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In Colossians 2:13-15, Paul teaches us 3 things that had to be true if Jesus Christ really saved you: you were dead, you were in debt, you were oppressed.

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The Goal of Assurance

This past weekend, our group had the sweet privilege to be a part of Grace Immanuel Bible Church’s College & Career Retreat in Vero Beach. It was just a sweet tim of intense fellowship, intense conviction, and overall edification.
I don’t know if there was something in the camp water or what, but spiritually, it felt like I was getting kicked in the teeth by a grizzly bear. I had to check my root canal every once in a while to make sure my front tooth didn’t fall out or anything.
All joking aside though, there was one moment during the weekend that’s been on my mind recently. After one of the small group sessions, a dear brother who was in my group looked a little bit downcast, so I went over to talk with him and see what was up.
We got to talking and, he was feeling pretty discouraged after one of the sessions. He was uniquely convicted by one of the sessions on living the Christian life by faith rather than feelings, and didn’t know what to do. I tried to share some encouragement from a few different passages to him, and let him know that its a grace from the Lord to have sin exposed. But I won’t forget his response: “I know I should be joyful about getting exposed, but right now, I don’t really feel that way at all. I don’t feel like I really deserve what Christ did for me.” Sobering words.
And we’ve all experienced that, haven’t we? I can’t think of one time I would use the word “fun” to describe the experience of having my sin exposed. It’s ugly! It’s shameful! It’s embarrassing! It’s awkward! It’s arguably one of the hardest things to ever experience in life! But, it’s also one of the most fruitful.
But, why is it so hard for us to see it that way? Simply because we’re prone to forgetting what exactly happened when Jesus saved us from our sins… we’re prone to forgetting what really took place when Jesus saved us from our sins.
When we have a faulty view of the gospel… A faulty view of salvation… we don’t realize how much that can affect our everyday walk with Christ. We can quickly and easily lose sight of the reason we can even battle our sin at all: the work of Christ at the cross.
If you’ve ever caught yourself thinking, or saying, “I don’t feel like I really deserve what Christ did for me,” then good. We should all think that. Why? Because that’s the heart of the gospel: we don’t deserve what Christ did for us at all.
In Colossians, Paul wanted the Colossians to understand this reality of life as well. Lord willing, we can learn something tonight from what Paul has to say in this wonderful passage on the work of Christ at the cross.
In , Paul teaches us 3 things that had to be true if Jesus Christ really saved you: you were dead, you were in debt, you were oppressed.
In , Paul teaches us 3 things that had to be true when Jesus Christ really saved you: you were dead, you were in debt, and you were oppressed.


Our passage comes right off of the heels of . After exposing the spiritual slave traders in verse 8 and reiterating who Christ is in verses 9-12, Paul follows up those realities by giving more realities about what Christ has done in the lives of the Colossians, similar to what we looked at last semester in .
Paul’s main point here in was to remind the Colossians that the only reason they have eternal life is because Christ made them alive together with Him. With that in mind, follow along as I read .
Colossians 2:13–15 NASB95
13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

You Were Dead ()

The first thing that had to be true when Jesus really saved you is that you were dead… you were dead.
Look at the first part of verse 13: “and you were dead...”
The facts are facts! There isn’t really much to discuss here. Simply put, we were flat-lined! Lifeless! Dead. Without a pulse. In what way? “in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh...”
The first dynamic of this lifelessness was that we were dead in our sins! Transgression against God leads to death. That goes for you. That goes for me. That goes for all of us. But here’s our fundamental problem: God and sin don’t go hand in hand. All who sin are dying and are going to die!
Ephesians 2:1 NASB95
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
The second dynamic of this lifelessness was that we were dead in the uncircumcision of our flesh. Last week, we looked at this back in verse 11. Before we knew Christ, we were unclean! We weren’t set apart. In fact, it was quite the opposite. We were unclean, unworthy, and unable to be anywhere near God’s presence.
And I think it’s crucial that we don’t just gloss over that. One of the gravest errors we can make in the Christian life is to forget how sinful we really were before the Lord saved us. Why? Because exposure of sin is the key to salvation! Why would we need a Savior if we don’t know what we need saving from? Why would we pick up our cross if we don’t think we need to? Why would we battle our sin if we don’t even see it? Lies like these are like jet fuel for our flesh… It prevents us from growth in humility and produces an exponential growth in pride.
Back to the text. So far, things are pretty bleak! Paul’s telling the Colossians, “You weren’t just spiritually lost! You were spiritually dead in your sins against God and your lack of holiness before Him.” But… But God, who is rich in mercy, did something about it. Look at verse 13 again:
He made you alive together with Him...”
This is the crux of the entire passage. This is the foundation of salvation. Christ has made you alive with Him!
The verb translated “Made you alive together” is just one word, but it has an abundance of impact on what Paul is saying. Basically, in salvation, Christ took the dead Colossians and made them alive together with Him!
John 5:21 NASB95
21 “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.
John 6:63 NASB95
63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
1 Corinthians 15:45 NASB95
45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
Beloved, I can’t stress enough how important it is that we don’t graduate from the foundation of our faith. What is that foundation? Christ, the precious Cornerstone that Peter makes mention of in .
But don’t miss the next part of verse 13. Look at the verse again:
having forgiven us all our transgressions...”
Not just one. Not just some. But all. If you are in Christ, then each and every one of your transgressions has been completely forgiven. When Paul writes, “having forgiven”, he’s talking about a one-time, once-for-all action! This forgiveness is final. When God forgives, it is pardoning… powerful… and permanent. Paul is telling the Colossians here, “when Christ made you alive, He perfectly and permanently forgave all of your sins, past, present, and future.”
Psalm 32:1 NASB95
1 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered!
Isaiah 1:18 NASB95
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.
Isaiah 55:7 NASB95
7 Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
1 John 1:7–9 NASB95
7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
As a believer, why are we so afraid to confess sometimes? Why are we so embarrassed about confessing sometimes? Do we really believe that not just some, but all of our sins have been forgiven by Christ at the cross, or not? How we answer that question will determine whether or not our walk with Christ will be defined by steadfast faith or substantial failure.

You Were In Debt ()

The first thing that had to be true if Christ saved you was that you were dead. The second is that you were in debt… you were in debt. Look at verse 14 with me.
Colossians 2:14 NASB95
14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
From here on out, everything in this verse and verse 15 develops and explains what Christ has done to the Colossians and to every believer: “He made you alive together with Him.”
Notice what Paul says here:
Having erased the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us...”
Before Christ stepped in, not only were we dead in our trespasses, but we were buried in a debt we could not pay!
With most kinds of debt, we can set up some tpype of payment plan, right? We can do it by bits and pieces over a couple weeks, months, or years, and get destroyed by a 26% APR in the process. Or, we can pay it back in whole as soon as the debt is incurred. But, the type of debt that Paul is talking about here? Even Dave Ramsey couldn’t get us out of this one. Why? Because this certificate of debt came from God.
These “decrees against us” came from God’s Law! None of us could bear it. None of us can obey the Law of God fully! Can anyone here really say that they’ve obeyed every single one of God’s commands fully and perfectly, every single day of their lives? No one can obey the Law.
But if no one can obey the Law, then why did God even give it? Doesn’t that just seem like a sick joke to play on all of us? Hardly. The purpose of the Law of God is to show us our need of a Savior. Listen to Paul on this in Galatians 3.
Galatians 3:21–24 NASB95
21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
Gal. 3:
This justification by faith from is exactly what Paul is referring to here in . In salvation, when Christ made the Colossians alive together with Him, He took on the debt of our sin and canceled it out by satisfying the Law in full.
Numbers 5:23 NASB95
23 ‘The priest shall then write these curses on a scroll, and he shall wash them off into the water of bitterness.
Isaiah 43:25 NASB95
25 “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.
Hebrews 8:13 NASB95
13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
Hebrews 8:13 NASB95
13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
Hebrews 10:8–9 NASB95
8 After saying above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the Law), 9 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second.
But what exactly did it look like to cancel out the debt of our sin and the totality of the Law? Look at what Paul says next in verse 14:
and He removed it from your midst, having nailed it to the cross...”
Christ took it away. The bank statement of God’s Law that said we owed millions of dollars’ worth of obedience was snatched out of our hands by Christ, and He paid the amount in full on the cross.
1 Peter 2:24 NASB95
24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
Galatians 6:14 NASB95
14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
We are new creations in Christ Jesus! Do we know what that means though? Do we understand the impact? Do we even care?
There is no longer any condemnation for those in Christ Jesus! We’ve been set free! The burden of cosmic treason has been taken off of your back. The weight of cosmic debt has been lifted from your shoulders. And the coldness of cosmic death has been removed from your heart. Isn’t that cause enough to rejoice in the Lord and His marvelous work at the cross?

You Were Oppressed ()

If Jesus really saved you, not only were you dead… Not only were you in debt… you were oppressed… you were oppressed. Look at verse 15 of :
Colossians 2:15 NASB95
15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
The better way to translate the beginning of this verse would be, “having disarmed the rulers and authorities...”, as it is just further developing everything Paul has been saying since verse 13.
When Christ nailed our debt to the cross, freeing us from the penalty of our sin and making us alive together with Him, He took away the power of the spiritual forces and authorities that oppressed us in our unbelief.
You see, Satan actively blinds the minds of the unbelieving! Yes, it is true that we suppress the truth in unrighteousness, as tells us so, but at the same time, it doesn’t help that the evil one is deceiving us!
2 Corinthians 4:3–4 NASB95
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Make no mistake, if you’re an unbeliever with us today, then you’re still under that rule. But as for the believer… Freedom has been won by Christ. Notice what Paul says here in verse 15:
Having disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a display of them, triumphing over them through Him.”
Think about the most iconic moments you’ve ever seen. Rocky beating Apollo Creed in Rocky II. Michael Jordan with the step-back jumper to win the NBA Finals in ‘98. Troy Bolton with the game-winner to win the State Championship in High School Musical III. Big moments, big victories. All of those moments, though, pale in comparison to the greatest triumph of all time: Jesus Christ defeating sin, death, and Satan at the cross.
You see, when Christ nailed our debt to the cross, He didn’t just triumph over sin and death. He has triumphed over every spiritual ruler and authority there is, stripped them of their power, and made an example of them for all creation to see that Christ is King!
Genesis 3:15 NASB95
15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
John 12:32 NASB95
32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”
John 19:30 NASB95
30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
Acts 2:23–24 NASB95
23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
Ephesians 6:12 NASB95
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Hebrews 2:14 NASB95
14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,
Revelation 20:1–3 NASB95
1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.
Revelation 20:7–10 NASB95
7 When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, 8 and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. 9 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Do you see? It is finished. The war is already won. The victory already guaranteed. Jesus Christ is the once and future King. And, if you are one of His, then you will reign with Him. What a day that’ll be!

The Path to Assurance

So, we’ve seen 3 things that must be true if Jesus Christ has really saved you. The first was that you were formerly dead. The second was that you were formerly in debt, and the third was that you were formerly oppressed.
After a study like this, I think it’d be helpful for us to think through what it looks like to live in light of these great truths. So, I want to give 4 tips, 4 tips for living in light of Christ’s work at the cross.


… rejoice in the Lord’s work. Did you know it’s a sin to be unthankful? Listen to Paul’s words in :
Philippians 4:4 NASB95
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
This is an imperative… a command! “Rejoice! Again I will say, rejoice!”
If we’re not rejoicing, then we need to take an inventory on why.
Is it because we don’t feel worthy of the Lord’s work? Good! We aren’t. But, we have to be careful that we only say that in humility though, not self-pity. Why? Because self-pity is just another manifestation of pride. All pride seeks attention, and the self-pitier has an idolatry of personal significance that is just as great as the self-exalter.
Is it because we feel like our sin is too great? On what basis? Like the song says, “our sins, they are many, but His mercy is more.” We need to be extremely careful that we aren’t masking our lack of trust in the Lord by calling it humility. Humble people will openly talk about their sin, but not in a manner that elicits pity from those around them.
But what if it’s because you don’t ever rejoice at all? You can’t find anything worth rejoicing over in the Christian life in general? If that’s the case, then seriously evaluate whether you’ve tasted the kindness of the Lord at all. If you were dead… if you were in debt… if you were oppressed… then how can you not rejoice at the deliverance that Christ has accomplished for you at the cross? The Christian who finds no joy in the work of Christ might not be a Christian at all.
If that’s the


… give thanks for the Lord’s work. Are we thankful Christians? Are we really known by those around us for our thanksgiving in all circumstances?
I don’t know about you guys, but I get convicted every time I think about this question: “Am I thankful?” I think, far too often, rather giving thanks to God, I’m giving complaints to God, for not causing my life to go exactly according to plan… My plan of course, not His.
The reality is that the thankless Christian is a faithless Christian… the thankless Christian is a faithless Christian. Because, if I’m “faith-full” rather than “faithless”, then like Job, in every trial and loss, in every blessing and gift, I would say these words: “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Are we thankful Christians? A lot of times, we couch our complaints to God in the form of prayer. “Oh, just trying to apply ya know, make all your requests made known to God, man!” Oh really? Then how come our “requests” sound more like at jabs at God for not giving us what we want at the exact moment that we want it?
Rather than building up expectations in our head for what the Lord should or shouldn’t be doing in our lives, we should be spending our time giving thanks for all the things He has already given us. He’s given us breath in our lungs! He’s put food on our table! He’s put a roof over my head! And most importantly - He’s given eternal life to believers! Isn’t that reason enough to be overflowing with gratitude? And if it isn’t, can we really say that we worship Him in spirit and truth?


… Imitate the Lord’s work. What does that look like? Talking like Him. Thinking like Him. Living like Him. As believers, our lives must be centered around living less like the world and more like Christ. Why? Because we’re commanded to! Listen to Jesus’ words in :
Luke 17:10 NASB95
10 “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’ ”
What is all that’s commanded to us? Every single line in Scripture.
That sounds pretty daunting. I know. It should be. Which leads to our fourth and final tip.


… strive to do the Lord’s work. says this:
Luke 14:27 NASB95
27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
The call to live in light of the Lord’s work requires full commitment. It will cost you everything. It will even cost you your life.
I think a common mistake we often make is rushing into things too quickly. That right there is probably one of my worst qualities. I tend to be incredibly impulsive.
However, that trait just doesn’t jive with the Christian life. Living in light of the Lord’s work at the cross ultimately means following in His footsteps, until death.
So, count the cost! Is this something we really want? Are we ready to lay everything on the altar, even our very own lives, as a sacrifice? Are we ready to experience insults, opposition, persecution, and rejection from friends, family, and the world?
Let me encourage you with this by asking this question: “What do you have to lose?” I mean, seriously. What do you have to lose?
is clear.
is clear. If you don’t know Christ, you’re dead! You were born spiritually dead, you will live your life spiritually dead, and you will die, spiritually dead, unless something changes. Do you want to live? Then plead with the Lord to do that work in you.
And for all who do know Christ here, you were formerly dead! Don’t forget what y
If you do know Christ, you were dead! Emphasis on the past tense… were. So how will you live in light of the wondrous work that Christ has done for you? There’s only one answer. Pick up your cross daily... Deny your flesh... And follow Him. By the strength of His Spirit, and for the sake of His glory. Let’s pray.
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