A Sermon Series by Pastor Bob McCartney, First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls Tx.
All right, if you have a Bible or a Bible app, open to the book of Colossians. If you don’t, follow along with me and I’ll help you out. We’re going to do a study through the book of Colossians this fall, one of the new testament books. I want to invite you to join us as we walk our way through this book. You’re here on the first day, so you are all good. You haven’t missed anything just yet, so we are good to go.
Welcome to our MSU students and our student athletes. We are so thankful that you are here this morning, pumped up that you’re here. And if you are not an MSU student, but you are a Vernon College student or maybe you’re a student somewhere else and you’re doing classes here at home and you’re taking those classes remotely, we’re glad that you are here today. I want you to be a part of the Bridge, our college ministry.
I’m going to begin this series of messages we’re going to call cancel culture and we’re going to explore what the Bible has to say in this book of the Bible. What you might find really interesting over the next few weeks is that cancel culture is not something new. As a matter of fact it’s been around a long time, but social media has magnified cancel culture.
Joanna Claremont is a 23 year old law student in France. She also is a social media influencer and she has over 300,000 followers. But Joanna has been on the receiving end of a backlash lately because you see her social media influence, her account, what she kind of pushes people toward is hunting. She is the spokesperson for a French website platform that promotes hunting material and hunting shows and that sort of thing.
On her social media feed, she posts pictures of the big game that she’s killed and all that sort of thing and anti-hunting advocates they’re having nothing of it. They’ve tried to have her social media post removed from social media. They’ve tried to have her blacklisted. They she even has received death threats. This is ironic, if you think about it. She’s received death threats from anti-hunting advocates. Think about that for just a minute, okay? Anti-hunting people who don’t kill animals are gonna kill her, okay, that’s what she’s received. Joanna is the latest victim of cancel culture.
Cancel culture is the social media movement that says if you say the wrong thing, if you tweet the wrong thing, if it has the wrong tone, if you use the wrong words, what we’re going to do is cancel you. We’re going to push you to the margins. We’re going to banish you for life and there will be no pathway for redemption.
Essentially anybody can be canceled. Mel Gibson’s been canceled, Lori Laughlin’s been canceled, Lance Armstrong, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, even Nick Cannon, who formerly was a host of America’s Got Talent and he does the Masked Singer. They dug up some old things that he said from like 2012, eight years ago. Even now he says okay I was dumb, that wasn’t the right thing to say. But they’re saying okay this is what Nick believes today, so we’re gonna cancel him. That wasn’t completely successful, but it cost him a lot.
Now here’s the deal, cancel culture doesn’t just cost people followers, it costs people jobs and livelihoods and reputations, sometimes extremely unfairly. Cancel culture is a toxic ideology. It is an ideology that goes against the American value of free speech and even if something is wrong or offensive somebody has the right to say it. Welcome to America. And you shouldn’t have to be protected from an idea. As a matter of fact, let me tell you what you should do with a bad idea. If you hear somebody say a bad idea, here’s what you do. You go the library, you read a book, you do your research and you refute a bad argument. You don’t simply say, oh I have to be protected from that.
Athletes and actors, activists and artists, politicians and pastors, all of them have been on the on the losing end of cancel culture. So why would I talk about this from the Bible of all things? Well, here’s what you need to know. This book that we’re about to explore in the Bible was written by a man who was the victim of an ancient cancel culture. His name is Paul.
Paul at one point was a member of one of the leading ruling groups of the Jewish religion. He was a pharisee. The pharisees were the most powerful sect in Judaism, they were the most strict sect in Judaism and Paul was a member of that group of people. But Paul had a dramatic encounter with Jesus Christ and as a result of that he began to believe, he was convinced, that Jesus was the Jewish messiah, but he took it a step farther.
He believed that Jesus wasn’t just for Jewish people, but that Jesus was the messiah of every ethnic group, of every language group, and of every people group on planet earth. And he began to tell anybody who would listen about the good news, that they could be forgiven, set free and receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. As a result of that, those people that he had been in with at one point, turned on him. See there’s a danger of cancel culture. Just because you’re in the in crowd today, doesn’t mean you’re going to be in the in crowd tomorrow.
They turned on him and their way of canceling was to report him to the Roman authorities, to make up charges about him and have him arrested. He actually wrote the letter that we’re going to begin working our way through and studying through, he actually wrote this letter in a prison in Rome.
Last fall I got to stand in the prison cell in Rome where Paul wrote this letter to a small new testament church. It’s a pretty powerful experience in my life just to be able to be in that place where history was made. He wrote this letter to a place called Colossae. Now if you’ve never heard of that before, it was actually a very small town, it wasn’t a big powerful city in the ancient world.
Colossae was the smallest place that Paul ever wrote a letter to, to speak to a church. Paul had never been to this church, but a man that he led to faith in Jesus had gone there. His name was Epaphras. Epaphras began to tell people about Jesus, and when they believed, he began to put them together in a small community. They became a church and they began to tell anybody who would listen the good news about Jesus.
Paul heard about them and he said I want to write a letter to them. I’m going to write a letter for two reasons first of all I’m going to write a letter to them to say you’re on the right track, I’m going to confirm them. I’m going to say regardless of the pressure you face in the world around you… and there was tremendous pressure for Christians to to walk away from the Christian faith in the first century, to basically say I don’t believe that anymore and to abandon the faith. Paul says I want to confirm you, I want to encourage you to stay on the right track. You’re on the right track, stay on the right track. That’s what we’re going to hear in this book.
But Paul also wrote this letter, because he knew that even a church that had a great reputation like Colossae could begin to become complacent and apathetic. He wrote this letter to confront complacency.
Colossae was very near to a large city called Laodicea. There was a church there as well. In chapter four of this book, Paul says “Hey, I want you to take this letter from the Colossians and send it over to Laodicea to see and let them read it. I wrote a letter to them and I want you to read that one in the church at Colossae.” Now Paul knew that something was beginning to go wrong at that other church in Laodicea and it comes to full bloom a few years later when Jesus has a message for them.
Here’s the message that Jesus had for the church at Laodicea, not the church at Colossae, but their sister church only a few miles away. He says because you are lukewarm and not hot nor cold, I’m going to vomit you out of my mouth. Jesus said to a church, to a group of Christians who were gathered together, you make me want to puke.
Now I’m going to tell you something, I don’t want to be a part of a church that Jesus says you nauseate me, you make me want to vomit. There’s no way that’s a good thing right? And so Paul writes this letter and he says to Colossae I don’t want you to become what Laodicea is going to become. I want you to be passionate about your faith.
I believe that this letter is relevant, even though it was written 1900 years ago. I believe it is relevant to us today because we’re facing the same kind of cultural pressures around us as believers. The culture says change the message, make it more culturally palatable or we’ll cancel you. I believe that as Christians, we need something to encourage us and fire us up for the struggle that we face ahead. Now having said all of that, let me just read the first portion of this letter. I think it’s important for us to read the Bible and then we’re going to talk about it and cancel culture for a few minutes.
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.Colossians 1:1-8
so what does this passage have to do with cancel culture and how should we approach that? Well, the first thing I want to do this morning is I want to talk about Jesus and cancel culture, Because I want to be like Jesus and I want to respond like Jesus responds. I want to know what Jesus would think about cancel culture, so let me talk about it.
Just like the apostle Paul was a victim of cancer culture, Jesus himself confronted that same group of religious rulers who tried to cancel Paul. They did the same thing to Jesus, but they were the original canceled culture. I mean these were people who if you did something that they were offended by, if you did something they said was wrong, if you violated the law of God and sinned, they would make sure that you were canceled, that you were shamed and that you were banished.
Let me give you an example: there’s a passage in John chapter 8. I’m not going to read it to you, but you could read it for yourself sometime, in which Jesus is teaching and all of a sudden in the back of the crowd there’s this murmur and this disturbance. The crowd begins to part and all of a sudden there is this parade of pharisees and they wore these long black robes. They look like judges probably, appropriate, they love to judge people.
They walk in and they shove this woman down, who’s half naked, she’s barely clothed. They shove her down right in front of Jesus and they say to Jesus the law says that the penalty for adultery is stoning. That means taking rocks and throwing them at people hitting them in the head till they die. The law says the penalty for adultery is stoning and we caught this woman in the act of adultery what do you say, Jesus?
Jesus didn’t say anything for a few minutes, He just remained silent and He began to kneel down and scribble in the sand. Now I have no idea what Jesus scribbled in the sand. I don’t know, the Bible doesn’t say. I don’t know what Jesus was thinking, but I’ll tell you one thing I think He was thinking was that the pharisees wanted to cancel this woman, but the last time I checked it takes two people to commit adultery. Where is the man?
So she’s laying here, the victim of their judgment. She’s made a bad call. She’s obviously done something that is wrong and she’s just waiting. Is Jesus going to side with the cancel culture people and she gets stoned to death or is Jesus somehow going to show mercy?
So Jesus begins to write in the sand. I don’t know what he wrote, but it must have been pretty powerful, because the Bible says that one by one, from the oldest to the wisest to the youngest, those pharisees began to drop their rocks and they turned they walked away until it was just Jesus and the woman and then Jesus said this to the woman “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
He called her behavior sin. He didn’t gloss over the fact that this woman had committed adultery, but he said I don’t condemn you. Jesus refused to participate in the pharisees cancel culture and I believe he’s calling those of us who follow Him to do the same thing.
Now we must speak truth, go and sin no more, but neither do we condemn you. It is not our job to do the condemnation. It’s not our job to do the judging, it’s God’s job to do that. We speak truth about sin, but we are people who follow the example of Jesus and we have nothing to do with cancel culture. Jesus looks at this woman and He embraces even a sinner someone caught in the very act.
The truth of the matter is that, unfortunately, sometimes we participate in that kind of cancel culture. We judge people on their worst possible moment. We desire grace when we mess up, but we refuse to give grace, and if anyone sins or if they fall short or if they make a mistake, we brand them for life. But Jesus was unwilling to cancel those around Him. He embraced the outcast, the misfit, the leper, the liar, the worst of the worst, Jesus embraced.
As a matter of fact, the Bible says that the scribes and the pharisees could not stand Jesus because he did that. In Luke chapter 15 verse 2, both the pharisees and the scribes began to grumble saying this man receives sinners and he eats with them. I mean not only does he like them, not only is he kind and friendly to them, he sits down and has a meal with these people. Because of that, the cancel culture of the pharisees turned on Jesus.
Now I will say this to you, there is one kind of cancel culture that Jesus embraces. That may surprise you after what I just said, but there is one kind of cancel culture that Jesus wholly embraces and it’s the theme of this book.
In the New Testament, let me just help you with the Bible, in the new testament, when you’re reading a portion of the Bible, usually there’s one passage that gives the theme, like a thesis sentence in your English composition class. It gives you what this whole thing’s about in the book of Colossians. It’s not at the beginning, it’s in chapter two there are four chapters of the book of Colossians. Everything in Colossians before it leads up to it and everything after this statement in Colossians flows out of it and here it is. I want you to listen to these words, they are extremely important. Colossians chapter 2 verse 13:
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the crossColossians 2:13-14
Whenever I have a conversation with someone about becoming a Christian, about becoming a follower of Jesus, inevitably I have to get to the topic of sin, because the Bible tells us that it’s our sin that separates us from God. I get to that topic and it’s almost like 90% of the time when I get to that particular part of it, someone will say to me something like this. “Bob, I don’t think I’m really a bad person.”
I mean, none of us want to think we’re a bad person and even if I’ve done something bad, what I normally do is I find somebody in my mind or in the media that’s done something worse, so at least I’m a little better than them. That way I’m not a bad person. Let me tell you the problem with that.
The Bible doesn’t say, and the message of Jesus is not, “you’re a bad person, so you need Jesus to make you better.” That’s not the message of the gospel. The message of the gospel is much worse and it’s much better. The message of the gospel isn’t your bad, the message of the gospel is you’re dead.
There’s a part of you that is that has died you are dead in transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh. There’s a part of you that was meant to live forever with God and because of sin, that part of you is dead. And what you need is not some sort of self-help guru to make you better, you need a Savior to bring you to life. That’s the supernatural power of Jesus. That’s what we mean when we talk about the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead! Sometimes we sing that, obviously it’s in the Bible, It’s in scriptures, but here’s the point. That power that brought Jesus back from the dead in resurrection on that first Easter Sunday morning is the power to bring you to life!
Jesus does that by taking every sin. I told you, it’s our sin that separates us from God, but Jesus took every one of our sins and He died for them on the cross.
Here’s the way Paul put it in that passage. He says he canceled the certificate of debt against us. It’s like every sin I had ever committed somewhere, God was writing every one of them down and I’m just going to tell you, I got a long list. I got a long long list and on the cross, Jesus canceled my sin. The word canceled means “to wipe away”, “to blot out”, it means “to erase”. That word means that all my sin were erased.
In the ancient world, they wrote with ink but there’s something different about the ink in your ink pen that you’ll take notes with in a class or that you’ll write a check with or you’ll sign a document with than an ancient ink. Here’s the difference, there is a tiny bit of acid in the ink in your ink pen. That acid burns into the paper and makes that ink permanent on the paper. If you write with erasable ink, it doesn’t have acid in it, but regular ink that we use today has acid in it that burns into the paper.
In the ancient world, it didn’t have that. So if you had a piece of papyrus, which was very expensive, and you’d made a mistake on it, rather than wadding it up and throwing it away like we do, you would take that and with water you would wipe away. That ink, you would wash it away. It just wouldn’t be there anymore. Your mistake was totally taken away! It wasn’t like some old tweet or old photograph from high school of you that’s going to resurface and then embarrass you. No, it’s gone!
I think about my college days, way back in the olden days bc, before computers. I’m gonna be honest with you. If there’s anybody in this room that struggles with a class like a subject and you’re like man, that’s the hurdle that I don’t know if I’m gonna get out of college, I just want you to know, I’ve been there. I am not a good mathematician.
Now I say that and I’ve probably convinced myself that I probably could have learned math but it just baffled me. I did really good with addition and subtraction, multiplication, even division. But when they added the alphabet to math, I do not understand why a plus b equals c. I don’t get it. I cannot fathom it and my brain just does not work that way, but I had to take it. We did the quarter system. I’d take three quarters of math and uh I struggled through the first two and the last one was calculus.
My professor was Dr. Charlie Gamble. Have you ever listened to a podcast at twice speed? You know you can speed up a podcast? That’s the way Dr. Gamble talked all the time. I mean he just talked real fast. I mean he was just this fast talker guy and he also had another skill that was remarkable. I’ve never seen anybody else that could do this. Dr. Gamble was right-handed and he’s talking really fast. He’s working a problem up on the board with this hand, he had an eraser in the other. He’s erasing what he’s done before while he’s doing this so that he can come back and start over again.
I’m going to tell you I was lost all semester it was by the grace of God … D equals diploma, okay? Sometimes it just works, all right. I’m not advocating for it, I’m just saying sometimes it works, all right. You had to take notes because once Dr. Gamble got finished with this hand, he’s erasing with this hand and it was gone.
I want to say this to you. The kind of cancel culture that Jesus is all about is Him taking your sins to a cross, dying a death He didn’t deserve, to pay a debt He didn’t run up, so that your sins could be canceled, gone, forgiven, erased! They don’t exist anymore. God’s not ever bringing them up again if you trust what Jesus did on the cross. That’s the kind of cancel culture that Jesus is all about, cancelling the sins of men and women, boys and girls, of every nation and tribe and skin color and ethnic group. He is a global Savior! He died to cancel the sins of the world, if you would only trust Him.
Well the passage that we read does have some important things in it about people who’ve been canceled by the cross. People who understand this kind of Jesus cancel culture. The first thing he says is that people who’ve been canceled by the cross are people with a passionate faith. He says in verse 4 that he has heard of their faith.
They’ve got a reputation of heartfelt passionate trust in the Lord. Far too many of us are self-conscious or embarrassed or worried that we’re going to be canceled by the culture around us because of our faith in Jesus. People who have been canceled by the power of the cross have a passionate faith. Here’s what I know: you talk about what you’re passionate about.
For some of you, dove hunting season is coming and that first weekend in September, you’re going to be out there. You’re going to be blasting away at those doves and you’re already talking about dove season. For some of you, it’s, you know, is there going to be any football this year? I want to watch some football. I know some of you wish you were playing football. I know some of you wish you were playing volleyball. We are talking about what we are passionate about.
If your sins have been canceled, you’ll be passionate about it. This church was!
Paul says, I have heard of your faith in Jesus Christ, but he also said this I’ve heard about your love.
These were people with inclusive love. He says, your love for all the saints. It didn’t matter what their background was, it didn’t matter what their skin color was, it didn’t matter what their language group was, this church just embraced people. This church at Colossae just loved all people. There was no shortage of love at Colossae.
You know we’ve lived through a lot of shortages lately. Remember the great toilet paper shortage of the spring, the paper towel shortage, the meat shortage, the hot dog shortage? But I’m sorry to report, but this the worst may be yet to come. I read this week an article on a reputable news source. This was not a joke, not the Babylon B. There is coming a Dr Pepper shortage. Some of you are about to go into panic. You’re like, we’re driving to Walmart and we’re buying up all the Dr Pepper we can find, and none of that Dr Thunder junk. No no no! None of that cheap imitation stuff.
Now look, I don’t know if that’s going to be real or not, but here’s what I know. This church had no shortage of love. In our world today there is no shortage of fear, there’s no shortage of anxiety, there’s no shortage of anger, there’s no shortage of hatred. Let the people of God say “There’ll be no shortage of love in this place!”
3: They were people with a living hope.
They were people with a living hope. He says in verse 5
because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the worldColossians 1:5-6a
He says these are people who have a living hope. Let me tell you about the world that this was written into.
Sometimes I think we’re disconnected from the times, the people and the places of the Bible. This was a world of political oppression. This was the world in which Paul wrote. This was a world in which the Roman rulers just oppressively ruled over the known world at that time. This is a world of spiritual persecution. Christians were a minority viewpoint and because of that they were persecuted for their faith.
This was a world in which poverty… We talk about the economic disparity in our time. Less than one percent of the people in the ancient world controlled virtually all of the wealth. 99% of the ancient world lived every day wondering if they’d get enough food to survive to tomorrow. It was a world where there were pandemics, they called them plagues. They would sweep from town to town, from city to city, killing hundreds, sometimes thousands of people. There were no vaccines, and there was no medical science to know how to treat it or even how to avoid it. This was the world that Paul wrote this to. Sound familiar?
But these people didn’t live pining for yesterday or the way things used to be. He says your hope is in heaven. They were living with a hope that someday there was a better home and a better place than this world. That’s what we ought to focus on. The reality that this thing that we’re walking through is hard, and for some of us it’s harder than others, but there is a better place than this. There is a better home than this and it comes to you only through Jesus.
I want to spend just a couple of minutes talking to you about how you experience this. How do I know that my sins are canceled? How do I know that I’m forgiven? Is that going to church? Is that getting baptized? Is that taking communion? I mean, how do I know that?
I know that I have some of you who are here today for your first time and I want to help you understand this, especially those of you who might have a little bit of background. Maybe you went to church somewhere for a while, maybe you didn’t go every Sunday, but you went. Maybe you went to vacation bible school or you went to youth camp or whatever, and somewhere along the way… (I think we might, it’s probably the preacher’s fault) We probably communicated it wrong, but somewhere along the way, somebody said to you “If you pray this prayer, you’ll go to heaven when you die.”
I want to just talk about that for a moment. The Bible does not say you are saved by praying a prayer. The Bible says that salvation comes to those who have faith, who totally trust in what Jesus did. There are no magic words that you say that wash away your sins. It is only what Jesus did on the cross that takes away your sins.
Now here’s where this gets complicated. The Bible says that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. That means that God doesn’t turn anybody away and by calls it means that you do have to ask for it. So in doing that, yes there is a prayer involved. But it’s not just by reciting words that you’re saved, it’s by totally trusting what Jesus did on the cross. It is by you’re saying “I know I’m a sinner. I admit that, I acknowledge that to God. But I trust, I really believe, that what Jesus did on the cross cancelled my sin. That when He came out of that grave, He had the power to make me alive, not dead anymore. So Jesus, I’m asking for the free gift that you’re offering.”
You see there are no magic words but you do have to ask.
I just want to ask you a simple question and that is Have you ever asked Jesus to cancel your sins, to forgive you? And if you have that’s great, just rejoice in that for a moment. But if you haven’t, we want to give you the opportunity to do that. For some of you maybe it wasn’t Jesus you’ve been trusting in. Maybe it was the fact that you said the words to a prayer that you’re trusting in and maybe today you need to transfer your trust from a religious routine or ritual that you went through to a living God and his name is Jesus. This morning I just want to ask you to consider. Have you ever asked Jesus to cancel your sin and give you life?
Father, come now, by your Holy Spirit. Move and speak to us. Do what I can’t do Lord, make up the difference this morning. Thank you for your word. Thank you for truth. I pray for those who are listening in this room or those who are watching this at this moment, that we would all consider the condition of our souls and ask a simple question of ourselves. Do I know for certain that my sin is canceled and I’ve been brought to life? I pray for those who need that, who want it, that this would be their day.
In Jesus name, Amen