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Colossians1.1-7

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"THE POWERFUL GOSPEL OF TRUTH

(A Sermon on Colossians)

Westgate Chapel 7/06/03                                 Colossians 1:1-8

Proposition:   In the middle of the buffeting storms of life, the meaning of life that we all search for can only be found in the objective truth and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a truth that brings faith, love and hope into the lives of those who are "in Christ."

i. introduction

-     WHEN a nation throws off the restraint of objective truth, it is heading for serious trouble.

-     I SAW a surgeon on a TV talk show justify the harvesting of the brain cells from a baby BEFORE it is aborted so that the effects of Parkinson's disease could be partially reversed in an adult patient.

-     THE medical profession is in a stir as to when the use of fetal tissue is acceptable......If reversing the effects of Parkinson's disease is OK, then how about for cosmetic surgery or improving your athletic ability?

-     A HUGE debate is taking shape.....and will fill volumes and make great controversy for Phil Donahue and Geraldo Revera.

-     WHEN a nation throws off the restraint of objective truth, it is heading for serious trouble.

-     IN a Time Magazine article, regarding teenage sexuality the editor's agree that after years of sex education and Planned Parenthood.....the evidence is in that teens are more sexually active than ever.

-     SO we cave in and provide school-based clinics and distribute condoms in junior high.

-     TEEN suicide and teen pregnancy rates are soaring simultaneously. Should we be surprised?

-     WHEN a nation throws off the restraint of objective truth, it is heading for serious trouble.

-     BUT this is not news. The world has never acted as if objective truth was a high priority. The darkness hates the light. Nothing new there. No need to read the PI and click our tongues.

-     WHEN Pilate was trying to justify giving in to the mob at Jesus' trial, and his loyalty to Rome was fighting against his desire for peace in Jerusalem, he asked Jesus "What is truth?"........but didn’t seem to really be looking for an answer to his question.

-     BUT there is something more alarming than a nation throwing off the restraint of objective truth.....and that is when the Church of Jesus struggles with living in objective truth.

-     WHEN the world rejects truth it is living true to form.

-     WHEN the Christian rejects truth, God's plan for mankind crumbles from the inside out.

-     THAT was what was happening to the Christians in a city in Asia Minor called Colosse.

*     The church in Colosse was a small band of struggling believers, with their faith being ground down by opposition.

*     They lived in a once thriving city that was now being overshadowed by their larger neighbors, Laodicea and Hierapolis.

*     Paul had sent Epaphras to plant the church in Colosse, probably while he was in Ephesus, about 100 miles to the west.

*     The church had started out great, and the Christians had a solid foundation of truth.

*     But then some different teachings had crept in and had corrupted the truth.

*     And as a result many had fallen away.

-     IT is a dangerous thing when Christians are tempted to tamper with the absolute truth of God's Word, because that has eternal consequences.

-     HERE were the basic points at which the church in Colosse was being tempted to dilute the truth.

*     Some had come into the church and were teaching that the physical body was evil and the only way to be saved from God's judgment was through a rigorous discipline of your physical appetites.

*     Now, on the surface that doesn't sound too bad.

*     But after trying and failing frequently to control the appetites of the body you have to come up with some solutions.....which the false teachers did.

*     They came up with an elaborate doctrine of demons to explain the failures.

*     And an even more elaborate doctrine of angels as intermediaries to gain favor with God.

*     And the ones who seemed to be successful controlling their appetites using these doctrines were considered those who had gained an elite intellectual and spiritual status.

*     A second branch of the same heresy in the church reasoned that the body was evil and the soul was good. And when you died it was only the soul that would live forever....so whatever you did with your physical body was no problem, as long as your soul was saved.

*     For this group there was no emphasis on purity or morality.

*     You could do whatever felt good until you had satisfactorily silenced your conscience.

*     As long as you pursued God with your intellect, you would be saved by knowledge alone regardless of how you lived.

-     THESE teachings had crept in and were decimating the church.

-     DO you see how devastating it is when Christians reject the truth?

-     TURN with me to the book of Colossians (p.1165).

-     SINCE Paul has never met these believers he begins by establishing his authority to write them and encourage those who are still hanging in there.

-     VERSES 1-2,

      "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father."

-     TWO things I want you to see in these first two verses of introduction.

*     First, Paul is not a self-made apostle. He sees himself as only what God has made him to be.

*     There is no such thing as a self-made person in the kingdom of God.

*     You and I are what we are only by the will and calling of God.

*     Secondly, Paul identifies those who have remained faithful in Colosse as being in two locations at the same time.

1.   They live in a city called Colosse, with houses and businesses and people and transportation.

-     Colosse was the temporary place they happened to be living in at the time.

2.   But they are also live in another location that Paul calls being "in Christ."

-     Their real environment, the real place they lived was "in Christ."

-     THAT is the place of absolute security where objective truth begins and ends....in Christ.

-     BECAUSE “Truth” is not a set of logical constructs or arguments that can be reasoned, but the person of Jesus Christ.

-     IN John 14:6 Jesus is answering Thomas’ question about how the disciples would know the way to God the Father, and said to Thomas,

      “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

-     IN other words, this Christian life is not a set of propositions called ‘truth,’ it is the Person of Jesus who alone IS the Truth….about every subject and every aspect of life on earth and eternity in God’s heavenly home.

-     SO, when you know Him…when you are in personal, intimate relationship with Him, you are joined to the only Source of Truth in its fullness.

-     IN Colossians 2:9, Paul writes,

      “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form…”

-     THAT is why, in John 8:32, Jesus says,

      “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

-     THAT is because only ‘in Christ” can you be free from sin, free from the world, free from yourself, to live life….

*     with true joy.

*     with true purpose.

*     with true forgiveness.

*     with true love.

-     AS one theologian put it, Jesus did not come to point the way to God. He IS the way to God.

-     SO while you may live in Edmonds, or Lynnwood, or Bothell......are you "in Christ."

ii. the effects of the truth

-     WELL, what was the effect of living in the Truth, or, "in Christ?"

-     IT is the very opposite of living in fear and guilt and constant confusion about what is right and wrong.

-     PAUL tells us in the next three verses of Colossians 1…

      "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven...."  (Verses 3-5a)

-     THERE are three effects of living in truth that Paul is elated to hear exists in the believers in Colosse who have remained in the truth.

-     HE is not giving them the credit for these three things, because it is the work of God's grace. So Paul thanks God for the effects of truth in their lives.....but here they are;

 

1.   WE HAVE HEARD OF YOUR FAITH IN CHRIST

 

-     THESE people are being persecuted, beaten down, oppressed. They are in the minority in a culture where paganism and emperor worship reigns supreme.

-     BUT in the middle of all that they had faith in Christ that Paul gives God thanks for.

-     FAITH is the confidence…

*     that God is!

*     that He is the Rewarder of those who seek Him.

*     that God reigns over every situation

*     that Jesus has done all that needs to be done for you to be all that you need to be, 

*     and that He holds your future in His hands.

-     WHY did they have this kind of faith?

-     BECAUSE they were "in Christ."

*     He is the source of all faith.

*     Christ was the environment they lived their lives in.

*     Their thinking and dreaming was done "in Christ."

*     Their planning was done "in Christ."

*     Their business was conducted "in Christ."

*     They got married "in Christ."

*     They raised their families "in Christ."

*     They drew their life from Christ.

*     All that they had and all that they hoped to be flowed from their intimate relationship with Jesus.

-     AND when you are ‘in Christ,’ dependence on self has to go.

*     And dependence on the world goes.

*     And dependence on your education goes.

*     And dependence on your gifts.

*     And dependence on the government.

*     Dependence on your salary, or your savings.

*     Even dependence on other people to bring your through.

-     AND while you enjoy the gifts and things and people that the Lord has placed in your life....YOUR FAITH IS IN CHRIST.

-     PAUL thanks God for the faith in the believers at Colosse....it was the result of living in objective Truth.

 

2.   WE HAVE HEARD OF YOUR LOVE FOR ALL THE SAINTS

 

-     THERE is another effect of objective truth that Paul references in verse 4.

-     IT is their love for all the saints.

-     IT is inevitable that with faith that is that alive, AND THE RESULT OF GOD’S LOVE FOR YOU, you will have love for all the saints.

-     REAL faith and love are not a lone rangers…you are connected to the Body of Christ by the love of God within.

-     PAUL writes in Romans 12:5 that,

      “…’in Christ’ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others.”

-     WHEN your focus is on Jesus Christ, and if your faith is the real thing, He purges you of selfishness and gives you a love for others in His body.

-     YOUR heart goes out to those who share your faith "in Christ."

*     All the saints...without exception of race, doctrine, socio-economic status, education, dress, temperament.

*     Not just selected cliques, but an all-embracing fellowship with all those who are also "in Christ."

-     THAT is what happens when you live in objective truth instead of living by feelings or by your felt needs.

*     Bitterness has to yield to the truth about love.

*     Gossip has to yield to the truth about love.

*     Favoritism gives way to truth about love.

*     Selfishness yields to truth about love.

 

3.   WE HAVE HEARD OF YOUR HOPE

 

-     THE third effect of objective truth in the lives of the believers in Colosse is hope.

-     VERSE 5a says that it is  "....faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven."

-     FAITH and love SPRING from hope stored up in heaven for you.

-     IT means that the fuel for living in faith and love.......in other words the fuel for living in obedience to the Lord is the hope that we are leaning towards, that is waiting for us in heaven.

-     IF we only live in the NOW for the NOW then faith is a mockery and morality is a waste of time.

-     PEOPLE who only live for the TODAY have one philosophy........"Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die."

-     THAT is life that has lost its meaning.....so the only meaning there is, is the pleasure you can get for yourself today.

*     Why else would a mother leave her little children and run off with another man?

*     Why else would a dad take up with his secretary and convince himself that his children will adjust just fine?

*     Why else would two thirteen year olds derail an AMTRAK commuter train and show no remorse for the damage they caused?

*     Why else would a business man give up his family to advance his career?

*     Why would an evangelist exchange his ministry for a night of pleasure?

-     BECAUSE they have forgotten the "hope that is stored up for them in heaven."

-     WHY be faithful and loving?

*     Why be faithful to my wife?

*     Why make the house of God a priority for my kids instead of baseball or work or school?

*     Why tithe to the church that is your spiritual home?

*     Why give to mission?

*     Why use your talents for the kingdom of God?

*     Why study God's Word?

*     Why come to a Tuesday night prayer meeting....and make sure your children and young people are with you?

-     BECAUSE our lives spring from a hope that is stored up in heaven for us.

-     WE have to be leaning into the hope that is waiting for us in heaven......so that faith and love are fueled down here.

-     WHAT is that hope?

*     That there is a Savior who is coming for us to take us to the place He has prepared for us.

*     That there is a resurrection of the body for us all, just like Jesus' glorified body.

*     That the gift of eternal life is given to those who receive Jesus as Savior.

-     FAITH and love are not nourished by personal effort, but by the solid fact of the truth of God's promises.

iii. the nature of the truth

-     WELL, what is this objective truth that has such a life-changing effect on people?

-     IT is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

-     LET'S go back to Colossians 1:5b. Paul says that they learned about the hope,

      "......in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit."

-     SIX characteristics that Paul gives us about this objective truth that is life-transforming.

 

1.   IT is the word of TRUTH! (verse 5)

*     It is not some guesswork or oral tradition about what God is like, who man is, what sin is, where we can go for the only remedy.

*     It is the Word of God, accurately handed down to us and protected by the Holy Spirit for thousands of years.

 

2.   IT is the Gospel.....the Good News about God coming in human flesh…Jesus. (verse 5)

*     It is not bad news. Only the world portrays it as bad news because they have rejected the truth and no one likes to admit they are on the losing team.

 

3.   IT is the universal Word of God for all mankind. (verse 6)

*     "ALL over the world this gospel is bearing fruit..."

*     It is not for some select breed of intellectuals or special holy people or special nation.

 

4.   IT is growing and fruitful.

*     When God's truth drops into the soil of divinely prepared hearts.....it works like no human words have ever worked.

*     It is fruitful to reconcile God to man....and to transform man's character.

*     Jesus said, in His prayer for us, recorded in John 17:17,

      “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

 

 

 

5.   IT is God's GRACE.

*     It is NOT the result of any human effort or work.

 

6.   IT is humanly transmitted in the power of the Spirit.

*     Paul (heard and understood it and) passed it on to Epaphras. Epaphras passed it on to the Colossians.....and they passed it on to us by the Spirit and that is how we receive it, understand it, and pass it on.

iv. conclusion

-     HAS this objective truth taken your life captive?

-     HAVE you received the TRUTH into your life through faith in Jesus Christ?

-     IF not, you are living in the confusion of subjective truth and trying to find meaning for life where there is none to be found.

-     AND if you have received the TRUTH, are you living in faith, love and hope?

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