Dear Colossae Week 4: Him We Proclaim
The book of Colossians. It was a letter written during one of Paul the Apostle’s many trips to prison for declaring Jesus as Lord. And not just any Lord. A Lord who has died and risen again. The letter’s addressed to a community of people that Paul had never met, who made up a church community that he did not start. So, here’s some insight. Colossae was located in the Lycus River Valley near Hierapolis and Laodicea and was under the influence and rule of Persia, Phrygia, Greece and, most importantly, Rome.
An interesting note is that Hierapolis and Colossae had water systems where one was hot springs and the other had cold spring. Well, Laodicea had to have its water aqua-ducted in from both Hierapolis and Colossae, thus it became lukewarm by the time it had arrived. Doesn’t that sound somewhat familiar? Hot, cold, lukewarm?
Back to Colossae. The Lycus Valley was known for its production and dying of high quality purple wool called colossinus. Not only that, but it was also on a trade route. Do you wonder if living on a prosperous trade route made it difficult for people to come to Christ? Did it affect their Christianity? Lots of background to think about.
Dear Colossae, dear Church of Christ, these letters were written to encourage you. Please read them well.
Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We are in a series called “Dear Colossae.” Last week, if you’re a regular attender here, you know that we sort of stepped out of our series to deal with some things that were going on in the church. I think everybody unanimously agreed that that was probably a good move. We all enjoyed what we talked about. I think it was meaningful to a lot of people. But that means we’re back into our series, “Dear Colossae.” I feel like, because there’s going to be new people here today and because we sort of went out of it for a week, I feel like we need to just do some sort of background material. What we’re doing again, bring everybody back up to speed so that everybody is on the same page.
I made a commitment several years ago that at least once a year I would spend a section of that year in a book or in an epistle or a letter of the New Testament and would go through that line by line. As you know, most of the series that we do here are built on a theme, and then I take passages of Scripture and work through those themes. But I said, “You know what? We need to take times where we actually go through an entire book.”
My hope and my prayer is that by the time I hang up the cleats and pass this on to somebody else, that I will have had been able to go through the 66 books that are in the Bible, and we’ll have a catalog of all of that. I will tell you our executive pastor, Tom Jones, already put in for vacation when I do the book of Leviticus, just so you know. But, all that being said, he’s like, “I’m out.”
I’m just kidding. I’m just kidding. That is a deal killer, though, isn’t it, when you’re reading the Bible through the years? You know, Genesis? Alright. Exodus? Alright. Leviticus? Hello, Matthew. Right? But anyway, we’re going to go through — we’re going through Colossians. We’ve gotten through the first 23 verses so far. But I just want to do a little bit of summary what we’re doing, what we’re trying to accomplish. I call those the big ideas. So, let me go through those once again, because if we don’t do these things, then I’ve failed as your pastor in this series.
First of all, I noted that we want to read Colossians in a very unique and interactive way. I’m convinced that a lot of times when somebody tries to go line-by-line through the Bible, because of our attention span and because we are distracted by so many things, sometimes it’s hard for us to focus as we go through line-by-line on a biblical book. So, what I’m trying to do is to read it with us as a church, but doing it in an interactive way. So, many times, as we read a passage of Scripture, we will jump to what I call a “textual interactive,” and we’ll talk about how that works in our lives right now.
We always, at the end of every sermon, do some practical take-homes, some practical application because that’s important to us. But we want to read it in a unique and interactive way. Secondly, we want to make sure that we can read and understand books in the Bible. That’s a really important thing. Because, as your pastor, I want you to feel comfortable going home in the evening and opening up this book and feeling like you can read it. For many people, it’s tough because these books are ancient documents. I mean, they’re thousands of years old. Sometimes, as you’re going through here, you may not understand the culture, you may not understand the background, you may not understand what’s going on.
You know, Adam, in the bumper video there, alludes to the fact that Hierapolis and Colossae had hot water and cold water. Both of those were good. The hot water was used for stuff and the cold water was used for good. But Laodicea didn’t have a good water system, so that had to aqueduct their water to the town. So, the hot and the cold water would come. The hot water would cool down and the cold water would heat up. So, by the time it came to Laodicea, it was lukewarm.
I don’t know about you, but I grew up in sort of a legalistic, Pentecostal background, and I was told almost every Sunday if you’re not hot for Jesus, He would rather you be outside of the church, running with the Devil or whatever else rather than — you know? And I’m like, “Man, I’m just never that hot. I mean, I’m trying to be hot.”
Listen, I know nobody at 10:15 struggles with being hot, but the 9:00 and the 11:45 service, and the Saturday night at 6:00, they do. But, all that being said, when you understand that Jesus doesn’t say, “I understand your spiritual fervencies,” He says, “I understand your works. You’re neither hot nor cold. Both of those are good. You’re not useful. You’re lukewarm.”
That’s what He’s saying. He’s not saying, “I’d rather you be hot, on fire, or cold, totally outside.” See, that’s a bad reading of Scripture by not understanding culture and background, and so on and so forth. That’s why we want to make sure that we can read and understand books of the Bible. As we go through these things and talk about background and culture, we understand what it’s really saying so that we can have a better understanding of what God says to us.
Next, we want to read with application in mind. I’m a professor as well. So, when I teach students, I’ve realized that I don’t want to just be knowledge and informational pusher. When we read the books of the Bible, we’re not there just to gain knowledge. We want to learn. We want to apply this to our lives. Jesus never says, “Blessed are you that know what I told you.” He says, “Blessed are you that do the things that I have said.”
So, we want to read with application in mind. We want to read less informational, although we’re going to get some information. We want to read more transformational because ultimately — and it’s the goal of everything we do here at Grace — we want to be more like Christ. We want individually, collectively, we want our church and we want everything that we do here to look authentically like Jesus. So, these are the big ideas, as we go through Colossians, that we’re trying to do, trying to make sure that we learn, trying to make sure that we apply to our lives, and so on and so forth.
So, now what I want to do is turn real quickly to the first twenty-three verses that we’ve gone through so that everybody’s back on the same page and we start again like we’re just starting here new and afresh. These are three things that we’ve absolutely learned as we’ve gone through the first twenty-three verses.
Number one: We learned that Paul never visited Colossae. He didn’t plant the church. He didn’t visit the church. He’d never been there. Epaphras has come to visit Paul in prison and Epaphras, who was the planner and founder of the church, tells Paul there’s some deficiencies going on in the local church, and he’s come to Paul to get some understanding. Paul then pens this letter with Timothy to the church at Colossae, which we call the epistle to the Colossians, and he writes to them dealing with some things that are going on because he’s writing to correct some deficiencies in the local church.
And if you remember, this is a really important thing to understand. Sometimes we don’t think about these things, but it’s the absolute truth. The epistles in the New Testament were written to Christians. They were not written to non-believers. So, if you have a non-believing friend and you try to say, “Hey, look,” — it wasn’t written to them. It was written to you and me. It was written to Christians. So, oftentimes, we fail to sort of make that note that this literature was written to a church at a specific time and a specific place. It wasn’t written to you and me, but written for you and me.
But, as we understand, these were written to Christians so that they could become all that God wanted them to be. And Paul is correcting some things. All of the epistolatory literature in the New Testament is dealing with deficiencies in the local church to get them to live out the Gospel message. And then we see that his primary concern is the purity of the Gospel. If you look in the first twenty-three verses, he talks about the Gospel quite a bit because he’s convinced that the local church, when it doesn’t preach the Gospel — and the Gospel is a simple message. Jesus came, died on a cross, rose again on the third day, He’s going to return one day. When the Gospel gets convoluted with this and that, this thing here and this check mark, got to do this and got to do that, got to see this way, got to believe this issue, got to do it this way, got to stand on this way, got to — what we’ve done is we’ve added to the Gospel. It’s “Jesus plus,” “Jesus in addition.”
Paul wants to make sure that the local church doesn’t do that. That the local church lives out — and this is important to understand. The ethics and morals of the New Testament, which are absolutely there, are not written to the local church to tell them, “You better behave. You better get it right because God won’t love you if you don’t get it right.”
He’s already loved them. The reason Paul and the New Testament writers are trying to get the local church to look like Jesus is because they’re preaching Jesus. And if they’re preaching Jesus but their lifestyles do not reflect what they’re preaching, then it’s a deficiency to the Gospel. And Paul doesn’t want that to happen because he believes the local church is absolutely the greatest institution in society. And if the local church is done right, it unleashes Jesus on a community and it’s amazing what it does. If the local church is done wrong, it really hurts and damages people. So many people have been burned by religion and burned by church, and we know that.
So, Paul is concerned that the Gospel stays where it’s at. Because, to Paul, like in Romans 1:16, the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Do we believe that simply telling someone that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and He rose again on the third day is sufficient enough for them to come to faith? Or do we have to add in all the other things that we add in? You know, like the guy on the cross that says, “Jesus, I want to be with you after this is done.”
Jesus didn’t turn to him and say, “Well, alright. When’s the last time you went out to that bar? When’s the last time you did this? When’s the last time? By the way, how’d you vote in the last Jerusalem election, by the way?”
He didn’t do any of that. Okay? We do, oftentimes, because that’s our checklist. It’s the “Jesus plus.” The Gospel is sufficient. He said, “You’re going to be with me today in paradise.” Just asking, “Can I be with You?” was enough. And sometimes we convolute that. Paul’s concerned in all of his epistles that if we lose that simple message, we lose what’s the most powerful thing that we have in the Church, which is simply the person of Jesus. He is who we talk about.
So, that being said, Paul now turns, in Colossians 1:24-2:15 — we’re going to cover a lot of material. So, if you catch me outside of the church today and you go, “Whoa, man. We did a lot of stuff today,” I just want to let you know we’re going to do that so you don’t have to tell me that afterwards. You know that we’re doing that before because we’re going to cover a lot of material. So, we’re going out a firehose right now and drink some water out so we’re going to get through this. But we need to go through this. I think we’ll cover through all this. And I think this will be a blessing to everybody.
So, Paul now turns and starts really sharing some personal things. We’re going to see some of the psychology of Paul and how he viewed his ministry and how he viewed his life and his place in all of this. It’s very telling, it’s very touching, but it’s also very, very, very instructional for you and me in our Christian walk.
So, he says, in Colossians 1:24, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,”
Now, first of all, let’s be honest. Most of us don’t rejoice in suffering. You don’t have to raise your hand, but let’s be honest. I mean, the air conditioning goes off in Irma and we’re all complaining. So, I mean, we don’t really rejoice. And that’s not really suffering. That’s just lack of A/C. But, anyway, Paul doesn’t just say he rejoices in suffering. He says, “I rejoice in sufferings for your sake.” In other words, “I rejoice that I’m suffering on your behalf.” Maybe, maybe you might rejoice in suffering in you knew there was something good for you coming, but rejoicing in suffering for somebody else seems to be a little crazy.
He says, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,”
So, let’s do a textual interactive here. Paul never envisioned following Christ without suffering. It just wasn’t even on his radar screen that somehow, someway that you would live a Christian life and not suffer. And I’m not trying to be snarky. I’m not trying to get on anybody’s toes. I’m not trying to get you mad at me or anything like this. But it shows how detached we are as Americans in our affluence, in our lack of suffering, that when we see Christians suffering in other parts of the world, we want to do everything that we can to keep them from doing it, even to the point of maybe killing people, which is crazy. We are so detached from this stuff because we’re so affluent. We’re so affluent.
Paul never envisioned following Jesus without suffering. Never envisioned it at all. In fact, for Paul, the Gospel itself was suffering that was followed by glory. In other words, Jesus went to the cross. That was suffering. The glory was the resurrection. When you read “suffering” in the New Testament, you don’t have to go very far. You’ll see the word “glory.” Like Romans 8:18: “The sufferings in this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed.” Jesus said, “Should I have had to suffer all these things,” in Luke 24, “for then the glory to happen?”
When you’re reading Peter, you read the Petrine epistles, he’ll say it. The sufferings here are going to lead to glory here. When you’re suffering here, the Spirit of the glory of God rests upon you. The Gospel is a message. It’s not that all we do is suffer. There’s a lot of massive victory. There’s all kinds of great things that God does in our life. But the reason Paul can rejoice in suffering is because he doesn’t think that something strange has happened. Peter says that in 1 Peter 4. He goes, “Don’t be surprised at the fiery trial that has come upon you as believers, like something crazy happened. Like, ‘Where did God go in the midst of this suffering?’”
Paul says to Timothy, in 2 Timothy 3:12, “All that live godly in Christ Jesus will be suffer persecution.” There’s going to be some of that. So, Paul never envisioned following Christ without suffering. So, he says, “I’m going to rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.”
He says, “...and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,”
This has been a problem text for a long time, thousands of years, as church theologians and scholars have sort of debated what’s going on here. What Paul is saying here, Paul believes that as followers of Christ, His body, the Church, that there will be sufferings that take place as we follow Christ. And Paul is saying, “I’m filling up as I’m in prison. I’ve gotten beat, they’ve thrown rocks at me, they’ve whipped my back and they’ve done all this stuff. I’m filling up even more so in my own body the sufferings that will happen on Christ’s Church.”
What he’s really saying is that some of you all, because you’re moving from the Gospel to maybe make it fit better, or to maybe give you a little bit better life, or maybe to make it not so difficult, to really follow Jesus and do the things that Jesus wants us to do and really live like Jesus wants us to live, he says, “I’m filling up for those things in my own self for the body, for the Church.”
So, it says, “...of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,”
So, in other words, Paul says, “Listen, lean in here: I have been called of God with a message to make the Word of God fully known. It’s a stewardship that God’s given to me for you, for those of you all out there in the Lycus Valley and other people that are out there, this is what God’s called me to do. To do this, to live this out, to be this person, to make fully known...”
“...the mystery that’s been hidden for ages and generations...”
In other words, it was in here, but nobody was seeing it. It was here but nobody saw it. When Jesus says, in John 5:39, “You’re reading the Scriptures...” — they’re reading the Old Testament. He says, “When you read those, they speak of me.”
Most Christians would struggle to find Jesus in the Old Testament. Most people with the Old Testament says the Old Testament’s about Israel. Okay. The Old Testament is about Christ. And see, like Isaiah 53, we read that today as Christians with the suffering servant. He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, chastisement of our peace was upon him. We go, “Man, that was Jesus.”
Okay. But, for years and years and years and years, Israel read those texts as it was them. They were the suffering servant. So, Paul read the Old Testament through the lens of Israel. It was hidden. This message was hidden back here for generations, but Paul’s like, “Hey, I got the key that unlocked everything for me. This mystery that was hidden for ages and generations,”
“...but now revealed to his saints.”
In other words, now there’s been a revelation to the people of God about this mystery that was hidden. It was there but nobody saw it. Nobody had the lens to see it. He says, “To them,” the saints of God, all the people of God, those who follow Jesus.”
“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery,”
In other words, there was this mystery that nobody — like the Gentiles. What do we do with the Gentiles? Most people in the Old Testament, most people that were Jewish people, they said when Israel is set up as the nation above all nations, like Isaiah 2, when the mountain of the hill of the Lord is set up, then all the nations will flood in. What they were thinking is that the Gentiles would sort of be sort of kept from the people of God as a general rule until Israel had been set up as the nation above all nations. Paul says, “Man, when I realize the Old Testament isn’t really about Israel, the Old Testament is really about Jesus, it’s about Him, it’s about God.”
Just like the Old Testament is not about Samson, David or Abraham. The Old Testament is about how God deals with those people. It’s about God. It’s about Jesus. Scripture is about Him, not about all these other things that we do.
He says, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles [...] this mystery,” — listen to what he says, because this is huge — “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
“You” is plural. It’s not personal. It’s not individuals. It’s the Church. It’s all the people of God. The glory of Christ in everybody. In other words, everybody can participate in Christ now. It’s not just for one group of people or one nation. Everybody can participate. So, for Paul, this mystery is the inclusion of the Gentiles into Israel in the present. And see, for Paul, Israel and the Church are not separate entities. That’s why when you read Ephesians 2 and he says, “There used to be two. There was this and that, but the two now, in Christ, have become one, which is the Church.”
Galatians 3 says, “If you have faith, you’re of the children of Abraham.” You go, “How can I be the children of Abraham?” Because that’s what it means. The true spiritual people of Abraham are the people that have faith. He says, in Galatians 3:28, “There’s neither Jew nor Greek. All are one in Christ Jesus.” In Romans 11, there’s one branch, not two, and Jew and Gentile both come into that one branch. So, for Paul, he realizes. He’s like, “This is a game-changer. This is a game-changer that God is reaching out to everybody.”
Because the Jewish people thought that God loved them, and the other people were sort of going to have to wait for a little while. Like if you would’ve gone to the temple in the first century, there would’ve been a thing that says, “If you are a Gentile, you cannot go past this place.” You couldn’t go past it at all. And for Paul, he’s working this out as he’s realizing what’s going on. And you see it in the early church. They don’t know what to do with it.
Like Peter. Peter’s been with Jesus. He’s eaten at table. He’s gone to the Decapolis on the boat and seen Jesus really heal a demoniac that was a Gentile. He’s seen Him reach out to these people. He’s seen Him do this. But Peter, when God says, “I want you to go preach the Gospel to Cornelius, a Gentile,” what does he do?
“I’m not going there. Those people are dirty. I’m not doing that.”
So, what does God have to do? He has to give him three visions on a rooftop to finally get him to go. And they don’t know what to do with it. Even in Acts 15, they don’t know what to do. They’re going, “What do we do?” Peter’s like, “I don’t know, man. I went to Cornelius’ house, man. Man, they got filled with the Holy Spirit like we did in Acts 2. I don’t know what God’s up to.”
Everybody’s going, “Man, what’s going on?” They’re like, “We don’t know. Maybe we need to cut them some slack. Maybe we just need to just give them a couple things not to do and you’re in.”
They’re still trying to figure this thing out. Paul says, “I’m a minister. I get it. I know what my job is. I know what my role is. It is to preach Jesus to everybody because this is the greatest hope of everything, that Christ now resides and lives within all of those people that will call upon His name.” And then listen to what he says, because this is huge:
“Him we proclaim,”
Him. Jesus. Him. See, I’m convinced, as a pastor, when I look at the Church in America, we’re in decline. We’re not growing as a church in America. Mainline churches are crumbling. You see it all over the place. I’m here to tell you the reason why the Church in America is declining is because we preach “Jesus plus.” Our issues, our political views, our thoughts. “Don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t. Oh, and Jesus loves you.”
Paul says, “Him we proclaim.” Him. Which means the Gospel is not a system or set of regulations. It’s a person. Who can set you free? Jesus. Who can deliver you? Jesus. Who can bring you salvation? Jesus. Who can bring you peace in your life? Jesus. That’s the Gospel message. The Gospel message is so simple. Listen, if you’re here today and you’ve never, ever, ever — you’re like “I don’t even know why I got in church today. Somebody drug me hear. I thought I was going to a movie and here I am at church. I don’t know how I got here. Man, I don’t know what to do with God.”
Let me make it very, very clear for you. This is the essence of Christianity: God loved you so much that He gave His Son to die on a cross and rise again on the third day so that you could have everlasting life. Are you in? And we don’t know what to do with that because we go, “Yeah, but what — but, but, but, but...”
No, no. Let me just tell you, if this is all about what we do, if this is all about what we get right, can I tell you that everybody in here is in trouble? We’re in trouble. I know people don’t like the word “sin.” Okay? The Bible calls it sin. The Greek word is “hamartia,” which is to miss the mark. We’ll call it “oops.” You don’t have to raise your hand, but has anybody done an oops? Come on, now. We’ve all done some oops.
Jesus came for your oops. Your oops can’t get you in. It’s only what Jesus has done for you and me. It’s not what we do to get us in. And what we do is we make it all these hoops that everybody has to — “Well, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that. You can’t do that. If you do this, you can’t do that. You can’t, you can’t, you can’t.”
We preach all this stuff. That’s not the Gospel. The Gospel is a person. It’s Jesus.
Paul says, “...warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
Once again, because we don’t understand that the epistles are for the Church, we feel like it’s our job to go out and warn everybody who’s not a Christian. No, no. Once again, these letters are to Christians. They’re not to non-Christians. Paul says, “I’m warning everybody in the Church, because there’s a danger here, and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
Because here’s the reality: We, if we’re preaching Jesus and then we don’t look like Jesus or we don’t act like Jesus or we convolute Jesus with this world — like, we don’t even know what to do. Most Christians do not know what to do with “love your enemies.” They don’t know what to do with it because they say, “Well, maybe for a minute. Surely, He can’t mean love your enemies.”
Which is hilarious because you get people going, “Let me tell you about the book of Revelation and what it says here, and this angel coming down and the dragons and everything. This is the clear meaning of Scripture.”
I’m like, “Dude, there ain’t nothing clear about the book of Revelation. Nothing. I’ve got three master’s degrees and two doctorates, and I teach systematic theology. I’m telling you nobody knows what’s going on.”
Not even in Colorado where they smoke stuff. Okay? I’m telling you. It’d be like — okay. Here’s this. What I’m saying is love your enemies. That sounds pretty clear. We can’t even get the clear things right. Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Look like Jesus. We go, “Oh, well, He didn’t really mean that. I mean, I think somewhere in the Old Testament He looked like Rambo. Is there a book like Rambo?”
Forget that He said, “I know you’ve heard it said, but now I say to you...”
We go, “Oh, well, yeah. But I’m going to...”
No, no, no. That’s not what He said. So, what I’m saying is these letters were written to Christians. He’s saying, “Hey, listen, I want to make sure everybody’s mature in Christ.”
He says, “For this I toil,”
In other words, “Man, I work at it. I work, I work, I work, I work. I struggle. I labor with...”
“...all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
You hear people in church — all we do is argue these things. Like, “So, should I do it? Should God do it? Is God sovereign? Am I doing this? Which part do I play? What part does this play?”
Let me just make it very clear here what Paul says. Paul simply states that God works in him and he toils as well. He doesn’t try to fully explain it. Maybe we would do well to just follow Paul and just go, “I give everything I’ve got and I know that when I give everything I’ve got I know that God’s working in me to do the things that I’m doing. I don’t understand it, but that’s just what I do.”
We want to explain everything, then we argue about it. People get mad. “You’re not using the Bible right.” They go through the different hubs so they don’t have to see each other. It’s like, “Come on. Let’s stop that stuff.”
He says, “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for all those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face,”
“I know that in the Lycus Valley, here, there’s a lot of people I’ve never seen, but I’m struggle for you all because I want your hearts to be encouraged. I want you to be knit together in love. I want you to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery.”
And for us, we would go, “Man, that’s got to be a really long list to understand all the understandings and the riches of full assurance, and the knowledge of God’s mystery.”
And you’ve met those people, right? I mean, they’ve got, “Here’s the mystery.” It’s like 90 pages of all the stuff. Listen to how simple it is for Paul. “I want all these things to be true. I want you to understand all this stuff. I want you to understand the knowledge of God’s mystery.”
Listen: “...which is Christ,”
Is He enough or is it “Jesus plus,” “Jesus and?” Which is Christ. See, once again, the wholly sufficient Gospel message is Jesus. And the first thing that we want to do is go, “Yeah, but...”
But see, the “yeah, but” doesn’t save anybody. Jesus is the one that saves people.
He says, “...in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Come on. This is church, so we can all be for real here. We don’t really believe that. Because we’re out looking for everything else in life to make us happy. We don’t believe that in Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
He says, “I say this...”
“Listen, I’ve said all this stuff I’m saying to you. I’m telling you about Jesus. I’m telling you about who He is. I’m telling you about the purity of the Gospel. I’m telling you that Jesus is who we preach. I’m telling you that the mystery of God is Christ.”
“I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.”
Because what they’re going to do is this. This is textual interaction. It’s so easy to be distracted with well-sounding arguments and rhetoric focused on the here and now. What we do is we take some nationalism, some of this and some of that, even though we’re called to be citizens of heaven, and what we do is we take all of these things, and then we take Christ and we cram it together and we go, “This is Christianity.”
It isn’t working. The Church is in decline. The message of the Church is Jesus. He is the message of the Church. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the one that does all the things that need to be done. He is the one in whom all things hold together. And people will come along and they will delude you and they will talk to you and they will get you off focus on all kinds of stuff, making you think that what you are doing is exactly what you should be doing. That will not save people. What will save people is the simple Gospel message that Jesus Christ died for your sins and He rose again on the third day and He’s going to come back one day. That is a sufficient message and that should be the message of the Church. Paul says, “I say all this so that you don’t get deluded.”
He goes, “For though I am absent in body,” — because I’m in prison — “I’m with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. Therefore,”
I went to a church when I was growing up. The older preacher, his name was Floyd McClung. He was a great guy. He loved God. I still, to this day, always feel like I need to be a better prayer person. You could go into the sanctuary at Westmore Church of God when I was a kid. I was 19. He would be up in the sanctuary, in the top balcony, praying. You could go up after he had prayed and there was a puddle of water where he had cried. He used to say, “When you come to a ‘therefore’ in Scripture, you must ask yourself what it is there for.”
That’s great. You know? It might not be good preaching, but it was good Gospel. Right? So, anyway.
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,”
See, this “therefore” takes into account everything up to now. What he’s saying is this: “How did you come to receive Jesus? Was it because of all the things you didn’t touch, didn’t taste, didn’t get this right, didn’t do that, didn’t do this, didn’t do that, didn’t do this, didn’t act like that, didn’t act like this? No. How’d you come to Jesus? Through the Gospel.”
So, the same way that you received Him, walk in it. Be that. Focus on that.
He says, “...rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it...”
Once again, he’s calling them. “Listen, don’t let anybody take you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
Don’t get distracted here, Church. That’s what he’s saying. Don’t move away. Like he says to the Galatians, he’s like, “Who bewitched you,” Galatians 3:1, “that you’re going to move away from the Gospel? Who got to you to get you way from the simplicity of what it was that brought you to Christ?”
He says, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,”
He is all of God when He walked here in the world.
“...and you’ve been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”
You’ve got everything you need, and He is the head of all rule and authority. You know, the Church — look, I’m just being honest. I don’t know if there’s a more fearful group than the Church. We’re always worried about everything going on in the world. We always get so caught up in the political spectrum of everything. Let me just go ahead and tell you right now, go home today and read Isaiah 40. Isaiah will tell you that your God is so big that the nations are like a drop in the bucket to Him. He’s the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He rules this world. You don’t have to be worried about whether or not God is in control. He knows what He’s doing. Everything is going exactly the way He wants it to go, and what He wants us to do is trust Him and not get distracted.
That’s way better preaching than you all are letting on. Anyway, I want to read this to you because we’re going to come back to all of this in just a minute.
“In him you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 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.”
You’re part of the circumcision. You’ve been baptized and raised to newness of life.
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh,”
You were dead and baptism raised you to life. You were uncircumcised in your flesh. You’ve been circumcised now. God made alive. He’s the initiator of this thing.
“God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all of our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.”
All the things that we felt like we needed to do, all the hoops that you feel like you have to jump through, all the things that you’ve got to feel like you’ve got to do to get God to love you, He nailed that to the cross. You don’t have to perform.
“He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
We’re going to come back to this in just a second as we do our practical take-homes. So, here’s some practical application. Three things and I’ll get you out of here.
First, the Gospel message is Jesus. I want you to hear the Scripture again. “Him we proclaim.” I want to do two things real quickly. If you are not a Christian at all, you’ve come to a great place. You’ve come to a great place. We’re not putting you under the legalism stuff. None of that stuff. We want to tell you that Jesus loved you enough that He came and died on a cross to get rid of all your oopses, and His message to you is, “Come home.” You may have been told you had to clean up, but you can’t clean up. He cleans you up. He cleans you up. He’ll take care of you.
An old preacher told me one time, “Chip, go out and catch men. Catch them like fish. God will clean them.”
It’s not my job to clean you. That’s what God does. And I know the Church wants to clean everybody up. We can’t. The only person that can clean you up is God and He wants you to come home. He loves you with an everlasting love.
For those of you all who are Christians, though, what I would tell you is just be honest for a minute. Take a diagnostic. Coming to church isn’t what you want. Coming to church, you should hear what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. It should be what you need to hear. Okay? I’m not here to entertain. I’m here to equip as your pastor.
Listen to this: Look at your social media, look at the things that you talk about, look at the things that you talk about, look at the things that frustrate you, look at the things that you get all bent out of shape and ask yourself the question, “What am I really proclaiming? Is it some of Jesus and then all this other stuff or am I really just proclaiming Jesus?”
If the Church could get focused on that and not distracted by all the other things, what a powerful entity we would be. In fact, I will tell you this right here: When the Church loses its central message, it loses its power. Do you want to know what the message of the Church is? It’s Jesus. “Yeah, but, but, but...”
No. Jesus is enough. He didn’t say He was a way. He said He was the way. He didn’t say He was a life, or maybe some part. He said He’s the life. He didn’t say He was a part of truth. He said He was the truth. John 14:6: “I’m the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Except through Him. “But what about... but what about?” No. Through Him. He’s our message. When we lose our central message, we lose our power. Jesus is what we should be proclaiming. And I’m here to tell you, and I’m bold enough to say it, and I’m bold enough to get in your grill to say we have a problem in the American church because we’re so divisive and we’re so mad at people who don’t see it the way we see it, and we forget that what brings us together is not socioeconomic backgrounds, it’s not issues, it’s not political theory.
What brings us to the table where we drink the wine, take the bread — or the grape juice, here in this church. But when we do those things, it’s because we believe that Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords and that He rose from the dead on the third day. That is what unites us as Christians.
Second: Jesus is the ultimate answer to everything we’re looking and searching for. Come on. You know it. You know it. Everyone. I’m guilty, too. I’m an oopser. I’m with you. I put my pants on the same way. I don’t walk on the water. I sink. My kids are wild. They punch each other, bite each other and they do all that stuff. I mean, I’m just like you. There ain’t no difference up here. I don’t get up in the morning and God goes, “Hey, how are you doing, Chip?”
I’m like, “God, where are You at, man? We need more seats.”
You know? So, all the things that we’re looking for, and searching for all those things are Jesus, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. See, the ultimate longing we all have in our hearts is for Jesus. When you’re longing for something, the only thing that’s going to fulfill that is Christ.
And here’s the best part. Third. There is massive victory — I mean, massive — right now, for you in your life. Just listen please. If you didn’t listen to anything else I said, listen here. Drink this in. Because if you say, “I am a follower of Jesus,” this is true for you whether you feel it, whether you think it, whether you know it. This is true of you. Listen to what the Scriptures say.
“He cancelled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.”
In other words, I know so many Christians that walk around with a sheet of paper. “I did this. I did this. I should’ve never done this.” They walk around and all they do is read that sheet of paper all the time. And it makes them feel bad. They don’t think that God could ever love them. They don’t understand any of this stuff. They go, “I believe in Jesus, but I’ve done all these things. Look at this letter that I’ve got. Look at all these legal demands. Look at all of this stuff that I’ve done in my life.”
Paul says, “He set that aside. He nailed it to the cross. You do not need to carry that letter around with you anymore. Your sins have been forgiven in Jesus’ name.”
And this is awesome. “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them.” In the first century, when a king or a ruler would defeat another ruler, what they would do is they would capture that person alive, if they possibly could, they’d put them in chains, they’d time them to a rope and put that rope on the back of a horse. They would drag that leader, that had been defeated, behind that horse through the towns and the cities so that everybody could know that he ain’t your leader anymore because the dude on the horse is dragging him.
Paul says that when Jesus stepped out of the grave, death, hell, the grave, the Devil, the demons, all of that stuff is being dragged behind Him because He has made an open, public shame of them for what they’ve done, which means that if your sins are forgiven and Jesus is in control and death, hell and the grave can’t come against you, then we ought to be people of massive victory in our lives right now. Amen?
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the truth of Your Word. I thank You, Lord, that we have these documents that instruct us and keep us focused. Lord, my prayer is, here at Grace Community Church, that we would remember the last two words of why we’re here: We’re here to reflect Christ. We want to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. Birth Christ in our church. Birth Christ in our people. Birth the Gospel anew and afresh in our people. Let it be Him that we proclaim and not all the other things. Let us stay focused, Lord. Time is short. This is the highest stakes game in town there’s so many people that need Your love, and they’re looking for it. What they don’t need is a convoluted message. They need the authenticity that God loves them, wants them to come home and they need a church that does the best they can to demonstrate that love in a tangible way.
Lord, please, for Your glory and for Your honor, for the sake of Your Church, for the sake of Your people, burden us, Lord, keep our eyes focused upon You in all that we do. So, Lord, as we leave here right now, we pray that You would watch over us and protect us, we pray that You would lead and guide us, we pray that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again. And Lord, I pray that You would continue to help us to be the church that You’ve called us to be to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.
We love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.” Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.