Fully Alive – Canon Greg McMullin
Colossians 2:6-19 “Fully Alive” Trinity 7
One of the most prominent motivational speakers today, and bestselling author, Brendon Buchard recently wrote a book entitled The Charge: Activating the 10 human drives that make you feel alive. In his book Buchard cites three questions that he says got him awake to life and sparked his desire to live fully alive. He said “At the end of our lives, we will all ask, ‘Did I live?’ ‘Did I love?’ ‘Did I matter?
Throughout the corridors of history and even in the present day there are numerous people who have grappled with questions like these in their earnest attempt to not just live but to live fully. Here are some of the top performers:
Gladys Burrill Ran a Marathon, at Age 92. she finished the race, which took place in Honolulu, in nine hours, 53 minutes and 16 seconds.
In 1987, Teiichi Igarashi, a former lumberjack, climbed Japan’s tallest mountain, Mt. Fuji, at Age 100. (George Kelly, I am sure you will show him up!) (TURN SLIDE)
On July 31, 1948, his 82nd birthday, tightrope walker William Ivy Baldwin did his last walk over a canyon in Eldorado Springs in Colorado.
In 2013, on her fifth attempt, Diana Nyad swam from Cuba to Florida at age 64.
John Glenn went to space at age 77.
And last but not least, my mother-in-law, Pat Crowther, in June 2019 dug deep, straining every fiber of muscle, with great gusto to cross the Olympic finish line in Athens. At the age of…saying any more would be extremely hazardous to my health.
We admire these kinds of people because they attempt to achieve what I think most of us desire: not just to live, but to live fully or put another way – not just to survive but to be fully alive.
It is this issue that the apostle Paul meets head on in the second chapter of his epistle to the Colossians, in a sense tackling the three big questions: He can be said to tackle the three big questions at the end of our life here as wee know it: ‘Did I live?’ ‘Did I love?’ ‘Did I matter? But for Paul, to live a full life is not about dazzling feats, it’s not about extraordinary human achievements but rather it has to do with something far simpler and greater, and it is available not just to the over-achiever but to the ordinary person.
For Paul the key to be fully alive involves at least 4 vital principles.
And so we begin at verse 6 of Colossians chapter 2: The Word of the Lord given to Paul the apostle:
6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Principle #1 is this: To be fully alive requires that we be established in faith.
As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord…. To receive – literally in the Greek is the word “paralambano” – it has to do with taking someone alongside with oneself or in the sense of receiving from others a tradition, in this case the apostolic gospel centering on the person of Jesus.
What prompted faith in the lives of the Christians in the Colossian church? ? The object of Christ – the fullness of God in Christ Jesus.
In recognizing that fullness of God in Jesus – Paul appeals to us what he sees in the lives of the Colossian Christians: lives totally dependent on him by faith - established, rooted in Jesus.
You know, this last month has been wonderful for me. The course in Jerusalem and throughout the Holy land was amazing beyond words. I want to take the time to tell you more about it…. maybe after a Sunday morning service this fall…. I have all three thousands pictures to share with you. Won’t that be fun? But as good as it was to travel abroad, I felt like a bit of a drifter, an outsider looking in but without roots. ….but back home I feel established, rooted with my feel on more secure ground.
I think what Paul is saying to the church at Colossae and to the church here today is simply this: People, you want to be fully alive? Then get your feet planted on secure ground where there is the fullness of God - Jesus Christ. Get rooted. Let Him be your life source so that you can see life as a gift everything around you as a gift, . Draw your life from Him. Be ESTABLISHED in your faith.
Principle #2: To be fully alive is to be aligned to truth.
Continuing at verse 8, we read:
8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ.9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
Paul issues a word of warning, to the Church at Colossae ad to the church here today: It is a call to be vigilant. Essentially the Word is this: “That if you want to be fully alive, be constantly watchful lest you be led astray to – the Greek word that Paul uses is the word ‘sulagogeo’ which means “to lead into captivity. In other words, “don’t let the current thinking of the day, the popular philosophy and the modern “take” on morality lead you into captivity because you are not going to find full aliveness in captivity of any thinking that goes against the teaching of God Word.”
Friends I don’t say this lightly because my heart breaks for people who are experiencing confusion regarding their human sexuality but I believe deeply in my heart that Paul, and more poignantly our Lord Jesus, would have the same thing to say to us Anglicans in the aftermath of our church’s General Synod a few weeks ago in Vancouver. I believe as our church’s teaching on marriage was being discussed the same word to the church would be given, the word: 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by the philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ.9
Absolutely, our hearts ought to bleed for all people - to respect the dignity of every human being and to welcome all persons into the church of Jesus and to love them with the love of Christ but none of that means that in order to do so, we come up with our own philosophy of marriage or of anything else. In the Book of the prophet Isaiah we hear the words:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8.
In the midst of the multitude of the public crowds today, truth must be heralded. …Including the truth about marriage: the institution of marriage given by God in Christ to all humanity for all time for every generation: past, present and future – Holy marriage between one man and one woman till death they do part.
True life, full life can come not by modern philosophies or theologies but only by the truth, the truth of Christ.
Principle #3: To be fully alive is to be in solidarity with the life of Jesus, One with Jesus Christ.
Paul goes onto say:
9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him,
You see by our nature, we are incomplete persons. The fall of man has led to a condition of incompleteness. By our nature we are out of touch with God, alive but not fully alive, not spiritually wakened.
Only through the miracle of regeneration, whereby God performs extensive heart surgery – circumcision of the heart, given us new birth, union with Christ can we then partake in the life of God, can we reach our completeness.
That is exactly what we pray for these dear children; Desmond and George brought to be baptized here this morning. That by the grace of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, God honoring the commitment to Jesus Christ made for them by their parents and sponsors, that they would experience extensive spiritual heart surgery, “circumcision” of the heart so that they would do what their sinful nature won’t allow them to do - to love Jesus, to have their lives be in real union with Jesus.
Isn’t it what needs to have happened to all of us?
That just as Jesus died as was buried so must all who are baptized into Christ. We must die. Die to our will. Die to our personal ambitions. Die to our selfishness. Die to our agendas. Die to allowing sin to have mastery over us. And then, just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so too must we be raised: Raised to new priorities. Raised to new purpose. Raised to new commitment. Raised to hope. Raised to joy. Raised to new life in Jesus Christ. Having our lives in solidarity, in oneness with Jesus…. sharing His life that we can have life and have it to the full.
Dietrich Bonheoffer was a German pastor in Nazi Germany during the second world. He dared to challenge the horrific atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime against Jews and others victims. Bonheoffer was imprisoned a Flossenburg where he awaited court martial proceedings and his death sentence. Biographer, Michael Van Dyke describes Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s final day at Flosenburg:
At dawn the next morning, Dietrich was taken from his cell and ordered to strip. Before he was taken to the gallows, he was allowed to kneel and pray on the cold concrete floor. Then he was taken outside. A camp doctor was standing by to confirm Dietrich’s death. Later he reported, “ In almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
And then Michael Van Dyke concludes:
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life can serve as a model for 21st century Christians who are faced with the prospect of newly emerging paganisms and overweening rulers. While the world will never make it convenient for us to be disciples of Christ, Bonhoeffer showed that it is possible to grow in faith through any circumstance, and to be a disciple in any situation or dilemma. He showed, however, that this could only be done if the disciple was willing to count the cost, and to pay it in full if necessary.
Being a disciple a leaner of Jesus can only really happen when we are willing to live in complete solidarity with Jesus – one in his suffering and dearth and one with him in his rising to new life.
And then Principle #4 is simply this: To be fully alive is to have the debt of sin cancelled.
Paul writes in the concluding words of our epistle for today:
13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities[b] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.[c]
I once read a marvelous story about a country doctor in Scotland who had a very poor practice. Although his patients would pay him in eggs, chickens, vegetables at harvest, and meat at slaughtering time, his huge ledger book would contain many names, symptoms, treatments, and prescriptions, but a lot of empty boxes or columns where nothing was paid. Once per year, the doctor would go through his book and write "Forgiven" wherever he knew the patients would never be able to pay.
When the doctor died and his heirs received all of his material possessions, they brooded over the ledger book and all of the "Forgiven" debts. Eventually, they tried to take some of the patients to court. But as the judge gave close examination of the ledger he declared: Nothing is owed here. All has been forgiven.”
If everything we do wrong or every bad thought were a dollar of debt how much would we owe? Or if every good thing that we should do but leave undone were a dollar of debt how much would we owe?
Jesus says to any sinner who comes to him, any sinner who repents of their sins, this is the payment for your debt. It is al for you. Get out from under the weight of your debt. Go and be free.” Christian scholar John Stott writes: “God frees us from our bankruptcy only by paying our debts on Christ’s Cross. More than that. He has not only cancelled the debt but also destroyed the document on which it was recorded.”
That’s what it is to be fully alive! Established in faith, aligned by truth, one with the life of Jesus, and freed from the debt of sin.
It was the ancient church father, Irenaeus who said, the glory of God is a man fully alive.”
As we strive today with all our might to live to the glory of God, be men, women and children fully alive. Amen.
Lord, help us to become people of prayer. Make us fully alive in you. Help us see that staying connected with you gives us more life than we can imagine. For Jesus’ sake, Amen