Supreme Hope – Colossians 1:25-27

In the Survival Journal.com they state, “One of the common rules we have amongst survivalists and preppers is called the Rule of Threes.”

The Survival Rule of 3’s States That You Can:

  • Survive Three Weeks Without Food
  • Survive Three Days Without Water
  • Survive Three Hours Without Shelter
  • Survive Three Minutes Without Oxygen
  • Survive Three Seconds Without Hope

Wow, three seconds without hope.  I find it interesting that among survivalists that they would put such a high priority on hope.   Here’s what they say,

“The Survival Rules Explained: Let’s break down this rule of survival piece by piece so you best understand it and why it’s important for us to remember ‘3 Seconds Without Hope’  A big part of why preparation is so crucial is so that you don’t panic! If you panic, you’re done. The first part of the rule of 3’s in survival states that you can only survive three seconds without hope. So be prepared for emergencies before they happen so you’re prepared.” They explain that preparation brings confidence and hope which is vital.

To survive in today’s hostile environment to our faith, our passage shows us the hope we have in Jesus! We see that we can grow in our confidence and be prepared against doubt, false teaching and keep our hope alive in Christ.

The key verse in this passage is verse 27:  “…Christ in you the HOPE of Glory.”

Let’s break it down from the beginning staring with verse 25 with Paul explaining how we get prepared with the hope we have in Christ.

Paul had referred to himself as “a servant of this gospel.” Paul’s service came because of God’s commission. No human had commissioned Paul; no human authority had called him; instead, Jesus Christ himself had spoken to him (Acts 9:4-6). Paul’s credentials as an apostle need never be questioned. Although Paul was called after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, he and the other apostles were called by Jesus Christ and God the Father, and they answered to God as their final authority.

Paul explained that this commission was given to him for you, that is, for Gentile congregations such as the one in Colosse. When Paul was commissioned by God, the focus of his ministry was made clear. God said of Paul, “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles” (Acts 9:15 niv). Paul was keenly aware of who had commissioned him, to whom he had been commissioned, and what he had been called to do.

He was commissioned to make the word of God fully known.NRSV The heresy in Colosse drained hope from Christ followers by claiming the need for mystical knowledge, and that only a few could find it.  When Paul wrote of making God’s word fully known to all the believers, he was pointing out once again that God’s word is for all people. They could have all the wisdom they needed to be saved and to grow in Christ.

1:26 The MYSTERY which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but NOW has been revealed to His saints.NKJV

What is this mystery?  There are some things God reveals to no one. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, The Lord our God has secrets known to no one.” Still other things were hidden in the Old Testament but have now been revealed in the New. The New Testament calls them mysteries (mustērion). Paul’s use of this word is not to indicate a secret teaching, rite, or ceremony revealed only to some elite initiates (as in the mystery religions), but truth revealed to all believers in the New Testament. This truth, that has now been revealed to His saints, is that which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, namely the Old Testament era and people. Now refers to the time of the writing of the New Testament.

27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. 

One of the greatest scientists of our time was Albert Einstein. He was a man who was so focused on his scientific theories. He was so focused, he often neglected even the simplest things of life, such as personal appearance (as evidenced by his hair). One time, Albert Einstein was taking a train out of town for a speaking engagement. As he sat in his seat engrossed in his work, the conductor stopped by to punch his ticket. Looking up in shock, Einstein realized he didn’t know what he had done with his ticket. Frantically, he began to search his coat pockets, and then his briefcase.  Gently, the conductor said, “We all know who you are, Dr. Einstein. I’m sure you bought ticket. Don’t worry about it.”

But, as the conductor moved along, he looked back to see Einstein on his hands and knees searching under the seats for his ticket. The conductor walked back, “Dr. Einstein, please, don’t worry about it. I know who you are.”   Exasperated, Einstein looked up and said, “I, too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going.”

The Christians at Colossae had gotten to the point that they weren’t sure where they were going because somebody had begun to convince them that they weren’t going to heaven. Somebody had slipped into their midst and begun to tell them they weren’t acceptable to God

They weren’t even sure who they were. To understand what was going on here, it helps to realize that back in the days of this letter – behind the scenes – there was a spiritual battle taking place

The congregation at Colossae was composed of Gentile believers. A Gentile was anyone who was not of Jewish descent. (I asked the audience on Sunday how many of them had “Jewish blood” in their veins? Only one raised their hand. “The rest of you are all Gentiles”)

Gentiles had always been despised by God’s people. The Jews referred to them as dogs, and perhaps had even worse names for them. Jews refused to spend any time with them if they could avoid it. Jews wouldn’t eat with them, work for them, play with them. If a Jew purchased anything from a Gentile, the product was washed to cleanse it the filth of those who had no part in God’s covenant.

So when the church early got started it is no surprise that there were no Gentiles in the church. After the church had established itself in Jerusalem, God moved Philip to share the Good News with an Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8 who believed and was baptized.  In Acts 9 God called Paul to “take my message to the Gentiles.” In Acts 10 God led the Apostle Peter to he household of a Roman Centurion named Cornelius to preach the Gospel to him and his family who all believed and were baptized.

As more and more Gentiles came to Christ, the apostles and church leaders met together to decide what to do about all the gentiles coming to faith in Chris in Acts 15: They agreed that God was drawing them and giving them the Holy Spirit as they believed (Acts 15:8) that they were acceptable just as they were – no circumcision required, no need to follow Jewish laws, or customs.

What Paul was telling the Colossians that there was something these false teachers didn’t understand.  “The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery,”

And, what was that mystery? It’s…”Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:26-27

Of all the mysteries God has revealed in the New Testament, the most profound is Christ in you, the hope of glory. The Old Testament predicted the coming of the Messiah. But the idea that He would actually live in His redeemed church, made up mostly of Gentiles, was new and mind-blowing!  The New Testament is clear that Christ, by the Holy Spirit, takes up permanent residence in all believers (cf. Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 6:19, 20). The revelation of the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles awaited the New Testament (Eph. 3:3-6).

Believers, both Jew and Gentile, now possess the surpassing riches of the indwelling Christ (John 14:23; Gal. 2:20)! The church is described as “the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people’” (2 Cor. 6:16).

That Christ indwells all believers is the source for their hope of glory and is the subject or theme of the gospel ministry. What makes the gospel attractive is not just that it promises present joy and help, but that it promises eternal honor, blessing, and glory. When Christ comes to live in a believer, His presence is the anchor of the promise of heaven—the guarantee of future bliss eternally. In the reality that Christ is living in the Christian is the experience of new life and hope of eternal glory!

  • The Gentile believers in Colossae were already saved
  • The Gentile believers were already acceptable before God.
  • And the Gentile believers there already had the hope of living in Glory.

Why, because Christ was living inside of them. They were acceptable just as they were!

The hope was this: That God would let anybody be acceptable to Him through faith in Christ.

The hope was that God would allow those who had been His enemies to now be called His friends

Now that’s a supreme hope!

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

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Additional Sources:  John MacArthur, MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Colossians and Philemon, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 78.

 

 

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Supreme God – Colossians 1:13-21

Today we continue our series in Colossians called “Supreme Life,” because Colossians describes Christ as being supreme.  Here’s a reminder of  how the dictionary defines supreme:

Supreme1: highest in rank or authority. 2: highest in degree or quality. Merriam Webster Dictionary

Supreme defines Christ well!

As we take a look at this second half of chapter one of Colossians, I want to remind you that Jesus Christ is not only Supreme but He’s also God. 

That’s what Colossians 1 is all about.  Colossians of all the books in the New Testament emphasizes Jesus as God; savior, creator, sustainer, head of the church, and Lord of all.

The Bible is written not just for us to think about facts and figures.  It’s written to help us understand how God wants to fit into our lives.  These verses in Colossians 1 are not just how Jesus Christ should be God, but that He is.  As we read through this let’s not  hear them as facts for somebody to understand.  Hear them as truths to start to live out.

First of all Colossians 1:13-14 reminds us that …

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  NIV

I.  He is Savior – Thank Him for My Salvation.

One of the keys is to build into our lives is a regular habit of thanking Him for our salvation.  If you really take the time to thank Him for the things that He’s done for you as a Christian it tends to cause Him to rise up above all those things and causes you and I to see Him as God.

Paul in chapter 1 gives a list of some of those things.  What do we thank Jesus for?

Verse 13 for the fact that He’s rescued us from the dominion of darkness.  That’s not Darth Vader.  That’s Satan’s dominion.  And He has brought us into the kingdom of the Son that He loves in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin.  Four thanksgivings that can transform your life

  1. Thank Him that He rescued us.  Have you seen that TV show “Rescue 9-1-1”?  This is Rescue Colossians 1.  He delivered us from the dominion of darkness and He brought us into the kingdom of His Son who He loves.

You and I don’t even know how incredible that is.  We don’t see how dark darkness really is yet because we’re still on this earth.  And we don’t see how bright God really is because we’re still on this earth.  But He rescued us.  It’s the greatest rescue that’s ever happened.  For you as a believer it’s already happened in your life.  It’s as if you were on the edge of a cliff and the branch was breaking and you were about to fall and Christ reached down and rescues you.  So if you want to sing “He rescued me,” you can as a believer in Christ.

  1. He transported us. He transported us from one place to another.  It’s a picture of some things that some of you who’ve studied the Old Testament might be familiar with.  You remember in the Old Testament when an attacking army would come in they would, often instead of totally wiping out a country kidnap an entire country and take them home with them.  That happened in the Old Testament with Israel.  The Babylonians came in and instead of wiping out the country they took all the people from one country and took them over to another country.  That’s the picture.  That’s the word that’s used here.  That’s what’s happened to you and I as believers.  We’ve been taken from one country to another country.  It’s not talking about physically but spiritually.  We have a new home.  The Bible tells us we are no longer citizens of this earth but we are citizens of heaven.

In Bible times, most of the time, this picture is used is used of someone who’s defeated having to go against their will to a country where they would be oppressed.  In this case Jesus Christ is taking us from a place of defeat, a country of defeat – earth – and He’s already taken us to be a citizen of heaven.  I think a lot of people think, “I’m going to be a citizen of heaven when I die.  Right now I’m a citizen of this earth.”  But that is not what the Bible teaches about us.  One of the things you can thank Him for is that your address is already changed.  Your name is already written in His book.  He’s already transported us.  That’s something to thank God for.

  1. We can also thank Him for the fact that He has redeemed us. That means He’s paid a price for us. He brought us.  Not with gold or silver, but with his blood.
  1. He has forgiven us. We talked about this a little bit last time.  Let me just remind you again what better thing could you thank God for than the fact that all of your sins – all of your sins – are forgiven by Jesus Christ’s death on the cross.  Wow!

Let’s thank Him for being Savior and next let’s recognize the truth about Jesus.

Colossians 1:15-18

II.  He is God – Believe the Truth about Him.

The Colossians faced a heresy.  It was a mixture of Gnosticism and Judaism and a bunch of their own things all together that was stealing from them the truth about Jesus Christ.

Let me take a minute to explain.  I think it’s important to understand what they faced so you can understand what we face.  One of the beliefs that they faced was that God, the God that you and I talk about, was not actually the creator of earth.  The reason they thought that is they had a belief that everything material, everything that you can see and touch and feel, our bodies and everything else, was evil.  The Bible doesn’t teach that by the way.  Some of you might believe that, you may have even been taught that.  But the Bible doesn’t teach that.  But they believed that everything created was evil.  It was made out of evil matter.  But God who was perfectly good could not make something that was evil.  So they had this idea that God in order to create the earth had to do something.  They said God created a little bit smaller God.

Here’s what the Gnostics taught.  The God who created the universe was not “up there”.  The god who created the universe was way down here.  In fact according to their belief there were millions of gods between that God and this god until they got a small enough god to create the universe.

Anytime somebody tries to make God smaller than He actually is that’s called false teaching.  They believed in this so much that they believed that Jesus couldn’t have been born as a man because being a man would be evil.  They believed that Jesus actually was born as a man and at His baptism the Spirit came upon Him.  “Docetic” was the belief that the Spirit came upon Him and at that moment He became God and so He could no longer touch the earth.  So they believed that He never even touched anybody.  They believed He didn’t even touch the earth.  They said when He walked He didn’t leave any footprints.  Because He actually walked just that far above the ground because the world was so evil.  Isn’t that a strange way of thinking about God?

We’ve got a lot of strange ways of thinking about God now too.  Anything that diminishes the truth about who Jesus really is – keeps us from seeing Him as God.  The truth about Christ is incredibly important.  The world misses that.  They say, “Jesus was just a good teacher.  He was just a prophet.   The truth about Christ is awesomely important. He is God, He is the savior of your life.

False teachers usually don’t deny Christ.  They simply try to dethrone Him.  Make Him a little bit smaller.  They don’t deny Him prominence.  They say He can be out in front.  But they deny Him preeminence – He can’t be first.  They don’t deny Jesus can be a way.  It’s just really hard for a false teacher to say that Jesus is the way.  So Paul wrote and said, “If you really want to know Christ is God here’s some truths we all need to know.”  Eight truths.

  1. Christ is the Visible Representation of God.

  Verse 15 “He is the image of the invisible God,

We know that God is a Spirit.  So by “image of God” it means that all the characteristics of God were in the person of Jesus Christ.

He was also man so He had a human body.  He was the only person who was both God and man.  One hundred percent God and one hundred percent man a hundred percent of the time.

Every other truth of Christianity grows out of this one truth.  That’s why anytime somebody wants to destroy the truth about who Christ is, this truth is attacked.

Let me make it more personal.  That’s why anytime Satan wants to keep you from living out the truth of Jesus’ as God he starts to gnaw away at this truth.  And he is in some of your lives.  We live in a world today where sometimes we feel embarrassed to say that Jesus is the way.  He is.  Or sometimes people attack you and say, “What kind of judgmental person are you?”  It’s not judgmental to tell the truth.  If you see somebody driving the wrong way on the freeway and you point it out that’s not judgmental.  You should honk at them.  You should let them know.

  1. Christ is the firstborn. the firstborn of all creation.”

This is a word I know a lot of you looked at and said, “I read this thing about the Trinity and Jesus always has been God and He wasn’t created by God.  He was God.  I know He was born as a man but what does this mean He was firstborn?  Does that mean that there was a birth that happened in heaven?”  No.  That’s not taught anywhere in the Bible.  In fact, the reason we’re confused is that this term “firstborn” is unfamiliar to us.  It wouldn’t have been unfamiliar to them in their day.  The term “firstborn” to them was a term of position.  It didn’t have so much to do with the order that you were born but the position that you were given.  In fact, if you read in the Old Testament you see that sometimes even if you were born in a different order on human terms somebody would be given the position of being the firstborn in the family.

God created Adam who was the first man.  The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians that the second man is Jesus.  God decided to give Jesus that place of prominence and preeminence.  He gets all the rights.  He gets all the privileges of the firstborn.  Not that He was born; it’s the position that God gave to Him.

So anytime someone says, “You say Jesus is God and He wasn’t born.  It says He’s firstborn.”  Just say “That’s not a word that talks about birth.  It’s a word that talks about position.”  The Jew of that day would have understood it very well.  That’s what the word is all about.  The position of Christ is all the inheritance of the universe is His.

Psalm 89:27 one of the titles of the Messiah, the Promised One that’s going to come, is “firstborn”.

So that’s part of who Jesus is.  He above all of creation has been given the rights.

  1. Christ is the Creator.  “For by Him all things were created.  Things in heaven and things on earth.  Visible and invisible.  Whether throne or powers or rulers or authorities, all things were created by Him.”  Is he just trying to be clear?  Don’t miss this, he says.  Everything is created by Him.  Somehow in the mystery of how God worked things out Jesus was given the job of creation.  In Genesis you read all of God was involved in creation at a certain point but Jesus was given the particular privilege of being named the creator of the heavens and earth.

Obviously later in our history Jesus came into this world.  It’s always amazing to think of the fact that He who created this world walked on this world.  The hand that created this world figuratively touched this world in reality.  The hands in the carpenter shop when Jesus was a boy and worked on the wood to make a  table or chair, those are the same hands that made that wood.  The hand, when Jesus was setting with 5000, that divided the loaves and the fish, those were the same hands that made the wheat and the fish that swam in the sea.  The hands that stretched themselves out to receive the nails on the cross, those were the same hands that made the iron from which those nails were made, that made the wood that formed that hammer, that made the people that drove in those nails.  Our creator walked this earth.  Jesus Christ is the creator.

Paul said when you think about who God is, when you think about who Jesus is if you want to keep them in first place don’t forget who He is.  He made it all.  He’s the creator of heaven and earth.  Not only creator…  

  1. Christ is the Owner. “All things were created by Him and for Him.”

by Him and for Him.” Two words that are very important.

Do you ever wake up in the morning feeling like, “I think everything should be for me today.  It’s my birthday or whatever.  Today’s the day when everything should be for me.  It should all work out my way today.  I feel like all the attention should come my way.”  Do you ever feel that way?

The truth of this world is it’s all created for Him.  Every day is His birthday.  It’s all created for Him.  This entire world is not only made by Jesus but for Him, for His glory, for His pleasure, for His joy.  That helps you stop living as a selfish owner and start living as a loving steward of God’s creation.

There was a Dutch theologian that said this about the fact that Jesus is the owner.  “When Jesus looks at His universe from His exalted throne at the right hand of the Father and He sees the great galaxies whirling in space, the planets and the people upon the planet, all the minute details of life here including the details of our individual lives there is nothing that He sees anywhere of which He cannot say, ‘Mine’.”  It’s all His.

Some people are denying Him His rightful place but the Bible tells us that one day every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.  “It’s Yours, Lord.”  Better sooner than later.

Not only is Christ the creator and owner but…

  1. Christ is the sustainer. “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”  Vs 17

Paul goes on to say as he talks about the truth of who Jesus really is in verse 17, Everything holds together in Him.  We all need to understand this if we’re going to live out the truth of Jesus being in first place of our life.  He didn’t just wind up the universe and let it start to tick down.  He’s the sustainer.  “In Him all things hold together.”  He’s intimately involved in every tick of the universe.  All the laws of physics, all the laws of gravity, all the laws of energy and biology, all that holds this world together – they are daily living expressions of His creative mind.  If God ceased to exist this world would cease to exist.  It’s all because of Him.  It’s all happening, not just at the beginning, but right now because of Him.  That changes the way you think about life.

When physicists – especially particle physicists, those people who study atoms – get together they try to figure out things that you and I don’t try to figure out like atoms and things smaller than that called electrons and things smaller called quarks.  They’ve even got something smaller than that but they couldn’t figure out a name so they called it a “glueon” because it holds things together.

Here’s what one particle physicist from Cornell said about what holds the universe together:  “Particle physicists such as myself want to know what are the fundamental invisible building blocks from which all the matter of the universe is made.  What are the basic interactions that glue these building blocks together to make the matter that we see around us?  Most of us think that the current picture we have is incomplete and there’s something deeper.  There’s something more fundamental working behind what we know.  The excitement of our work is we are constantly probing for the chink in the armor of our current understanding that will reveal some clue of the most profound and fundamental structure that’s underneath.”

All they’ve got to do is real Colossians 1.  The structure underneath it all is Jesus Christ.  The power that holds the universe together, my life together, is Jesus Christ.  That’s how great is the power of God.

Paul begins to get a little bit more personal.  Let’s go from creation, he said, to you, to your church and what’s happening there.

  1. Christ is the head of the body (the church) “And he is the head of the body, the church

That’s the truth about who Jesus really is.  He’s not somebody who’s watching the church from afar.  He is the head of the church.

The head of this church is not me or you.  The head of this church is Jesus Christ.  He’s the one that we follow together.  He’s given us different gifts.  Some gifts of leadership, some gifts of teaching, some gifts of mercy.  We all have different gifts.  But all of those gifts are like the arms and the legs.  The head is Jesus Christ.

As a kid we had chickens, and sometimes dad would decide that we had too many roosters and it was time for some fried chicken.  He would cut off the head and I tried not to laugh but it starts to run around in circles, running into trees, flopping on the ground, it was a chicken with its head cut off.

Sometimes we can become like that in God’s church.  We must make sure that it never happens.  There’s lots of activities but no direction.  There’s lots of energy but there’s no purpose.  Jesus Christ is the head of this church and if you ever see anything happen in this church that makes you think that He isn’t, shout it out.  We want Jesus to be the head.

  1. Jesus Christ is also the beginning of the church. “He is the head of the church, the beginning.

He originated it, He’s the operator of it.  He’s the founder and the facilitator.  He’s the beginner and the builder.  Jesus talked to Peter about the church and said, I will build My church.”  He started it and He builds it.

  1. Jesus Christ is also the firstborn from the dead – our hope. “The firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”

This phrase might be confusing to some of you.  He’s the firstborn, the first resurrected.  Wasn’t there some other people resurrected?  Like Lazarus?  So wasn’t Jesus the second or third?

Lazarus in technical terms was not resurrected.  Jesus brought Lazarus out of that tomb.  But some years later he died again.  The body that Jesus brought out of that tomb – Lazarus’ body – died again.  So he was resuscitated for a while eventually to die again.  Jesus, when He came back from the dead, the body that He got, the resurrected body, it will never die.  It’s an eternal body.  That’s the hope.

I don’t want Lazarus’ kind of resurrection for a few years.  I want Jesus’ kind of resurrection.  That’s where the hope is.  Paul says, “You want to know the truth about Jesus?  He’s the first resurrected.”

We know we’ve recognized the truth about Jesus when it changes our lives. Look at the list of truths about Jesus Christ.  That really changes how we act.

  • He is God.  That means I can depend on Him.
  • He’s the firstborn.  That means I’m going to look to Him as the leader.
  • He is the creator.  That means I know that He understands everything about me.
  • He is the owner.  That means I give it all back to Him.
  • He’s the sustainer.  That means I depend on Him.
  • He’s the head of the body.  That means I look to Him for direction.
  • He’s the beginning of the church.  That means I praise Him.
  • He’s the first resurrected.  That means He gives me hope.

We could make a list of dozens of other things that it means along with those truths about Jesus Christ.  When I talk about the truth, I like to talk about three levels.  First we learn it, then we love it, then we live it.  This learning this list of truths about Christ is not enough.  We have to fall in love with the fact that He’s my creator.  But then we have to live it.  We have to say, “How am I going to live today the truth that Jesus Christ made me?  How is that going to make me feel differently about myself and the opportunities that come into my life?”  That’s why Paul says, “If you really want to put Christ in first place don’t let anybody steal the truth about who He is.”

Colossians 1:19-20.  Paul ends all this up by saying very simply “For God was pleased to have all the fullness dwell in Him and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things whether things on earth or things in heaven making peace through His blood shed on the cross.”

In order to live in commitment to the truth about Jesus, we must all recognize and refuse the temptation to lessen Him (make Him less than He really is).  Some people try to treat Jesus like the English treat their kings and queens.  They have a queen but there’s no power.  It’s somebody to honor and somebody to rejoice in and somebody to talk about and write about in the gossip columns.  But if the Queen of England ever said, “We’re going to war and I order us to do this,” the people would rise up and say, “Sorry!  That’s Parliament’s job.  That’s not your job.  You’re just there in a place of honor.”

Sometimes we treat Jesus like that.  And guess who the Parliament is in that case?  We are.  “Jesus, I want You to be Lord.  I want You to be the one that I follow.  But when it comes to the day to day decisions of life, I’m going to make them.  Because I’m closer to the situation.”  Refuse the temptation to lessen Him.

Paul says two things that help us refuse that temptation:

  1. Refuse the temptation to lessen Him in relationship to GodAll the fullness dwells in Him.”  The temptation is to say maybe just part of God was in Jesus.  Maybe just the Spirit of God or the joy of God or the teaching of God.  But Paul makes it very clear.  “All the fullness.”  “Fullness” literally means the “sum total”.  The bottom line.  If you added up all your life what would the bottom line be?  If you add up everything about the life of Jesus Christ, the bottom line is God.  He’s God.  So Paul says don’t let anybody lessen Him.  He is God“All of the fullness of God dwells in Him.”  He even used a word that the Gnostics liked to use, the false teachers like to use.  They say it’s somewhere else.  The truth is it’s “in God.”

2.   Refuse the temptation to lessen Him in relationship to Creation. He says, All things were reconciled through Christ.” He’s reconciled all things.  All things.  There will be those who reject that reconciliation while they’re here on this earth but everyone has the opportunity for it.

Jesus died for all mankind. 

And not only that but notice it says, “All things are reconciled in Christ.”  In Romans 8 the Bible tells us that Jesus died that not only we – you and I – could be set free from sin, but all creation could somehow be set free from sin.  Somehow God’s going to recreate everything someday.  God has a plan that’s bigger than we think sometimes.  All things reconciled in Him.

This is tough for some people.  Some people want to say some things are reconciled in Christ.  “Let’s say Americans and Europeans.  But all these people that were born over in the middle East, China let’s say they’re reconciled some other way because that’s their culture.”  The American culture is just as far from being reconciled through Christ culturally as the Chinese culture.  It’s not a matter of culture.  It’s a matter of truth.  Paul says, “the truth is all things are reconciled in Christ.”

Some people call this the scandal of exclusivity.  When we say it’s exclusively Christ, that’s when people’s eyes go blank when we talk to them about Christ.  Or when we talk about how much Jesus means to us and how much He’s changed our lives, they say that’s great.  But when we say He’s the only way people will go, “Now you’re into fanaticism.  Now you’re over the edge.”  It temps us in our culture to say, maybe there is another way.

All roads do not lead to God.  There’s only one way to God and that’s through Jesus Christ.  That’s why Paul wrote, “All things are reconciled in Him.”  Don’t miss this truth.

The fact that I know the way and that you know the way to Jesus Christ is not a matter of I think I’m better than someone else.  It’s not that I think I’m more knowledgeable than someone else.  It’s just that I have received the same gift that’s offered to everyone else.

What was God reconciling?  Not just people but all of His creation.  And how did God do it?  He did it by making peace through His blood.  He did it through blood.  He did it by dying for us.

Colossians 1:21-23

III.  Christ is God and Transforms Us.   

At the end of this section Paul talks about our past and our future.  He talks about what we were and what we will become because of Jesus Christ.  He lists three things that we used to be and three things that we can become.

“Once you were alienated from God and you were enemies in your mind because of your evil behaviorBut now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death in order to present you holy in His sight without blemish and free from accusation.”

He uses three striking words to describe our condition prior to Christ.  You were 1.alienated.  You were 2. enemies in your mind.  You had 3. evil behavior.

I think that describes us well, but some may think, “I tried to be a pretty good person.”  The truth is we tend to evaluate ourselves by comparing our lives to other people around us.  These are words of truth about the condition of all mankind without Christ.  We’re separated from God.  We’re enemies.  We don’t want God’s influence in our lives because He cuts in on what we want to do.  And we do wrong things.

Trusting God for the future begins with being honest about your past.  But then he turns to the future.  He turns to the now and what God’s doing in our lives.  He gives the three words to express our condition after the cross:

  1. Holy (from alienated to holy, that’s a pretty big jump!) The aim of God’s reconciliation in our lives is holiness. It changes who we are.  “Holiness” means “set apart”.  Separated.  New character, the character of Christ.
  2. We’re without Blemish.
  3. We’re free from Accusation.

That’s how God sees us because of Christ!  “Holy, without blemish and free from accusation,” Do you see yourself that way? Do you accuse yourself of past mistakes or let others accuse you?  In Christ you are clean, holy, and righteous.  It’s time we live those truths.

Look through these truths in this passage and think, “How am I going to live this out?  How am I going to live out the fact that Christ is my savior? Christ is my creator?  How am I going to live out the fact that He is sustainer?  How is the fact that He’s the owner going to change the way I treat my business or my family?  How is the fact that He’s the head of the church going to change the way I think about my gifts and talents?”  Do you ever picture who you are in Christ?  Throughout the Bible we’re encouraged and challenged to visualize who we are in Christ: holy (set apart), without blemish (clean) and without accusation (not carrying around guilt or shame.)

I want Jesus to be God in my life and I think that you do too.  We’ve learned some powerful truths in Colossians 1:13-22.  I encourage us this week to put some of these things to work.  Not just to learn it, not even just to love it, but to live out the truth that Jesus Christ in ALL things is God.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

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Supreme Christ – Colossians 1:1-12

We’re starting a new message series in the book of Colossians called “Supreme Life.”  Let me describe the religious scene.  See if what people are facing sounds a little familiar.

A lot of people really struggle with different ways to get closer to God.  See if you’ve ever met anyone like this:

Have you ever met anyone who said, “I want to get closer to God but I believe there are lots of different ways to get closer?  One way is good for this person and another way is good for that person.  One of the problems I have with Christianity is there is only one way and I struggle with that.”

Have you ever met anybody who said, “I think the way to get closer to God is by getting closer to His messengers?  I think that angels are the way to get closer to God.”

Have you ever met anybody who said, “I think the way to get closer to God is by a list of rules?  If I get the right list of rules and keep them and do pretty well, better than most people, I feel like I would be getting closer to God.”

Have you ever met anyone who said, “Religion is what you give up.  If I give up enough things, don’t do enough things then God will really love me.  It’s obvious if I don’t do enough things.”

All those things I’ve just described, all those ways of getting closer to God may sound very contemporary.  They may sound like ways that people try to get closer to God in our society but I just described the ways that people were trying to get close to God in a city called Colossae two thousand years ago.  Actually 1950 years ago.  This city and its problems almost exactly parallel our society today.  There’s a lesson here – there’s nothing new under the sun.  If anybody says, “I’ve come up with a new way to get closer to God,” if you hear anybody say that on a tape, on the radio – it’s been tried before.  Almost all of them were tried in the first hundred years of the church.  Satan threw everything he could, every false teaching he could at the church at the very beginning.  I think one of the reasons God allowed Satan to throw all those false teachings at the church at the beginning was because He wanted us to have the answers.  People like Paul would write to these churches and say, “Here are the answers.”

Today we call that New Age, when someone takes all those different ideas and tries to compile them all into one thing and throws a little humanism in with other things. Back then they had a different name for it.  They called it Gnosticism.  In fact in Colossae it was Gnosticism – which means “knowledge” in the Greek language mixed with a bunch of other things.  People who write about this call it the Colossian false teaching or the Colossian heresy.

If we start a study in this book we’re going to find answers.  Answers for yourself about getting closer to God, answers for people who talk to you about getting closer to God.  We’re going to walk through this book, verse by verse and see what God has to say about us.  See how He can begin to transform our lives.  Both Gnosticism in the days of the Colossians and New Age today grow out of the same questions in people lives.  Questions like “How can we believe in a good God in an evil world?”  “If God is all powerful why doesn’t He take away all sin?”  He will some day but why doesn’t He do it right now.  “Is Jesus only one way among many ways?”

These are the kind of questions people have running through their minds.  As you start to look at what God had to say to these people it doesn’t take long to realize “He has something to say to me.”

If you’ve read through Ephesians you notice there’s some parallels between the two books.  They sound somewhat similar.  Some of the same things are talked about.  It’s interesting to study the two books side by side.  They’re both about Christ and the church but they take a different emphasis.  Ephesians talks about the body, the church of which Christ is the head.  Colossians reverses that.  Colossians talks about Christ who is the head of the body.  It really emphasizes Jesus and who He is.  If you want to get to know Jesus better, one of the best books to look at is the book of Colossians.  That’s one of my prayers for all of us as we study this book together that God will help us to get to know Jesus just a little bit better.

Colossians 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God and Timothy our brother to the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae.”

 Paul is the writer.  He wrote a third of the books of the New Testament, many of the letters.  He’s an apostle.  That’s a word that has the same root as “missionary”.  God sent him where no one had gone before to share the Good News.  He was one of those few chosen by Jesus to be the original carriers of the Good News.  He wrote this letter from prison.  We’re going to read later about the chains he was in.  As you’re reading this letter, remember he’s not sitting on some bright hillside writing.  He’s not sitting at his house with the computer going getting ready to go get a cup of coffee when he doesn’t know what to write next.  He’s in a prison cell.  God used that opportunity to remind him of the Colossian need and he writes to them.

Timothy is named 24 times in he New Testament.  In six of Paul’s letters you find his name right at the beginning – Paul and Timothy – they just go right alongside of each other.  Timothy was Paul’s son in the faith.  He won him to Christ.  He taught him how to be a pastor.  He sent him to be a pastor eventually at Ephesus.  But much of the time he was there to support Paul.

Some of you are “Timothy”.  Your name may not be listed first in a letter.  But I think it’s not bad to have your name listed second in six of the New Testament letters.  What a great ministry he had.  It may not be as noticeable to us.  One of the problems with modern day America is we think it has to be noticeable to be important.  But there are very, very great ministries that God has and He’s using you where no one may be noticing.  Maybe you’re always listed second, third or fifth on the list.  But not with God.  Do you think Timothy is second on God’s list?  Absolutely not.  It’s a reminder of how God can use somebody like this in an incredibly great way.  They wrote this letter to a place called Colossae.

Colossae is located about a hundred miles inland from Ephesus.  That’s going to be important because it tells us how the Good News first got to this place called Colossae.  It’s located near a couple of other well known towns like Hierapolis and Laodicea.  That’s one of the seven churches that was written to in the book of Revelation.  These were pretty small towns – Hierapolis and Laodicea.  Colossae, in between the two (they were about ten miles apart) was a tiny little town. But they had some needs and God wanted to meet those needs so He wrote a letter to them.

Notice something that may look small but it’s very important in these first few verses.  Verse 2 “To the holy and faithful brothers (and look at these two things that are side by side) in Christ at Colossae.”  In the original Greek it actually says “in Christ in Colossae.”  There’s something very significant there.  They’re in Christ and they’re in Colossae.

We are in Christ and we’re in the world.  In fact, there’s not a believer who hasn’t faced this dynamic of both being in Christ and being in the world.

The believers were both in Christ and in Colossae.

They’re beside one another purposefully.  In the language the New Testament is written in, those two things are right beside each other to show the contrast, to show how they fit beside each other.  It’s a vivid contrast, this insignificant little town Colossae –  “in Colossae” – is right beside the most significant relationship anyone could ever have – the fact that we’re in Christ.  It’s the vivid contrast of the people who are holy separated unto God and a town that was very unholy, where some very pagan and idolatrous things were going on in this town called Colossae.

I want to share a couple of ideas of how this thing might work – in Christ and in Colossae.

The first is sometimes how we view this relationship between the two.  Sometimes we think here’s Christ and here’s the world and they’re on two sides and I’m the believer in the middle.  What I’m trying to do in my life is relate to both.  I’m trying to relate to Christ, I’m trying to be a believer.  But I’m also trying to relate to the world.  If you get into this position you feel like you’re constantly being pulled apart.  You come to church on Sunday and say, “Yes, I want to do that!  I want to be in Christ.  That’s what I want to be.”  Then you go to work on Monday and you’ve got to do “this” and you’ve got to do “that”.  You say, “I wish I could have just stayed ‘in Christ’.  But now I’m going to have to jump over here to ‘Colossae’.  I’ve got to jump into the world again and I’ve got to do these things.”  You’re jumping back and forth constantly; you’re in the middle and you feel like you’re being pulled both ways.

That’s not what Paul’s talking about when he talks about being both in Christ and in Colossae.  There’s a different way.  Let me show you a different picture.  This is the view of what God really intends for our lives.

We are in Christ.  We are believers in Jesus Christ and God has put us as believers in Christ in the middle of the world to be an influence, to make a difference.  But it doesn’t change our identity.  We’re not trying to be two things at once.  We’re His.  But we’re also in the world.  When we take on this second picture, you and I as believers in Christ start to influence the world around us.  More and more people in the world, more believers start to come into Christ.  So the middle circle gets bigger and bigger.  Instead of being pulled apart we feel like people are being pulled in to hear the Good News about Christ.

Right here at the beginning Paul reminds us of that dynamic we face.  Then throughout this letter he’s going to talk about how we can live out this thing of having Jesus Christ right at the center of our lives.

Before we talk about how Christ can be at the center, let me remind you of

Why Paul wrote this letter. The Colossian heresy involved several things.  It involved false thinking, false works, false worship and false sacrifice.  You can look in chapter 2 at why they struggled in their faith.  It’s interesting.  Instead of starting with the false and talking about how bad it was, Paul starts with the truth and talks about how good it is.  Two very different things.  He could have started with chapter 2 and said this is why this is wrong, that was wrong… but he doesn’t.  He starts with who Jesus Christ is.  Then after laying out all about who Christ is, then he’s ready to go on and attack why this false teaching is wrong.

If you ever get involved in a place where you feel like you’re being drawn astray then the first thing to go back to is the truth.  Sometimes you get so involved in studying a lie that you forget the truth.  Paul says, let’s talk about the truth first.  In fact, this entire letter (this letter to the Colossians) you might consider a follow up letter to some new believers.  Chances are the church at Colossae was about five years old at the time church history tells us.  Everyone in the church was a fairly new believer.  Paul writes back this follow up letter to encourage them in their faith, to show them how Christ can make a real difference in their lives.

 Paul talks in Colossians 1 some of the things we all have to understand in order to live a life that is both worthy and pleasing.

In the middle of this section he talks about “We pray this so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way.”  That’s his dream.  That’s the dream of this letter.  That’s the dream of God for us by giving this letter to us.  That He wants us at the end of our lives to be able to look back and say, “My life didn’t live up to my expectation.  It began in some incredible way to live up to God’s expectations for my life.”

That scares some of you.  You think God’s expectations are so high you could never reach them.  God knows you better than you know yourself.  He knows how to enable us to live a life that is worthy of Him.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to look back on life and say, “That life that I lived?  It was worth living.”  Not just that it was fun – although it’s good to have fun.  Not just it was exciting – although it’s good for excitement to happen, but “I lived a life that was worth living.”

Then he says it’s also a life that is pleasing.  I love that picture!  That you and I can live lives where God looks down from heaven and smiles.  It brings Him joy to watch His children live out faith.  That kind of life is what He wants for us.

The thing to remember about this is that God doesn’t look down on me and get disappointed with me all the time and say, “They’re messing up again!  They’re not being pleasing to Me now!”  That’s not the direction of this letter.  That’s not the direction of the New Testament.  What God really wants to say to us is, “Here’s how.  You’re already saved.  I already love you.  I can’t love you any more than I already do.  But now that I’ve shown My love to you, now that you’re in My family, I want to show you how to live the best life.  I want to show you how to live a life that makes Me smile.”  So we live a life that’s pleasing to the Lord and worthy of the Lord

Not to get Him to love us but because He loves us.  And that love spills over into our lives.

Paul’s going to show us some things about how that works.  Some practical things about how we can live this kind of life that is pleasing to the Lord.

Verses 3, 4, 5.  We have to understand a process.

  1. Understanding Faith, Hope and Love

1 Corinthians 13 is probably the most familiar place where these three are mentioned.  But there are five or six places in the Bible where these three things are mentioned alongside each other.  In 1 Corinthians 13 the Bible talks to us about the priority of faith, hope and love when it says, “Love is the greatest of these.”  Here in Colossians 1 Paul talks to us about the process.  Listen for the process.  Which one comes first?  How do they fit together?

“We thank God when we pray for you because we’ve heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints, the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven that you’ve already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel.”

The process begins with hope.  Faith and love spring up from the hope that is in you.

And hope draws us to faith and faith leads us to love in a whole new way.

Does hope come from faith or does faith come from hope?  Sometimes you can be a little nitpicky about these things but he’s pretty clear here.  Faith and love both spring from hope in our lives.  I talk to a lot of people about how they come to faith in Christ.  They say something like this, “I had all these problems, these needs in my life.  It’s because of those that I came to Christ.”  Almost like they’re embarrassed that it was their need that brought them to Jesus Christ.  Like it should have been just pure altruism that brought you to Jesus Christ.  There is not a person in this room who if we sat down and talked honestly would not tell you that the thing that brought them to Jesus Christ was their need.  That’s what brings us to Jesus.  We’ve got a need and when you have a need you’re looking for something to meet that need.

You’re driving down the interstate and you have a need – a restaurant or a rest stop, either way –a need.  You are looking for a sign.  You’re getting hungry.  You’re getting desperate.  You’re looking for a sign.  When you see that sign, a sign that says, “12 miles down the road” what happens in you?  Hope!  That hope brings about a faith.  You think, “In 12 miles there’s going to be a restaurant there.  I saw the sign.  It’s going to be there!”

The same thing is true with us as believers.  When you came to Christ, you came because you saw in Him a hope that you didn’t have.  We haven’t seen all that hope yet.  We haven’t seen all the hope in heaven.  We’ve seen some of it in this life.  We haven’t seen all of it yet.  But we come to Christ because we have a hope in Him.  But this process doesn’t stop after you become a believer.  It’s still true in our lives today as believers.  Faith and love spring from hope.

Some of you try to have faith without any hope.  You just live in the present everyday world and you try to trust God all you can but you don’t think about eternity.  You don’t think about eternal things.  You don’t think about the reward of God’s love.  You’re trying to have faith but it’s without hope.  It’s powerless and you wonder why.

We’re so earthly minded sometimes that it is easy to forget our hope for day after day after day and then our faith is weakened.

Paul goes on as he talks about this faith and hope and love to say something that several people on the research team asked about.  He says, “We heard of your faith in Jesus Christ and the love that you have for all the saints…”  Note the word “saints”.  Does that mean they had some catholic thing back there where there was already a certain number of people in sainthood and they loved these special people?  Is that what he’s talking about?

No.  The Bible word for “saints” and the word we have in church for saints are two different things.  In Catholic churches “saints” means an honored person who died and who met certain criteria and the pope conferred sainthood upon this person.  In Protestant churches “saint” usually means somebody who’s too old to sin any more.  That kind of a person.  Neither of them are the Bible’s truth about saints.  The Bible calls everybody who’s a believer in Christ “saints”.  Some of you think, I’m not a saint.  Saints aren’t perfect people.  Saints aren’t certified people.  Saints are saved people, people who know Christ.  One of the miracles of God taught to us in the Bible is that we are saints.  We’re holy.  We’re set apart for God’s purpose.  Don’t forget that tomorrow.

A couple questions about this hope since it’s so important.  When does it happen?

The verse says that “…this faith and love springs up from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you’ve already heard about.”  The first several times I read these verses and I read, “stored up for you in heaven” I think future.  That’s the hope that is waiting for me someday in heaven.  But the way this is written in the original Greek language doesn’t really lead you to think that way.  There’s another more likely meaning behind this.  The hope that’s stored up for you in heaven is talking about hope right now stored up for you in heaven.  It’s the picture of the fact that God has things waiting for you if you just come and have faith and believe.  And the minute we believe the riches start to be poured out upon our lives.  I like that picture.  That’s why that hope can start to change our lives right now.  That’s when it happens.

And if this hope is so important…

Where does it come from?  How do I get it?  Colossians is very clear about that.  Verse 5 “…the faith and the love that spring from the hope and are stored up for you in heaven and what you’ve already heard about in the word of truth (that’s where you’ve heard about the hope) the gospel.”  That’s where hope comes from.  Hope comes from the gospel.  Hope comes from the Good News.

That leads to the next thing that Paul wants to talk about as he talks about how you and I can live with Christ as the center of our lives.  He starts to talk about the power of the Good News that’s happened in our lives.

II.   The Power of the Good News

There’s only one Good News.  It’s the Good News of Jesus Christ.  He tells them all about what had happened to them because of Christ.  Verse 6 “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing just as it’s been doing among you since the day that you heard it and you understood God’s grace and all its truths.  You learned it from Epaphras our dear fellow servant who was a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf.  And he told us about your love in the Spirit.”  The gospel.

Let’s list some things Paul wished for us:

  1. It is true. He says, “you heard about this gospel of truth.”  It’s the gospel of truth.  When you look at all the other religions of the world and their attempts to reach God and their ideas about God you could take every other attempt to reach God besides the revealed truth about God and title it “Guesses about God” because that’s what other religions are.  But the gospel, the Good News, is the truth about God.  That’s why it’s such Good News.  It’s the one truth about God.
  2. It is universal.  It’s worldwide.  Ýou’ve heard about it and its being told all over the world.  Don’t ever buy into the idea that the Good News about Christ is just for the western culture, just for the American culture.  That’s going around today: let’s be accepting of everybody and say everybody can have their own religion depending on whatever culture they happen to grow up in.  Remember the Good News did not come to the western culture to begin with.  It came to the Near Eastern culture.  It didn’t come to white people.  It came to Asian people.  The gospel, the good news of Christ, is for the entire world.  That’s why it’s such Good News.  There’s not a person, a culture, that doesn’t need the Good News of Christ.  That’s the power of the gospel.
  3. It is growing.  Paul says you’ve heard about it and now it’s bearing fruit and it’s growing.  There is something that’s effective about the gospel of Christ.  Everyone you tell the Good News isn’t going to accept it, are they?  There’s going to be people who reject it.  But it’s like planting seeds.  There are a certain number of them that will grow inevitably.  You can look around the world today and see the same thing.  It’s bearing fruit and it’s growing.  You can look around this room and see the same thing.  The gospel’s bearing fruit and growing.  You can look into your own heart and see it.  It’s bearing fruit and growing.

Then he adds one last thing that’s very personal to us.

  1. It is delivered by people.  This true, universal, growing, effective Good News of God the way He delivers it is by people.  In fact he names the person who delivered it to them.  You heard it he says from a guy named Epaphras.

Who was this guy?  There are a few clues about him in the Bible.  Colossae was about 100 miles from Ephesus.  Paul had never been to Colossae when he wrote this letter.  As far as we know he never went there.  But he’d been to Ephesus.  And he spent three years there telling the Good News about Christ and teaching people in a school there about who Jesus was.

Epaphras most likely was one of those people in that school that he taught.  After Paul left people went out from that school and went back to their hometowns to tell the Good News about Christ.  Epaphras was one of those people.  He went back to his town and he told Colossae about who Christ was.  And he started a church and people started to grow in that church.  Apparently what happened is as the church began to grow Epaphras heard about Paul’s imprisonment over in Rome and both because of the problems in the church and his concern for Paul he goes to visit Paul.  He tells him about some problems in the church.  He tells him about some things that are going on.  Then instead of Epaphras going back he stayed to minister to Paul while he was in chains.  That’s who this guy was.  He’s one of those people who you just come across for a moment in the Bible.  But he’s a man who changed his city for Christ.  He changed an entire city for Jesus Christ.  He planted the first church there.  He told them the Good News about who Jesus really was.

Aren’t you glad that Epaphras didn’t go home and think, “If only Paul could come to Colossae.  If only I could get him here.  There were such great things that happened over there in Ephesus.  If I could just get him in for a special meeting kind of thing.  We’d have him in.  He’d teach everybody and the same thing could happen here.”  Aren’t you glad that didn’t happen?  He went back and said, “God’s given me some Good News to share.  I may not be able to do as well as Paul but I’ve got something to share and I’m going to share it.”  And he changed a city for Christ.

I’ll bet some of you have thought from time to time about some places like your work.  “Wouldn’t it be great if Billy Graham could come by someday?  He could just set down with everybody at work and have a Bible study with Billy Graham.  Wouldn’t that be cool?  He could tell them all these things.  If I led a Bible study there would be questions I didn’t know the answer to and I’d be embarrassed.”  One of the reasons Billy Graham or me or other people know the answer to more questions than you do is because we’ve been in those Bible studies where people asked us those questions and we didn’t know the answer and that’s embarrassing.  It really motivates you to go get the answer.  You don’t need Billy Graham or me or someone else to come to your family or where you work.  God’s sending you there.  That’s really the excitement of what’s happening in this church.  Just like Epaphras went back to Colossae and shared the Good News you need to go back to your work and share the Good News.  I’ll bet there’s a dozen in here tonight that God’s going to use this message to say, “You need to start a Bible study at work.”  That’s why God brought you here tonight.  And it’s going to start to change the place where you work.

The Bible says, “He’s told us about your love in the Spirit.”  Love in the Spirit is love that’s empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The interesting thing about that is this is the only time the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the entire book of Colossians.  It’s not that the Holy Spirit’s not important it’s just that the book emphasizes more the person of Christ than the person of the Spirit.

In verse 6 there’s a sort of definition for what the gospel is.  What is this Good News of Christ?  There’s a synonym given.  Verse 6 “All over the world the gospel has been bearing fruit.  Just as it’s been doing among you since you heard of it (the gospel) and you understood it (God’s grace).”  It’s synonymous.  Good News – God’s grace.

A synonym for gospel in verse 6 is the phrase Good News

The same thing.  The Good News is God’s grace.  God’s grace is Good News.  The Good News that’s come into our lives is that God has graciously forgiven our sin because of Jesus Christ.  If anyone ever asks you for a quick definition of gospel – what does it mean?  Say “God’s grace”.  God’s gift to our lives.  That’s the Good News.

Then he prays for them.  And as he prays for them he prays about God’s will being done in their lives.  As he prays about God’s will you can see that it’s a very purposeful thing.

III.  The purpose of God’s will in our lives.

As you read these verses, these prayers that you and I would know God’s will, that believers would know and understand God’s will it starts to open up how we discover God’s will.  A new sense of confidence in God’s will.  A growing sense of confidence in knowing God’s will.

Look at this sense of confidence in verse 9 “For this reason since the day we heard about you we have not stopped praying for you.”  “Not stopped praying for you” means that Paul was praying all the time throughout the day, anytime he thought of them, anytime they came to his mind he’d pray for these people.  “…Not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

What is God’s will?  Most of us when we think about discovering God’s will what we really want is God’s answer.  We want to know, here’s the situation; give me the answer.  And I’d like it by tonight because I’m really worried about this.  Am I going to move or not move?  Tell me the city.  I’m ready.  Marry him/her or not marry him/her?  I hope it’s yes but if there’s something I don’t know now’s the time to tell me.  Let me know right now.  Lay all the cards on the table.  That is a part of God’s will but there’s another part of God’s will that comes before that.  This is the secret.  This is the key.  There’s another whole area of God’s will that comes before laying those particular cards on the table that we miss.  And because we miss that we miss out on understanding God’s will.

Sometimes we try to skip from what God wants us to be and try to go straight to “God, what do You want me to do?”  We try to skip character and we want the answer for the circumstances.  We want God to give us an itinerary rather than integrity.  We try to skip right by that being part, that doing part and try to go straight to, “Just give me the answer for this situation.  If God doesn’t give me the answer maybe I’ll try something else.”  Horoscope hot line or something because I want an answer.

Paul teaches us in these verses the highest kind of knowledge.

The highest kind of knowledge is the knowledge of what God wantsNot just God’s answer for a particular situation but what does God want for my life?  He uses three words.  They’re very key.  He uses the word “knowledge” and the word “wisdom” and the word “understanding”.

Remember that word “Gnostic” I told you about earlier?  Those people who tried to have greater knowledge than anybody else.  That’s where the word comes from, the Greek word Gnostic.  Paul uses the word “Gnostic” here but he puts a beginning on it.  It sort of means super knowledge.  If they say you can have knowledge, here’s where real knowledge, genuine knowledge comes from.  He’s talking about spiritual intelligence.

There’s all kinds of intelligence.  Some people are intelligent about computers.  Others are intelligent about statistics.  He’s talking about spiritual intelligence, an intelligence we all can have.  That’s knowledge.

Then he talks about “wisdom” and the word that’s used here means the ability to have God’s insight into human life.  How does God look at things?  What’s God’s perspective?  What does God have as a principle for this situation.  That’s the word “wisdom” that’s used here.  We use the word “wisdom” in a different way.  But the particular word that’s used here focuses in on that.

Then he talks about understanding.  “All spiritual wisdom and understanding.”  The word “understanding” means the application of that wisdom, that principle in real life situations.  One person has called this a clear vision of what needs to be done.  That’s what we want.  We want the cards on the table.  “God, give me a clear vision of what needs to be done and I’ll do it.”

But we forget the first two steps.  Knowledge – Wisdom – Understanding.  They fit together.  Understanding.  – I need spiritual understanding.  That means I say, “God, I need Your insight on this.  I can’t figure this out on my own.”  If the only time you say that to God is when you’re really desperate, you’ve tried all the ways, all the tricks that you usually use then we miss out on a lot of God’s will.  But if I can start every day saying, “God, I need some spiritual understanding here.  I know I’m going to think this is the way to do things but I really need Your understanding.”

It starts with a real desire and that desire is followed up by the second thing.

Wisdom – the desire for God’s insight and perspective into human life.  Then I get a clear vision of what needs to be done.  When I sit down with people and talk about trying to discover God’s will, what I find again and again is we try to skip the second part.  We try to skip the part that says I sit down and take a look at God’s word, I get to know Him better, and let Him start to give me a clearer vision of who He is and who He wants me to be.

There’s something psychological about this that fits in with how God works in our lives.  The truth is God can’t get you to do something that you don’t want to do.  You’re not going to want to do something that isn’t at the core of who you are.  If God’s going to really get you on track with His will, when He wants to move you hear or there, if He’s really going to get you or I to do that, He’s going to have to start by changing who we are so when it’s time to make that move He can get us to make that move.

So God’s will is bigger than this decision about whether I should move or not.  This decision about whether I should marry or not.  This decision about which career direction I should take.  That is part of God’s will.  But expand it!  God’s will is all about who He wants you to be.  God’s will is all about how He wants to develop my life and your life.  When you start to expand it like that you start to discover who He wants you to be and how He wants you to develop in life the most amazing thing starts to happen.  All that stuff that you used to worry about starts to fall into place like you wouldn’t believe!

God often, with brand new believers, will say, “Here’s the answer”.  Just like you with a brand new baby when it cries you say, “Here’s the answer!”  When we grow up as a believer God starts to demand more of you.  Instead of just doling out the answers, He starts to give us opportunities to grow.  That’s what’s happening in some of your lives and you’re wondering why?  It’s a sign of growth really.  “Great!” you say.  “I like the baby stage where I just kept getting the answers.”  The problem with that is you don’t grow in relationship to Him.  You and I, we can love a baby but they can’t love us back in the same kind of way.  But when that child gets older they have a brand new capacity to love.

See what God’s doing?  See how God’s will is bigger than we think sometime.  Verse 9 “God wants to fill you.”  Circle that in your Bible.  It’s ok to write in your Bible.  The thing that makes it holy is the fact that it’s yours and personal and it’s real in your life.  He wants to fill you with the knowledge of His word.

God does not want to leave us in the dark.  And if you feel like, “He’s not showing me.  Why isn’t He showing me?”  I’ve felt that way.  We’ve all felt that way.  These verses remind me that when I feel that way I need to go back and say, “What’s God trying to teach me and how does He want to develop me?  What does He want me to be?  If I feel like I’m in the dark I need to go back and say, “Who am I supposed to be?” and get that settled and then move ahead to “What do you want me to do in the situation?”  It’s a deep truth.  I’m still learning it.  It’ll take a lifetime to learn.  That’s why many times we keep hitting our heads against discovering God’s will.  The most important thing to God is what it’s causing us to be.  It doesn’t mean that where you live isn’t it important to Him.  It doesn’t mean that who you marry isn’t important to Him.  Those are important decisions.  But what’s more important to Him is what He’s doing in your life and heart and who He’s bringing you to be.

As He works His will out in our lives some amazing things start to happen.  He says, “This happens so you can live a life that is worthy and pleasing to the Lord.”  Let’s list some things that are a part of this life that is worthy and pleasing to the Lord.  He says when you live that kind of life!

  1. You are bearing fruit in every good work.

Great things are happening through your life.  That doesn’t mean that you’re doing good works and some of them bear fruit and some of them don’t.  What this verse means is every good thing that you do, every good choice that you make, every faith choice that you and I make is going to bear fruit.  There’s a promise in this verse.  Every time I make a choice of faith it will bear fruit in some way.  Guaranteed.  That’s great news.  That’s part of living a life that’s pleasing to the Lord.

Bearing fruit, by the way, doesn’t come out of trying harder.  It comes from trusting more.  A branch cannot bear fruit by cutting itself off from the vine and going out on its own and really trying hard to bear the most fruit.  A branch bears fruit by trusting more in the vine and then naturally the fruit comes.  Don’t try.  Trust!

  1. Then he says it’s also growing in the knowledge of God.

That’s part of living this life that’s worthy and pleasing to the Lord.  I’m growing in the knowledge of God.

For some of you that sounds pretty boring – growing in the knowledge of God.  Like seminary class kind of thing.  Many times we think that growing in the knowledge of God is just intellectual but this is talking about relational growth.  Part of that is intellectually understanding more about who He is.  But it’s relating to God in a brand new way.  When you start to grow in the knowledge of God it is not boring.  In fact, the knowledge of God and boredom are direct opposites.  What could be more exciting than getting to know the God who made the universe?  What could be more exciting that getting to know the most important person in the universe?

Ray Steadman said, “He is an exciting, captivating being filled with fresh ideas, concepts and possibilities of which you never could have dreamed.”  When you and I grow in the knowledge of God, that’s what we’re growing in.  We’re getting to know Him better.  That is not boring.  Don’t let anybody ever tell you it is.

That’s part of living this worthy and pleasing life.

  1. The third part is being strengthened with God’s power. That word “strengthen” means it’s continually happening.  It didn’t happen once.  It’s happening every day in my life.  What do you think the sign would be of someone who’s being strengthened by God’s power?  What would that look like?  Someone who is allowing God’s power to strengthen their everyday life what would it look like?  Miracles?  If you were really being strengthened by God’s power does that mean you’d actually be able to go out and walk on water and feed 5000?  Is that it?  If you’re strengthened by God’s power does that mean you’d have a magnetism like no one else?  That there’s just something about you as you walk down the street you almost glow and people would fall at your feet and ask who Jesus really is?  Is that it?

Look at Colossians.  The sign of some one who’s truly being strengthened by God’s power, the

incredible awesome power of God comes into my life and there’s two signs.  It means I become a person of patience and a person of endurance.  No bigger sign.  It’s not walking on water.  It’s not personal magnetism.  It’s patience and endurance.

Those are two very interesting words in the Greek language.

Patience” is a word that applies specifically to problems.  Being patient with problems and circumstances in my life.  Have you ever had to be patient with a problem?  Have you ever had to wait on something to happen?  When God’s power comes into your life it gives you the power to wait, to trust through a problem.  The verse tells us that’s the most incredible display of God you can find.

Then He uses the word “endurance”.  That’s a different word that applies in a different way.  That word applies to problems.  Endurance applies to people.  He uses a different word on purpose here.  Have you ever had to be patient with a person?  Who hasn’t?  When God gives you the power to be patient with a person…  Sometimes we have our own tricks, our own ways to try to do it.  I’m not talking about that.  I’m talking about when God gives you the power to be patient with a person.  That is a display of His power.

We want the outward displays but the Bible says the inward displays are the most powerful of all.  Charles Spurgeon said once, “By perseverance and patience the snail reached the ark.”  Sometimes it’s one little slide at a time on your way to the will of God.  Being patient with people and being patient with problems allows God’s power to be released in our lives.  That’s an incredible truth.

  1. Giving thanks.

When I’m living a life that’s worthy and pleasing to God, I am giving thanks to Him.  If you’re like me you have some days when your thanksgiving quotient is real low and you have some other days when you’re just filled with gratitude for what He’s done.  The more I allow my heart to be filled with gratitude, the more I’m living that life that’s worthy and pleasing.

There’s a list of things that he gives of why you and I should give thanks.  He’s qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints for the Father’s kingdom and light.  The Lord’s Supper is one of the most powerful ways that we have to give thanks.  Paul says that one reason we can give thanks is because we’re qualified.  Our name is on the dotted line.  That qualifies you to share in the inheritance of the saints in God’s kingdom.  You’re not trying to attain that inheritance.  You’re already qualified.  There’s going to be degrees of reward in heaven the Bible tells us.  We’re all going to be filled with joy and we’re all going to share in the inheritance if we’re His children.  Does that change the way you think?  If you knew that your name was on a will somewhere and the inheritance to you was going to be one hundred million dollars, if you knew that and it was in the vault.  It was signed.  It was just waiting on the right time to be released.  If you knew that would that change the way you thought sometimes?  Sometimes for good.  Sometimes for bad in some people’s lives.  But hopefully for good it would change the way we think about the opportunities in our lives.  We can know it.  We can know that our name is on the dotted line that we’ll spend eternity with Him in heaven.  Let that change the way that we think!

In the next post we will continue through the rest of chapter 1.

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Introduction to Colossians – Supreme Life Series

Would you like to know more about Jesus? Or how to live a Christ centered life? Colossians reveals that Christ is God, Creator and Supreme over all. Knowing Christ will enable us to live the life that He has created us for.

The Apostle Paul reminds us: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through Him God created everything… and He holds all creation together.  Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So He is first in everything. Colossians 1:15-18 (NLT)

Supreme1: highest in rank or authority. 2: highest in degree or quality. Merriam Webster Dictionary

Writing from prison in Rome, Paul combatted false teachings, which had infiltrated the Colossian church. The problem was “syncretism,” combining ideas from other philosophies and religions (such as paganism, strains of Judaism, and Greek thought) with Christian truth. The resulting heresy later became known as “Gnosticism,” emphasizing special knowledge (gnosis in Greek) and denying Christ as God and Savior. To combat this devious error, Paul stressed Christ’s deity—his connection with the Father—and his sacrificial death on the cross for sin. Only by being connected with Christ through faith can anyone have eternal life, and only through a continuing connection with him can anyone have power for living. Christ is God incarnate and the only way to forgiveness and peace with God the Father. Paul also emphasized believers’ connections with each other as Christ’s body on earth.

Colossians is a book for an embattled church in the first century, but it is also has timeless truths for us today! We will gain a fresh appreciation for Christ as the fullness of God and the only source for living the Christian life. Know that He is your leader, head, and power source.

Vital Statistics

Purpose:  To combat errors in the church and to show that believers have everything they need in Christ

Author: Paul

Original Audience: The church at Colosse, a city in Asia Minor

Date Written: Approximately A.D. 60, during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome

Setting: Paul had never visited Colosse. Evidently the church had been founded by Epaphras and other converts from Paul’s missionary travels. The church, however, had been infiltrated by religious relativism, with some believers attempting to combine elements of paganism and secular philosophy with Christian doctrine. Paul confronts these false teachings and affirms the sufficiency of Christ.

Key Verses: “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority” (2:9, 10).

Key People: Paul, Timothy, Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, Epaphras

Key Places: Colosse, Laodicea (4:15, 16)

Special Features: Christ is presented as having absolute supremacy and sole sufficiency. Colossians has similarities to Ephesians, probably because it was written at about the same time, but it has a different emphasis.

The Blueprint

  1. What Christ has done (1:1-2:23)
  2. What Christians should do (3:1-4:18)

In this letter Paul clearly teaches that Christ has paid for sin, that Christ has reconciled us to God, and that Christ gives us the pattern and the power to grow spiritually. Because in Christ lives all the fullness of God, when we learn what he is like, we see what we need to become. Since Christ is Lord over all creation, we should crown him Lord over our lives. Since Christ is the head of the body, his church, we should nurture our vital connection to him.

MEGATHEMES
THEMEEXPLANATIONIMPORTANCE
Christ Is GodJesus Christ is God in the flesh, Lord of all creation, and Lord of the new creation. He is the visible image of the invisible God. He is eternal, preexistent, omnipotent, equal with the Father. He is supreme and complete.Because Christ is supreme, our lives must be Christ-centered. To recognize him as God means to regard our relationship with him as most vital and to make his interests our top priority.
Christ Is Head of the ChurchBecause Christ is God, he is the head of the church, his true believers. Christ is the founder, the leader, and the highest authority on earth. He requires first place in all our thoughts and activities.To acknowledge Christ as our head, we must welcome his leadership in all we do or think. No person, group, or church can regard any loyalty as more critical than that of loyalty to Christ.
Union with ChristBecause our sin has been forgiven and we have been reconciled to God, we have a union with Christ that can never be broken. In our faith connection with him, we identify with his death, burial, and resurrection.We should live in constant contact and communication with God. When we do, we all will be unified with Christ and with one another.
HeresyFalse teachers were promoting a heresy that stressed self-made rules (legalism). They also sought spiritual growth by discipline of the body (asceticism) and visions (mysticism). This search created pride in their self-centered efforts.We must not cling to our own ideas and try to blend them into Christianity. Nor should we let our hunger for a more fulfilling Christian experience cause us to trust in a teacher, a group, or a system of thought more than in Christ himself. Christ is our hope and our true source of wisdom.

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Source: Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 2025-2024.

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