Sermon / July 28, 2013 / Colossians 2 / Jesus is Lord
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (N.I.V.)
Jesus Christ is the very core and center of our faith. Without Him, we would have nothing worthwhile. Our sermon text this morning was written by the Apostle Paul. In our text we hear exactly what Jesus Christ meant to Paul. This morning, we’ll talk about Jesus Christ and the faith that bears His name. We’ll see how faith begins. We’ll see how it matures and grows. And we’ll also see what can threaten it.
For the Apostle Paul, the Christian life begins when individuals "receive Christ." The Christian life begins when individuals enter into a saving relationship of trust in God's Son. But before we talk about what "receiving Christ" means, I’ve got a question for you. Who is Jesus? Who is this 'Christ' or ‘Messiah’ the Bible talks about? The Apostle Paul says, in verse 9 of Colossians, chapter 2:
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. (N.I.V.)
So who is this "Christ" the Christian faith proclaims? According to the Apostle Paul, He’s is the Son of God, equal with the father. Who is Jesus? He’s God – in human flesh. He’s God and man at the same time. He’s unique in all of human history. Who is this man? He’s the Christ – the one who brings "fullness" to all who trust and obey him.
But, as you well know, there are many who would challenge these basic Christian teachings. There are many who say that Jesus Christ is a good religious teacher. They would include Jesus with Mohammed and Buddha and other great teachers of religious truth, but would reject the idea that Jesus is the very Son of the most High God. But the Bible doesn't allow us to do this. The Holy Scriptures insist that Jesus is God and man at the same time equal to the Father. It was this very thought – that Jesus is equal to God the Father – that upset the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day. The Jewish leaders understood – very clearly understood – that Jesus claimed to be equal to God the Father. But, as far as they were concerned, this was pure blasphemy – shameful mockery of God. The Jewish leaders asked, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
In our day, some will tell you – straight out – that Jesus is not divine. He’s not equal to the God the Father, they say. But that's not what the Apostle Paul told the Colossians. And that’s not what the Scriptures say. And, in addition, it's not what Jesus said about himself. So, who is this "Christ" the church proclaims? The Apostle Paul said it very clearly, beyond a shadow of doubt:
...in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. (N.I.V.)
There's another word the Apostle Paul often uses to describe Jesus. Here’s an example.
"Just as you received Jesus Christ as LORD "continue to live in him." (N.I.V.)
To have Jesus as Lord of your life means that He’s most important to you, more important than your spouse, more important than your family, more important than your father or mother, or anyone else – as amazing as that may sound. One of the oldest Christian statements of faith was very simple:
JESUS IS LORD.
In other words,
Jesus is the most important person in the world to me. I'm one of his followers. I’m one of his disciples. He’s my Savior from sin. And he's the Lord of my life. No one else – or nothing else – can take his place.
In Colossians, chapter 2, verse 10, we find another word that the Apostle Paul uses to refer to Jesus. He says that Christ
… is the HEAD over every power and authority. (N.I.V.)
In other words, for Christian people, Jesus has absolute authority. All the authority in this world is derived from Him. All authority is delegated from Him and bestowed upon others. So He is the
King of kings and Lord of lords. (N.I.V.)
So I ask you again. Who is this "Christ" the church proclaims? He’s the very Son of God. He's the most important person in a Christian's life. He's the source of all power and authority. According to the Apostle Paul, as I mentioned earlier, the Christian life begins when individuals "receive Jesus Christ." Lutheran Christians would say that there are two ways to "receive" Jesus Christ. One is to receive Him through the Bible, the Word of God, as the Holy Spirit works. For Lutheran Christians, the Bible a “means of grace.” And the other way to “receive” Jesus is through the Sacraments – through Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The Word and the Sacraments are the blessed channels, the delivery system that the Holy Spirit uses to deliver Jesus’ rich blessings to your address and mine.
In Colossians, chapter 2, verse 7, the Apostle Paul speaks of the faith that the Colossian Christians had been taught. Paul was used by God as a teacher of the Word of God. And through the power of that Word, faith was sparked in individual hearts, and individuals came to "receive Christ." Faith comes, according to Paul, "by hearing the Word of God." Christ and all of His blessings come to us in the Word. God's Holy Spirit makes that Word understandable, and enables us – we who are, by nature, spiritually blind, dead and enemies of God, to respond. God's Holy Spirit enables us to hold out the hand of faith and allow our gracious Lord to place all of his gracious gifts there. Because of original sin, we are born turned in on ourselves and turned away from God. But the Holy Spirit – the Blessed Holy Spirit! – makes is possible for us to stop resisting God's call and to let him work in our lives.
So we receive Christ through the Word. And we receive Him through Baptism and the Lord's Supper – the Sacraments. Back in the Old Testament, circumcision marked God’s chosen people. Through that rite, individuals were incorporated into God’s holy nation. Women in those days were saved by virtue of their membership in the community – the clan. Everyone – male and female – was included in God’s salvation by virtue of their God-given faith.
But then, in the New Testament, circumcision was replaced by baptism. And baptism – which now of course, includes women as well as men – becomes the channel through which God's grace and blessings are delivered. Baptism draws its power from the cross of Christ and would have nothing to offer if it were to be disconnected from the cross. According to the Apostle Paul, in baptism we actually participate in the death and resurrection of Christ. In baptism, we die with Christ. And, in baptism, we are raised with him, as well. In baptism, our old sinful nature – the sinful nature we were born with – is put off and discarded, and a new creation takes its place. In baptism, we receive what the Apostle Paul calls a "washing of regeneration" – a new spiritual birth – the beginning of a new spiritual life. And so, one way or the other, by means of the Word alone, or by means of the Sacraments, in association with the Word, you and I "receive Christ Jesus as Lord" and a relationship with Him is initiated.
The Apostle Paul says, in Colossians, chapter 2, verse 10,
…in Christ you have been brought to fullness. (N.I.V.)
In other words, everything we need, is ours in Christ.
In Colossians chapter 2, verse 13, the Apostle Paul says:
13 When you were dead in your sins … God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins. (N.I.V.)
As Christians, we let God get rid of what is harmful in our lives. As Christians, we receive forgiveness of sins, life and salvation because of what Jesus has done for us.
There’s more. The Apostle Paul says:
14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; [the Lord] has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. (N.I.V.)
This "charge of our legal indebtedness" is a reference to the Law of God. God’s Law demands perfection but we can never measure up to that high standard. You may want to think of it this way:
- Because of our sin, we owed God a debt that we couldn't pay.
- But because of the cross, Jesus paid a debt he didn't owe.
The Law, with its harsh demands, was nailed to the cross with our Lord Jesus Christ. He kept the Law – for us. He paid the debt we owed. And we go free. Through the cross, Christ brings us a new spiritual life. We have been given new life through Christ. The evil forces that used to hold us in bondage to sin have been defeated once and for all at the cross. Colossians, chapter 2 and verse 15:
15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (N.I.V.)
Now that we know who Christ is and what He has done for us, we can speak of how Christians live out their faith. In Colossians, chapter 2, verses 6 and 7, Paul says:
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (N.I.V.)
Three words summarize this process of Christian growth and maturity. The first is "rooted." The second is "built up." And the third is "strengthened." To live as a Christian is to live in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s to walk with the Lord on the road of life. It means living a distinctively Christian lifestyle. When I think of the word "rooted," I think of a plant that sends its roots down deep into the soil in order to draw nourishment for itself and to anchor itself from the wind. Christians have a faith that’s firmly rooted in Christ. They draw nourishment and strength from God’s Word and the Sacraments. As we grow in our faith, we enjoy God's blessings, and find ourselves "overflowing with thankfulness."
It’s interesting that, in the midst of all this wonderful good news, the Apostle Paul has a word of warning for us this morning. In Colossians, chapter 2, verse 8, he says:
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (N.I.V.)
The faith of these Colossian Christians was being threatened by a determined group of false teachers. These false teachers were telling the Colossians that faith in Christ wasn’t quite enough. Paul called the words of these false teachers "hollow" and "deceptive." He warned the Colossians that they didn't have to add all kinds of rules and regulations to their faith in Christ. They weren't limited as to the foods they could eat. They were free to enjoy God's blessings, according to His will. Paul's warning is intended for us as well. Our world has many groups whose teachings are "hollow" and deceptive." Our faith doesn't need to be "improved." It needs to be proclaimed. It needs to be lived out. Christ isn't a deficient Savior. In him, we have everything we need. May God always remind us of that great truth. Amen.
Let's Pray: DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER – Turn our eyes upon Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Remind us that he is the only way to salvation and to the forgiveness of sins. Grant us hope and joy in Him and enable us to share our faith with all who have ears to hear, until the day Jesus returns or You call us home. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.