Colossians 1 – New Identity, Deep Roots – Part 3
I want to start off with a little experiment this morning. Most Sundays I’m usually drinking a bottle of water to stay hydrated and keep my throat from drying out when I’m speaking. But what if I wanted a little more water-like I was extra thirsty-or had a salt bagel at fellowship time-love those but they make me thirsty! So what if I got a bigger container to pour some water in-like this one. Immediately you’d see this colander and think-obviously not; the water will pour right through there! And yet what if I insisted? Nope-this is the container I’m using to store my water and you can’t stop me! And then I poured it in (I really want to pour some!) Now I’m sure you probably think this was a really foolish and illogical idea. Why pour water into a container with holes in it? And you’d be right. It is a really foolish thing to do-however, that’s precisely what God’s Word says we’ve done as people. Take a look at Jer 2:12-13 NIV.
God is saying that heaven doesn’t just think we’re foolish-but that it’s horrified and appalled and shudders when thinking about mankind because we’ve set Him aside. This is saying that people have completely disregarded and not cared about God-we’ve forsaken Him and all His blessings and greatness-to pursue our own greatness, and fill up our own cisterns with the stuff we think will satisfy. And so the main point isn’t the absurdity of trying to store water in broken containers with holes-but the absurdity of trying to store our joy and fulfillment in things that will never contain them-like money, romance, success, comfort-whatever it may be. God knows that our broken cisterns will never hold what satisfies or keep it secure because what we need is nothing short of the glory of God Himself. And that’s what is so appalling. We’ve traded the glory of God for something broken and full of holes-Explicit Gospel, 39-40. He’s saying what we all know to be true in our lives-which is to make everything about us. We’re focused exclusively on ourselves and our desires. Ever since Adam and Eve bought into the lie that they could be like God, we’ve followed right along in that lie, worshipping ourselves, worried about ourselves, making our personal happiness and comfort our number one goal in life. Isn’t it interesting that people tend to think little kids are the most innocent people in the world-yet from the moment we can use our mouths as toddlers we say, “Me, me, me” and have to be taught how to share because it doesn’t come natural-as if self-centeredness is hard-wired into us. And it continues throughout life. Think about our current age of social media where we post every thought we have, telling people-Listen to me. Look at me. I need to be heard. I need to be noticed and liked. Follow my story and my thread. We make ourselves the center of our world-and heaven shudders at that truth because it knows that God, and God alone, is worthy of all worship. So it’s a wretched and appealing thing when we try to steal that worship for ourselves.
Think about your average day for a minute. Are you consumed with a desire to serve and worship and obey and glorify the all-powerful, eternal God, or are you mostly consumed with trying to do what makes you happy? Often our number one agenda tends to be our schedule, our plans, our wishes or pleasures-and if God happens to fit into that-great-but if He doesn’t, we think oh well, and just keep on doing our own thing, keep on trying to fill up our broken cisterns. None of us are immune to what Jeremiah is saying. So Pt1:What have we done? Refused to be satisfied with our awe-inspiring, all-powerful God. This is something we’re all guilty of it. This is what the author of the Jesus Storybook Bible describes so well in her devotional-Thought to Make Your Heart Sing-orbit pic, cataclysm pic. We’ve tried to make life orbit around ourselves, to be satisfied with broken cisterns-which God knows will never work. And so He had a plan-and that plan had a Rescuer-which is exactly what Paul talks about in Colossians 1.
Turn there, as we continue our series-and if you remember from last week we said that Paul, while imprisoned in Rome, wrote this letter to the believers in the little town of Colosse to tell them about their new identity as believers. That because of Christ everything is now different-and nothing highlights that more than this grand statement in v. 13-14. This is the great rescue, our mighty salvation, the monumental, eternally-significant event of our lives. Our self-centeredness and worship of self, whether we want to admit it or not, is nothing short of being imprisoned in this domain of darkness, or as the NIV says, the dominion of darkness. Now that might sound like something out of a fairy tale-trapped in the dungeon of darkness, like a damsel in distress locked away in the evil castle needing to be rescued by the prince-but this isn’t the stuff of fantasy, it’s reality, it’s factual truth. We’ve locked ourselves up by our own pride and idolatry. We’re stuck in the darkness of our own making. Look at Rom 1:21; 25 NIV. We tried to make life orbit around ourselves as creatures, instead of orbit around God as Creator. Or look at what Jesus Himself says John 3:19 NIV. Jesus makes it clear that we’re stuck in our darkness-but there’s a lot of people who don’t want to believe what this verse is saying; a lot of people who want to believe that this world is good. Sure, we might be a little selfish, who isn’t? We’re only human. But if we all pull together and try our hardest, maybe we can defeat the darkness and everything will be better. “Turn to the light within.” But that’s not what Jesus is saying. Heaven is appalled and shudders with great horror because of our neglect and disregard for God. That’s the very essence of what sin is-and because of it-our hearts are filled with darkness. We can’t avoid it, we can’t escape it, we can’t pretend it’s not there. Yet listen to how Jesus continues-John 3:20-21 NIV. Did you catch that? Leaving the darkness of sin behind and coming into the light, is done through God. And that brings us right back to Col, you can’t miss that pronoun He-v. 13.
So Pt2:What’s God done? Saves us from our self-made prison of sin and darkness. That’s the essence of the gospel. It’s all of Him. He’s the Rescuer, you and I are the rescued. We were the ones stuck in the dark dungeon and He’s the prince who’s rescued us. Which means your salvation is not something that you contributed to. If there was anything you did in saving yourself, this would be the perfect place to say it. God delivered you from the dominion of darkness and together you and God battled your way out, together fighting the evil minions of sin! But it doesn’t say together, it says He. It was God’s grace that saved you, God’s hand that reached down to you, God’s love that forgave and redeemed you, God’s mercy that rescued you. You didn’t do enough good deeds to sway God’s opinion-Okay, that’s guy’s pretty good, I guess I’ll save him. You didn’t achieve a favorable standing with God, or do your part so God could do His. The only thing you and I did was turn inward and worship ourselves. We were the ones who stepped in the bear trap of sin and got stuck by the darkness of our pride. We enslaved ourselves by trying to make the universe revolve around us. But God was our rescuer.
Think about a fireman, he rescues someone from a burning building and then takes them to safety. It’s the same with God. He doesn’t just rescue us from the darkness and then drop us off at the bus stop, He doesn’t say I got you out of the darkness now you can find your own way from here. Instead as our Rescuer, He takes us somewhere-and that’s the really important part-v. 13. He brings us right back to the very spot where we abandoned Him in the first place. So Pt3:Where’s God taken us? To the kingdom of His awe-inspiring, all-powerful Son. Where we said-No God, I’m not interested in your kingdom, I think I’ll go create my own kingdom-the kingdom of me where I’m the focus, where I’m the center, and everything orbits around me and my wishes. In the face of our foolish rebellion to create our own independent kingdoms, God’s mercy cuts right through, shattering our stubbornness and restoring us to His kingdom. He brings us back home into a relationship with Him, just like the story of the prodigal son. Remember him-he went from home, to then foolishly wasting all his money and ending up in a pigsty, to then back home again because of His father’s mercy. It’s the same with God. He is so good and gracious to bring us back to the place we need to be-the kingdom of His beloved Son.
But this is where it gets very interesting since God brings us back to that place where we realize once again it’s not ultimately about us-because He’s bringing us to the kingdom where it’s about His Son, Jesus. It’s no longer this cataclysm-where we’re fighting Jesus for control-it’s the orbit-where the Son is at the center and we’re orbiting around Him like we ought to. We’re brought into His realm, subjects under His authority, citizens of His kingdom. And listen to the description of our King-v. 15-17-what does that not include? It’s all things-v. 18. This is one of the most concentrated sections in the Bible talking about the greatness and grandeur of Christ-that in everything He might be preeminent and supreme. These are awesome verses until we realize-Hey, want about me? I want to be preeminent, my concerns are supreme to me. I want to be the focus and the center. And we’re back to that core issue-who’s it all about?-and our sinful hearts love to cry out, “Me!” But that’s not what God’s Word says. It tells us that it’s about Him. That everything is created and exists and points to and glorifies Him. That if you’re a believer, having been redeemed and forgiven in Christ, the reason and purpose for your existence is to glorify Christ. V. 16 says, all things were created through Him and for Him-that means including you. V. 18 says That in everything He might be preeminent-that means including your life.
Which brings us to the big challenge this morning-Is Christ preeminent in your life? It’s a fact that He’s preeminent in the universe-the text is clearly establishing that fact. And one day when this world is remade and eternity begins Christ will be fully recognized as preeminent in all creation. So if that’s true on a cosmic, universal scale, is it true in your life today? Is He preeminent? Is living for Christ, pleasing Him and serving Him your supreme desire? Is using your energy and strength to advance His kingdom your main priority? And do you know what my answer is? Sort of. I ask myself-Do I wake up with Christ as the first thing in my mind? Do I go through the day speaking to Him, reflecting on Him, praising Him, and at night resting in Him and His peace? Sort of-but honestly I go through most of my day worried about all the things I have to do, all the responsibilities I have, stressed out about all the stuff I said I’d do but now wish I could get out of, and at night I go to bed thinking of all the things I didn’t end up doing. What’s usually preeminent in my life is worry and stress-and so many times I go to God’s Word thinking it will give me the answers to fix all my worry and stress. I want to hear that God’s going to bless me and work everything out as quickly and painless as possible, or find some kind of formula that says pray this and everything will work out struggle free. I want God’s Word to give me all the answers, all the reasons why difficult thing are happening in my life, but it doesn’t do that. God’s Word gives me Him. Yes, God’s Word does give us assistance and wisdom for our problems-but that’s not it’s main focus. God’s Word gives us Him.
So when we read a passage like this in Colossians, it puts everything on hold and makes us ask-what is truly important? And this is telling us that it’s having the unimaginable, magnificent privilege of knowing Him; of knowing Christ, our awesome Savior. It’s like Job, who we talked about a couple of week ago, who wanted answers for all his suffering-Why is this happening God? Tell me, show me, explain it to me. Job was trying to make himself the focus-give me reasons God and they better be good reasons that make sense to me. And what did God say? Job, I’m not going to tell you the reason, I’m going to tell you about Me. I want you to remember who I am, I want you to reflect upon My greatness and My power. And for 4 amazing chapters that’s what God did. He described the magnitude of all He’d made, the stars He hung in the sky, the vastness of the earth, the great birds and beasts and animals He put on the earth. And how did Job respond? Job 42:1-3, 5-6 NIV Job came to the sobering conclusion that it wasn’t all about him. It was all about God. And the very fact that God chose to speak to Job and reveal Himself to Job, brought him to his knees as he realized that nothing was greater than knowing God and being in a relationship with Him. That’s why he repents-he had put his owns needs ahead of his greatest need which was knowing God. And it’s no different for us. Deep down I think a lot of us want to relate to God like He’s the genie from Aladdin. We took the kids to see that last weekend-and what’s the song the genie sings-you ain’t never had a friend like me. Meaning that I’m the best friend you could ever have because I’ll give you whatever you wish for-say it and it’s yours. That’s what we want God to be like. But here in this little book of Colossians, Paul is saying-I want to tell you something extraordinary about God’s Son. He doesn’t exist to orbit around you and all your needs, you exist to orbit around Him. And yes, that brings humility, you have to abandon your pride, and stop saying, “Me, me, me”. But it gives you the incredible privilege of lifting up your eyes in wonder to see Christ and say-You, and you alone, are great and glorious, full of all power and majesty, without You-I would have no breathe in my body or reason to exist. Therefore my deepest fulfillment and satisfaction is found in praising and worshipping and reflecting on you. And that’s exactly what Col 1 helps us do, because here’s where we see how deep the rabbit hole really goes when we want to understand who Christ is.
If we go back to the passage, look at this-v. 15a. This is saying that if you want to see God, who obviously our eyes can’t see, but if you want to know what He’s like, look to Jesus because He perfectly reveals God. Do you remember what Jesus said in John 14-Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. Jesus is the perfect likeness and image of God. Hebrews 1 says that Jesus the Son is the exact imprint and representation of God’s being. Pt4:Who’s the Son: Greatest Being in all existence. That’s what we have to wrap our heads around. There’s no greater person to know, no one else like Him. As you’ll notice in the verse, it says He’s the firstborn of all creation. And that doesn’t mean there was a time when He didn’t exist and then one day He did. As if in Heaven God the Father held up His Son to the angels and said, “It’s a boy!” The Son in His divinity was never born. He’s always existed, so the term firstborn literally describes rank, it’s a term of status and privilege. This was written in a culture in which the firstborn was held in high esteem and received all the rights of the inheritance, so it means that Christ is of highest esteem and rank, He’s the rightful heir of everything. This would be like saying He’s topdog. There’s no person or being above Him, He’s the greatest in all existence. Why?-v. 16.
This means exactly what it says, Pt4:Creator of everything. When you read in Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” it was the Son whose voice spoke and did the creating, so it’s no wonder that when Jesus was on earth the winds and the waves obeyed Him. When Jesus said “Stop, be still” the wind had heard His voice before. Or when Jesus seemingly created bread out of basically nothing to feed 5,000 men, He’d already created the universe from nothing-John 1:1-3. It was the voice of Jesus that spoke everything into being-the sun, the stars, the mountains, the birds, the animals-monkeys, horses, polar bears, even sloths and aardvarks. Christ made everything around us-these verses in Col are attributing it all to Him. And look at v. 17a. Christ was there before there was anything else, before Creation ever happened or anything existed there was the Trinity-Father, Son and Spirit-which means Pt4:He’s Uncreated. And I don’t know about you-but that’s really hard to get my head around. I can understand Christ dwelling forever into eternity-but never having a beginning, never needing to be created but always existing. It’s mind-boggling. Everything we know started somewhere-whether it’s something we build, a picture we paint, a story that we write-everything has a beginning-but not the Lord. He’s always been there-which means Pt4:Completely in control.
Back to v. 17b. That is such a comforting truth. Everything holds together because of Him. The universe doesn’t spin out of control into a chaotic mess or haphazardly fall apart. As I kid I loved Legos-and stayed together fairly well-but I also had a set of lincoln logs-anybody remember those? You could build some cool forts, but they were not the sturdiest-nothing snapped together-it all just stacked on top of each other-and one little accidental bump or someone tripping over it would cause your whole construction to fall apart. The Lord doesn’t accidentally bump or trip over the universe and break it. Sure this world is suffering from the effects of sin-it’s not the way it should be-but He keeps it all together, sovereignly guiding it towards it’s directed purpose-v. 18a. That’s His directed purpose-Pt4:Guiding the church. He’s our leader, our ruler. As the head of the church He directs us as we make up His body. Too often people complain about the church or get fed up with it, they tear it down, they call it a faulty institution-but here we read that Christ Himself is the head, the source, the origin of the church. It may be filled with faulty people now-of course it, we all have our faults-but we can trust that He’s slowly but surely perfecting us into the people He’s called us to be. And that one day we will be raised with Him-v. 18b. I love that word beginning-because it means there’s more-Pt4:His resurrection means our resurrection. And He was the first one raised to show us what’s to come. We can’t resurrect ourselves, we can’t keep our lives going. I hate to break it to you-but the mortality rates is 100%-no one’s skipped death-there no guy walking around who was alive 500 years ago saying-I don’t know what happened, but I’m feeling really good. Everyone’s died-except one-and that’s Christ. He alone is the resurrection and the life-there is no life outside of Him. You can try to make it on your own, you can try to live apart from Christ, you can try to be your own Savior and make your own way in life-but it won’t work. He’s created you, and only He can resurrect you. Your life is bound up in Him. You cannot escape that fact which is what this whole passage has been saying-v. 18-that in everything He might be preeminent.
So you have two options-either fight it or embrace it. You can either spend your life trying to make yourself supreme, wanting to always be the center-and in futility trying to get God and other people to orbit around you. Or you can let these words of truth, these descriptions of Christ, pierce your soul and say-Yes, Lord-you are supreme-and although I don’t perfectly glorify you as I should, although my heart can easily be distracted and caught up in selfish things, I desire for you to be preeminent in my life. I want to center my life around you because that’s what I’ve been created for. You are preeminent in the universe, have that preeminent place in me. That’s how it’s supposed to work. And the Lord proves it through His love for you-look at v. 19-20. To me that is the most incredible part-He had a Cross! Don’t brush over that too quickly. It didn’t say throne, it didn’t say army, it’s didn’t say a parade in His honor or a palace for Him to dwell. It said a Cross. The eternal, all-powerful, awe-inspiring, supreme Lord and Savior of all creation went to a Cross and Pt4:He died for us. The One who’s always existed, who created all things, who rules over all things, was captured by Roman soldiers so we could be rescued. The greatest Being of all, God in the flesh, was mocked, beaten, and had nails driven through His hands and feet. His blood was spilled, His body was broken. The magnificent Son of God gave His life for you so that your life could once again become re-centered around Him. He died so that you could orbit Him in praise and worship and joy and adoration-because that’s what you were created for. Heaven shudders and is appalled when mankind says-No, I won’t worship God, I’ll worship me and find my fulfillment in broken cisterns-but heaven rejoices when even 1 person repents and says-Yes, Lord I’ll worship you because that’s why I exist. And we can do that because of Christ, our Rescuer.
Colossians 1 – New Identity, Deep Roots – Part 3