Saturday, July 27, 2019

Alive in Christ!

Colossians 2:6-15 The Bible says that in the beginning there existed between God and man such a closeness and fellowship that Adam and Eve’s relationship with the Lord was like friends taking a walk together in the country.  That is what we were made for—life with God! 
But sin entered the world and that life and relationship was destroyed and mankind no longer walked with God in fellowship-- but ran from God in fear—and we have to confess about ourselves that we too have wandered far and wide from God’s presence and his loving purpose for our lives. 
Today we are going to hear how God re-established that perfect fellowship between himself and humanity and how it is that we can now once again walk with him in the victory of Christ’s death and resurrection.  And we are also going to hear about the dangers lay along the way in that walk of faith.  The Bible says that:
As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,  rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
            When man ran away from God in the garden it was God who sought him out—it was God who wanted to re-establish that relationship and walk with man in fellowship.  The importance of this basic biblical truth cannot be over-emphasized! 
All of the religions of the world apart from biblical Christianity tell us that it is mankind who seeks after God.  Wrong!  Apart from personal faith in Christ, man is dead in sin and trespasses. 
From the beginning, the story of our salvation and reconciliation is the story of God seeking after us to give us life.
God sought out Adam and Eve as they ran from him and he re-established fellowship by a sacrifice.  Not their sacrifice—but his sacrifice of an innocent animal whose blood covered the shame and removed the guilt of their sin—a sign of what he would do for every person in the world in the death of his own Son—the innocent Lamb of God.
And having been restored to fellowship through sacrifice, God has made the way for us to walk with Him through faith in his Son Jesus Christ.  And he intends that we do so-- for we have been made alive in Christ for fellowship with God—to walk with him.
Much too often we regard our salvation as that which provides us the opportunity to live life as we see fit without having to worry about eternity—having checked it off our list—while we focus on the earthly goals and priorities.
But that is not Christianity!  We were created by the Father and redeemed by the Son and made alive in the Spirit—to walk with God. 
And so having received Jesus Christ by faith as the beginning and ending of our salvation—rooted and established and built up in him—we walk with him as our Lord.  And yet that walk of faith and fellowship is not without perils.  The Bible says:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 
            Even in Eden, Adam and Eve had to be on guard spirituaally—they needed to listen to God’s Word and stay close to him if they were to continue to walk with him.
But they didn’t—and they fell victim to Satan’s deceit and became captive to sin and death.  And if that warning to watch out for lies was necessary for Adam and Eve in their walk with God-- how much more true is it for us as we journey to heaven through this dark and deceptive world! 
When we think of dangers that confront us in our walk of faith with the Lord, we tend to think primarily of moral dangers—and of course there are many of those such as various addictions and sexual immorality and the love of money and other besetting sins. 
But behind these moral dangers is a philosophical framework that is the real danger to our walk with the Lord.  For example:
Evolution tells us that we are merely animals-- and so why shouldn’t we act like them regarding our sexuality?  Humanism tells us that man is the measure of all things-- and so why shouldn’t I decide for myself what is true?  Materialism tells us that the only things that are real are those things that we can touch-- and so why shouldn’t I live my life in a relentless pursuit of things? 
These deceptive philosophies are not just ideas discussed by academics.  They are the working philosophies of what we see and read and experience all around us.  They are human traditions, deceitful lies given by Satan in place of God’s Word, and they are deadly to our life with God and our walk with Christ.  The Bible says that in Jesus…
the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,  and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 
            When we set Jesus aside—for whatever reason-- when we follow the ways of the world or are led astray by lies from within the visible church--what we are really doing giving up is God himself—the fullness of whom dwells in Jesus bodily. 
To worship Jesus is to worship God and to walk with Jesus is to walk with God.  We have been saved for fellowship with God as his sons and daughters by Jesus Christ who fills our life with his presence so that we are rooted and built up in him.    
And so how did this life—this walk with God--come to be?  How did we come to be filed with Christ?  The Bible says that:
In [Jesus] you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 
            How did we come to be filled with Christ?  Very simply the Bible says that happened in baptism.  Down here in Texas we live in a place where many of our fellow Christians see baptism as something that we do for God—as merely an outward sign of our faith and commitment to God with no real spiritual power in our lives. 
But that is not what baptism is!  Baptism is what God graciously does for us to give us his blood-bought salvation personally and individually through faith in Christ—and in these verses baptism is likened to Jewish circumcision which made one a part of the saving  covenant the Lord made with the Israelites.
Now, the eight day old boys who were circumcised among the Israelites did not circumcise themselves—they were circumcised by others.  So it is with our baptism.
Baptism is not our work for God-- but it is Christ’s work for us.  It is done to us—not by us—and it is not really the Pastor who baptizes-- but God himself. 
Yes, the parents bring the child.  Yes, the congregation speaks and confesses.  Yes, the pastor pours the water.  But it is God who baptizes and in that moment, according to his promise, a real, spiritual break with our sinful flesh occurs-- just as physical flesh is really cut away in circumcision. 
In holy baptism we were buried with Jesus and through God’s powerful work we were raised in him to walk with him in newness of life—in a resurrection life like his.
The power for this spiritual dying and rising is not found in the water but in the new covenant that fills that water:  the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.  The Bible says that:
you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 
            Each and every one of us has a record of sin—those bad things that we have done and those good things that we have left undone.  The legal demands of the law force upon us a moral and spiritual debt that we cannot repay even if we had eternity to pay it. 
But the Good News for us today is that Jesus has cancelled that record paid our debt in full.
Jesus Christ assumed our sin debt and carried that to the cross where it was nailed there in his body.  Through his death and by his shed blood that sin debt that we could never repay on our own-- has been paid in full-- and Christ rose victorious over our enemies of sin, death and the devil. The Bible says that Jesus…
disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
            When the Romans conquered an opponent—whether a general or a king—they would bind him in chains and lead him in triumphant procession through Rome to the shouts of joyful acclamation of the people and everyone in the community would join in this great victory march. 
Another person had conquered their enemies—one greater than themselves--but they got to participate in the victory parade too for it was their enemies that had been defeated.
That is the picture here.  Jesus Christ has defeated our enemies of sin, death, and the power of the devil by his death and resurrection and he invites us to walk with him, throughout this life, in his victory parade.  Amen.

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