The story that we live by is very important to the way we see this world. In this sermon, Greg shows us how the story we live by is dictated by our social context. In addition, we learn how to reinforce the gospel message in our lives.
In the late 1970s, there was a rash of young, Hmong men who were dying of heart attacks in their sleep. Local scientists and doctors were at a loss as to what was actually causing these men to die. And, most Hmong attributed it to a night demon named Dab Tsog. This story illustrates how our brains instinctively interpret experiences according to the story we live in. The Hmong were literally scaring themselves to death because of their story, and according to Shelley Adler, this fear of demons was causing these men to have heart attacks in their sleep when they suffered from sleep paralysis.
It’s not just sleep paralysis where we interpret our experiences according to the story we live in. We do this all the time. We all have our own story that we use to interpret everything that happens in our world. This is how we interpret right and wrong and live our lives. For one person, having fun as a child is a good thing and for another it leads to irresponsibility; all because of the story they live in. Our stories tell us how to feel about things that happen.
In Colossians 3, Paul asks for everyone to let the message of Christ dwell among them richly. The message of Christ is the story of God whose loving character is fully revealed on the cross. The story centers on the cross but it encompasses the whole story of Israel leading up to the cross and the story of the Church to follow the cross. And this story is meant to dwell abundantly among us and in us. We are to have the message around us and in us, and way to get the second is to get the first.
It’s possible to believe in Jesus and not have the message of Christ richly around us, and thus not richly in us. It’s possible to believe and yet have the message of the world abundantly surround us. It’s possible that we believe in Christ and yet not have anything about his story feel real to us.
Whereas Christ’s story is one of redemption, beauty and grace, we can often believe the story of this world. Stories where we are losers and not loveable. Stories that say we need more to be happy. Stories that we require us to acquire and impress to get the things we need. Because it’s not what we intellectually believe that tells our story, but the overall narrative that plays the most important role.
In order to have the gospel surround us abundantly, we must encourage and admonish one another with all the wisdom through the psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. We are to surround ourselves with the message of Christ by having a social context where we teach each other the story, encouraging and modeling the story Christ wrote. To the degree that we do this, the Gospel story of the cross will get inside of us.
The New Testament continually stresses the importance of being in community with other followers of Jesus. Individualistic Christianity just doesn’t work. The abundance of the gospel in our lives is determined by how much Christian community we have around us. To get the story richly in your life, you must have the story dwelling richly around you. Together, we remind ourselves of the covenant and the beautiful story of Israel, the Cross and the Church that followed it.
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