03/26/2017 – Colossians 3:1-17 – Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “From Old to New”

Click HERE if you want to HEAR this message.

Mark Wheeler

Colossians 3:1-17

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “From Old and to New”

03/26/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Set free, O Lord, any tension or anxiety which may keep us from fulfilling Your vision of what we can be. Fill us with the strength of Christ, the power of Your Holy Spirit, and the faithfulness of all true saints, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

We’ve all seen those New and Improved commercials, and the Before and After ads – and some of them become kind of enticing after watching them untold numbers of times….

I believe those advertisements have been around for as long as humans first learned to speak, or since the first swap meet in history – “Look, Og. This New Wheel round! Way better than Old square wheel.

 

Today we begin our fourth full week of the Season of Lent in which we are studying the New Testament letter from the Apostle Paul to the Christian Community in Colossae, Asia Minor (today’s Turkey). These Colossians, while living across the planet, 2,000 years ago, in the Roman Empire, weren’t all that different from we Lidgerwoodians.

Colossae was on the decline, in the midst of a thriving Greco-Roman world – and false teachers and worldly temptations and threats against humanity and fear of domineering governments were all taking over!

 

Paul writes to remind them who they were, to encourage their discouraged souls, to tell them again of who God is and what God had accomplished in Christ Jesus. In this letter we are invited to experience authentic ecclesia – to practice genuine Christian faith.

Today’s passage contains such a “Before” and “After” image, going from Old to New. Where do we land on that spectrum?

Listen with me to God’s Word from Paul’s Letter to the Church in Colossae. Colossians 3:1-17 ….—-

     1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Like most of Paul’s Epistles, the first half is mostly theology and the second half is mostly application. Today we begin that second half of this brief letter.

Since, then” means there should be some evidence of our salvation, evidence that we believe the theological doctrine of the first two chapters. “Sincewhat has just been stated in the previous two chapters is true, “thenour lives should reflect that hope of glory….

If we live each day, stuck in our own self-doubt and unable to experience the light of Christ, maybe we haven’t grasped the truth of the Gospel yet. If we wonder if we’ll make it to heaven when we die, maybe we haven’t heard, or believed, the Good News of Jesus’ sufficiency, of His grace-payment on our behalf, of His death for us and His conquering death after His crucifixion so that we, too, could live victorious lives through Him!

 

Since, then,” Paul writes; and he continues with the application process:

     5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Whenever there’s a “therefore”, you have to ask what the “therefore” is there for? In this case, the “therefore” is there because of what comes before: “Because we have been raised with Christ, because our hearts have been set on things above … therefore – we put to death, we crucify with Jesus, our earthly Old nature, our Before picture dies on the cross!”

The simple application is that we stop sinning! And the list of sins, while not meant to be exhaustive, involves both sins of the body and actions that offend both our God and our neighbor, AND sins of the heartlust, greed, envy. Specific sin categories are mentioned – sexual immorality at the top of the list, but this is meant to cover the 10 Commandments of Exodus and Deuteronomy AND the Great Commandment as both Moses and Jesus stated itto love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

In Matthew’s Gospel, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You know the Law, Do not commit murder; but I say if you even keep a grudge in your heart you’ve broken that commandment already.”

Paul says, “You used to walk in those ways … but now you must rid yourselves of ‘anger, rage, slander, filthy language….’

Those were your Old ways, but in Christ all things are made New (actually, that’s from II Corinthians). So, No lying, no evil talk, no slander, just cut it out! Play nice with each other!

Simple, right?

And, Paul knows his audience. There were Jewish Christians living in Turkey, and they thought they were better than Gentile Christians; there were also Gentiles from further north and from further west; and there was at least one run-away slave mentioned in this letter, so Paul says, “There is no Democrat or Republican, no Mexican or American, no Refugee, Immigrant, or Native born in the Church of Jesus Christ! There is only Christians! So love each other and be nice to each other!

Simple application? Yeah, right! How does one do that? How do I never throw a cuss word, or spread gossip, or hold a grudge against someone, or never speak ill of someone who I think deserves it?

 

Paul gives us another “Therefore”:

     12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

We cannot do it on our own! To the Church in Rome Paul said, “All have sinned, and all continue to fall short of the glory of God.” Even we who are “chosen, the “elect of God”, while saved into a saving relationship with the God who has the authority to forgive and to gift us with Holy Spirit power – we still live in our earthly bodies and in our earthly circumstances! While we are “New” in Christ, we still bear the “Old” nature every day!

Since we cannot do what we know we should do, Paul says, “Because you are completely loved by God, and He cannot love you any more than He already does, no matter how good or bad you act, just get dressed every morning with the things God has laid out for youcompassion for the needy, kindness for those around you, humility with those ‘beneath’ you, gentleness with those who aren’t quite ‘there’ yet, and patience with everyone (including yourself!). … And because life is hard, wear an overcoat of love to hold it all together.

If we consciously decide, not just when we wake up, but also when we encounter our first “other (spouse, neighbor, child, whomever), and again several times throughout the day, to step into Jesus’ sandals and allow His power and love to flow through us, then we have a chance of experiencing authentic ecclesia, of knowing Christian community, of expressing Christ-like love.

But we have to be willing to be made willing to “clothe ourselves” with God’s beautiful garments of Grace. Last week I made reference to Corrie ten Boom, and gave you one of her quotes that said, ““If You look at the World, you’ll be DISTRESSED. If You look within, you’ll Be DEPRESSED. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at REST …”

This week let me share with you another CTB quote. This is one of her prayers, and she prayed it every day while in the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp during WWII. She would simply pray: “God, make me WILLING to be MADE willing.”  That was her prayer of compassion for fellow prisoners, kindness toward prison guards, humility among her comrades, gentleness alongside weaker fellow-sufferers, and patience while God seemed to just wait forever to send His rescue!

“God, make me WILLING to be MADE willing.”

 

And Paul continues:

     15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Someone, give me an answer here: What does it mean to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”? What does that mean for you personally?

What is thismessage of ChristPaul wants us to allow to dwell in us richly?

What doesdwell in us richlymean?

I love that for Paul, a thinking man, a man of action, a man with a life-agenda to accomplishPaul says that when we allow the “peace of Christ and the message of Christ to rule us and dwell in us” (and notice that strange pairingI would have had the “peace of Christ dwell in me” and the “message of Christ rule me”, but Paul reverses that) when we allow that to happen we will stop our preaching and our mission activity and our study and our teaching and we will just sing – and we’ll sing all kinds of songs – from the Old Testament Psalter, from the Hymnbook, and from the Praise Song books – and we’ll sing all these songs with thanksgiving! – We will simply worship, in Spirit and in Truth!

And, finally, whether in Church or in Culture, in Sacred things or in Secular thingswhatever we do, in speech or in action, we are to do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

 

“God, make me WILLING to be MADE willing.”

 

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia means living like we believe what we say we believe!! This is a Church on the very verge of truly experiencing all of that – and we are blessed, privileged to be in on the ground floor! Let’s join the Colossian Christians and be that kind of church together.

 

We are One in [Your] bond of love; We are One in [Your] bond of love.
We have joined our spirits with [Your] Spirit [O] God;  We are One in [Your] bond of love.

 

Let us join our hands that the world will know, We are One in [Your] bond of love.

 

Amen.

 

Resources:

http://www.azquotes.com/author/1659-Corrie_Ten_Boom?

 

Carson, H.M.; Colossians and Philemon; Tyndale new testament Commentaries; 1984; Pp. 79-92.

 

Skillings, Otis; “The Bond of Love”; 1971.

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03/19/2017 – Colossians 2:6-23 – Experiencing Authentic Eclessia: “Falsehood, Fullness, and Freedom”

For the AUDIO link, please click HERE.

Mark Wheeler

Colossians 2:6-23

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “Falsehood, Fullness, and Freedom”

03/19/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Set free, O Lord, any tension or anxiety which may keep us from fulfilling Your vision of what we can be. Fill us with the strength of Christ, the power of Your Holy Spirit, and the faithfulness of all true saints, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

This week I was given a list of official Emergency Room medical charts – that seemed a bit off the mark. See if you can catch what might have been “wrong”:

  • Patient is numb from her toes down.
  • While in ER, she was examined, x-rated and sent home. [This probably was not far from the truth!! Those gowns are probably put under the classification of ‘x-rated!!!!]
  • Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.
  • Patient was alert and unresponsive.
  • She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.
  • I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.
  • Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.

 

Maybe some of you have seen the reports about the British newspaper, The Guardian’s article – highlighting Gonzaga University’s basketball reign in the WCC and Coach Mark Few’s leadership in that endeavor? This article was meant to be just that, but to emphasize how amazing the team is it also said this: “As the coach of the Gonzaga men’s basketball team, he is the central – perhaps the only – source of hope for a struggling city.” The article then invested another several paragraphs about how bad Spokane is as a place to live.

 

Today we begin our third full week of the Season of Lent in which we are studying the New Testament letter from the Apostle Paul to the Christian Community in Colossae, Asia Minor (today’s Turkey). These Colossians, while living across the planet, 2,000 years ago, in the Roman Empire, weren’t all that different from we Lidgerwoodians.

Colossae was on the decline, in the midst of a thriving Greco-Roman world – and false teachers and worldly temptations and threats against humanity and fear of domineering governments were all taking over!

 

Paul writes to remind them who they were, to encourage their discouraged souls, to tell them again of who God is and what God had accomplished in Christ Jesus. In this letter we are invited to experience authentic ecclesia – to practice genuine Christian faith.

I read that list of Medical Charts as an intro to something every Colossian Christian, and every Lidgerwoodian Christian faces every day: verifying Falsehood from Truth; finding Fullness of Christ in a world of emptiness; and determining Freedom in God’s power while facing spiritual bondage in our own circumstances.

Listen with me to God’s Word from Paul’s Letter to the Church in Colossae. Colossians 2:6-23 ….—-

           2So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

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.

     9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.  11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

     16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you.  Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

     20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.  23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

 

Those ER medical Charts and that The Guardian sports article, and the religious teaching surrounding the people in Colossae, and the overall understanding of the Christian faith in today’s main-stream media, and frankly, in many of our pews, is filled with False info – which produce false expectations, and foster false hope.

Paul writes to 1st Century Colossian Christians (and to 21st Century American Presbyterians), verse 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.” He has said this in several ways nowThere is only ONE God; Jesus Christ is the visible image of that God and He is supreme; and therefore it is only in Him that we find real hope, the hope of glory, hope that is guaranteed and that becomes an honest relationship with Almighty God, Creator of everything that exists!

 

Some of you, I know, are looking at your Sermon Notes page, and you want to know how to fill in that quote by Corrie ten Boom. Ms. Ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker before and during the Nazi reign of terror in Europe. Her father and sister and she hid Jews from the Gestapo and as a result they were all put in Concentration Camps, where her elderly father died, and after a few years her sickly sister also died. But the Ten Booms never lost their faith – and in the end several people who were held in prison with Corrie ten Boom, and even some of the guards that held them captive, gave their lives to Christ. Corrie ten Boom eventually left Europe and moved to Placentia, CA, where she died on her 91st birthday as a patient of my mom in a nursing home.

Corrie ten Boom has been an inspiration to millions of people, with dozens of quotable quotes. This one, reads: “If You look at the World, you’ll be DISTRESSED. If You look within, you’ll Be DEPRESSED. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at REST …”

 

In verse 9, Paul continues, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.”  In Christ, we are invited, you are invited, to experience Fullness of true reality – which nurtures Fullness of new reality, and even Fullness of fueled reality. That means our lives can express the power of God, even when we are unable to feel the strength of faith in our own souls.  As CTB has said, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” And, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.

Beware of Falsehood, and be open the Fullness of God’s presence.

 

Because God’s presence always leads to Freedom! Jesus said, in John 8:32, that when we “know the Truth (faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior), that Truth shall set [us] free!” And that’s when we experience Freedom in Christ’s grace – which leads to Freedom in Christ’s mercy, and complete Freedom in the Way, the Truth, the Life.

This evening, you will be blessed by what we experience as our own brother, Jack Hewson, shares his heart, his experience, his faith, and his hope, his fears, even his Freedom, regardless of which side of the bars he finds himself.

Jack is learning the truth of Paul’s word in II Corinthians 3:16-18: “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.   And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

 

Today, I invite you to experience the Freedom that only Christ can offer. Freedom from fear, freedom from anxiety, freedom from doubt, freedom from anger, freedom from revenge …. Do you want that? Do you, like me, need that? Let’s give ourselves, a little more deeply, to Jesus.

“If You look at the World, you’ll be DISTRESSED. If You look within, you’ll Be DEPRESSED. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at REST …”

 

And, yeah, The Guardian, after yesterday’s game, Gonzaga basketball does give Spokane a lift, but Gonzaga is not what gives any of us ultimate hope! That comes through God’s grace, by faith – and that alone!

 

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia means knowing that we can go from Falsehood to Fullness to complete Freedom! This is a Church on the very verge of truly experiencing all of that – and we are blessed, privileged to be in on the ground floor! Let’s join the Colossian Christians and be that kind of church together.

 

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,        When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,     It is well, it is well with my soul.

 

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,     Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

 

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—         My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,       Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

 

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:    If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life      Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

 

Amen.

 

Resources:

Carson, H.M.; Colossians and Philemon; Tyndale new testament Commentaries; 1984; Pp. 59-79.

 

Crosswalk.com; 40 Powerful Quotes from Corrie Ten Boom; May 21, 2015.

 

Delistraty, Cody; “How Gonzaga Became the Central Hope for the Struggling City of Spokane”; The Guardian; March 14, 2017.

 

Spafford, Horatio G.; “It Is Well with My Soul”; 1873.

03/12/2017 – Colossians 1:24-2:5 – Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “Christian Suffering Is for Realsies”

Click HERE for the audio link.

Mark Wheeler

Colossians 1:24-2:5

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “Christian Suffering Is for Realsies”

03/12/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Set free, O Lord, any tension or anxiety which may keep us from fulfilling Your vision of what we can be. Fill us with the strength of Christ, the power of Your Holy Spirit, and the faithfulness of all true saints, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

So much pain. I was at what should have been the prime of life. Med school finished, internship and residency done. Two kids and a wonderful wife at home. But there was so much pain.

I was a rheumatologist practicing in Roanoke, Virginia, when I began to have discomfort in my feet. I instituted the usual interventions that I told my patients about every day. But the pain did not diminish. In fact it increased. And strange sensations started to occur in my legs and feet. I quickly became unable to complete a day’s work. On my fortieth birthday I was diagnosed with Charcot Marie Tooth Syndrome, an inherited peripheral neuropathy. My father had this illness.

I remembered praying for my dad for years, even decades, for healing which never came. This illness is expressed as weakness and numbness along with pain in the extremities. My dad always had difficulty walking any great distance. His physical endurance was not good and he could never participate in any type of physically demanding activity. Our family was always the family that was different. While growing up I was always the strong one in the family. If chores required physical activity, they usually fell to me. I had never known I carried the gene, but it had been with me always.

The pain progressed to the point that I had to drag myself to the bathroom. I could not tolerate the searing discomfort that came with standing. I was unable to drive and only left the house on Sundays, when, with great difficulty, I used a wheelchair to get in and out of church. For a year, there was little sleep, little activity, just the constant pain that dominated my life 24 hours per day. I went to all of the major medical centers within a day’s drive. The diagnosis was confirmed but there were no suggestions for treatment.

During this time I did not ask questions. Just getting through each day consumed all of my energy. I had faith from before and I had friends from church and these two things sustained me.

With much trial and error, my neurologist eventually found drugs which gave some relief. I was finally able to sit up and look around and consider life again. I began reading the Bible again, starting with Job. I was still largely confined to the house but I was able to begin to play a little music. And I even started to work a bit, reviewing medical charts and working with computer programs.

One day my daughter, in seventh grade, came in. “My feet hurt” were the only words I heard. Within a few months, she required a wheelchair to go to school.

I had already lived a good bit of my life. I had a faith that had carried me through. But why Anna, who had certainly never hurt anyone. Who had such a gentle spirit. There was nothing I could do. I knew the life she had ahead. Never being the same as everyone else. Never able to participate with the group. So many difficulties. So much pain.

Where is meaning in this situation? This is a genetic problem, it only gets worse. I am trapped in the very situation which non-Christians hold up to argue against the existence of God. How could a loving God allow what seems like such meaningless and undeserved suffering?

The book of Job took me through the options for meaning in the face of suffering. In the end, Job learns to serve God for God alone, with total trust. Suffering burned away Job’s superficial understanding of God.

Then there is Jesus. Jesus came and suffered in a very intentional way. He looked suffering in the face and made a conscious decision. His decision was to embrace suffering—suffering more severe than mine, or even Anna’s– in such a way as to change us forever. And the foundation of his decision was love. Jesus lived a long time ago. However, there is no one else who can walk with us in the depths of suffering. There are no other examples. Though the duration of his life on the earth was long ago, he continues to walk with us. For me, suffering brought his walk to my time on earth.

It is hard to talk about suffering. The subject makes most people uncomfortable. I can’t say I received much help from my brothers and sisters at church. But there were a few books that helped me along my path, including Tim Keller’s Biblically-based “Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering,” Peter Kreeft’s more philosophical approach, and C.S. Lewis’ personal story in “The Problem of Pain.” These authors have been my best friends through this time.

My process of understanding was not instantaneous. But as time went by, I was startled to discover joy. Joy in seeing my Christian brothers and sisters. A new found joy in Sunday services, in the liturgy and in Christian music. All of the hymns and contemporary songs that mention joy, their messages suddenly shot straight to my heart. I have been a Christian for most of my life but I had never felt this. With just a little reading, I discovered I was not alone but in the company of St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, C.S. Lewis. Joy is a sensation past even happiness. It is one of the most sought after things on earth. Suddenly, here it was for me in the most unexpected of places.

Life is still difficult. I still must arrange my day around pain, but I know that is not the point of my day. It is not the point of my life. I don’t know exactly how to communicate this to Anna. In a way it is easy to write the words and it is difficult to walk the walk. Her walk is different from mine.

At least I know there is a way. Total desolation is not our fate. Desperation and hopelessness are feelings of this world that need not define us.

There is love now and, most unexpectedly, there is joy.

This was a true story about Tim Henshaw, a physician from Roanoke, VA.

 

Today is the beginning of our second full week of the Season of Lent in which we are studying the New Testament letter from the Apostle Paul to the Christian Community in Colossae, Asia Minor (today’s Turkey). These Colossians, while living across the planet, 2,000 years ago, in the Roman Empire, weren’t all that different from we Lidgerwoodians.

Colossae was on the decline, in the midst of a thriving Greco-Roman world – and false teachers and worldly temptations and threats against humanity and fear of domineering governments were all taking over!

 

Paul writes to remind them who they were, to encourage their discouraged souls, to tell them again of who God is and what God had accomplished in Christ Jesus. In this letter we are invited to experience authentic ecclesia – to practice genuine Christian faith. In today’s reading Paul reminds them of the gift of God and the purpose of suffering.

 

Listen with me to God’s Word from Paul’s Letter to the Church in Colossae. Colossians 1:24-2:5 ….—-

           124 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature  in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

2 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

 

Our Thursday Bible Class is in the last chapters of Luke’s Gospel, so in the last three weeks we read about the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the trial before Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod, and the crucifixion, and death and burial of our Lord Jesus.

Someone in the class, tell us what was bigger: Jesus’ physical trauma, or His spiritual suffering? [Because of how it included His separation from His Father, due to our sins that put Him on the cross – the spiritual suffering surpassed the physical pain.]

Christ’s sufferings culminate in His CRUCIFIXION! – because of how it included His separation from His Father, due to our sins that put Him on the cross.

 

But in this passage of Paul’s letter to the Colossian Christians he says, “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you”. Why does he “rejoice”? What is it about suffering that might be a source of joy? James says in James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

When James and Paul suffer, for the cause of the cross, for the sake of the Gospel, they realize God’s presence in fuller and fuller ways. And when they suffer simply because sometimes life sucks – right? – they turn it into something that creates joy.

Look at the ways we all suffer just because we woke up this morning – Boris spent 17 years in prison for his faith; Grace can’t drive because she has lost the feeling in her feet and fingers; Sigrun has been feeling sick and depressed for months; Mary’s arm still hurts; Kathy goes in for dialysis three times a week; Jack is facing a potential ‘nother 20 years; Denise wakes up every morning wondering how her husband is going to handle today and how she will make it through another 24 hours; every one of us could find something to complain about – from aches and pains to financial woes to our phones down to 12% battery….

 

Look at the end of verse 24. Paul writes, “I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions.” What IS still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions? That does NOT mean that what Christ suffered on the cross was not sufficient. Paul never says that! Paul continually tells us that Christ alone is completely sufficient!

Interesting translation fact: The Greek words Paul used which the NIV translates as “what is lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions” really means REMANENCE – that is a word that is usually used when talking about how to magnetize a piece of iron. You rub a magnet against the iron, and the iron becomes like the magnet!!!

How are we “remanent” of Christ’s suffering? When Christ suffered, as He walked from the Praetorium along the Via Dolorosa to Golgatha, from the courtroom to Calvary, after being whipped with a scourge, after a night of interrogation and abuse, to His execution by crucifixion, how did Jesus suffer? He gave peace to the “women of Jerusalem; He promised Paradise to the repentant criminal crucified next to Him; He prayed that His Father would forgive all those who forced His death. He suffered, by choice, for the sake of others.

 

Christ’s death WAS absolutely completely SUFFICIENT! Our salvation is not dependent on ANYTHING we have to do! Jesus Christ was of the same substance as God the Father (that’s what we’ve seen over the last two weeks of looking at this Letter to the Colossians) – that’s why His death, the only begotten Son of God, fully human and fully God, His death was able to pay the complete debt of all our sin! That’s why His most grievous suffering was not the physical pain of crucifixion but the Spiritual suffering of separation from God the Father (that is the definition of Hell)!

 

How does God use our suffering?  Listen to this letter from Edina Nekesa Wanyonyi – our CEO Director and Social Worker in Kiminini, Kenya, as she answers my question of the seriousness of the drought conditions in Kenya. She first tells us that our children are all currently OK, but that living has become increasingly difficult because of the lack of water and the lack of resources (the entirety of the letter is posted on my office door). Then she says:

But in all as mentioned above we give glory to God because the Bible says that we have our above-father who is there for us in the time of happiness and hardship, so we are not moved with this drought season. i believe God sees well beyond every one and understands why it is happening and finally he will give us in double ways like he did for Job in the bible. Am faithful to him that he will take control, if God can provide for isrealites in desert place what about we in Kenya? ???? And i thank him for giving us this hard lesson so that we can remember him and do what he want through his name.

Get too much appreciation from me on behalf of C.E.O children and Ridge [her son]. I love you and thank you very much for your concerns, send my greetings to your family especially your beloved wife and church members. 

How does God use our suffering?  For Edina, she believes it is to help them remember God and do what He wants through His name! CS Lewis uses the image of a megaphone, suggesting that God uses suffering to get our attention! And then to draw us back to Him! Even our daily suffering from aches and pains, from loneliness and lostness, from fears and fights, from unjust judgments and disregard for truth, our suffering from systemic injustice and stupid decisions, can be turned into something that reflects the remanence of Christ! It can even be Dr. Tim Henshaw and Edina Wanyonyi and CS Lewis joy!

How does God use our suffering?  When we suffer for the sake of another – by doing the dishes you didn’t dirty to dying on behalf of another who is guilty – or when we suffer in a way that allows God’s light to shine through our suffering onto another who might catch that light and experience its warmthGod will be glorified!

 

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia means knowing that Christian Suffering really Is for Realsies and how we suffer makes a difference for the Kingdom of God! This is a Church on the very verge of truly experiencing all of that – and we are blessed, privileged to be in on the ground floor! Let’s join the Colossian Christians and be that kind of church together.

 

My hope is in [You,] Lord who gave [Your-]self for me, and paid the price of all my sin on Calvary.

[Your] grace has planned it all; ’tis mine but to believe, and recognize [Your] work of love, and Christ receive.

For me [You] died, for me [You live], and everlasting life and light [You] freely [give].     Amen.

 

Resources:

Becker, Amy Julia; “A Doctor faces His Own Suffering”; Christianity Today; April 2014.

 

Carson, H.M.; Colossians and Philemon; Tyndale new testament Commentaries; 1984; Pp. 49-59.

 

Clayton, Norman J.; “My Hope Is In the Lord”; 1945.

 

Wanyonyi, Edina Nekesa; Email to Mark Wheeler; 02/28/2017

 

03/05/2017 – Colossians 1:15-23 -Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “Jesus’ Primacy & God’s Purpose”

To LISTEN to this message, click HERE.

Mark Wheeler

Colossians 1:15-23

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “Jesus’ Primacy and God’s Purpose”

03/05/2017

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Set free, O Lord, any tension or anxiety which may keep us from fulfilling Your vision of what we can be. Fill us with the strength of Christ, the power of Your Holy Spirit, and the faithfulness of all true saints, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Did anyone here watch the President’s speech to the Congress last week? I confess that I did not watch it live – I did look it up and watch it later, and read the manuscript. I’m not a terribly politically minded person, but the last two years have been so full of political opinions it has been really hard to avoid getting hit by something somewhere along the line.

This week, members of the GOP have been praising this speech as very “presidential”; even much more liberal media members have commended it as well written and well delivered. Others from the Democratic persuasion have lambasted it and the President who delivered it as nothing more than talk….

If the whole adoration and rancor dividing this nation wasn’t so sad, it would be funny!

 

But here’s the thing – love him or hate him, Donald J. Trump is not our Savior! And while praying for our leaders is one way of working out our salvation in fear and trembling, admiring any political figure, or despising her/him, is not our main purpose in life.

 

We are now in our first full week of the Season of Lent; we enter into it with both praise and purpose. Last Sunday we began a study in the New Testament letter from the Apostle Paul to the Christian Community in Colossae, Asia Minor (today’s Turkey). These Colossians, while living across the planet, 2,000 years ago, in the Roman Empire, weren’t all that different from we Lidgerwoodians.

Colossae was on the decline, in the midst of a thriving Greco-Roman world – and false teachers and worldly temptations and threats against humanity and fear of domineering governments were all taking over!

 

Paul writes to remind them who they were, to encourage their discouraged souls, to tell them again of who God is and what God had accomplished in Christ Jesus. In this letter we are invited to experience authentic ecclesia – to practice genuine Christian faith.

 

Listen with me to God’s Word from Paul’s Letter to the Church in Colossae. Colossians 1:15-23 ….—-

           15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,           20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

 

In the very opening paragraph of this letter, what we read last Sunday, Paul introduced the idea of REDEMPTION!  God the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins

We are given the offer of our full value, redemption, as children of God Almighty, full forgiveness, absolute absolution, as we accept His offer through Jesus Christ. We don’t deserve it, but God mercifully offers His grace!

 

In today’s passage Paul introduces us to the REDEEMER!

Jesus is certainly mentioned in the beginning paragraph, but today’s paragraph concentrates on Jesus.

There are any number of ways one might properly talk about who Jesus is. Let’s hear some of those that come to your minds first. What are some one-word titles for Jesus? Or simple descriptive phrases of Jesus? —-

 

Thank you. In different places throughout the canon of Paul’s Epistles, he uses most of what y’all just said. In this Epistle to the Colossian Christian Community Paul concentrates his description of Jesus as “Supreme”. Jesus holds the position of Primacy over all that is!

Look at some of the ways Paul says Jesus is supreme:

  • Jesus is the FIRST BORN of ALL creation! As the visible image of the invisible God, Paul is telling us that the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, was not born some 60 years before this letter was written, or 2,017 years ago for us – He was born before creation happened! In His pre-incarnate form, Jesus has existed since before time began. Someone asked me a couple weeks ago how God was created…. The answer, beyond what our feeble minds can ever fully comprehend, is that God was not created, ever. He is God. From everlasting to everlasting! And the Son of God, Jesus, is fully God, of the same substance as God the Father, and therefore is supreme in His eternal-ness! John’s Gospel reminds us that all things that were created were created through Him! Genesis says, God said, “Let there be … and there was.” John calls Jesus the Word that was with God and that was God! He is Supreme!
  • Paul says that as the only begotten, Jesus is the HEAD of the CHURCH. Not the Pope; not the Arch-Bishop; not the Executive Presbyter; not the longest standing member or longest serving Elder or Deacon; certainly not the Pastor or Pastoral staff. Yes, Jesus wants us in positions of leadership – but, as our new Deacons and Elders vowed to do a few weeks ago, and I hope every one who has ever been ordained into church leadership remembered their own vows, we serve under Jesus who alone is HEAD of the CHURCH!
  • Paul states that as Lord of all Creation and as lord of His Church, Jesus is also, therefore, Lord of HIS PEOPLE! For the Colossian Church this truth gave power to the people to live against the grain, even against the government. For us in 21st Century America, may it give us the gravitas to live counter-culturally – to be generous even in tough times, to be faithful even when we are fearful, to be bold believers especially when bullied by bigots and false teachers. Jesus is not just our Savior – He is our LORD! Not just our Friend – He is our MASTER. We either willingly serve Him, or we willingly walk away from Him. We cannot call Him Lord, and then not do what we know He wants us to do!

Jesus is supreme over any and every possible other thing! Do you, do we, do I, allow His Primacy to Rule?

 

And now, a little more quickly, let’s look at what Paul says about how this visible image of the invisible God expresses God’s purposes:

  • Verse 19 says that God was pleased to have all His FULLNESS dwell in Jesus, reconciling all things to God! All creation is God’s, and that is shown by the Son of God coming in human form.
  • God’s purpose is shown in His reconciling us to God – by Jesus’ DEATH! All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, we are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24) Which brings us to the next:
  • Reconciling us to God – through our FAITH! Yes, it is free – but just like any gift, it is only ours if we accept it! Rejecting God’s redemptive forgiveness and turning away from His Supremacy means that we also reject what He offers for this life as well as for eternity! This, in cahoots with the third point above, that about our obedience to His Lordship, brings us straight to the last purpose listed here:
  • Reconciling OTHERS to God – in OUR faithfulness! You are included in His magnificent plan to bring wholeness to the worldfood to the hungry, here and in Kenya; water to the thirsty, downtown and in Kiminini; clothes to the naked, at the UGM and through CEO; and love to the lost, among our own families and friends, and across the globe in East Africa!

 

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia means having the truth about the Primacy of Jesus, and obeying into the Purposes of God! This is a Church on the very verge of truly experiencing all of that – and we are blessed, privileged to be in on the ground floor! Let’s join the Colossian Christians and be that kind of church together.

 

God of the ages, through time’s troubled years    You are the One in whom history coheres;   nations and empires Your purpose fulfill, moving in freedom, yet working Your will. 

In us and for Your Kingdom, we pray, Amen.

 

Resources:

Carson, H.M.; Colossians and Philemon; Tyndale new testament Commentaries; 1984; Pp. 42-49.

 

Clarkson, Margaret; “God of Creation, All Powerful, All Wise”; 1987.