Asbury Free Methodist – Rev. Dr. Brent Russett
May 9th, 2021
Again, a happy Mother’s Day to all of you. We are going to continue on with part 5 of our series “Genuine- a walk through Colossians. Today we come to the last part of chapter 1. If you have been following Paul’s train of thought through the first chapter, you will see that he starts with who Jesus is and then goes on to talk about what the church is to be and now he is going to talk about who he is a what his ministry is about.
Remember, Paul has never been to the church in Colossae. He only knows the church in a second-hand way through his friend Epaphras and the church only knows Paul in a second hand way. So, Paul wants to let the Colossians know what his ministry is all about.
Have you ever had the experience of meeting a friend of a friend? Especially someone who your friend has talked about in glowing terms. You go into the conversation with a good feeling about that person and of course you have your friend in common. But there is something about hearing from the person themselves that makes them more concrete.
A friend of mine worked with a guy who was constantly being interviewed on political programs because he was seen to be an expert in that area. I was invited to my friend’s house for a party and this guy was there. I expected him to be smart, but he came off as being ordinary and yet focused. He asked great questions. It was a good conversation. There is a difference between hearing about someone and hearing from someone.
The Colossian church had heard about Paul from Epaphras but now they were hearing from Paul himself. Paul says, here is what my ministry is all about. It is going to take me two weeks to unpack what Paul’s ministry was about. The first part of chapter two talks about the goal of Paul’s ministry. But today we stick mostly to the end part of chapter 1.
Some of you are wondering – that is nice history – but what does that have to do with me? The answer is a lot – actually. Paul stands in this pivotal point in church history. He contributed to a foundation that our faith still rests on. If you can see what he is saying you will hear some core truths about who you are in Christ and it will be the foundation that you can build your life on.
Paul, like Jesus, was a Jews. Here is how he describes himself to the Philippians.
Philippians 3:4–6 (NIV)
… If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
He goes on to say that those credentials are worthless compared to knowing Jesus. But it does tell us a little bit about who he was. He calls himself a Hebrews of Hebrews. He was the poster boy for what a religious Jewish person was supposed to be.
But God did something that was unthinkable to the Jews of Paul’s time. God did something which caught the early church that was made up of all Jewish people by surprise. God welcomed Gentiles into the kingdom of God. Gentiles are non-Jewish people. People like most of us. Jesus came, not only for the chosen people, but for the Gentiles. This was unimaginable to the Jewish people of the time.
And more than that, Paul tells us in Romans 11:13 that God called him to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. God was sending Paul to actively reach the Gentiles
So when he says in
Colossians 1:24 (NIV)
24 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.
When Paul says he is suffering for you, he is saying that it is my ministry to the Gentiles that has caused me to be arrested. When he says he is filling up was lacking in Christ’s afflictions, you might remember that when Jesus appeared to Paul at his conversion, after Paul had persecuted the church, the question that Jesus asked Paul was why do you persecute me? Paul was persecuting the church, but Jesus took that personally. Why do you persecute me?
So, now Paul is an apostle to the Gentile church and people are persecuting him for it. In some very real way, as Paul is suffering Christ is suffering for the church as well.
Paul goes on to say,
Colossians 1:25–26 (NIV)
25 I have become its ( the church’s) 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.
He says if you look at the Old Testament there is this mystery. God has had his people on a spiritual journey. He has moved in our history. He has spoken through our prophets – but we couldn’t quite see what God was up to. How was God going to do what he promised in the Garden of Eden – how was God going to make right what is wrong in the world.
People have been trying to figure out this mystery -but it has been hidden, it has stumped people for ages and generations. The prophets of God and the people of God longed to understand what God was up to.
They tried to obey the law. They tried to be religious. They tried to create a culture that would help them follow the rules, but we still didn’t understand what God’s plan was. It was not reversing the effects of sin. How would God redeem his people?
But the mystery of what God has been up to and has been planning has now been revealed to the Lord’s people – the followers of Jesus. It has even been revealed to non-Jewish people who haven’t followed the law.
Colossians 1:27 (NIV)
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.
Jesus is the answer to the mystery. This is how he going to fix what went wrong in the garden. But the answer is not just Jesus, but Christ in you the hope of glory. It is Jesus in his people that will start to accomplish what God wants to accomplish. That is the hope of glory.
This promise was not just for the Jews it was for the gentiles. It is for everyone who will call upon the name of the lord.
I was in Ghana a decade ago teaching theology to pastors and I started talking about this truth. They started smiling at me and said – in many of our churches, this is how we start off our services. The Pastor says Christ in you. The congregation responds the hope of glory. And we say it three times.
Christ in you – the hope of glory (3x)
Why, because this is the central truth of the gospel. People wondered how God was going to do what God wanted to do. The answer was Christ in you – and that is the hope of glory.
In case you think this is something that Paul made up I want to take you back to the night before Jesus died. This is exactly what Jesus said would happen.
John 14:19–20 (NIV)
Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.
On that day when you live, you are going to realize who I am. I am in God the Father and you are also going to realize that You are in me and you are also going to realize that I am in you.
Christ in you – the hope of glory.
If you are a follower of Jesus. If you have given your life to Jesus. He is in you. If you understand what this means – I mean really understand what this means – it changes everything.
Part of the problem of preaching through a book like Colossians, small chunk by small chunk is that we can easily forget what has gone on before. It was two weeks ago that we looked at Colossians 1:15. But in Greek that was only two sentences ago.
With the words – Christ in you the hope of glory ringing in your ears let me remind you of
Colossians 1:15–20 (NIV)
15 The Son (Christ) 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…
Christ in you – the hope of glory.
Christ in you – the hope of glory.
Christ in you – the hope of glory.
All of who Jesus is, is in you. The one who created all things and who holds all things together; the one who has supremacy over all and has reconciled all things to himself – is in you.
The one who showed compassion to the crowd and healed the leper and raised the dead – is living in you. The one who showed us all what God is like and has authority over all is living in you.
Until you get a hold of this reality, the Christian life will never make sense to you. The Christian life isn’t about trying to be good. It is about letting Christ who is in you, transform you. The Christian life isn’t some philosophy to live by. It is about letting Christ who is you guide how you live. Prayer isn’t something we do to a God who is far away, it someone who we talk to who in is in us. The power of God isn’t a way at a distance, – the one who has all authority is living within you.
If you allow that reality to settle in your soul, it will change your prayer life. God is no long a far off. If you allow this reality to settle in your soul, it will cause faith to arise – because God is involved in your life. He knows what you need and why you need it. If you allow this reality to settle in your soul your connection with God will grow deeper, your relationship with God will grow stronger, and your heart for God will grow bigger.
I know that some of you who have invite Christ into your life by faith, feel like God is far away from you. I want you to know that your feelings are lying to you. Christ is in you. I know some of you wonder if God could really love you. Christ has seen you at your worst, he was there on the worst day of your life, and he is saying I am still here, and I want so much better for you.
If you could see how much I love you, how much I want for you – if you could see the freedom and joy, the peace and love I want you to walk into, you would be amazed. I haven’t left you – I am waiting for you to be able to walk into what I have for you.
Just as an aside, Lynda my wife is a counselor and as a pastor I also help people through emotional challenges. We often note that there is a huge difference between counselling Christians and non-Christians. God loves both but it is so much easier to see healing in the Christian – because Christ is there. That is assuming that the Christian is willing to do what Christ says and do things like confess sin and forgive those who have hurt them and the like. It is amazing what I have seen God do. It is amazing what I have seen God do in my own life.
That is what Paul is talking about in the next verse.
Colossians 1:28–29 (NIV)
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.
Part of what it means to mature is to allow Christ who is us to come to the surface in every part of our life. Paul says he admonishes, which means to advise and to warn – and he teaches people with wisdom. He tells them how to let Christ heal their past and come to the forefront in their present.
Part of what it means to be fully mature in Christ is live as Paul was living with Christ so powerfully working within us.
Part of the vision of our church is to be a church full of exceptionally well discipled people. We could put it another way, that our vision is to present everyone fully mature in Christ.
That means that we will need to see Jesus set us free from the things that hold us back. It means that we stay connect to Christ who is in us in such a way that he comes to the surface in how we live, what we say, how we serve, what we do. It means that “Christ in us, the hope of glory,” is not just some catch phrase or slogan, but a reality that we live out.
Here is what I believe. The next couple of years are going to pivotal for Asbury. We are going to offer opportunities for people to have the tools to grow to maturity. The question is, will you opt in or will you sit on the sidelines.
I want to encourage you to lean into all that God has for you.
Sermon Questions – The Mystery of the Gospel
Genuine- A walk through Colossians – Part 5
Colossians 1:24-29 – May 9th, 2021
1. What are you giving thanks for this week?
2. Have you ever had the experience of hearing a lot about someone and then later meeting them for yourself? Did your perception of them change/ stay the same?
3. Read Colossians 1:24-29. Paul had never met the Colossians in person, but now he is going to tell them about his ministry. (It is helpful to remember that Paul was a Jewish Pharisee who has become an Apostle to the Gentiles -Rom 11:13. It is also helpful to remember that the Colossian church is primarily Gentile. (non-Jewish))
4. Read Verse 24 again. When he says I am suffering for you – he has never met them so what does he mean?
5. What do you think he means by the last part of verse 24? (Note: Scholars have argued over this verse for years – so the answer is not straightforward)
6. Read verse 25-26. What does he mean – “The word of God in all its fullness?”
What does is the question in the mystery that Paul was talking about?
7. Read verse 27. What is the answer to the mystery? How does this answer the above question? How is this different than the Jewish religion before Christ?
8. What is “The hope of glory?” What practical difference can it make that “Christ is in us?”
9. Read Verses 28-29. What is the goal of Paul’s ministry? According to these verses what three things (4 if you count verse 29) does Paul do to reach this goal?
10. If full maturity in Christ is the goal – are you close to that goal?