Safe and Sound
Text: Colossians 3: 1-11
Proposition: Though God does not ask more of us than what we are able to do and though He empowers us with the Holy Spirit, He does say it’s up to you to turn.
Introduction: I was driving my car last week to get to a town north of here when all of a sudden the engine hesitated and then just quit entirely. It was dark and cold and I ended up calling the AMA to come and tow my car back to our house where we put it into the garage. It was safe in the garage but it still needed to be fixed, it wasn’t sound. It’s like that when we talk about what it means to safe and sound in our relationship with God.
When you by faith believe in Jesus Christ as your Saviour, that Christ has wrapped Himself around you and forgiven you your sin, then you my friend are now safe in Christ forever. That is called justification, you have been made just before God through faith in the righteous blood of Jesus Christ. That’s a ‘once for all time’ thing, you don’t need to keep going back and asking Jesus to be your Saviour again and again. It’s done! It’s like a baby that has now been born, safely delivered into the world, but they are not sound are they? They’ve got a lot of growing up to do, they need to mature and learn more and more of who they are and how to be in a family. That aspect of growing, or perhaps like my car in the garage of now needing to be taken apart and repaired, that process is called sanctification. Safe, that’s justification, Sound, that’s sanctification. One happens in just a moment, the other will take you the rest of your life as God works in you to finally accomplish it. Safe and Sound, that’s what Paul is going to talk about in Colossians 3.
I. ‘Safe’ Is All About Who We Now Are In Christ.
When Paul begins this section by saying we have been raised up with Christ, he is speaking of this as a done deal, a past tense action. Listen to the language he uses to describe who you now are as a Christian: you’ve been raised up with Christ, where Christ is right now with the Father so are you in Him, your life is hidden in Christ with God, when Christ who is our life appears you also will appear with Him in glory. He is our life! We have talked before about how Jesus has satisfied the wrath of God against my sin, He took it upon Himself and then took it to death. That action of Jesus for you and for me is applied to us by faith, we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. We are wrapped in the righteousness of Jesus, Paul used the words, “hidden in Christ”. What that means is that when God looks at a person who has that faith in Jesus as their Saviour, He doesn’t see you and the sin nature that is so much a part of us, He sees Jesus. It is the righteousness of Jesus that is applied to us and we are in the deepest sense of the word ‘Safe’. He is our life! That’s who we are in Christ, you’re there by His action and your faith, you don’t need to run on the tread mill of being good enough. Jesus is enough! But Paul doesn’t stop here, he takes this to the next crucial step.
II. ‘Sound’ Is All About What We Are Now Responsible For In Christ.
When I use that word, ‘responsible’ what I’m driving at are two things.
1. We now as Christians have the ability to respond to God, we are response able.
2. We now as Christians are accountable in a different way, the way of holiness.
Dr. Dave Burggraff, Chaplain and Professor of Systematic Theology at Shepherds Theological Seminary made this statement, “What the righteousness of God is to justification the holiness of God is to sanctification.” Not only has God made us ‘Safe’ by imparting His righteousness to accomplish our justification, He is also making us ‘Sound’ by revealing His holiness to accomplish our sanctification. Sanctification is all about God changing us here and now, using the action of our will and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us into people that seek Him. After all that’s how Paul started this chapter, he said, “seek those things which are above” and “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth”. It’s where you set your mind that will determine the direction in which you walk. So for the remainder of these next verses Paul gets quite specific as to what we are to set our minds on. Before we get to those details let me ask just a simple question:
“What is the main purpose of sanctification, or restating it, what is the main reason why God wants to change us into being a people that are holy?
Is it so that we would be more Christ like? Is it that we would not be beat up by temptation and guilt? Is it that we would have freedom from sin? Is it that we would do the will of God? Is it all of the above?
I wonder if the answer is not given to us in verse 3, “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” However you would describe the relationship that exists between the Trinity, that is between God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, three persons in one God head, the unity of that relationship is such that we would say there is but one God, triune in nature, perfect in unity. It’s that relationship that Jesus has with the Father that Paul says is now also ours. We have died as people who just lived for themselves, now we live for Christ because after all He is our life! The relationship we have with Jesus wraps us His righteousness and He in turn is One with the Father in unity. Do you remember that prayer that Jesus prayed in the upper room on the night of the Last Supper? It’s in John 17, in it Jesus makes this startling statement, “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
The purpose of sanctification, the main reason for why God seeks to make us a holy people is right here. It’s that we may be one, unified as a people so that in Christ we are made perfect, lacking in nothing. That’s the essence of what holiness means, lacking in nothing. Why is that so important, it’s so that the world would know that God the Father has sent Jesus and that God loves them even as He loves His own Son Jesus Christ. That’s the main purpose of sanctification, that’s the main reason why God is wanting us to set our minds on things above and in so doing to move towards becoming a holy people, lacking in nothing because of Christ. Sanctification, being made sound, is what holiness is all about. Now let’s look at the nuts and bolts of what that means.
III. Put Off Idolatry and Put On the New You.
Perhaps you are shocked by that word idolatry because we weren’t aware of doing anything like that. Look at how Paul defines the components of idolatry:
1. Fornication, it’s the Greek word Porneia where the word pornography comes from. The main inference is that illicit sex is defiling in the same way as idolatry.
2. Impurity, some translations use the word uncleaness. It refers to moral impurity, where the motive is self serving.
3. Lust, also referred to as inordinate affection or passion. It refers to looking at someone with illegitimate desire, in other words they are not yours to think of in such a way. They are God’s creation not your satisfaction.
4. Evil desire, a way of thinking, feeling and acting that treats people or things other than the way they should be treated. It seeks that which is forbidden to us.
5. Greed, also called covetousness, it refers to the desire to not only have more but also to have what others have in terms of property, relationship or being.
All these Paul says are the components of idolatry. All these will destroy the unity of a church body, all these declare that we are not complete, we need this or that to be complete and being incomplete is the opposite of what holiness seeks to develop. All these do not help the world see the love of God for them and the love of God for Jesus Christ. In short all these do not reveal God nor the glory of God. That’s why they are referred to as idolatry, they reveal another god. Paul’s exhortation here is to choose by an act of your will because of an informed mind and a spirit empowered by God to put off idolatry. Because of these things, because of this idolatry says Paul, the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience. What he means is that people willfully choose another god. It will expose them as people mired in sin to a judgment that bars sin from entering into the holy and eternal relationship that God has intended. Hence the absolute need for Christ! If indeed we are now wrapped in the righteousness of Christ says Paul, put off the things that work against God’s purposes of seeking to make us a holy people, a people that truly lack nothing in Christ. Put off anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscenity, do not lie to one another. These are all things that describe how we fail one another. Holiness is as much about how we treat one another as it is about how we treat God. God’s intention is that we be safe and sound, He’s already made the first part available, we’re safe in Christ. Now He’s calling us to the second part, to be responsible, to seek holiness, to know what it means to be sound, sanctification. Next week let’s look at what we are to Put On…