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Your Former Hostility, Flesh-bought Reconciliation, Fighting Faith and Faultless Future

Colossians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:54
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Col.1:21-23, p. 1,043
Colossians 1:21–23 CSB
21 Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions. 22 But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him— 23 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.
What is your Testimony?
Bro. Wayne Talked about it in a sermon back in September. He encouraged everyone to take time to write their testimony out. Have you done it?
Importance of sharing our faith with others...
If we are followers of Christ, we have a story to tell.
I think this text can help us nail down a solid testimony to share with other people.
Our stories though they may have a broad number of differences in the details should all have four broad stokes to them.

Four Aspects of the Christian’s Story

In context, the verses we just read from Colossians take an emphatic turn away from high Christology to the Colossian believers themselves.
Pick it back up from verse 19
Colossians 1:19–21 CSB
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile everything to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions.
YOU YOURSELVES were formerly alienated and hostile. YOU YOURSELVES were part of his reconciling mission.
And then notice what Paul does. As he so often does he paints a stark contrast between who they once were, and who they are now.
ONCE // FORMERLY // IN THE PAST - YOU WERE ALIENATED
BUT NOW YOU ARE RECONCILED!
This was Paul’s story, wasn’t it?
Galatians 1:23 ESV
23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”
it’s also YOUR story if you are a believer...
So the first thing we say about the Christian Story is that

1) Christians demonstrate a contrast from their former hostility to God to their present mindset.

When you are crafting your testimony, one essential thing to say would be:
I was once lost in sin and hostile toward God
This may be one of the biggest pieces missing in your personal testimony. Not the fact that you’re a sinner, but that your general disposition was hostility to God!
Generally, people are self-aware enough to admit that they make mistakes. But there’s an immediate self-justification that comes along with that mindset: “Everybody makes mistakes!”
But if your story accurately includes the statement: “I was hostile to God”, I wonder if folks wouldn’t perk up a little? Would they grate against the concept that they are enemies with God? Most people think of themselves and God as on generally good terms. The Bible paints a very different picture. And Christians who have come to understand this will rightly share this with others.
Paul says,
Colossians 1:21 CSB
21 Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions.
Notice that in verse 21 Paul says that the evil actions are actually an expression of a hostile mind. That’s a huge concept. Again, most people will admit they do bad stuff, but they are less inclined to say they are actively hostile toward God. But that is the biblical picture of sin.
Romans 1 says
Romans 1:28 ESV
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
Notice how being enemies in your mind leads to doing evil deeds? Faulty thinking leads to faulty worship, and faulty worship leads to faulty living!
Paul says...
Romans 8:7 ESV
7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
In other words, no matter what background you come from - remember details may vary - no matter what sins you have committed, the contrast ALL Christians can share is a contrast of their general disposition to God - I was once an enemy of God, but now I’m not. I once only wanted my own ways, but now I desire Him and His ways.
The second element of a Christian’s Story we see in Colossians 1 is a central focus on the cross of Jesus.

2) Christians recognize the crucifixion as foundational for their peace with God.

You might say in your testimony… I’ve been saved by grace through faith that Jesus died on the cross for me.
We call this the doctrine of Justification - to be put into a right standing with God. It means to go from being enemies to being at peace with Him.
Colossians 1:22 CSB
22 But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him—
Paul specifies that the reconciliation you have with God came through the physical, bodily death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
The emphasis on Jesus’ flesh and blood death was perhaps a corrective to some false teaching that denied Jesus’ bodily existence.
Listen carefully: Jesus’ flesh-and-blood life, obedience, death, resurrection, ascension and return is a core teaching of the Bible.
Romans 8:1–4 ESV
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
When Paul says Jesus condemned sin in the flesh, we need to pause for a moment and remember he died the most horrific kind of death imaginable.
I looked up “crucifixion” in one of my Biblical Dictionaries, and here’s what the entry said:
“The cross consisted of a perpendicular stake with a crossbeam either at the top of the stake or shortly below the top. The height of the stake was usually little more than the height of a man. A block or a pin was sometimes driven into the stake to serve as a seat for the condemned person, giving partial support to his body. Sometimes also a step for the feet was fixed to the stake. Victims of crucifixion did not usually die for two or three days, but this was determined by the presence or absence of the seat and the foot rest, because a person suspended by his hands lost blood pressure quickly, and the pulse rate was increased.
Usually the victim had been severely scourged [like Jesus was] before crucifixion took place. Orthostatic collapse through insufficient blood circulating to the brain and the heart would follow shortly. If the victim could ease his body by supporting himself with the seat and footrest, the blood could be returned to some degree of circulation in the upper part of his body. To fix the hands to the crossbeam, either cords or nails and cords were used; sometimes the feet were nailed also. When it was desired to bring the torture to an end, the victim’s legs were broken below the knees with a club. It was then no longer possible for him to ease his weight, and the loss of blood circulation was accentuated. Coronary insufficiency followed shortly.”
We of course know that Jesus legs did not need to be broken and that his hands and feet were pierced. We also know that Jesus suffered, as other victims of crucifixion did, from tremendous thirst. And we are told in the gospel of John that he was pierced on his side with a spear to be absolutely sure that he had died. Dr. W. Stroud, in Physical Cause of the Death of Christ says the fact that Blood and water flowed from Jesus’ side proves that the spear pierced the left side of Jesus near the heart and that Jesus had died literally of a broken heart.
And the very real person - Jesus of Nazareth, both fully God and also FULLY MAN suffered this agonizing death for whoever would believe in him. He did this for me.
Dr. Alexander Whyte tells the story of a man who dreamed that he saw Jesus tied to a whipping post while a soldier scourged him. He saw the whip in the soldier’s hand, its thick lashes studded here and there with bits of lead which were intended to cut into the flesh. As he brought the whip down on the bare shoulders of Jesus, the dreamer shuddered to see the welts and bloodstains it left behind. When the soldier raised his arm to strike again, the dreamer rushed forward intending to stop him; as he did so, the soldier turned around and the dreamer recognized himself!
Our story of reconciliation, Paul says, came about because of the physical death of Jesus. Tell others that, when you share your testimony.
But don’t stop there. Our testimony is always current, and growing.
You see...

3) Christians acknowledge that continuance in faith is the test of the reality of that faith.

You might say...
I’m being saved by grace through faith that the Holy Spirit is at work in me as I wage war on the sin my own heart
We call this the doctrine of Sanctification - where we are being gradually transformed into the likeness of Jesus.
Paul says that you have been reconciled and will be presented blameless before Christ...
Colossians 1:23 CSB
23 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.
Luther used a simple analogy to explain [these different concepts]. He described the condition of a patient who was mortally ill [hostility]. The doctor proclaimed that he had medicine that would surely cure the man. The instant the medicine was administered, the doctor declared that the patient was well [justification]. At that instant the patient was still sick, but as soon as the medicine passed his lips and entered his body the patient began to get well. So it is with our reconciliation and justification. As soon as we truly believe, that very instant we start to get better; the process of becoming pure and holy [sanctification] is underway and its future completion is certain.
OUR TESTIMONIES can INCLUDE the reality of our present war with sin and suffering. This signals to the person you’re sharing the gospel with that following Jesus doesn’t give you a genie in a bottle to grant your wishes. Don’t let people think that the moment they believe in Christ all conflict is over… They will be severely disappointed! In fact Jesus said
Luke 9:23 ESV
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For some of you that were justified, or reconciled to God many years ago, your ongoing sanctification is one of the greatest parts of your testimony: YOU STILL LOVE JESUS AND YOU STILL SERVE HIM in spite of suffering. AND... YOU DESIRE TO -- AND HAVE SEEN PROGRESS IN -- YOUR WAR AGAINST SIN!
Don’t get dismayed if your story is like mine - where you were saved/justified at a young age. Your testimony is not boring. How many countless times can you testify to the work of God the Spirit in sanctifying you and keeping you from sinning and rebelling against God? Don’t try and take all the credit for living a “good life.” Even your very obedience is a gift of God’s grace.
Part of the new covenant promise was that God would put...
Ezekiel 36:27 ESV
27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Use your testimony as an opportunity to give glory to God for your present condition and the strength to fight the fight of faith.
Before we leave point 3, let’s look at this another way: If you’re 40 years old, and you prayed some “prayer” when you were 10, and your life looks exactly like every one of your other 40 year old friends - that is to say you show no signs of getting progressively better from the so-called “shot” that was administered 30 years ago… you ought to reconsider whether or not you are sincerely a Christian.
Christians are those whose lives are on a trajectory toward being conformed into the image of Jesus. SURE we all have ups and downs and failures along the way, but are you on a Spirit-led path of obedience that you can testify to someone else: Jesus is still changing my life, my thoughts, my habits and my desires TODAY?
If you can sincerely say that your faith continues in spite of challenges you face, and even in spite of how you feel at times, you should incorporate that into your testimony. What a way to bring glory to God for all of his saving work in your life. Remember this is one of four things you can share about your faith. If you leave off parts one and two and make your testimony all about how you don’t get drunk anymore, or how you go to church all the time, or how you avoid certain sins, people may think that Christianity is all about earning God’s favor with good works and good behavior. Christians should be able to point to good works and good behavior - but only after they explain that at one time they were enemies of God, but that God reconciled them through the cross of Jesus. As a result of your faith in Jesus - you can then share how he is changing your life today, and ultimately, that your hope is that you will one day be completely free from any bondage to corruption in eternity.
That is the fourth and final thing Christians can all share in their testimony...

4) Christians anticipate completion of the saving work started in them.

You might say...
I will be saved by grace for all of eternity and the war with sin and death will be over.
We call this the doctrine of Glorification - where we trust that one day we will receive glorified bodies that are free from bondage to the corruption of sin.
Colossians 1:22 CSB
22 But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him—
When you share your testimony - if you incorporate this fourth aspect, you properly share the goal of why God saves anyone. God does not intend to leave Christians in the struggle with sin and suffering forever. Rather, Christians can rejoice that one day God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and sin, death and suffering will cease to exist.
Paul says he reconciled you in order to present you to himself completely holy, completely without fault and totally free from any accusation that could be leveled against you.
As Christians - we acknowledge that we have not yet arrived. But we also anticipate that He who began a good work will be faithful to bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
This language that Paul employs......being holy, faultless and blameless is similar to other passages in Ephesians. If you remember, it is believed that Paul wrote both Ephesians and Colossians during the same imprisonment in Rome. He said in Ephesians...
Ephesians 1:4 CSB
4 For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him.
Ephesians 5:25–27 CSB
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless.
What we gather from this is that the hope we all have is that there is a future aspect to our salvation - and that hope is a hope worth sharing!
So let’s see if I can put all of this together to share with you how I would incorporate these four aspects of the Christian story into my own testimony.
When I was a child, I came to understand that because of my sin I was an enemy of God and deserved to be punished for my disobedience to his commands.
My pastor and my parents told me about the good news that Jesus died to pay the penalty I deserve for my sin, so at a young age I put my faith in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross for me.
To this day, I still struggle with sin, and experience suffering because the rebellion of Adam and Eve against God affected all of humanity including our bodies and creation. But by God’s grace, I have seen how the Holy Spirit has changed my innate desires over time and given me new desires - to live for God and serve him and to put away sin.
Even though I’ve seen God do amazing things to change me, I know I’m not perfect and I never will be in this life. But that is one of the most exciting parts about being a Christian... I know that one day I will receive a glorified body and live forever in eternity in complete freedom from sin and full fellowship with God.
If you’re a believer here today - the details may be different, but you can affirm all four aspects of this same testimony...
I was once an enemy of God [HOSTILITY]
I have been saved by faith in Jesus’ substitutionary atoning death on the cross [JUSTIFICATION]
I am being saved by the work of the Holy Spirit in my life [SANCTIFICATION], and,
I will be saved for all of eternity - as part of the holy and blameless bride of Jesus Christ [GLORIFICATION]
Colossians 1:21-23 is all about you, if you’re a believer. It’s all about seeing the grand reconciling work of Christ in all of creation and acknowledging that he has done this in your life - if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast and don’t shift away from the gospel you heard and believed.
If these four aspects of the Christian Story resonate with you - praise God today, and share it with others. Stand firm in the core essentials of the truths of the gospel.
But if you’re here today and you are still living in hostility to God - you’ve never put your faith in Jesus Christ - I encourage you to do so today. Because there is coming a day when God will judge the living and the dead, and the hope of Christianity is that Jesus is a complete Savior. Only by faith in Him and continuance in that faith will you stand one day before God and he’ll look at you and say “blameless.” - Not because of you but because of Christ’s work on your behalf! Trust him and him alone, and do it today - do not delay.
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