Let Go and Let God
(Colossians 3: 1-17)
Let go and let God. The first time I remember someone saying that, I was sitting at the Drug Court table as the county prosecutor. The recovering addict who said it was talking about his struggle and how he had come to the realization, that if he was going to get better, that if he was going to have a chance to lead a better life, he was going to have to let go of his old life and let God take control and show him a better way. I know I’ve previously preached on how the 12 Steps apply to our Christian walk, but I think it will be helpful to us in understanding our inner-struggle that we face when the world gets the upper hand. In the 12 Step tradition, you have to admit you are powerless over your addiction and that your life has become unmanageable. You come to the realization that a power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity. At that point, you make a decision to turn your will and your life over to the care of God, and once you’ve done that, you make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself. Once you’ve laid that foundation, you’re on your way to a better, substance-free life.
This, in essence, is what Paul is talking about in Chapter 3 of his letter to the church in Colosse. He’s talking about putting on the new self by accepting Christ, and regarding the earthly nature as dead. He’s telling us that we need to change our moral and ethical behavior by letting Christ live within us, so that He can shape us into what we should be.
As some background, Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians around 60 A.D. during his imprisonment in Rome. As far as we know, Paul never actually visited the church and it was probably founded by Epaphras and other converts as a result of one of Paul’s previous missionary journeys in Asia Minor. Paul was concerned, as it had gotten back to him, that the church had been infiltrated by religious relativism, with some believers attempting to combine elements of paganism and secular philosophy with Christian doctrine. Paul felt he had to confront these false teachings and affirm the sufficiency of Jesus Christ.
So, in our scripture reading for this morning, Paul starts out by telling us to think about the things above and not things on earth. You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. What he means by saying we “died” is that we should have as little desire for improper worldly desires as a dead person would. To set your minds on things above means to look at life from God’s perspective and to seek what He desires. By doing this, we gain the proper perspective on material goods when we take God’s view of them. By seeking what Christ desires, we have the power to break our obsession with pleasure and leisure activities. When we regard the world around us as God does, then we will live in harmony with Him and the world.
So, Paul says to put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth, such as sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). He warns that the wrath of God is coming upon disobedient people because of these things. He continues by pointing out to his readers that, you used to live this way, when you were alive to these things. But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. Don’t lie to each other. Take off the old human nature with its practices and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it. The message here is that we must rid ourselves of all these harmful and hurtful practices, so we can then freely commit ourselves to what Christ teaches. Paul is urging his readers to remember the commitment they had previously made and to remain true to their confession of faith.
Paul continues by saying, in this image there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all things and in all people. He tells us, therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Paul says to be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other as the Lord has forgiven you. And, more importantly, he says, and over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. The peace of Christ must control your hearts, a peace into which you were called in one body. He’s telling us that love is the glue that binds us, and it is the peace we have through knowing Jesus Christ that controls our hearts and makes us one people. He closes by telling us to be a thankful people and to remember that the word of Christ must live in us richly. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts, Paul says, and whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.
So, what does it mean to “put on the new self”? It means that your conduct should match your faith. Quite simply, if you’re a Christian, you should act like it. People shouldn’t be surprised to learn that you go to Community United Methodist Church. It is important to remember that to be a Christian means more than just making good resolutions and having good intentions. It means taking the right actions. Being a member of the kingdom of God doesn’t end with your profession of faith. Your profession is where it begins. Every Christian should be in a continuing education program. The more we know Christ and his work, the more we are being changed to be like him. This is what I’ve taken away from the books I’ve read on John Wesley. In his almost 100 years on earth he was continually learning and growing deeper in his faith and in his approach to ministering to people. Because the process is lifelong, we must never stop learning and obeying. Being a Christian takes practice, ongoing review, patience, and concentration to keep ourselves in line with his will.
Paul offers a strategy to help us live for God, day by day. First, we imitate Christ’s compassionate, forgiving attitude. Second, we let love guide our lives. Third, we let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. Fourth, we are always thankful. Fifth, we keep God’s word in us at all times. And, sixth, we live as Jesus Christ’s representatives.
Paul’s message is that all Christians should live in peace. We must, however, understand that to live in peace does not mean that suddenly all differences of opinion are eliminated, but it does require that loving Christians work together despite their differences. In doing so, Paul explains that we must decide between conflicting elements by using the rule of peace. Which choice will promote peace in our souls and in our churches?
By letting go and letting God, we are allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us breaking down barriers and being accepting of all people who want to come to Jesus. Nothing should keep us from telling others about Christ or accepting into our fellowship any and all believers and those seeking to know him. As Christians, we should be building bridges to reach people and not walls to keep them out.
Doing all we can in the name of Jesus means bringing honor to Christ in every aspect and activity of our daily living. As a Christian, you represent Christ at all times, wherever you go and in whatever you say. We must ask ourselves what impressions do people have of Christ when they interact with us? What changes would you like to make in your life in order to honor Christ? What is it that you need to let go of in order to let God take the lead in your life so that you can be like a lighthouse on a stormy night displaying love, faith, and hope to the lost and searching?
Please pray with me.
Most merciful and loving Father, give us the strength, desire and courage to let go of all that we do that is harmful to not only ourselves, but to our loved ones and others who are impacted by our desire to do that which is harmful. Help us to see that the things of this world that we cling to and covet are not the things that truly matter. Move us to shed the trappings of our old self and to put on the new self of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. May we be tolerant of one another and forgive others as you have forgiven us. Most of all, may we put on the love of your son, Jesus Christ, who is our perfect bond of unity in your kingdom. May the peace of Christ control our hearts. In the name of your loving son, the Prince of Peace, we pray, Amen.