First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, April 11, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“A New Position, A New Reality, A New Focus!”
Psalm 119:33-37; Colossians 3:1-4
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the center of everything that we believe as Christians. Without the sacrificial death of Jesus and His victorious resurrection, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins. In his defense of the resurrection, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” In this single event, Christ's life, ministry, and mission were validated.
The resurrection has always been so central to the Christian faith. Therefore, Easter should not be understood as an annual celebration, rather, the church is supposed to remember and celebrate Christ’s resurrection every single week. That’s why the Body of Christ, the church, gets together every Sunday. That weekly gathering is meant to remind us that we are a resurrection people.
Now the important question is: what does it mean to live as a resurrection people? What does it mean to be a resurrection people? I believe Easter is a two-sided story. It’s true that Easter is about Christ’s resurrection from the dead, but at the same time, it’s our resurrection too. Christ had been raised and we also were raised with Him. It’s a new position, a new reality, and a new focus.
Out of this new position, new reality, and new focus, the apostle Paul draws at least two important implications in Colossians chapter 3. So on this Second Sunday of Easter, I would like to underscore two ways our lives should reflect the resurrection of Christ.
First: Seeking the Things that are Above
Writing to the believers in Colossi, Paul says, “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” For Paul, the resurrection was a turning point. It was a turning point to the disciples of Jesus, and it should be to us. Everything flows from this new reality. Since we have already been “raised up with Christ, we are to seek the things that are above. Paul uses the Greek word, “συνηγέρθητε” which literally means, “you’ve been co-resurrected; to raise together; to raise along with.”
The compass of our lives should point toward heaven. So when we make decisions, major or minor, we should ask ourselves: do these things have eternal value? Do they bring us closer to God? Do they honor God? Do they reflect our love to Christ? Is God pleased with them? In a culture that seems to be seeking everything but God, Christ’s followers are to seek the things of God.
What we seek speaks volumes about who we truly are. The things that we pursue and chase after reveal our true identity. No wonder that Jesus called His followers in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” In Psalm 119:10 David says, “I seek you with all my heart.” What are we seeking? What are we striving for? What is our passion in life? What is the deep desire of your heart? Seeking the things that are above will regulate the rhythm of our lives.
Second: Setting our Minds on Things that are Above
Paul gives us another important implication of a life that has been raised with Christ. In Colossians 3:2 Paul says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” This is an intentional and deliberate process. By default, we are drawn toward the things of this world. It’s only by God’s grace that we can have our minds set on things that are above.
Martin Luther, the 16th century German Protestant Reformer, once challenged one of his students by saying, “I’ll get you a new horse and carriage (wagon) if you can pray the Lord’s Prayer and concentrate on every phrase without losing your train of thought.” “No problem,” the young man said. After he had prayed the prayer, he, however, confessed to Martin Luther, “all I could think about was the horse and carriage (wagon).” As much as he tried to concentrate and focus on the Lord’s Prayer, his mind was drawn elsewhere. Setting our minds and hearts on things above is a deliberate and intentional focusing of our hearts and thoughts on what really matters.
Friends, this “seeking” and “setting” are not one-time actions. They are not occasional acts, but they are continual and ongoing characteristics of the Christian life. We are distracted people who definitely live in a very distracted culture. That’s why I am saying these are continual marks of our faith journey. We are prone to wonder, then God reminds us of our new position, our new reality, and our new focus.
The resurrection of Christ calls Christ’s followers to a radical change. Later in Colossians 3:9-10 Paul expressed the radical change by saying, “you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Last Sunday, we shouted our “Alleluias” as a response to the good news of Christ’s resurrection. Christ is no longer physically present in our world. It’s our responsibility to live a life worthy of our calling. May the Lord turn our hearts to His decrees and not to selfish gain. May the Lord turn our eyes from looking at vanities and give us life in His ways. It’s our calling now to live as resurrection people. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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