11th Sunday after Pentecost
Intro: Rarely are we ever satisfied with ourselves anymore! When the long search for identity is finished and we finally know who we are, we still don’t like the person in the mirror. We want to change, don’t we? – to look better in the eyes of others. If you doubt this observation, just look at the ways people attempt to improve themselves: diet, exercise, skin care, hair care, health care, mental attitude, etc. Some people would love to have a new look. They spend a fortune on clothes and cosmetics and body building and attitude enhancement.
Some people want to look ...pretty; ...if they are already pretty, they want to look beautiful. The search for beauty even leads some to plastic surgery. What they don’t like about their body, they get changed; what they don’t like about their face, they get changed. All it takes is a skillful surgeon and a lot of money. No one seems happy with looking or feeling their own age anymore. The market is afloat with facial cremes that take out the wrinkles and drugs that enhance performance.
From Dale Carnegie courses, through positive thinking, to the hours spent with psychoanalysts, many people seek to change the way they feel. Book authors are appearing by the hundreds, offering a way for that to happen. Self-help books are a big business. Many of us want to have a new attitude toward life and we’re willing to pay for it..
Our own attempts to create a new self – new body, face, or attitude – are usually self-centered, and succeed only partially or temporarily. In His letter to the Colossians Paul explains how obtaining a “new you” may not be so selfish or contrary to the will of God at all. In fact, brand “new lives” are exactly what God wants for us, and He is able to make such a change possible. But it’s not just a new look or new feeling that He is aiming at. God does more than just a surface make over; He goes much deeper ...to change our hearts and our minds! This morning, I wonder if we could look to God’s Word, and let Him teach us about:
Giving Up - Old Lives for New
You see, there are two ways for me to get a “new life,” 1) my way: self-improve and reform; or 2) God’s way: self-remove and replace.
I. My Way: Self-Improve and Reform
Changing by my way means looking for ways I can change my thoughts and my behavior. Do I use profanity? Do I dishonor my parents? Do I make distinctions and have prejudice towards people who are not like me? Do I fail to help my neighbor? Am I filled with greed? These questions might open my eyes to the problems with my old “self” and give me things that I can “go to work on.”
...Oh, and work it would be. To the best of my ability I would try to change my behavior. I would try to clean up my language; I would try to respect and give honor to my parents; I would try to remove the prejudice in my life; I would try to find opportunities to help my neighbor. I would try to be satisfied with the stuff that God has given me. ~Yes sir, God’s Commandments are the answer. Put them up in the hallways of our schools and public office buildings and let them become the guiding force for my life!~
Those around me would, no doubt, be impressed by the “new me”—the changed me—who seems so different from the old me. That would make the change all the more sinister, because those very same Ten Commandments that give me such fine guidelines to follow ...would still be at work pointing out my sin. I would never and I could never reach perfection in this self-improve and reform program!
You see, the old me is still there—lurking, hiding, unchanged. The old me knows that the change is all on the surface—only pretend, cosmetic, really just hypocrisy and a sham. ....And the “old me” will eventually break through, and expose itself, when the right circumstances cause the “new me” to break down. 1) Policeman stops the car and asks, “Do you know how fast you were going?” And the “old me” answers, “I think it was around the speed limit, officer. – by the way, ...what is the speed limit?” 2) All-you-can-eat buffet, the lady at the register asks the age of the child with me; ...the “old me” first looks at the sign to see at what age the price break comes in, and then I remember the child’s age. 3) On the job, the boss gets critical of the “old me’s” integrity and performance; oh, oh; it’s time to deflect that criticism to a co-worker, why don’t we talk about the other guy’s shortcomings, and avoid discussing my own. You see where I’m coming from, church?
You see, the “old me” knows that the only way to answer for this unacceptable behavior is to convince me, good old me, that it isn’t really all that bad! And I am happy to believe that all I need to please God is make a few minor changes and hang on to the “old me.” My way of producing a “new me” is to put some make-up on the “old me,” to undergo a little cosmetic surgery, or to take the latest and greatest vitamin supplements, or read the latest “pull yourself together” book. But no matter how much I try to touch up the “old me,” God’s Law still condemns me. No matter how strong my effort, the “old me” will, at my weakest moment, ...resort to sin, break God’s law, and be exposed for who it is – a sinful, self-absorbed, every man for himself, survivor, who’s trying not to be kicked off the island.
T/S - At a church in Fort Wayne some years ago (New Life), two brothers were brought to be baptized. The younger one was in his parents arms, and he ...submitted willingly. The older brother was walking, however, and when it came time for him to be baptized, ...he bolted for the door, he actually ran out of the church onto the sidewalk; and all the way he was shouting: “Let me out of here. I don’t want to die!” ...Whatever his misunderstanding may have been, his statement about baptism, about the new life in Christ was quite accurate. There really is only one way to produce a “new me” – it requires us to die to sin. And ...this is:
II. God’s Way: Self Remove and Replace... When talking about the new life in Christ, St. Paul says, “The old has passed away, behold the new has come!” You see, God’s way is different. In our text, Paul writes, “You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self” (3:9, 10). The illustration is of taking off old clothes and putting on new clothes. Paul does not say, “Take off those garments of sin, ...wash them, and put them back on again.” No! He says, ~“Take those stinking, filthy clothes off! Throw them away! Get rid of them for good!~
God doesn’t even try to change the old me; ....He kills it! Friends, God’s will is not for you to reform the old self, but that you ...“put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed” (v 5). Kill your “anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language,” and lies (vv 8–9).
How can we do that? Well, the Romans had a popular but horribly effective method for execution: ...the Cross. ....That’s what God uses to get rid of the “old you.” Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me ... Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passion and desires”(Gal 2:20; 5:24).
This crucifixion of the “old self” occurs in Baptism, when the power of the cross is applied to you. The sin in your life, you see, was paid for by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. You were “buried with him in baptism ... you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world” (Col 2:12, 20). That death and burial sets you free from the impossible task of trying to reform your old self, since, after all, ...it is now dead!
This death of the old self is what frees you up to receive the “new self” that comes as a gift from God. In Baptism you also participate in Christ’s resurrection. “...just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, [Paul says] we too may live a new life” (Rom 6:4). “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above ... you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ” ( 3:1, 3). To go back to the clothing metaphor, “You who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves [or “have been clothed“] with Christ” (Gal 3:27).
Concl: Please understand this: we are not new persons because somehow we now know how to behave. No, we are new persons because we have been baptized, we have died and risen with Christ, and we now know in whom I believe! You see, living as the new me is first, a matter of faith; and then, a matter of deeds. When our resurrection
with Christ is the focus, our old self is rendered powerless. You see, Jesus is our advocate; sitting there at the right hand of God, He’s in a position of power and authority. When we are under attack from the old self, we turn to Christ who gives us the victory.
The baptized “new self” exists through our death and resurrection with Christ. ...Will the old self still haunt us and try to hurt us? Yes! ...Will we, at times, be dissatisfied with the witness of our own lives? Yes! ...Will perfection still elude us and weaknesses continue to come to the surface? Most definitely! But you see, the power of the “old self” is gone! We continue to claim the new self as our own true identity. When the “enemy” attacks with accusations of mistakes and shortcomings, here is the answer he should get: ~“Why, this must be a case of mistaken identity; its the old me you are trying to hassle. Hey, he’s dead. ...Get away from me Satan, in the name of Jesus!~
Luther once said, “If someone were to knock on the door of my heart and ask who lived here, I would say, ‘Martin Luther used to live here, but he moved out, and Jesus Christ has moved in.’ ”Many people find it hard to be satisfied, especially, with the self that they try so hard to improve and reform. But we who have been filled with the Holy Spirit in Baptism don’t look for satisfaction from self-improvement. We know that we can never reform ourselves enough to please God. We are able to rest in Christ. He has changed us; and will continue to change us. He gives us a new life by removing the old self and replacing it with the new self. Our part in this is simply giving up! Giving up ...old lives for new! Each of us, by the grace of God, working through His chosen means, is a brand new creation. Now, as His Spirit works in you, go out and live those new lives, to the glory of God. AMEN