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The Beautiful Gospel

Colossians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  45:53
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Introduction

Point #1

Colossians 2:6; John 1:12-13; Ephesians 3:11; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 13:8
So then - in light of all that I’ve said - because you are so ordered and your faith is so strong you are proving what we know about you through the testimony of Epaphras. That you have received Christ Jesus as Lord. This is the only place in all of Scripture that this phrase is uttered. Receive Christ Jesus as Lord. This is an interesting turn of phrase that really has been replaced in our modern era with the more amiable sounding phrase “accept Christ Jesus”. And in substituting one word for another we’ve really done a disservice to those we’ve witnessed to, to the Church and more importantly to Christ Himself. You see
There is a significant difference between receiving something and accepting it.
This is a great time of year. Not only are we only a few days away from spring - despite the current weather conditions - we’re also only a few days away from some momentous moments in the lives of people all around the nation. No I’m not talking about tax refund day - although that is a nice day for anyone who receives one. I’m talking about the letters that are either now being mailed or are just about to be mailed that let high school students know of their acceptance into college. Those are very important and joyful letters - but not a single student would say that they accepted the school but that they were accepted by the school.
Another example is the information that is soon to go out regarding those members of the Navy who are eligible for the Chief’s Board. Later in July or early August they will find out whether they have been accepted into that august body of military leadership. But even as arrogant or self-confident as some of those Sailors might be they would never say that they accepted the Chief’s Mess but that the Mess accepted them. But that doesn’t diminish the benefits that are bestowed on the recipients. For those who are in Christ and in receipt of Him John tells us what those benefits are.
John 1:12–13 CSB
But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.
The issue is one of a greater accepting the lesser. The greater being the school or the Chief’s Mess and the lesser being the student or sailor. The greater being Christ and the lesser being the sinner. The greater doesn’t need the acceptance of the lesser - the lesser needs to receive something from the greater to help further him in life. The analogy falls apart a little bit because the students or those sailors have to demonstrate some measure of worth in order to be accepted by the school or organization but when it comes to salvation it is the sovereign will of Christ that is the determinant factor in who is accepted and who isn’t.
From the Baptist Faith and Message
“Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable.”
This doesn’t alleviate us from the responsibility of evangelism though - we may not be responsible for someone being saved because it is God’s sovereign will but we also have no idea who God has or hasn’t decreed and so we still should reach out to everyone and leave it in His hands. Pursuant to this last week I challenged each of you to identify two people - one person outside the church for whom you commit to praying and seeking to share the Gospel and one person inside the church that you will commit to discipling and helping them grow further in their faith.
And let me say this loud and clear - there are some here in this room who say that they accepted Jesus when what they really mean is that they received Him. They rightly understood their sin, the fact that they stood condemned and that the only way for them to be saved was for them to throw themselves at Jesus feet - much like the leper in Mark 1 does - and say if you are willing you can make me clean. But there may also be some here who think that Jesus needed their acceptance - like the old picture that has been given of Revelation 3:20 that Jesus is standing at the door of the sinners heart and he’s knocking like some sort of beggar and when the door doesn’t open to Him He just moves on to another door. And it is that belief that has caused so much mischief and problems in the church world today - it’s really that belief that can’t stomach the next phrase that Paul uses.
See Paul doesn’t say here that we are to receive Christ Jesus as our Savior. It’s easy for us to say that - just about anyone can and is willing to say that. Jesus wants to pay for my sins - that’s great news. I’ll be happy to let Him do that. In fact if that was the Christian message there would be on offense to the Gospel.
We live in the Midelome housing complex over by University High School. Out my back window or off my back porch I can look out over Pines South Cemetery and see the Mormon complex that is out on 27 just past Albertsons. It’s a heart breaking site to me and every time I look at it I pray that God closes it down. But I know one other thing about that complex - I could leave here and drive over there and if they let me get into their pulpit I could bring the message to them that they could receive Jesus Christ as Savior and they would be glad to hear it. The same thing with any Catholic church or Jehovah’s Witness Hall. We’re happy to accept Him as our Savior - but Paul doesn’t leave us there and we can’t leave people there either. Paul says that we receive Jesus Christ as Lord.
And this is a sticking point. We don’t want Him to be our Lord.
We’re willing to accept Him as our Savior because it doesn’t really require that much of a change from us.
- He pays for our sins and we get a blank check to live however we choose knowing that our sins are paid for. But the Christian life doesn’t work like that. See Christ died to be our Savior but He rose from the dead to be our Lord. In fact if all He was meant to be was our Savior there really was no requirement for Him to rise from the dead at all. He could have just stayed dead. After all Scripture says that the shedding of blood is required for the remission of sins - it doesn’t say that the sacrifice has to rise from the dead afterward. But Christ was no mere simple sacrifice and while the forgiveness of sins was certainly in view when He went to the cross there was something more. He was proclaiming His lordship over all of creation, over sin and over death, and it was for that purpose that Paul would refer to in Ephesians 3:11
Ephesians 3:11 CSB
This is according to his eternal purpose accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
and that He would be given a new name after He had accomplished all that He had come for - the name of Lord
Philippians 2:9–11 CSB
For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Paul acknowledges that this is the condition of the Colossian church as he says that they have received Him in this way and now he reiterates to them - continue to live in Him. This is the first of five interesting participles that Paul uses in this passage because the verb “continue to live” is in the present active form - meaning that it is a continuous action that is accomplished by the person to whom the command is being given.
Paul is essentially saying to the Colossians “stay where you are.”
don’t move, don’t waiver, don’t wander off.
You know it’s interesting that this verse is sandwiched between two assertions from Paul to not be captured by the current philosophies or reasonable ideas of the day. For 2,000 years the Christian message has remained more or less the same. Yes there were the dark ages where we almost lost the Gospel that necessitated the Reformation and the reclamation of the core tenets of the truth but even the existence of men who were willing to stand up for those beliefs prove that those truths were still available and still being taught unchanged.
Yet as you look at the annals of human history worldviews and mindsets have changed at an almost dizzying pace over the last 2000 years. In the days when Paul was writing there were the stoics and the epicureans, then there were various philosophies during the middle ages until the Rennaisance and then the Enlightenment which has led to in recent years modernism, humanism and now post-modernism. Each one was a reaction to the one before it - modernism and post-modernism. Modernism was the idea that humans could capitalize on their potential and create and examine the facts to make things better. Post-modernism has given rise to the idea that there is no absolute truth and that truth is basically like beauty, in the eye of the beholder.
Each of these philosophies built on and contradicted one another and yet for 2000 years Biblical Christianity has remained the same. And this is because
At its root Christianity is more about a person than it is about an ideology.
The person never changes and so the belief never changes.
Hebrews 13:8 CSB
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
So Paul could very confidently advise his readers to stay where you are and its why we can still “continue to live in Him”. Paul tells his readers, and by extension us, this and then he says and here’s how.

Point #2

Colossians 2:7a; Psalm 1:1-3; John 15:4-5; Romans 11:24; 1 Peter 2:4-6; Ephesians 2:20-21;
Having just given an active command to live in Him, Paul makes three statements that on the surface seem to build on his assertion that it is up to us to “continue to live in Him”. But each of these statements is in the passive voice meaning that the subject of the verb (us) is being acted upon by an outside force (God) to accomplish the actions called for by the verb. He’s going to give three examples - one from agriculture, one from construction and the third from the commercial world to demonstrate the totality of our Christian life.
He starts off saying “being rooted”. This verb is not only passive but it is also in the perfect tense - meaning it is an action that has been completed.
I don’t normally like to give a lot of the grammar because it can sometimes seem dry but this is so beautiful that I really can’t help but explain this to you in these terms because in our English translations we miss the beauty of all that Paul is saying here.
He says that we have been rooted in Christ.
There is a sense in which this is an echo of Psalm 1
Psalm 1:1–3 CSB
How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
But there’s more to this than simply being planted beside the stream - what Paul is saying is that we are actually rooted IN Christ. This is what Christ taught His disciples about the vine and the branches. In John 15 Christ taught them
John 15:4–5 CSB
Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.
Picking up on this in his epistle to the Romans Paul would expand the vine analogy even further to include the Gentiles
Romans 11:24 CSB
For if you were cut off from your native wild olive tree and against nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these—the natural branches—be grafted into their own olive tree?
This is a completed action - if you have received Christ as Lord you are rooted in Him. You can’t do it for yourself - but He willingly makes you a part of His very body when you receive Him as Lord. This is complete assurance right here - we are rooted in Christ and nothing can take us out of Him. If you are here this morning and you’re doubting our wavering in your faith wondering if you are really saved or are really a Christian take comfort in these two words - being rooted. You are rooted in Christ, the Father has planted you there and nothing can take you out.
And we are not merely rooted but
We are being built up.
Here, Paul goes back to the present tense highlighting the fact that this is a continual process in the believers life - that we are constantly being built up into something. Peter tells us that we are being built up into a holy priesthood.
1 Peter 2:4–6 CSB
As you come to him, a living stone—rejected by people but chosen and honored by God—you yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and honored cornerstone, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.
In Ephesians 2:20-21 Paul writes
Ephesians 2:20–21 CSB
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
In each of these instances the building is being done by God Himself - building and molding believers into what He needs them to be. This is done in a multitude of ways. It’s done primarily through the study of Scripture where we get the clearest picture of who Christ is and who we are and what the implications of that are for our lives. We get a picture of how we should now live as those who have received Him as Lord and continue to live in Him.
The Bible applied to the heart by the Holy Ghost is the chief means by which men are built up and established in the faith, after their conversion. It is able to cleanse them, to sanctify them, to instruct them in righteousness, and to furnish them thoroughly for all good works.
But it’s also done through observation of others - those who have been in the faith longer than us and who God uses to build us up in our faith and practice as we emulate their faithfulness. There’s also suffering that is used to mold us and to remove those things which would hinder us from being built into the believers He needs us to be.
Lastly Paul says that we are established in the faith. This is again in the present tense meaning that it is a continual action in the life of the believer. It is the continued growth of our confidence that what we have believed is actually true through the demonstration of God’s faithfulness to the promises that He has made. In other uses of this verb it has the special nuance of meaning what is legally guaranteed. To the church in Corinth Paul wrote
1 Corinthians 1:8 CSB
He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you will be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the calm sure confidence that we will remain until the end, that we will persevere no matter what storms come against us because the author and perfecter of our faith has us in His hand and in His will and nothing can remove us from that.
Paul goes on to says just as you were taught - he’s really summing up all that he has been writing to the Colossians over the last several verses. He says as I have labored for you - not physically with the Colossians but in Ephesus he labored in the Word for three years and through that labor he had come into contact with Epaphras and Philemon and probably even Archippus and they had taken his teaching and gone back home to Colossae and labored in the starting and teaching of a church. And now as he is in prison he is suffering for them physically and spiritually as he struggles, he agonizes for them in prayer. And so he says, as you were taught continue in Him. And this can’t help but lead you to gratitude.

And Now We Give Thanks

Colossians 2:7b;
It is a factor of the human condition that often what we know we should be we sometimes do not follow through on. Understanding all of the preceding - that we have received Christ Jesus as Lord, that we are rooted immovably in Him, that He is building us into His temple and that, over time, we are established in a faith that is unshakable - should result in triumphant, exuberant gratitude toward Christ. But sometimes what we know in our head doesn’t translate out to our actions. It is like the story Charles Spurgeon once told of a friend of his. He said that on a certain day the sun was shining and his friend said to him “We ought to be grateful for this fine weather.” I think that’s a sentiment that we can all empathize with - I mean I love the snow but I would really like to see a little warmer temperatures. But Spurgeon replies to his friend “I go farther than that - I am grateful for it.” See sometimes we say that we should be grateful for our salvation but that doesn’t quite translate out into the actions of actually being grateful for it.
There a a few ways that we can express our gratitude - the first being telling people about the glorious truths that we have found in Christ. This isn’t often a difficulty for new believers as we are excited and want to tell everyone because the truth of our salvation is so amazing to us. We don’t even need an opening we just blurt it out - we could get pulled over “Sir do you know how fast you were going? Officer I don’t but do you know that Christ saved me and He can save you too?”
But with distance and time sometimes this can fade and we don’t really seek to tell people as much - we might take an opening but we often cover ourselves with sayings like “there just wasn’t an opening” or “the Spirit didn’t tell me to witness to that person”. And I’m not innocent of any of this - I’m not here pounding my fist or shaking my finger because it has happened to me as well. I’m in a hurry or it just doesn’t seem the right moment and so I stay quiet. What this is is a demonstration of a spirit of fear rather than one of gratitude. We don’t really want to bother the person or we’re afraid of how they may react so instead of demonstrating our thankfulness for what Christ has done for us we just stay quiet.
Another way that we can express gratitude is in standing up for Christ when others around us minimize or pervert or try to bring Him down. This is both inside and outside the church. On Friday night we had the men’s group over our house and we watched a great documentary called American Gospel - Christ Alone. One of the takeaways from that film for me is the tragic situation that many people are falling in to regarding the Gospel - buying into the idea that is contrary to what Paul teaches us in our passage this morning that it is all done by Christ in us but rather that we have to root ourselves in Him, that we build ourselves up and that we are established not because of our confidence in Him but our confidence in our own abilities to keep us saved. And the thing that saddens me is that we are often silent about the truth - that we read or we hear someone in the office say something that isn’t quite right and rather than correct them for the good of their eternal soul we remain quiet so we don’t seem like “that guy”.
But Paul tells us here to have a heart that is overflowing with gratitude - to demonstrate in every facet of our lives that we have been redeemed and to now live out of gratitude for what has been done in us. Later in the letter Paul will write
Colossians 3:17 CSB
And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
And he doesn’t just say to be grateful - but to be overflowing with our gratitude. Something that is overflowing can’t be ignored or missed. When the Mississippi River overflows its banks it is not ignored by the people who live along those banks. It is simply a matter of what is the source of our gratitude - is it our feelings which are fickle and can often change with the condition that we are in or is it the sure truths of Scripture that demonstrate for us the reality of our situation and the facts that our lives are being built on?

Conclusion

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