Pentecost 10c

Preached: August 4, 2013

Keep Walking with Jesus
Colossians 2:6-15

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

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 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, 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. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:6-15 NIV84).

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

In the fall when apples were gathered and stored for the winter, the pioneers were careful not to bruise them. One bad apple could spoil the whole bunch. Rotting apples emit ethylene that causes the nearby apples too overripen and spoil, and if mold starts on one apple, it will spread to the others. People we spend time with rub off on us, as the old saying goes: “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.”

On the other hand we want to be a positive influence on others. So we should interact, and be a friend to those in need. We can't isolate ourselves. But that all the more underscores the need to keep on walking with the one who alone can keep us from rotting away with this world. Keep walking with Jesus.

The Holy Spirit, through the words he gave the Apostle Paul to write, does exactly that. He keeps us walking with Jesus. Now the struggle of walking with Jesus isn't trying to figure out right from wrong. More often than not our conscience can already tell the difference, and even if our conscience is unclear about a certain point, God's law written in the Bible makes it perfectly clear to anyone willing to listen. The greater struggle of walking with Jesus is the strength to gladly do what we know is right and to run away from all that's evil, all that's contrary to God's truth.

How can you be strengthened to keep walking with Jesus? You are strengthened as you stay rooted in the blessings of your baptism and as you are built up to withstand the world's deceptions. Those are the two parts to the theme: Keep walking with Jesus.

A. Rooted in the blessings of your Baptism

The Apostle writes, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him ... 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, 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 all your sins” (Colossians 2:6, 11-13 NIV84).

Roots keep a tree well-nourished. They absorb the water and minerals the tree needs. Now the only soil that nourishes us to walk with Jesus is Jesus himself. We walk with Jesus when we stay rooted in Jesus. But what rooted you in Jesus and keeps you rooted in him? What makes that life-giving connection? Baptism. For you see, dear Christian, baptism unites you with Jesus so that you were buried with him and raised with him. What a connection! What a blessing!

Go back to that day when Jesus' body was taken down from the cross. Hear the weeping of the women. Smell the pungent spices, that mixture of myrrh and aloes that Nicodemus brought. And the stone is rolled in front of the tomb. Jesus had surely died. Return with the women Easter morning. The stone is gone! The wonder of angels dazzles our eyes. Heavenly words tingle our ears: “He is not here. He has risen, just as he said!” There is no stench of death, just the morning freshness. And then Jesus shows himself, alive. He has risen, indeed!

Now instead of seeing Jesus buried and then risen, see yourself. Baptism has rooted you in Jesus. Baptism has united you with him. You have died with Jesus and risen with him. His life is your life. Faith alone grasps these baptismal blessings. Don't let go. Stay rooted in Jesus by cherishing your baptismal blessings. You have been buried with Christ. You have been raised with him. This is the truth. So keep walking with Jesus.

Do you see the power that Baptism brings to your faith so that you keep walking with Jesus? Baptism buried you with him, so put to death your evil desires. Sin has no control over a dead body. You're dead to sin, buried with Christ. Don't let sin rule over you. Don't return to its captivity.

What's more the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in you who believe. Believe in the power of his grace that saved you when you were dead in transgressions and sins. Believe in the power of his mercy that freed you from captivity. Believe in the power of his peace that forgives your sins in Christ Jesus. Baptism has raised you with Jesus. No matter how strong the temptation to wander away from Jesus, rely on the power of your God to resist and keep walking with Jesus. Stay rooted in the blessings of your Baptism and keep being built up to withstand the world's deceptions.

B. Built up to withstand the world's deceptions

The Apostle writes, “So then just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him rooted and built up in him ... See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:6-8 NIV84).

What's the greatest deception this world uses? That you can help out in your salvation. This lie covers a vast range. Some imagine that you gotta do it all because there isn't a real god up there or else he doesn't really care about us. Some say we just have to do what's within us and God will do the rest. Others say God gets things started and then we finish up. Some have long lists of self-denial and charitable deeds. Others will start by say Jesus did it all, but then they add “and all you gotta do is ...” It doesn't really matter how they finish that statement. For even though they claimed Jesus did it all, as soon as they add something that we must do to merit salvation, no matter how small it is, they are denying that Jesus truly did it all.

That lie was at work in the Apostle's day. For example, false teachers told the Colossians that although Jesus saved them they still needed to be circumcised and follow some other rules to really be saved. And the way this lie is told by the various religions and denominations today is too numerous to list.

Build yourself up on the truth of God's Word so that this lie does not deceive you no matter how subtle or how disguised it comes at you. For you see, when we walk with Jesus, we don't add anything to what he has done to save us.

How could we add anything? Jesus is God himself and all that we have, all that is good in us, comes from him. Paul writes, “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” (Colossians 2:9, 10 NIV84).

How could we add anything? Jesus has already taken all our guilt, that huge debt written out against us and signed by our name because we have violated God's commands and regulations. He has taken all that was against us, accusing us of our guilt -- he has taken it all and nailed it to the cross, putting an end to our guilt. If Jesus is the Savior the Bible says he is, then there is nothing left for us to do for our salvation. Paul writes, “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” (Colossians 2:13, 14 NIV84).

He could we add anything? Jesus has triumphed over all our enemies. He rose from the dead in victory. He paraded through hell as the conqueror. He is coming again as the almighty, glorious Judge. Paul writes, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:14 NIV84).

So, do you want to be led around captive by this lie wondering whether you have done enough or done the right thing, worrying, doubting, plagued by guilt? Or do you want to walk with Jesus trusting that he has done it all, so that you can focus on living for him? He has done it all, so that you can boldly do what is good and right. He has done it all for you. Walk with him.

As you walk with Jesus rooted in the blessing of your Baptism and built up to withstand the world's deception, then rather than a bad apple corrupting others, you will be bringing the Good News of life in Christ to them. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313

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