Summary: Enemies of God. That's what we once were. How could justice be satisfied to reconcile us to God? How can we keep our new relationship with him?

Text: Colossians 1:21-23

Theme: Christ Reconciled You to Present You As Holy

A. How severe our alienation was!

B. How costly his sacrifice!

C. How vital to stand firm on the Gospel!

Season: Pentecost 9c

Date: July 25, 2010

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit brings Jesus, our Savior, into our hearts is Colossians 1

"And as for you, who were once alienated and enemies by your attitude in all your wicked works -- he has now reconciled you in the body of his flesh through his death to present you as holy, spotless, and unaccused before him, if indeed you continue to remain in faith established and firm, not being moved away from the Gospel's hope -- that Gospel which you have heard, which has been preached to all creation under heaven, of which I, Paul, have become a servant." (Colossians 1:21-23)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

A. How severe our alienation was!

What's the difference between the Hutu and the Tutsi? They are both Central African ethnic groups. Their physical appearance is similar. They both speak the same languages and share the same culture. The religion of both groups is overwhelming Christian, predominately Roman Catholic. They frequently intermarry.

Yet all their similarities did not stop bloodshed and war between them, culminating in the Rwanda Genocide. An estimated 800,000 people were killed in 100 days starting April 6, 1994

Although the killing stopped over a decade and half ago, the reconciliation is far from complete. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has convicted 29 accused persons with more trials to come. Only the highest leaders and worst offenders end up before this court. The vast majority of the tens of thousands of accused go before the gacaca courts, a system of community justice. In these courts the victims and community have their say and the accused either confesses to gain a lesser punishment or tries to defend himself. But these gacaca courts have not achieved the reconciliation that they had aimed for.

Such is the story among people who can be so much alike and yet so hostile toward each other. And we're no different when you consider our own national history: two wars against England, our mother country; the Civil War with brother against brother; two world wars against Germany, the nationality from which more Americans trace their ancestry than from any other.

If such hostility can exist between those who are so similar, how much more so between those who are vastly different! But that, dear friends, is exactly what the situation was between us and God. We were completely alien, totally other than God. He is good; we were evil. He is light; we were darkness. He is love; we were hateful. He is life; we were death. He is giving; we were selfish. He is holy; we were sinners.

The Apostle Paul reminds us of that condition. He writes, "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior" (Colossians 1:21 NIV). From the inside out we were the opposite of God. Our mind, heart, soul, will, attitude, disposition, inner being opposed God. We strove to make our own version of a god and to set up our own standard of right and wrong. We sought to create our own happiness and establish our own security. We claimed to be our own masters, free to do as we saw fit, crediting ourselves for success and blaming even God for any disappointments.

That inborn natural self still wants to influence us against God. When we hear God's law tell us to be perfect, to love our enemies, to place God first, our inborn self tempts us to think: "That's not fair. It won't work. I dont' agree with that". Such thoughts and feelings prove how alienated from God we were.

And so also, no matter how beneficial or good our actions appeared to be in the eyes of others, all our acts were wicked in God's sight. Our entire behavior was evil. For our inner being, our mind and soul, was hostile toward God. Like water flowing from a contaminated well, all our actions that flowed from our heart and mind were polluted. They brought us death and hell.

"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior" (Colossians 1:21 NIV). How severe our alienation was!

B. How costly his sacrifice!

How could there be any kind of reconciliation? Reconciliation is so difficult even when people are similar. Look at the Hutu and the Tutsi, or consider the North and the South in our own Civil War. It takes years. Often a generation or more has to pass on. And the reconciliation that might come is more of a forgetfulness that restores relations rather than real reconciliation. So how could such an enemy as we were against God ever be reconciled to God, who does not pass on, who does not forget?

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