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Mosaic Spokane

Our Incomparable Christ

Our Incomparable Christ

Series: The Anatomy of a Savior; #3

Colossians 1:12-20

July 3, 2016

INTRO:  How many times have you seen something in life that was difficult if not impossible to describe…especially to someone who is, say, BLIND?  Turn to the person next to you and, assuming that they had never experienced sight or seen a single color in their life, try to describe the dominant colors you see in the pictures on the screen.  Remember, they have been blind from birth and so you can’t talk colors!

[Moraine Lake—blue; The Northern Lights]

How difficult was that?  Yet virtually everyone in this room shares many of the same realities of touch, taste, smell, hearing and, yes, sight.  Even with all that, most of us felt terribly limited in trying to adequately express those colors in language that didn’t appeal to the sense of sight.

            How much more difficult is describing God to people who are neither gods themselves nor grasp the character and qualities of God?  We are humans, stuck with the limitations of our humanity, yet called upon to use the experience we have to talk about the Living God who transcends mere human experience. 

            We’re in a passage of the N.T. book of Colossians today that bumps up against the limits of human language as it tries to talk about God, particularly the person and work of Jesus Christ.  So don’t be too frustrated if you find yourself struggling to fully understand what God is saying about himself.  Humble worship is a better response. 

            We begin our journey today in Colossians 1:12. It’s actually part of a very LONG singular sentence in the original Greek that runs from verse 9 to vers 20!  So forgive me if we take it in smaller chunks.  It wasn’t written to accommodate our “sound-bite” era!

Colossians 1:12ff--12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

            This comes at the end of Paul’s description of his prayers for the Colossians.  At this point, he starts talking about what he is thinking about when it comes to praying for people.  The answer is… the GOD he is praying to.  He’s saying that his heart is always full of thanksgiving when he comes to God because it is God who is doing so much to be thankful for

APP:  Unless we take time and effort to really focus on WHAT God is doing and has been doing for us, I can pretty well say our prayer lives will be poverty-stricken when it comes to the attitude of gratitude.  But when you marinate your soul in the waters of God’s blessings poured out daily upon us, the tough, self-absorbed fibers of our souls will soften.  And gratitude will fill our prayers, not just at meal-times, but at moments throughout every day. 

WHAT has God the Father done that can fill us with gratitude?  Well, to be honest, I find Paul’s gratitude to God focused on significantly different things than I tend to focus on when saying “THANK YOU” to the Father.  Look.

  1. the Father,who has qualified youto share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” 

            Inheritances is a rather private topic in our culture, isn’t it? Unless you are really good friends with someone, you won’t find yourself chatting it up over coffee about how much they expect to inherit from their relatives…or how much they have inherited already.  Discussions about inheritances make most of us uneasy.  If you admit you’re looking forward to an inheritance, it makes it sound like you can hardly wait for granny to kick the bucket. The same goes for asking your parents about a possible inheritance.  It’s just not something most of us are comfortable talking about. 

The good news…or the bad news…is that many of us won’t have to worry about that.  Here’s a graph of how much you can, on average, expect to inherit based on what your net worth is at present.  [See graph.] Bottom line, the less you have now, the less you probably will receive in an inheritance.  (Maybe that’s why over 25% of Americans plan for retirement is winning the lottery!)

Q:  Anyone here who would absolutely HATE getting an inheritance? 

How many would really APPRECIATE, say, a couple hundred thousand in inheritance?  WHY?

No matter whether you will never get a dime of inheritance from someone or whether you’ll receive millions, Paul tells us that we actually should be thinking about the inheritance our heavenly Father has already “qualified” us to share in.   It’s His holy people’s kingdom inheritance

Think for a moment about what we might be looking forward to when it comes to what God says we will “inherit” as His children.  While the vast majority of what God “wills to us” to have as his sons and daughters is probably future, the fact is that we're already getting bits and pieces of it now. We’re already part of “his holy people,” already “in the kingdom of light” in some crucial ways. 

            Let’s think about some of the ways this “inheritance” is both FUTURE & PRESENT:

            FUTURE                                           PRESENT                

  • Incorruptible/Immortal bodies Periodic/frequent healing
  • Sinlessness/holy natures Ongoing sanctification

Ongoing forgiveness

Confession

Cleansing from guilt

Victories over temptation

  • Close, continual presence/fellowship of God

Available, frequent presence

/fellowship of/with God.

  • Complete knowledge of God Growing knowledge
  • Great responsibilities in the K. Important responsibilities in

Ministry.

  • Perfect love for all people Growing love for people
  • Eternity of worship of God Times of worship of God
  • Perfect knowledge of truth Partial knowledge of truth
  • ??? ???

No matter what it is that God has in store for us in his inheritance, can we get one thing straight?  NOTHING you or I have or will do is what makes us “qualified” or “Enabled” or “Made fit” for this inheritance.  That’s one of the wonderful things about an inheritance:  you can’t earn it.  You just receive it due to the hard work and perhaps good fortune and stewardship of someone else. 

When it comes to our eternal inheritance, GOD is the one who did the work here!  The Father made us qualified.  He did it, as

we’ll see, through what Jesus Christ did for us.  If that isn’t reason to be thankful, you’re soul is a rock!

            Paul also reminds us that there has been a citizenship change for every one of us in Christ.  When it comes to spiritual citizenship, the whole world is basically divided between 2 different kingdoms.  It doesn’t matter if you are from the U.S.ofA. or Russia or Iran or Argentina or China or India.  Every person in this world is in just 1 of 2 kingdoms: 

  • The kingdom of light
  • The dominion of darkness

Why is citizenship such a big deal in this world?  Why does it matter what country you are a citizen of? 

            Just this week, Great Britain decided to exit the European Union.  The majority of Brits prefer to have just the rights and responsibilities associated with British citizenship rather than those of the E.U.

            So what sorts of “rights, privileges and responsibilities” are we talking about?  What goes along with citizenship…at least in most countries?

  • Rights: freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, trial by jury of peers, own and bear arms, own property, vote, ???
  • Responsibilities: pay taxes, serve in the military, obey laws, serve your fellow citizens, patriotism, ???
  • Benefits: standard of living, health care, opportunity, safety, security, ???

When Paul writes that we’ve been “rescued from the dominion of darkness”, he’s talking about jurisdiction.  We’re no longer under the citizenship of sin.  We’ve escaped that vile, depressing, degrading, oppressive, ugly rule that sin and evil had over us before we met Jesus by faith.  Now we’re in a place of light, of right living, godly desires and Spirit-led life.  Always?  No. But hopefully increasingly.

ILL:  I’ve been blessed to do a fair amount of traveling in my short lifetime.  I’ve been in repressive communistic countries like the old Soviet Union, East Germany, China, former Czechoslovakia, as well as religiously oppressive nations.  The difference between them and freedom-loving nations where political and religious expression and diversity is allowed and encouraged is truly like night and day.  Whether it is grinding poverty or religious persecution or political suppression, those nations produce a sort of “darkness” that is worse than not having electricity. 

ILL: 

  • Visiting the Soviet Union in 1975
  • Visiting East Berlin in 1977.
  • Visiting China in 2006

APP:  But we don’t have to go overseas to see the difference between the “dominion of darkness” and the “kingdom of light”.  We need only get out of our own little bubbles and engage in a conversation with someone who is drug-addicted or alcohol dominated or self-absorbed or abusive or violent or hate-filled or on and on.  When you’ve never experienced living in the light, the darkness doesn’t look so bad.  But once you’ve tasted the difference from being under the domination of darkness or enjoying the light of the love of God, you know what the difference is.

Sharing: We’re not supposed to glorify evil or darkness in any way.  But neither are we to ignore what God has and is saving us from.  It’s not prideful to talk about what God has saved us from and how he has changed our lives. 

            So let’s hear from a couple of you who have seen and experienced that movement of your life from darkness to light, from domination by evil to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. [Share.]

Vs. 13 talks about the “new country” we’ve been settled in when it says, “… [God] brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  That word “brought” again is God’s work, not ours.  It can mean God “transferred” us from one kingdom to the other or “resettled” us sort of like refugees in search of a safe haven. 

            Any of us here ever been “refugees” who had to flee your homeland in order to find a better, safer, more sane and less life-threatening place to live? 

ILL:  One of the graduation speakers at Yohannes’s graduation was a young man who had come to the U.S. from Somalia less than a year ago.  We have little to know appreciation for what a hell-hole Somalia is today.  [Pics?]  He talked about seeing pictures of Spokane when they told him he and his 7 or 8 other family members would be “resettled” here.  Took 4 days to travel here.  Tired as they were, they were too excited when arrived to sleep.  So they walked the streets, marveling at this city we take for granted.  He has learned what a land of opportunity this still is…because he knows how dark other countries can be. 

            How much more the spiritual transfer between inner darkness of life dominated by sin and the kingdom of light dominated by the presence of God in Christ?  Notice that in vs. 12 this kingdom is called “the kingdom of light” while in vs. 13 it’s called “the kingdom of the Son he [the Father] loves.”  This is the same kingdom. And this is the reason that what you and I and every person on earth does with Jesus Christ is THE determining factor about our relationship with God. 

  • Light” in terms of the kingdom talked about here has to do with the holiness of God. It has to do with righteousness.  People will only be happy about living in the light if they’ve experienced being “born again” through faith in Jesus and are responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit to “live in the light” as Jesus himself lived in holiness and righteousness (I Jn. 1:7).

People who haven’t experienced the transformation of soul that takes place when you embrace Jesus as your Savior and Lord are like 90% of the bugs and insects in the world who start their lives in the dirt.  They’re “dirt-dwellers.”  They don’t like the light.  In fact, exposed to it without the transformation that comes through insect maturity, they will die. 

C.S. Lewis illustrates this reality with his book, The Great Divorce.  In the book, you take an imagined trip from hell to heaven with people who rejected Jesus Christ during their lifetime.  When they arrive in heaven, all they can do is complain that the colors are too bright, the light too bright, the music too loud, the streets too hard, etc.  They can’t wait to get back to the darkness of hell because they’ve never experienced the transformation only Christ can bring to the human soul.  They’ve never “been rescued” from the kingdom of darkness and brought into “the kingdom of light.” 

APP:  This is why, I think, if you don’t experience, at least from time to time, a real hunger for God, a longing to become more like Christ, a yearning to walk in the light of holy living in Jesus, you might want to stop and have a truly heart-to-heart conversation with God about your relationship with Jesus.  I’m not talking about the occasional doubts and dry periods we all have as followers of Christ. I’m talking about an aversion to and avoidance of seeking the heart of Jesus about your life.  Lots of people can sit in churches and think that is following Jesus.  It doesn’t any more than sitting in Colonial Sanders KFC every week makes you a chicken!   

            I assume that our gathering together at times of worship and prayer and praise like this is simply a reflection of the hunger in our souls for the life, the love and light of Christ.

The interesting thing is that vs. 13 describes that kingdom of light also as “the kingdom of the Son he [God] loves.”

ILL:  How many of us have lived in homes where the heads of the home (usually parents) are constantly fighting, bickering, maybe even abusive?  That’s not a lot of fun…nor a very nurturing environment.

But living in a “house” where someone is the object of genuine, self-sacrificing and giving love of another person is a wonderful experience in itself!  But, to be living in a kingdom…an eternal culture…where everyone is related to the King of that kingdom (Jesus)… better yet, is somehow actually a part of the King himself (as in “the body” of Christ) means that being “in Christ” makes us the very object of the Father’s love for the Son himself. God loves us as deeply as He’s loved Jesus from eternity past, today and for eternity future!

Light & love…two amazing attributes of the kingdom we’ve been brought into by our incomparable Lord Jesus Christ.

Now in the latter part of vs. 14, Paul begins to shift our attention from God the Father to God the Son.  Here we’re introduced to a couple of emotionally powerful words about what Jesus has DONE for us.  One is a word most often theological in nature.  The other we’re more familiar with but probably have a fair amount of confusion about too. 

Vs. 14—“…in whom [Jesus] we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”   

Redemption is really the idea of “paying a ransom for” someone. About the only place we use the term today is if you happen to hock some of your nicer furniture or electronics down at the pawn shop.  If you want them back, you must buy them back.  You must “redeem” them from the pawn shop. 

            But in our case, it’s much more complicated…and severe.  We’re like POWs with a death sentence hanging over us.  We’re like inmates on death row who, because of our rebellion against the nature and moral law of the God of the universe, have both a temporal (human life) death sentence hanging over us AND an eternal, death sentence over us. 

            I must admit that, even with all the reading I’ve done on this topic, I don’t fully grasp what Jesus paid to the Father in order to eliminate that death sentence over us. God didn’t owe anything to Satan to rescue us from our sin (contrary to what is portrayed in Chronicles of Narnia).  In fact, Satan would have preferred if Jesus hadn’t died.  His death purchased mankind’s redemption.  Jesus “gave his life a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28; I Tim. 2:6).  That payment was made, apparently, to the just and holy nature of God who must, by His nature, both punish sin and love the sinner.

ILL:  The largest known ransom ever paid for someone in our lifetimes was for Victor Li, son of the billionaire Li Shing who was captured by Cheung Tze-keung, better known asBig Spender” because of his lavish living and generosity to others around him (albeit with someone else’s money!). . He was eventually released after Li Shing had to pay an astounding $135 million for his release. (Big Spender was executed in 1998 at age 43 for this and other gangster crimes in Hong Kong.)

            If we talk historically, the greatest ransom paid was that paid for Atahualpa, the last emperor of the Incas, to the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1532-3 at Cajamarca, Peru, which constituted a hall full of gold and silver, worth in modern money some $1.5 billion!

            Can we possibly grasp the price Jesus paid for our eternal life and fellowship?  No.  That God would engage in the incarnation so that we could be purchased out of the slave-market of sin and the death-camp of rebellious humanity is a ransom and redemption greater than anything imaginable.

But then God adds this little phrase:  “…the forgiveness of sins.”

Forgiveness:  carries the idea of “release from” or “letting go of” or “declaring amnesty” for someone or something.  In this context where it is specifically about sin, the idea is of a release from both the guilt-debt of sin that we have accumulated before God and from the power of the sin itself

In Christ we’ve had our sin-debt paid but we’ve also had the debtor’s prison of guilt and shame and bondage to sin torn down around us and the shackles broken so we are free to leave sin’s prison and go enjoy life in the big, beautiful world of God’s blessing and right-living.

APP:  So why do so many of us keep going back to prison? Why do we spend another day sitting in the rubble of that old sin-and-guilt prison, staring at the shackles that used to bind us but have been shattered by the love of Christ?  Why not rather run free and move into the mansion of grace that God has built for every one of us…every day of our life?  

[Share the Lord’s Table.]

So rather than try to dive into these very packed, very deep verses that begin to unpack the person and work of Jesus, I’d like to have you take a few minutes together in small groups of 3-6.  We do this frequently at Mosaic because we believe that God can use every of us to minister to each other any given morning.  We also believe that the Holy Spirit wants to speak to each of us today and that may just happen best when we put our hearts and heads together around the Word of God. 

            So here’s what I want you to do to listen to God about our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.  I want you to answer the following DISCOVERY QUESTIONS about this text.  And I want you to write out a few questions that this passage brings up that you would like me to tackle next week. 

            Here are the QUESTIONS:

 

SMALL GROUP DISCOVERY

Colossians 1:15-22—(NIV)

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled 

you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 

 

  • Find as many observations as you can about WHO “the Son” (Jesus) IS according to this passage. What does this passage tell us about Jesus’ NATURE? Make a list of all the things Jesus IS.

 

  • Now, make a list of all the things the Son/Jesus has DONE according to this passage.

 

  • Thirdly, make a list of any WORDS whose meaning you want to understand better or may find confusing.

 

  • How many times does the word “all” occur in this paragraph?

What do you think God wants us to understand from that?

  • Write down at least a couple of QUESTIONS this passage raises for you that you would like answered.

 

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