Conscious in the Kingdom
Text: Colossians 1:1-14
Proposition: Just as any garment suffers fading and rips and stains so does the church, especially if it is being put to use. Colossians is the repair kit for that.
Introduction: When people have been in an accident, when they’ve been hit by something that has knocked them out either physically or even emotionally, they are asked a series of questions to help them assess the truth of what is. In a way that’s what Paul did in his letters or epistles to certain churches that had been knocked out spiritually. When we last left Paul at the end of the book of Acts he was under house arrest in Rome and would end up being there for over two years. During that time many people came to visit him but two in particular that now catch our attention. One was a pastor and the other was a runaway slave but they both came from the same church over a thousand miles away. The Colossian church was struggling. It had begun to fade in the allegiance it had to Christ, it had suffered a loss of connection to their doctrine. Their pastor, a man named Epaphras, had travelled all the way to Rome to seek the Apostles help in reawakening the church. In his commentary William Hendriksen suggests that there were at least four major things that had knocked this church out:
1. There were the close ties to their sinful past pulling them back into old habits.
2. There was the godless environment of their culture.
3. There was a lack of commitment within their own hearts to Christ.
4. There was the lure of Satan drawing them to worship angels, to seek mysticism, to embrace false philosophies, legalism and even asceticism that saw the physical body as being evil and the spirit as the only thing worthy of reform. It was as if they were saying, ‘Jesus is good but we need something more to overcome our self destructive habits.’ It was a ‘Jesus plus’ kind of thinking and what they didn’t see is that when you try to add something to Jesus what you end up with is a different Jesus. Today we are going to begin to explore the book of Colossians, a book that seeks to awaken the church, calling to it, asking it to answer for itself the questions of being conscious in the kingdom. Turn with me to Colossians 1.
Question #1: Do You Know Who You Are?
In every letter Paul wrote he would begin with a simple salutation or greeting that identified who he was and whom the people he addressed were. Implicit in that greeting was this question, ‘Do you know who you are?’ Have a look at verse 1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother”.
There a couple of things inferred in this simple greeting. Paul is who he is because of what God has done, God called him when he was lost, when he was on the road to ruin. God called him and has by the will of God made him an Apostle, a person of capable leadership who has had authority conferred upon him. If the Colossians are going to hear him they need to hear the authority of God speaking to them, calling to them, awakening them, asking them, ‘Do you know who you are?’ The next verses speak about who they are, “To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae…we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints…”. Saints, the word literally means ‘holy’. Paul is saying they are holy, set apart to God, they are faithful brothers in Christ. But wasn’t that the very reason why Epaphras was in Rome, wasn’t it because the church wasn’t being faithful or holy? Yes but the truth of who they are is still inside, they are people ‘in Christ’. Paul is calling to them to wake up, to remember who they are. He reminds them of what has been true in past days, the evidence of the Spirit of God in them, a faith in Christ, a love for all who are also set apart to God. They are not Christians because of how desperately they seek to be good, they are Christians because of who has Fathered them. Look at the connection, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” And then, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you”. The Father of our Lord is our Father, the One from Whom Christ is. If we are in Christ we are connected to our heavenly Father in an unbreakable way. There are two implications here: 1. Jesus is equal to the Father, He proceeds from the Father and has the same attributes of the Father. The Colossians were drifting because they had lost sight of the deity of Christ, they had come to see Jesus as an advisor among many advisors. Paul is telling them Jesus is God, the exact representation of all of who God the Father is. 2. You are in Christ by faith and the Father of Christ is now your heavenly Father too, not just the God who has created all things but the God who loves you and relates Himself to you through Jesus. That’s who you are!
Question # 2. Do You Know Where You Are?
When deception hits us broadsides, when we get our eyes distracted off of Christ just as temptation is running through the intersection, we can get hit so hard that where we are is lost to us. Where did the Colossians think they were? They likely thought that they used to be spiritual but now they have lost their way. Their city was losing its prosperity, they had people in their own congregation that were saying there had to be more than just following Jesus. Perspective was slipping away, angels seemed to be a good resource to call out to, perhaps if they just tried harder, fasted more, were more severe with their bodies, perhaps Jesus was just a god like their Roman gods, only one among many to be appealed to. As they lay on their backs looking up into the eyes of the Apostle they could hear him say, “Do you know where you are?” They are in a place of hope, a hope that springs from faith in Christ, a faith that is proved to exist because of the way it loves who and what is holy. Love and faith declare the presence of hope, that is where you are right now. It is a place of “the hope laid up for you in heaven.” This is not heaven, we don’t live as if this place is all there is. That’s what hope is trying to tell you, there’s so much more, don’t settle for this. Look around you, can see how this hope is actually where you are? “Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant.”Paul sent this letter to the Colossian church by Epaphras. It’s as they hear the letter that they see Epaphras being affirmed right in front of them. Hope will always give a way for truth to come into your view, godly leaders are a vehicle that God uses to carry hope. That’s where you are, in Hope. In the midst of a messed up world you can see a hope laid up for you in heaven. Hope.
III. Question # 3. Do You Know Why You Are Here?
Usually this question is asking, ‘Do you know that you were in a crash, do you know you were injured by that crash, do you know how the crash happened?’ The Colossian church had been in a crash, they had lost their heart for the Scriptures, they had begun to embrace mysticism, a belief that says no one knows who God is, all life is a mystery, nothing that the Scriptures say is really for sure. Is there even life after death, is there a hell, does God really care, did God really say? They had sustained a concussion of belief, a hit hard enough to cause them to lose sight of why they are here. In verses 8 to 14 Paul reminds them of what has happened to them, he states it in positive terms so they can see where they were just before the crash and why they are here. In each case the ‘why’ invites them to consciousness.
1. They had previously trusted the Spirit to lead them and He had in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. When they were broadsided by unbelief they experienced loss in all of these.
2. They had previously held fast to the Word of God and gained an understanding of God’s will for them which led to an understanding of God Himself. Previously they had spiritual wisdom to see the cross and know what the Saviour has done, what only He could do. He took our sin upon Himself and took it to the grave and paid the cost of death for us. Their lives were fruitful and pleasing to God in that understanding and yet they were hit with temptation and disobedience. They have been hit broadside by poor choices, unbelief, sin’s guile and Satan’s schemes.
3. They had previously been “strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father”. Now it is difficult for the Colossians to remember that, yet Paul speaks to them as ones to whom God still seeks to move towards in exactly this way.
4. They had previously been delivered from the domain of darkness, from the habitual sins, from the things that formerly enslaved them. They had been transferred to the kingdom of light and that is where they are right now. Redemption and forgiveness of sins is why you are here. The kingdom of His beloved Son! Paul is awakening the Colossians to the truth of Christ in them, it is a gentle call to see the reality of who they are, where they are and why they are here