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Sermon July 23, 2017

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1311

July 23, 2017 Colossians 1:15-23

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

 

“The All Sufficient Christ”

 

 

Psalm 139:5-10 says this of God: You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. We might conclude that God is everywhere. There is no place we can go to escape God’s presence. Today we are going to push this thought beyond simple place to see that Christ is to One who hems us in, goes before and behind us, to our right and to our left, but not just in geographical terms of being everywhere, but in spiritual terms of at center and all around, at heart and at periphery, sufficient for all things in life and death, he is our life, beginning and end, Alpha and Omega (Rev. 22:13).

Paul gives us a tremendous text in Colossians 1 about Jesus Christ and he wrote this to the Colossians in order to show them that they needed to recenter their lives on Jesus. Let’s point out a few of the characteristics Paul presents.

 

 

  • The Image of God

 

15[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

 

When we see Jesus Christ we are beholding God. I think about those times I have seen movies or read stories about people praying to God that if He is real He needs to show Himself to them. Well, He has in the person of Jesus. If someone wants to see God and know God and get introduced to God, we give them Jesus. It is why the early church was preaching Jesus all over the place. It is why Paul and Peter and John were writing about Jesus to every church that fell into difficulty...because Jesus Christ is the image of God, the One in whom we have life in every way shape and form. When we come to realize that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, our problems and conflicts and other issues will soon fade away.

 

  • The Creator

 

16For 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. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

 

Jesus is the means by which all things were created. Everything was created by Him, through Him, and for Him, and in Him all things hold together. Imagine for a moment if this is what we are seeing in the world and sectors of the world where God is ignored or people try to drive God out. What happens to schools when God is no longer honored in prayer? What happens to institutions or nations or persons without God? Some might argue that there are plenty of things that are successful without God and lots of people life good moral lives without God, but we know better. We know that all of those things are nothing without Jesus Christ at their center. We know that they will one day fade away to nothing even in worldly standards. God will not be mocked, for in Christ all things hold together.

 

  • The Head of the Church

 

18 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.

 

Why do you think Paul might have to add this statement? The world might forget that God created all by, through, and for Jesus, and even the church sometimes forgets that Jesus is the head of the church. The church sometimes forgets that Jesus is to be preeminent. This is probably why Paul wrote this to the Colossians – they forgot! They forgot their first love. They forgot that Jesus is everything. Christ is preeminent, first in our lives, above all else, at the core of our being. This means that Christ cannot be marginalized. He cannot be placed at the edges of our lives. It also means that we cannot add things to Jesus to complete our salvation or our faith or our understanding of His preeminence. That is, we aren’t saved by Christ and works, Christ and baptism, or Christ and anything. It is Christ alone, He cannot be pushed aside in our existence nor added to for our discipleship. Yes, there are things we can do to enhance our understanding of His preeminence, but none of that matters without Christ at the center. But we also know that if we have Jesus at the head, we will want to do everything we can to get to know Jesus all the more that we might give up anything in our lives that seeks to set Jesus aside.

 

 

  • The Fullness of God

 

19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.

 

All the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Jesus. Jesus reveals God to us...in His person, in His words, in His actions and life and being and practices and existence. And what is also amazing is that God has chosen to reveal all of this through all who know Jesus. Look with me at Colossians 1:27, To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ in you! Did you see that? As God was pleased to dwell in the Son so now Christ is pleased to dwell in us. Now we can take part in giving people Jesus Christ.

John’s gospel reveals it this way, Jesus said, “4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:4-11).

 

The fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Jesus and Jesus says that we are to abide in Him as He abides in us. Let His word abide in us and His love will abide in us. The Beatles actually got it wrong in their lyric. “All you need is love...” No, all you need is Jesus. God is love, but love is not God.

 

 

  • The Reconciler

 

20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

 

This is the essence of what Jesus has done for us – reconciled us to God. He has made peace by His blood. That is He has conquered sin and death for us. We can die to the world and the world to us. We can die to self in order to live to God. We can walk out of darkness and into His marvelous light. Christ has done everything that was necessary for our salvation and our renewed relationship with Him.

 

  • The All Sufficient Christ

 

 

We simply need to get to know Jesus Christ in a personal relationship. What do we mean when we talk about a personal relationship? It is more than Jesus as an acquaintance. More than just a student to the teacher. Closer than our best friend or our spouse or family members. Jesus called the disciples His friends, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Jesus desires a friendship with us. But I believe it goes even deeper than friendship, for Jesus is our life. He is sufficient beyond all other friendships and relationships. Later in Colossians Paul writes, 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory...11Christ is all, and in all” (3:3-4, 11). If Christ is our life and He is all, we need to get to know Him in all things.

 

Again Paul reveals his hope in all this, “7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11).

 

Sometimes I joke about the bumper sticker that says “Jesus is the answer”. I first want to know what is the question. But in this instance, our topic for the day, Jesus is the answer. He is the answer because the Bible affirms over and over again that Christ is all in all, all sufficient, all the fullness of God, all we need for all things. One author speaks of our becoming smitten with Christ. Another uses the term enthralled, that we become enthralled with Christ. I like those terms but they need to be deepened so that we are completely captivated by Christ in love and obedience, joyfully and respectfully. We need to set our minds to Christ in such a way that He becomes our first thoughts in all things.

Bring Jesus to mind. How can we do this?

1. Say the name, Jesus. Say His name often!

2. Pray.

3. Read and study Scripture.

4. Worship Him.

5. Bring Him up in conversations.

Paul tells us to set our minds on the things above (Col. 3:1-2).

 

Bring Jesus to everyday life.

Let Christ become the inspiration of our lives.

Let Christ be ever on our lips.

Know Christ above all other knowing!

Let Jesus play out His existence in our thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

 

Christ is truly all in all, everything we need, all sufficient for our life and for life eternal. Let us lay hold of Christ, drown ourselves in Him, and become immersed in Him. I was reflecting on my short time in Israel and the joy of being immersed in the same land where Jesus once walked, but I also reminded myself that Jesus walks with us wherever we are. Jesus walks with you and He wants you to know that you are deeply loved, extremely cared for, and Jesus wants you to abide in His life as He abides in yours, for He is the only One who can sufficiently be all things for us. Amen.