Paul reminds us what is at stake if we turn away from Jesus. Every time something other than the Lord dictates our course of action, any time we pervert the truth, we are an enemy of God. Conversely, a servant of the Gospel is someone who personally identifies with it, proclaims it to others, compels people to experience the benefits of it, and surrenders to its commands. Living by God's standard of righteousness brings blessings while turning away from it brings judgment and consequences.
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From Futile Speculation to Futile Regulation: The Foolishness of Life Apart from Christ
Experts Are Everywhere but Can They be Trusted: How to Respond to Philosophy's Challenge
Our Journey to Get the Stain of Spaghetti/Sin Out of Our Lives
Why The Light Has to be Left On
What You Lose If You Leave This Chance To Serve This King
Our Colossal Christ and What You Must Quit When You Know Him
The First Thing We Ought to Pray for and Pursue
Investigating the Colossal Claims and Obligations of the Gospel
Father, we're so grateful for that cross and for the chance we have this morning to come and talk about it and consider it, reflect upon it, and decide if it demands my soul, my life and my all. We realize there's much we do that required that cross (at least many of us do), and we pray this morning that you'd move us more deeply and more firmly in a right response to it.
Then we pray at the same time for our friends who aren't really sure that some event that happened 2,000 years ago by some man who lived in a remote part of a distant piece of the Roman Empire might have a great impact on them today. We pray you use our conversations and reflection upon your Word this morning (as you've used the songs already and the art around it) to have them consider afresh who this Jesus is in a way that, we pray, would affect them not just for today but for, literally, eternity. Help us as we seek to serve you this morning and clarify the role of the wonderful cross in our lives. Amen.
Welcome. We are in the middle of a little series we're calling CSI: Asia Minor;The Colossian Scene Investigated. We're taking a look at this little town that's in what is today modern Turkey. We're trying to consider what happened there. We're looking at a forensic study. We're looking at every fiber of evidence of what remains from a letter that folks in that specific area received and are trying to figure out how it has relevance to us.
What was going on there is there was a group of folks who had heard about this wonderful cross. This man they named Jesus, who lived some-hundreds of miles away from them just a few decades before, had lived in this remote region of the Roman Empire. He had come, and he wasn't just a man, but he was divine. He went to this cross, not because Rome or his peers forced him to but because he gladly took it up. The reason he took it up was because God was going to use this Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, as a means to restore a lost and hurting world into a relationship with him.
This is a message that the folks in Colossae had received. There were others in that town, and some of them said, "No, no, no, no. This Jesus who you've received and heard about… That might be nice that you can believe in him, but ultimately, he's not definitive and complete and full in life. You need to add to this Jesus or at least supplement your belief in him with regulations and rules and obedience to the law by giving observance to the ideas and ideals of the philosophers of the day and have enlightenment that way. You need more knowledge."
Or they would tell you asceticism, self-flagellation and self-abuse, is another way to earn and deal with the corruption that is in our hearts. The guy who wrote the letter to these people, a guy by the name of Paul, was saying, "No, no, no, no, no. You hold firmly to this Jesus. You need nothing more than him because it is finished. What he came to accomplish is done, so it doesn't need to be supplemented with festivals. It doesn't need to be supplemented with acts of self-abuse. It doesn't need to be supplemented with works you could present to God as a means to which he would accept you."
He would say, "It does need to be accompanied by the fruits of your belief, but only as evidence that what you say you believe is, in fact, what you believe, not as a means through which God would accept you one day." This was the idea that was going on. There were folks who were there in that day who were saying, "This cross is too new. It's strange. Don't let it shape and be definitive in your life."
Even as we in Dallas who have the same letter are going to find relevance to us, folks are going to say, "Come on. Are you serious? This old and familiar cross that has been perverted and abused and been distorted and becomes a means of murder and crusades? This cross that has divided the world and brought wars into it? This cross that hangs on top of buildings all across this country while there's nothing but shallow faith and untransformed lives in it. You're telling me that cross still has relevance? I've seen that cross do nothing but divide. I've seen that cross do nothing in people's lives that I know. Why should I embrace it so fully?"
That's the letter we're looking at today, and we're going to find out what Paul has to say about that. If you have a Bible, I encourage you (as always) to bring those things and make some notes in it and wrestle with it on your own throughout the week. Turn with me to Colossians 1. We're going to pick it up today in verse 21. We're going to read a few verses here.
I'll remind you that Paul just got through saying, "If you have little faith in this Jesus, there is a ton at stake. This Jesus is not just some guy that tromped through the Middle East. This Jesus is God who lived as a man, humbled himself as a man, never stopped being God, but he did not use his own divinity as a means through which he would accomplish his own purposes. He trusted in the Father, even as you and I must. Because he was God and man, he was the perfect man, and he lived a sinless life. Therefore, he did not earn sin's wage, and yet he paid sin's debt.
As evidence of that, death could not hold him, and his tomb is empty. God has evidenced through his resurrection that he is the one that all humankind should hope upon. Not only should our civilization's dating pivot on his birth, death, and resurrection, but your life should pivot on who this man is. Do not leave this Jesus." That's where we were.
Look what Paul says in verse 21. "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds…" In other words, you were bent against the right decree of God. God says this is what is good and acceptable and perfect, and even though you and I didn't nail the cross together and nail Jesus to it physically, we do that every time we say, "I don't agree with God's standard. I don't agree with God's law. I don't agree with God's system of truth. I don't agree with God's morality. I don't agree with God's requirement on my life.
In my mind, I think I have a better idea than God does about what is right and what is wrong. So I will not trust in him, I will not lean upon him with all my understanding, but I will lean on me, on philosophers, authors, writers, and stars of the day. I will let that dictate my course. I will trade God's standard for my standards. I will substitute what I think is right for what God thinks is right."
God says, "Whenever you pervert truth, you are an enemy of truth. You are hostile in your minds towards what is right and true." When God created this earth, he had a plan for it, a plan that would bring about success and prosperity and peace and joy for all who lived in it. We said, "We don't like your plan, God. We like our plan. We'll do it our way. We will decide what is right and wrong and what is good and evil."
God said, "Have your way," and more than Pandora's box was opened. We found out when we left God's will and way for our life that we brought murder, destruction, deceit, lust, enmity, and factions into existence. This world has been spinning in despair ever since, except for those who have been reconciled to God in mind by faith in Jesus Christ who are, all of a sudden, to stop this influence of corruption, stop this race towards darkness and isolation and war and be individuals who say, "I will war against the hostility of a mind that is bent against God."
We will now not try and kill your flesh, but we will war to take every thought captive to obedience in Christ. When we do that, we will prosper from living according to God's standard of truth and love that he intended for us to experience to begin with. God would say, "Make no mistake about it, I will one day restore completely. I will eradicate sin's presence, but for now I will stunt sin's power through the presence of my Spirit which lives in my people as my truth comes ringing back in."
His truth will march on until his truth (Jesus Christ) returns again to state the case in order before a rebel world's eyes. Until then, he says, "You live with me." Who? "You who were formerly alienated from God, enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior but who, by the grace of God, have been brought back near through this Jesus." That's the next verse. Verse 22, "But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…"
He's saying this is what he's going to do if you hold on to this Jesus. If you abandon this Jesus, if he's just a good idea who floated through Colossae who you kind of listened to as you listened to the philosopher but don't really let it take root and firmly plant yourself in his heart, it's not going to deliver you holy and blameless before him.
You can't just have some intellectual encounter with Jesus. You can't even have an intellectual and emotional experience with Jesus. What he says is, "I want you to have a will that is surrendered to the truth that was established through his life, his cross, his empty tomb, and his person."
If you embrace this Jesus, if you continue in your faith, if you're faith is real it will continue. If you know it's true, you will not leave it for something else. "…if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel." Then you will be the salt and light and have the hope that God intended. He says, "This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant."
Let me tell you what's at stake right here. There's a word that is used early in this little section of scripture (in verse 21) that we need to wrestle with. The word is enemy. When you think of an enemy you go, "What in the world am I being called an enemy of God for? What do you mean I was an enemy of God? Enemies of God are people who are far worse than I am." I've already established to you that if you are not with God, you are not for God (you are against him).
If God says, "This is right," and in your mind you say, "No, this is right," you are hostile in your mind towards truth. You are a messenger and a servant of error, and you fight against what is good, acceptable, and perfect. God says, "That is my enemy. Darkness brings separation and suffering. I'm a God who brings light and love and healing and hope, truth, and purity.
If you stand against me, you are an enemy of what I seek to establish on the Earth I created…that people would prosper in relationship with me on a place I created to be a paradise for them. Even as all places that I am are a paradise because I am good and there is no shifting shadow or darkness. I am pure light."
Let me just define the word enemy for you, and we have to get ourselves firmly in this camp. Webster's defines enemy this way. "One hostile to another; one who hates, and desires or attempts the injury of, another; a foe; an adversary; as, an enemy of or to a person; an enemy to truth or to falsehood."
That is what we are. When God says, "This is truth, this is morality, this right, this is good," and we say, "No, this is good," we are an enemy of what is real. If God says, "This is my standard. There should be one man and one woman," and we say, "No. There should be as many woman as who say it's okay with them and as long as they're consenting. Frankly, it doesn't matter if it's a woman as long as we both consent." God says, "You're an enemy of mine."
If God says, "When you hurt each other because of the fact that you've left who I am and you then fake your relationship and become peace-fakers and tolerate each other, you're an enemy of mine. I want you to be a peacemaker. I want you to own your sin. I want you to leave whatever song and celebration you have before me and come to the other person and humble yourself, acknowledge your error, ask for forgiveness, restore the oneness that is there, and move forward."
If you're a peace-faker you're an enemy of God. If you're a peace-breaker…if you say, "You hurt me, I'll show you what hurt looks like. You'll never do that to me again. I'll bring more suffering and pain into your life than you could ever imagine,"…you're an enemy of God.
If you're somebody who says, "I put my hope in things. I can find sustenance and meaning and joy and significance through pleasure, through accumulation, and through self-will," God says, "That's an enemy of me because you break the harmony of love that has been eternally existent in who I am as one that lives forever in community. When you live in ways that isolate and break and don't consider others' needs as more important than yourself, you stand as an enemy of truth and love."
Let me give you some pictures that, hopefully, will stir in you a sense of how incredible the wonderful cross is. The Scripture says that God demonstrates his love for us in that, while we were still that kind of person (an enemy) Christ died for us. We have too small a view of "enemy." We forget what an enemy really evokes.
Here are a few enemies. Enemies who the entire world believes are individuals who we should hate, who stand against all that we would say is good. These are enemies of civilization. Adolf Hitler. You know him. He's responsible for the death of 6 million Jews. A man who brought war on this earth that resulted in 19 million servicemen dying and 35 million civilians suffering. That is a wicked man. There is nobody who stands with Hitler who we embrace.
There are still some people who are out there today who say, "I think Adolf had a good thing going." What do we say to those individuals? "You are a danger to society, and you are a people who live in darkness, and we will drive you out. You are an enemy of that which we stand for as a people.
There's another little fella. I've been to this man's efforts. Timothy McVeigh. We know in 1995, he parked a little Ryder truck in front of the Alfred P. Murrah building up there in Oklahoma City. The blast killed 168 people, 19 of them kids. You cannot go to that little part of this earth without standing there and thinking, "This guy is an enemy." The ideology that allowed him to do this and the darkness that pushed him in this direction is an enemy of anything that is right and good.
The little motto they have up there is that all may know the effects of violence. Violence is an enemy of peace. We say, "This man and anybody who stands with him is an enemy of ours." There's an even more common and more current example. This guy. We know on September 11, 2001, he celebrated when two planes flew into two towers in New York City. Another plane crashed into another building that cost hundreds of lives, another plane buried into a little piece of land up in Pennsylvania that took even more lives, and this man said, "That is good."
Folks who stand with his ideology believed that anybody who does not stand with his understanding of truth should be murdered and killed. They're infidels, enemies of Allah, and folks who if you terminate you can secure your own salvation. That's his idea. We say that is wrong. That man represents terror, not peace. He is an enemy of civilization.
Together we seek to bring him and everybody who agrees with him down. According to our standard as civilized people in the world, you do not bring that kind of destruction and evil into this world and call it good. So you are an enemy of the civilized world, and we seek to extinguish him. When you hear yourself called the same word that Hitler, that McVeigh, and that Bin Laden is called, what does it do to you?
The problem is we start right here, and we put these guys down here. We throw Dahmer and Bundy in that group. They say, "Compared to what we think is right, these men are here," and they are. The problem is we forget there's a standard that's even greater than ours, and we are an enemy of that standard.
When we do things from selfishness or empty conceit, this standard says, "That grieves me. It's brings terror into a world that I said should bring love and peace." When your minds say, "We'll just say it's okay when you do it in certain circumstances," and "Certain means justify the ends, and "Certain pleasures are unavoidable because of the way I feel," he says, "No. You don't understand the sickness and death the cancerous self-will brings to the healthy life I created for my people to experience. You are an enemy of mine."
Here's the deal. This is our problem. We view an enemy as somebody who disrupts our weekend. To us, this (right here) is an enemy to too many folks. This is an enemy. Somebody who ruins my weekend, somebody who makes things hard and difficult for me, or somebody who's on a good five-year run. You go, "Man," and we laugh about it. Too many of you don't laugh. Too many of you just kick the dog, bark at the wife, throw stuff at the TV, curse a coach, or tell folks to run him out. "That's guy is our enemy. He can't bring any pride to our country or our state."
I'm going to tell you something. You have no idea what an enemy is if you get worked up over somebody beating your little football team. Go to a school like mine. You get used to it quick. Who cares? It's fun to compete, but we call that an enemy? No. An enemy isn't somebody who disrupts the weekend. A enemy is somebody who disrupts what is right and true.
God says that's who you were. By the grace of God, he cared for you so much he entered into this world. He lived a life that did not deserve judgment, and he took judgment so those of you who deserve judgment wouldn't get it because he loves you. He took your bullet, Hitler. He took your place in the bunker that needed to be bombed, Bin Laden. He took your sentence, McVeigh. He took your cross, Wagner. You'd better not get over it.
When you understand who this guy is who died on the cross and realize he's more than a guy… This is where Paul just was. Look at the idea right here, "If you leave the one who is the visible image of the invisible God…" That's who Paul says Jesus was. "If you leave the one who was the first born of all creation…" Has superiority over all things was the idea we developed there last week.
"If you leave the one who's the Creator of all things, if you leave the one who's the sustainer of all things, if you leave the one who's the head of the church, if you leave the one who's the firstfruits of God's redemptive work, if you leave the one who is the fullness of God, if you leave the one who is the only one who can provide peace with God as evidenced by his resurrection, and who died on a cross for you, you are making a terrible mistake."
Yes, you're going to get criticized in Colossae because those folks don't know who this Jesus is yet, but it's your responsibility to tell them. Yes, you're going to be mocked because you, in Dallas, live a devoted life to this Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago. Don't leave him because if you have a little faith in the truth, there's a ton at stake. If you leave that truth, others are going to think it's not true if you're the messenger of it.
If you leave this one who is all the things that Paul had ripped off there in Colossians, verses 14 through 20, if you aren't forever shaken by the fact that he was pierced for your transgressions (this fully God sacrifice), and if you get over the fact that that one died for you, then you'll lose this. You'll lose your ability to show your gratitude, to live a life, frankly, that exhibits what real faith and humble recipients of mercy and grace show.
Let me say it to you this way. Salvation is never sweet until sin is truly sickening. My problem is I put my sin in the Bob Stoops enemy class. Oh, get over it. It's not that big of a deal to roll a stop sign, talk poorly to others, indulge my pleasures sometimes, be self-consumed, live life on my own terms, and don't take responsibility for how other people feel when I say something. That's their issue. If they just saw things clearly, it wouldn't be a problem.
See, I put that stuff in the Bob Stoops class. God says, "No, no, no, no. You don't understand. Anybody who doesn't stand with truth is an enemy of mine who brings death and destruction in the McVeigh-Hitler class. Todd, you need to understand that that is who you were to me. Yeah, maybe there are others who excelled still more in fighting against my truth, but at the end of the day, you perverted what I said was right, and you were an enemy of truth. Until you own that, you're my enemy."
When you don't believe God was so serious about your sin that he himself walked on this earth and was nailed to a cross for you then you don't understand what sin is, you don't have a picture of what an enemy of God you were yet, and you'll never live a life of gratitude.
M. Scott Peck, who wrote "The Road Not Taken,"one timesaid to a friend of his that the thing he observes in a lot of folks who are out there is that one of the genuine characteristics of any follower of Christ is gratitude. His friend said, "No. Let me just tell you something, Mr. Peck. Gratitude is not one of the evidences of a follower of Christ. It is the evidence."
Folks who have no problem coming in here and making an effort when you know that to corporately stand together in awe and sing about the wonderful cross; about how he's indescribable, untamable, unchangeable, awesome and mighty God; who bow before him with no problem; and whose heart has a hard time humbling yourself in true and genuine worship… It's because you don't understand what you had coming to you. I don't understand what the cross was for, how it was necessary for me, and I get over it. So I'm not really grateful, and I don't really sing about it with all my heart.
1._ When you forget the one who died on that cross, you will not live a life of gratitude, and you will take way too much for granted._ "God ought to like me. I'm no McVeigh. I'm no Hitler. I'm not Bin Laden. I'm not a serial rapist. I'm not a serial person who gets in and out of relationships as I date as a single person…just leaving girls pregnant, waiting for abortions and hiding and moving on. I mean, yeah. I've been physically impure. Yeah, we sleep together but only after we tell each other we love each other. I'm nobody like that."
God says, "You don't get it, do you? When you let your marriage move away from oneness and don't pursue my idea of oneness and you let it go to isolation, you're my enemy, and no less my enemy than those who break off their marriage and move on to a next relationship. The standard is here, not where you make it. You ought to be grateful for what I do for you."
One guy said, "When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude." Helen Keller, who we know is a young lady who was stricken early in her life with an illness that lead to her being blind and deaf and, therefore, unable to communicate effectively, was a woman who understood in her heart of hearts that even though this little deaf, dumb and blind girl… You go, "What could she do that would offend God? She's already had enough hardship in her life."
Helen Keller was well aware of the corruption that was in her life. She knew she used her circumstance to exploit those who were around her, to exert her will, to live a life of irresponsibility, even in the face of a lot of pain. Helen Keller, even in her deafness and blindness, had a loud, clear vision of what was true in her heart. She was a rebel against what was right, that love was not in her being. This is what Helen Keller said in her autobiography.
She said, "For three things I thank God every day of my life…" I don't take this for granted. Everyday I'm grateful. First, "…thanks that he has vouchsafed me knowledge of his works..." In other words, that God has shown me his goodness to a world that lives in enmity with him by dying on a cross for them, and that God has shown me what is right and true and good and pure, and it's not me, and it's not those who try and love me and serve me. There's an even higher standard of good, and I thank God that he has shown me his definition of good.
Secondly, "…deep thanks that he has set in my darkness the lamp of faith..." Not only has he shown me the standard of what is right, but he has given me the sense to believe and his provision for my not falling into line with it. Thirdly, she says, "Not only do I have a sense that God is love and the faith that in his love he deals with my sin, but I have hope." She goes on to say, "…[I have] deep, deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to..."
Yes, I live in world that is haunted by sin. Sin has had its way with me. This is not a perfect world. It is a broken world, and I am haunted by its effects in my life. But I have hope that this God, who is loving, has dealt with sin and brokenness in this world. I have faith that he has forgiven me for my sin. I have faith that one day he will come crashing through with it and he will put me in a place where sin has no standing, sin has no presence, deafness and darkness and muteness and corruption of heart won't be there. I look forward to "…a life joyous with light, with flowers and with heavenly song."
That's a woman who says, "I am grateful because I'm not going to get over who Jesus is and what he's done." Now that ought to make all of us stutter and stumble and go, "There's no bitterness there. There's no anger there." Did she wrestle with the fact that she had the condition she did? You bet she did, but her gratitude at what has been done and what will be done in faith was greater still. So she moved forward.
2._ If you get over this one who has died for you, then you will lose your chance to show the world the hope that alone delivers from despair and death._ In other words, if you leave this Jesus, if you have some superficial relationship with him, and you begin to say, "I'm going to trust in Jesus plus something else, I'm not going to be complete in my trust of Christ, and I'm not going to be complete in my surrender to Christ, because I think I can find more life over here if I do not just what Jesus says, but what Jesus says modified in this way.
If I deal with my separation from God, not by trusting in Christ alone as the means to which I can be restored, but by the practices of certain sacraments or certain rituals…" If you ask most folks what it is that gives you a right standing before God, most folks will start to cite for you a resume. Not Christ's resume, but their own works: philanthropy, service, kindness, and sins that they said no to that were more gross than the sin they said yes to.
They will say, "I'm basically better than I am bad. So that's really what I trust in. Yet, I throw Jesus in there too just in case he can add something." When you do that, when you leave Jesus as the means alone through which you can be rightly restored to God, you use your chance to show the world that this is the Rock alone that can't be shaken. So you don't have to disappoint people.
You might look at a Mother Teresa and a Billy Graham, and you go, "Okay. I can see why they're going to be saved in our view. I'm not ever fill a stadium with millions of people and tell them about Jesus Christ. I've already blown it with my family. I've already blown it with my Ruth, so I can't even be the kind of married man that he is.
Or Mother Teresa. Oh my gosh. Chastity and a nun? I'm nowhere near that. Not just making a holiday trip down to the poor parts of the world, but moving in with where they are, cleaning their wounds, lifting their heads up so nobody dies without dignity, taking a vow of self-denial, so I can make sure every resource goes to them? I'm nowhere near that."
When you live a life based on works, you don't give people hope. You made them despairing as they compare their life to yours. When they realize they've already violated your standard, they're going to go, "Well, what's the use? I may as well get in the big life while I can because I'm no Mother Teresa."
If Mother Teresa and Billy Graham got their heads screwed on straight, they'd be here today and say, "I'm not going to provide God with any evidence that I was in Calcutta or in some large stadium in Amsterdam. I'm going to tell him I was kneeling and bowing before the cross". The ground's very level there, and that's why I have hope that I'm forgiven. Not because of what I've done.
I want to let you know something. I've done what I've done because of what I've believed. I want to show my gratitude to God by giving everything I can in response to him with a life that's surrendered to his will…give him my all. You want to know what my hope is? It's the cross. When you leave the cross without adding anything to it, you leave with your chance to show the world, alone, that that is what can deliver you from despair, guilt, and death.
3._ You leave your assurance that you're saved._ In other words, when you leave this Jesus and all that he provides for you, and you start to say, "I'm going to do what I want to do when I want to do it," and you start to bear the fruits of self-will and you stop bearing the fruit of being connected to his divine self and you stop being the branch that bears the fruit that you should, then you're going to start to go, "Wait a minute. I don't look like the tree he says I should look like. I don't see joy. I don't see love. I don't see patience. I don't see goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control evident in my life. So what makes me think I'm really that tree?"
When you leave Christ and you start to supplement how to live your life on your own terms, introduce your own standards of sexual purity, introduce your own standards of how to steward your life and money, and you start to see your life spiral further in that direction, you're going to start to go, "I know Jesus says that his followers would be like this. I'm not like that. I wonder if I'm really his follower."
You can delude yourself all day long into thinking that you are, but Jesus says that good trees bear good fruit. You need to take a good hard look at the fruit in your life. Are you saved by fruit? No. This is what the scripture says. "Faith without works or faith without fruit is dead." It's isolated. It's alone. It's no good.
That little section of Scripture in James 2 that talks about that says there are three kinds of faith. There is dead faith, intellectual faith. "I believe that Jesus is this. I believe that he's the visible image of the invisible God. I believe in the cross." All you do is have an intellectual assent to it. That is dead faith if it's separated from a connection to something more.
There is what is called the Devil's faith. In James 2 it says, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." Which is to say, dead faith is just intellectual assent alone. A demon's faith is intellectual assent and emotional connection with it. Some of you all had an emotional experience at some point when somebody introduced you to the prospect of being reconciled in the relationship with God.
Don't let your little emotional experience that came from an intellectual idea make you think for a moment that you have faith that delivers. Even the demons have an emotional experience when they intellectually agree with what they know to be true. There is dead faith, there's a demon's faith and there's a third kind of faith.
It was called a dynamic faith, or I would say demonstrated faith, which is to say not only do I intellectually agree that this Jesus dealt with my enmity with him, and not only as it warms my heart and made me overflow with gratitude and submission to him, but it has now pushed me from an emotional response to an act of the will and surrender. There is truth or fact, agreement to that fact, and there is trust. To say it another way. There is intellect, there is a heart surrender, and there is a surrender of my will.
John Calvin, a guy who said a few things worth reading and knowing, simply said we are saved by faith alone. Let me make it very clear to you that salvation is always accomplished by grace through faith, but we (all of us) will be, and you'll find out in a moment when I address this, accountable for what we do. Martin Luther says, "We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone."
I know for a fact there are some of you in here who live immoral lifestyles, who practice what you want to practice, and you say, "Yeah, I want to keep my little Jesus over here, but I'm going to leave the Jesus who is authoritative in my life." God is not going to phone me and ask me what I think about your security and relationship with him, but he has told me that I will know a tree by its fruits.
When you practice things that are contrary to the revealed will of God, don't look to me for assurance. You might be secure if in your heart you truly went to him. If you are Christ's child, nothing can affect it. He says that his children are conformed to his image and look like his boy or look like his daughter.
So you leave your wife and you come here with your girlfriend, we don't let you be a member because your life stands contrary to the will of God. You delight in the fact that your wife comes here and sees you with your girlfriend on your arm. You go on your little way and let her wrestle and feel the pain of not submitting to the lifestyle you wanted to have before her. I have to tell you. You're deluding yourself if you think you're secure, friend.
If you have peace in that kind of lifestyle, then you have to really take a good hard look as to whether or not Jesus is who he says he is in your life. Assurance (different from security) comes from the word of God (believe this and you're saved), the spirit of God testifying in your heart (you're his boy), and the fruit of God.
The only one of those three I can see and you can see when you look in the mirror is the one that says, "You start to look more like this person who deals with their sin, humbles themselves, restores their sin through the act of reconciliation and humility. None of us is perfect, folks, but if we don't deal with our sin in a way that suggests that we know it's real, then we ought to stop and take account if we think sin matters at all. The greatest assurance I have that I'm saved is when I sin and I hate it, because God has taught me to hate it by his good will.
4._ If you leave this Jesus, not only will you lose your chance at gratitude and a chance to show the world that Jesus alone delivers an assurance that you are saved, but you'll lose your immediate standing before him as a faithful servant who has done well._ In other words, relationships are always conditional.
My wife and I are married no matter what I do, but my security and oneness with her, my relationship with her, is only as healthy as my acts. So if I say I'm married and yoked with Christ and yet I live in a way that hurts that relationship, I lose my ability to stand before him and hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant," and that is nothing to be trifled at.
If you are a sinner, you will be judged by works, and your works will be found wanting. If you humble yourself, acknowledge that your sins deserve judgment, ask God to provides the means of execution of that judgment on the cross, then you are a son and salvifically your works will not be judged, but Christ's are substituted for you. That's his word. That his gospel. That's the good news.
But you will still be judged according to your works as a servant. We don't talk about that near enough. When you leave this Jesus, even as a real believer, and stop stewarding your life the way he wants you to, you lose your ability to hear those words one day. "Well done, good and faithful servant." He will say, "Come, son. Come, daughter," and you will be saved as one who passes through fire. All your works will be consumed.
Those who abide with Christ and don't leave this Jesus but embrace him in his word will hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Here's the reward which I have prepared for you." You don't want to lose that. Don't leave this Jesus. That's what Paul is saying to the folks in Colossae, and I have a hunch God wants us to hear it in Dallas.
5._ You lose your chance to participate in revealing his glory._ When you are connected to this Jesus your life is conformed to his image in such a way that the world stops and looks at with a sense of awe. "Look at the way they love one another. Look at the way they reconcile in conflict. Look at the way they go through life."
This is 1 Peter 3. "…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts…" In other words become more glorious as you become more like Jesus. The Scripture says, "…always ** being **** ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame."** Glorify him by living lives that are consistent with who he is. Let wisdom vindicate itself by its deeds.
This is a big deal. Those of us who were enemies with God, who have been brought nearby him, should celebrate the gospel and cling to the Savior. Look in verse 23. This is what Paul says in that little verse right there when he comes back. He says, "In view of this, I want to tell you who I am and what I'm doing with this Jesus. I'm in a jail in Rome, and I'm writing you, and I'm telling you I'm not leaving this Christ. No matter what it costs me before Caesar," and later it cost him his head.
Paul says, "This is the gospel that you have heard from me and has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. This isn't just some little Turkish heresy. This is the truth everywhere." Verse 23 in Colossians says, "…and of which I, Paul, have become a servant." Here's where we're going to close today. What does it mean to be a servant of the gospel? If that's what we should be and not folks who leave this Jesus with the horrible consequences I just went through.
1._ A servant of the gospel is somebody who personally identifies with it._ When Paul first heard of who this Jesus was in Acts 22… He's telling his story. This is what it says. "There was a guy,"
Paul would say. "A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there…"
"Well this Ananias came to me and standing near me he said, 'Saul. You want to know why you are blind? Because God struck you blind so that you might begin to see. So receive your sight now.'"
Paul said, "And at the very time I looked up at him." There's Ananias. "And he said, 'The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will…'" The same thing Helen Keller was excited about. "…and to see the Righteous One [this Jesus who revealed to you and said, 'Why are you persecuting me?'] and to hear an utterance from His mouth [some you've already heard and some you're about to hear] . For you will be a witness for Him[Jesus]to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay?"
You identify with this message of hope and the fact that you who were blind can now see, that this Jesus has shown you the light, and you identify yourself in it. "Get up and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name." He's saying, "Paul, you quit trying to earn God's favor through obedience to the law and the practices and the festivals and celebrations that are part of the Jewish faith and the systems of works that are there."
Jesus has finished and has fulfilled every requirement of God. He wants you to be the one who proclaims that good news. That's what the word gospel means to the watching world. Paul, you identify yourself with Jesus through the act of baptism that he set in place. You do one thing as a first step of obedience.
Baptism won't save you, but you should question whether you're saved if you won't do the first thing he tells you to do, which is to stand up before a watching world and say, "Look. I, Paul, don't believe I have anything to present God that would make me acceptable to him. I am a sinner, an enemy of God, hostile in mind to his purposes. Yet, he sent his Son to die for me and I now identify with his death, burial, and resurrection. I will walk in newness of life as he has been raised in newness of life as evidence that God was satisfied in him. This Jesus who died for me and gave his life for me… I now give my life for him."
If you have never personally identified with Jesus through the act of baptism, you have to really question whether or not you're a servant of the gospel. If you won't do the first thing he says you should do as a believer…not as a child when you couldn't believe, but as an adult who embraces this truth…you should question whether or not you've identified yourself with that Jesus. In two weeks you have an opportunity to do it. You let us know how we can help you have that opportunity to stand and declare to a watching world, "This Jesus is who makes me right with God."
2._ If you're a servant of the gospel, you're going to proclaim it to others._ The heart that is well is the heart that tells. Second Timothy 4:5. "But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship…" In other words, you think clearly. You suffer for what you ought to suffer for. You give your life. You steward everything you have for the sake of this thing that you're a servant of. "You do the work of one who speaks the truth well. A messenger of goodness." That's evangelist. "…fulfill your ministry." That word ministry there means fulfill your act of service.
3._ If you're a servant of the gospel, you won't just proclaim it. You will compel people to participate in it and experience the benefits of it._ If you don't know something is true, you won't give your life to it. God says, "I want you to compel people. I want you to do everything you can."
You think that restaurant is good? You say, "I'm going to take you there. You have to go." You think that book is good? You buy it for them. Let somebody read it. You say that movie is good? Say, "I'll go with you again to see it. We'll laugh together. It's unbelievable." You experience the transforming work of the gospel, and you tell folks, "You have to come and know this Jesus. Come with me."
It breaks my heart to see red seats out there when I'm in here week after week sometimes, and I just go, "I cannot believe that we did not avail ourselves to the opportunity that today was to declare to people the hope of Jesus Christ." I have to believe there are some folks… They tell us over 50 percent of folks who never go to church would go if somebody just asked them. What are we doing to compel people to come and experience this?
This is not a place for us to float and enjoy and huddle up together and feel good about ourselves. We are here to represent the truth of who Christ is to other folks. Are you compelling people? Am I compelling people? That's what a servant of the gospel does.
4._ A servant of the gospel is somebody who's controlled by its will and commands._ Somebody who is convinced that the gospel is right and true and pure is completely controlled by it. Meaning, this book of the law that God has revealed as his standard of truth in Joshua 1:8. " [We should] meditate on it day and night, so that we may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for when we do that then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success."
That doesn't mean financially. It doesn't mean health. It means in the way that we live, the world will look at us as servants of the gospel and we are living according to it and underneath it, and they will go, "That is an awesome life. That is a glorious life. What is the source and root of that life?"
A life that is in the midst of another barren womb for another month, a life that is in the midst of being stricken with cancer, or a life that is in the midst of pain and circumstances that we would not choose that still has hope. That is a life that the world cocks its head and goes, "That doesn't look familiar to me."
Scripture says, "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!" Notice this progression. You walk with the wicked who don't agree with what truth is and you start to consider it. Then you stand still and think about it a little bit longer. Next thing you know you yourself are at the seat of scoffers because you're not a servant of truth and hope, faith and love.
You always move that way. You walk; you consider it. You stand; you look at it. Next thing you know, you just start to rest in it, and you're not commanded and controlled by God's word, but you scoff at whether or not there's ever a standard that you should live by. You rationalize and dumb down God's rule for your own and what makes sense to you and gives you power and privilege. But blessed is the man who isn't like that.
"But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night." If you're not sure the gospel is true, it will not change you. I've said this before. I'm going to come back to it again because this is Paul's point. Don't leave the truth of who this Jesus is. If you're not convinced of the truth of something…
You're going to be easily swayed by culture instead of strongly leading and influencing it. You will be tentative in your claims and easily shaken by challenges.
You will be anxious and depressed instead of being hopeful and difference maker. You're going to always think, "Is this the right way to lean? Is this the right way to go? If I go this way, I might not be liked. I might even be suggesting the wrong idea. If I'm not sure the gospel is the way to go, I'm not going compel, I'm not going to proclaim, and I'm not going to identify."
You're not going to be changed. "I'm going to be constantly changing because I don't know what to really serve. I'll serve the gospel now. I'll serve Gandhi now. I'll serve this now. I'll serve self now. I'll serve this contingency now."
You're going to be unable to give good answers as to why you believe what you believe. If you're not sure of the gospel, you will not be its servant. You'll have two masters, so you'll serve whatever the master of the moment is.
You're going to begin to be convinced by the counsel of the wicked, the path of sinners and the seat of scoffers that it may not be true since you're not convinced of it and you will not delight yourself in truth. You are going to abandon the truth and become a scoffer, a wicked, yourself. Therefore, you will not be mastered by it. If you're not fully convinced in the truth of something, you will not be mastered and controlled and commanded by it, and that is a problem.
I want you to watch somebody who is not convinced of the truth of the gospel. They are not a servant of the gospel by their own profession. Watch this. This is not a political statement. This is a lesson in what you are not to be. Check this out.
Bob Schieffer: The New York Times report said some Catholic archbishops are telling their church members that it would be a sin to vote for a candidate like you because you support a woman's right to choose an abortion and unlimited stem cell research. What is your reaction to that?
John Kerry: I respect their views. I completely respect their views. I am a Catholic. And I grew up learning how to respect those views, but I disagree with them, as do many. I believe that I can't legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith. I believe that choice is a woman's choice. It's between a woman, God, and her doctor, and that's why I support that.
I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade. The president has never said whether or not he would do that, but we know from the people he's trying to appoint to court he wants to. I will not. I will defend the right of Roe v. Wade.
With respect to religion, as I said, I grew up a Catholic. I was an altar boy. I know that throughout my life this has made a difference to me. As president Kennedy said when he ran for president, "I'm not running to be a Catholic president. I'm running to be a president who happens to be Catholic."
My faith affects everything that I do, in truth. There's a great passage of the Bible that says, "What does it mean, my brother, to say you have faith if there are no deeds? Faith without works is dead," and I think that everything you do in public life has to be guided by your faith, affected by your faith, but without transferring it in any official way to other people.
That's why I fight against poverty. That's why I fight to clean up the environment and protect this earth. That's why I fight for equality and justice. All of those things come out of that fundamental teaching and belief of faith. But I know this, that President Kennedy in his inaugural address told all us that here on earth, God's work must truly be our own. And that's what we have to decide… I think that's the test of public service.
[End of video]
Let's measure this by its words. Again, this is not about politics. You can make it what you want. I have no problem telling you who I'm going to vote for personally. This isn't the stage to do it. This is about what you should not be. You should not be somebody who stands up and says, "I think faith should affect every area of my life, but it will not affect the way that I lead." That doesn't affect every area of your life.
This is not about John Kerry. This is about you and me. We don't stand on national television and say that, but we just might do it, which is just as disgusting. Watch this man's words. He says by his own testimony, "My faith affects everything I do and choose. I think everything you do in public life has to be guided by your faith, affected by your faith, without transferring it in any official way to other people." So he goes on to say, "That's why I fight against poverty, to clean up the environment, and protect the earth," and so on.
If somebody says to you we can't legislate our morality, that is nonsense. Every bit of legislation that has ever been introduced is a moral judgment. This is right, and this is wrong. You do not stand up there and say, "I am a servant of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but I don't live by it. I'm mastered by what I think will give me power and persuasion and rule over people."
The world has no problem with a faith that says, "I ask nothing of you as a result." You want to believe what you believe? Just don't tell me I have to have anything to do with it. If you make the standard and measure of what you should do in this life, and I quote again, "On earth, God's work must truly be your own. That's the test of public service." That's what he said.
Our work must be God's work. Would God fight against abortion? That's my question for you. If Jesus was here, would he stand up and say, "I cannot support abortion"? I want to make it clear, if you've had an abortion, your act to terminate that life which is in you is no worse in the scheme of right to wrong than some of the decisions I have made.
By the grace of God I have never been a part of an abortion, but I have been a part of stuff that has offended God deeply. The same grace that has given me hope and healing and restoration and has allowed me to move through with incredible forgiveness (my choices) is the same grace available to you. We have ministry here for you specifically called Someone Cares. We care that that sin, that decision, that we know that you know was more than just a fetus. It wasn't a choice. It was a life, and you know it.
Every year on the anniversary when that child would be born, you know it. Every guy that funded a girl to do it, you know what you were a part of. I want to tell you something, enemy of God, he loves you just like he loves me. Jesus would say we're not going to go for that. Would God define marriage as between one man and one woman? He already has. "For this cause a man shall leave his mother and shall cleave to his wife."
Would God encourage us to spend more money than we have available to us, leaving debt and obligations to future generations? That, by the way, is not a Kerry position. He is for a balanced budget. The other gentleman is not, and that is wrong. We cannot live according to a means which we are not able to live by. We have to humble ourselves and do hard work, and we have to cut some things in order that we might not just accumulate debt and say, "That'll be somebody else's problem in the future.
Let me continue here with a few things. Would God move with force against the dictator who had killed hundreds of thousands of his own people and was committed to bringing further suffering and harm to nations that he hated? I think he would. We made a case for that, and we talked about that, and we did a little deal on the topic of war. "How can people of peace ever support war?" There's a biblical response to that. We'll give it to you for free if you ask for it.
Would God legislate morality? He already has! He's already said this is right and this is wrong. When we say, "I don't think that I should continue to represent what God thinks is right and wrong as a commander-in-chief," then I want to say, "Okay, Chief. Then what is going to be your standard?
If I'm going to put you into a position to set influence and laws in this land, I want to know what your standard is. Don't tell me it's a poll because I know what the masses want. The masses want to do what they continue to do until judgment is so severe in their life they call out for repentance and safety and deliverance from the sin of their own choosing."
So I want a leader, and this world is looking for a leader who says this is right. So if you want to reject God's standard, okay. Tell me what your standard is, and I'll decide if I want to stand with that. Would God expect us to transfer our convictions and beliefs in any official way to other people? He already has.
What if someone doesn't believe that all men are equal and that all men should be free? Our country was founded on that principle. We say we will go where there is sex trade, and we will stop it, and where there are oppression and dictatorship, and we will intervene because it is wrong. What if someone believes it's okay to have sex with children? Are you going to legislate that? Or are you going to say, "How can I take my article of faith that says you shouldn't have sex with children and translate that into a law that is not a system of somebody else's faith?"
Somebody out there right now is thinking, "Well, wait a minute. We're talking there about an innocent child who can't protect itself. What about two consenting adults? Don't give me this straw man who has sex with children." I'm going, "Okay. So you want to protect those who can't protect themselves? Let's go back to that abortion discussion a little bit sooner, and let's be consistent with our logic."
What if someone believes it's okay to kill someone who doesn't believe what they believe? You're going to stand against that? Do you realize a war against Bin Laden is a moral decision based on an article of faith that says that terror is wrong and that forcing people to believe something or you will kill them is wrong?
That is why if you are not a Christian or a Jew you ought to vote for somebody who is. You to Islamic cultures, you go to communist or atheistic cultures, and you go Hindu cultures and you will find that they will kill you and persecute you if you don't believe what they believe. I say that there is a standard of righteousness we should attain to. It's God's standard of righteousness. It is true, and we should be servants of it.
If you don't believe that, I will not kill you, but I will fight for morality which I think will give us prosperity, success, and blessing in your life. You have the freedom to disagree. In a democracy, in a republic, we have the freedom to put people in charge in an office that will make laws that will either bring blessing and light to our land or judgment and consequences, and you have to choose.
While you vote out there, don't tell me for a second that what you believe shouldn't affect what you think and how you act. That is repulsive for servants of Christ to say, "I will still do what I think is right in the public square."
Father, I pray for us as a people. It's way too easy to throw stones at somebody else and to forget what you would have us consider ourselves. This is not about John Kerry or George Bush this morning. This is about Todd Wagner and people who, by the grace of God, are wrestling with the same truths you had folks wrestle with 2,000 years ago…that we would not leave this Jesus because there's way too much at stake.
No, I pray that we go and we are servants of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we identify with it, we proclaim it, and we compel people towards it. I pray, Father, that we'd go out today, and we are commanded by it and willing to suffer for it because it is true. Convince us, or at least give us an unsettled rest until we do the hard work to, in our hearts, make a decision about who this Jesus was and what he was doing on the cross. For your glory and our good, amen.
From a book that is 2,000 years old comes evidence that has been preserved about the greatest truth the world has ever known and how it can transform our lives. The book of Colossians walks through the radical change that happened to some in an ancient east Asian city, revealing the struggles they faced, the resistance they met, and the transformation they found as a result of the hope they had. Join Todd Wagner as he studies the Colossians scene to discern how their journey can reveal truths that can change us.