A New Song

Greg preachingNote to the reader

I preached this sermon on Thursday, September 27, 2018 in the chapel on the L.T. Marangu campus of Africa Nazarene University (Ongata-Rongai, Kenya).

N.B. – All Scripture references are from the Common English Bible.

Text: Colossians 3:12-17

I. INTRODUCTION

Have you ever had an earworm? You know what I mean by that. Have you ever gotten a song stuck in your head? Maybe it was the first song you heard when you woke up, or the last song you listened to before going to sleep at night. However it happened, it’s stuck in your brain and you can’t get away from it. At first, it was pleasant, but how that you’re hearing it for the 57th time, it’s just plain annoying. In fact, if you don’t get the song out of your head soon, it’s going to drive you crazy! What do you need? A new song, a better song. To drive out the old, find something new.

II.  TRANSITION TO COLOSSIANS 3:12-17

In Colossians 3:16, Paul invites us to sing a new song, a better song. He writes:

The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing songs, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

III.  THE OLD SONG

Earlier in chapter 3, Paul details the sour notes of the old song. These are the dischordant strains, the off-key melodies of the life of sin and selfishness. Verse 5 lists these practices: sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed. Then v. 8 adds anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. Verse 9 wraps up the list with a simple command: “Don’t lie to each other.”

These 11 practices, this dirty laundry list, make up the old song we used to sing before we came to Christ. But now, God has given us the Holy Spirit. The Lord has put a new song in our hearts, a better song. Verse 2 puts it this way:

Think about the things above and not things on earth. You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (CEB).

If we continue in our old ways, in the ways of sin and disobedience to God, there will be a price to pay. I’ve never met a person who practices the 11 sins Paul enumerates who in the long run is well-adjusted and who lives in peace and contentment. And the reason is simple: Every one of the practices mentioned – in one way or another – destroys community.

This is Africa, where Ubuntu teaches us that “I am because we are.” Yet greed, moral corruption, rage, and slander (to mention a few) push others away. And in the end, this old bitter song on our lips will have people plugging their ears so they don’t have to listen to it. You will be singing off-key, all alone.

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God’s four-step path to healing

DSCN4860Three words on a package of bananas – “Do not refrigerate” – instantly transported me back in time.

I was 16 and it was my first day on the job at the supermarket. My manager gave me simple instructions:

Take the skids off the truck, then stack the boxes of produce in the cooler.

The truck arrived, I did my work, then clocked out and went home.

The next day, my boss was furious. “Why did you put boxes of bananas in the cooler?” For the next several days, blackened bananas sold at deep discount on the sales floor. I’d messed up…majorly.

Most of us can recall times when we’ve missed the mark not just by a little but by a lot. However good our intentions, the end result was disastrous. We let someone down and may have even caused them deep pain. A shattered marriage, a bankruptcy, a broken trust – the consequences of our failure are plain to see and cut deep.

Thankfully, there’s a four-step path to healing.

First, let us resist the temptation to call sin by any other name. Instead, we have to admit we were wrong and be willing to change. Proverbs 28:13 reminds us: “People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy” (NLT).

Secondly, let us accept God’s forgiveness. “As far as the east is from the west,” writes the Psalmist, “so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12, NIV).

Third, let us ask forgiveness from the person we wronged. James 5:16 promises healing, yet there is a prerequisite. We are to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other. Three of the most powerful words in any language are these: “I forgive you.” Reconciliation between people allows God’s healing to take root deep in our heart.

Finally, let us forgive ourselves. In Tramp for the Lord, Corrie Ten Boom talks about what God did with her sins once she confessed them: “When I confessed them to the Father, Jesus Christ washed them in his blood. They are now cast into the deepest sea and a sign put up that says, ‘NO FISHING ALLOWED.’ ” Like Paul, ours is to forget what is behind us and stretch toward what God has in-store for us (Phil. 3:13-14). God long ago forgave us. Are we willing to cut ourselves a break?

All of us have our own “bananas in the cooler” moment. There are times when there’s no way around it. We blundered, big time. Yet God doesn’t want us to stay mired in our guilt and shame. The Lord offers a path to healing. Are we ready to walk it, together?