Friday, April 11, 2008

How Does a Beggar Glorify a Rich Man

How a Beggar Glorifies a Rich Man
Colossians 1:9-14 (Part 2)
Giving Thanks for the Work of God

Scripture Introduction:

Last week I quoted a church historian that said of many Christians that, “below the surface of their lives are guilt-ridden and insecure…[and] draw the assurance of their acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience.” Is this not the plight of many of us? As most Christians we believe that God loves us. We might have a hard time and question that, but typically we know that God loves us. The question on many of our hearts, however, is not whether or not God loves us. The question on many of our hearts is whether or not God likes us. We know he loves us, but does he like us? Is He pleased with us?

Often our questions get deeper and darker; especially during times of spiritual drought and unconfessed sin. Rather than wondering whether God likes us we drive the question a little deeper. Does God accept me? As most Christians we believe that God is holy and cannot look upon sin. This gives us a theological problem when we consider the fact of our continuing sin. If God cannot look at sin, and I am sinful, then how can He accept me? We all understand that Jesus took our sin, but what do we do with the sin after we become Christians? Does God still forget about those? Are we really accepted by God, even if we continue to be screw-ups? These questions, I believe, are underlying Paul’s prayer for the Colossians.

Colossians 1:9-14

Sermon Introduction:

Paul is praying that the Colossians may give thanks for the work of God in their life. This, of course, is always our goal, to give praise and thanksgiving to God. To glorify Him in all that we do. This is the foundation of Paul’s prayer; his hope that the church at Colossae may join in the myriad of saints in the eternal praise of God. But how are we to do that? What does it mean to give thanks to God? How do you do that?

Is it a simple thank you? Is it something to the effect of, “look what God has done for you, now what are you going to give him”? Perhaps we can best come to answer by giving an analogy. Imagine a beggar. He has no cash. His clothes are tattered and torn. His breath is smelly. His hair is unkempt. His biggest hope is to get a few coins to get a coffee or a beer to drown out his pain. Every afternoon around 3:00 he waits outside a successful law firm, hoping to get a few coins from the wealthy employees. One day a young businessman exits the law firm. It has been a relatively tough day and his mind is wandering and his heart is betting a little excited about his plans for the evening. Suddenly, he is awakened from his day-slumber. He notices the man. The beggar. The tattered clothes. He reaches in his pocket for a few quarters, but something hits him. Perhaps it was a Sunday school lesson from his childhood, maybe it was the Mexican he had for lunch. He decides to really bless this beggar. Rather than giving this man a few dollars to get him through the night. The man decides to lavish riches upon the beggar. He stoops down to the old man, and asks him if he would like to go for a ride. Of course, the beggar is a little reluctant, but with a little pleading he follows the man. What happens next is almost unbelievable. The rich lawyer goes to the closest 5th Avenue store and buys the beggar an expensive suit. They get a haircut. He takes the man to get a shower. He takes him out for a really nice dinner. Then at the end of the night he gives the beggar a key chain. On the key chain is a key to his new car, his new house, and to the building of his new office. He has taken the beggar off the street and set him in the lap of luxury. Now, how does the beggar give gratitude to the rich man? If we can speak this away, how would the beggar glorify the rich man? How would he magnify the works of the rich man? What could the beggar do to make the rich man shine the brightest?
Our answer to that question, will dictate whether or not we understand thanksgiving and gratitude towards God. What we see in Paul’s prayer is that the Colossians (as well as us) ought to give thanks to God for the great work that he has done. We are like the beggar. And God is like the rich man. There are a few differences and we will iron those out as we move through the text. Asking how a beggar glorifies a rich man is like asking, how a helpless redeemed sinner glorifies God.

Tonight Paul is going to pray that the Colossians might give thanks, and in this prayer he is going to show the reason why they ought to give thanks. The big thing, and we will flesh out what this means, is that God has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints of light. What on earth does that even mean?

First we must consider the historical situation that the Colossians church was in. Remember the group of heretics that were preaching fullness outside of Christ. These same people were also trying to discourage and disqualify the Colossians. It was a form of spiritual elitism. A good example of this would have been the time that a guy informed me that I was not saved because I had yet to receive the Ghost. What he meant by this is that because I had not yet been slain in the spirit or because I do not speak in tongues, then it is evident that I am not actually saved. In his view because I did not have this spiritual experience I was disqualified from a place in heaven. We see a similar thing in Colossians 2:18, “let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind…” These people had a special spiritual experience and they went around disqualifying everyone that did not have it. This caused those in Colossae, to question their faith.

In light of this we note a key word that Paul uses in his prayer. When you are studying a letter written by Paul, be certain to pay especially close attention to his introduction and his prayers. It will typically give a few hints as to what the letter is about and why it is written. Here we pick up on two really key themes. Those two key themes are the work of God in qualifying us, and that which He has qualified us for—the inheritance.

What is this inheritance? There are a few things mentioned in Scripture, such as the ruling of angels, inheriting the earth, a glorified body, partakers in the kingdom of God, to name a few. But more than anything we find that the hope of glory, the inheritance is God Himself. The language is similar in 2:3, where Paul says, “God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” The concept of inheritance is all throughout the New Testament, and our author, Paul, uses it more than any other author. For him the inheritance is entry into the Kingdom of God and all that this entails. If we know Paul and understand his great passion is to know and be known by Jesus Christ then we can be certain that entry in the kingdom has something to do with enjoyment of the King.

What he is saying then is that the Colossians have gotten their entry ticket. They have been qualified by God. He has qualified them. Just as our story with the beggar we have done nothing to earn it. All we have done is play the part of beggar. He has graciously decided to bestow upon us all of these gifts. He has decided to qualify us, make us acceptable, for the kingdom of God.

If you are in Jesus Christ then you are qualified. Period. This is objective truth. This is truth outside yourself. This is true whether you feel it or not. As Sam Storms has said:

Whatever feelings of inadequacy or sense of shame or depths of despair may have crippled you till now, God has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light! If you found yourself saying, "I'm not up to the task. I'm a miserable failure. I'm a hell-deserving wretch. I don't deserve to stand in God's presence. The only thing I should inherit is death," God now says to those who are in Christ: "Qualified! Forgiven! Adequate in Jesus! Righteous in my Son! Come and receive and enjoy your inheritance together with all the saints in the life-giving, soul-cleansing light of my kingdom!"

Now because of this work of God we ought to give thanks. We ought to give thanks to the one that has qualified us and has given us a part in the inheritance. Tonight we will look at two things. What has God done to qualify us? How do we give Him thanks?

I. Because God has conquered our greatest foe we must give thanks

In some ways Paul has closed his prayer at verse 12. He is, expounding upon, fleshing out his prayer from verse 13 on. In verse 13-14 he is letting us know more about the Father’s work in qualifying us. Verse 15-20 will specifically deal with who Jesus is and His work. Verse 21-23 is going to make it personal and put us under the foot of the Cross and show what benefits we have received from this work. All of this is under the title of the Father who has qualified you. Paul’s desire in this first section and his hope even in his prayer, is to give the Colossians hope and assurance so that they might press on in their faith. He is reminding them here that they God has qualified them. But how? What has God done specifically to qualify them?

The first thing that God has done, and we see this in the first part of verse 13, is that God has conquered our greatest foe. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness…” This word for delivered is a beautiful word. It was used to describe a soldier going to a wounded comrade on the battlefield and snatching him to safety. It is a powerful and very active word. This is the thing that fairy tales are made of. This is the knight swooping through the air with arrows flying to save the princess. This is the parent going into a blazing building to save his helpless child. This is a rescue mission.

Again notice the part we play. We are the helpless child. We are the princess. We are the wounded comrade. Yet, all of those analogies do not quite cut it. We have sympathy for the helpless child. We see the beauty in the princess. We have loyalty to draw us to our wounded comrade. A better picture would be of a man whose daughter was being raped and murdered. After committing this atrocious act the perpetrator finds himself trapped in the house that he was trying to burn down to dispose of the evidence. Fully aware of what this man had just done, the husband flies into the burning house to save the murdering rapist that just killed his daughter. He has rescued this man.

We are appalled by that story and would probably rather see the murdering rapist burnt. We feel that this is a great injustice. At least until we realize that we are the murdering rapist. For, we have done far worse. We took part in killing God’s Son. I am aware theologically that God killed His Son. I am aware of that. But that death would not have been necessary had we not been there yelling crucify Him. It was our sin that held him that necessitated it. Yet, God still came and rescued us.

What did he deliver us from? What was our greatest foe? Paul says here that it was the domain of darkness. What is that? Domain is kind of like kingdom. It could be translated kingdom, but I think that might fall a little short. The domain is that which is under the power of a ruler. While you are in this domain you are under his rule. In this case the domain of darkness is that which is under Satan’s realm of influence. Scripture often speaks of the world as the domain of darkness. By world we would mean world system; that which is under the influence of the devil. Yet also factored into all of this is the flesh. Our flesh is fallen and serves its master joyously. Apart from Christ we serve our flesh. Our flesh serves the devil. And then God’s Law also stands before us to condemn us, and give us the rightful sentence of death. This domain of darkness is not including the Law. It is holy and good. But the Law stands to condemn all those in the domain of darkness.

The reality is that tonight you are either in one of two kingdoms. Either you are in the kingdom of his beloved Son, that we will look at in a moment, or you are in the domain of darkness. There is no middle ground. Do you realize what it means to be under the influence of Satan? We are not speaking here of demonic possession, although that is possible. What we are speaking of is being constantly influenced by Satan. All of your decisions, your heart that you are told to trust so much, everything is blinded by Satan. Even your ability to hear the gospel tonight is affected by this. If you walk out of here tonight without a passion and love for Jesus Christ it is because Satan is still blinding you. Listen to what Jonathan Edwards says of those that are in the domain of darkness:

"always exposed to destruction as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall...always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction...every moment liable to once without warning" Edwards goes on to write that we were all once in danger of spending eternity apart from God -- "God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost...The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. "

This is your state apart from Christ; in the domain of darkness. All of us that are in Christ this was at one point our state. As Paul says in his almost parallel letter to the Ephesians, “And you were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

In Colossians it says that God delivered us from this domain of darkness. In Ephesians Paul fleshes that out a little more. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ”. This is what God has done. He has qualified us by conquering our greatest foe. We will look at the specifics of how he did this at a different time. For now it is enough to say that he has done it! Scripture is proclaiming here that he has rescued us from the domain of darkness. He has come into the world and conquered the tight reign that the devil had. We are no longer under the power and influence of the devil. The grip of his influence has been broken. The chains of the flesh are now broken. Christian you are no longer in bondage to sin. You do not “have to sin”. You choose to. This is both freeing and saddening. It is liberating because we do not have to be conquered by any sin. But it is saddening and ought to cause us to weep because our sin now is far more deliberate. Still covered by the blood of Jesus, but still not pleasing to God. As the Puritan Thomas Watson said, “the sins of the wicked pierce Christ’s sides, the sins of the godly wound his heart.” Nonetheless, we have been rescued from the domain of darkness.

We ought to give thanks for God in this area. How? Again, how would a beggar show gratitude to a rich man. Does he try to pay him back? Is that how he makes him look glorious? Does he give him gifts? What about undying allegiance and devotion. Perhaps, that is part of it. But we are trying to say thank you to the rich man. Perhaps one way the beggar could say thanks would be to not squander his gifts on beer. It would be most unthankful for the beggar to go back to his old way of life. To sell his new house for drugs would be most unthankful. To pawn off his suit to buy beer would not be showing thanks. Another way he could not give thanks would be to live out on the street in front of his new house. The man has qualified him to live in the house. Yet, if the beggar is too proud and decides to still live on the street it will be a slap in the face. If he says I do not feel like I am qualified, therefore, I ought to get what I deserve, I will live on the street until I can pay for this house. That would not be saying thanks. The way for the beggar to show the most gratitude would be to live in the house, enjoy his new life, and not go back into the old way of living. To continue to be homeless while a man has bought you a house is not holy it is stupid. To continue to live on the streets when you have been delivered from that way of life is absolutely ignorant and is not displaying gratitude.

Therefore, how do we give God thanks for this? One way is to not continue living in sin. This is not an “earning salvation” type of thing. It is just simple common sense and it is biblical. If you have been redeemed from sin how can you live in it any longer? This is Paul’s simple admonishment in Romans 6:12-14, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been bought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace”. Paul is saying here what we have been saying this whole time. Do not be a stupid beggar and stay on the street when God has given you a house to live in.


II. Because God has secured our greatest joy, we must give thanks

If we go back to our analogy of the murdering rapist saved in the fire, I think we will see how astonishing this point is. It was an amazing act of kindness to save the man. That is enough to blow your mind. But to take the man into your home, pay all of his doctor bills, and adopt him as your own son is unheard of. This is, on a much smaller scale, what God has done with us. Of course we can never have a fitting analogy because our sin against each other pales in comparison to our sin against our Creator. Our love will always be tainted. God’s love is not. But this helps us to at least get a picture of what God is doing here. Not only did he rescue us, but he also transferred us into his kingdom.

Rather then than being under the rule and influence of Satan we are under the rule and influence of the loving King Jesus. We will learn much more about this beloved Son in the coming weeks. For now let us see the benefits of being transferred into His kingdom. He gives us redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

It is one thing to rescue someone, it is quite another to restore someone. That is what Christ is doing here. In fact that is what Christ has done. He has secured our redemption. Redemption carries with it the idea of being delivered from slavery. In order to redeem someone a price must be paid. At this point the KJV adds the words “through his blood”. Those words are more than likely not in the original and should not be added here. Nonetheless, the theology behind it is accurate. We have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Jesus blood bought us back. It paid the ransom. It is true that we were in bondage to Satan. And there is one sense in which he secured our redemption from that. But more than anything the redemption price was paid to God. It was His Law that stood against us. And Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law and paid the penalty of the Law with his blood thus securing our redemption. We are forgiven our sins.

As we began the sermon we again quoted the church historian. I will quote him once more. Referring to most Christians he says that, “below the surface of their lives are guilt-ridden and insecure…[and] draw the assurance of their acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience.”

First let’s discuss this in light of our call to give thanks. Would the beggar be showing his gratitude by living a life with a somber face as if nothing had ever changed? Would the best way for him to show gratitude and glorify the rich man not be to enjoy the rich man’s gifts, and all the while giving the rich man credit for every ounce of joy that comes his way? If he is miserable in a new house, then is it any different than him being miserable on the street? Christ has secured our greatest joy—union with Himself. If we are not living in that and enjoying that then are we really giving thanks? So, our admonishment tonight is to enjoy what Christ has purchased. Live like we are saved. What does that mean?Live like you are free. Enjoy your salvation. It frees you to love. It frees you to give. It frees you to worship. It frees you serve. It frees you from the grip of guilt. It frees you from the bondage of sin. It frees you to live life as it was meant to live. It frees you from being distracted by the cares of the world and allows you to enjoy some of the blessings God gives us, like sunsets. Like babies. Like friends. Like love. Live like you have been saved.

It also frees you to mourn. It frees you to have hope in the midst of trials. It frees you to suffer for a cause. It frees you to give your life to something meaningful. It frees you to spill your blood for the great cause of proclaiming Christ to the nations. It frees you to do that which gives the greatest joy, making Christ the only boast of this generation. Live like you have a new King.

And some of you are probably sitting there thinking, but I don’t feel saved. I don’t feel forgiven. I don’t fell joyful. I don’t feel like I’m free from the bondage of sin. I don’t feel like enjoying a sunset. I don’t feel free.

This is the difference between subjective and objective. Notice what the church historian said defined most Christians, where they drew their assurance…”by their past, their performance, their level of sinning, and their feelings of guilt or lack thereof.” All of those are subjective. It is something that is inward, something that is happening to you. It is shifting. It changes. Therefore your assurance changes. Your security changes. Your feelings change. Your relationship with God changes. How you are doing with Jesus changes. Notice what is missing from their definition and the way Paul talks about this. Look at what is missing from Colossians 1:9-14. “You” or “we” in an active voice, that is what is missing. The Father has qualified you. The Father is active, we are passive. It has happened to us. It is something that is outside of us. Notice that He has delivered us. Again, “he” is active. “Us” is passive. He has transferred us. It is in Jesus that we have redemption. Again we are passive, He is active. What does that mean? It means that if you are in union with Jesus Christ, then all of these things are true of you:

“as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12)

“in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back” (Isa. 38:17)

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isa. 43:25)

“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19)

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1)

“If the Son has set you free you are free indeed”. (Jn. 8:36)

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13)

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15)

“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.” (Col. 1:13-14)

All of these are true whether you feel them or not. If you are in Christ Jesus you are forgiven, you are clean, you have been redeemed, you have been delivered, you have been transferred. All of this is true, whether you feel it or not! Therefore, live by faith in objective truth and not subjective truth. I close with a poem by William Cowper:

Sin enslaved my many years,
And led me bound and blind;
Till at length a thousand fears
Came swarming o’er my mind.

“Where,” said I, in deep distress,
“Will these sinful pleasures end?
How shall I secure my peace,
And make the Lord my friend?”

Friends and ministers said much
The gospel to enforce;
But my blindness still was such,
I chose a legal course:

Much I fasted, watch’d and strove,
Scarce would shew my face abroad,
Fear’d almost to speak or move,
A stranger still to God.

Thus afraid to trust His grace,
Long time did I rebel;
Till despairing of my case,
Down at His feet I fell:

Then my stubborn heart He broke,
And subdued me to His sway;
By a simple word He spoke,
“Thy sins are done away.”

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