THE HEART OF THE MATTER
Over the past three weeks, we’ve been reading the letter that Paul wrote to the church at Colossae and gleaning what it has to say to us in our day and age. This morning, we will finish up with this letter. It’s not a very long letter by it has a lot of good things to say to us. This week, we will be talking about the new life that is ours in Jesus Christ.
That was Paul’s message to the Colossians. He told them that they could have new life in Christ. The old one which was dominated by the thoughts and actions of this world would be taken away and replaced by a new life that focused on Jesus Christ, his purpose and his meaning for us.
Colossians 3:1 (NIV) says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” What does that mean? You have been raised with Christ. Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of your sins. When you gave your life to Christ, your sins died with him. But just as your sins died with him on the cross, when he rose to new life on the third day, by faith you were raised with him. That means that you are connected to Christ. Once you have given your life to Jesus you are connect to him by his Holy Spirit. He’s always with you and he will never leave you. You have been raised with Christ. Once you understand that, then you can begin to get a handle on the next sentence: “[You] set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
What does the heart have to do with this? Isn’t the heart an organ in the body? It goes thump, thump, thump and pumps blood throughout us so that we can stay alive. Isn’t that what it is, a physical organ? Yes, it is, but it is also much more than that. We look at the heart not only as a physical pump that keeps us alive, we also look at it as the metaphorical depository of everything that is truly important to us. If you want to express how much you love someone you don’t say, “I love you with all my liver or I love you with all my appendix.” No, you say, “I love you with all my heart.” Why heart? Because if something or someone is especially important you, they touch your heart.
How important is this metaphor for us? Do you remember the Wizard of Oz? Dorothy ran into three characters on her journey to the Emerald City to find the Great Wizard. They were the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man. Each of these was in search of something. The Lion wanted courage. The Scarecrow wanted a brain. And the Tin Man wanted a heart. Why did the Tin Man want a heart? Because he wanted to be able to love those things and people that were important to him. He wanted to feel the joy of love and you can’t do that without a heart. It is in the heart that we hold those things that are dear to us.
This is true not only today. It was also true in Jesus’ day. In Luke 12:34 (NIV) he said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Your treasure and your heart are intimately connected. If it’s important to you, you keep it in your heart.
THE NEED FOR CHANGE
What do you hold in your heart? If you want to know that you might want to ask yourself this question, “What is really important to me?” That’s because the really important things in your life are kept in your heart.
Let’s approach this from a different angle. What would break your heart if you lost it? Think about that. What would break your heart? What if you lost your spouse? Would you be broken hearted? Some of you have already lost a spouse and you know what it’s like to have your heart broken. What about your children? Do they ever break your heart? Sure they do. Because we love them and we want what’s best for them and it breaks our hearts when they make stupid choices and do things that harm themselves or others. It breaks our hearts when that happens. What about a good friend? Have you ever had a good friend turn their back on you? That can break your heart too.
Why do these things hurt so much? Because they are important to us. If they weren’t important, they wouldn’t hurt. As Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”
What’s important to you? What do you treasure? What do you hold in your heart? That will be different for all of us. It’s worthwhile thinking about that because Paul also told the Christians at Colossae something else about their hearts. He wrote, “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”
Set your heart on the things above – or the things of heaven. That is a challenge for us. That’s because if we are to take our faith seriously, we have to begin to look at what’s in our hearts and really be honest about whether or not those things line up with the things of heaven.
Coming to Christ, asking him to sit on the throne of your heart, isn’t just about making a mental decision. It’s also about changing your lifestyle. It’s about changing the way you live. Why? Because while there all lots of things that each of us does that line up with the things of heaven, each of us has to work on those things in our lives that don’t quite measure up to what God expects of us.
That’s a challenge because we, by nature, don’t want to change. We like consistency. We like ritual. We like predictability. And we don’t like it when someone tells us that maybe we should take a second look at some of the things that we do because they won’t pass muster with God. But that is exactly what Paul is saying: Now set your heart on what is above in heaven, where Christ rules at God’s right side.
In Colossians 3:10 (NIV) Paul writes,“[You] have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Each of you is now a new person. If that’s true, if you desire to live the new life in Christ, then you must be willing to make choices that will bring your life closer and closer to the life that he wants you to live. That means that all of us need to make a few changes.
What do you have to change? I don’t know. But you know. And if you don’t know, then it’s time to started asking yourself that question. If we sat here all day, we could come up with quite a long list of things that we need to change in our lives. And that is just as true of those of us who have been walking with Christ for a long time as for those who are new to the faith. None of us is perfect. All of us have something that we need to work on.
Paul gave the Colossians a list of things they needed to think about. This list is not intended to be all inclusive but it gives some examples of what he was talking about when he said that each of us has to become a new person, give up the old life with its old habits and embrace the things above in heaven. So, let’s look at them.
In Colossians 3:5 (NIV) it says: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Right away Paul hit on one of the toughest ones. Sexual sins are perhaps the most pervasive ones in our society today. They can also be amongst the most harmful. They can destroy lives and tear apart families. We haven’t even mentioned the problems that arise with sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. And yet the urge for sexual gratification is a strong one.
God still wants us to be able to satisfy those desires but he wants us to do it his way, the way he planned for us to do it. Here’s a verse from Proverbs 5:18-19 (NIV) that you don’t hear in church every day:
May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer—
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be intoxicated with her love.
People forget that the Bible has as much to say about how we should act sexually as it does about how we should not act. Sex is a gift that God gave us to enjoy but the biblical standard is very clear. Abstinence in singleness and faithfulness in marriage. I know that’s a hard sell in our day and age but no one said that God’s word always had to be popular. That’s what it means to live the new life in Christ.
Sex is one thing. Paul also tells us not to be greedy. When we are greedy we are trying to get more than our fair share. Everyone here has been to a buffet restaurant, right. Have you ever had the experience where you really want to get something but the person in front of you takes every last one? That’s happened to me. I remember being at the Mandarin buffet and waiting behind this big guy to get some of those deep fried breaded jumbo shrimp. I could see them on the serving area right in front of me. There were about eight or ten of them in the steamer. And the guy in front of me took every last one. I was a bit ticked even though intellectually I knew that they had kitchen full of them and that more would be coming. But that guy never gave a second thought to who was behind him. He wanted what he wanted and to heck with everyone else. That’s greedy. Paul said not to do that. Why? Because that’s the old self, not the new life that God wants you to live.
Your new life in Christ is not about being greedy. It’s about being generous. It’s about thinking about others and putting them first.
What else did Paul write? In Colossians 3:8 (NIV) he wrote, “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Do you know people who act like that? Sure you do. Chances are that you’ve done those things a time or two yourself. Someone does something that bugs you. Maybe they gossip about you or tell lies about you. Someone’s been out to get you and they’re always talking behind your back. It gets back to you and what do you do? You get right them back! They gossiped about you. You’ll gossip about them. They spread lies about you. You spread lies about them. They talked behind your back. You’ll talk behind their back. Tit for tat, right!
How many of us have done that? I don’t know if all of us have but I think I’m pretty safe in saying that most of us have. What happens when you respond like that? The anger grows. That’s because the other person gets wind of what you’re doing and they just up the ante. The anger grows. The hate grows. It just escalates and gets more and more hurtful.
Is that the way that God wants you to act? No! The new life in Christ is not about getting mad, getting hateful and getting even. It’s about forgiveness, mercy and compassion.
Don’t be sexually sinful; be sexually pure. Don’t be greedy and think only of yourself; be generous and think of others. Don’t be angry and hateful; be compassionate and forgiving. These are examples of what it means to live the new life in Christ.
Knowing that, however, and doing it are two very different things. It’s one thing to know that we have to change. It’s quite something else to do the changing. So how do we go about making the changes that need to be made?
The first thing to do is realize that you actually have to change. It’s not optional. It’s not a choice. If you want to become the person God wants you to be you have to make some changes along the way. Back in Colossians 3:1 it said, “… set your hearts on things above.” Paul wrote that as an imperative, a must do. If you want to be faithful, you have to let Christ rule your heart. You have to be willing to change.
You have to be willing to change. That’s the first thing you have to do. The second thing you have to do is take an honest inventory of your life. Take a look at the way you live. There are some things that you are doing that line up quite nicely with what God wants you to do. Strengthen those things. Build on those things. But there are also things that don’t measure up. As hard as it is, you have to be honest about those things. But you might say, “I’ve done those things for a long time. They’re part of my routine. They’re part of who I am, part of my identity.” That might be true and it might be hard to change those things but God wants to give you a new identity. You aren’t going to change everything all at once. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes a lifetime of growing closer to God, knowing that you will never be perfect but always striving to be just a little bit better.
First, you have to be willing to change. Next, you have to take an honest inventory of your life. Third, you have to believe that God has something better for you. One of the biggest obstacles to change is the fear of what that change will bring. Will your family still love you? Will your friends stick by you? Will you still be able to function? Those fears are real because when you begin to make significant changes, you will get flack. People will surprise you by their reactions. What you think is a necessary change may threaten the habits of others. They won’t like it and they will pressure you to go back to your old ways.
But understand this: with every change you lose something but with every change you also gain something. The hard part about is that while the loses come fairly quickly, the gains sometime take time and initially, at least, it doesn’t always seem worth it. But remember this: if God wants something in your life, God will make it worth your while. Remember what it says in Romans 8:28 (NIV): “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” That’s a promise of God and it is true. I know it’s true because I can see it my own life. It has cost me a great deal to be where I am now but the blessings of my family, my friends, my church and in my own sense of inner peace far outweigh anything that I lost along the way. I also know that looking out at this congregation this morning that a lot of you could share that same testimony. A friend sent me something on Facebook and I want to share it with you. It says, “As I look back at my life, I realize that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.” How true that is. Is there a cost to change? Yes there is but the benefits in the end more than make up for it because God is faithful and he has something far better in store for you.
First, realize that you have to change. Second, take an honest inventory of your life. Third, believe that God has something better for you. And finally, understand that you are not doing this alone. When you receive Christ as your Saviour, you are never alone. That’s because he sits on the throne of your heart. He’s there to give you strength. He’s there to guide your feet, bless you and give you peace. Change is never easy but knowing that you are not alone makes it easier. I also want to say that not only do you have God on your side. The church is here for you too. As brothers and sisters in Christ, it is our responsibility to help each other whenever we can to get back on the path of God. My prayer is that we will take that responsibility seriously. I’m not saying that you share all of your problems with everyone but find one or two people who will support you as you seek to grow closer to God and live closer to his way.
Realize that you have to change. Take an honest inventory of your life. Believe that God has something better for you. And understand that you are not alone. Accepting these things helps you to become the people whom God created you to be. They help you to live the new life that Jesus Christ has in store for you.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Holy God, your creativity extends from the heavens and covers the earth with good things. The butterflies and grasshoppers remind us that you care about all things from the greatest to the least. Your goodness is in the kind acts of your children. You have given us summer breezes, the fluffy white clouds in the sky, the beautiful flowers in our gardens, the birds singing in the trees and the warmth of the sun. Everything we see reminds us of your awesome power. We give the glory to you.
Remind us that we are called to live holy lives guided by your Spirit, inspired by your love. In Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, you gave us the gift of eternal life. In him we are born again as creatures of a new creation, washed in his blood and cleansed by your love. We give all of the glory to you.
We pray for our Kyiv Home Project that you would bless the construction, the contractors and the suppliers. We pray that you will bring the right families to us, the ones that you have selected and that we will be able to give them a good start in a new land.
We know that you love even us. You show us your love every day. Help us to show the love you have given us at all times, through the good times and the bad times. There may be times when we stumble and fall but with your armour snuggly secured we will stand tall and face bravely whatever comes our way.
We remember our indigenous brothers and sisters and their experience with residential schools. We also give thanks for the visit by the Pope and the hope for reconciliation and justice.
We lift up in prayer for those who are sick at home or in the hospital, especially Mark, Carol, Ron and Rachel. We ask that you touch them with your healing spirit. We come to you also with the realization that all of us are in need of your healing touch in some way. Touch us, O God, in the deepest recesses of our being where the darkness needs your light and hurt needs your healing.
We pray also for ourselves. You know the areas of our lives where we need healing. Make us whole in Jesus’ name. Amen .
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
July 31, 2022 / Pentecost 8 / Proper 13
Psalm 107:1-9, 43; Hosea 11:1-11; Luke 12:13-21; Colossians 3:1-11
CALL TO WORSHIP
God hears our voices and attends to our cries; God listens to our prayers and responds. May God’s grace and judgement come into our presence; enabling us to discern righteousness. Let us call upon God; who satisfies our every need.
God of Hope and Peace, hear our prayers. We gather to worship and sing praises to your glorious name. Your majesty extends from east to west, north to south. Your love covers us like a thick downy quilt, giving warmth and comfort. Enable us to feel, once again, the assurance of your constant peaceful presence, beside us, amongst us and within us. In a world of uncertainty, you are the rock upon which we stand. You are the breath that gives us life and the strong arms that lift us up. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
You call us to come to you but we often struggle against you. You ask us to do one thing and we do something else You lead us in one direction and we turn aside to walk another path. You call us to work for justice but we often chose to ignore the acts of inhumanity that surround us. We deserve your condemnation but you bless us with mercy. Forgive us and set us free from the chains that bind us. Enable us to live anointed lives in Christ. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
One of our greatest struggles is against the temptation of sin. Rejoice when, by God’s grace, we resist and live in righteousness. Rejoice, also, that when we fall to temptation, God delivers us from the chains of death. Through Jesus Christ, we have our forgiveness and the promise of eternal life.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
For your many blessings, we praise you. For the wonders of Creation, we give you thanks. You have given us, O God, far more than we need. You have given us far more than we deserve. Remind us, once again, that you are the source of all good things that we may offer our heartfelt gratitude and glory. Amen.
COMMISSIONING God calls us to be one in the body of Christ. God calls us to seek reconciliation from the things that would separate us one from another. As we leave, may our lives be examples of unity and harmony. May we seek to be the people whom God has called us to be.