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571Homily for 12/29/13 - 2b4nat - New Life in Christ

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  • David
    Dec 29, 2013
      Col 4:4-11

      As we come up on the civil new year, we come also to the time when it is
      fashionable to make resolutions about changing one’s own life for the
      better. Now is the time to make a resolution to get rid of old “bad�
      habits and to start to establish new good “habits.� It seems that most
      commonly people will vow to change things that they see as unhealthy
      like watching too much TV or smoking and to begin to do things that they
      see as healthy like exercising, spending more time with family, eating
      healthy or losing weight. Sometimes these goals are realistic and
      sometimes they are doomed from the start. But no matter, because this is
      the time of the new year with new starts and new lives.

      It is therefore appropriate today that every year at this time we hear
      this reading from the epistle of St Paul to the Colossians. In it we are
      reminded that we have “put off the old man with all his deeds; and have
      put on the new man…� In Christ we do not have to wait for the new year
      to make resolutions and to put off the old and “ring in the new� because
      we are already “new men� in Christ and the “old man� of our sin has been
      replaced.

      The “old man� is familiar to us since he is in our past. We know his
      works because we have seen them in our former lives. We have seen the
      emptiness and destructive power of these characteristics and have made
      the decision that we no longer wish to participate in them. The Apostle
      can list these characteristics for us because they already exist in us.
      And he calls upon us to abandon these behaviors because they no longer
      define our new life which is in Christ. This new life is not described
      in the same detail as that of the old because it is not yet a reality,
      but is a new potential which we are called to work out and actualize in
      our own lives.

      Our “new man� is not actually something that did not previously exist,
      but rather it is the renewal of the image of God in us with which we
      were created. It is a life without barriers between men who have put it
      on for those barriers separate us not only from one another, but from
      God. This life is one of union with Jesus Christ, “who is all and is in
      all.�

      When God made man, it was His purpose that we should life a life in
      union and communion with Him. The path to this life of communion with
      God was set before us, we only had to embrace it and walk on it in
      accordance with the commandments of God. But our first parents, Adam and
      Eve, succumbed to the temptation of the evil one and stepped off that
      path, choosing to step outside the life that God had provided for them.
      When they were confronted with their sin, they did not repent, but tried
      first to hide their sin, then to blame one another. This sin still
      remains with us today for we have abandoned the life of communion with
      God and live a life in which we hide our sin, thus erecting a barrier
      between ourselves and God and we blame one another, thus erecting
      barriers between ourselves. From a shared life of communion with God and
      one another, we have created for ourselves a life of separation and
      estrangement.

      In Christ, however, that life of estrangement – the old man – is set
      aside. When we repent of our sins and renounce the sinful life to which
      we are tempted by the devil, we are forgiven by God and we are rescued
      from that life of enslavement to sin and estrangement from God and man
      by the God/man Jesus Christ. He restores us to the path of salvation
      that we had abandoned and renews in us the life of union and communion
      with God that had been distorted and marred and that we had lost though
      our sin.

      We know that we have died to the old man, having ascended the cross with
      Christ and we have been buried with Christ, having left the old man
      behind and we have been raised with Christ putting on the new man. The
      sins of the old life no longer have any power over us and the new life
      lies before us as a fresh path – indeed the path of salvation. Seeing
      this, the Apostle exhorts us to put off the old man and all his deeds,
      forsaking those things which created our estrangement from God and man,
      and instead to live according to the new life that Christ has restored
      in us.

      This old life, although it no longer has any power over us, although we
      have been freed from its tyranny, still tries to call us back. The old
      habits of that life pull at us. We are accustomed to put ourselves
      first, to want to arrange things our own way and not to trust God to
      order our lives. We are accustomed to doing things to please only
      ourselves and not to care for others. These old habits still pull at us
      and we have to actively resist them. We do not need to recount the sins
      already mentioned here by the apostle because they are familiar to us –
      too familiar by far. We do need to realize that all of these sins serve
      only to estrange ourselves from others by elevating us over them and in
      our relationships with others relegating them to instruments of our own
      pleasure and tools to satisfy our own desires. We dehumanize them and in
      so doing set ourselves apart from and, in our own delusion, “above�
      them. These sins also serve to estrange us from God because they take us
      away from the path that He provides and gives us the illusion that we
      can find our way without Him. We reject and fight against the provision
      of God for us, insisting on our own way, our own desires, our own will.
      This is the effect that these sins have on us and for this reason the
      Apostles calls us to reject and turn away from them.

      The new life that is renewed in us by Jesus Christ is marked by new
      behaviors, by new habits and new choices. In this new life, we choose no
      longer to follow the path of sin, but instead to live in obedience to
      Jesus Christ, following the path that He sets before us and living
      according to His will and example. When we do this, the avenues of
      communion of our soul with God are opened and the grace of God pours out
      upon us, strengthening us and renewing us that we might no longer fall
      into the clutches of sin. With each step that we take along this new
      path of salvation, we become a little stronger, the grace of God
      transforms us a bit more and we become a little more like Jesus Christ.

      When we slip and fall (and like any new baby learning to walk, we do
      slip and fall on occasion), there is a way provided for us to get back
      up and return to the path of life in Christ. That way is through
      repentance. If we confess (admit and take responsibility for) our sins
      and repent of (that is turn away from) our sins, then God freely
      forgives us and restores us to that path of salvation. The more quickly
      we repent, the less ground we lose and the more of the grace of God we
      retain. God does not leave us alone to work this out ourselves, but is
      with us every step of the way for it is His own desire that no man
      perish but that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the Truth.

      This is the time of the new year, of new resolutions and new starts. We
      have our new start, our new life in Christ. Let us therefore set aside
      the old man and all of his sinful ways and live the new life, the life
      of Christ which is set before us. This is the life for which we were
      originally intended and which is renewed in us. This is the new life
      that leads us to union and communion with God and with one another in
      Jesus Christ.

      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org