In the second half of the book of Colossians, Paul explains that if we believe by faith that Jesus has given us everything we need in truth and knowledge, we are to respond by living our lives differently. He says that in response to Christ's sacrifice, we are to give Him everything we've got, be deeply entwined with other believers, and expectantly wait for His return.
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Tossing Out the Employee Handbook: God's Standard for Leaders and Employers
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Marriage and the 'S' Word: How Knowing Jesus Changes Everything
How the Head Affects the Body: Demonstrating the Faith We Declare
Moving From Reasonable Faith to Necessary Response
We're going to pick back up where we left off last fall. We're through with that little interlude called Christmas and a couple of other things we had fun looking at. What we're going to do now is dive back into the CSI: Asia Minor series we were looking at last fall. We are going to take a look, a forensic study, of a little letter that was written to an ancient place that has dramatic impact in our lives.
If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, and you bring it when you come even though we put some verses up there for you sometimes, especially when we're digging through a book like we are now these next several weeks, bring your Bible and mark it up. Turn with me to Colossians there in your New Testament.
We're going to take a look at the second part of this book. We ended where we did at a very strategic place before we took a look at some seasonal things and some other stuff that was appropriate to our body. What we did is we stopped that book right after Paul got through telling this group of believers in this little Turkish town called Colossae that they had everything they needed in their relationship with this Jesus of Nazareth they had trusted in.
Even though they were getting a lot of pressure from different groups that were coming to them or that were around them that they should abandon their faith in Christ or add to their faith in Christ with other things, Paul said, "No, no, no. You have everything it takes and everything you need with your faith in the one who was very God of very God who has come."
That was his claim. "This Jesus who came crashing onto the scene, God uniquely held up in all of human history as the one who humankind needs to deal with, because he wasn't just a great man, a great philosopher, and a great teacher. You could say a lot of things about Christ, but don't say anything as absurd as that, that all he was was a good teacher, because Jesus doesn't give you that option."
As C.S. Lewis most famously laid out, he was either who he claimed to be (Lord) or he was a liar. Worse than a liar, he was a hypocrite because he told people to tell the truth themselves, or he was a lunatic because he was crazy and thought he was something he wasn't, or he was a legend, something others made up, or he was just a very demon of hell because he told people to trust in him for their salvation, knowing that doing that would keep them from the one thing that all men want, which is the hope of peace with the God who created them.
You can call him a lot of things, but don't call him just a good teacher because he wasn't just a good teacher, if all he was was a good teacher, because this teacher said, "Trust in me. I am your Creator." Paul is saying that God made Jesus uniquely known in human history because, unlike any other character in human history, he was raised from the dead, and he raised others from the dead who later died. Christ himself was raised from the dead and ascended up into heaven.
We're going to find out today what he's doing up there in heaven and what it's going to mean for us that he is there. Specifically, it says that God showed him in acts to be who he claimed to be by fixing a day when he would be raised from the dead that all men might know this is the one you might follow.
Folks ask me all of the time, "I have a hard time with Christianity because it's so narrow. It's judgmental of all of the world's faith systems because it says it alone is the way to God." I want to say, "It doesn't say that; the person they say is God says that." Let's debate whether or not he is God.
If he's God, it must be true. If he's not God, then let's quit calling the system he taught for us to follow in and believe in as something that is worthy to be ascribed to. It is not what we say. It is what he said, and we just follow him. He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
Paul wanted folks to know in chapters 1 and 2 of this little note he wrote the folks in Colossae that they were experiencing the transformation that comes only when you are reconciled to God through the means he gives you. He's saying, "Don't leave that. You don't need any more knowledge. You're already sufficient in knowledge if you've heard from God. If you know him who came, you don't need any more righteousness that you can add to yourself because he is the fullness of the righteousness of God, and he has offered it to you. Quit looking."
Books in the Bible are given to us for a lot of different reasons. They are preserved uniquely among other writings, even of men like Paul, in that all of Paul's writings aren't in the Scripture. We know that. Even in the book of Colossians. He says, "Just like I wanted you to take the letter I wrote you and read it to the church at Laodicea, I want you to get the letter I wrote to the church at Laodicea and read it amongst yourselves."
Well, for whatever reason, God didn't see fit to preserve that book, but the books that were preserved are always there for us, and typically they are there because they allow us to have a greater insight into who God is and what he wants us to do in response to what he has done. It gives us information about how to respond to the attacks that are always going to come across folks who are Christ followers.
People have always been saying, "You need to work your way to heaven." Folks have always been saying, "You need to be enlightened more by the ideas of your age. You need to have attained certain experiences or adopt certain practices." A lot of times books are given to us to tell us, "No, you don't. If you know him who came, you don't need more knowledge. If you know him who came, you don't need more righteousness. You have it all in him. Don't let them push you off."
Now, a lot of times what Paul does is he starts off his books and his letters by saying, "This is the doctrine, the dogma, that makes up our faith," but he never just leaves it there in theory. He always takes it down to practice. He moves from doctrine to what you should do with that doctrine. He takes it from your heavenly calling to your earthly walk. He takes it from the reasons you believe to your responsibilities if you believe it.
Where we pick up today is a right response to what Paul says are the reasons we should believe what we believe and hope in what we hope. Paul said, "You have truth. It isn't just unique. This is not some local idea. This isn't some cultural legend that has started to make its way further and further out. This is the truth for the ages for all cultures and for all people."
Paul is saying, "Because it is true, it will never change. Because it is true, it is always true, and it will bear fruit and blessing in the lives of all who believe it, unlike local heresies which change from region to region, culture to culture, and age to age and often bring about great despair and heartache in those who believe them."
Paul says, "You have all knowledge through him who came because he is very God of very God." Look at this claim. Colossians, chapter 1, verses 13 and following. Watch this. "For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God…" Do you want to know what God looks like? Look at him. Do you want to know what spiritual people are? Look at the spiritual one.
"…the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him…"
Why would you leave that? He goes on to say in chapter 2, "Some of the stuff you're going to be asked to leave it for and get more insight from is the great insight and reasoning of men," and Paul, in effect, is going to say to them, "What made you new? What gave you a new heart? Was it philosophy? Was it through reading Plato that your conduct and kindness were totally transformed?
Were you raised from the dead because you abstained from certain foods? Was your heart irrevocably changed because you ate nothing but vegetables? Were you able to curtail the lusts of your flesh because you had a vision of an angel? No! Because you had faith in Christ and continued to depend on him is what transformed your community, so don't go back to these other things."
What's really interesting about what Paul did in chapter 2 is, after establishing who this Jesus was, he goes through and says, "Let me just tell you that folks from the West from Greece and other places (philosophic man) are going to come up against you and tell you that you need something more than just your confidence in Jesus."
Paul explains in verses 8, 9, and 10 why that is crazy. Then, after that, he deals with Semitic man or works-based man or legalistic man and says, "This is what they're going to tell you, but this is why you don't need to go their way for righteousness." Then, he goes to Eastern man, to mystical man, to man who is looking for experience, and he explains why that's not going to do it. He goes to folks who want to go through great acts of self-abasement and abuse and self-denial, things he says…of all of these things…in verse 23 of chapter 2…
Look at this. He says, "These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence." You can be like Gandhi and sleep with a bunch of naked virgins as a sign of discipline, but it doesn't deal with the lust that is in your heart.
What Paul is saying is, "Let's move now past the orthodoxy of what it is that Jesus brought (the Word of truth), and I want to tell you that Word of truth, because it's real, ought to bear fruit in your life. It ought to bring about a difference." He's going to move now from these two chapters of orthodoxical truth to two chapters of orthopractical living.
What Paul is going to say simply in Colossians 3:1-4 in a very general context before he moves to the specific in verses 5 and following is, "…if you have been raised up with Christ…""If it is true that you have believed in Jesus and you have trusted your life to him and you, by faith, have been positionally placed in the heavenlies through him…"
"…if you have been raised up with Christ…" Keep striving is the idea. "…keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." He's telling the people, "It ought to make a difference in your life," because Paul's not just trying to pass on a propositional truth. He's trying to say, "You're in love with a person, and this person's love is so all-powerful and transforming and present in you that it ought to make every difference in your life."
"For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory." Paul is just setting the stage. What I want to do today is just walk you through some very basic ideas and not complicate this thing too much and just tell you this is what Paul is saying. If you are with Christ, to use the vernacular of Colossians 3:1-4, and if you are in Christ, to use the vernacular of Colossians 1, then these are some things that ought to be absolutely certain and true of you.
Some of us are working our way through the Scriptures this year in this idea called Join the Journey. We're just reading from Genesis through Revelation. We're being exposed to all kinds of different stuff, and recently the last seven days or so have been kind of tough for a lot of people because at the end of Exodus in the last four chapters, God goes into great detail about what he wants the place he was going to use to represent his home that he dwelt among the people who he called out of bondage into freedom and was taking them to the place of promise…
He said, "I want you to build for me a place that I will symbolically reside in to show that I am with you and you are my people." He went through exquisite detail as to what that place should look like. Then, we go to the beginning of a book called Leviticus. Leviticus is a book that God goes to exquisite detail about how the folks who are going to work in that building to represent God to the people and the people to God should dress like, how they should behave, how they should make themselves appropriate before God, and what the sacrifices they offer the people should look like.
Before you get too lost in reading some of that stuff, as I said in my little meditation to help you guys think through that if you read on February 1 was before you get lost in, "What in the world does this have to do with me?" climb, you want to get the big idea there. I want to just tell you. If you want to understand the Scripture more and you want to start to see that every bit of Scripture is relevant to your life, this is a great way to do it. You start diving in.
When you read through sections like this, you can read them a little differently unless you're doing some intense study. You want to go through there. You can read fast through that stuff, but you look for the ideas that are repeated again and again and again. You'll see a number of times ideas like, "And he did all that was commanded him by God." What can you learn from that? That will show up numerous times.
You'll see, "When they do this, they will be forgiven." You'll see that repeatedly through different sections of Scripture. You'll start to get an idea. You'll hear God say, "Do this for this purpose." When you see things that stick out in the middle of great detail about what to do with the head, what to do with the blood, where to burn the entrails, where to dump the carcass, who gets this part and who gets that part, you can read that fairly fast when you're not doing intense study in a specific place and go, "What does this have for me?" Look for the high-water marks.
This week, I want to tell you that you have a chance to learn from some people who have had some incredible insights into what was going on in the practices as God revealed himself initially to his people, and I'm going to take a second here because it fits exactly with where we are in Colossians, and I'm going to read to you two of those entries today.
I want you to hear what Lulie Thomas came up with when she looked at Leviticus, chapters 4 through 7. Watch this because it has relevance to what Paul is saying in Colossians 3. Lily wrote, "As I read Leviticus 4-7 today, what really impacted me was God's holiness, man's sin, and God's provision for man to come to him, confess, and be forgiven."
She didn't write, "What really impacted me was how irrelevant this is to my life." No. Lulie understood that God, the master teacher, was using great detail and visual aids in order to begin to communicate something about him. He's going to drive toward the heart, but he uses a lot of things that are external to get there.
She observes wisely, "Nine times in these chapters God tells Moses, 'In this way, the priest will make atonement,' a big word for those who are guilty, 'and they will be forgiven.' Think of it this way. In this way, the priest will make a place that folks can have protection and that they will be covered. The word comes from the Hebrew idea which means to cover.
'In this way, there will be a safe place in my anger and righteousness, which always exists right alongside my love and mercy. My anger and righteousness will be covered if they do this. Then, I can relate to them in love. I will never forgo sacrifice and ignore righteousness and justice, but I will have it satisfied right now for a period of time through these things until it is completely propitiated, until it is completely satisfied in another.'"
Lulie writes, "Our sin never surprises him. He is always there to forgive us when we acknowledge and confess our sin to him." She writes, "I think of what David said in Psalm 51. 'God, you've never really wanted all of these bulls and goats. What you've always wanted is a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, God, you've yet to deny.' In these chapters, God's people, the Israelites, are ever mindful of their sin and what it means to make atonement for their sin. It seems to me that I am too comfortable with Christ's atonement and what Christ has done for me."
She's reading this, and she's going, "Look what these people used to have to do. Every time a king, a priest, a leader, a male, a citizen… Anyone. All of this detail is given for what each of them should do when they offend God. They have to go to their herd, go to their field, or go to the telephone wire and grab a bird…" I don't know what they had back then. "…and jerk it up to the temple. There was constant sacrifice."
She says, "I don't need to do that because of what God has done in bringing the fulfillment of promise to me through Jesus Christ." She says, "I probably take it way too for granted because I'm not daily seeing the sacrifices for my sins. I'm not as aware of my sin and the need to acknowledge, confess, and receive the Lord's forgiveness as I perceived they were."
She goes on to write, "I take the grace of God too lightly." Watch this. "I remember the 18 years following my abortion. I would go, 'God, I'm sorry. That really probably wasn't wise. In fact, I know it wasn't wise. It continues to bring pain into my soul, but I'm sorry.' I didn't really acknowledge my sin and bring it totally to the Lord.
What God was showing the folks in Leviticus was, 'I want you to know that sin is really a problem, and I don't want you to try and deal with it by higher reasoning and ascending to some mountain of enlightenment. I don't want you to deal with it by saying, "God, I'm not going to eat certain foods on certain days." I don't want you to deal with it by wearing your hair a certain way or a certain length or wearing certain clothes. I want you to deal with it by acknowledging it's an offense to me.'"
She said, "I was too concerned with my image. If anyone knew of my sin, would they still like me or admire me? My image would be tarnished. I was more concerned about my image than in pleasing the Lord, so I kept my sin a secret." If you know Lulie's story, she will tell you it wasn't much of a secret to her family. They didn't know why just yet, but they knew there was some pain in there she just wasn't dealing with.
She goes on to say, "As David said, I refused to confess my sins. I was weak. I was miserable. Like David, finally I confessed my rebellion to the Lord, and you, God, in a way I could never imagine, forgave me, and all of my guilt was gone." She observes, "Just as the fire at the altar for sacrifice burned at all times, God is always there to receive the offering of my confession and forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness."
Lulie says, "I see, God, that even back then you told the priests to never let the fire that is to consume the sacrifices the people bring go out because you want to always let them know that you know they're constantly needing forgiveness and there is constantly forgiveness available if they'll come. You let them know in Leviticus that you are holy, that they are not, but you love them and want to make provision for their sin, and you're teaching them that, and you're reminding them what you're looking for is people who are overwhelmed with the corruption in their world."
Lulie said, "God, I need to be more overwhelmed with the corruption that's in my heart, and not just stuff I did 18 years ago but the stuff I do every day. Yeah, the murder I committed to the child that was in my womb… I needed to deal with that, but the enmity I hold in my heart toward others, the arrogant view that I'm better than other people, the fact that I think certain folks are stupid and not as good as I am… Lord, that is just as repulsive to you. You told me that.
'You have heard it said that you shouldn't commit murder, but I say to you, "Anyone who says to his brother in his heart, 'Raca,' he shall be guilty of murder," which means, "You idiot! You stupid! You blockhead!" It's what Lucy did to Charlie Brown. God says, "It's corruption in your heart, Lucy. Yeah. You didn't kill him, but you're killing me because you're not loving the way I created you to love, and you're not bearing my image, and that offends me."'"
Watch. What does God do with that eventually? There is a day that to this day even folks who call themselves followers of God (the Jewish people) practice that is their highest holy day of the year. It is known as Yom Kippur. It happens every fall. Yom is the Hebrew word for day, and Kippur means atonement. It is the day of covering. There was a specific act that happened on this day.
Yesterday, Mark McLaughlin gave us this to read. "The main idea that speaks to me in Leviticus 15 and 16 (16, specifically, as the scapegoat chapter) is the idea that there is a scapegoat. As I read this, I kept thinking, 'I'd hate to be a good-looking goat hanging out with the Israelites on the Day of Atonement.' On that day, one goat was selected to die as an offering for sin while another, the scapegoat, was to symbolically carry the sin of the entire camp on its head as it was chased out of the camp and into the wilderness. Not a great day for a goat."
One of the great things that's going to happen is you're going to have a chance to use a biblical word today at your little Super Bowl parties. There will be somebody who will blow their coverage late in the game. There will be somebody who will fumble at a crucial spot trying to force a pass in and get it intercepted or drop a ball in the end zone or try and play though they shouldn't because their ego wants to throw them on the field even though they're hurt. I don't know.
People are going to talk about how he distracted his team and took his team off course, and they couldn't really install the offense they needed to run because they hoped he could get well, and they're going to make him the scapegoat. That's just a term we've pulled from the Hebrew culture to say, "The scapegoat was somebody God, the master teacher, used as a visual aid to remind people that there is somebody I'm going to allow to carry the curse for you."
This scapegoat was a literal goat in that day and age they would treat this way. He and his goat buddy would be brought to the altar, and one of them wouldn't even get to be the scapegoat. They'd just slit his throat right there, and they would offer him as a sacrifice. They would take some blood from him, put it on the priest's hands, go to this goat, and put it all over his head.
Then, there would be somebody they'd pick from the community. They'd say, "You take this goat and drive him out in the wilderness where there is nothing but cursed, stark, dead land. You let him wander as an alien in that land to die a miserable death separated from people who I want to be holy, because this goat represents the weight of sin, and I want sin out of the camp."
Mark is reading this story, and this is what he says. "But the Day of Atonement, the day of the scapegoat, was a great day for the Israelites. In verse 30 of chapter 16, it says, '…for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord.' What a great thing for the Israelites to have their sins forgiven, but what struck me as I read this was how temporary their celebration was. This day…
Do you see how we do this? It doesn't say, 'From this day forward.' It just says, 'On this day, their sin is gone,' but tomorrow the debits begin to build again against my account until next year's Day of Atonement. I could and should make sacrifices for my sin, but as the writer of Hebrews tells us, 'Those sacrifices could never take away sin.'
To me, the temporary nature of this celebration could seem pretty unsatisfying because we have to start building it up again tomorrow, and if, on the Day of Atonement, you mess up on the way back to your tent, you have to go right back there and offer a sin offering, but I get excited when I think of the contrast between the once-a-year celebration using a scapegoat and the once-and-for-all celebration provided for us by Jesus Christ."
Then, he says, "Permanent covering is shared by all who believe by faith that the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on the cross was completely sufficient to take away all of our sins. Jesus became our scapegoat bearing the blame for our sin on himself and taking it all away. My Christian life used to be consumed by thinking about sin, either wholeheartedly engulfed by it or making every effort to avoid it.
Either way, it was always on my mind, and I was exhausted in my effort, because I was thinking about me because I was practicing worldly practices and worldly philosophy and worldly ideals and worldly legalism. I was miserable! I finally found peace when I understood what was meant by atonement.
For the first time, I was able to move my focus away from me and toward him. I finally understood what Jesus meant when he said, '…my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.' He was the one bearing the penalty of my sin on himself. He was carrying the weight of my sin on his shoulders. I didn't have to try to bear that load anymore. He was my scapegoat, and I was free to worship him for what he had done for me."
What Mark got as he read this was an overwhelming sense, even as Lulie did, of, "What an incredible gift God has provided me through this Jesus of Nazareth!" You have to ask yourself, "Is Jesus a scapegoat? Is God real? Is sin something I need to concern myself with?" The Scriptures are going to make a compelling case, "Yes."
Paul is going to say, "You have found the fullness of God's provision for you, so why would you leave it? If you know him who came, you don't need to add to your knowledge of truth. If you know him who came, you don't need to add to your righteousness because it is complete and it is finished, but don't just stop with some theological idea now. Don't let them push you off being anchored in truth, but you make sure, as you're anchored in truth, that truth is transforming your heart because that's what truth always does."
Here comes Colossians 3. "If then you're not going to be duped by Gnosticism and philosophy, if then you're not going to show how spiritual you are by how you dress, what you do and don't eat, or what your visions are, how then will you make yourself spiritual? What does a spiritual person look like?"
A spiritual person is a number of things, but at the center of who they are, spirituality is Christ-likeness. This is how you measure the spirituality of a person. Don't tell me their doctrine. Tell me how their doctrine has transformed their heart. Look what it says. "…if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."
If you are an individual who is with Christ, it means you are eternally secure. Watch what goes on here. Paul is going to say, "Christ has done something for you in the past. You have been raised up with Christ. Your past is secure." He's going to say, "When Christ, who is our [hope] , is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."
He's going to say, "Your past is secure, and your future hope is certain, so make your current passion complete in him. Everything about tomorrow that you need is going to come through Christ, and everything about your past is taken care of in him, so stay right there and focus on this Jesus who is the author and perfecter of your faith. Don't focus on anything other than him and his Word and availing yourself to his Spirit who is within you, and when you do, you will be secure if you are with him."
In Colossians 3:1-4, Paul is going to start with a very general idea of what happens if you believe chapters 1 and 2, and he's going to say, "Positionally, you're different than everybody else." In verses 5 and following, he's going to give you a dozen or so places that you ought to be practically different than everybody else.
What you see in the Old Testament is God trying to set his people apart, and he sets them apart not by geographically isolating them but by, in the region they're in, having them love differently, lead differently, worship differently, hope differently, and deal with sin differently. They are set apart, if you will, in their verticalness, not in their isolating ways.
Paul is saying, "If you are with Christ, quit striving. You are secure with him. You are already raised up with Christ in the heavenlies." Now, here's great news. This is a fun little illustration. A lot of people, when they talk about your security, talk about it as if security is you clinging on to Jesus, and if you don't let go, then you are secure.
If you want to see an analogy, a guy named Henry Ironside gave this analogy a long time ago. He said, "They are as if they are people living in the day of Noah who believed that when Noah built the ark he put a bunch of pegs on the outside of the ark, and he told people, when the flood of judgment came, to grab onto a peg and hold on as the tsunami of judgment on the wickedness of the earth overtook them."
We have a very recent illustration that nobody can hold onto that peg for very long, much less for 40 days. They will say your security is only as great as your ability to hold onto that peg. No. Security comes from being with Noah in the ark of God's protection, and you are inside, not holding on, but by faith you have come.
What's interesting when you read Genesis 7 through 9, the story of Noah and his ark, you'll see God tells Noah to cover the ark with pitch, which is basically tar. What he's going to say is, "Noah, there is going to be judgment that is going to come, but I want you to build something and cover it…" Atone is the word. "…with this substance that will allow people who, by faith, come into it to be protected from the judgment which is to come."
You are secure when you come into the ark of rest that God has provided for you, which is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ which has finished his work of justice and judgment. "You are secure because you have come into Christ," he says in Colossians, chapter 1. In Christ, you have been raised up above the judgment that is there.
Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who…believes Him who sent Me…does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.""It's a done deal if you are with me." Paul says, "If, then, you have been raised up with Christ and you are seated at the right hand of God where Christ is, you keep setting your mind on the things above."
Colossians 3:1 basically says, "Nothing else can make you secure but being with Jesus." Colossians, chapter 3, verse 2 says, "Nothing else can make you spiritual but keeping your eyes focused on this Jesus." "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth."
When you are with Christ, you are eternally secure, and when you are with Christ… I'll say it this way. It means your entire life is determined by your relationship with him. I'll give you another one. It means when you're with Christ you are exclusively joined to him. You're eternally secure. Your entire life is to be determined by who he is, and you are to be exclusively joined to him.
What do I mean by some of this stuff? It's really interesting when you think about what we know about Jesus. We don't know anything about how tall he was. We don't know anything about what his normal dietary practices were, because what he wore, how he wore his hair, and what he ate is irrelevant.
This is what we do know about Jesus, in fact. In Isaiah, chapter 53, in verses 2 and 3, this is pretty much all that Scripture tells us about this Jesus, this servant who was to come. We're going to know, "For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty…" **This is talking about the Jewish Messiah that Jesus claimed to be."He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him…"**
One of the most famous paintings of Christ is called Hook's Head of Christ. To me, it's the Kenny Loggins Jesus. It's the good-looking Jesus. That's kind of the way I want to view Jesus. I want to see him as Jim Caviezel. That's a good-looking Jesus till they beat him into absolute unrecognizable form, but it says in the Scripture he wasn't Jim Caviezel. He was John Belushi.
It says that we shouldn't be attracted to him. "He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him." He probably wasn't my height, and I wouldn't consider myself an overly attractive person, but I bet you if we were in a beauty contest and you were looking just at the outside, I might have won, but you watch our lives and ask, "Which one is attractive?" and it wouldn't even be a contest.
What Paul is going to say to us is, "If you love this Jesus… Do you know why I didn't tell you what he looked like physically? Because that's not what matters, but I can tell you about his heart. I can tell you how he responded to the Father. I can tell you his attitude. It was, 'Not my will, but thy will be done.' It was, 'Respect authority.'"
Do you know why we get in trouble in every area of our lives? Because we live in a way that is inconsistent with how Jesus would live. We don't know what Jesus would have us do because we haven't tried to tune ourselves into his Word and we haven't consumed ourselves with the idea of, "In this moment, as a person who knows God loves me and, by faith, who has identified myself with Jesus, I have one faith, one hope, and one baptism, which means one thing I identify myself with, with one Lord who is my one Savior who is my one example who I've been called to follow."
Anytime we don't exclusively join ourselves with him and our entire life is not directed by him and we are not in Christ but sometimes we are in rage, we are in lust, we are in ourselves instead of being in Jesus, with Jesus, by faith, as his Spirit lives in us and works through us, we get in trouble, because we are without hope and without God in this world.
We are secure if we are in Christ, but Paul is saying, "The reason we say that we have trusted in Jesus and we humble ourselves and lower ourselves to a level where we say, 'We're not going to add anything to Jesus, not because we're lazy but because he's everything we need,' in response to that you give him everything you have because he is a God who is greatly to be praised."
If you think it was a big deal that one day a year he would cover the sins so the people would know God would dwell with them for another year, what if I told you the work of Christ was so final and complete that you could rest? It's significant that your High Priest is seated at the right hand of God.
In Hebrews, chapter 10, this is what it says about our High Priest. In verses 10 through 18, it says, "By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." **Watch this in verse 11."Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins…"**
Verse 12: "…but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time…" Look what he did. "…sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also…"
What he's saying is that for your High Priest, different than the Levitical high priest, there was never a time for him to sit down because it was symbolic of the fact that his work was never done. When your High Priest Jesus offered his sacrifice which wasn't a bull or a goat but it was his own life which had already been identified as the perfect Lamb of God, the unblemished Lamb who came to take away the sins…
When he offered up his life and was raised to show that God satisfied it and was brought not into a picture of the holiness of God but into the very presence of God, not some very highly orchestrated symbolic representation of the place where God dwelled, but was ascended into heaven himself, he sat down because it was done.
Paul is saying, "If this is the Jesus you know, then you keep your eyes focused on him, and you live as he lived, the one who does nothing out of selfishness or empty conceit." Do you want to know why you have problems with your wife? It's not because you haven't been to our marriage retreat. It's because you don't live in your relationship with your wife the way Jesus lived in relationship with those who he knew and loved.
Do you want to know why you have trouble with this world when you look in a mirror and you're not happy with your image? It's because you're not looking in the mirror the way Jesus looks in the mirror. Do you want to know why you're having trouble finding hope in a world that is full of a lot of disappointing things? It's because you're not experiencing hope the way Jesus experienced hope.
Paul is saying, "Don't just be the theological rock in Asia Minor. Be the people who are transformed the way God wants to transform people and give them grace in Asia Minor." Paul would go on to tell you, "I don't want you to do it alone because, if you're with Christ, he would tell you that you are to be entwined with others." Don't live in isolation. To be with Christ means that we are to be deeply entwined with others who are also with him.
He's going to go through, and we'll look at this in more detail next week, and tell you not to make a distinction based on external things. "…Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other…"
In other words, you make being a part of the same body something you are absolutely focused on, and you cannot say you are with Christ if you don't love others and specifically, as Paul said later, those of the household of faith. If you stand out here in isolation, if there is not a place you're connected to in an accountable, known, loving way where folks are partnering with you and praying for you and knowing you well, you have to question yourself. "Am I really with Christ if I avoid his people?"
Finally, if you're with Christ, then you ought to be somebody who is expectantly waiting for his return and earnestly allowing him to glorify himself in you until that time. Let me just show you what Jesus said in John, chapter 14. He says, "Do not let your heart be troubled…" He's getting ready himself to die, to offer himself up as a sacrifice, as he said he would. He says,
"…believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."
"You wait expectantly for me to return, because even though I'm going to go and be this sacrifice, I am not done when I offer myself because my sacrifice is acceptable. The wages of sin, which are death, are paid, so I will be raised up as the firstfruits of other who trust in this perfect sacrifice, and I will be seated at the right hand of God until such a time, as it says, when Christ who is our hope is revealed. Then, you will be revealed also with him in glory." He says in verse 16,
"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you."
"You expectantly wait for my return, and you earnestly seek to decrease so I might increase in you so folks can say that you're with me and set apart from everyone else who doesn't know me but who is stuck in endless rituals and practices which don't, even though they have the appearance of wisdom, deal with the corrupt heart that only Jesus can."
That is why in 1 Peter 3:15, it says, "…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…" Why do you wait? Why do you love your enemies? Why do you pray for your enemies? Why do you continually pursue in grace those who fail you? Why are you a man marked by compassion? Why do you care for the poor? Why do you love the loveless? What concern is it of yours if that person's life is destructive? Why are you patient with all men?
You tell them it's because your eyes are firmly fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, who for the joy before him endured the cross, despising the shame because he loved, and you're following the humble example of your servant leader. Then, it says… Watch this. "…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." When Christ, who is your hope, is revealed and you are revealed with him as the wisest of the age.
Are you with Christ? Then, you ought to look other-worldly. Paul is saying, "Don't you just be the theological, insightful ones who have this new idea in Colossae or in Dallas. You be people who are so different and so transformed that your life doesn't make any sense until the one you're with is revealed where he's at." Let me pray for you.
Father, as we dig into the rest of this book, we see that you don't want us just to be folks who have come across a doctrine that makes sense, but you want us in a relationship with a God who changes and transforms, so today we don't want to just say that you are not a normal God, but we want to respond to you as people who have been looking for a lover and finally found love, as those who are thirsting for life have finally found refreshment, and as those who are looking for food have finally received provision.
We don't want to get over it. We don't want to stop understanding how thoroughly you've dealt with our sin. Because we don't have a fire continually before us and the fragrance of a sacrifice continually going up, let us not forget there is a sacrifice that has been accomplished for us that we should never get over.
As often as we gather together, we're going to remember your body which was broken, your blood which was poured out, and we're going to proclaim it until you return. We live expectantly, firmly entwined with each other, focused completely on how you would have us live, securely knowing we've already been placed and covered in the ark of Jesus Christ.
We pray, Father, may your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, but as we do, we pray, deliver us from evil. We know yours is the kingdom, the glory, and the power forever and ever, and we ask that you would give us today our daily bread and help us to live as you live, not hoarding as if this world was all that it was, but trusting you with what we need today, sharing generously with others, investing deeply in your kingdom, and forgiving others even as you in this provision of Jesus Christ have forgiven us.
You are not a God of our making. You are a God who has crashed into the world you made and boldly revealed yourself to us, so we say, "Don't let anyone push us off this Jesus and let us stay focused on him." Amen.
If you are here and you feel like your sin has taken you to the lowest hell, we ask you to respond to the one who has sent his only child. If you will bow in humility and stop offering to him any human works or program and stop telling God what he wants and accept from him what he demands, which is your broken heart and contrite spirit, he will be your scapegoat.
Will you come to this ark of rest that is Jesus Christ and with him be lifted up from the coming flood of judgment which is certain for all of those who don't know him? If you are inside that ark as the waters rise, will you sing to others that the door is still open? Will your lives be so transformed and filled with hope that you love differently, serve differently, steward differently, and follow him who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross, seeing the shame as worthless in light of the coming weight of glory that was his? Will you let your life be a testimony to the love of God that transforms? I pray you do as you have a great week of worship.
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.