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Ben Fleming: The New Humanity, Colossians 3:4-4:9

August 21, 2023

Audio Recording

Old humanity dies with Christ & becomes new humanity exemplified by Mercy, Generosity, Forgiveness & Love.

Jesus Above All
Jesus Above All
Ben Fleming: The New Humanity, Colossians 3:4-4:9
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us. Paul frames this new humanity that we're called to live in now that we've experienced the gospel. He's asking us to frame this through a mindset that is on things above, it's on heavenly things. And then he's going to really bring us this climactic moment where he talks about unified, being unified as a church and how that will help the, the message of the gospel go forward. He gives some practical instructions to the household at Colossae, and then he provides a little bit of this twist, almost like a empire strikes back, prestige memento kind of twist for those of you're Christopher Nolan fans in the room. It's this thing that you don't quite expect to happen that turns a bit of the story on its head at the end of this letter.

00:47 So let's pray. Father God, we thank you for all that you're doing in this place this morning. Pray that you would be with us as we humbly receive from your message and your scripture. Lord, I pray that we would walk gently and carefully and lovingly and open-handed into your scripture, your word today. We want to hear from you, not just us parading as you Lord Jesus. In your name we pray. Amen. So like I said, Paul, once to highlight unity and unity is an important thing. It's a difficult thing. I mean, coaches that are coaching teams, teachers that are teaching classrooms, people all over this world are trying their best to figure out how to unify people, especially in a time, that not just in our own recent history, I know that we would say this is the most un unified, maybe our nation has ever been.

01:34 There's a long history of humanity that has sown the seeds of disunity and we've experienced those things. But unity is valuable and it's important. It's important to west side and it's important to the big C church, the global church that God is trying to spread its gospel through. And I was thinking about bend and maybe some of the things that unify us a bit. And of course we got the breweries and the beer, our biggest exports, right? We've got the river. everybody wants to come and they want to sit in the river. so that, you know, none of us can go in it anymore for a little while. . And and if you're a tourist and you're here and you're just in the river, we love you. leave your money here and then we'll see you next year. Okay? , is this Jesus, I'm not sure.

02:19 I'll pray about it after, we got the hiking, we've got the mountain, right? That's a big unifier. But I would like to make the argument today the contention that the greatest unifier of Central Oregon is the sweet dogs that we have. Yeah. Yeah. And the reason for this is, is because we, we kind of walk around each other in all these other places, right? Have you ever, seen somebody on the river and really engaged with them? You know, there are a couple tubes over. Hello, how are you? I'm fine. I see you got a rental there. I don't know what we would say. But when someone has a dog, the entire thing changes. I walk the river trail with our little small, morie, Morie Yorkie mixed dog, and about 10 pounds, not my favorite dog, but alas . people just love this dog.

03:11 You know, people I have never met, and you can hear them a good 40 yards away. I go, Ooh, . You know, they're, they're not looking at me, but they will, they'll talk to me. Eventually they, but we, we've all done this, right? Maybe not all of us, maybe I'm just outing myself here. But you walk past the coffee shop and there's the big puffy dog, you know, and you're like, and then you look at the person and you're like, may I pet your dog? ? You know, we have these very different, it's kind of like a two-face thing we have going on Sweet es hello human .

03:49 But it creates this conversation. I've got friends that met each other at dog parks and eventually got married and had this relationship because it was based on meeting each other's dogs, not meeting each other. They are the tie that binds Central Oregon, our sweet, sweet dogs. And what Paul is trying to put onto the church here is that there has to be a tie that binds you together. It can't just be geography. It can't just be that you've started this journey together. Instead, it has to be a realization of who Christ is. And the centerpiece has to be Jesus Christ has to be the unifier, not our, our cultural traditions, but instead the person, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And then he says again in that verse one of the chapter, he says, since then you've been raised with Christ. Set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

04:40 You've been raised with Christ. Set your heart or set your mind. Some of your translations say on things that are above. Now, the temptation would be for the church to isolate ourselves and to say, okay, we're all gonna huddle together. We're gonna meet once a week. It's gonna be on Sundays. We're gonna sing songs together and we're gonna have this moment together. And it's gonna be unifying because we're all gonna consider and think about this heaven that is in our future. And that's a wonderful, and it's a beautiful thing. But Paul is not asking for them to daydream about the sweet buy and buy. He is saying, because now you've heard the gospel and you know the truth of it and what it means for your life. Now you get to live in a way that is like your future. You get to live in a heavily way because of your existence with Jesus Christ.

05:28 I met with somebody recently who exemplified this for me, really? Well, he's in his early eighties and he asked to meet with me. I've never meet this, met this person before. and he's the kind of guy that I really liked. 'cause he got right to the point of the conversation. We didn't talk about how smoky it was. We didn't talk about how hot it was. We didn't talk about how cute the dogs were that were outside the coffee shop. Although I really wanted to . He sat down, he sat down and I said, yeah, so nice to meet you. He goes, yeah, I wanted to meet you 'cause I have cancer. And I'm like, that was fast. That was really quick. and I jumped into Pastor Christian mode guy where I was like, oh, what's so would you like prayer and like, wanna sit with you?

06:06 Would you like to kinda lament together? And, and all those things are great by the way. You should lament with people. We should weep with those who weep, right? And, and we should pray for healing because I believe that God is a healer. But his take on it was so inspiring and so interesting because I said, well, do you wanna do all these things? And he said, I don't know because, and it made me laugh. So if it makes you laugh too, that's okay. He said, look, something's gonna get me, whether it's this or something else, and if this is it, I'm okay with it. And I was like, wow. He said, because I am so confident in all the life that I have lived now. And he, he made sure to say like, I've been really fortunate in all the things that I've gotten to do in my family and all these experiences that I've had.

06:57 He said, I'm at a point where if God wants to heal me, I am so excited to shout that from the rooftops and let the world know that I've been healed and God is a powerful healer. And if it's also my time to go, I am so confident in God's love for me right here in this moment, that I choose to live as light and happy and joyful as the first day that God introduced me to himself. And I thought that is living with a heavenly mindset where we're so confident he's not competing anymore or striving or feeling this stress 24 7. Instead, he's choosing to say, look, I know that I'm not in control of everything and that God is in control and I give my faith and my support to him, and if he wants to heal me, I will receive that. But I refuse to live in this state of perpetually stressing and wondering when I know that God has got me and he has this situation.

07:54 What Paul is trying to communicate to the church is that a heavenly mindset will build and create a church that is no longer competing, that is no longer striving, that is no longer wondering if it's loved or if it will have influence in this world. There's so many opportunities for us to speak into each other, this fear and this kind of tribalism, so that we'll gather together and it's us against the world. And I gotta tell you, there's something funny about a church strategy that tells me to hate and to fear the people that God is telling me to love. I don't understand that strategy. We've gotta worry about 'em in the world and they're out to get you and they're gonna hurt you and they're gonna do the thing also. we love you and we'd love for you to be a part of our group.

08:39 , the heavenly mindset is one that isn't trying to strive and to push and to stress and to effort our way into gospel and to safety. Instead, it's receiving that already what we have now, this heavenly life, we can live right here today. And he says, because of all that in verse five, put to death, therefore what? Whatever belongs your earthly nature, sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil, desires, greed, which is idolatry because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You need to, you used to walk in these ways in the life you once live, but now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language from your lips do not lie to each other since you've taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator.

09:27 Here, there is no gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, cian, slave or free. But Christ is all and in all. So Paul is reaching this climactic moment of this letter where he's trying to get them to understand. I know that so much of faith and how you've understood it comes in the form of tribalism and forming these groups where there's ins and there's outs. But I'm telling you today that all of these things under the gospel of Jesus Christ no longer exists. But instead Christ is all and it is in all He is in everything everywhere.

10:05 And this is radical because even in the Jewish scriptures, the Old Testament scriptures are so many stories of, and then the, the people of Israel hunkered down and they were fearful and then they went out and they fought, they cleared this area and then they felt safe and they knew that the God was with them. And now Paul is flipping the script and saying, because Jesus has come. Everything is different now. Everyone that you see that is the image of Christ. Now in a world that wants to tell us that this image, that this group, that this people, they are the harmful ones. They're out to get you. They are the ones that are coming for your churches and your gospel. Paul would stop and he would say, they all look like Jesus, man, a church that is not in a hurry, that is not fearful, that is not wondering if they belong or not as a church that would look at the world around them and say they would all are made in the image of Christ.

11:02 And then this is the, the biggest moment of them all. This is therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly love, clothe yourselves and compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone, but as the Lord forgave you and over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Paul plays a little bit of the hits here. This sounds a lot like the fruit or the gifts of the spirit, right? Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And he, he publishes those in First Corinthians in chapter 13. And if you've been married recently or been to a wedding recently, you may have heard that some of that scripture before, but I love that he goes on in verse 13, he says, bear with each other and forgive one another.

11:56 So a group that has just received the truth, right? The promise, the temptation is to run out into the rest of the world and say, now all none of you belong. We have found the true thing and we are now elevated above the other groups. But instead, what Paul encourages them to do is to bear with each other. Now, bear with in this language is different than what you might think of when it comes to bearing with one another. When we bear with one another, someone is right in the middle of a thought and then they have to go to the bathroom or something, right? Well, bear with me for a moment. Hold that thought. I'll come back. Hold on, just wait for a second. That's what bearing with. But this language describes, it's really a word picture that Paul is trying to let them know that true love, that this love that I'm trying to have infiltrate our community in your city is one that bears with other people.

12:42 And the picture is actually a covering or an awning or even a lean to some people say that everyone can come and they can rest beneath when the weather is harsh again. In verse 14, he says, over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in unity. And he goes on to say, let the peace of Christ rule in your heart since as members of one body you were called to peace and be thankful. Paul says it again, be thankful He says it many, many times in this book. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through Psalms and hymns and songs from the spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks again to God the Father through him.

13:32 This is where we get some of our theology around gathering together and singing together on Sunday mornings. again, I was having coffee with somebody else this time that wanted to ask me something about scripture. And so we sat down, we talked for about an hour and I said, so have you've been gonna west side for a long time? I never met this guy before. And he said, I've been a couple times over the last year. And I was like, oh. And he said, you guys just, you sing a lot. I was like, well, it's fair .

14:01 And we had this whole conversation. He was such a sweet guy. if you're here today, this is a compliment, I promise. But I, I allow myself to stop and really think about the practice of it, especially if I'm new and I'm like, yeah, this is bizarre. , sometimes we stand here together, we do big karaoke boards and sometimes the lyrics include things like the blood of the lamb. And this is bizarre. This is weird. I understand, I get it. But really what we're, what we're after is this moment for us individually of course where we're kind of stopping and slowing down. We're trying to get to this peaceful place in a lot of cases. Allow God to speak to us through these songs and these lyrics and these moments, this atmosphere. But Paul, in this context is saying one thing that brings this unity that is important and valuable for your community is actually singing something together. Saying something at the same time brings this unity among you. And that happens with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with gratitude in your hearts to the Lord.

15:01 And then Paul goes on to give instruction to Christian households after that. And he says he, he identifies a few specific pieces and he says, wives submit to your husbands. And then he says, husbands love your wives. He says, children obey your parents. And then he says, fathers don't provoke your children. And then he says, slaves obey your masters. And then he says, masters, give to your slaves what they are owed. Now I wanna come at this as humbly and honestly as possible. What I would love Paul to do right now is be an abolitionist and crush a lot of these systems and things that are holding vulnerable people down. That's what I want to do. But what Paul is doing is he's choosing specifically in this Greco-Roman context to begin to move the church forward, this Christian Church forward in unity by encouraging people that do hold a lot of the power in these situations by encouraging them to love and to step out in the way of Jesus in a way that their culture is not encouraging them to.

16:07 And so of all these commandments, these things that he, that he tells for Christian households to do, wives submit to your husband's pretty normal commandment back then in that time. Children obey your parents pretty normal commandment back in that time. Slaves obey your masters, pretty normal commandment at that time. But what he does is he peppers in this new way of living that includes something like husbands love your wives. Now it seems simple to us today, I don't know why you need to give instruction for husbands to love their wives. Shouldn't they love their wives? But it wasn't necessarily a part of the context at the time. Husbands, as the patriarch of these families and especially if they owned slaves, were actually considered to be the one that had ownership, that they oversaw the life or the death of everybody in their family, whether it was the wife or the children or the slave. They owned all of these people and decided their fate in virtually every situation and case. And what Paul is encouraging in all these things, again, while he's not being abolitionist, he's not declaring that slavery should be outlawed and abandoned like we would all agree today. But he is moving this culture forward by saying, I understand that maybe all these things won't change right now, but what we will change is that those who feel as though they have ownership of the people around them will just come to discover that those people belong to Jesus.

17:41 And that is a world shaking and shifting message from the Apostle Paul in this letter. The people around them that exist outside the church that maybe haven't heard this encouragement or letter would look at these people as they're living in a way where husbands are now making this effort to love their wives and masters are now giving to slaves what their own. And they would go, you guys are insane. You give up and you sacrifice way too much. Why would you give up that power and authority and that influence that you had for the sake of caring for these people as if they're real people and humans with as much value as you have? This is not right and it's not correct. And yet Paul encourages them to move in that direction. And I believe that he would encourage us to do the same today, that we can be a people in a church that identified those who are considered undervalued, who are less than some of the rest of us at their value isn't equivalent to the rest of us, depending on our status or our success where our finances.

18:36 And God would look at all of us and he would say, they're all in my image, they are all valuable in the playing field when it comes to my kingdom of my gospel, is absolutely even that's good. It's a difficult message for the church in a Greco-Roman context and it's still a difficult one for us today. But I also want to encourage us here, I wanna encourage some specifics of you. I understand that this section of scripture has been weaponized largely in the tradition of the church. And if you are someone that sits under the sound of my voice today, whether you're online or you're here in the room and you have heard wives submit to your husbands as a reason to stay in an abusive and manipulative relationship, I want you to understand this is not what God is teaching us here. I want you to understand that when it says children obey your parents and you did so and you were hurt and broken and busted up by a terrible broken relationship, I want you to understand that that is not what Paul is trying to indicate here or Jesus. I want you to understand that as many cultures, whether it's our nation or others who have used this passage to justify the ownership of people and slavery, this is not the intention of the scripture. And if we are to hold ourselves with a high opinion of what God is teaching us through these scriptures, we will understand the context and we will know that none of these outcomes were God's or Paul's intention.

20:05 Okay? Yeah. Lost a little bit of sleep over that last night, how to communicate that. But it's sup, it's important. And I am so sorry for those of you who have been put through hell to satisfy something that does not exist in these scriptures. And we see you today, we love you.

20:42 And then actually Paul does something at the end of this book, this letter that illustrates all of this in such a beautiful way. So in Colossians four, this is the last chapter of Colossians. Paul moves into this section that he has in a lot of his letters where he's thanking people, he's letting them know the schedule and the plan, that there are people coming, there are people going, this is what I'm gonna do next. This is what's going on. And he lists names. And if you're a a, a born and raised Christian kid like me and you were forced to do Bible in a year reading, sometimes you got to this chapter and you're like, oh, we're done.

21:17 But something really cool happens right here. And it says in Colossians four verse eight, it says, Ticus will tell you all the news about me. He's a dear brother, excuse me. Verse seven, A faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I'm sending him to you for the expressed purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother who is one of you. And they will tell you everything that is happening here. So Paul talks about all these unifying things. He talks about caring for people in love. And then he gets to verse nine and he says, one is coming Onesimus are faithful and dear brother, the people at the church of Colossae know who Onesimus is. And he is not a faithful and dear brother. He's a slave. And actually he has left Philemon, he's done something wrong.

22:17 Philemon is his master. And Philemon is a leader at this church in Colossae. And so as this letter's being read to this church that the mention of Onesimus being, oh, your dear brother, the people would've been like, is that our onesimus? Is that the one that we know? I don't think, 'cause he's not a brother, you know, maybe there's a different onesimus. Onesimus literally means useful. And so Onesimus was a a name that was used for a lot of slaves or a lot of people. And so they're probably looking at each other like that can't be us. But Paul is talking about the one and only Onesimus, the slave of Philemon. And Paul in the book of Philemon, it's just one chapter. Paul doesn't mention the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ because he wants to illustrate through this incredible story of Philemon Onesimus.

23:02 And he does this in Philemon chapter one, the only chapter verse eight. He says, therefore, although in Christ I could be bold, Paul is saying to Philemon to you and do what you ought to and order you to do what you ought to do. Yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is this none other than Paul, an old man and now a prisoner of Christ Jesus. Paul actually isn't old in this, but he's trying to communicate, and I have wisdom and understanding in this. He says that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. And formerly he was useless to you. But now he's become useful to both you and me. I'm sending him who is my very heart back to you. And I would've liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I'm in chains for the gospel.

23:49 But I did not want to do anything without your consent so that any favor you would do, you do would not seem forced, but would be voluntary. Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that so you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but better than a slave is a dear brother. He's a very dear to me, but even dear to you both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord. And now listen to this as Paul finishes this up. I know it's a lot of reading today. He says, so if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done anything wrong to you or owes you anything, charge it to my account. I Paul, I'm writing this to my own hand. I will pay it back. Not to mention that you owe me your very self. I love that Paul's human just like us. This is what you should do by the way you owe me you life, . I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you and the Lord refresh my heart in Christ confident of your obedience. I write to you knowing that you will do even more than I ask.

24:53 So what Paul does for the church in Colossae, he says, this is how we are unified. This is how we're loved and this is how we care for each other. And now all of this that I'm preaching to you, the opportunity will come to your very doorstep with dirt on his sandals. We're gonna talk about how there's no slave or free. There's no Jew or Gentile. Well, here comes an unwanted one who screwed up and hurt a leader in your midst. Now what do you do? I want you to understand that here at Westside, it's tempting to create a good service, a good worship experience, have a few events together to have good teaching and good worship and feel good about ourselves. And by the way, I hope you feel good more often than not as you leave this room than when you came in. I hope you feel good. But I want you to understand that the goal of West Side is not to just receive a beautiful letter from an influential person and be inspired by the teachings of it, but it's to understand that these teachings must come alive with the broken and herding and the outsider that exists in our neighborhoods. Otherwise it falls short and it goes stale.

26:15 It's one thing to say that there's no difference between that person and this person, but when they come on our doorstep, are they welcome? Are they included? Are they involved? Do they belong in our lives? And the way that I want you to try to see this is through the three characters in the story. I believe deeply that there are onesimus in this room right now, that you've walked in and you almost don't know how you've gotten here. You feel uncomfortable, like you don't know the words, you don't know the songs. You don't know when to sit and you don't when know when to stand. And I want you to know today that you belong not because of how well you worship or what you say or even what you've done, but because Jesus has told us west side that you are made in the image of God. And we call you a dear brother, a sister in the Lord. I believe that there are philemon's in the crowd today that have been hurt and betrayed and been made broken by someone in your life. And God is asking you to set that person free

27:31 Through

27:31 This act of forgiveness. And you say, but you don't understand what they've done to me. They heard they did it on purpose. It's one of my favorite things about watching kids fight, right? It's not just they did something, they did it on purpose. That's where the betrayal comes in. And I want you to understand that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not looking at you. And that person is saying, no, they didn't even mean to do all that. The gospel of Jesus is yes, they hurt you, they did it on purpose. Maybe they even ruined you for a moment. And I'm asking you to do this unbelievable thing in offer of your forgiveness to them. And that I believe that there are Pauls in the room who are in a position as a go between, between Philemon and Onesimus. Maybe you're in a position with your resources or your influence or your opportunity to look someone in the face to look at the philemon's and say, you can charge all that to me. I'll take care of it. Any debt that is outstanding belongs to me. And of course, this is an illustration of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who in the middle of his humanity that not only hurt God, but did it on purpose, is now saved by someone who is perfect outside of the situation.

29:02 And he comes and he offers us grace and forgiveness to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So for the Onesimus is in the crowd, I pray that you would belong the philemon's. I pray that you would forgive and for the Pauls pray that you would stand in the gap in Jesus' name.