Sermon, I Forgot to Put Out the Trash, Text: Colossians 3:1-4


Last Sunday was Easter, and we were appropriately reminded of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. As John Stott says, “Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion. The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed.” However in this text in Colossians, Paul is talking about YOUR resurrection. He is asking what this means to you. Are your interests truly centered in Christ? Are your mind, your ambitions, your outlook characterized by those things that belong to the heavenly realm into which you have been raised? Max Lucado raises the question of whether we truly believe in the resurrection if we are lugging around bags of trash filled with loneliness, worry, resentment, pain, sins and failures. Lucado pictures Jesus as the ultimate trash collector, and in the end, we see his followers in a dump looking at the huge accumulation of refuse and there is a man kneeling before each of them saying “May I have your trash”, and as they comply he dumps it on himself, one by one, until he is buried. They are all standing around mourning that dead body in the landfill, and then suddenly a young girl sees him stand up, and all their trash bags are gone. This is my life. Why am I walking around feeling and looking like a trash bag? This is your life. This was Paul’s life as he says in Romans 7:23-25, I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord! You cannot escape the conclusion that we are all like this, and posing like a pharisee who pretends to have arrived at mastery over the trash is folly. Actually such people are trash masters because Jesus says of them in Matthew 23;27 and 28, Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. The New International version calls this section, “Rules for holy living” Rules are a burden. What this section is teaching is not just rules, but rather, the effect of being raised with Christ, both what it is and what it should be. Consider then the three effects, We have been raised, we shall be raised, and we are being raised.

I We Have Been Raised

According to verse 1 we are risen with Christ, Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Without question every genuine Christian has already been resurrected. The Greek verb tense identifies this as a past action not to be repeated. It happened and the deed is done. You cannot be a Christian unless a portion of your trash has been carried away. Paul says in Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ and in Colossians 2:11-14 he writes that in Christ, 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, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He 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. It is a great comfort to us to know that our sins are forgiven and we are absolved of all guilt in our relationship with God. Paul calls this peace with God in Romans 5:1 and 2, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. The trash of guilt is gone.

II We Shall Be Raised

Verses 3 and 4 assure us with regard to our future hope,  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. There are two parts to this. First you are hidden  and then you are revealed. To be hidden in Christ means to be safe and protected. Paul states it succinctly in Romans 8 when he says those whom God has called, he also justifies, and those whom he justifies he also glorifies. In a sense you are like a baby in the womb, who is protected and supported and nurtured by its mother, but the whole process is hidden  from the world. Even with modern ultrasound you can see the baby, but not the connection. You are hidden safely with Jesus because you have been raised. The second part is your being revealed, and Paul writes in Philippians 3:20 and 21, But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. And John says virtually the same thing in I John  3:2, Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. So Paul’s question in Romans 7, “who shall deliver me from this body of death” is answered, and so is yours. you have been raised and you will be raised with a new body like Jesus had. So the trash of guilt is gone and the trash of this sinful, humble, lowly, weak, mortal, vile body will be gone when Jesus comes again, but right now like Paul in II Corinthians 5:2-4, Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. If we were perfect, without sin and without trash, we would not be burdened and groaning.

III We Are Being Raised

Leon Morris reminds us “The same power that brought Christ back from the dead is operative within those who are Christ's. The Resurrection is an ongoing thing.” But we are groaning, because as Karl Barth wrote, “The Easter message tells us that our enemies, sin, the curse, and death, are beaten. Ultimately they can no longer start mischief. They still behave as though the game were not decided, the battle not fought; we must still reckon with them, but fundamentally we must cease to fear them any more.”  So here is where verses 1b and 2 become exceedingly important, 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. The resurrection will fill me with relief and hope, but it will not have much effect on my daily living unless I pay attention to this. As Phillips Brooks wrote, ‘The great Easter truth is not that we are to live newly after death--that is not the great thing--but that we are to be new here and now by the power of the Resurrection; not so much that we are to live forever, as that we are to, and may, live nobly now because we are to live forever.” I have a new cleansed conscience and a new body is promised, but am I getting rid of the trash in my life? often Christians are pressured into pretending they are holy so there is no trash. Have you ever stood with someone on trash night and said I don’t know how we collect so much of this.  Well our modern culture is geared to help you accumulate trash in you house. There are actually TV programs where people are addicts, not to drugs or alcohol, but to trash. There are interventions from relatives and friends because these folks cannot even walk through their own homes. There is an amazing amount of trash accumulated by families. It comes to billions of cubic feet per day. We institute a variety of methods to deal with this, but do we realize that we are piling up trash in our spiritual lives, and our culture is conducive to that too. What happens when the trash collectors go on strike and the streets of your town or city are filled with smelly refuse? What happens at your house when you forget to take out the trash? What happens when  we fail to put out the trash in our spiritual lives. Paul describes it here in Colossians 3:5-10, Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Our own self righteousness and hypocrisy are our greatest enemies. The old commentator William Godbey wrote, “If you are a member of the true Church of Christ, you must settle on the route you are traveling. Are you really dead? Is your pride dead? Is your lust dead? Is your temper dead? Is your love of money dead? Are you really dead to the world?” Many people confuse the grace of justification and sanctification. In justification the only death required is that of your precious savior, Jesus, but in sanctification our death is necessary. I wish I could answer yes, "I am totally dead," but I cannot, and I hope you will not. If you think you are 100% committed and you love God with your whole heart, then  this Scripture is wasted on you. Hypocrisy is a stench in the nose of God. That old agnostic Mark Twain had an uncanny ability to diagnose hypocrisy and he probably saw a lot of it. A Christian businessman well known for his ruthlessness once announced to Twain, “Before I die I mean to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I will climb Mount Sinai and read the 10 Commandments aloud at the top.” “I have a better idea,” replied Twain. “You could stay in Boston and keep them.” When I when I was a young Christian I used to zealously sing the old gospel song, “You have longed for sweet peace, And for faith to increase,And have earnestly, fervently prayed; But you cannot have rest, Or be perfectly blest, Until all on the altar is laid. Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid? Your heart does the Spirit control? You can only be blest, And have peace and sweet rest, As you yield Him your body and soul.” I cannot sing that song anymore unless I remind myself that, as long as I am here below, in this body of death, my all will never be on the altar. I think of Paul who tells the Galatians that he bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus, and yet even this man did not have all on the altar laid for he said, O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death. He found in his flesh an unending battle between the flesh and the Spirit. So do I, and so do you. We need the deaf sign for Jesus-they make this sign many times during their worship: the middle finger of each hand is placed into the palm of the other. And they remember set your heart and mind on things above, and not on earthly things. A week before Easter, the teacher gave a plastic egg to each of her students.  Then she sent them home to find something that reminded them of Easter. On Easter Sunday they returned and one egg had a drawing of Jesus, another had a flower for new life, another a nail for the cross. and another a pebble for the stone rolled away. A boy with Down's syndrome brought an egg with nothing in it, and  some kids laughed. They stopped suddenly as he explained quietly, "Because the tomb was empty."  The empty tomb demands a life that is emptied of earthly things by an heart that is set on things above.