The Holy Spirit- Tools of Cooperation
10/3/2019 4:09:59 AM
September 22, 2019
Rev. David Williams
Does anybody here like Sci-Fi movies? I love Star Wars, Star Trek and the like. I particularly like the Aliens movies. The second one, “Aliens” plural is my favorite. A platoon of marines has been dispatched to check on a colony of about 100 people they’ve lost contact with. Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, goes along because she had warned them about a ship filled with eggs that hatch aliens from inside human hosts. Upon arrival, the marines go looking for the colonists and get ambushed by the aliens. Most of the platoon die or are captured, carried away to breed more aliens!
In the aftermath, regrouping, the few survivors are trying to decide what to do. They know the aliens need to be eradicated- they are so dangerous! Ripley delivers an iconic line that has since become an internet meme: “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”
The interesting thing is that the executive from “the company” which owns the colony argues that they can’t do that! There are substantial dollars involved! Secretly, he doesn’t want to eliminate the aliens. He is hoping to smuggle one or two aliens back to earth for the weapons department of the company to study and use and he can make a lot of money!
Ripley will have none of it and points out that the mission is now under military control. The highest ranking soldier left is a corporal named Hicks. He agrees with Ripley and repeats the plan, “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure!”
Where am I going with this? What does this have to do with the Holy Spirit? Bear with me. We’re going to get to that.
As many of you know, the church in the West is struggling. Christians are no longer the majority. Church attendance is in decline. Entire generations of people have grown up un-churched. We now live in a post-Christian society.
Or, to bring it down a couple levels, why am I struggling to be like Jesus? Why do Christians struggle in their spiritual life? Why aren’t more Christians so winsome in their faith and their walk with Jesus that people are flocking to church to see what it’s all about? Why do Christians not have a better reputation for living transformed lives? Why do I struggle to change? Why am I not a more mature Christian?
These are all very important questions that need answers. Actually, before they can be answered, they need to be asked! Are we even asking the right questions?
Today we are going to look at a passage in Colossians that deals with living the Christians life, what that looks like and how it’s done. Let me say by way of preface that I think the short answer to why the church is struggling and why Christians are struggling is that we take our Christian walk too lightly. I think we boil it down to making a decision to follow Jesus, praying when we can, reading our Bible if we’re really keen, and going to church when the mood strikes us. I don’t think this is the Biblical model of discipleship at all! I think it takes much more intentionality than that. Let’s read what Paul had to say to the Christians in Colossae.
What It Says
What is this passage actually saying? There’s a lot going on here! We’re going to unpack it a bit and see that there’s even more going on that at first glance! Over the years at Priory we have seen recurring themes in Scripture. There are some terms and ideas that keep coming up in my sermons because they keep coming up in the Bible! Today we are going to see one of these.
Paul begins with “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ….” Have we really been raised? I didn’t notice I had died…. What’s going on?
Over the years this diagram has come up over and over. It’s a timeline. Along the bottom is the blue line representing the present age of sin. Along the top is the orange line representing the Age to Come, the New Age, or the Kingdom of God which is the rule of God. As you move along the timeline from left to right you see the cross in the middle. This represents the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is where the KoG, the Age to Come, breaks into our present reality in a powerful new way. To the right is the purple bar representing Christ’s return. That’s in the future. We are between the resurrection and the return of Christ. We live in two overlapping ages, the present age of sin and the future, coming age of the KoG. We live in two overlapping ages.
The foundation for what Paul says about the Christian life is the fact that we are already citizens of the Age to Come. What do I mean? Paul says we have already been raised with Christ. This is part of the New Testament theme of “already and not yet.” Some things have already happened in one sense, but not in another. We are already dead and buried with Christ. We are already raised with him. But these things have not happened to us yet physically, just spiritually. We have the status of being raised with Christ, not the experience.
As a result of our new, resurrected life in Christ, we are to change what we seek and where our minds are set. Verse 1 in the NIV is a poor translation, “set your hearts on….” This is the same word as in Matthew when Jesus says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God….” So we are to seek the things above, we are to set our minds on them. We are to make them the primary object of our attention, make them the primary object of our desires and will. Paul then goes on to describe what this change looks like by contrasting the old way of life with new life in Christ.
We are to put to death and rid ourselves of the characteristics of our old life. Notice that these are active words. We are to be deliberate in killing the things in our nature, in our character, that belong to the age of sin.
I think this is where so many of us slip up when it comes to our spiritual lives! I think this is why the church in the West is struggling. We are not deliberate, intentional, and most of all ruthless in our treatment of our sinful nature! [pic] We need to be more drastic in our attitude to sin. We need to take off and nuke our sin from orbit!
Paul’s first list works backwards from action to root cause. Sexually immoral behaviour does not “just happen.” It does not spring from nowhere. Rather, action finds its source in impurity, which springs from lust or an overwhelming desire. Evil desires start small and then grow into overmastering last. Evil desires, especially in the sexual realm, but not limited there, spring from greed. Greed is wanting more than you have when what you have is sufficient. Greed is a form of idolatry- putting something other than God on the throne of your life. When we enthrone something other than God, it leads to dissatisfaction in life. That leads to greed for things we think will satisfy us, which leads to evil desires which overpower us and lead to sinful behaviour.
The sin that dwells in our hearts is much more than our sinful actions. Anger does not necessarily involve action, nor does malice. But both are sinful. Why? Because they have to do with our attitude towards another person! When we put on the new self, we are putting on Christlikeness. This means seeing people as Jesus sees them and loving them with self-giving love. It means ridding ourselves of anger, rage and malice. It means ridding ourselves of language the corrupts or defiles both the speaker and hearer. It means being a person of truth, not duplicity.
The result of this is seeing beyond distinctions of race, ancestry, education and class. In Christ these distinctions are insignificant!
Precisely because we are chosen, holy and dearly loved (v. 12) we are drape ourselves in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience for other people. We are to give as we have received. Interestingly, all the terms Paul uses here for us (chosen, holy and dearly loved) are terms used to describe Jesus! [Wright, p. 141] Now they are being applied to those who are in Christ.
We are to bear with and forgive others as we now see that God bears with and has forgiven us! We give as we have received. And what binds these things together, what serves as a capstone, is divine, self-giving love primarily concerned with the well-being of others!
Our new relationship with Christ, bringing peace with God, should produce peace in our church relationships too. This peace is not just passive, lack of disagreement and going along with everything for the sake of false peace. Rather, peace with Christ serves as the adjudicator or umpire in our disagreements with other believers in the body of Christ. [Wright, p. 143]
Peace with God leads to peace in our human relationships. This produces thanksgiving in us! And we see in our renewed interpersonal relationships we are also called to teach and admonish one another based on Scripture. As we sing a variety of songs, we are to sing with gratitude- again a response!
Whatever we do, we are to do it thankfully and in keeping with the character of Jesus. That’s what it means to do things “in the name of Jesus.” Names are not just labels in the Bible, but represent a person’s character. Remember, Jesus said wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in his name- in keeping with his character- there his Spirit will be! We are to do everything in keeping with Jesus’ character, which is being formed within us as we cooperate with the Spirit to kill sin, rid ourselves of evil, seek the things above, set our minds on these things, rejecting the life of the present age and clothing ourselves with the characteristics of the KoG.
OK, so what are we to do with this? My goal with this series is to help us live a Spirit-filled life. That means learning how to put into practice the skills or habits Scripture gives us for keeping in step with the Spirit. So let’s get practical!
Throughout this passage, Paul has a number of imperatives- that is, a number of commands or instructions for us to follow…
There are other qualifiers, “as you do such and such…” but for now focus on these instructions.
Notice how many of these are intentional, deliberate actions!
Remember, all of these are because you have already been saved! These are not about earning our salvation, but rather living it out!
These are what it looks like to live in the Age to Come! These are what it means to be holy – to be Christ-like
We can go through religious activities without our hearts and minds being engaged. This is important to note! The activities of religion are not in and of themselves useful. It is a question of engaging our minds, our desires, our will with these activities so that our hearts and minds are transformed! Take, for example, reading the Bible. In our passage, Paul says we are to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. Now, the word of Christ is the Bible. We need to let scripture take up residence in us. To do that, we need to read and study our Bibles! But just reading it for the sake of ticking a box on our to do list isn’t going to give the kind of results we’re looking for! You have to set your mind to it. You have to be seeking to have it dwell in you.
Our study of the Bible should affect our relationships, leading to gratitude that shapes our worship. The word of Christ is to dwell in us with wisdom. This should lead to teaching one another and, when necessary, admonishing or correcting one another. Through our study of God’s word and our relationships with one another, we should be filled with gratitude that spill out into our singing! As we read the Bible, we should be filled with gratitude for what God has done. That gratitude should bubble up in singing- and when we sing, we should use our understanding of the Word to reflect on the songs, to reflect on what God has done, so that we are grateful in our singing!
For the next two months, I will focus on these two imperatives in my life:
The list can be overwhelming. So pick 2 things you want to work on. Maybe it’s a sin you keep falling into, a “habitual sin.” Maybe you want to clothe yourself in one of the virtues Paul lists. Maybe you want to more fully engage your mind and heart in a religious practice. Pick 2 things from this passage you want to work on and write them down.
Perhaps you have a habitual sin that you want to work on? Too often we think we can cage temptation. We want to enjoy it, use it – like in the movie Aliens we want to bring it home with us, when in fact we need to nuke it from orbit!
Think through why you do it. Work backwards. What sparks the sinful behaviour? That is, what do you experience right before it? What is beneath that layer? What is at the root of this sinful behaviour? Is it an overwhelming desire for something? Have you allowed something to try to share the throne of your life with God? Or is it about how you think of someone or some group? Surrender that to God daily and eradicate it at the sources!
Maybe you want to focus on clothing yourself in a virtue. Paul lists here compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I would maybe include forgiveness in the next sentence as something we can “clothe ourselves” in. Maybe you want to focus on one of these relationship characteristics for 2 months. Think about relationships you have now where you can practice, or increase how much of this virtue you show. Then think beyond those relationships think about who else you can show these to. Each day, as you meet people, be intentional to ask God, “How can I show this person compassion?” Or patience, or kindness, etc.
Maybe you want to set your mind on things above, or seek things above? Over the next two months, regularly check what you’re thinking about. If you’re prone to worry, think about what you’re worrying about. Then deliver those to God and set your mind on something to do with Christ in heaven. Maybe set your thinking on his victory over sin, or your adoption as God’s privileged child, or your glorious inheritance you have in store. Set your mind on something above. Check what consumes your thinking, surrender that to God and intentionally think about something from God’s kingdom.
If your mind is continually set on something not from above, be ruthless! Eradicate it. Nuke it from orbit! Kill it. Rid yourself of it!
Maybe you want to revitalize your worship? At the end, we saw that letting Christ’s word dwell in us shapes a number of things. Maybe for the next two months you want to be intentional to read your Bible daily. Or if you already read your Bible regularly, be intentional about teaching others what you’re learning. Go out of your way to share what God’s word is teaching you.
Or maybe you like worship music? Be intentional to pick some of your favourite songs and investigate the words in Scripture. Let the words dwell in you and sing the songs with gratitude to God!
The Spirit gives us tools with which to cooperate with Him in bringing to our present experience the new life we have in Christ.
It is up to us to cooperate with the Spirit. Setting our minds on things above is not easy. It is like steering a great ship through the ocean. Too often we just spin the wheel and let the ocean take us where it will. But if we want to live a Spirit-filled life, we need to grab hold of that wheel and turn it where we want to go, in spite of pressures, temptations, or discomfort.
Are you willing to make daily choices to cooperate with the Spirit in order to experience the life of the Age to Come in the here and now?
Gender Identity Presentation
11/12/2019 2:28:09 AM
The Blessedness of Actually Trusting in God
11/12/2019 2:27:40 AM
Desires: Seek First Matthew 6:25-34
10/28/2019 2:27:56 AM
Desires: A New Attitude
10/21/2019 3:15:01 AM
Desire: What Do You Want?
10/14/2019 1:47:59 AM
What Is Baptism All About?
10/8/2019 2:28:54 AM
God's Mercy to Those Trapped in a Lukewarm
10/3/2019 4:12:04 AM
The Holy Spirit- Tools of Cooperation
10/3/2019 4:09:59 AM
The Holy Spirit Living In You
9/15/2019 7:30:04 PM
The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus
9/9/2019 3:36:21 AM