Salvation Is Not About Us
1. I sometimes amaze myself at how superficial I can be. Take this Bible for example...this is my wife's Bible that I'm using today (flowery designs on the cover), as you can see by the designs on it. Now, the first time I saw this Bible my initial thought was, “Boy, that's girly.... I wouldn't want to carry that thing.” But I've actually come to like this Bible. It's not my favorite translation, and certainly not my favorite design, but what I like about this Bible isn't what it looks like, but what it sounds like. Here, have a listen: (Read Ps. 99:1-3. “The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The LORD is great in Zion; He is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is He!”). As you can tell, it's just as authoritative on the inside as any manly-looking Bible. What matters isn't the packaging, but the authority in the message of God's Word, but sometimes I get hung up on the appearance of something while forgetting the real truth inside of it.
2. Let me ask you a question... do we ever do this with Jesus? Do we sometimes get hung up on the form in which Christ came while forgetting His true nature? Do you ever let the fact that Christ came as a man distract you from seeing Him as God? Maybe right now you're thinking, “You know, the whole deity of Christ thing is just a finer point of theology that doesn't effect my day-to-day life, so I'll just leave that to the theologians to talk about.” Or maybe you're thinking, “Well...that's debatable. Plenty of people don't believe Christ was God and still call themselves Christians, so I say if it's uncertain, let's just leave it alone.” Maybe the reason you've never put your faith in Jesus for your salvation because it makes no sense that a man who lived 2000 years ago and supposedly did some good stuff can change where you spend eternity when you die. For some of you, you might simply be thinking, “Why is this even an issue?” It's an issue for 2 reasons. First, there are a lot of false teachings out there that are robbing Christ of His place and authority. Even though most Bible teachers accept Christ as God they teach His Word in a way that makes Him less than totally sufficient as a Savior. The second and main reason, the reason for this whole sermon is this:
If Jesus is not God He is not a Savior.
Christ's authority establishes His sufficiency as a Savior, so if He is not God Himself, the ultimate, supreme Being over all creation, He cannot act as our Savior. Would you trust your life to someone without the ability to save it?
4. There was another time in the church's history when people were teaching doctrines that diminished Christ's sufficiency as a Savior, and we're going to look at the Apostle Paul's response to that. If you have your Bible, please turn with me to Colossians chapter 1, verses 15 through 20.
5. Colossians 1:15-20. Paul begins to make his case for Christ's authority with a bold proposition that Christ is preeminent over all physical creation. How is that? Let's read verse 15: "For He is the image of the invisible God." At first glance this seems illogical. Jesus was a man...He's the image of the invisible...wouldn't that make Him the Invisible Man? What does this mean? Let's look at something else that's the image of the invisible.
6. The filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock is said to have had every second of every scene of a film completed in his mind before ever setting foot in the studio. For Hitchcock, the film was completed, although no one could have asked him to view the film, as it hadn't actually been filmed yet. The finished product, be it The Birds, The Rope, or Rear Window, was the manifestation, the image, of Hitchcock's invisible film concept. So Christ is the image, the manifestation, of the invisible God. The image of the invisible can be nothing but everything the invisible is. So unless Jesus Christ is God Himself this verse is completely illogical. There is no other logical interpretation of this verse.
7. So what's the second half of Paul's proposition? "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation," or the “firstborn over all creation,” because in the culture of Bible times the “firstborn” was the title of the primary heir of a family, the one to inherit a double portion. Notice it says “firstborn of,” and not “firstborn from.” This really helps prove his point because later in the passage when Paul describes Jesus as the first to be permanently resurrected from the dead he calls Him the “firstborn from the dead,” indicating Jesus was at one time dead, whereas here Jesus is “firstborn of or over all creation,” describing His position of being supreme over all created things, never being created Himself.
8. How is it that Jesus was never created? Look at verse 16: "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and things on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him." And so here we see that Jesus is God, He is the creator (and therefore not a created being), and He is the originator of all authority. This is why I asked if you would trust your life to someone without the authority to save it. Jesus established all positions of authority. This means that all other authority is derived. When I was a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force I had some authority, although my authority was given to me by the United States government. Here's my point: When your decisions can be overturned, you have no real authority. If Christ was a created being, His decisions could be subject to overturning by God who gave Him His authority. Christ's decisions can't be overturned, because He is the ultimate authority. This is why we can trust our lives to Him because we know what He's promised and that His decisions cannot be overturned.
9. So not only did Christ create all things and establish all authority... look at verse 17: "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." Recently I read that scientists have no idea why the universe, with so much nuclear potential in every molecule, doesn't just blow up, but rather, holds together in perfect order. That's because Christ, the creator, is also the sustainer upon which all of creation desperately depends for its next second of existence. In Job 34 we read that if God so decided to gather His Spirit to Himself, removing it from the world, that all flesh would die and man would return to dust. If He has the power and authority to hold the universe together and keep it from exploding, how much more control does He have over our eternity?
10. Paul has stated his case to prove that Christ is preeminent over all physical creation, and now Paul is going to explain to us how Christ is also supreme over the spiritual realm, over life and death, and Paul here shows us something unique...that the first place Christ displayed this authority is in the creation of the Church.
11. Look at verse 18: He is also head of the body, the church.... Most of us know this, but let's ask “why.” Why is it that Christ is the head of the Church? Let's keep reading: He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. By becoming the first to permanently be resurrected from the dead, Jesus established a new beginning, a new way. The Greek word for “church” means “the called out ones,” and when Christ died and rose to life He called others to follow Him in faith, out of death and into eternal life. The Church is not an organization Jesus founded while He was here. The Church is what He came to create. The Church is comprised of all the spiritually living.
12. Paul has convincingly demonstrated how Christ is sovereign over the physical and spiritual realms, over life and death, so now we're going to see how this matters for us today. Let's look at verse 19: "For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell..." And if that's not a clear depiction of Christ as God I don't what is. So Christ's being is the fullness of God. "...and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven..." The fullness of God dwelt in Christ because God derived pleasure from reconciling man to God. "... making peace by the blood of His cross." Reconciliation is God's pleasure, reconciliation is Christ's responsibility because of His authority, and reconciliation is only possible by the blood of the cross of Christ.
13. The convict cannot pardon himself. The fish that's been caught cannot let himself out of the live-well to jump back into the water. Just as an inmate's cell cannot be opened by any other method than by the key of the one with the authority to carry it, so our salvation can only be affected by the “One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell...”
14. Christ is ultimate and supreme over all physical creation because He created it, He's ultimate and supreme over all life and death because he established one and defeated the other, and now on the basis of Christ's ultimate and sole authority, He alone is sufficient for our salvation. Christ's sufficiency rests on His authority. He is God, therefore He is a Savior, and if He is not God He is also not a Savior.
15. Our salvation is so not about us. It's not about us at all... Our salvation isn't based on our obedience or our faithfulness...neither is our assurance of salvation based on faithfulness or obedience. There is nothing within us that enables or proves our salvation, so if we continue to look within ourselves, constantly looking for evidence or proof of our salvation, we have lost sight of the object of our salvation, which means we're putting faith in ourselves rather than in Christ, becoming more like our flesh and less like our God. If you have faith in Christ yet you still doubt if your saved, it's because you're living a self-centered Christian life. That's not Christianity. Looking to Christ and not yourself is. If you've ever struggled with doubting your salvation, or you hope you're saved but are not sure, I want to encourage you to do something strange. Go home, take out a piece of paper and make a list of all the reasons you have ever doubted your salvation, or why you continue to doubt, or why you think you can't be forgiven...and then at the bottom of the paper write out in big, bold letters, “My salvation is not about me.” Then I want you to pray through that list and individually renounce every single doubt, ending with a prayer of thanksgiving and praise for the all-encompassing, ever-sufficient, completed work of Christ, and never have another doubt that Christ might not be enough to get you into heaven.
17. There is something that has happened throughout history whenever a group of believers gets a grip on the central truths of Christianity, the sufficiency of Christ being frequently central... As people begin celebrating these amazing truths of God and stop caring that the world thinks this is total foolishness, the Holy Spirit begins to move on these groups of people in strange and amazing ways, and it creates waves that go across denominational lines and then the public begins to take notice and then people start getting saved, and then those who see Christianity as foolish begin to be silenced by what they are seeing with their eyes. There's a word for this phenomenon; it's called a revival. When the church stops bickering over aspects of salvation, and instead begins to celebrate the Savior and His love, His grace, His incredible power and absolute authority as creator and His sufficiency as our Savior, who gave up His life in our place only to take it back up again so we can live and reign with Him, the Holy Spirit will move and the world will see the glory of God. Your salvation is only sure if the object of your faith is sure. Christ has the absolute authority, and so has the absolute sufficiency as our Savior.