Christian author C. S. Lewis wrote, “There is a stage in a child's life at which it cannot separate the religious from the merely festal character of Christmas or Easter. But of course the time comes when a child can no longer effortlessly and spontaneously enjoy that unity of chocolate eggs and Jesus risen. He will eventually become able to distinguish the spiritual from the festal aspect of Easter and when he does chocolate eggs will no longer seem sacramental. And once he has distinguished he must put one or the other first. If he puts the spiritual first he can still taste something of Easter in the chocolate eggs. If he puts the eggs first they will soon be no more than any other sweetmeat. They will have taken on an independent, and therefore a soon withering, life.”
God’s word puts it this way in Colossians chapter 3:1-4 “Accordingly, you have been raised up with Christ, so keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Keep minding the things above, not the things on the earth. For you died, and your life has been hidden together with Christ in God; when Christ, your life, shall be made visible, then also you together with Him shall be made visible in glory.”
Colossians was addressed to Christians who were facing a group of people trying to enforce rules they had made up on their own. So God used the Apostle Paul to write this text to encourage those Christians to refuse to bend or bow to man-made religious rules because all they do is lead people to focus on “the things on the earth.” In other words, this word of God was then, and is today, God’s power that people believe there is ultimately no physical or material threat to fear for your life and there is ultimately no physical or material reward worth giving away your life.
In a world paralyzed with fear depending upon who’s president or what the stock market is doing, in the church susceptible to fear over the decline of Christianity and the ascent of Islam, to you and me anxious in staying married or no longer being married, anxious in raising our children or in our children raising their children, how can it be that there is no real physical threat that can take your life away?
Because Jesus Christ faced the only ultimate threat there is — the wrath of God. There is no greater threat to a sinner than the wrath of God. And Jesus Christ is God who became human also in order to put himself under divine judgment, for our sin, and it cost him his life. He gave away his life in order to give us life that cannot be taken away. Though innocent, he was judged guilty though guilty we would be judged innocent. And so he served our death and damnation sentence that we would be pardoned to a life that cannot be taken away.
So what "threat" are you fearing? Injustice? Betrayal? Loneliness? Unanswered prayer? Homelessness? Abuse? Abandonment? Persecution? Death? Go ahead. Name it. Better yet, confess it. Repent of it. For Jesus Christ already faced every such threat for you. And therefore there is no threat that poses you any threat.
Because in Jesus, your sin is forgiven, death is destroyed, the devil is defeated, and the one, only true living creator of heaven and earth God is not angry with you. He has no need to be appeased by you following silly man-made rules.
And, in a world parading the glories of the newest car or the latest clothes or the biggest house, in false churches peddling the glories of self-improvement and emotional experience, to you and me naturally persuaded into the glories of self-promotion, self-determination, self-gratification, how can it be there is no real physical or material reward worth giving away your life?
Because Jesus Christ really is the living God in flesh. He really did die and serve our death sentence. He really did rise from the dead. And he really is “seated at the right hand of God.” Jesus Christ is being glorified by angels, archangels and all the company of heaven lauding and magnifying his glorious name evermore praising him and singing, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
So in contrast to Jesus’ glory what pale glory has your eye? Power? Popularity? Luxury? Recreation? Being served? Piety? Go ahead. Name it. Better yet, confess it. Repent of it. For Jesus Christ already turned it down. Because it offers only withering life.
Jesus Christ gives the life because Jesus Christ is the life. He baptizes people into his life and it’s the greatest life there is. It doesn’t wither. And it makes no sense to give it away. For in Jesus, being in the church is not frenemies, but family. Serving in the church is not hobby, but habit. Going to worship is not burden, but blessing. In Jesus, any medical report is not panic, but peace. Any funeral is not tragedy, but testimony. These are “the things above.” These are the glories of God Jesus gives to people. In this world there is no better life.
And when, at the last day, Jesus comes again, all the glories of God Jesus gives now will be made full and complete forever. For in the new heaven and the new earth to come, there will be no more fear, no more death. And Jesus will give the life of true joy that will never end.
Kevin Wendt is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Destin.