Just as You Received Christ
June 18, 2017 Speaker: Mitchel Kirchmeyer Series: Colossians: "Look Nowhere Else! Christ Is Everything"
Passage: Colossians 1:1–2:5
How did we receive Christ Jesus as Lord? We received him as our hope for the future, our peace with God, and our wisdom for living.
What’s your story? At the end of every day, we could tell the story of how it unfolded. And each of us could tell the story of how our life has unfolded. We are all shaped by a story. We have our personal story - where we grew up, what our parents were like, how many siblings we had, what we did together as a family. Along the way there were experiences, relationships, and moments that deeply influenced us. Some were positive, building us up and encouraging us. Others left scars, whether physical or emotional, that remind us of painful times. Our jobs, our churches, our spouses, our kids - all of these are part of our story and each has shaped who we are today.
But there is a deeper story by which we need to be shaped. A story that has unfolded since the creation of the world. It’s the story about how God is making all things new. The whole story climaxes with Jesus who is the focal point of the whole thing. He is the hero of the story. In the New Testament, how we are to live in light of how Jesus brought the story to a climax. This morning, we need to be reminded of our Christian story and how Jesus is the hero.
Today we are in the fourth message of our series in the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae. Paul was an early follower of Jesus and he is writing a letter to other followers of Jesus in Colossae because he has heard they are feeling pressure to add something to Jesus. People are saying to them, “If you really want to be close with God, you need Jesus plus special rituals and holidays. You need Jesus plus following a bunch of strict rules. You need Jesus plus angels and other spiritual powers.” To that, Paul says, “Look Nowhere Else! Christ Is Everything.” That is the theme of this letter.
The way that Paul keeps their trust focused on Jesus is by reminding them of the gospel story. He reminds them that Jesus is the hero. He reminds them about what Jesus has done in their lives, who he has made them to be, and their future in him.
This morning we are doing something a bit different than usual. We aren’t covering one passage of Scripture in detail. We are at a transition point in the letter to the Colossians. The transition is captured by chapter 2 verse 6:
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him. (Colossians 2:6)
Up to this point in the letter, Paul has been telling them: this is how you received Christ Jesus the Lord. In the second part of the letter, he is going to say: Now, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him. The first part of the letter was focused on how they received Christ Jesus as Lord, in the second part he is going to tell them how to live in light of it.
For our time this morning, we are going to cover the big themes about Jesus from the beginning of the letter: chapter 1 verse 1 to chapter 2 verse 5.
The big question we are answering this morning is: how did we receive Christ Jesus as Lord? How did we receive Christ Jesus as Lord?
We receive an answer from each of the three passages we have covered thus far.
Let’s take another look at Colossians chapter 1 verses 1 through 14 to get our first answer.
We received him as our hope for the future (1:1-14)
In these opening verses, Paul is reminding them of their story. He reminds them of how the gospel - the good news - came to them, what it was about, and how it changed their lives. The gospel is more than good advice. It is good news. It is news about something that has happened - an event that has taken place. And because that event has taken place, the Colossians can have hope for the future by trusting in Christ alone - by receiving Christ Jesus as their Lord.
Some news is inconsequential. “A singer fell off the stage at a concert. Someone left a huge tip and a nice note at a restaurant.” We find events like this on news sources, but they don’t really affect anything.
But some news has huge consequences - it changes everything. The news that Donald Trump was elected president changed everything. This is the case with every presidential election so I’m not commenting on whether it was good or bad news. We heard the news of Trump’s victory early in the morning on November 9th. And yet he would not take office until January 20th when he was inaugurated. Donald Trump had won the decisive victory but it would be some months before his presidency would begin. Even so, between November 9th and January 20th, a new era had begun. Our country lived in light of a new reality: a new president was going to take office and that means changes for our country. Some expressed excitement and hope. Some expressed fear and disappointment.
This is how the good news about Jesus works too. Through his death on the cross, Jesus won the decisive victory against the powers that enslave humanity: sin, Satan, and death. The enemy has been defeated and Jesus is now King! But even with the decisive victory won, Jesus’ reign has not come into full effect. He is King, but there are still those who oppose his kingship. One day, he will come again in triumph to fully implement his kingdom. Trump won on November 9th, but wouldn’t fully implement his program until January 20th. But even so, while we live in between Jesus decisive victory and his triumphal return, life as we know it is different. A new era has dawned. A new kingdom has come. It has already begun but is not yet fully implemented. Just like the results of our presidential election affected people’s lives even before Donald Trump took office, so Jesus’ future kingdom affects our lives now.
Paul reminded the Colossians in chapter 1 verse 5 that when they heard the gospel - the good news about Jesus - they heard about the hope laid up for them in heaven. They heard about the future reserved for those who receive Jesus as their Lord. Because of the decisive victory that Jesus won on the cross, a new era has dawned and a new future has been secured for all those who receive him as their King. Jesus has become King and in the future his reign will be over all and that is a day to look forward to.
The big question we are answering is: how did we receive Christ Jesus as Lord? The first answer we get in these verses is: we received him as our hope for the future. We received him as our hope for the future.
Our world is not as it should be and neither are we. We are infected by a spiritual disease. The symptoms are pride, anger, jealousy, lust, gossip, ill will toward others, people pleasing, and selfishness. When Jesus returns, he will wipe clean this spiritual disease that has brought death to all of us and to all of creation. We will be saved from the presence of sin.
As verse 13 says, we have already been rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of Jesus, God’s beloved Son. We were under the reign and rule of sin, Satan, and death. But through trust in Christ who won the decisive victory over them, we can be freed. A new kingdom has come and a new era has dawned!
When we receive Jesus as our hope for the future, it affects our life now. It transforms how we live. How does having a future secure in Christ transform how we live today?
Imagine you were a basketball player getting ready to go on the court for a the biggest game of your life. Minutes before the game, someone comes up and tells you that your team is going to win because one of your teammates scores 60 points in the game and makes the game winning shot.
Whereas before you were entering not knowing the outcome, now you know how the game will end. The worry of losing melts away. You know the outcome. But the game still needs to be played. You don’t just say, “Oh good, we don’t need to play because we know who wins.” The game still gets played, but you will play it in a totally different way. You are going to trust the player whom you know scores 60 points. You are going to pass it to them as much as you can. You lose the worry about who’s going to win but there is still enjoyment in playing and curiosity. How is the victory going to play out? What part will I play?
The lie we believe is that we need to be the star player. If the victory is going to be won in our life. If our future is going to be good. If we are going to be ok. If everything is going to go as we want it to, we need to be in control. We need to get it done. We need to take things into our own hands.
Our worry and anxiety in life comes from not trusting Jesus as the hero of our story. When we don’t think Jesus can be trusted with our future, we try to control it ourselves and because we know deep down we can’t really control everything, that leads to worry.
When I was in seminary, a friend named Alex graduated the year before me. Another friend and I were having lunch with him and saying goodbye. He was leaving Deerfield, IL that he had called home for years and was going to attend a school in Canada. We asked him if he was worried or nervous. His response was noteworthy. He said a lot of times when we think about the future, we have a Godless imagination. We imagine either successes or failures without God in the picture. We entertain visions of success without God's hand involved. We imagine failures and think that all will be lost and ruined and we don't consider how God has provided in the past and how he will be there through all things. He said when we imagine the future, we need to have a God-filled imagination.
What he’s saying is that when we worry and fret about the future, it’s because when we look at the future we don’t see Jesus in it. We just see ourselves. So when we go through all the “what if” scenarios - what if I lose my job, what if we don’t have enough money, what if my spouse dies, what if I lose a child, what if my house burns down - when we go through those “what ifs” and Jesus isn’t in the picture, we are filled with anxiety and stress. We can do it for smaller, daily things too: “What if I talk to this person about my faith and they get mad at me or aren’t interested. What if my child doesn’t do what I want them to do. What if I don’t get to relax this weekend. What if my day doesn’t go as I planned.” We imagine all these scenarios without Jesus. We are alone and if that difficult thing happens or things don’t go as we want, Jesus won’t be there with us.
Our “what ifs” reveal what we place our hope in. They are our “worst nightmares.” “If I lost my job, if I lost my spouse, if I lost my child, if I lost my house, I couldn’t go on. Life wouldn’t be worth living.” When we say that, we know our hope for the future has been placed in those things. Don’t get me wrong, it would be horrible to lose any of those things! We can grieve and be sad. We should cry. But our hope for the future cannot be in those things. Our hope must always be in Jesus.
When we start asking “what if”, we need to change it to an “even if.” Even if I lose my job, I will still have Jesus and he is my hope. Even if I lose my spouse or my child, I will still have Jesus and he is my hope. Even if this person rejects me and gets mad at me for talking with them about my faith, I will still have Jesus and he is my hope. Even if my day doesn’t go as planned, I will still have Jesus and he is my hope. That is how we have a God-filled imagination of the future.
The big question we are answering is: how did we receive Christ Jesus as Lord? The first answer is: we received him as our hope for the future. Chapter 1 verses 15 through 23 give us our second answer.
We received him as our peace with God (1:15-23)
In these verses, we heard the hymn about Christ that Paul quotes to remind them of who Jesus is. We hear that Jesus is both Lord of creation and Lord of new creation. He is Creator and Redeemer. Jesus is God in the flesh. He is the one in whom all things hold together.
For the Colossians, Paul focuses in on Jesus as Redeemer. The hymn in verse 19 of chapter 1 says:
19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (1:19-20)
Then Paul applies it to the Colossians:
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (1:21-23)
The Colossians were once alienated from God and hostile toward him. They were in the domain of darkness - separated from God. But if they trust in Christ alone, they have now been reconciled to God. They have peace with him through what Jesus has done.
The big question we are answering is: how did we receive Christ Jesus as Lord? The second answer is: we received him as our peace with God. We received him as our peace with God.
There is only one way we can be made right with God and that is through Jesus Christ. We separated ourselves from God. We abandoned him as our God and as the center of our lives. We tried to dethrone him. And that has consequences.
The lie we so often believe is that we can be good enough to make up for it. That somehow by our own efforts - by our own works - we can make ourselves right with God. We can make peace with him if we are just good enough. When we think that, we are believing that sin isn’t that bad and God isn’t that holy. The fact of the matter is, not only does our sin cost far more than we think, but we are far more bankrupt than we can fathom. The only one who could pay the infinite price of our debt was God. When we try to make peace with God ourselves, we don’t believe sin is that bad because we think we can pay for it.
At the same time, we don’t believe that God is that holy. We think that we can somehow measure up. “Sure, I have sinned. But I can still be good enough for God. I can make myself worthy of his presence. I’m not as bad as that person.” The truth is that God is infinitely holy all fall short of the glory of God. [Illustration] If we lined everyone up on the edge of the Grand Canyon and we all tried to jump across, we all would fall short. Maybe some could jump further than others, but no one would make it across. We cannot jump far enough on our own efforts to measure up to God’s holiness.
Using your own good works to pay for your sins is like trying to use an expired credit card to pay for your groceries. It can’t contribute anything to the cost of them. The cashier won’t say, “Oh, your card paid for part of it but there is still a little bit more to go.” They will just say, “Your card has been rejected.” The groceries are totally unpaid for.
It’s the same with our own works to pay for our sins. They contribute nothing toward paying the debt we owe to God. Anything you do - going to worship gatherings, reading your bible, serving, telling people about Jesus, giving generously, not swearing, praying, being kind to people - all of these are like swiping an expired credit card to pay for your sins. God rejects them. Jesus is the only one who can pay for them. He is the only type of payment God will accept.
Who do you think is the hero of your story? Who is the one that saves and rescues? Who is it all about? So often, all our focus and attention is on ourselves. We hardly ever take our eyes off ourselves. We are concerned with whether we are good enough. When we think that we are good enough, we are happy and feel at peace with God. When we think that we aren’t good enough, we feel down, scared, guilty, and condemned. Either way, we are looking to ourselves to be the hero of the story. But we don’t make a good hero for our own story because we fall short. We fail. We need to look to Jesus as the hero of our story - the one who makes us right with God and gives us peace.
The big question we are answering is: how did we receive Christ Jesus as Lord? The first answer is we received him as our hope for the future. The second answer is we received him as our peace with God. The third answer we find in chapter 1 verse 24 to chapter 2 verse 5.
We received him as wisdom for living (1:24-2:5)
Paul here talks about how he has given his life to making the gospel known. He proclaims Christ and wants to present everyone wholeheartedly devoted to him. This is the goal for which he toils and labors like an athlete in a game.
Paul presents Jesus as the one who defines our whole reality. He says in chapter 2 verses 1 through 3:
2 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (2:1-3)
Paul says that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. When we talk about wisdom, we are talking about living rightly in the world. You make good decisions that lead to “the good life.” Just like a wooden board has a grain to it and if you run your hand against the grain you will get splinters, so too if you run your life against the grain of the universe, it isn’t going to go well for you. In Scripture, “the good life” is one where God is at the center. Knowing him and loving him is the good life. And running your life with the grain of the universe means following God’s ways.
Paul is saying, “In Christ you find a treasure chest for how to live in line with God’s ways.” If you want to know who God is, look to Christ. If you want to know who you are, look to Christ. We see in Jesus the clearest picture of who God is and the clearest picture of what it means to be human. Jesus told those would wanted to be his disciples: come, follow me. He was showing them and us a way of life - the way of wisdom, the way to live rightly in God’s universe and to experience “the good life” with God at the center. We live with the grain of the universe when we make God’s priorities our priorities and when we make God’s values our values and when we make his ways our ways.
The big question we are answering is: how did we receive Christ Jesus as Lord? The third answer we get here is: we received him as wisdom for living. We received him as wisdom for living.
Jesus was always in tune with his heavenly Father. The Father’s priorities were his priorities. The Father’s values were his values. He humbled himself and obeyed the Father’s will in all things. His prayer was, “Not my will, but yours.” When we look to Jesus, we see what a life of wisdom with God at the center looks like. If we don’t want splinters, we need to pattern our life after Jesus who ran his life with the grain of the universe.
This is how all the world works. If you are constantly speeding, you are going to get lots of speeding tickets. If you disrespect people, they are going to disrespect you. If you don’t change your oil, your car engine is going to break. If you don’t put on sunscreen, you are going to get a sunburn with me. If you eat McDonalds every day, you are going to gain weight. If you are constantly rubbing against the grain of how things work, you are going to experience the consequences - you are going to get splinters.
The lie we believe is that God doesn’t have our best interests in mind. We believe that God doesn’t love us if he tells us “no.” That’s the culture we are in: love means letting people be who they are and not trying to make them someone different. In Scripture, that is how God judges people! He let’s them go in whatever direction they want. In Romans 1, Paul says that God judged people by “giving them up” to their sinful desires. God gave them over to the consequences of their sin. Instead of transforming them to be more like Jesus, he lets them be who they are and doesn’t to try make them different.
The world has a story that is shaping us. As Americans, the American dream with its ideals, values, and priorities is constantly exerting pressure on us. The American dream is that you can be anything you want to be. You can have the job you want, the house you want, the life you want - all you have to do is chase after it. That’s the story our culture wants us to believe. But it is very “me” centered. It’s all about what you want and all about what you can do. You are the hero of your own story. It’s all about you.
We need to be shaped by the gospel story. We need to look to Jesus as the hero of the story and the one we should emulate. We need to follow him and reshape our thinking to align with his thinking. We need to replace the world’s values with God’s values and the world’s priorities with God’s priorities. The story the world wants us to embrace for our lives is: work hard, give your kids every opportunity possible, and save for retirement so you can spend the last 20 years of your life relaxing with no responsibilities. That’s the story our culture wants us to embrace. Where is God in that?
The story Jesus gives us is one of humble surrender to him. We surrender all of life to him - our work, our kids, our retirement. We give it all to him to be used for his purposes. He says when we do that, we truly find an abundant and meaningful life.
The big question we are answering is: how did we receive Christ Jesus as Lord? The first answer is that we received him as our hope for the future. The second answer is that we received him as our peace with God. The third answer is that we received him as our wisdom for living.
In all of these, Jesus is the hero of our story. He is the one we trust in for the future. He is the one we trust in to make us right with God. He is the one we trust in for living wisely in God’s world. We need to be constantly shaped by the gospel story where Jesus is the hero. It’s because of who he is and what he has done that we can be changed.