Sermon for December 27, 2020 (New Years) — Don’t Dwell on the Past
19I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
Psalm 2 on Page 65 in Christian Worship
Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together against the Lord
and against his Anointed One.
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will proclaim the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
31When Judas was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
33“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Well, what a year it has been! One year ago to this day, if someone would have said COVID-19 to us we would have looked at him funny and said, “What are you talking about?” Of course, we have become very familiar with COVID-19 over the past ten months. It is come to dominate our lives. We at Saint Pauls had to close down our church for over 2 months. On top of all that, 2020 has thrown us a whole lot of other things that we would just rather forget. From the riots that tore apart our cities to the contested election that, even now, is still being fought about to the economic downturn that came with the pandemic, 2020 has just not been a very good year. So today, I’m going to give you some advice that you probably don’t think I need to give to you. And that advice is this…
Don’t Dwell on the Past
I. Christ is your present
II. Christ is your future
Paul is writing to the Colossians because the man who served as pastor had come to Paul while he was a prisoner in Rome with a Serious problem. The problem is this: There were people who were coming to the city of Colosse with a false teaching. Paul doesn’t completely outline the false teaching in his letter to the Colossians , however, we can get a pretty good idea of what it was all about. Like almost every false teaching that there is in the world, these false teachers were encouraging the people of Colosse to look to themselves and not to Christ. They stressed keeping the laws of the Old Testament and denying themselves the pleasures of life in an attempt to achieve a higher consciousness. They billed this as being superior to the teaching of the Apostle Paul because it was not so simplistic. The Apostle Paul knew that these people were leading them away from Christ and getting them to dwell on the things of this world, specifically their own good works. Paul knew that nothing in this world gave them the blessings that Christ could.
We, of course, see a parallel in what we are going through in this world right now. The world tries to present itself as this great force that can achieve almost anything through science and human knowledge. But what has that gotten for us this year? We have seen The great minds of this world let a disease get out of control and sweep over all the world. We have seen, in our country, the effects of hatred that is in the human soul. We have seen how that has turned one group of people against another group of people and has led to violent rioting throughout our nation, Even so that it touched a smallest city in our own state, the city of Kenosha. If we were to rely on the things of this world 4 everything that we needed, we would find that the world would be wholly inadequate to meeting our needs.
So what did the Apostle Paul encourage the people of Colosse to look at? He knew that the false teachers could offer them nothing that would get them closer to God. And so he held out for them Jesus Christ. His letter to the Colossians is very much like a letter that he wrote at almost exactly the same time, his letter to the Ephesians. In both of these letters, he stresses the supremacy of Christ. He points out that Jesus has done absolutely everything to satisfy God’s anger over sin and to impart to us the forgiveness of sins that we need every day of the year. That is what we rely on every day of our lives. There is nothing for our spiritual life that are savior does not provide. And that also reaches out 2 the way we live our lives right now.
Listen to what the Apostle Paul writes in this section, “Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
You see, these verses are at a transition in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. In the first half of the book, he had dealt with all of the theological issues that he needed to deal with. Kid pointed out to them that their Salvation came not from their keeping of the law or of their denying themselves any kind of pleasures in life. Instead, their forgiveness of sins came completely and utterly from the perfect life and innocent suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. No, however, the Apostle Paul is moving on to another subject. He is talking about how Christ affects their lives. He reminds them that they are raised with Christ. In the verses that follow this text, he talks about the way of life that many of them had lived before they were brought the gospel of Jesus Christ. He reminds them how sin had ruled their lives. Now, however, the risen Christ lived in them. And he is to go on in the rest of this chapter telling them how their lives are changed because the risen Christ lives in them. He talks about how they can better fulfill all their roles in life. Whether they are husband or wife, parent or child, employer or employee, having Christ, the risen Christ, in their lives changes the way they look at the things that they do.
That is important to note as we closeout this bummer of a year. This past year has been one where we have Of our control and yet seemed to control us and our lives to a very great extent. As we enter into this new year, maybe it’s time for us to remember what Christ has accomplished in us. He has, indeed, brought us the forgiveness of sins. That we know and that we confess every day of our lives. What we also need to remember is that having Christ changes the way we live our lives. When we remember that Christ lives in us, we are more aware of what we can do in this world as his dear children. Now that this year is passed, it is the time for us to remember what it is that we can do to change this world. That, of course, is not our chief goal as believers in Jesus. But it is helpful to remember that he has set us in this world as his light. He has put us in the middle of this dark place so that people can see in us the light of his gospel. And he does that by changing us. He does that by showing the world what a joy it is to know our savior through the way we live our lives. And as the Apostle Paul remains to Colossians, we do that in our roles as fathers and mothers. children and teachers, employers and employees It is good to know , in this chaotic world, that God can make a difference through us. Let us concentrate on that this year as we go forward from this year that so stirred up everything.
As we look forward to a year showing Christ in our lives, we also look forward to what our God has ultimately one for us. Paul concludes this section by writing: 4“When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” With these words, he is reminding us that the future in Christ is, ultimately, quite bright. We go forward into this year not knowing exactly what kind of year it will be. Maybe we enter this year a little bit more warily then we entered last year. Oh sure, there were uncertainties as we entered this last year, but we really had no idea exactly what to expect when everything hit. But we entered into last year with the firm knowledge that our God had forgiven all of our sins through Jesus Christ and that, even if the worst happened, we would be brought into the joys of heaven.
We enter into this year with the same knowledge. We don’t know what the future holds . We don’t know if we will even make it to the end of this next year. We do know this; our savior has made our eternal future something that is firm and settled. We know that when our savior appears at the end of all things, we will appear with him in glory. That was true at the beginning of last year. It is true at the end of this horrible year. And it will be true all throughout however many years are God gives us. This is our confidence. This is our hope. This is the reason that we can forget what is past and look forward to a bright, eternal future. Amen.