Home » Spiritual Direction » Lectionary Sermon for Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Lectionary Sermon for Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Colossians 3:1-11 Where Your Mind is Your Heart will likely Follow

I want to begin with a psychological reality.  I want you to think of the number 4.  Get a picture of the number 4 in your mind.  Can you see it?  Imagine it, see it, now, don’t think of the number 4.  It is hard.  Our minds have a hard time with vacuums.  When we think of something it usually must be replaced with something else before our thinking changes.

Now, listen to these verses from Ephesians 4:17-19 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. 

This is not a good place to be.  These verses warn us of futility in our thinking (my version calls it pointless thinking- the old KJV states vanity of their minds.)  The word translated “futility” means useless, pointless, no chance, or hope.  This is a terrible place to be.  What makes it even worse, this futility in thinking leads to a spiritual hardness of the heart. This can be a spiritually terminal condition.

What is spiritual hardness of the heart?  It is a sickness of the soul that prevents us from perceiving God’s grace and love and makes us unable to grasp how much danger we are in from within and from without. 

This is the danger that the members of the church at Colossae were facing.  They were being influenced by the thinking of their social culture.  This thinking was opening them up to deception, opening them up to manipulation, and pushing them to live for things that are dead. 

What do I mean by the term dead?  I mean dead as in separated and separating from God.  Notice the things listed in verse 5.  These things seem to bring pleasure but in fact, they usually cause great pain.  They cheapen, tarnish, wound, crush, isolate, produce fear, and hate.  They can never satisfy but do lead us to have the continual lust for more.

You know, as I read this list, I realize I could be reading a news story about the events that surround us.  I could be reading the plots of many of the TV shows that fill our homes.  I could have been reading about the activities of celebrities, athletes, or politicians.  It seems like the old dangers of this world that push death has not changed.  They are still there. 

What is sad is that people still believe these things are worth the price of their perceived pleasure.  People believe they can find meaning in life living with these bringers of death. This is a lie.

A man was seen on his knees in his neighbor’s yard.   The neighbor came out and asked him what he was doing.  The man said, “I am looking for my keys.”  The neighbor came over and joined the search.  How did you lose your keys in my yard the neighbor asked the man?  The man replied, “Oh, I didn’t lose them in your yard. I lost them in mine.”  “Then why are you looking for them here?” asked the neighbor.  Because the light is brighter over here. 

Is the search going to be futile? Yes, but not any more futile than living the lies of seduction of our culture as if these lies would lead us to the truth.

Paul tells us there is a better way.  Paul tells us here in verses 1 & 2 and also in Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will. In other words, replace the bad with the good.  Replace that which is futile with that which is faithful.  Seek what is better.  Think on what is true. 

How, how do we think about things that are true?  By replacing, renewing, and transforming what is there with a new image, the image of our Lord.  The image of him at his resurrection, the image of him at the right hand of God.  We gain this image when we follow Jesus as Jesus followed the will of the Father.  Set your mind on reaching out to those you love.  Seek their welfare before your own.  Seek to spend time in God’s word.  Find yourself in the stories.  Find guidance in the behaviors, learn what brings joy, peace, love, hope, and builds faith.  Seek to spend time talking with God in prayer.  Seek to gather as the church.  Let your mind be filled with hope. 

But what about the bad things we must face?  What are we to do about difficulties, pressures, and problems?  We have weaknesses, handicaps, and limitations.  How do we set our minds on the things above? 

Story of a religious traveler who was walking down a path when a monkey through a coconut and hit him in the back.  The traveler took the coconut and ate the meat, drank the milk, and made the shell into a bowl. He then thanked the monkey for giving him the opportunity to turn a painful event into a useful encounter. It is a matter of perspective.

In WWII in the Nazi death camps, a young doctor named Victor Frankl observed that even during evil, torture, misery, and death there were those people who still chose to find happiness.  They found their happiness in the songs of their faith, in the prayers they had learned, and in actions of love rather than fear and hate.  How could they do this in such an evil place? What Frankl observed was what Paul is talking about in these passages.  It is the power of choice given us by our Lord.  We can put off the old nature and seek the holy nature, the nature of perfection in our desire to live lives that conform to the image of Jesus. 

You have heard the saying, “practice what you preach?”  Let me tell you a better way, the way of our Lord: “Preach what you practice!”   Preach the value of a moral life because you have benefited from a moral life.  Preach forgiveness because you have experience forgiveness.  Preach love because you love and have been loved.  Preach Jesus as a relationship rather than a religion because you live in a relationship with Jesus.  Preach the things above because you think about those things, desire those things, you live for those things. 

We were not made for futility.  We do not have to be ruled by lies, deceit, violence, crudeness, cruelty, corruption, and consumption.  We can be surprised by joy.

Paul writes: if you were raised.  This is the question, the big “if.”  This determines if you can set your mind on the things of God.  To be raised you must be called. NIV John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It’s a calling to discipleship.  It is a calling that comes from God. Set your mind to hear, to think, and to seek to be conformed to the image our creator made us to have!

Where Your Mind is Your Heart will likely Follow!

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