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Our Identity in Christ

This morning I want to begin with a mini-interview. I know that Greg has been part of our church for a couple of years now, but I think there are still some people who don’t really know Greg all that well. So I’m going to ask Greg to come up here and I want to have a brief interview with him.

So Greg, come on up here. Actually, I just want to ask you just a single question, but I think this question will really help us get some insight into who you really are. So here is your question: Who are you? That’s the one question I want you to answer. Who are you?

[ Greg to respond several “I am….” statements  ie… I am Rob & Nancy’s son, I am Nicole’s husband,… (uncle, brother, son-in-law, neighbour to, oilers fan, etc…) ]

As you can see, there are a lot of different aspects that make up our identity. Things like the family that we’ve come from or the relationships we’ve grown into –  things like the jobs we have or positions we hold – things like the hobbies we enjoy or the sports teams we cheer for. There are a lot of aspects that blend together to create our identity.

But the interesting thing about our identity is that some aspects never change – while other aspects do. For example, Greg will always be the son of Rob & Nancy Waddy – that will never change. He will always be their child. However, he may not always be an Oiler’s fan. One day He might see the light!

Maybe that’s not the best example. How about this: Last year at this time, he was not the husband of Nicole. But today, he is.

As of August 10, 2019, Greg’s identity changed. And with that, his entire life changed. In fact, he’s probably still adjusting to his new identity as a husband. He’s learning to act like a husband, he’s learning to think like a husband, he’s learning to take on the responsibilities of a husband. And for those of us who have been there, we realize what a huge adjustment it is to take on this new identity that comes with marriage.

But it’s critical that we do take on that identity, because there are always responsibilities and privileges that comes with every aspect of our identity. 

For example, as a child of Rob & Nancy, Greg had many privileges – they fed him for years, they gave him a place to live, they provided for his needs, they gave him love and support. He got that all simply because he was their child. But at the same time, he had some responsibilities to them. He needed to obey them – he was subject to their authority. I’m sure he had some responsibility to help around the house (cleaning his room or washing the dishes or whatever) – and now, as they grow older, he’ll have the responsibility to help to care for them in their old age – and that all comes simply because of his identity their child.

In the same way, when Greg takes on his new identity as a husband – that too comes with certain privileges and responsibilities simply because he is now Nicole’s husband.

So it’s critical that Greg embraces this new identity as a husband. If Greg fails to do this, he is not going to have a happy life! Not only will he miss out on the joys and privileges of being a husband, but if he neglects his responsibilities as a husband, he’s going to cause Nicole to miss out on the joys and privileges of being a wife.

And certainly, embracing and adjusting to his new identity takes time, but it’s so important that Greg makes that transition from living and acting like ‘single Greg’ to living and acting like ‘husband Greg’. 

And I don’t say all this to pick on Greg! Just for the record, I think Greg & Nicole are doing a fantastic job of learning to be husband and wife! But I know it’s a challenge – because I’ve been there. I’m still there! It’s a long process to embrace this new identity!

And the fact is that all of us have to go through this process. Not necessarily the process of taking on a new identity in marriage, but the Bible tells us that then when we accept Christ as our Saviour, we take on a new identity as a Christian.

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What Do I Still Lack?

Last week we looked at the story of Paul & Silas, and we were reminded that the Bible never promises that following Jesus will be easy. In fact, it tells us to expect trouble and persecution and hard times. The good news is that the Bible does promise that it will be worth it.

Paul and Silas had to endure some pretty rough stuff – being arrested and beaten and thrown into jail. But God was with them. And even in that dungeon, God gave gave them hope for the future, joy in every circumstance, and an unusual love for the people around them – even the ones who hurt them. And because of that joy and that hope and that love for others, Paul & Silas were able to sing and praise and worship God even in their suffering – which is pretty incredible! Its a great example for all of us!

And as God always does, He took their lousy situation and He turn it all around and used it for good. Through God’s miraculous intervention, Paul & Silas were able to tell the jailer how to be saved and he and his whole family where baptized and became followers of Jesus that night.

It was a great reminder that God can redeem any situation and use it for his glory.

Now today I want to follow this train of thought a little further as we look at the cost of following Christ. You see, the Bible teaches us that while salvation is a free gift from God – following Jesus always comes with a cost. I think we tend to emphasize the free part, but we neglect to talk about the cost. But both sides are important. It’s important to understand that there is nothing we can do to earn our Salvation – it’s was completely paid for by Christ’s death on the cross. Romans 6:23 says…

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Salvation is certainly a free gift from God, but accepting that free gift comes with a cost.

It’s like winning the Stars Home Lottery! You win the gigantic mansion of a house – and it’s totally free – but owning a giant home will cost you in heating, repairs, insurance, and all those other things that come with owning a home. The house is a free gift, but there’s certainly a cost that comes with it.

Following Christ is like that. Salvation is absolutely a free gift, but following Christ comes with cost. You can’t have one without the other.

So this morning, I want to look at the story of the rich young man as found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19, to see an important crossroads in his spiritual journey. You see, he was pretty excited about gaining the free gift of eternal life, but he wasn’t so sure about the cost that went with it.

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Matthew 19:16-22 NIV

So that’s the passage I want to look at this morning. It’s not a very long or complicated story – but there’s a lot packed in there, so let’s see if we can work our way through this.

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Representing Christ

Several times throughout the New Testament, we are instructed to imitate Christ – to follow him – to become like him. We are told that we are ambassadors of Christ. We are his representatives here on earth. And that’s really the focus of our passage today.

We ended last week in mid-paragraph at verse 16 of Colossians 3. I’m not sure how your Bible has all the verses grouped together on the page, but I think in all of the Bibles that I’ve seen, verses 16 & 17 of Colossians 3 are always lumped together.

But you might have noticed that we stopped last week at verse 16 – without including verse 17. So why did we do that? Well, let’s read through our passage this morning and I’ll see if I can explain my thinking: Start at verse 17 and we’ll go all the way through chapter three right into the first verse of chapter 4.

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord.

 19 Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.

 20 Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.

 22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. 23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. 25 But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites. 1 Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master—in heaven.

Colossians 3:17 – 4:1

Now most of what we just read sure seems to be a hodgepodge of instructions. It’s like the misc section – a little of this, a little of that, a little of something else. It’s like reading through some of the Proverbs – it seems to be just random bits of good advice.

But it’s that verse 17 that gives it all a common theme. It’s like a bridge between everything Paul just told us in the previous verses about living according to our new nature and all these seemingly random bits of good advice. So let’s focus for a moment on verse 17.

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Colossians 3:17

Paul just finished a whole section of this letter to the Colossians talking about how we are to put on our new Christ-like nature – how we are to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in every moment of every day – how we are to walk in close fellowship with God. And as we do all of that, everything we say or do will be a reflection of God.

As Christians – we are ‘Christ ones’. When people look at us, they should get a really good idea of what Christ looks like. Not physically of course, but in word and deed and attitude. When people watch you, you’re showing them who Jesus is. You’re a living example of Jesus. At least, we should be.

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Distractions

This morning I want to begin by showing you a commercial that I’ve seen on tv recently. Perhaps you’ve seen it too. It’s a commercial for the 2015 Chevy Cruz and I think it really sets the stage for us today. So let’s have a look.

I think the video makes a good point. The chevy spokesperson says “It is hard to stay focused.” And it really is. From your own cellphone to billboards to people walking on the sidewalk to wildlife. There are all kinds of distractions that can cause us to lose focus and potentially end up in a wreck.

Have anyone here been distracted while driving and gotten themselves into trouble?

I remember one time I pulled up behind a car at a red light in Innisfail. I don’t know what it was that distracted me, but I certainly wasn’t focus on what I was doing. Because the car in front of me pulled away and I followed it. It wasn’t until I was half-way through the intersection that I realize the light was still red! The guy had in front of my had gone through the red light, and I followed him! Its a good thing no one was coming from the other direction or I could have been in serious wreck!

You’ve got to stay focused. It only takes a minute of being distracted and you can end up in all kinds of trouble.

And I think that’s also true for us as followers of Christ. There are all kinds of things that can distract us. Things that steal our focus from what’s important. And if we’re not careful, our lives can end up in a wreck.

And I think that’s what was happening in the church in Colosse back in 60AD. If you haven’t been with us, we’ve been studying the book of Colossians for the last month or so – and this book is actually a letter that Paul wrote to the Church in Colosse – and the main purpose of this letter is to address some of these distractions that had been stealing the Colossians focus. These were false teachings that were either adding to or subtracting from the true message of the Gospel.

And we actually face several very similar distractions in our lives and our church (false teachings) even today, so I think it will be very valuable to us to learn from Paul how to recognize and deal with these distractions and stay focused on the truth.

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Suffering for the Cause of Christ

If you haven’t been with us in recent weeks, we’ve been going through the book of Colossians – which is Paul’s letter that he wrote to the church in Colosse. And the content of this letter is basically, “Christianity in a Nutshell.” It’s the basic truths about who Jesus is and what He came to do – and what we should do because of that. And as I eluded to with the kids in the kids time, today in this particular passage, we’re going to be looking at what Paul describes as the secret of Jesus Christ.

Several times throughout the New Testament, Paul refers to Jesus as God’s secret plan – a mystery kept hidden from the beginning of time. So we’re going to look to see what that’s all about. And with that we’re going to look to see what Paul did because of that secret. Paul’s entire life revolved around this secret – so maybe there are some lessons in there for us as well. 

This morning we begin at Colossians chapter 1, verse 24. Paul says…

“I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25 God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.”

Colossians 1:24-27

Ok. Pause here for now. Before we get too far along, let’s take a minute to chew on this.

This first verse 24 can be a little confusing. Paul says…

I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. Colossians 1:24

Now my first thought as I read that is “what…. say that again…” How is Paul participating in the sufferings of Christ? And further, how do the sufferings of Christ continue even now?

And if you read that in the NIV or the ESV translations, you’re probably even more confused. Here’s what the English Standard Version says.

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” Colossians 1:24 ESV

What in the world does that even mean? How is Paul “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions?” Is Paul saying that something is lacking in what Christ has done for us? Are His afflictions, His suffering on the cross – his death and resurrection is still lacking something? Is our salvation not complete?

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God Is With Us (or What’s the Big Deal About Christmas?)

How many of you have heard at least 10 Christmas sermons during your lifetime?

I’m 33 years old – I grew up in the church – and I’m sure that I have averaged at least 3 Christmas related sermons every year. In fact, growing up we had the five advent Sundays so I’m sure I heard at least 5 Christmas sermons every year. But even at just three sermons per year – in my 33 years of life, I have heard just under 100 Christmas related sermons.

That seems a lot to me. Does the Christmas story really warrant that much sermon time? Do you ever get the feeling that Christmas is ‘over-celebrated’? What’s the big deal about Christmas anyway?

I’m not anti-Christmas, but why do we focus so much on Jesus birth? That’s just one aspect of his life. Why not his baptism? That was significant. Or the 40 days he spent fasting in the wilderness? There are no special days on the calendar that we celebrate that! The only thing that even comes close to Christmas is Easter – when we celebrate Jesus’ death & resurrection – and even that is celebrated way less than his birth.

Think about it. Even outside the church culture – think of retails stores. They spend 2 months selling Christmas – as soon as halloween is over, they start selling Christmas stuff. From November 1st through the bulk of December, the focus is Christmas. That’s 1/6 of the year. That’s a lot of Christmas!

Christmas music in another example. We have a whole genre of music dedicated to Jesus birth. We don’t have passover music – we don’t have Jesus’ baptism music, we don’t have Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness music – but we have album after album after album of music celebrating Jesus birth.

I look in my Bible and there are maybe 10 pages in my Bible about the birth of Jesus. The Gospel of Mark & and the Gospel of John don’t even include Jesus’ birth in their Gospels. There are two chapters in Matthew and two chapters in Luke – in my Bible about 10 pages of Christmas out of the 2300 pages of Scripture.

Yet at the same time, there are 65 pages of Job and his friends arguing about why God allowed all that bad stuff to happen to Job. If the Bible talks about Job about six time as much as it talks about Jesus birth, why do we take a whole month every year to preach about Jesus birth – and not job? We preach on Christmas (those ten pages) 2,3,4,5 times every December, but you’ll be lucky in five years just to get one sermon on Job.

So what makes Christmas such a big deal? What is so significant about the birth of Jesus Christ? What, in those ten pages, has had so much impact on life as we know it?

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