I don’t mean to brag, but yesterday I preached the greatest sermon of my life. I’d say it was downright inspired. Let me explain. Through the summer we’ve been using our evening services to look briefly at some of the shorter books of the Bible. We read the entire book one Sunday, then teach the book’s major themes over the next two Sundays. Then we move to the next book and do it again. So my task last night was simply to read Colossians. And it makes for a brilliant sermon.
I did not have a lot of time to think about the book as I read it—my primary concern was reading it well and reading it fluently. But there was one part that still managed to jump out at me. It was right at the beginning of chapter 3 where Paul transitions from theology to practice, from the good news of what Christ has done to the Christian’s response. And right there Paul makes a powerful contrast.
In many ways the New Testament is about the contrasts. There is new versus old, clean versus dirty, alive versus dead, gospel versus law, and many more. And here in Colossians Paul contrasts above with below. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). Then he goes on to explain what that means, to describe what it means to live with your mind set on earthly things or your mind set on heavenly things. Those who live with their minds below are consumed with sexual immorality, idolatry, evil desire. They are full of malice and strife and envy. It’s an ugly picture. But those who have experienced salvation are now free to be holy and compassionate and patient and self-controlled.
We live in a world obsessed with the very sins that Paul provides as evidence of earthliness, of living below, of living in that way that God hates. People love to live below. And yes, there are times that even Christians love to live below, to continue on in those old patterns of sin.
In that contrast of below and above, we see that sin feels like freedom but is actually captivity. What feels like joyful self-expression is actually harmful wallowing. Sin is like a pig proclaiming his cleanliness while he wallows in the muddy filth of his pen. We look at him and realize he is deluded, that he is filthy. And those who continue with their minds set on earthly things may believe they are free and clean, but they are actually wallowing in the very sins they are meant to hate. True freedom is not found in pursuing sin but in rejecting sin. The man who is most free is the one who is freed from the power of sin.
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