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Salvation's Story - The Before and After of the Christian Life

Colossians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  47:36
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Good morning and welcome to Dishman Baptist Church. We’re so thankful and blessed that you would join us this morning. My wife and I are big fans of FixerUpper - well really she’s more of a fan, I’m just a tolerant watcher - but one of the greatest parts of the show and the most suspense filled part is when the individual’s who’s home is being remodeled are standing there in front of a huge picture of what their house used to look like. And then there’s always the dramatic pause until the screen is pulled away to reveal what Chip and Joanna have done to their home and how beautiful it is. There is just something beautiful about a before and after story. And the greatest before and after stories in the world are those of people who have been redeemed by Christ. Christ tells us in Luke 15 that there is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance. And while every story has its own wrinkles and nuances, just like the FixerUpper shows they all share the same common storyline. Today Paul is going to open up that story line for us so that we can again see the wonder of Christ working to save those who will put their faith in Him.
Please turn in your Bibles with me to Colossians 1:21-23.
Colossians 1:21–23 CSB
Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him—if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a servant of it.

Our Condition

Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:12; Romans 8:7-8; Romans 1:21; Isaiah 5:20
Paul wouldn’t have made a very good AYSO coach - or guidance counselor. He was way too honest about the truth of the human condition. And he does so here without any preamble or warning. He’s just taken the Colossians to the mountaintop - to the very pinnacle of the Christian experience with his description of Christ in all His majesty as the revelation of God, as Creator of the universe and as the Originator and Head of the church. And now in a matter of a few seconds he brings them and us crashing back to reality as he reminds us in very pointed language where we have come from.
He says that we were once alienated from God. In this instance the idea of alienated carries the sense of being in isolation or having a deep sense of not belonging. Elsewhere in the New Testament in Ephesians this word is used to describe the alienation of the Gentiles from the nation of Israel
Ephesians 2:12 ESV
remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
There is a sense in which we may not assume this to be all that bad. We may think of family members that we are alienated from - we don’t bear any ill will towards them or particular animosity, we just don’t make a huge effort to see them or talk to them. So in the sense of being isolated from someone it’s just a state of being. I have a cousin who I would consider myself alienated from - not because I bear him any ill will of have a dislike for him, but simply because we don’t quite see eye to eye on many things but especially religion and so we don’t talk that much. I pray for him and hope that someday he gets saved but that’s the extent of it. So we might be tempted to think that being alienated from God really isn’t all that bad - He’s always going to be there when we’re ready for Him.
Growing up in my days before truly being saved I can remember thinking that I was okay with God and He was okay with me. He was right there at the end of my hand and any time I desired I could just reach my arm out there and take hold of Him. But Paul’s next statement destroys that mindset.
He says that we are not only alienated or distant from God but we’re actually hostile in our minds toward God.
The world is not searching for Him - they’re searching for all the benefits of Him without Him.
Romans 8:7–8 CSB
The mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
In our hostility to God we seek ways to avoid Him and we’re running as fast as we can away from Him.
This all culminates in the perversion of our minds - what is known as the
Noetic effect of the Fall.
This concept comes from the Greek word nous which translates over to the English as noetic - and it means mental or pertaining to the mind.
The longer we are separated or alienated from God, the more hostile we become the more our mind becomes unable to discern right from wrong.
It is a bit like the character Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies and books. The longer he maintained possession of the Ring the more depraved and impacted him mind became.
It is best explained by Paul’s statement in Romans 1:21
Romans 1:21 CSB
For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened.
Although we intrinsically know that God exists, mankind chooses (by and large) to ignore Him and worship Him or ascribe to Him the glory which He is due as our Creator. As such our thinking becomes worthless - some translations like the ESV translate this as futile and our hearts are darkened and hardened by sin. It should be no surprise to us that the world has descended to the depths that it has because we ignore the most basic and obvious of truths that God exists - ignoring any other truth after that becomes easy. And so we are seeing the effects of the depraved mind having freedom to work however it pleases in the world. The prophet Isaiah spoke of these in Isaiah 5:20
Isaiah 5:20 CSB
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
And so we live in a time period where you can’t tell anyone they are incorrect or that their truth is not valid. We have been alienated from God and the thinking of our minds is not simply apathetic or ignorant of Him - it is outright hostility. Paul goes on to say that this is best expressed in our evil actions. This is most clearly seen in the culture of death that now surrounds us at both ends of life’s journey.
In Washington state in the year 2017 212 people took advantage of the “Death with Dignity” Act to commit doctor assisted suicide. At least here we put guidelines on this by saying that they have to have less than 6 months to live. In Holland the numbers are far greater and the situation is far more liberal. A recent article in the Guardian details the culture of death that has worked its way into that nation’s culture. In 2017 6,600 people were euthanized, 1,900 committed suicide by a more traditional means and more than 32,000 died under “palliative care” - basically they succumbed to their illness while being sedated to avoid physical discomfort but in reality they often died of dehydration. Altogether, according to this article, “well over a quarter of deaths in 2017 in the Netherlands were induced.” And those are end of life issues - for people who had already had an opportunity to live their lives such as they were.
The most evil act a society can commit is the murder of the unborn.
And yet we see on this slide that our own society has been doing that since 1973 and the results have been catastrophic. More babies have been murdered through this insidious act than all of the men killed in all of our wars combined nearly 100 times over. And just this week New York passed a bill that allows for abortions to take place all the way up until birth with Virginia looking to follow suit. Vermont has a bill in the works that will protect the “right” of abortion in that state throughout the third trimester all the way up to birth even for viable babies. Seven states around the nation now have third trimester abortion laws in place - permitting abortions to take place in the last trimester. And let’s be clear and precise with our language - this isn’t about reproductive health, the health of the mother or even that of the baby in most cases - it is about infanticide, sexual freedom and rebelling against our creator.
Let me also be clear - if you are here today and you have had an abortion forgiveness is available to you. Abortion is a sin and a grievous one - but no more so than lying or cheating on your taxes or any of the other litany of sins that could be listed. And before any of us feels any form of moral superiority to those who are still trapped by their depraved, alienated and hostile minds let me read a prayer written by a puritan...
Self-Deprecation - Valley of Vision
Yes our before condition isn’t pretty - we are an evil lot. But that’s not all there is to the story and Paul goes on to the reveal, pulling back the curtains that showed how ugly we were before to show the good news that Christ has provided a solution.

Christ’s Solution

Colossians 1:22; Romans 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 12:1-2; Philippians 2:6-8; Hebrews 4:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-16; Leviticus 11:44-45; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:26; 2 Corinthians 5:21;
Having painted humanity it the dark but realistic image that we existed in before Christ, Paul moves on to tell us what Christ has accomplished on our behalf. He says that He has reconciled you. This Greek word - apokatallasso - is only used by Paul here and in Ephesians 2.
It speaks to the broader picture of what Christ’s reconciliation has accomplished for the Christian.
Certainly we were reconciled to God through faith and our sins are now forgiven and the threat of wrath has been removed.
Romans 5:1 CSB
Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
But here Paul is digging deeper into how that reconciliation impacts the whole person. Having just told the Colossians how they were hostile in mind toward God, Paul is highlighting that Christ’s reconciliation provides a completely new mindset. He didn’t just cleanse us of our sin like an antibiotic that kills the bacteria but leaves the rest of the body relatively unchanged -
He has made us an entirely new creation.
2 Corinthians 5:17 CSB
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!
And has transformed our mind.
Romans 12:1–2 CSB
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
And now Paul makes an interesting statement. He seems to choose to highlight the fact that Christ has accomplished this through his physical body. For all his self-deprecations, Paul was really a master debater and rhetorician. Frequently throughout his books he will make a statement and then another will follow that seems to immediately address the objections that his hearers or opponents would raise because of what he has just said. In Colossians 1:15-20 Paul has given one of the most cohesive and closely reasoned presentations of the supremacy or preeminence of Christ anywhere in the Bible. And it’s almost as if he could anticipate the false teachers in Colossae saying “see - if He was all of that - the creator of the universe, the image of the invisible God He couldn’t have been human because we are made up of matter and matter is evil. So He couldn’t have become a human and died for our sins.” And so Paul emphasizes the physical nature of Christ both here and in Philippians 2
Philippians 2:6–8 CSB
who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross.
The writer of Hebrews would highlight His humanity in this way
Hebrews 4:14–15 CSB
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.
Christ had a human nature just like we do. He experienced all the same temptations as we did and, unlike Adam who failed, He remained faithful and did not succumb to temptation.
And it had to be this way - only a human could pay for the sins of humanity and achieve forgiveness with God.
The writer of Hebrews explained this in Hebrews 2:14-16
Hebrews 2:14–16 CSB
Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. For it is clear that he does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring.
Christ had to be human in order for His sacrifice for us to be efficacious.
Paul tells us that Christ saves us to present us to His Father in three ways - as Holy, Faultless and Blameless.
Holiness is the crowning attribute of our Lord from which all of His other attributes flow. Yes He is loving and merciful, jealous and wrathful but it is because of His holiness that He is all of those things.
300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans Love to God Begins with His Holiness

A true love to God must begin with a delight in his holiness, and not with a delight in any other attribute; for no other attribute is truly lovely without this, and no otherwise than as (according to our way of conceiving God) it derives its loveliness from this.


It is because of the Lord’s holiness that sin cannot dwell in His presence. It is a command that is repeatedly given to the Israelites in Leviticus - the book that lays out for them how they should interact with their God under the Old Covenant.
Leviticus 11:44–45 CSB
For I am the Lord your God, so you must consecrate yourselves and be holy because I am holy. Do not defile yourselves by any swarming creature that crawls on the ground. For I am the Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, so you must be holy because I am holy.
Leviticus 19:2 CSB
“Speak to the entire Israelite community and tell them: Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.
Leviticus 20:26 CSB
You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be mine.
But holiness is not something we could achieve on our own. It is an attribute that because of sin we do not possess - we must gain it from some other source. Yet holiness is necessary for the Christian life - if we are not growing in holiness then we must ask ourselves if we are growing as a Christian. It is little secret that I am a big fan of spiritual knowledge and the importance of it in the life of the believer - but if it is only absorbed in the head and never makes it to the soul then it really is of little benefit to us. It is our growth in holiness that is a demonstration of how the knowledge we are given is impacting our lives. The Puritan John Flavel said
300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans Holiness Is to the Soul What Health Is to the Heart

What the heart is to the body, that the soul is to the man; and what health is to the heart, that holiness is to the soul.


It is only through Christ that we can receive holiness and be seen by God as holy and able to stand before Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21 CSB
He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Through this holiness we are separated from sin and set apart to God. We are determined to be faultless and blameless. I want to look at these a little out of order from where they are in the text - first we are blameless. This Greek word is amomous and it has at its root the concept that the sacrificial animals in the temple had to be without blemish. In the New Testament it is used twice to refer to Christ as the spotless Lamb of God in
Hebrews 9:14 CSB
how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?
1 Peter 1:19 CSB
but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb.
By referencing this with respect to our own reconciliation, Paul is saying that we have been given a spotless, blameless character.
Faultless also speaks to that character as the term means to be unaccusable or beyond reproach. It means that not only are we blameless but that no one can bring an accusation against us. It is one of the primary characteristics given with respect to elders by Paul in 1 Timothy 3 but it is also to be a defining characteristic of every Christian. Now this doesn’t mean that we will not sin - but simply that we wont be known for a sinful character, that no one could make an accusation about us that would prove our professed faith as being false. It is the characteristic that makes us fall in line with that old bumper sticker or now it would be a Facebook meme - if you were put on trial for your faith would there be enough evidence to convict you. It is also this characteristic of being above reproach that prevents people from saying things like Ghandi is reputed to have said “I like your Christ, I just don’t like your christians. Your christians are so unlike your Christ.”
And of course being faultless or above reproach also applies to Satan who even now is an accuser of the brethren.
Revelation 12:10 CSB
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say, The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have now come, because the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been thrown down.
And it is with all of this in mind that Paul turns to the next aspect of the project - the perseverance or security of the believer.

When If doesn’t mean “If”

Colossians 1:23; John 15:18;
This is a verse that presents no small amount of difficulty as I stand here to preach it to you. Paul would seem to suggest here that it is possible for us not to remain steadfast in the faith. Yet when does if really not mean “if”. We generally think of if as being conditional - something that may or may not happen but that is not how the Bible often uses the word.
You know Satan loves the word “If” - and he has trained his minions to use it well.
That little word was the core thrust of his temptations of Christ.
Matthew 4:3 CSB
Then the tempter approached him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Matthew 4:6 CSB
and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will give his angels orders concerning you, and they will support you with their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
Matthew 4:9 CSB
And he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you will fall down and worship me.”
If…and whatever follows it is sure to be a lie because he is the father of lies and his minions are well trained in these arts of spiritual subversion. As I was reading and looking around at information for this mornings sermon I came across and article by a man named Mark Altrogge entitles Seven Lies Satan Wants Us to Believe and How To Overcome Them
Seven lies Satan wants us to believe - that can steal or shake our assurance and cause us to feel as if we are not grounded or steadfast in our faith
Lie #1 - God doesn’t love you.
He wants you to think that God doesn’t really love you or have your best interest in mind. This was at the forefront of his challenge to Eve when he said “you wont die, He’s holding out on you - if He really loved you He’d let you have that fruit. He just doesn’t want you to be at your best”
John 3:16 CSB
For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Lie #2 - God will not be faithful to you. He won’t keep His promises.
This is a cousin to the idea that God doesn’t love you. If you can be convinced that He doesn’t love you then it is an easy step to the idea that He wont be faithful to you or to keep His promises.
Titus 1:2–3 CSB
in the hope of eternal life that God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. In his own time he has revealed his word in the preaching with which I was entrusted by the command of God our Savior:
A God who cannot lie will keep His promises
Deuteronomy 7:9 CSB
Know that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps his gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love him and keep his commands.
Lie #3 - God is not going to answer your prayers.
This is probably one of the most problematic for us as believers because we have the misguided notion that just because we ask in a certain way God is now beholden to do our will and to answer our prayers in the way that we desire instead of according to His will.
Matthew 7:7–8 CSB
“Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
But remember the way that we were taught to pray by Christ
Matthew 6:9–13 CSB
“Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Lie #4 - Nothing will happen to you if you sin.
I think we all recognize that sin has consequences - even if our society wants to tell us otherwise. Although I think sometimes we have even tried to categorize sin to say that nothing will happen to us for this or that sin - our own favorite pet sin. In the State of Theology survey that I’ve referenced several times the question was asked “True or False - Even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation”. Among Evangelical Christians the percentage of those who answered false was 57% - that even the smallest sin does not deserve eternal damnation.
Romans 6:23 CSB
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
James 2:10 CSB
For whoever keeps the entire law, and yet stumbles at one point, is guilty of breaking it all.
No sin is not harmless.
Lie #5 - Sin will satisfy you.
Oh and it does - for a little while but then whatever was satisfying is not enough and you need to delve deeper into depravity and further away from God until ultimately you prove - if you never repent and continue to live in open sin that you may not have been saved in the first place. Our entire satisfaction is to be found in Christ.
Psalm 107:9 CSB
For he has satisfied the thirsty and filled the hungry with good things.
These next two are probably the most insidious and the most easily believed:
Lie #6 - Your sins have wrecked your relationship with God.
We will often buy into the idea that our sins have driven us so far from God that we could never go back. One of the common phrases that someone with this mindset will say is “I know God has forgiven me, but I just can’t forgive myself.” Are we bigger than God? Did we sin against ourselves? If we think that God can forgive me but I can’t forgive myself we have placed ourselves on the throne of our lives - a place we certainly do not belong.
Romans 8:1 CSB
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus,
Romans 8:34 CSB
Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more, has been raised; he also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.
Lie #7 - You will never change.
The best lies always have enough of a kernel of truth that they have a plausibility that is easy to hold on to. Of all the lies that we are told or we tell ourselves this one holds the most truth - because in a sense it is true. We cannot - on our own change. Now hear me out. I am not saying we cannot change. I am simply saying that we cannot change on our own. The great missionary Paul Washer has said it this way
The strongest believer struggles with sin and failure, creating doubt and discouragement. We need assurance that we will reach the finish line. It is not the “little train that could” mentality that will bring us to victory, but the blood of Christ and the faithfulness of God. ~ Paul Washer
All of those lies are bound up in that little word “if”. And we need to hear them today because there is someone in this room right now who is being bombarded by one of those lies. But praise be to God that this “If” is not one of those.
You see there is a sense to the word if that it is a marker of condition, existing in fact. There are several instances in Scripture where this is used. Most notably it is used by Christ in John 15 as He addressed His disciples
John 15:18 CSB
“If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you.
I think the last 2000 years has made it pretty clear that Christ wasn’t talking about the world’s hateful feelings toward Christians as being a speculative possibility. In fact He says so in the very next verse
John 15:19 CSB
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.
So what does this mean with respect to the passage we have in front of us? Is Paul saying that we can lose our faith? No. He is definitively not saying that. What he is saying is that the demonstration of your reconciliation in Christ is that you will remain steadfast and grounded in the faith. You see - it’s really not up to us. We cannot repudiate what we haven’t paid for. Paul makes three statements to tell us exactly how this is done -
To remain grounded is a construction term that has the sense of laying a foundation .
- Paul’s point is that we should always be laying our foundation on Christ our cornerstone and the foundation of our faith.
Steadfast here pictures the idea of standing firm.
(Paul uses this word that way in 1 Corinthians 15:58) and I picture that majestic old oak tree that has stood firm against the winter storms for years because of the inner strength provided for it and because it’s roots are strongly implanted and deep. We will stand firm when our inner man is strengthened by a constant inflow of the Word of God and when we are grounded in our foundation of Christ.
Paul now stresses a negative view that we could be shifted away from the hope of the Gospel that we have heard. Again the principles for prevention of this are clear - keep it ever before your eyes and never lose your appreciation or wonder of its beauty.


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