NTS Corlett Holiness Sermon – 2018

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Lesley Hansher – NTS Corlett Holiness Sermon

If any of you know me, you know that I am a verbal processor. My best thinking is done out loud, and I
have a lot of thoughts, so I talk…a lot. Sometimes, I journal, because talking is not always appropriate
(or so my elementary teachers told me). This verbal processing trait of mine means I most often pray out
loud. I had to learn to be creative in how, where, and when I would pray. It started as a little girl waiting
to be alone in my room. I would then set my teddy up against my headboard and talk to him, pretending
that Teddy was Jesus. As I got older, I was entrusted with a cell phone. It was a silver Samsung flip
phones, and it became my direct line to an active prayer life. In high school, I had a 20ish minute walk to
and from school every day, and this was a great time to pray…aka talk to God on my super cool cell
phone. I needed the phone there because it prevented me from looking like a weirdo talking to myself.
Now I am going to share a little bit about my life with you over these next few minutes. Not because I’m
looking for sympathy, but because it helps to tell a story of redemption, hope, and holiness. Holiness is a
journey, and I definitely don’t have it mastered, but there are key instances in my life that are obviously
the work of God’s hand.

Grade 11 was a hard year, probably my hardest year ever. My depression had peaked but it was not yet
diagnosed. I wasn’t sleeping, school was difficult, my relationship with my mom and step-dad, and my
dad and nana were fraught. I generally hated life and I blamed God for all of my hatred, bitterness,
anger, angst, sadness, and confusion because I thought God should have stopped it all from happening.
In October, I was over it. My walks home from school were quite expressive on my phone. I was in the
middle of what people could safely assume was a break-up, and it was a break-up. I was breaking up
with God. I said to God, “You know what, I hate you. I never want to talk to you again” and I slammed my
phone. This was a dark, dark place, and hanging up on God made it all the darker.

I went months without talking to God, and in those months some big things happened: I started to get
help, things came in to focus as to why I hated my life, but even though some good things were
happening I still hated God. I was pretending to be the good Christian girl that everyone knew me as,
but my heart looked very different, and I was okay with that because I was surviving. Fast forward to
April of grade 11; I was starting to come out of the fog I was in, and I began to re-realize that God
probably did not cause all of my pain. The more likely culprit was sin, the sin of my life and
unfortunately the sin of other people’s lives.

I started to think about my break-up with God and realized that I was the one who was wrong…who
breaks up with God?!

One night in April, as I sat cross-legged on my bed I took a deep breath, opened up my cell phone, put it
to my ear, and before I could even say a word I heard God say, “Lesley, I’ve been waiting by the phone for
you to call me back.”

With that, I believed in a good God again.
That night my life began to change. It was a slow change, but it was real. I was still living with severe
depression, but I was also living with hope. This transformation was slow because I had to first unlearn
a lot of things before I could truly learn new things. In some ways, I had to take off my old self in order to
put on my new self. I began to live in my identity as being one of God’s chosen, holy, and beloved ones.
I had to learn what these verses from Colossians meant. Listen to what Paul writes in Colossians 3:12-
17, <span class=”s1″>12 </span>Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility,
meekness, and patients, <span class=”s1″>13 </span>bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving
each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. <span class=”s1″>14 </span>And above all these put on love,
which binds everything together in perfect harmony. <span class=”s1″>15 </span>And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to
which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. <span class=”s1″>16 </span>Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with
thankfulness in your hearts to God. <span class=”s1″>17 </span>And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of
the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

You see, the church in Colosse were most likely Gentile converts. They understood what life before
Jesus looked like. Remember that list of emotions I said earlier, the ones that consumed my life? Paul
writes a similar list in chapter 3:8, “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander,
and onset talk from your mouth. <span class=”s1″>9 </span>Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with
its practices <span class=”s1″>10 </span>and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of the
creator.”

In regard to living into the identity of being God’s chosen ones who are holy and beloved, there has to be
a switch. The Colossians were instructed to put away the previous ways and then put on new ways. The
Greek word for “put on” is ενδύσασθε (en-DOO-sauce-the), and it literally means “put on.” Some Bible
translations use the word clothe here and that is a beautiful image. It is difficult to put on new articles of
clothing overtop other layers of clothing.

These ways of the old self are akin to a skirt suit. Now if you have no idea what I’m talking about try to
stick with me. Skirts suits look great but they’re not practical. You have to take tiny steps, you can’t bend
over, jumping for joy is more difficult…they’re just not very helpful, they’re like anger, and malice, and
lying trying to put on the really practical jeans and t-shirt (aka compassion and kindness) overtop of
them just doesn’t work. Putting jeans over a skirt is hard and awkward. So one has to take off the suit
(the anger and malice) in order to put on jeans and t-shirt (the attributes of being holy and beloved). So
when Paul says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness,
humility, meekness and patience,” the Colossians knew that the old had to go.

And I think that might be similar for us in regard to living as God’s chosen holy and beloved ones. I at
least know it was for me. That night in April I had to begin the humbling process of taking off my old
ways: not harboring resentment, offering forgiveness, loving the people in my life, and through Jesus’
work on the cross that was possible. And it continues to be possible, not only for me but for all of us
here. That’s the first trademark of holiness that we see in this Colossians 3 passage: we are going to be
different. We are going to act differently, treat people better, and probably look different. Have you ever
noticed how non-angry people look less angry?

Further down in verse 14, Paul writes, “and above all these put on love, which binds everything together in
perfect harmony.”

Yup, that’s right, Paul is saying there is even more; the Colossians are to put on love also because love is
the binding agent. This kind of love is an agape kind of love—pure, selfless, and models the love of
Jesus. When I began to experience this kind of love my world started to change. I had built up walls to
protect myself from basically everyone else in the world, and when I began to see those people—the
ones who I had tried to push away—as loved children of God it was harder to hate them. Even the
people in my life who abused me, it was hard to hate them because of this agape kind of love. And I
suspect it was the same for the Colossians. They were living within a culture that did not believe in the
One True God and Paul was instructing them to show love to everyone, not just their fellow worshipers.
It is by recognizing that God’s love knows no boundaries that we can begin to unify as his children, and
that more of his children will come to live into this identity as God’s chosen ones, who are holy and
beloved. So that is a second trademark of living a holy life—agape love. We put on love and express it to
who? All humankind, because everyone is loved by God.

So far in this text, we have seen how holiness affects our relationship with other people, but in verses 15
and 16, we see how holiness affects our relationship with God. Our relationship with God is essential in
regard to living a holy life because if we are trying to be holy without the presence of the Lord in our life,
we are doing something terribly wrong. Paul writes that the Peace of Christ can rule our hearts and that
the Word of Christ can dwell within us richly. After that night in April, I daily had to make the choice to
listen to God’s voice instead of my own or even the voice of my loved ones. I had to learn about God,
learn his voice, and spend time with him. And I am pretty sure that Paul understood that this is an
important discipline in life, otherwise, he wouldn’t have mentioned it.

But what does it mean to have the peace of Christ rule our hearts? I believe it means that the Colossians
are to have confidence about who Christ is and what that means for them. By letting the peace of
Christ rule their hearts they are letting the work of Christ on the cross and in the resurrection firmly
establish them as belonging to the family of God, or as Paul writes, one body. There is a very special
sense of peace that comes when one is at peace and recognizes the value and worth of salvation, in
regard to this, John Wesley himself said, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ,
Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was mine that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and
saved me from the law of sin and death.” When this kind of peace rules our hearts the only response is
thankfulness. But our relationship with God doesn’t stop here.

Paul goes on to say “Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly.” Can you imagine what this kind of life
looks like, life permeated by Christ and his word? When Christ’s presence is so alive in our life
responding in all of the earlier characteristics Paul writes is the only possibility, because that is who
Christ is. Do you understand what this means? This means that as we live in intimate communion with
God, we can’t help but start to show the same characteristics of Jesus. At some point, this relationship
becomes the most important part of our life. It is so important that we avoid doing anything that could
possibly disturb this relationship. We do everything to keep this relationship pure. So that is the third
aspect of holiness that we learn from this passage: we need to be so in-tune with God that we not only
have the peace of Christ, but God’s heartbeat becomes our pulse for life. That is holiness, and although
it starts here, it doesn’t end here.

You see, Paul goes on to assert that everything is different when you experience Christ. He writes “and
whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the
Father through him. Our relationship with God—Holiness—impacts every aspect of our life. I felt a call to
ministry when I was just 9 years old, and I have wavered in this call—I have lost my sense of peace and
an intimate relationship with God—but as I grew and learned to trust God after calling him back in that
April many years ago, I have begun to experience what Paul is talking about. Where every moment of
my life is impacted by God. My struggle with self-harm began to look different in the name of Jesus, my
feelings about my abuser changed in the name of Jesus. This verse, in a lot of ways, has brought me
here, to standing in front of you today, because it involves everything. Paul was encouraging the
Colossians to do everything with Jesus in mind—from the moment they woke up to the moment they fell
asleep because Holiness impacts every fiber of a person, which is the fourth characteristic of holiness
that we see in this text.

When we put on the attributes of God’s holy and beloved chosen ones, love with an agape kind of love,
live in relationship with and confidence of Jesus, and do everything in his name, we fulfill what we are
supposed to do. God’s will for our life is not one particular career path, church assignment, or success,
rather, it is complete and utter dependence on him. It is being perfectly obedient to him. One of my
professors described living a holy life to being a pen. Here I have two pens. I have this beautiful pen,
there’s not a scratch on it, and then I have this pen, the one I keep in my purse. From appearance only, it
looks like this nice perfect looking pen would be the perfect pen to have, but look what happens when I
try to write with it—nothing. It doesn’t work, it looks great, but there’s something wrong on the inside.
On the flip side though, this other pen, the one that is scratched and has definitely seen better days,
when I write with it, it writes. This leads me to believe that this yucky looking pen is actually the perfect
pen because it does what it’s supposed to do…it writes.

And so it is with us. If we don’t look perfect on the outside, that’s okay, because what really matters is
what comes out of us. I remember what life was like in grade 11, I still live with some of those struggles
and consequences today, but life in pursuit of God is so much better. It’s difficult, and sometimes my old
clothes try to come back into fashion, but that’s okay because they don’t last for long because a
relationship with God is much more important. God is longing for us to give him our all. In this moment
and the next.

So in closing, I want to ask all of us to take a quick inventory of lives.
Have we put on compassionate hearts, kindness, meekness, and patience, forgiveness for one another?
Do love and let love bind us to one another?

Do we spend time on our relationship with God, seeking to have Christ richly fill us and to give us peace
about himself?

Is every moment of our day done in the name of Jesus?

The answers to these questions are between you and God, but now is a great time to once again lean
into God and have him remind you of your identity as his holy and beloved chosen ones.

Let us pray.

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