Text: Colossians 1: 21-29
Proposition: Foundations need to be designed so that they can’t be eroded and will sustain the full weight of what is to come, foundations in Christ are like that.
Introduction: The first house that Marci and I built was beside the Klondike River in a pasture just 30 meters from the water. We knew that the likely flood of the river in the spring breakup times was a certainty so we built the house on a series of posts that kept the house 4 feet off the ground. Before we could ever begin to lay the logs down for the walls we spent days digging down to gravel, making pads for the posts to stand on and then backfilling everything with dry gravel. We went through two floods in that house and it still stands today because the foundation was built with the expectation of floods to come. Foundations are critical so it shouldn’t surprise us to discover that the Bible refers to foundations over 80 times. There are the well known passages like Luke 6:48, “He is like a man building a house who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.” Foundation even describes who God is in Psalm 89:14, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne…” Then there’s Isaiah 28:16, “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation…”. It’s a reference to Jesus but it uses the image of the way the foundation stones for the Temple were laid in place. Turn with me to Colossians 1: 21 as we look at how God builds foundations that won’t crumble.
I. In the Beginning There Was…Mud!
I’m talking about what my life and your life looked like before Jesus Christ was ever more to us than a swear word. Did you ever see that Goerge Clooney film called ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’, a modern day take on Homer’s Odyssey. Three escaped convicts search for treasure and in so doing create a music group called, ‘The Soggy Bottom Boys’. That name really is a picture of their lives, in fact it’s really a picture of all of us. I don’t know how to break this to you but we were all Soggy Bottom Boys until we met Christ. There was no foundation under our feet except the bog, the soggy bottom bog of our self- serving ways. Look at how Paul describes this to the Colossians, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.”(NIV) Those words describe the bog of what our lives looked like before Christ. Not only were we not interested in Christ as God or Savior, we became at odds with Him in what we thought and what we did. It was hard to stop being an enemy of God because I couldn’t even see that what I did was setting myself against God. I was so into pleasing myself that God rarely entered my field of vision. That’s what the term ‘evil behavior’ literally meant in the Greek, “bringing toils, annoyances, a time full of peril to faith and steadfastness; causing pain and trouble.” Do those words describe your life before you trusted in Christ? That’s the Soggy Bottom ground of what all our lives looked like, every single one of us, until by faith a foundation was put under our feet. So Paul writes to the Colossian church calling them to recognize the foundation they have been set upon as people who believe in Jesus Christ.
II. Rock Solid Foundations Are Engineered and Then Excavated.
This is how Paul puts it, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight…” The action of setting your life on a solid rock is a work begun by the Engineer, Jesus Christ. He reconciles your condition from being unsafe and compromised because of sin to being holy, blameless and above reproach in God the Father’s sight. That’s the plan that Christ has for your life, that’s what he seeks to do in you, a transformation. It’s not new paint on a dry rot beam, it’s replacing the rottenness that is in us with the pure righteousness of Christ. That’s what the cross of Christ was all about, Jesus taking our sin upon Himself that we would be able by faith to have His right standing with God. He replaces that rottenness of our sin with the strength and soundness of who He is. He gives us the stamp of His righteousness and presents us before the Father as holy and blameless. This is work that we can’t do, we can’t try to be good enough for God, that’s not what He’s after. What He seeks is a heart that is ready to say to God, ‘Here I am, do your work in me.’ If you will, He will. Jesus Christ will put His engineers stamp of approval on you, that stamp declares you holy, meaning set apart from destruction, set apart to now be built upon, set apart for God to now do what you asked Him to do. Being holy isn’t about being all perfect and finished or superior in any way. It’s about being a work that is now in progress. So Paul talks a little about what that work looks like from our perspective. In verse 23 he puts it like this, “…continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard”. I guess I’d liken this to the work of excavation, where you begin to remove the dirt and boulders and prepare the way for the foundation to be firmly put in place. This whole salvation thing, this Christian thing, begins with the hand of Jesus Christ when you by faith ask Him into your life to change it, to save it from all destruction both temporary and eternal. Ask Him to save you, to change you, and then agree with Him that there are some things in your life that have to be excavated out. That’s where your part kicks in, He will show you what needs to go, He will even give you the strength to lift out the boulders that are in the way. Your part in making a foundation that won’t crumble is continuing in the faith. Faith is not only built on belief it’s built on truth and understanding. Know what the Bible says, let it begin to give counsel to you, let it begin to help you to know Jesus more than you did before. To be grounded and steadfast means that you are less and less susceptible to lies, to unbelief, to deception and more and more confident in the hope that the gospel conveys. Those are foundational actions that require excavation. Don’t try to build on top soil or sand or mud, it only leads to loss.
III. The Building That Rests On Those Foundations Will Need Sweat Equity.
Paul makes this extraordinary statement in verse 24, “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church…”. This almost sounds like Paul is putting Himself on the same level as Jesus. What does he mean by that phrase, “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ…”? Let’s start with what we know for sure, the suffering of Christ on the cross cannot be added to any way as regards the salvation it brings and the price it paid. That suffering on the cross was what God the Father required for justice and His wrath against sin to be completely paid. The cross was what God required. That word ‘afflictions’, is not a reference to what Jesus endured on the cross. It’s a reference to what Jesus experienced in His life before the cross. Afflictions are something you don’t want, the cross was the intentional plan of Jesus from the very beginning. We know that the church is called the body of Christ. We know that the Holy Spirit indwells every believer in Christ. So when the church, the body of Christ, suffers in this world so does Jesus. Both the Hebrew and Greek translate that word ‘affliction’ as ‘being pressed together, to create pressure.’ Paul’s life exemplified what that pressure could look like, being jailed, beaten, mocked, shipwrecked, ostracized. It’s almost as if Paul is saying that just as the cross was destined to be an atoning suffering place for Jesus so there is an affliction that has also been destined for His body the church. And Paul said that his intent was to fill up or complete as much of that appointed suffering for the church as he could. So what could possibly be the purpose behind such appointed suffering? If affliction means to be pressed, to experience pressure then what could God’s purposes be in that? Well firstly it’s for the benefit of others more than just for me, that’s how Paul saw it. Secondly what about the times when Paul was imprisoned, what we do learn about God because of how he was pressed in? It would seem then that affliction is all about opportunities for the church to grow in maturity and love and faith and it’s not just the person being afflicted that grows but so do the people around them. God uses affliction for the sake of the body, the church, to fulfill the word of God, to reveal the incredible mystery that every person, Gentile and Jew, is where Christ would dwell because of faith. The intent behind this sweat equity that often has affliction attached to it is so that we would be prepared, sanctified, presented as perfect. He’s building a foundation that won’t crumble.