A Reality Check . . .
3rd Sunday after Pentecost
A Reality Check . . .
Text: Colossians 2:13-17
It’s time for A Reality Check. We say we believe in God. We call ourselves Christians. We follow Christ. We may even feel a little good about that at times. I was in Washington D.C. and New York City this last week. Walking down those streets and seeing all those people wearing who knows what with who knows what lifestyles doing whatever they please, you can’t help but think, “Thank God I’m not like that.” There’s comfort in being in a place like that and then coming back home where I can go on living my quiet, pious Christian life.
Yet we do the same in our less glitzy and glamorous setting of Palm Coast, Florida, too. We watch people on the news. We get updates on Facebook. We see people in the store and at the beach. “Thank God I’m not like that, either. I’m a Christian. I follow Christ.”
But now it’s time for A Reality Check. We say we are Christians. How much does our life really reflect Christ? We say we believe in God. How faithfully do we do what he says? It’s time for A Reality Check and a look in the mirror.
When we take the 10 Commandments, the most basic and overarching of God’s commands for all time, what do we see in the mirror? We might not worship Buddha or Allah, but is God always the first and foremost in our hearts? Do we love God more than cable TV and iPhones and our children as the first commandment demands?
The second commandment is about taking the Lord’s name in vain. Do we even need to talk about how miserably we fail at this? Not only are our conversations littered with the Lord’s name, but our actions don’t always reflect well on the name “Christ” that Christians bear either.
Today we have heard a lot about the Sabbath Day. The Lord commands us to get spiritual rest, not only in worship but also in his Word. All we need to do is compare a church member directory to our average weekly worship to see how we are doing with that. When we were small, Christ the King used to average a worship attendance higher than our total membership. Now we average about 75% attendance. CTK Family Night started at almost 100 on Wednesday nights, but quickly shrank to around 60-70. What will it be at when we start again in a few weeks?
The fourth commandment is about honoring our parents and those in authority. Raise your hand if you have never—not even once when you were younger—sassed back at your parents. Even being in the grand U.S. capital this last week, it’s easy to think about what you dislike about the government rather than being thankful for all the good our leaders do.
I haven’t murdered anyone before. But lest I feel safe with the fifth commandment, I look in the mirror and see that I have been filled with anger. I have had rage. I have sought revenge. I have hated. Those thoughts are the root feelings of murder.
The mirror of the sixth commandment is a painful one for Americans to look into. “You shall not commit adultery,” it says. In our culture of movies and TV and internet and skimpy clothes and “sexy” ads, who can possibly escape the devil’s tempting thoughts of impurity?
The seventh commandment is about stealing. Yes, that includes cheating on our taxes. Yes, that includes being dishonest when selling on eBay or Craig’s List. Yes, that includes greed.
The eighth commandment is about protecting the good name of others. This is yet another command that we don’t even need to start talking about. How shameful my conversations have been—gossiping and sharing with others by text, Email, Facebook, phone, or personal conversations and ruining the good names of others!
The ninth and tenth commandments are about being content and not wanting or scheming to get other’s property and possessions. Hard to do when the lifestyles of the rich and famous are flashed before our eyes in magazines and on TV! Even driving down A1A can make us extremely jealous of those with a beachfront ocean view when I’m stuck with weedy grass and pine trees.
What a painful Reality Check! When I peer into the mirror of God’s demands for my life, I feel a bit like Snow White: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the worst sinner of them all?” God’s Word screams back, “You are!”
I have no business walking through the streets of D.C. or NYC and scoffing at the “sinners” of the world. I surely should not scrutinize the actions of others and thank God that, “I am a Christian and my life is so much better.”
The reality is that we are all the same. Every single person in this world. Every person in D.C., NYC, or PC, Florida. You, I, all of us. We all are sinners. We all have failed God miserably. Name a day when you haven’t sinned. Name half a day when you haven’t sinned. It’s pathetically shameful. So the words of Paul in the first verse of the second lesson this morning echo in our ears as a mountain of guilt crashes down upon us: “You were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature.”
Our sinful flesh is spiritually uncircumcised. That means we are spiritually unclean and cut off from the family of God. Our sins are so bad that we are dead in our sins. So if we are starting to think we are so special or so great, take a look in the mirror and have A Reality Check. Every person in the world is stuck in that same sinful condition and predicament—spiritual death.
Last week Sunday on our school trip to Washington D.C. we visited a sister church in Falls Church, Virginia. After worship we stopped at Arlington National Cemetery. I’ve been there three or four times now. Every time it is something that takes your breath away. Row after row after row of thousands upon thousands of men and women who have given their lives for this country. Then there is the tomb of the unknown soldier and the guards who watch it that remind us of the sting of death.
Yet as we pondered the significance and the journeys and battles of all those laid to rest, even seeing the tomb of George and Martha Washington at Mount Vernon, never once did I expect that any of them would come to life. They are dead. They’ve passed on. It’s impossible to come back to life.
That’s why this section of Scripture is so spectacular. Verse 13: “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.” God did the impossible! He made us, the spiritually dead, alive with Christ!
How did he do that? “He forgave us all our sins.” Imagine if your bank called you up and said, “Good morning! Good news for you today! All your debt is cancelled! Your mortgage, your car loans, your credit card debt. All of it. All your debt is cancelled!” That’s what God did. He cancelled the debt of our sins and forgave us.
How was he able to forgive us? Verse 14: “Having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” All of those Old Testament commands of God that we could never fulfill—circumcision, purification laws, sacrifices, and so many more—God cancelled. They stood opposed to us because when we look in the mirror we find we have failed. But God took those condemning laws away as his perfect Son who never sinned was nailed to a cross. That is how he forgave us.
Even if someone would accuse us of sin—an unbeliever, our own conscience, a demon, or the devil himself—we stand innocent before God. The evil spiritual powers and authorities have no rule over us. Verse 15: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” When Jesus bowed his head and died, everything was finished and complete. When Jesus descended into hell (before he rose Easter morning), he was able to proclaim to all evil powers and authorities that he had won. He triumphed at the cross!
Here’s A Reality Check for you. We look in the mirror and we see filth and failure, disobedience and defiance, shame and sin. But when God looks at us he sees something much different. God sees fulfillment and faithfulness, obedience and observance, innocence and righteousness. That’s because the reality is that our Savior forgave all our sins when he was nailed to the cross. We now stand pure and holy before God. That’s the reality of Christ!
On Friday morning I went with Mr. Loberger and Miss Wehrenberg to visit a special school called KIPP:AMP. The school was located near the Kingston Ave and Crown Heights/Utica stops off the 3 train in Brooklyn. Some of you know exactly where that is and what I’m about to say will be of no surprise.
I, however, was very surprised to walk up out of the subway and find that we were deep into an extremely Jewish neighborhood. The Hebrew words on the buildings and the Jewish Children’s Museum made it obvious. But so did all the people walking around us. Almost every other person on the street was a Hasidic Jew, wearing the black rim hats with white shirts, black pants, and black coats. They had long, curly sideburns and big, thick, and bushy beards.
These Hasidic Jews are known for their religious fervor and devotion to the laws of the Lord given to Moses. I couldn’t help but think about these words that I am preaching on today. Take a look at verse 16: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
The early Colossian Christians were struggling because many were arguing that Jesus was great but that “true faith” included more—like following the laws and regulations of the Old Testament. Hasidic Jews are lost in these laws, and other manmade laws, still today. They have become so consumed with living a God-pleasing and holy life that they reject the one from their own race who makes them holy—Jesus Christ.
Even Christians fall into the same trap. “Jesus is great, but you need a little more,” they say. You’re not a true Christian unless you drink no alcohol. You’re not a true Christian unless you wear a certain kind of clothes or length of dress. You’re not a true Christian unless you can speak in tongues or heal people. You’re not a true Christian unless you have an amazing conversion experience.
This desire to want to do more and contribute to salvation runs deep in all of us. We have those thoughts too. “Did you see how much they put in the offering plate? I give so much more!” “Did you see how often they come to church? I attend way more than that!” “Did you hear what he said and what she did? I would never do that!”
But if we start to put ourselves into a religion that depends on what we do to get to heaven and be right with God, we are going to find ourselves looking back in the mirror at sinners that have totally failed. So Paul says, “Do not let anyone judge you . . . These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
Here’s A Reality Check for you. Your church attendance, your offerings, your helping at church or in the school, your minutes spent reading the Bible, your prayers—all the things that you do as a Christian—not one of them will earn you a spot in heaven. The reality of our salvation is found in Christ, and in Christ alone.
So now that we are free and forgiven through Jesus, we can do whatever we want, right? “We have forgiveness so now we can skip church and give nothing in offerings and never read the Bible and never pray? It doesn’t matter! We are forgiven!” Absolutely not! Just the opposite! Here’s A Reality Check for you:
As I walked through historic sites of our nation’s capital last week, I couldn’t help but think of all the blood, sweat, tears, and lives that were given to give us freedom. All of our forefathers from America’s foundation to the present have done so much to give us freedom.
Yet none of their great sacrifices can compare to Jesus Christ, who gave his own blood, sweat, tears, and life to pay for our sins. He was nailed to a cross to give us freedom from the chains of sin and death. He gave us freedom to live a new life of thanks. He gave us freedom to live forever in heaven. And that freedom inspires us to live for him.
What would we want to do more than worship this Savior? What would we want to do more than obey this Savior? What would we want to do more than learn about this Savior and praise this Savior and pray to this Savior?
You see, we were dead in our transgressions and sins. But the reality is found in Christ: We have been raised to new life and forgiven through him. Thanks be to God!
Posted on June 10, 2012, in Church, Sermons and tagged 10 Commandments, Brooklyn, Christ, Church, Circumcision, Colossians, Colossians 2, Forgiveness, Hasidic Jews, Hasidim, Jesus Christ, Jews, Judaism, Law as Mirror, Mirror, Old Testament Laws, Reality, Reality Check, Sermons, Ten Commandments, Uncircumcision, Written Code. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.