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Monday
May282018

The Mystery of Christ in Us

Colossians 1:21-29.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 27, 2018.

Today we are going to pick up where we left off several weeks ago in Colossians chapter 1.  The Apostle Paul had written about how great Jesus was and just exactly who he was.  In our verses today we see that this amazing Jesus that Paul has described is within us.  The idea that Christ would dwell within us is wonderful and is the reason why we have any hope of glory.  Let’s look at the passage.

We are reconciled to God by Jesus

In verses 21-23 we are reminded that we have been reconciled to God by Jesus.  Now, reconciliation can be seen in two different ways, both of which are found in Scripture.  The first can be seen in a legal way.  God is the judge and our life is filled with breaking His law.  Jesus covers our sin so that it is not put on the moral ledger of our life.  Instead, His righteousness is credited to our ledger.  Thus we can stand before the judge and be blameless and above reproach.  Jesus is the one who makes us right with God our judge.

The second way to view reconciliation is to see it in a relational way.  God created us to be His children.  We have left Him like the prodigal son and have become destitute.  Yet, Jesus has brought us back to the Father and made peace between us and the Father.  We are brought into God’s family and are right with the Father because of Jesus, the faithful older brother.

Both of these pictures are biblical.  However, there is a tendency among some Christians today to only use the Fatherly image and to reject the Judge image.  We should be careful of over-emphasizing either one.  God in His wisdom has given us both, and we should not make ourselves wiser than Him.  There are times when one or the other is more appropriate for what we are facing.

We are told that before Christ reconciled us to God we were alienated and separated from God.  In fact he states that this was “in our minds.”  Our thoughts and understandings were so far removed from God’s that we were practically enemies, whether we were trying to be or not.  Thus our life was filled with “wicked works.”  These works, whether internally or externally, have been rejected by God as acceptable behavior and will be judged by His Anointed One, Jesus.

However, now we are reconciled to God (vs. 22).  We are no longer alienated and separated from God by our sins.  We are now close to God, both legally and relationally.  To be reconciled to God is to be “blameless and above reproach” in God’s sight.  This idea is found throughout the Old Testament.  Adam and Eve began in such a condition and fell.  Noah, Abraham, Job, etc. all were described as blameless before God.  This can only be done by living in faith towards God.  This is the goal of our reconciliation.

It is interesting that Paul emphasizes that this is through the death of “the body of his flesh.”  His point is that Jesus was a real man who died a real death, at a particular point in time.  This is important.  The apostles were not pointing back into the mists of pre-history towards a mythical being.  Rather, they pointed to a man that anyone in Israel would have been very familiar with, both his life and death.  It was the death of Christ's earthly body that brought about this grand reconciliation.  It would be impossible had he not died.

Yet, in verse 23 he raises a clear caveat.  We are reconciled to God if we continue in the faith.  No one should think that they can walk away from faith in Christ and still remain reconciled to God.  Reconciliation is not a magic wand that is waved over our life, but a position we have been put in by Jesus.  To walk away from Him is to walk away from reconciliation with God.  This is why Paul uses the phrase “grounded and steadfast” in the “hope of the Gospel.”  Are you convinced that Jesus is the answer for everyone in the world?  That is the crux of the Gospel.  Only in Christ can every man, woman, boy, and girl experience reconciliation with God.

Yet, in order to remain, we must resist those things that would “move us away” from it.  Whether people or societies and the philosophies and teachings that they promote, we must persevere in faith.  He does not say persevere in godly conduct, but in faith.  Our state of being reconciled to God is based upon our faith in Christ, not our godly conduct.  However, our conduct will grow in godliness as we keep our faith in Jesus.

We are sacrificially served by others

In verses 24-29 Paul explains what he was personally doing.  He was sacrificially serving them for Christ’s sake.  It is good to recognize that this is how God works.  He does this through having parents sacrificially serve children for the sake of their good.  He does this through instituting government for the good of nations.  He does this through church leaders for the good of all believers.

In serving them for Christ, Paul had suffered many afflictions.  He was able to keep faithful because it was Christ who had reconciled him to God.  He also did so in order to “fill up what is lacking in the afflictions [sometimes translated “tribulations”] of Christ.”  Paul does not mean that Jesus had failed to suffer enough to completely save us, and therefore we have to suffer to make up the difference.  There are some misguided individuals who think that they can become more special to God by inflicting suffering upon themselves.  However, Paul is speaking of suffering and afflictions that came from others as he did what Christ wanted him to do.  He suffered for the sake of others, not for his own sake.  Those who serve others bear the sufferings of such for the sake of those they serve.

What Paul means is something quite different, when he writes about what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ.  The afflictions that Christ faced, while he was in ministry and while he was being crucified, represent the hatred the world has for God.  Thus the man Jesus who was limited in time and space could only suffer a small part of humanity’s hatred towards God.  Thus the Church is called the body of Christ.  By their actions towards the body of Christ in every age, the world has demonstrated over and over again its hostility towards God.  Paul rejoiced to be a part of that glorious calling of standing with Jesus before a world that wants to crucify us both.  Why would he rejoice in this?  He would rejoice because he knows that it pleases God.  And, if God is pleased it doesn’t matter what the world may think.

Paul had been called to minister to them and us.  The word for minister here is the same word for “deacon.”  It was a very general word for someone who served on behalf of another.  It could be a very low position or a very high position (like an aid to the president).  The emphasis is on the service you do on behalf of another entity.  Thus Paul served people out of a duty to Christ.  All that he did, he did to serve God’s people for God’s purposes.

A major part of God’s purpose was to reveal something in Christ that had been a mystery in the times before his coming.  The Old Testament was God’s Word and yet much of God’s ultimate plan was somewhat hidden in it.  Little by little from Genesis to Malachi we see God giving glimpses of what He was going to do.  It has been said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.  The Old Testament prophets had made many prophecies promising God’s help.  Yet, even those prophets did not understand perfectly all that God would do.  Thus it was a mystery that was being revealed through Jesus and His apostles.  It is the preaching of the apostles that reveals the great mystery of the ages past.  It is a mystery that is no longer a mystery.  There is no hidden code in the New Testament for us to uncover.  What was concealed has already been revealed.  The distinction of Israel being the people of God and the gentiles being rejected was to be overcome in Christ.  He would make the two One, holy body of people who belong to God.  On top of this, God would dwell, not in a temple made by human hands, but within the heart and soul of every believer.

Paul calls these things glorious riches.  Many people look to many things for glory and riches.  Kids are taken to basketball or football camps at early ages, and they are put in educational programs much earlier than normal, all in the hopes of getting ahead of the competition, glorious riches.  But our hope of glory is Christ dwelling within us.  This is the foundation of our hope for glory. It does not lie in us, but in Jesus.

As we close we should note that in verses 28-29 Paul describes his motto in ministry: “Him we preach.”  He mentions this same concept several times throughout his letters.  In 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 it says, “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;  but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness…”  We preach Christ, and Him crucified!  Many teachers claim to know a great number of things, but Paul focused on only knowing Christ, and a crucified Christ at that.  This is a stumbling block to many people, because our flesh looks for a source of glory that is nobler than that. 

This is why Paul spent so much time writing letters, which warned, counseled, and taught believers what it means to belong to Christ and put your faith in Him.  Paul recognized that to follow Jesus was only possible if Jesus was the one working it in you (vs. 29).  Only He has the power to help us change.  So what is Christ working in you?  I pray that today you will embrace the Lord Jesus Christ in a fresh way.  I pray that you will rejoice in the glory that is ours because we are reconciled to God through our faith in Jesus Christ.  Let the Holy Spirit work through you as He worked through Paul in order to further God’s purposes in the lives of the people whom He has put in your life.  Amen!

Mystery of Christ audio