in place to wage the right war each and every day. Special language of “you died” and yet Paul also says “put to death”...this is a special nuance given to our daily living.
First help is to maintain a simple split of two categories - there’s God’s stuff and there’s not God’s stuff - Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
it’s earthly nature stuff, not God’s...in fact, his wrath is coming because of that nature and these wicked crimes I commit because of it! It’s a special, spiritual death I continue to have and say - you can die, sin. That temptation begs me to do it like saving a fish out of water, but you can flap all you want - you are sin under your mask and rigged for hell - and I know it and I don’t want it anymore.
But there’s something that tells us to be less serious about these sins. Not many go so far as to physically abuse and use others because it’s so against the law they’d be punished - if we realized our thoughts and words that may not be held so accountable in community court but are as accountable to God as any other sin. Evaluate crimes based on consequences - if you’re honest, you often let impulse take its course and apologize later. But the
We need these categories. And when I find myself dead in sins, dead in the bottom category, well, that’s just the type our Lord has gathered together - not the most famous among the living, the most wealthy or mighty or successful or impactful or somehow outwardly good - but the dead. The dead with Christ and God’s grace raises the dead. We are declared alive with Christ. It’s a category thing. Thankfully we can say with certainty how the wrath of God is coming for such sins, but it is not coming upon Christ or those who trust in him. I am categorically holy and entirely perfect for his sake. He is my hidden life - the only one that matters and the only one that counts.
Which leads to our second encouragement: you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Old self - old in the sense of past (see previous verse), but the emphasis in context on it being part of a functioning earthly nature, rather than a new creature in Christ; it is old in the sense that it is to be obsolete - tossed out and is replaced now in Christ; is not reborn, but belongs to the unborn me.
Challenge is - we paint Christianity as a mere thinking-right-thing, and if I think right, and I’ve got the right answers, then I’m set - but this is beyond having gone through “the Class” once and graduated to some nothing-left-to-learn...it is an attitude, a heart treasure with all-out-daily-transformation - a completely different wardrobe - the death of the old and the life in the new. Faith that is living, active and watchful. Persists to annoy the snot out of Satan and live as his greatest enemy and God’s great ally - renewed in his image - that’s what Paul says here!
Again, Paul speaks here with such words that point out how our old self is ultimately all alone it is sin and deception, and the old self without Christ and faith in him will have to face Jesus as Judge alone someday too. But the new self is not. It is renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. It is the space where Christ is all and is in all. He is our new life, though hidden. He is the all-important, the Vital One on whom we collectively depend. We give up distinctions my sinful nature uses for sinful desires - social class rankings and national identity, how some appear more religiously dedicated than others (for special treatment) and others less religious - for initial less-importance and respect. The real me is hidden with this Christ. And so is the real you. The wealthy believer and the poor one, the Jewish Christian and Gentile Christian, together we all drag the same rags of sin to the foot of the same cross and call for mercy from the same Christ and put on the same robe of his righteousness. And it means everything, and yet it’s all hidden.
I know his name, but I also still need renewing. Knowing my Creator once and then assuming I’m done growing is not the point. Having a mantra like “this is the hidden me and my real life in Christ”, having spiritual armor for temptation’s hour and a language you can use - that’s the point. It’s a new life with these new words - it’s a new attitude as you go out fresh and new by the grace of God to live in Christ and wage the battle with sin. And when we lose, we keep with Christ and stay consistent by repentance and run to claim my hidden life in Christ and the forgiveness he says I have for his sake. So it’s Christ as we go forward and it’s Christ to whom we retreat. He is all and is in all!
Don’t live life without this! You are those fairgoers with experience. Maybe you have been to Six Flax twenty times in your life. Urges you to think about how many times you go around the same block with sin not solidifying in your mind what life is all about but letting yourself be blown around by the wind and living indifferently. No more. You’ve said it with Paul before - many times in your life of faith. But here’s your ticket to the festival of God’s grace that is today, and say it again. Call sin sin and call on your Christ as your Christ, setting your heart on your hidden life. Amen.