Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
12:00pm Fellowship
Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
315-265-7474

Take Off - Put On

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

August 4th:

Call:    Micah 6: 6-8
Text:    Colossians 3: 1-17
Note:    Worshipping With Chuck - Week Two


         Take Off - Put On

I ask you,
What is the biggest and most common mistake that Christians make?

I am not asking what you as individuals
Most frequently do wrong.
[although I might find that interesting.]

I'm not asking what this congregation as a group
Most frequently does wrong
[and     attempts to answer that,   while also interesting
   would risk causing tensions and ill feelings]

I'm most certainly not asking what you think
is what I most frequently do wrong
   [For one thing, we don't have time for all the suggestions you might make
for another, I am here to worship     not defend     not confess]

In fact, the answer to my question
   Is not a specific sin

If I had asked about a specific sin,
The answer would have been easy:
   The biggest and most frequent sin is undoubtedly selfishness
For selfishness seems at the root of almost every other sin
   From adultery to murder    and from theft to anger
   And, of course, in every selfishly inspired act that we do
      We place ourselves above God
      The word for that is "idolatry."

But my question is: what is the biggest and most common mistake
that Christians make?

That is less about sin  than it is about our relationship with God.

And the answer that Paul, Augustine, Luther, and the Wesleys  give us is

   That all too often we try to lead lives that will impress God
      So    that  God   will  love  us

   We try to earn God's love

   We try to present a resume that meets heaven's minimum standards.

   We see our lives as SATs, LSATs, GREs, and med boards,
Tests to get God to accept us.

But this is backwards!

We start our lives with God's love.
We are saved, justified, and admitted to the kingdom
   By our faith through grace.

And we do not and cannot earn God's love.

We do not need a perfect score on our Christian SATs
   To be considered for a place in the kingdom.
Faith through grace is an essential concept of Christianity.

It was in defense of this concept
   That the Wesleys split with George Whitefield
   For they could not accept the doctrine of predestination
      As being compatible with it

It was in defense of this concept
that Luther split with the Catholic church of his day
for he could not accept the selling of indulgences
   as being compatible with it.

And this concept is essential
to an understanding of this morning's text.
And   to an understanding of our relationship with God

The text is from Colossians chapter 3: 1-17

It begins as follows:
   "So, if you have been raised with Christ ..."

He's talking to
the Colossians You and me,
and anyone else who claims to follow Christ
      who claims to have allowed Christ into his/her heart
      who claims to have accepted Christ.

He goes on to tell all of us who accept that we have been raised with Christ to
   "seek the things that are above
   where Christ is seated at the right hand of God."
And to
   "Set your mind on things that are above,
   not on things that are on earth."

If we believe that we have been raised with Christ
   We need to focus - Paul asserts - on Christ's goals
   Not on earthly goals.

"for you have died
and your life is hidden with Christ in God."

And,
   "When Christ who is your life is revealed,
   then you also will be revealed with him in glory."

In simple terms, these first few verses tell us
   That once Christ becomes a part of us
   You and I need to respond by focusing on what he wants
      Love. forgiveness, compassion, and kindness
   Not on what our society leads us to believe we want.

And then Paul goes on to tell us that in this response
we must purge ourselves:   [3: 5-11]

If we believe in Jesus Christ and recognize what he has done for us
   We must  throw off   and put to death
      Evil desire and greed
      Anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language

If we believe in Jesus Christ and recognize what he has done for us
   We must  stop lying and avoid falsehood

If we believe in Jesus Christ and recognize what he has done for us
   We must strip off our old selves
   And clothe ourselves with new selves.

Our stripping off our old selves results
not      from trying to impress God
   And not  from seeking rewards.
But rather,    from a desire to say "thank you" to God
for the gifts and rewards we have already received in Christ
   And our resulting desire to be as much like Him as possible.

We cannot forget that
our response to God's presence in our lives also anticipates
      That after stripping off those old selves
We must then clothe ourselves with new selves.

In other words, this is a two part response to Christ's presence in our lives
   We must take something off
   And we must also put something else on.

This new clothing
   It's not something we can buy
      At Penney's, WalMart, or Sears
      Or at high end stores.

We might be able to acquire it at the CORC store
   But not by purchasing it, but by observing it in action

Paul tells us about it:    [3: 12-17]

These new clothes are not made of cotton or silk
They are woven out of
Compassion, kindness, humility and patience
   forgiveness and love

And we get them not by a trip to the mall,
but   by letting the peace of Christ dwell in our hearts
   by letting Christ dwell in us richly
and   by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
      with gratitude in our hearts
      and giving thanks to God through Christ.
Both the stripping instructions and the clothing instructions
   Are based on the fact that the love of Christ is already in us.

Those instructions do not direct us to
   Strip             to impress and win the favor of God
They do not direct us to
   Reclothe ourselves   to impress and win the favor of God

They talk about gratitude and a present that has replaced the past
   The difference being:   that these actions are a loving response

Why is this important?

It is important for the same reason
   That it is important to us
That our children behave as we want them to behave
As a response to our love for them
And not
That they behave in the same exact manner
   Because they want something from us or are afraid of us.

It is important because it addresses motive and mens rea

It is important enough that we need reminders
   To avoid falling into the trap of trying to earn God's love
And nothing reminds us of it
better than the sacrament of communion
      Particularly when we acknowledge that:
"Christ died for us while we were yet sinners"
(not after we had improved ourselves)
   and note that I what "proves God's love for us."

We are also reminded of it in our hymns

I would therefore encourage you to
upon returning to your seats after receiving the bread and juice,
   take a look at the words in the hymns we have already sung
      looking at them as a devotional or as a prayer

And too, when we sing our concluding hymn I encourage us to note
   That we want the principle within to give us a sensibility to sin
   That we want that principle to catch us
when we feel developing pride or wrongful desire
   That we want our consciences to quickly respond
      When sin is near.

Christ is in us, what we are really singing in that hymn
Is that we want ourselves to listen.
And we acknowledge that our response is already in us.

If we do listen and respond accordingly
   We should be able to avoid what I believe to be
   The biggest and most common mistake Christians make.

Wouldn't that be great?