Putting off immoral behavior can seem a lot like legalism. So, how do we reconcile that we were saved by grace not works and that we need to put off immoral behavior? In this sermon, Greg shows that we need to trust in God’s reality instead of how we define our own reality.
Last week, we saw that when Paul adopted the reality that God gave him, he began to look crazy to those that didn’t understand God’s work in his life. Living out God’s reality doesn’t align with the wisdom of this world. Giving extravagantly and loving your enemies is not seen as a wise choice, but that is God’s reality for us.
As we get back into Colossians, we encounter a verse that most people see as a list of rules. When we follow the rules, God gives us blessings and if we don’t follow the rules, God’s wrath comes down on us. This is a lot like a cosmic Santa Claus. In this viewpoint, God is always watching us and is writing down everything we do wrong or right. He then blesses us or gives us his wrath based on his naughty or nice list.
Some people counter this viewpoint by saying that our bad behavior doesn’t matter at all. People believe in Jesus but keep acting in immoral ways because they’re saved by grace. This is a cheap grace theology. When people accept this grace but don’t change their lives to align with God’s reality, it doesn’t show the beauty of grace but rather it shows grace as cheap. But just as the Santa Clause viewpoint can’t make sense of being saved by grace through faith, cheap grace can’t make sense of Paul’s injunction here in Colossians to put away immoral behaviors.
Both of these camps miss the boat. We are absolutely saved by grace through faith and not of our own works. And that statement is not inconsistent with Paul stressing the urgency of putting off immoral behavior. For Paul, God’s reality shows us the path to living. Trusting the reality of God is why we should shed these immoral behaviors.
Paul tells us to put off immoral behavior because that is trusting that what God says is true is indeed true. We need to get real with God’s reality because our reality fundamentally changed when Jesus died and rose from the dead. The old was slain and a new creation was made. This is not a far off reality either. This is present here and now. Many want to say that our new creation is in the future when Christ returns, but Paul writes that it is here now. By rejecting this true reality, we begin to believe other viewpoints that are not God’s.
When we reject reality, we eventually crash up against true reality. A person can jump off a cliff and decide that they will reject the reality of gravity, but reality will eventually catch up to that person. In the same way, when we reject God’s reality, it eventually catches up to us. This is how the Bible defines God’s wrath. It’s not God up in the sky with a big stick. Rather, it’s the consequences of our actions when we reject God’s reality and choose our own. We eventually hit the ground because of our choices.
In Paul’s writings, we see a call to accept God’s reality as true. Paul usually states what is real, as God’s grace defines it. He then tells us to get our minds to conform to it and then tells us to get our behavior to line up with what is real. This passage in Colossians is no different. Paul spent many verses explaining the new reality that we have because of Jesus. And then he tells us to live out that reality by shedding our immoral behaviors. It’s not a way to become a part of God’s community, but rather it is accepting a new reality that God made for us on the cross.
It all comes down to who we’re going to trust to define reality. Will we trust ourselves and those around us for reality? Or will we trust God and the reality that he has created? We are to be a people that agree with God about what is real. This is faith. And living out that faith is living out the reality that God defines. It is believing what he says about himself in Jesus. It is believing what he says about us in Christ. And it’s about believing what he says about others in Christ. By living what God created, we will shed our immoral behaviors.
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6 thoughts on “Get Real”
God defines what is real and our job is to get our minds to line up with it.
We have to envision truth and put off everything that’s inconsistent with the truth.
Live consistent with what is real. Don’t live in contradiction to what is real.
The pattern we see in Pauls writings is that he will first state what is real, then he’ll encourage us to have faith in what is real (to trust it, to see it), and then he encourages us to live it.
This is the challenge of faith: to take what God says is true and to see it even when it conflicts with everything else in your experience.
It’s like we have to superimpose on a physical world the truth of God.
If we do this… If we take the time and are intentional about walking in faith and envisioning this…. it’s only to the degree we do that that we access the reality of what God says is real. And that’s what brings about the transformation in our life. The more we do that, the more we experience it, the more it feels true, the more alignment there is. But the converse is also true. The “reality principle” is that If we don’t do it, to that degree we’re going to be living in contradiction to the truth as God defines it. And so to that degree the things that God says are true are going to feel unreal to us, it’s going to feel artificial and our life isn’t going to manifest it. So everything hangs on us committing to do this.
The coin dropped into the slot! My goal is to change the way I view people. Now they all have unmeasurable worth. Praise the Lord, all glory is yours.
Hey Teresa, a great synopsis. Where you say “to that degree we’re going to be living in contradiction to the truth as God defines it. And so to that degree the things that God says are true are going to feel unreal to us”, Paul summarises it so well in Romans 1:25 “…they exchanged the truth of God for a lie…”….my paraphrase….they exchanged reality for unreality. It goes one step further where you mention “truth as God defines it”…is situation that only God is truth!
When Jesus was before Pilate He says “for this cause came I into the world — that I might bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
The whole creation was initially “true” or reality with man reflecting the image of God to creation with His attributes ie the fruits of the Spirit…love, joy, kindness etc. The fall changed all this to the extent that man lives the lie in unreality due to his own sinfulness. And, seeing the truth in Jesus, reminds them of their own sinfulness and why they wanted to kill the truth…Jesus.
So God in His great love provides a means for man to be restored to reality. So effectively, the church becomes a community true sons living this reality/truth to the rest of the world, guided by the Spirit of truth. Like Jesus and the apostles, it is no wonder that they (and we) come under such persecution as beacons of truth to sinful man…..who wants nothing better than to eradicate God from his presence/consciousness.
I found this publication to be great in understanding the whole matter…..although initially, I had issues getting into it in the first chapter, I skipped to P6 and it all unfolded from there:-
First, I have to say that I am a fan of Dr. Boyd and his work. The only exception I have is his opinions on the LGBT community. When he makes comments about being part of the new creation and that we need to get our minds in sync with what is real, given his opinion that the LGBT community is unnatural in their desires, should I come to the conclusion that they are not part of the new creation? I know that Woodland Hills is compassionate towards the LGBT community, and there seems to be a welcoming spirit in your church, but I wonder how authentic that spirit is. When the LGBT community has the legal right to marry, not if, but when, how will the church see this? Save for his opinion on the LGBT community, Dr. Boyd’s theology makes him my favorite preacher in the world.
Salve Matteo! Queste situazione e molto complesso!
I’m not aware that Dr. Boyd has ever stated that he felt that the LGBT community was “unnatural” in their desires – ref.?
From my perspective though, I’d say that anyone within the LGBT community who seriously accepts deeply in their heart, mind and soul, the tremendous Love that Jesus demonstrated towards us by going The Cross, then YES, they would absolutely be part of that “New Creation” – You Betcha! (Rom. 5:8 – that includes me and anyone else who sincerely wants onboard!) As far as WHC’s “authentic spirit” what do you have in mind and who personally would actually measure that?
Ultimately, I’m not sure how Greg and his Pastoral team would respond to a State or National legalization mandate on Gay marriage ? However, I guarantee you they would be significantly more delighted than let’s say, those members of “Minnesota For Marriage” Ha!
I don’t recall the sermon but he does mention the “ideal” of marriage as one man and one woman (don’t buy that as Jesus may mention Adam and Eve and divorce, but isn’t very concerned about marriage given when the Pharisees ask him about the woman whose husband dies and she has to marry the brother – and not to mention Paul being dismissive about). I don’t doubt that Woodland Hills is open to the LGBT as being part of the community, but affirming? Interesting to see how he’d react to when it is legal if he will marry a same-sex couple before the community. I just think his opinion implies the same ambivalence that is prevalent in the evangelical, well now, most of the Christian community in which they are being forced to take a stand on the issue without demonizing individuals and groups. There is the notion that there is a need to be compassionate, but I wonder where is that compassion grounded? Their “condition” which again forces the evangelical community to remove embedded prejudices about the human condition? Their inequality in society before the law? It’s just very unclear to get Christians to show their true colors without dismissing the issue as being “too complex” to take a stand and accept the fallout.