Awakening Services -- Wednesday April 10, 2019
Text: Colossians 3:1-17 -- Title: The Marks of a Resurrected Life
Speaker: Daniel Rudy
As we come to the end of this Awakening series on resurrection, there are several themes running throughout this series with I have hinted at but may not have been as clear in my expression of as I could have been. The first of these themes is that God is in the business of breaking into our tired living with resurrection and renewal. We are not the first people in need of this, nor will we be the last. Second, renewal and resurrection come from the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in individual believers and in the church. Based upon that understanding, I believe we must start by living in the power of the resurrection within the church. When we attempt to govern others, both inside and outside of the church with rules and structure, it not only shows a lack of trust in the power of God to transform lives, it also harms our witness. When the church places its hope and trust not in the power of God, but rather in the power of human institutions, we show that we do not believe that we have something to offer that is of lasting treasure. The resurrection of Christ happened right under the nose of the ruling authorities as God’s power was revealed in its fullest form. If our goal is sharing our hope in the transforming power of Christ, it is time for the church of Jesus Christ to stop investing its resources in fighting a culture war that was doomed from the start and get back to the business of living as God’s resurrection people brought from sin to newness of life by the death and resurrection of Christ.
But what does it look like to live as people recreated by the resurrection of Jesus Christ? What are the marks of a resurrected life that bear witness to the world regarding the saving power of Christ Jesus? As he moves into the third chapter of his letter to the Colossians, Paul addresses this very question. He says, “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” In these two verses, Paul lays out his basic understanding of what the Christian life looks like. First, the Christian life is rooted in the transforming power of the death and resurrection of Jesus. His first line of this chapter, “So if you have been raised with Christ…” sets the foundation for our understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Being a Christian is about union with Christ Jesus, nothing more and nothing less. We are not Christians because we follow a set of rules in our own human power. We are not Christians because we advocate for policies that are labeled “Christian” in the public square. We are Christians because we have been profoundly and irrevocably transformed by the power of Jesus Christ dwelling in our lives. Second, Paul believes that encounter with the resurrection of Jesus will necessarily result in leading a different life. There is a then to his if-then statement in verse one. If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above. There is a necessary human response to the resurrection power of God. We are called to seek union with Christ, to meditate on the things of Christ and to seek God’s transformation. What human psychology has taught us in the past 100 years is really ancient wisdom repackaged. The things that our mind dwells on, the things that we focus on will create actions in our lives. Over time, those actions form habits, which reinforce certain ways of thinking. We call this process character development in the secular world, but in the Christian understanding, this same process, transformed by the Holy Spirit is what we call faith formation. By focusing on the things of God, by seeking the things of God, both when those things are easy and when they are hard, over time the Holy Spirit reshapes us so that we are more able to hear God’s voice and follow his ways.
As Paul continues, he speaks of the end result of this process saying, “When Christ who is in your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” Behind this verse, I believe that there is a two-fold revelation that Paul speaks of. The most obvious revelation is the revelation of the faithful when Christ returns. But slightly more hidden in this verse is Paul’s understanding of our witness as the church of Jesus Christ. As followers of Christ, our lives should point to Christ who lives in us. This is the end result of the resurrected Christ dwelling within us and transforming us. And it is this attraction to the power of the resurrected Christ that ultimately brings people into a saving relationship with Jesus. Demonstrating the marks of a resurrected life is not just about Christian ethics; it is the heart of our evangelistic witness as well.
In this first paragraph, Paul focused more on the theoretical aspects of the transformative power of the resurrection. As he moves into the next paragraph, he gets down to the nitty gritty. He says, “Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.” As I look at this verse, I do not believe that Paul meant this to be an exhaustive list of ways that separation from God expresses itself. Instead, I believe that Paul is giving some examples of which there are many more that he could have chosen from. I would note that of the expressions of sin listed, greed is the only one where Paul feels the need to provide further explanation. Connecting greed with idolatry, Paul is warning us that if we feed greed, the worship of money can replace the worship of the living God even among folks who give the outward appearance of piety. He continues by hitting us closer to home when he warns us to also put aside anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive language. Many of us are quite good as seeing the sins of others, but have well-crafted blind spots for the places that we fall short of God’s glory. Once again, Paul underscores our togetherness in putting on the new clothing of Christ’s resurrection, speaking about the ways that Christ’s transforming power breaks down the old walls that divide.
What does it say about the genuineness of our belief in the transforming power of the resurrection of Jesus that the church mirrors the divisions of the larger society? What does it say about the firmness of the roots of God’s power that so many within our own denomination cannot even speak with or about people whom they disagree with without resorting to wrath, malice or slander? These are not marks of the power of Christ living within us; they are signs that we trust human power more than the power of God.
Another aspect of human formation is that in order to truly get rid of something, it has to be replaced with something else. As he moves into the next paragraph, Paul speaks of what he would have us replace the marks of our sinful old selves with. He says, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another, and if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” These characteristics speak of the new community formed by Jesus’ resurrection, a community characterized by compassion and kindness, both for members and for the outside world. This witness to one another builds up the faith that is already present and shows the marks of a resurrected life to the outside world. At the heart of all this new community in Christ is forgiveness. Simply put, one does not need Christ to be a law abiding citizen, but I have yet to meet a person who could truly demonstrate forgiveness who had not been transformed by the spirit of Christ Jesus. A love which produces forgiveness is the most important relational mark of a resurrected life. It shows a deep trust in God to provide for our emotional well-being. And it is this love and peace, which comes from the power of the resurrected Christ that produces worship.
Paul sees the ethical characteristics of the Christian life and the praise and worship of thankfulness to God as parts of the same whole. This whole picture of the Christian life provides fertile ground for the presence of our resurrected Lord to work at transforming us. Paul sums up the final effect of this transformation in verse seventeen when he says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Among the early Brethren, there was a phrase that spoke to the marks of faith and faithfulness. It was said that the Christian would be identified by the manner of his or her living. So strong was this identification, that when evangelists would ask Brethren if they were saved, many would respond, “Ask my neighbors. Ask my family. Ask the people that I do business with. If am have been saved, it will be evident to those around me.” What about us? Are the marks of a resurrected life evident to those around us? When our friends and neighbors look at our lives, what do they see? Would they see lives consumed by fear at a changing world or a changing church, one which we no longer feel a part of? Or would they see lives characterized by hope in the power of Jesus Christ and his resurrection, shown by the love and forgiveness in which we live our lives? For if we have indeed been transformed by Jesus and his resurrection power, it will show in the way we live our lives. Amen.
 Colossians 3:1-3
 Colossians 3:4
 Colossians 3:5-7
 Colossians 3:8
 Colossians 3:12-14
 Colossians 3:17