Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Living ‘in-Christ (3) –

Bible Reading

  • Colossians 3:1-11

Introduction

In 1976 Dr Francis Schaeffer wrote a book with the title “How should we then live”.  The question is by what standard should we live.  Dr Schaeffer said when we base society on the Bible, on the infinite-personal God who is there and has spoken, it provides an absolute by which we can conduct our lives and by which we can judge society. This leads to what Schaeffer calls “freedom without chaos.” When we base our standard on a value system rooted in the belief that man is his own autonomous, independent measure, all values are relative, and we have no way to distinguish right from wrong. 

How should Christians live?

The story was told of a pastor who found the roads blocked one Sunday morning and was forced to skate on the frozen river to get to church, which he did. When he arrived, the elders of the church were horrified that their preacher had skated on the Lord’s day. After the service, they held a meeting where the pastor explained that it was either skate to church or not go at all. Finally, one elder asked, “Did you enjoy it?” When the preacher answered, “No,” the board decided it was all right! 

We might ask, “By what principle?”

By what principle?

The great controversy of Colossians stems from the influence of Gnosticism, as well as Judaism upon the Christian congregation.

We met the Gnostics who contended that the only way to salvation comes through some mystical separation from earthly life in search of the way out of this world into the next.  Some adhered to a strict lifestyle, denying themselves all psychical enjoyment, claiming that they receive messages from angels and have seen things other couldn’t (Colossians 2:18, 23).

Another group in the congregation was the Jews.  Some commentators think that we should think of Jewish gnostics.   Their own brand of Christian living was tainted with the rules and regulations as defined by the Pharisees.  Their mortality was one of what one eats and drinks, whether or not you celebrate New Moon festivals and Sabbath Days.  Their morality is summed up in “Do not handle, do not test, do not touch.” (Colossians 2:21)  

The members of the congregation who did not meet their standard of living were regarded as spiritually underdeveloped; they were disqualified from the prize.

The regulations of both the Gnostics and the Jews indeed had an appearance of wisdom and humility.

The question still remained, “By what standard?  Why?”

The Apostle Paul writes:  

Put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, (Colossians 3:5–6, NKJV)

He continues:  

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. (Colossians 3:8, NKJV)

Do you want to ask the question, “By what standard, Paul?

What is the difference between what the Gnostics and the Jewish Pharisees said?  Is it not just the same thing? The Gnostics called for humility, harsh treatment of the body, withdrawal from the evil world.  The Jews called for a holy life of “do not taste, do not handle”. Would the Gnostics and the Jews not agree with Paul’s call against fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  Add this this anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, and filthy language.

Let’s go back to the elders and the skating minister:  by what standard did he think it was good to skate to church, and by what standard did the elders condemn him?  And by what standard was it okay if the minister did not enjoy it?  They apparently had different standards.

If we even go back to Dr Schaeffer, we might understand something.  If we base society on the Bible, on the infinite-personal God who is there and has spoken, it provides an absolute by which we can conduct our lives.

What is this absolute principle which God gave us to live by?

‘Without-Christ’ and ‘in-Christ’

‘Without-Christ’

When salvation is based in adhering to certain sets of rules, one finds oneself in what the Bible describes as living in shadows, in false humility, having an unspiritual mind which exhibits itself in pride, having a fleshly, or worldly mind.  All these efforts come to nothing and lead nowhere.  It cannot mortify sin.  Why? Verse 19 gives the answer:  

They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. (Colossians 2:19, NIV)

Good works are not bad, but it achieves nothing for eternity.  

In essence, this describes life without Christ.

So, let’s be practical.  When it comes to things eternal, the things you hold dear because you value them as the things which will be able to tell God why He should allow you in heaven, what precisely are they?  Why do you think they are meeting God’s standard?  By what standard do you measure and value these things?

Do you read the Bible regularly because God might give you a golden star on the forehead if you did?  Do you pray to get another star of approval?  Do you come to church for the same reason?  Have you stopped swearing and telling dirty jokes because, by your standards, it is not good?  If this the case, you are in the same boat as those we read about in Colossians 2: they have lost connection with the Head. Don’t you think you should reconsider your case in the light of what the Bible teaches?

‘With-Christ’

Paul contradicts the life of self-improvement and DIY righteousness with the life ‘in-Christ’. 

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3, NIV)

To understand the difference between BYO, DIY and fleshly, dying, worthless righteousness and God-glorifying righteousness something radical must happen.  It is extraordinary radical, but it is the only way.

You have to die!  

You have to die and take into that grave all efforts of self-righteousness.  It is clear Biblical language:  

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature… (Colossians 3:5, NIV)

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these… (Colossians 3:8, NIV)

Words in these verses refer back to Colossians 2:11 where it talks about the fulness of the work of Christ who, in our place, “put off the sinful nature” by dying for us (v.12).  When Christ took away or cancelled the charges against us by nailing it to the cross, He fulfilled what we never could or will by own effort.  

This is the Good News of the Gospel:  we don’t need to try to get ourselves up to scratch to meet God’s standard; He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, to do it on our behalf and in our place. But to get any benefit from this rescue mission, we need to, by faith and deed, die with Him.  We need to attend our own funeral; we need to get rid of the filthy, sins-stained clothes, and clothe ourselves with the righteousness of Christ.  

It’s only when we understand that by dying to sin in Jesus Christ, we receive a heavenly address which enables us to set our minds on holy things.  

A radical change

In chapter 2 Paul referred to self-helpers, who have cut themselves loose from Christ.  He calls them puffed up and unspiritual without any hope because whatever they try to improve themselves is actually only exposing more obstacles, digging their graves just deeper.  Remember what Dr Francis Shaeffer said about life without God?  

… all values are relative, and we have no way to distinguish right from wrong… Because we disagree on what is best for which group, this leads to fragmentation of thought, which has led us to the despair and alienation so prevalent in society today.

For those who are ‘in-Christ’, those who died with Christ, those who rose with Him to a new life, those who received their address in heaven, there has been a radical change, anchored in a sure and eternal hope.  

What have they become?  

God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved… (Colossians 3:12, NIV)

God’s chosen people! God’s holy people! People God dearly love!

Conclusion 

Therefore, and based on this truth only, we say life with a nature dead to natural yearnings, displayed in how we now suppress unholy desires and the way we speak—aspects we will look at next week—is miles opposite to self-improvement.  It’s opposed to “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch  because a life saved by grace is a new life in Christ—it abhors what is contrary to God’s will and anything that would dishonour to his Name.  

By this standard, we need to live.  Amen. 

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 28 October 2018

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Without Christ

… remember that at that time you were separate from [without] Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:12, NIV)

A more miserable state cannot be conceived! It is bad enough to be without money, or without health, or without home, or without friends. But it is far worse to be “without Christ.” St. Paul was reminding the Ephesian Christians what their former condition was, before they heard the Gospel and believed.

When it can be said of a man that he is “without Christ.” 
A man is “without Christ” when he has no head-knowledge of Him. 
  • They know not who Christ is – nor what He has done – nor what He taught – nor why He was crucified – nor where He is now – nor what He is to mankind. In short, they are entirely ignorant of Him.
  • There are thousands of people today who have hardly any clearer ideas about Christ than the very heathen. Ask them what they know about Jesus Christ, and you will be astounded at the gross darkness which covers their minds. “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3, NIV).  “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8, NIV)
  • If Bible words mean anything, to be ignorant of Christ is to be “without Christ.”
A man is “without Christ” when he has no heart-faith in Him as his Saviour.
  • It is quite possible to know all about Christ, and yet not to put our trust in Him. They put their trust in something which is not “Christ.” They hope to go to heaven because they are moral and well-conducted – because they say their prayers and go to Church – because they have been baptised and go to the Lord’s Table. The Bible forbids us to say that any man is joined to Christ until he believes. Baptism is no proof that we are joined to Christ. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:36, NIV)  If Bible words mean anything, to be without faith is to be “without Christ.”
A man is “without Christ” when the Holy Spirit’s work cannot be seen in his life. 
  • Some people who profess to be Christians will tell you that they believe the Christian religion; they go to their places of worship with tolerable regularity; they think it a proper thing to be married and buried with all the ceremonies of the Church. But where is the Holy Spirit to be seen in their lives? They know nothing experimentally of the renewing, sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost. They are yet dead to God. They are “without Christ.” “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9, NIV)
  • If Bible words mean anything, to be without the Spirit is to be “without Christ.”
  • How painfully ignorant are many! They know literally nothing about religion [faith].
  • How painfully self-righteous are many! They can talk complacently about their good deeds – and therefore they seem to think they must go to heaven! And as to deep sense of sin and simple faith in Christ’s blood and sacrifice, these seem to have no place in their religion.
  • How painfully ungodly are many! They live in the habitual neglect of God’s Sabbath, God’s Bible, God’s ordinances, and God’s sacraments.
  • The man without knowledge, without faith, and without the Holy Spirit, is a man “without Christ!”
What is the actual condition of a man “without Christ”? 

“Without Christ” all will not be right, but all desperately wrong.

To be without Christ is to be without God
  • Man can have very low ideas of God who does not conceive Him a most pure, and holy, and glorious, and spiritual Being. That man must be very blind who does not see that human nature is corrupt, and sinful, and defiled. “… our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” (Hebrews 12:29, NIV)
  • God is merciful beyond all question: rich in mercy, plenteous in mercy. But His mercy is inseparably connected with the mediation of His beloved Son Jesus Christ. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)
To be without Christ is to be without peace
  • Every man has a conscience within him, which must be satisfied before he can be truly happy. So long as this conscience is asleep or half dead, so long, no doubt, he gets along pretty well. But as soon as a man’s conscience wakes up, and he begins to think of past sins, and present failings, and future judgment, at once he finds out that he needs something to give him inward rest. But what can do it?
  • There is only one thing can give peace to the conscience, and that is the blood of Jesus Christ sprinkled on it. A clear understanding that Christ’s death was an actual payment of our debt to God, and that the merit of that death is made over to man when he believes, is the grand secret of inward peace. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1, NIV)
To be without Christ is to be without hope
  • How many a hope is nothing better than a vague, empty feeling, which the day of sickness and the hour of death will prove to be utterly useless – impotent alike to comfort or to save. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV)
  • There is but one hope that has roots, life, strength and solidity, and that is the hope which is built on the great rock of Christ’s work and office as man’s Redeemer. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:6, NIV)
To be without Christ is to be without heaven
  • In saying this I do not merely mean that there is no entrance into heaven, but that “without Christ” there could be no happiness in being there. A man without a Saviour and Redeemer could never feel at home in heaven.
  • In every description of heaven in the Bible, the presence of Christ is one essential feature. “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve Him.” (Revelation 22:3, NIV)
  • A heaven without Christ would not be the heaven of the Bible. To be “without Christ” is to be without heaven.
  • I might easily add to these things. I might tell you that to be without Christ is to be without life, without strength, without safety, without foundation, without a friend in heaven, without righteousness. None so badly off as those that are without Christ!
Application
  • Let’s examine ourselves and ask, “Am I without Christ?”
  • A day must come when eating, and drinking, and sleeping, and dressing, and making merry, and spending money, will have an end. There will be a day when your place will be empty and you will be only spoken of as one dead and gone. And where will you be then?
  • If you have lived without Christ up to this point, I invite you in all affection to change your course without delay. Seek the Lord Jesus while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. He is sitting at God’s right hand, able to save to the uttermost everyone who comes to Him, however sinful and careless he may have been. He is sitting at God’s right hand, willing to hear the prayer of every one who feels that his past life has been all wrong, and wants to be set right. Seek Christ, seek Christ without delay.
  • If you have become one of Christ’s friends already, I exhort you to be a thankful man. Awake to a deeper sense of the infinite mercy of having an Almighty Saviour, a title to heaven, a home that is eternal, a Friend that never dies! A few more years and all our family gatherings will be over. What a comfort to think that we have in Christ something that we can never lose!
  • Awake to a deeper sense of the sorrowful state of those who are “without Christ.” We are often reminded of the many who are without food, or clothing, or school, or church. Let us pity them, and help them, as far as we can. But let us never forget that there are people whose state is far more pitiable. Who are they? The people “without Christ!”