August 4, 2013: How Then Shall We Live?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, You created humans like us in a special way. You formed us from the earthly elements and then breathed a living soul into us. That makes us unique from all other living creatures. Likewise, You saved us in a special way—giving up Your life for ours on a cross to make us right with God. Today You not only remind us that our lives are special, but that we can and should live them in a special way too. Give us Your grace to accomplish it! Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF LIFE AND LOVE!

TEXT: Colossians 3: 1-11

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

The Greek city of Colossae was a mercantile town, bustling, prosperous, and full of every sin and vice known to the Greek world. In the ninth year of Emperor Nero’s reign it was destroyed by an earthquake and then rebuilt. St. Paul wrote this letter to the church there a few years before that occurred.

Like all Greek cities Colossae would have fit right in with modern American morality, or lack of it. Child prostitution, open homosexuality, religious prostitution, greed, and an animalistic view of human sexuality were rampant. When Epaphras founded the church there, the congregants came from this cauldron of immorality. These people wanted a better way to live. They wanted to be special in the eyes of God Almighty. Grace, God’s undeserved love, was an unknown concept to them and it struck a responsive chord in their hearts. So, they came to faith. Yes, a diverse group of people populated that church.

But, of course, the old sinful ways pulled at some of them. Temptations were everywhere. Epaphras needed help. He went to Rome and talked it over with St. Paul. As a result Paul wrote this letter for him to take back to his people. From the tenor of it we can glean some of the problems they faced, but more importantly, what to do about them.

I

For the past few weeks we’ve been “treated” to news coverage of a former disgraced NY congressmen running for the Mayor of NY city and his “sexting” exploits. You all know the sorted tale. One thing that is especially disconcerting is that about 78% of young adults in this country don’t think it is a big deal. You know the refrain: “It’s his private life between he and his wife, it has nothing to do with his public life or fitness for office.” Of course, the reason for that response is that the majority of young adults today engage in sex without any real commitment, “hooking up,” so to condemn that candidate would be to condemn themselves. Couple that with the celebrations of “gay pride” days around the country, and the multi-billion dollar porn industry and you have the same smelly stew that infected Colossae. (As an aside, if you accept the evolutionary mindset that we came from animals and since very few of them are monogamous, is it any wonder today that human sexuality without the commitment of marriage is considered the norm by most?)

Well, into this mess wades St. Paul. “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have 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.” Then, lest any of them think that somehow their background is superior than another group and that all of them are not guilty of such sinfulness, Paul adds: “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

II

God created human beings to be special. We are the crowning glory of God’s entire creation. As I stated earlier, He formed us from the elements and breathed into us an immortal part of Himself, a living soul. All other things He simply said: “Let there be, and there was.” Adam and Eve lost that perfect happiness for all generations. But God in His grace still loved and cared enough about us to devise a new way to make us holy, clean, pure and spotless in His sight. His plan for fallen humans was to buy us back from sin, death, and Satan’s power by sending His Son, Jesus, to take away the sins of the entire world. Christ died on the cross carrying every evil thought, word, or deed ever committed by any human. He paid our debt to God Almighty. And now the Spirit has been sent to us through God’s Word and Sacraments to dwell within us, making us new creations. We don’t have to act like animals. God’s goodness is now our through faith. We can rise above the sorted swill of this life to a higher calling with higher, more noble purposes. We can say: “NO” to sin! We can repent and be forgiven. We can fix our minds on heavenly things and not just earthly things. And in the process, we’ll find internal fulfillment with life itself. Because in Christ we don’t just have to live for “me” any longer, but we can also live for God and the up-building of others!

That’s St. Paul’s point in the opening words of our lesson: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

III

I ask you: What’s better—to live your life giving in to animalistic instincts about “survival of the fittest,” “might makes right,” “whoever dies with the most toys wins,” “if it feels good, do it” or: “don’t get mad, get even”? Does such a life uplift you? Does it make you feel noble, pure, or praiseworthy? Does it get you to step outside of your selfish skin? Does it lead to genuine love, and peace with yourself, others, and God? Or, is it better and more uplifting to live God’s way?—Based on the specialness with which He created you and redeemed your soul?

The celebrated Christian thinker: Dr. Francis Schaeffer once wrote a book entitled: “How Then Shall We Live?” In it he sought to provide God’s answer to that question. Today, I ask you and America at large: HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE? Look to Christ and His Word of truth and you’ll find the only answer that truly counts. Amen