Thursday, March 13, 2008

Is Your Hope Stupid: Having a Contagious Hope That Bears Fruit

Scripture Introduction:

We will begin tonight in our journey through Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Hopefully you remember some of the back ground information. There seems to be a group of heretics that are attempting to distract the Church at Colossae. They are teaching a strange doctrine and offering a fullness apart from Jesus. In a sense they have labored to convince the Colossians that they are disqualified from attaining the hope of heaven. Therefore the Colossians are almost left without hope. They are left wondering, should I have hope? Perhaps in our midst tonight some of you are wondering whether or not you ought to have hope. As Paul begins this letter his aim is to encourage the Colossians. He wants them to know that so long as they have these fruits they ought to have hope. The question for us tonight is this, should I have hope. Or to put that in a little catchy way; is your hope stupid?

Read Colossians 1:3-8

Sermon Introduction:

The central part of that verse is hope. Hope comes from the gospel, and then hope bears the fruit of faith and love. That is the central point of this text. Paul is encouraging the Colossians to have hope. Yet, I think Paul might say something a little different to us today. Our struggle with hope is similar to the Colossians, but not altogether alike. They were struggling with knowing whether or not they ought to have hope. Our battle I think is a little different. My guess is that most Americans have a form of hope. 90 something percent of America has hope that they will be in heaven when they die. For us the question is not, do you have hope. For us the question is this, is your hope stupid?

Yet, I do not want to be so foolish as to think that all of you have hope. The teenage years can be a time of despair. Hope seems the furthest thing from your mind. Some of you may have more similarities with the Colossians than others. For those of you that have hope the answer you need to discover tonight is whether or not your hope is stupid. For those of you that are struggling with hope, the answer that you need to discover tonight is whether hope is even possible, and if so how can you attain it.

Before we begin looking at this in detail we must lay a little ground work. The first thing we must understand is that this hope that Paul is talking about, which we will call gospel hope, is secure. Notice in this text how it says “laid up for you”. That is another way of saying that it is set aside in a fire-proof security box, kept away, waiting for you whenever you are to fully attain it. If then this hope is secure it means that if you have this hope you ought to get excited. Nothing will or can take it away from you.

Secondly, this hope is not just blind hope. We will look at that in a little detail in a moment. For now though I want you to understand that this hope is not “heaven”. This hope is not you living it up in the after life. This hope is Jesus. From the onset we can probably answer whether or not our hope is stupid based on our object. What I mean by that is this, if you could go to heaven, have the streets of gold, the mansion, all the gifts that you could imagine yet Jesus were not there, would you want to be there? Notice what Paul will say at the end of this chapter: “…which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”. What is the hope of glory? What is this gospel hope? It is a living vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship produces in us a certainty of attaining what is hoped for. What then is hoped for? A further and deeper relationship with Jesus. Attaining Jesus. Only a hope that has this as it’s object is gospel hope. And only a hope that is gospel hope is grounded in the right thing. Do you have it? We will ask two questions to hopefully discern the answer to that question.

I. Gospel hope produces fruit, does your hope produce fruit?

I have never been a prisoner, but I imagine one thing a prisoner likes to receive are letters; especially letters that tell stories of his dreams being realized. If a man is passionate about seeing his son be a successful student, then a report card with A’s will enliven his heart. If he is passionate about his daughter having the lead role in the school play, then a flier with her name in bold print will give the prisoner a cause for thanksgiving. If your passion is the gospel and you hear of it spreading then you will be quick to “give thanks to God” as prisoner Paul does here.

Paul has recently received a report of this thriving church in Colossae. He is told of their faith vibrant faith in Jesus Christ. He excited to hear that they are not only professors but their faith is resulting in love for their fellow church members. This church, that Paul has never visited, must be warming his heart. You can sense his excitement by the lively words he uses in this passage. Sweeping words like “always” and “all”. Heavy, loaded words like “love”, “grace”, “truth”, “hope”. Forceful words like “laid up for you”, “indeed”. Victorious words like “bearing fruit”, “growing”, “everywhere”, “whole world”. Why such excitement? Because Paul knows that the fruit he is hearing about means something.
If you look at verse 5 you will get a clue as to why Paul is so excited. Look at where their faith and love comes from: “…because of the hope laid up for you in heaven”. Gospel hope produces fruit. Where you see gospel fruit you know it stems from gospel hope. Where you have gospel hope you see gospel fruit, like faith and love. The Colossians had it. This gave Paul joy. The question for us tonight is this, do we have it? If gospel hope produces fruit, can we honestly say that we have it? If we have no fruit we ought to not have gospel hope. If we do have fruit then we ought to have gospel hope. How do you know? What fruit are we talking about?

The fruit of faith

Faith is a much used term today. Faith has been exalted to an idolatrous status. We are told to respect one another’s faith. That is permissible. Yet, when faith is exalted as a virtue, by itself it becomes dangerous. As Sam Storms helps us see, “The object of faith always determines its quality and worth. Mere sincerity, passionate devotion, clarity of conviction, depth of insight are all ultimately useless unless they are rooted in and focused on the person and work of Jesus.” This is why we ought not exalt the faith of those outside of Christ as if it is some sort of virtue. Everyone has faith. Even the atheist has faith that there is not a God. The key is not that you trust in something. The key is that you trust in the right something.

You can see this point even in the text. If we are to be biblical we will not exalt faith, as a virtue in itself. The importance, what makes faith worth something, is the object in which it trusts; for the believer, that object is Jesus Christ. This is why Paul does not merely say, “…since we heard of your faith”. Paul says, “since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus”. That “in Christ Jesus” is vital, because your faith is not what saves you. Who you place your trust in is what matters. The Colossians have a grounded faith. It is appropriately in Jesus. Do you?

The next thing that must be noted about this fruit of faith is that it is visible. The Bible really has no room for this notion of a “secret faith”. Keeping your faith “personal” is not an option if you want biblical faith. Biblical faith is visible.

This point alone could probably lead to another sermon. Faith is abstract. How do you make something intangible, tangible? What does faith look like? Faith is invisible. How do you make it visible? How can my faith be made visible? What type of faith results in someone “hearing” of your faith? What would a faith look like that causes people to talk about it? The picture here is of someone having such a vibrant trust in Jesus that it causes people to talk. What would that look like? Paul will address this in the future, and so will we. For now it is enough to begin asking these questions. You know that you are bearing this fruit if others are noticing your faith.

We have one more question to consider before we move on. How does hope produce this fruit of faith? Wouldn’t you think that faith produces hope and not the other way around? Is this not strange way of looking at things? This is probably because the type of faith that Paul is talking about is not beginning faith. He is talking about faith that is growing, faith that has already taken root. The type of faith that hope is inspiring is the type of faith that is grounded and visible. How, then, does hope produce this type of fruit?

Our answer lies in the African impala. Apparently, the African impala can jump to a height of over 10 feet and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet. Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a 3-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall. We are often like that African impala. Unless we can see where our feet will fall we often do not exercise faith. Hope helps us to see where our feet will fall. Do you have a hope that produces the fruit of faith? Or are you like the African impala? Because you have no idea where your feet will fall you lack vibrant faith in Jesus.

The fruit of love

The next fruit that Paul addresses is the fruit of love. Love is another one of those terms that is exalted in our day. The term is thrown around like a dirty rag. You use it, dirty it up, throw it away and then get another rag, and call this love. Love has become an empty term. It’s not empty here in this text. Love means something. This love is not empty. This love is full. This love is vibrant. This love is active. This love is vulnerable.

As theologian Thomas A Kempis once said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin or your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable...The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is Hell.”

These Colossians are not wrapping their love up and keep in safe. Notice the way Paul words this phrase, “and the love that you have for all the saints”. Notice the possessive. Paul does not say the love that you feel for all the saints. This is not something flaky. This is not something that is going away. This is something that they actually possess.

Notice also the scope of this love. It is all-encompassing. In this particular instance we are not discussing love for just any old Joe off the street. This is brotherly love. But it is not a selective brotherly love. It is love for all your fellow believers: the honored and the dishonored, those living in luxury and those in prison like Paul, those that are easy-going, fun-loving and a joy to be around and those that are a pain in the rear. The smelly, the poor, the rejected, the despised, the tall, the short, the widowed, the homeless, the orphans, the dumb, the handicapped, the elderly, the young, the annoying, every one that is in the family of God. The rich, the brilliant, the wise, the family man, the career guy, the single, the married, love. Everyone, love. And this is not merely a passive love. This is vibrant love.

What does this type of love look like? It will look like 1 Corinthians 13. Instead of being impatient with the struggles of our fellow believers we will be patient, we will be kind. Instead of being boastful, cocky, rude, arrogant and making everything about us we will be gracious, humble, and looking for ways to make our brothers and sisters in Christ look good. We will throw away our little mental book of all the wrongs that have been done to us. Instead of thinking of all the reasons why other people hinder us and mess us over, we will begin looking for ways to serve, assist, and bear the burdens of our brothers and sisters. John F. Kennedy may have gotten this one right. Instead of asking what our brothers and sisters can do for us, we will try to discover what we can do for our brothers and sisters. Do you see the difference? This type of love is contagious. This type of love spreads. One church historian, Bruce Shelley, said that, “the practical expression of Christian love was probably among the most powerful causes of Christian success”.

How does hope inspire this type of love? The answer is that hope changes us. Instead of focusing on ourselves and worrying about the troubles of this world we are freed to focus on others and pour ourselves out for their good. Hope changes our souls. It produces fruit; faith and love. Yet there is something else that hope inspires, and this will be our next point.

II. Gospel hope is contagious, is your hope contagious?

There has been a ridiculous virus going through our community this winter. It seems to be very contagious and it sticks with you for quite sometime once you get it. I have had it now for a few weeks now. My mother and father caught it and had to go to the doctor twice and get shots to cure it. Brian caught it last week and that is why he was not here. Now, I really hate to use such a negative thing to give us a picture of the gospel, but it fits.

In order for a virus like this to be anything to catch our attention, two things must take place. One it must have an external factor. If it is not contagious, then only one poor sap has to suffer. In order for a virus to be newsworthy it has to a least be moderately contagious; the more contagious, the more newsworthy. The other thing that must take place is the virus must have an internal factor. It needs to affect your body. It has to change you. Otherwise who cares if you get a little sniffle? It’s not newsworthy unless it permeates your body and changes the way you live your life.

There is one other thing that is mildly similar between the gospel and a virus; they are in control. I said mildly because many of you are thinking, wait, we have medicine. You can control a virus. You can stop a virus with antibiotics. The gospel you cannot stop even if you try to. So, they are mildly similar in this regard. The gospel is in control and cannot be stopped. A virus is in control unless it is stopped.

Paul has been discussing his prayer for the Colossians. He has told them the reason for his thankfulness to God and he is beginning to get into the details of his prayer. He will do that in verse 9. However, before Paul gets to the content of his prayer he digresses. Seems like the word “gospel” gets Paul all side-tracked. He has to explain it. He has to expound upon the gospel. He has to share his excitement with the Colossians. That is why we have verse 6-8 in our Bibles. Paul wants to share in the joy of the spread of the gospel, both externally and internally in the lives of the Colossians.

If you look at the end of verse 5 you see where hope comes from. It comes from the gospel. The picture is that the gospel produces hope, which, in turn produces faith and love. This in turn produces the “fellow servants” and “faithful ministers” like Epaphras. Then their hope spreads to others, which in turn produces hope in others. Then 2000 years later you have you and I that are sitting under the teaching of the word. The gospel changes people internally then it spreads externally. We will look at the external spread of the gospel first.

The external spread of the gospel

Here comes a really obvious statement: in order for a tree to grow a seed must be planted. In the same way in order for the gospel to grow in a life a seed must be planted. That seed is the gospel, the hearing of the gospel. We see this in 1 Peter 1:23, “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God...” We are born again by the Lord implanting the gospel into our hearts. But this also happens in communities. The gospel is planted and it changes things.

This is what Paul means when he says “the gospel, which has come to you”. This idea of “coming to you” means more than just arriving. This is more like implanting. One commentator says it is like “snuggling up against”. The gospel was preached in Colossae and it found a home. Once this seed is planted noticed again what it says in 1 Peter 1:23. It is imperishable. That means once a true gospel seed is planted it will grow. It is an imperishable seed. It will not die off. It will come to fruition. And that is what see happening in the lives of the Colossians. The gospel has been planted there.

Paul says that this gospel “came to you” and then he says, “It is bearing fruit”. This simply means that the gospel has not only been planted it is growing. It’s not as if a few mental patients decided to follow these crazy loons and their Jesus. This gospel is making a difference in culture after culture. It is extending beyond the borders of Jerusalem. Notice the big word that Paul uses there, “in the whole world”. Now, he is exaggerating a little. He does not mean that every dark corner of the earth has heard the gospel. Much of the world had yet to be discovered. Paul is simply saying that the gospel has begun to spread throughout the entire known world.

It is really astonishing when you think of what was accomplished by the early church. Has there ever really been anything like this in history. I think we have lost the beauty of what is happening here. Remember this started with the incarnation of God. One man, Jesus. Albeit, God, he is still one person. He in turn builds a band of 12 disciples. One guy has the nerve to betray him. Throughout his ministry on earth it increases. Sometimes there are masses of people, maybe even as many as 10,000 that are following him. Yet, many of these fall away. After his death you can count about 120 Christians gathered in an upper room. 120. The year is around 34 BC. Fast forward about 70 years and it is estimated that some half a million Christians are spread throughout the Roman Empire.

When Paul says that this gospel is spreading to the entire world he means it. One man that lived in the second century, Tertullian said this, “We are but of yesterday, and yet we already fill your cities, islands, camps, your palace, senate, and forum. We have left you only your temples.” This has permeated every area of the Roman Empire; from peasant to palace.

The nature of this gospel is astonishing. The very Paul that we are reading these words from was once a man that persecuted the church. He probably killed Christians; then something happened. Jesus met him. The Word of God was planted in Paul. It took root. And what happens, he becomes a great missionary. Thousands upon thousands are converted through the ministry of Paul. But what is astonishing is that the gospel does not even need Paul. The gospel flourishes even through simple men like Epaphras. It spreads through a prostitute that met Jesus at a well. The gospel spreads through a widow. The gospel spreads through little children. The gospel spreads amidst death, persecution, famine. Nothing can stop this gospel and it depends upon the success of no man. The gospel is powerful and it stands on its own.

Listen to what Paul says of this gospel in another place. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth”. Who is behind this gospel growth? Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe.

Perhaps this is why Paul also uses another bold word. Not only has the gospel been planted, but it is also bearing fruit. But Paul does not stop there. He says that it is increasing in the whole world. It’s not as if the gospel has merely been planted. Nor has it even stopped with gaining a few followers scattered through the empire. It is increasing in every spot that it is bearing fruit.

We can see what this term means by looking at two other places where Jesus uses it. In Matthew 13:32 Jesus talks about the gospel that is the smallest seed (you almost can hear this passage here) but when it is grown (that is our word) it is larger than all the trees in the garden. It starts small then it ends up being the biggest kid on the block. Then again in Mark 4:8 it is used of the seed that fell on good soil that grew up and “increased” and yielded 30, 60, and 100 fold. Starts with one seed and you end up with 100 times that amount.

We see then the external spread of the gospel. All of this is in a sense a spread of hope. Each of these believers is filled with the hope of the gospel. This hope produces the fruit of faith and love. These believers inspired by faith and love begin boldly taking this gospel to the nations. Their hope has become contagious.

Paul then does something really neat. It must have been very encouraging to the Colossians. He is painting a beautiful picture of the spread of the gospel. It starts with the smallest seed and then it spreads and overcomes the entire world. This gospel has permeated everything. It is bearing fruit and increasing…as it also does in you. Did you catch that? This planting, bearing, increasing is also happening in the lives of the Colossians. And this is the last thing we will look at.

The internal spread of the gospel

It is one thing for this gospel to spread to the nations. It is quite another for this glorious gospel to spread through your entire being. The picture then is that this gospel plants a seed in your life. It gives you new life. You may not see drastic change all of a sudden. It might even be a few months or so before you start to see the beginning signs of fruit. Then, before you know it you see fruit. What fruit? Faith and Love certainly would be an example. You can also learn about this fruit in Galatians 5: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. You are changed. You start looking different. You start acting different. You look more like Jesus. You start to like those weirdo’s at the church. You find yourself getting wrapped up in worship songs to Jesus. You find yourself loving people you once despised. You begin to develop an inner peace that you cannot describe. Instead of getting angry you start to develop patience. You are kinder. You are gentler. You find yourself being more true to your word. Everything has changed. It is a noticeable difference. Just as people noticed the amazing spread of the gospel to the nations so people will notice this gospel change in your life.
Then guess what happens. Once you start seeing fruit produced by this gospel. You start to reproduce it. Your hope becomes contagious. You preach this glorious gospel to others and God causes growth. God spreads the gospel through you. The internal then become external. Yet it does not stop there. It continues to grow, and bear more fruit, and increase more, and reproduce more, and grow more and more and more. And the gospel grows more, and you grow more.


1) Use this time to reflect on whether or not you have biblical hope.

Remember biblical hope is grounded. Biblical hope will produce these things. You will see fruit and it will be contagious. Has it changed your life? Are you beginning to see the fruits of external growth as well? Is this hope spilling out of you into the lives of the others? Is your hope so sure that you are able to leap out in faith? Is your hope so certain that you are able to forget yourself and focus on loving others? If not either your level of hope needs to be driven deeper, or you need to have it in the first place. How do you attain biblical hope? It starts with the gospel and it ends with the gospel. Verse 5 tells us this. Hope comes from the gospel, the Word of Truth. If you want to increase your level of hope then get grounded in the gospel. How does that happen? It happens through the Word of God. Read the Word. Meditate on the Word. Pray the Word. Live a life grounded in the Word. And there meet the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Redirect your heart and eyes from the world to the gospel. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. In drawing near to God He is certain to meet you with the gospel and fill you with biblical hope.

2) Be intentional about expressing the fruits of hope

Do not shy away from pursuing faith and love. Pray for more. Pray that you may love like 1 Corinthians 13. Pray that you may love Jesus’ bride, His church, as you ought. Pray that you might have more faith. Take steps of faith. Be intentional about these things.

3) Do not be afraid of being contagious

Your hope should spread to other people. If you have hope and you do not share it that is not the loving thing to do. Do not bow down to the idol of tolerance. It is abandoning the God that saved you and it is refusing to love your neighbor. Tolerance is not our God.

4) If the gospel is as powerful as the Scripture says it is then it does not need you to doctor it up, make it appealing, nor does it depend upon your abilities.

This is bad news to the clever and the greatest news in the world to the simple, although it does leave us all without an excuse. Look at how the gospel spread. Look at the men that spread it. Smelly Fisherman. Tax Collectors. Zealots. Hardly the religious elite. Look at the way they spread it. Simple preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Hardly appealing, sometimes downright offensive.

5) The only fountain of hope is Jesus Christ.

You will not find hope anywhere else. The only hope that is “laid up for you” is the hope that is in Jesus Christ. Only the hope that springs from the gospel and spills over into faith and love ought to give us cause for hope. Only Jesus can create that type of hope. Your only hope is Jesus Christ. He is the hope of glory!

Is Jesus Sufficient? An Overview of Colossians

Scripture Introduction:

Is Jesus really sufficient?

Sermon Introduction:

We learn from 2:4 Paul’s central purpose in writing this letter. “I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments”. Paul’s letter is to prevent this little church from being swept up by heresy. There appears to be a very real danger that they will abandon Jesus and either embrace a new teaching or fall back into a form of paganism. This strange teaching is known as the Colossian heresy.

It is really difficult to understand the Colossian heresy. It is kind of like overhearing a phone conversation. All you really get to hear is one side of the argument. When you do that you can really get messed up. There is an episode of Dick Van Dyke that I remember where Rob hears Laura’s telephone conversation. In actuality she is talking about throwing a surprise birthday party for rob. But he is convinced that she is talking to a secret boyfriend. Long story short he ends up ruining the surprise and feels like a real idiot. That is the danger that we run in trying to understand the Colossian heresy.

We will try to paint an effective picture of what is going on. We only have a few pieces but the pieces that we do have I believe can fit together and we can get a fairly clear understanding of what is going on.

1) The first thing that we can discern about this heresy is that it has a Jewish element to it. We know that there is a Jewish element because of the references to circumcision in 2:11, as well as mentioning the festivals, new moons and Sabbaths. Because Paul refers to them as a “shadow” of things to come, we can deduct that he is speaking to a Jewish audience. Paul’s argument is that these things are pointing to Jesus. That cannot be said about pagan rituals, only the differing festivals and such in the Old Testament. So, this heresy is going to seem as if it is grounded in biblical truth. They will probably throw around a few Bible verses to prove their point.

2) The next thing that we know is that it is a philosophy. Everybody likes to have a neat little package that seems to hold the answer to everything. That is what this Colossian heresy is doing. Now again, this is not one of those 100% certain type of things. But a few people did quite a bit of extensive research into the culture of Asia Minor during this period. One of the ideas is that they were very afraid of spirits/gods. They had tons of superstitions and all sorts of rituals to try to ward off these evil spirits. They found books upon books of curses that people would cast on one another. It was a culture of fear. One solution to this problem was to have a guardian angel of sorts. They found necklaces with names of angels and various gods that were supposed to protect them. One such solution might have been this Colossian heresy. Regardless of what it offered we can figure that it was a fairly developed system of philosophy.

3) Part of this system was asceticism. Paul mentions this in 2:18 and 2:23. The proponents of this heresy were very much into beating the bad flesh out of you. This may sound a little familiar to when we studied 1 John. There is probably a hint of those beliefs here in Colossae. Because of the asceticism we can figure that they probably held a view of matter being evil and spirit being good. You had to beat out the flesh so that your body would be pure. But that is not absolutely necessary. Asceticism could have been one of the initiation rites into this special group. Regardless of all the intricacies we do know that this heresy held that asceticism was necessary to have this higher spiritual experience.

4) This, spiritual elitism, is the fourth thing that we can learn from this heresy. It prided itself on being more spiritual than those that were not “initiated”. We get the idea from a few words that Paul uses throughout this letter that the followers of this Colossian heresy were disqualifying the “uninitiated”. Apparently they were saying that you have no inheritance in Jesus, or no hope in life, or no riches, unless you are part of our group. As Paul says they were indeed, “puffed up”. This spiritual elitism did not come from a vibrant relationship with Jesus. This spiritual elitism came from following all these practices: asceticism, worship of angels, having visions.

5) No matter what we make of all the various details surrounding this Colossian heresy one thing is the root of each of them; the central issue with the Colossian heresy is a denial of the sufficiency of Christ. This is where Paul drops anchor and camps out. This is the central issue for Paul. You can talk about shamans, and healers, and spiritual elitism, and visions, and asceticism and all of this; but the thing that centrally concerned Paul is the denial of the sufficiency of Christ. Is Jesus enough to save you? Do you need more? Is he a sufficient treasure for you? Is Jesus big enough to take care of the boogey men or is he not? Did you need more than Jesus?

And this is where we find our relationship with the Colossians. That same question is asked of us. Is Jesus enough for you? Is Jesus sufficient to solve your problems? Is Jesus enough to get you through difficult times? Is Jesus enough to keep your attention in the midst of blessings? Is Jesus enough to qualify you to receive the inheritance of heaven? Is Jesus a sufficient treasure? That is the question.

So what Paul did for the Colossians some 2000 years ago he will do for us tonight, he will answer our question. Is Jesus sufficient? And if Jesus is sufficient what does that mean for those that are trusting in Him? There are two major ways that Paul shows the sufficiency of Christ. Jesus is sufficient in His Person and Jesus is sufficient in His Work. The person of Jesus is sufficient as our Leader. The work of Jesus is sufficient as our Redemption.

I. Don’t be stupid but have hope, because the person of Jesus is sufficient

Early on in the letter Paul is going to make it very clear what biblical truth is. Paul is going to preach the biblical gospel for the Colossians to hear. Certainly, by reintroducing them to this powerful Jesus the believers at Colossae will give up their stupid attraction to this philosophy. Certainly, they will see that Jesus is sufficient. Certainly, we too will not be so stupid as to think that we need something else.

Now let me kind of set this text up for you. We will be looking at Colossians 1:15-20 to help us see this point. But before we read that text let me try to put you there. Let’s take the view that these Colossians are afraid of these spirits. Whether it be a small view of Yahweh and influenced by their Judaism is a possibly. Just imagine with me that you have this group of people that are really afraid that spirits are going to get them. They are cautious not to step on thresholds. They avoid wearing certain clothes that attract the spirits. They keep garlic around their neck. They refuse to say certain words, and they never let a black cat cross their path especially on Thursdays. These people are in absolute bondage to their fear.

That might be a decent background picture. But you’re not a whack-job like that. You do not keep shaving cream on your nose to ward off evil spooks. But I ask you, what is your life all about? It seems as if their main goal is not to be swallowed up by these evil spirits. Or perhaps it was to be a very good Jew that is acceptable and not utterly consumed by God. Their goal appears to be survival. Their life was in danger of being wasted on futile attempts at survival. What about your life? What are the “rules” that you live by to try to get what you desire? How do you define success and how are you going to go about achieving it? That is a central question for you. Maybe it is survival. I want to be popular at school and not be picked on. I want friends. I do not want to be an outcast. I really, only want to fit in. Maybe your aspirations are a little bigger. Perhaps the best athlete. Maybe make the team. Maybe get a girlfriend. Possibly a wife, start a family. Have kids. Get a good job. Make lots of money. Get a ton of really cool possessions. Maybe your goal in life is to free up as much time as possible so that you can spend your life doing what you want to do—play video games, watch television, etc. And when you realize how you define success what are the “rules” to the game that will get you there? Is it shooting free throws for an hour a day? Is it buying clothes to make you attractive, reading relationship books, trying to figure out how to get your “mack-on”? (That was a term when I was younger, I am sure it is not still). Do you have to go to school, get good grades, go to college, get good grades, find a good job and slowly climb the corporate ladder? But you know that these things are hard. Something in you tells you that success is outside of your realm of power. Even if you practice baseball for 8 hours a day and bat .800 in conference play, you still have to get noticed by a scout. You still have to be good enough for them. What will you have to do to get a successful job? Even if your goal is as small as survival, you know that it is not in your hands. You know that you can be like my buddy Clinton in grade school. Coolest kid in grade school, until one day he steps in dog poop. Then he becomes Clinton the kid that smeared dog poop all over our class with his shoes. Popular one second, dog-poop boy the next.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

We will look at this text in depth in a few weeks. For now it is enough to look at its overall assertion. It appears that in this text Paul is saying that all of creation was made by him, through him, and for him. What does that tell us? It tells us the reason for our existence. It ought to tell us how to define success. Or at least point us to who does define success. If all of creation, which includes me, was made for Jesus, then it ought to tell me something about to whom I belong to. I was not made for myself. I was made for Jesus. If anyone can define success it’s not really me. He defines success. He created us. He owns us. He defines it. There is someone bigger than me. It’s not all about me. It’s all about Him.

So what does that assertion mean to the guy scared to death of evil spirits? One thing it means that its not just about your survival. Creation is not about whether or not you are even accepted by Yahweh, and whether or not you are utterly consumed by Him. Creation is not about you. It’s about Jesus. It’s for Jesus. The fate of your soul is about Jesus. It’s to exalt Jesus. It’s not about you. It also ought to let us know that the evil spirits are not in charge. Jesus is. If this is true, and even if we permit the belief in all these evil spooks out to get us, it’s not about them. Even they, some how, some way, were created for Jesus. You ought not be afraid of them. If you are to have any fear it ought to be directed towards this Jesus.

Your life is about Jesus. It’s not about you. But there is comfort to that too. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” If that is the case then it means that Jesus is in charge. That’s not simply saying that Jesus ought to be in charge, if we would let him. This text is not saying that man is really in charge but we just need to let Jesus sit on his throne. We need to get off the throne and let him sit where he rightfully belongs. No, it means that Jesus IS sitting on the throne and our life will be a lot better if we do not challenge Him and try to take His seat. He doesn’t like that. He is not going to let you sit there. You won’t even get a cheek on his throne. Jesus IS in charge, of everything.

What does that mean? It means that these little evil spooks are not in charge. Your little magical angel necklaces do not do anything. In HIM all things hold together. Jesus is holding stuff together. That means that nothing happens in your life that doesn’t first go through His hands. If an “evil spook” does get you it means he had to ask permission from Jesus first.

This section, verse 15-17 is Paul’s pointing to Jesus as over all of Creation. It has application then for every man under the sun. Nobody is outside the realm of this. It means that you were created by Jesus, through Jesus, and for Jesus. (That concept of “through” may be a little confusing, we will address that in a few weeks). Your life is not your own. It belongs to Jesus. And it also means that every person here tonight, Jesus IS in charge of your life. He IS in control. Not everyone willfully submits to that. But guess what? He’s still in charge. He’s the King whether you make Him that or not. That’s why I do not particularly care for the phrase, “make Jesus Lord of your life”. I understand what is meant. And to a certain degree it is true. But it can be confusing. Jesus is Lord of your life. You just do not acknowledge His Lordship. He is in charge, you are just a rebel.

Verses 18-20 have a different audience, the church. This is especially important for the Colossians to grasp, as it is for those of us tonight that are believers. “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconciled to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross”. This is going to spill over a little into our second point. This is dealing with the work of Christ’s redemption. We will look at that in a moment, but notice what application this has for the believers.

Who is in charge of the church? Is it the pastor? The deacons? The youth pastor (we know that’s not true)? We are southern Baptist, that means the congregation is the final authority right? If we think it does then we don’t believe the Bible. No, Jesus Christ is the head. He is the final authority. He is the head. Not my opinion. Not your opinion. Jesus. He is the head of the Church.

There is something really important in this text that we will address in the coming weeks. Let me just hint to it right now. How many of you would say that you are believers? That you believe in Jesus and that you are saved? Now, how many of you are active members (that means attending, serving, tithing, etc.) in a local church? If some of you raised your hand to the first one but not the second, you should really question whether or not you should have raised your hand on the first question. I know that is a really shocking statement. And you might think that I am teaching that going to church saves you. Of course I am not. But I really believe that the Bible teaches that if you are saved then you will want to be an active part of the body. If Jesus is the Head of the church, and you are not an active part of the church what does that mean? It means that you are cut off from your head.

What were the Colossian heretics doing? Notice 2:18-19, we have the list of things that they are doing, now notice verse 19. “…and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together though its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God”. They are cut off from the body. They are not holding fast to the Head. When you aren’t holding fast to Jesus you aren’t a part of the body. But the converse to that is also true. If you are not holding fast to the body then you are not connected to the head either. And what happens when you are not connected to the Head? No growth. And what happens if there is no growth. This is exactly what Jesus was teaching in John 15, “every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away”.

But look at the positive side of this; if you are connected to the Head. What happens to those that are connected to the Head? We already learned that they grow, but the blessings of reconciliation are also ours. The fullness of God dwells in Jesus Christ the head. We know God because of Jesus. We are reconciled to God. As Chapter 3 says our lives are hidden with Christ. “When Christ who is your life appear, then you also will appear with him in glory”. Oh, the riches that are in Jesus. He is sufficient for us. He is all that we need.

Therefore, we ought to have hope. If you are connected to the Head, you ought to have hope. Do not be stupid and looking for other things. It’s all right there in Jesus. Here is your hope. Here is your life. It’s in Jesus. Don’t be stupid, but have hope.

II. Don’t be stupid but have hope, because the work of Jesus is sufficient

Sin is so ensnaring. It is such a vicious and dumb cycle. Sin robs us of hope. The Colossians, whatever the reason for their fear, probably had a reason. They were sinful, and they knew it. They probably had an understanding of who God is. They knew Yahweh. They also knew that if you did wrong things Yahweh got ticked off. What gets scary is when you combine this view with pagan beliefs. You start getting scared of Yahweh in the wrong way and you forget that He is merciful. You start doing things to try to appease Him. You figure he hates sin, so you punish your body. I’d rather punish my body than have God do it. I’m sure His spankings hurt worse. I’ll be a little nicer. God likes angels. So, what if I worship like an angel. What if I get a few angels on my side to protect me, surely God will like me then. Certainly, if I train really hard and do all of these things then God will like me then. Maybe since I have visions it’s a good sign that he’ll stay off my back. Then you start developing all of these beliefs disqualifying others. Making them jump through the same hoops. You seem to be doing okay, so maybe if they follow your 7 step program they’ll be in good shape too. All the while you forget about Jesus.

We do the exact same thing. We try to solve our sin problem by stuff that we do. Remember this when we talked about legalism? We are not going to go in depth on this again. You remember the stuff that we talked about. Bible study, prayer, church, accountability partners, Bible memorization, baptism, all of these good things we use to smuggle our character into God’s work of grace. You know that you’ve done it. You screw up or you go through an especially difficult time spiritually, then you come up with an ingenious solution. I’ll do this more. I’ll pay penance by reading my Bible more. I’ll try to be a better Christian, that will cover over my sin. Brothers and sisters, read your Bible, but do not do it to try to win favor with God. You do not need to jump through these hoops to be saved from the boogie man, and you do not need to jump through these hoops to be acceptable in God’s sight. There is only one thing that will make you acceptable and that has already been done. Listen to what Paul says:

Right after saying that he gives thanks to God for the Colossians and admonishing the Colossians to return the thanks to God he says, “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” And then skipping down to verse 21, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him…” Then moving down to 2:13, “and you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them”.

Wow! Did you catch all of those big words in there? And remember two weeks ago. We talked about some of these big words. What has God done through Jesus Christ? Qualified you! Delivered Us! Transferred Us! Redemption! Forgiveness! Reconciled! He will present us Holy and Blameless and Above Reproach! He has made us Alive! Forgiven us! Cancelled the Record that stood against us! Set aside our condemnation! He disarmed all those against us!

What is left you ask? What more needs to be done? And that is what Paul wants to leave us with. There is nothing left. Jesus has done it. He has finished the work. He has completed all of this for us.


Much of the implications from this we will draw out in the coming weeks. But for tonight I simply want to say this, Jesus is sufficient.