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Stay In Love With God - June 10, 2018

Colossians 3:1-17

Sometimes when we hear these types of passages, we feel like someone is finger wagging at us. Do this. Don't do that. It hardly feels inspiring. It feels condemning and sometimes condescending. Sometimes we read too much into these passages or hold one another hostage, and sometimes we're dismissive and think "that's not me" and we move on. But there's a richness and a depth here that shouldn't be ignored. Paul is writing to the new church in Colossus. And he's trying to help them figure out the ways of faith. His writings are letters....responding to issues and needs within the church. Here it seems people are confused about what living in Christ might

mean. So Paul tries to make it clear.
First, he says, when you choose Christ you begin a new life. You let go of the things of the past and cling to the things of Jesus. He says "Let heaven fill your thoughts." Which could be confused for daydreaming about some far off place we can only imagine. Clouds. Angels. Rainbows and pearly gates. And when we go down that road it seems Paul himself has his head in the clouds. What good is it to think about angels and pearly gates and golden streets? How does that help me or anyone else? But if we think about the phrase, "Let heaven fill your thoughts" and think about how Jesus defines heaven, I think we end up in a different place, not with pearly gates or streets of gold...but with compassion, inclusion, redemption, and wholeness. When Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God, it's about it coming "upon us" and it is reflected in redemption and goodness and restoration to community. So then focusing on heaven takes on a whole new meaning for us. It's not pie in the sky thinking, it's life-changing focus that helps bring goodness and change to this world, here and now.
And then Paul goes on to say that keeping our focus on heaven and our new life in Christ means that we lay aside temptation and sin—we push back on lust and greed, lying and coveting so that we might have a focus for the things of God. This isn't new. But like a lot of things, it's worth the reminder. We are called to cast aside sin in our lives. All kinds of it. Whenever it presents itself. Now, Paul makes it sound pretty cut and dry, and easy to do. Lay aside the things of this life and keep your mind on heaven. Well, if only it were that easy. Letting go of sin is hard. Our temptations and habits and vices often have a stronghold in our lives. And, we're often happy to shrug and remind ourselves that we're all sinners and sort of accept that we'll tango with our sin from time to time. It's called self-justification and all of us do it. We convince ourselves that our sin isn't hurting anyone, or that no one will find out, or that it's really not that bad, but when it comes down to it, sin is sin and we know it's wrong—that's why we hide it, that's why we lie about it, that's why we do our best to convince ourselves that's it's smaller than it is. Sin isn't good. Can we agree about that? And your sins are likely different than my sins, and some of our sins are more public or more obvious than others....but sin is sin....and it's not good. But beyond just not being's damaging, to us and to others...AND, it detracts us from our relationship with God.
In Greek, the word for sin is hamartia and literally it means "missing the mark"—imagine a target....that's God...the closer to the bullseye, the closer you are to the heart of God. Sin—hamartia—is missing the's hitting anything that's not God. So the more we focus on all the other stuff, the more often we stray, the more often we miss the mark. Now, you could say, we'll, I'm only a little bit off the's only a little bit greedy, or a little bit covetous....a little bit selfish...but even a little bit off is off the's not a godly place where we're landing.

In essence, Paul is giving us a goal and a focus, not just the things to avoid. Which is like saying, "don't eat the ice cream" and then all we do is think about eating the ice cream." or when someone says, "Don't look left" and we all immediately look left. Paul goes on to say, "look center" or "focus on the mark" "stay in love with God". Specifically, in this passage, he says, "Practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to each other. Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. ...14 Most of all, let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony. 15 Let the peace of heart that comes from Christ be always present in your hearts and lives."

Do you hear how being focused on heaven still requires us to love and care for one another? Sometimes we'd like it to be an out. I'll just think about heaven and then I don't have to worry about you or your stuff. But really, staying focused on heaven means caring for those around us...walking in the ways of Christ—grace and mercy and forgiveness. Again and again and again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
Paul tells the Colossians, "You are living a brand new kind of life that is continually learning more and more of what is right, and trying constantly to be more and more like Christ who created this new life within you." That's true for us too. We are called to be continuously learning to live and love like Jesus. Some of us have been at it awhile...and sometimes we're pretty confident in how we're living...and then God shows us our sinfulness, or our hardheartedness....even our pride in how well we're doing as Christians and we start learning again.
Focus on the mark. Stay in love with God. Keep away from kindness, mercy, and grace until that's all that you have to give. As Paul says at the end of this section, and whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus"

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Moscow, ID 83843


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The First United Methodist Church of Moscow, Idaho takes as our mission to be the body of Jesus Christ, ministering to a community which draws strength from its diversity. Our mission centers on the worship of God, expressed through varied forms of prayer, preaching, music, and ritual.  See more...

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