logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

“Resolute in Fullness, Forgiveness, and Focus”

Dec.30/12 Col.2:6-15, 3:1-11


It’s the end of December, and as January 1 approaches, people’s minds turn to the subject of New Year’s resolutions. That is, most people’s minds: a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon has Calvin giving this retort to his stuffed friend: “Resolutions? Me? Just what are you implying? That I need to change? Well, buddy, as far as I’m concerned, I’m perfect the way I am!”
    Then there’s the rest of us, who realize we’re less than perfect. Resolutions force us to take stock and ask some very deep-level questions. “Who am I?” There’s a whole lot wrapped up in that one – issues like body image (including what the weigh scales tell me about myself), resources (whether my bank account / debt situation rivals that of our southern neighbours risking a “fiscal cliff”), and other general lacks. “What do I most want?” In what areas do I feel discontent, unfulfilled, inadequate, falling behind. And, should I be brave enough to actually make a few resolutions, “What’s going to help me stay on track?” What will steel my determination, strengthen my resolve to actually carry through so this year’s resolutions don’t end up quick casualties?
    Jonathan Edwards brought a sense of urgent timing and accountability to his Maker to bear when he made a resolution; he wrote, “Resolved, never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.”
    As we read the counsel of the apostle Paul to the church at Colosse, he assures us Jesus can help us become more resolute in our purpose – by helping us have fullness, forgiveness, and focus.


Did you enjoy your Christmas presents? Are they still going to be giving you fulfilment 6 months from now? Sometimes we look in the wrong places for true fulfilment. Take chocolates, for example. That delectable chocolate treat that tastes so good right now as you’re chewing and swallowing it – what’s the net effect ten minutes from now? You want another chocolate!
    It’s not like that with Jesus: He gives a different kind of satisfaction, a fulfilment that lasts. This is rooted in the new IDENTITY we have in Him. Paul writes in 3:10 that believers “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” When judging and appraising ourselves for new year’s resolutions we often look in the mirror at our appearance or gauge ourselves by other externals. Paul’s saying those external distinguishing characteristics – race being Gentile / Jew, background being barbarian or Scythian, social status being slave or free – those external factors people so often judge by aren’t what’s most important about us. And in the church we shouldn’t be going around using those external factors such as appearance or family background or economic wealth as a yardstick to judge other people by! What matters is people believing, having Jesus in them. When you trust Him as Saviour, no one can then call you a “second class citizen” because you fall short in some external factor like your bank account or background or number of zits on your face.
    2:13, when we were dead in our sins, “God made you ALIVE with Christ.” 2:6 “just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him...” Paul uses the little phrase “in Him” repeatedly in this passage – vv6 7 10 11; v12 buried with Him, raised with Him...Do you see your identity as wrapped up with Christ? Do you visualize yourself IN HIM? He’s got to be the source of your fulfilment, the cornerstone of your identity. It’s a package deal, with us deriving many benefits “in Christ” - 2:7 hints at personal support and security, “rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught...” Then listen for how “fullness” gets emphasized in 2:9-10, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”
    In prayer, at the start of each day, can you pause and tap in to who you are in Christ, savouring His fullness? You are already enough in Him! Don’t get suckered in by the accuser’s taunts comparing you to other people who may seem to be better-looking or wealthier or better situated; those are externals, not what’s real on the inside.


Along with fullness, another area in which Jesus makes a major difference for us is that of forgiveness. If we can’t believe God forgives us on the basis of what Jesus did at the cross, we’ll remain stuck in the bog of shame. When we’ve been wronged by others, if we can’t forgive them, that locks us in chains of bitterness. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for many years as a result of his opposition to apartheid. He observed about his eventual release: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
    Paul describes accurately and bluntly our original condition personally as sinners: 2:8, perhaps taken “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world...” 2:13 “you were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your sinful nature...” (Or, “flesh”) 3:7 after listing several baser types of sins including sexual immorality and greed, Paul notes, “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.” What do those ways reap? Back up one verse to 3:6 - “Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” (!) Yes, the sins we formerly committed were accumulating a just judgment of God’s wrath for us – not that Hollywood wants you to know that.
    But the Good News is that Jesus has made it possible for us to have complete forgiveness, the whole slate wiped clean. 2:13b-14, God “forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” Here Paul uses very vivid imagery, as if God’s standing there with a long invoice or debt-list of transgressions we’d committed, tallied with the help of His laws in the Old Testament; then He takes this document and hammers it to Jesus’ cross, marking it “fully paid”. “It is finished!” was Jesus’ cry (Jn 19:30) – an expression that was used in commerce: when full payment had been made for some goods or for a debt, and the transaction was completed, the Greek word for “It is finished” was stamped on the document or receipt, declaring “The price is paid in full.”
    So Jesus arranged for the PENALTY of our sin to be avoided; but also the POWER of sin to be restrained. 2:15 “Having disarmed the powers and authorities” He triumphed over them by the cross. It’s not true then that a believer could use the excuse “the Devil made me do it”: Jesus has won freedom for us from sin’s power, it’s not stronger than we are in and of itself, it can be resisted and defeated. 3:9 “you have taken off your old self with its practices...” As in stripping off clothing, you’re done with that, no longer confined or restricted by that sin-garment.


In Christ we have fullness; He’s arranged for us to be forgiven; and He makes possible a new FOCUS. January is the month when new year’s resolutions are made; this month is named for the Roman god Janus, the Roman god of gates and doors (ianua), beginnings and endings, represented with a double-faced head, each looking in opposite directions (charming!). At New Year’s we look both back and ahead, making plans and trying to find focus so this year we’ll avoid the errors we made last year.
    For the believer, once we’re “in Christ” there’s a sense of both “then” and “now” - our life in former years before becoming a Christian, and since our conversion. 3:7f “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.BUT NOW...” Also 3:3 “For you died [past tense], and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” There’s to be no going back to the old life driven by sin: Paul uses the language of circumcision here in a spiritual sense - 2:11, “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ...” Circumcision is definitely a one-way operation (no gluing things back on!) - that old life is to remain behind us, “back then”.
    This makes possible a fresh FOCUS. 3:1f “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.” Reading the Bible reflectively and praying honestly, waiting in God’s presence for His prompting, helps us get our vision focused on heavenly things, what Christ wants, what He’s already doing that we can get on board with in our home, our neighbourhood, our workplace.
    Positively, to use Paul’s language, such an upward focus means we can do what 2:6 says - “continue to live in Him” (the Greek verb here is literally ‘walking around’), “overflowing with thankfulness.” So many new year’s resolutions are based on dissatisfaction; what would a resolution based on thankfulness sound like?
    Negatively, this new focus means we can do what 3:5 says – “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” No, a new year’s resolution to make a million dollars before you’re 40 just won’t cut it! That’s based on greed, idolatry, a false and destructive god. Likewise, in the terms of 3:8 we can “rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” The people around you may just thank you too if you clean up your speech that way. They’ll hear a definite difference coming out of your lips because of what you’re nurturing in your heart.


Bad habits are fair game to put in your sights when framing resolutions. For some people, including well-known American preacher Chuck Swindoll, biting fingernails is one such habit. Not unlawful Biblically speaking, but not profitable either. I was never a nail-biter, though for a while I catered to another bad habit - cracking my knuckles. But Swindoll did manage to conquer his nail-biting habit with the Lord’s help. He suggests the following for facing any bad habit.
    Stop rationalizing. Refuse to make comments like: “Oh, that’s just me.I’m just like that – always have been, always will be.After all, nobody’s perfect.” Such excuses take the edge off disobedience and encourage you to diminish or completely ignore the Spirit’s work of conviction.
    Apply strategy. Approach your target with a rifle, not a shotgun. Take on each habit one at a time, not all at once.
    Be realistic. It won’t happen fast. It won’t be easy. Nor will your resolve be permanent overnight. Periodic failures, however, are still better than habitual slavery.
    Be encouraged. Realize you’re on the road to ultimate triumph, for the first time in years! Enthusiasm strengthens self-discipline and prompts an attitude of stick-to-it-iveness.
    Start today. This is the best moment thus far in your life. To put it off is an admission of defeat and will only intensify and prolong the self-confidence battle.
    Swindoll concludes, “Extracting the hurtful thorns of habit enables the pilgrim to focus less attention on himself and more attention on the One who is worthy.And the most exciting thought of all is that he will be right there in the morning ready to help you through the day with all the power you will need, one moment at a time.” For proof, Chuck offers ten fingernails and an emery board! Let’s pray.