We continue this morning with our short survey of the book of Colossians. Remember that when Paul wrote this letter to the church at Colossae, he had never met them. But he had heard of them and their exemplary faith. His purpose in writing this letter was to encourage and teach them.
Remember also where Paul was when he wrote them. He was in prison so he knew the meaning of suffering and hardship. And he wanted these Christians to be able to stand strong through the sufferings and hardships that they would face.
Two weeks ago we learned that in order to be truly happy, we have to give of ourselves to help others and we have to trust in God for our eternal salvation. Last week we learned that to live full lives, our lives have to be rooted in faith. The big problem in creation is sin. God solves that problem through Jesus Christ. Our response is to put our faith in Christ. Today we are going to learn what it means to live freely.
Who doesn’t want to be free? All of us want to be free. It is part of our human nature to desire freedom. The Bible makes this very clear. It says in Galatians 5:13 (NIV), “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.” The reason why people want to be free is that God made us that way. That’s why people who are enslaved will go to extreme measures in the pursuit of freedom. Look at how bravely some people resisted the Nazis during WWII. There was no question that those who were part of the Resistance would face severe punishment, torture and death if they were caught but they chose to resist because they wanted freedom. Martin Luther King Jr. during years of racial intolerance wanted freedom not just for black people in the US but for all people everywhere. “I have a dream,” he said.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. It was a dream of freedom and for that dream he died. That’s how important that dream was for him. It meant more than his life.
Freedom is an elusive quality that we in Canada often take for granted – that is until we lose it. And then we will sacrifice everything to get it back. Why is that? It’s because God calls us to be free. God made us to be free.
But in making us free, God did something else. He gave us the gift of free will. God gives us the ability to make our own choices and decide which way we want to go. He gives us the freedom to choose to follow his way or another way. He gives us the ability to decide to follow him or whatever other path we desire. Those are the choices he gives us. His desire is that we follow and worship him but he will not force that upon us. That’s because to force it would mean that we are merely puppets on a string doing his bidding as he chooses. But that is not God’s way. Each of us gets to decide how we will live our lives and each of us someday will deal with the consequences of those decisions. But that is what it means to be free.
THINGS THAT BIND US
Paul, in his letter to the Colossians points out three things that prevent us from being free because these things bind us. They bind us because they prevent us from being the people whom God created us to be. Let’s look at those right now. The first one is found in Colossians 2:8 (NIV) which says:
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
Don’t be held captive by hollow and deceptive philosophy. What are these? They are the passions of the world. These are opinions that people share that have no basis in the eternal truths of Scripture. They are the philosophies of the world through which people try to draw us away from God. They bind us and keep us from being free in Christ.
What kinds of arguments are we talking about? Anything that is contrary to the clear teachings of Scripture. The world is full of them and passionate about them and it constantly tries to use them to draw us away from God. We have to be careful because these arguments often sound very reasonable and rational. They can even make sense on one level. People can make passionate arguments to support the legalization cocaine, fentanyl or hashish but can this be supported by people of faith? When it comes to Covid, some Christians are pro-vax and other anti-vax but which is the more faithful position. Is their biblical support for either position? I’ve heard people trying to defend the sexualization of our daughters and an end to monogamy as we know it. Some have even tried to justify something as hideous as denying care to a baby that has survived an abortion.But can any of these positions be supported by Scripture which teaches that all people need to treated respectfully regardless of their age, gender or colour of their skin.
Here’s the thing. God has given us the freedom to choose which way to follow. We can follow the passions of the world which will only bind us or we can follow the truths of Scripture which set us free. As Paul wrote, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy”.
We don’t want to follow the passions of this world because they bind us and prevent us from being free. We also don’t want to get bound by the actions of the world. Paul mentions these in Colossians 2:16-17 (NIV):
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
This is not about the passions of this world. It is about the actions of this world. Don’t be fooled by them either. They too bind us and keep us from being free in Christ.
God has a plan and a purpose for each of our lives. And God has things that he wants us to do. Those may or may not agree with what the world wants you to do. When the teachings of God agree with what the world says, then we don’t have a problem. Everyone agrees that you shouldn’t take stuff that isn’t yours, that you shouldn’t intentionally hurt other people and that you should strive to be a valuable citizen in society. We can all agree with those ideas.
But what happens when we don’t agree? What happens when the TV ads tell us that it’s okay to go into debt to purchase consumer goods that we don’t need? What happens when Hollywood tells us that marriage is disposable and that you can change partners when you get tired of the old one and can no longer be bothered trying to work things out? What happens when secular therapists suggests that you leave your spouse because, while you may still love them, you no longer seem to be in love with them?
When the actions of the world wants you to do collide with the things that God wants you to do, you have to make a choice. Do you follow the world or do you follow God? You are free to choose. But sometimes those temptations can be subtle. You know, it’s no big deal to buy that extra pair of jeans. They fit and they’re on sale. You don’t have the money but you have room on you’ll Mastercard and you’ll pay it off eventually. That might work once or twice. But it also can easily become a habit. It’s not a big step from buying an extra pair of jeans on credit to buying a car that you can’t afford but you can make the payments or a house that’s really too big but you like the neighbourhood. And before long you’re caught in a debt spiral down to financial despair. And that is not what God wants because it robs you of your freedom in Christ. Do you see where I’m going with this? Don’t live the life that others tell you to live. Live the life that God calls you to live. Doing what the world tells us to do will bind us while follow the truths of Scripture will set us free.
Don’t get caught up in the passions of this world. Don’t get caught up in the actions of this world. The third thing we want to avoid are the distractions of the world. Paul mentions these in Colossians 2:18 (NIV) where he writes:
Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.
What is this? These are the distractions of this world. The distractions of the world bind us and prevent us from being free in Christ.
The Bible is clear. There is only one God and that is the only one who is worthy of our worship. In Luke 4:8 (NIV) Jesus said, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” But we are tempted every day to bow down and worship other things. We may not worship angels and idols as Paul wrote about but we are prone to worship other things. We may not quite say it that way but the things that are most important to us are the things that we worship. Lots of people worship their jobs. Lots of people worship their possessions. Lots of people worship alcohol or prescription drugs. People can worship celebrities, pop stars, athletes and political leaders. Note that there is nothing wrong with admiring the accomplishments of these people if we keep all of that in context. But when they distract us from worshiping the one true and living God, there is a problem. Distractions keep us from being free in Christ.
There are three things of which we must be mindful, things that keep us from the freedom that is ours in Jesus Christ: the passions of the world, the actions of the world and the distractions of the world.
THINGS THAT FREE US
Fortunately, Paul does not leave us in the negative. He also tells us how to find the freedom that is ours in Christ. There are three things that he mentioned to the Colossians. They are all found in Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV) which says this: “
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
That’s not too hard to understand. Paul mentions three things: 1. Accept Jesus Christ as Lord; 2. Be strong in your faith; and 3. Be thankful. Those are the things that we can do to find the freedom that is ours in Jesus Christ.
I want you to notice one thing about them all before I say anything else. The only one that is actually an action is the first one. It is to accept Jesus Christ as Saviour. That is something you have to do to be free. Remember that you are not right with God because you are baptized. You are not right with God because your parents sent you to Sunday School. You are not right with God because you go to church every Sunday. The only way that you can be right with God is by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord of your life. If you haven’t done that, then you need to back up and start there.
Jesus is freedom. In his life, he showed us how to live freely before God. By the cross he freed us from the power of sin. By his resurrection he freed us to live eternally with God in his Kingdom. Jesus is the personification of freedom and any freedom that we have begins by receiving him into our hearts. That is the one thing that we can do. It is the one thing that we must do. And if you aren’t sure you’ve done that yet, then please feel free to come and talk with me sometime today or whenever you have a chance. That’s because receiving Jesus does not take long. It’s the simplest thing in the world once you know what you’re doing.
Receiving Christ is the one thing that we can do. The other two things are not actions but attitudes. If you want to be live freely in Christ you have to have the right attitude. You have to be strong in your faith and you have to be thankful.
What does it mean to be strong in faith? Paul gave us a metaphor of that in the first part of Colossians 2:7 (NIV) where he wrote that we are to be, “rooted and built up in him.” That should make some sense to us who live in rural communities surrounded by farms where things are growing all the time.
To be strong in faith you need to be rooted in Christ. We talked about that last week and I don’t want to belabour the point again but if we want to be strong in faith we have to take time to grow that faith. It doesn’t happen naturally. It takes time. It takes study. It takes worship, Bible reading, prayer and the mentoring of others who are already rooted in their faith.
The reason why it is so important to have deep roots in Jesus is because eventually all of us will go through tough times. And it is in those times when faith becomes so important. Over time you will notice something. Troubled times will have one of two affects on someone’s faith. It will either grow their faith or it will destroy it. The storms of life will knock over the tree of faith in your life if you have not taken the time to grow those roots deeply in Jesus Christ.
That’s our first attitude. Be strong in your faith. The second attitude is simply this – be thankful. In Canada we are blessed with so many things. Despite what our American cousins might think, we live in the best country in the world. And we can arm wrestle for that of you want to. We have so much for which to be thankful.
Today, I particularly want to give thanks for the Kyiv Home Project that is both challenging and enlivening us. It is really amazing that God just dropped this in our laps but it is something towards which we have been working for the past few years. We just didn’t know it would be this project. I guess we were expecting something smaller. We can also be thankful for all the people and businesses that have stepped up to help with it. It is awesome to see the goodwill expressed in our community and we are humbled.
Each of us can be grateful for so many things. And when we are grateful, it takes our minds off of the things that trouble us. You see, you have a choice to make. You can concentrate on the things you don’t have and wish you had them or you can focus on what you do have and be grateful. That’s the choice that we make.
Does that mean that life is perfect? By no means. But it does mean that you can live life freed from the constant desire to want more and more and more. We can be freed to be the people whom God created us to be and do the things that he calls us to do. Attitude is so important.
Do you want to live with the freedom that God intended you to have? Avoid the passions of this world. Stay away from the actions of this world. Resist the distractions of this world. And what are the positive things that you need to remember? Accept Jesus Christ as Lord of your life. Be strong in faith. And be grateful. That’s how to live freely in Christ.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Father God, we offer our praise to you in morning and in the evening, in our homes and at work, everywhere, without hesitation or reservation! When difficult times arise, you are our refuge and strength. Thank you for the assurance that we are never alone. We can depend on you when our own resources come to an end. You are worthy of praise and adoration and we will honour you with our thoughts, words and actions, acknowledging who you are and what you have done for us.
We give thanks also that construction of the Kyiv Home is under way. We are grateful for the interest, for the goodwill and generosity that has been expressed in real and tangible ways. We look forward to meeting the people whom you have set aside to live in that house. Keep them safe until they arrive and may they be welcomed when the get here.
Holy and Living God, the dog days of summer are upon us but at least we have had a brief respite these past two days. Send your cool winds upon us as you have sent your Spirit. As the crops ripen, we become concerned for the farmers and their production. Bless them with good weather and supportive communities.
Our prayers are lifted up for the sick of our congregation and community. We remember, especially, Mark, Carol, Rachel, Linda and Ron.
Lord of Love, thank you for the assurance that, as we grow to know your Word, peace and grace will increase in our lives. That is your promise and your promises never fail. Thank you for the many other promises that you have given. Enable us to walk in them fully, trusting in your great mercy, so that through them, and by them, we may become more like you.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
July 24, 2022 / Pentecost 7 / Proper 12
Hosea 1:2-10; Psalm 85; Luke 11:1-13; Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19)
CALL TO WORSHIP
ONE: Hear us when we call to you, O God.
ALL: Speak your word of peace to your people.
ONE: Mercy and faithfulness are one with God.
ALL: Justice and peace shall embrace.
ONE: Make our paths straight, O God;
ALL: as we come into your presence.
God of Justice, we come to you with great rejoicing, with an exuberance of praise and heartfelt thanksgiving for the great and incomparable things you have done. You are the source of our live and the fountain of our strength. By your hand the heavenly bodies move upon their courses. By your love you take note of the smallest of your creatures. Through your word, you teach us how to be your children. Come into our presence and renew us with your Spirit that we may be empowered for compassion and ministry. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Merciful One, we offer our thanks for the ultimate expression of love that you gave to us in Jesus Christ. Through your grace, when we had no hope, you made it possible in us to achieve righteousness through your Son. We acknowledge that it would be impossible to stand before your throne of grace by mere human means but you, by your grace, have made it possible through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice. Lead us back to your path everyday that we may confess our sins and walk in your light. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
In the midst of the darkness of life, there is a light which shines God’s love. Our light is in Jesus. Our hope is in Christ. When we honestly repent of our sins. God will forgive and, in forgiving, will give to us a place in the procession to God’s heavenly kingdom.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
We offer our resources for your work. We offer our touch that we might be at one with all people. We offer our lives for your redemption and service. We present all that we have in the name of Jesus Christ who gave all for us. Amen.
God has called us. God has blessed us. God has opened our eyes to new and wonderful possibilities. Let us walk the road that God has placed before us with hope and confidence.