Power Tools

Second in “New Life – Full and Free” Series on Colossians,
Delivered September 19, 2004 by Rev. John Schmidt.

Theme: In Christ we share in the fullness of God, and we are no longer condemned or under the power of sin. We can live differently and we are raised to a new kind of life through the power of the Holy Spirit. But we need to know it, believe it and act on it.

Sermon Text:
Colossians 1:21-2:15

Sermon Notes are at the end.

Well as we got to see just now, it’s important to have the right tool for the right job. I guess I recognized that most acutely when I went to Belize for some summer missions, and in Belize my job was to build some desks for a church school in Belize City. I went down there with these wonderful plans on how to build desks for this school out of plywood, only to discover once I got in to Belize that there was no plywood in the whole country. So instead, I had to make the desks out of mahogany. Now the problem with that was they had these large boards of mahogany but the edges weren’t dressed. The edges were actually the bark of the tree and so it was wavy on the edge and the wood was somewhat unfinished. It still had the saw marks on it. And so when I was working on those desks I desperately wanted a joiner, a power plane that would cut the edges and square the edges off so I could put the edges together and make a beautiful desk top. As it is, I didn’t have that power tool. Instead I had a hand plane and so right now in Belize the ugliest desks in the whole country are duck egg blue and built by yours truly. They have holes big enough between the boards you could drop a pencil through it.

Well, in the New Testament Jesus and his early followers, the Apostles have told us that in Christ we have everything we need to live the kind of life that God calls us to live. If that’s true, where do we get that power? How does it happen in our lives? Well, Paul writes the Book of Colossians. We have been looking at the Book of Colossians. We began last week. We will be looking at it for a number of other weeks, and Paul wrote this book to a group of people who trusted that Jesus was God’s answer for them to be forgiven from sin. But as time went on some of the people in that community started to think, they started to get enamored with a kind of mysticism and started to believe that the way to really please God and get your life in shape is to not only believe in Jesus, but also to avoid certain foods and to do certain ceremonies at certain times of the year and that by doing these things you could really plug into God and live the kind of life that God was calling us to live. When Paul writes them he takes a strong stance against that kind of thinking. So what Paul says in the Book of Colossians is that Jesus is all of it. Jesus is the one that God has done the whole work in. And so, it’s not that we have Jesus plus some other things that we do in our life to be pleasing to him; it’s Jesus Christ plus nothing, because we have it all in Jesus. So Paul asserts in the passage that we are going to be looking at in just a moment that God has done it all in Christ. So let’s take a look now at the Book of Colossians, Chapter 2, and I am going to begin at the 8th verse. It’s about 833 or 834 I guess of the Bibles you have, I think. Colossians, Chapter 2 in the New Testament beginning Verse 8:

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form and you have been given fullness in Christ who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised in the putting of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men, but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code with its regulations that was against us and stood opposed to us. He took it away nailing to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Let’s pray. Gracious God, we thank you for this your word and pray that as we think about it together, that what we need to hear, understand, believe, act on, that these things will stand out and that all the other things will just fade into the background. For we ask this in Jesus name. Amen.

Paul doesn’t want anything to get in the way of looking at Christ alone for everything we need in the spiritual life. So the point he is making is that God has done it all in Christ. So let’s take a look at how he explains that. The first thing he points out is that we have fullness in Christ. It says that “For in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form and you have been given fullness in Christ.” Now we often think in terms of what would Jesus do and I think that’s a basically healthy exercise, but sometimes we think about that as a historical thing. You know, Jesus came and was still in his robe and stuff, you know, what would Jesus do now? But the fact is that Jesus is doing it now in us. The point that Paul is making is that all the fullness of the deity is in Christ, in bodily form it was in Christ, but we have been given that fullness in Christ as we become Christians and become part of the church. And so, God is actively, fully and powerfully at work in us. So all the resources that God can bring to bear on a problem, that’s in us, that’s at work among us and so its not something that is way off there in the past or something that is way off in the future. It’s now. So that means growth. Growing in to the kind of life that God wants us to live. That kind of growth will never be a matter of looking for something else in addition to Christ. It will always be a matter of growing deeper into him. It will be a matter of relationship. So God has given us fullness in Christ.

And then Paul goes to point out that in Christ we died and in Christ we were raised back to life. Now when we believe in Jesus, it’s not that we physically die. We know that. But in Christ something real did happen, something spiritual, something on a spiritual level happened where we died and the images that Paul uses in this passage, the first image comes from the Old Testament rite of circumcision. And so there’s that sense of the old life being decisively cut away and that this is not a matter of something that happens in the flesh, but it’s something that happened spiritually that Christ does in our life. The old has been cut away and we are marked permanently for God.

He goes on to talk and use the New Testament image of baptism to hammer this picture home. That in baptism we have died and been raised back to life. When we do an adult baptism, an immersion baptism, the picture there is that the person goes under the waters and the waters there represent God’s judgment. Water is used repeatedly in the Old and New Testament to talk about God’s judgment upon the earth. And so we go in to God’s judgment in baptism, then we come out though to a new life. And that’s the image that baptism symbolizes. So even if we use water on a baby and just sprinkle it on them, the image is still there, that’s it’s the water of judgment and we come out through that into a new life. So this Old Testament and New Testament image of death, a decisive cutting off of the old life, and an entrance into the new life. So the truth here is that when Christ died, we died with him. And when he was resurrected, we were raised in him.

Now Paul goes on in this passage to give us a feel for just what that means. What is it that we have died and live now in Christ? What really happened on the cross? Paul goes into that as we go into the 14th verse. “He forgave all our sins, having canceled the written code with its regulations that was against us and that stood opposed to us. He took it away nailing it to the cross.” Now in Jesus’ time often, when someone was crucified, the authorities would write the judgment, write the indictments, on a board and tack it to the top of the cross. And so if you were being crucified because you were a trader, there would be a sign on the top of your cross that would say “This man is a traitor.” “He’s a murderer.” “He’s a terrorist.” Whatever it was it was often put as a public proclamation of what your guilt was.

Now in the Old Testament God gave us the law, a whole group — a deep description of what it means to live a life that’s pleasing to God. The problem is that when you sum the law together, it talks about not only our outward actions, but also our inner attitudes. So when you sum the law together, it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. It means to love your neighbor as you love yourself. It means that you don’t have any idols in your life, that God is the center of everything. And it means that you are pure at the bottom of who you are as a person. And when we are measured up against the standard like that, it’s not good news. It’s bad news, because all of us fall short of living that way. And so the only thing the law could do is say if you live this way, perfectly, forever, you will be acceptable to God. Short of that, you will die. So that means that the law condemns us all.

But what Paul points out here is that God takes that indictment, the law has said “John, you have to die. You have fallen short.” And God takes that indictment and he nails it to the cross with Jesus Christ and so the law does its work. The law demands that I die, and Jesus died and I died in him. And so, in Jesus the law has done its worst work against us. It will condemn us. It has condemned us in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ died in our place. So what in God’s eyes was tacked to the cross? It wasn’t any sin that Jesus did. It was our sin. And so that means now that because the law could only kill us and now the law has killed us, we now can live with no condemnation against us. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because we do not live under law, but under grace. So that means that we don’t have to live as if there’s a disapproving parent up there that’s always waiting for us to fail in some kind of way. God has decisively said, “I have found a way to make you acceptable. You are acceptable to me.” So the first thing we have here is forgiveness, that we are free of condemnation.

But then he goes on. He says another result of the cross of Jesus dying in our place is freedom. I think I have already said to you another time that C. S. Lewis said something to the effect that God loves us enough to accept us the way we are, but he loves us too much to leave us that way. Now if the only thing that the cross did for us was to procure our forgiveness, then that would mean that God was leaving us in the same situation, the way immediately we would live the same kind of life, a life that would hurt ourselves, hurt other people and hurt God himself. But he doesn’t leave us that way. In Christ the power of evil over us has been decisively broken. That spiritual necessity to live without God, that desire to always protect ourselves, to ignore other people, to live as if we are the center of everything, that is what the Bible calls sin. The power of that has been broken at the cross through Jesus Christ. There are three verbs that are used here that talk about what Christ has done.

It talks about his disarming the powers and authorities in verse 15, making a public spectacle of them and then triumphing over them by the cross. The picture here is like a Roman general who had a victory and he would take all the weapons off of the prisoners and then would march them down in a public parade in triumph, showing publicly that he had fully dominated these people and conquered them. And that is what Paul says has happened at the cross in Jesus Christ. So that means that the power of sin from visible things and invisible things over our lives has been broken, and so whenever someone turns to Jesus Christ, there’s a power play that happens. A power encounter happens where the devil is obliged to relax his hold on a person, relax his hold on someone’s life and bow to the superior power of Jesus Christ. It says in the first chapter, where it says “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 have been pulled out by force out of one dominion and pulled into another kingdom. And so that means that as we live in Jesus Christ, since we belong to him, even now Satan has to step back before us. So we are forgiven and we are free because of the work of the cross, what Jesus has done, by the power of God in Jesus Christ we are forgiven and free. But then why don’t we live in more of this victory? Because we’ve got to admit that we are inconsistent about this. We are inconsistent among ourselves and if you look at any one of our lives there are good days, there are bad days — why does that happen? I think one of the reasons we live differently and inconsistently is because we don’t even know what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

Our daughter is getting married this December. So I will be gone for a week during December, having a crazy time down in Louisiana. And so we have been having this — I saw that! I shouldn’t say about crazy times in Louisiana because people have a real bad image of what that means. But we have been getting to know our future son-in-law. His name is Barrett or John; it depends on their mood. I don’t know whether I should be concerned that I have a son-in-law who has an alias. I don’t know. But anyway, Barrett had a very hard time this summer; for about a month he had absolutely no money and so had to spend an entire month watching every little tiny bit of money he had left. There were things that he couldn’t pay properly and all. He just had a very tough time. And at the end of the month he got his bank statement only to discover that early in the month his parents had deposited $1,000 into his account. He just didn’t know it. And so here he was living the whole summer penniless when he wasn’t penniless. He was living that way because he didn’t know what had been provided.

And sometimes I think we act like we are penniless, like we are powerless because we don’t know what God has said he’s done for us in Jesus Christ. And so that means that we’ve got to know the Scriptures. It means that we have a responsibility. If we have decided to follow Jesus we have a responsibility to read the Scriptures and to think about what it means, to try to reflect on how is this truth real for me and how can I live differently because of it. It means that we need to go to classes when they are teaching on the Scriptures. It means in our small groups as we gather around the Scriptures and talk about these things, that we need to encourage each other to look at it carefully and to hold each other accountable, to believe these things and to move forward in life. So we’ve got to know what the truth is.

But even if we know it, we’ve got to believe it. You’ve got to believe that it really is true. You can spout it all off, but if you don’t believe it, then nothing is going to happen in your life. A number of times in this early part of the Book of Colossians, Paul talks about the necessity of faith. We come to God in Jesus Christ through faith and faith is what carries us through the whole time we walk with Jesus Christ. This issue of trust will always be there. It will always be the center of what it means to have a relationship with God. We have to trust him. We have to believe him. And so that means that when somebody hurts us, we’ve got to believe that we have the power to forgive them, because God has said we do. We’ve got to believe that we have the power to love them even though we have been wounded. We’ve got to believe that we have the power to put it aside, fully and finally, and live with those things in the past. When we face sexual temptation, we have to believe that God’s way is better than our way and we have to believe that God has given us the power to actually live differently. Faith is important. Trust in God is important. God has said he has given us a decisive break over sin in our lives and so we need to believe it. We need to believe God. We need to believe that things can change.

But even if we believe, that’s not the whole story. Because even if we know something is true, even if we believe it, there comes a point that we have to act. Inevitably, time after time our walk with God is going to come to choices that we have to make. I would love it if there were automatic pilot in the Christian life. Man, to get a really good day when I am ready to say yes to God on all those levels, to say it once and then forever after that to have it all just happen. Be a perfect person, every resource available. It doesn’t happen that way. Because God has made us in his image and part of that is this capacity to choose and God in developing us to be like himself, again and again brings us to a place of choice, where he wants us to know, where he wants us to believe and then he wants us to choose what is right.

Let me go back to Barrett and the bank account for a minute. If the end of that month came and Barrett saw that he had money in his bank account and he called his parents and found out that yes indeed they had sent this money and it’s there for him to use, what would you think of it if he then still refused to make a check out? Still continued to live as if he were penniless? Not going to use that cash card, even though he has money in the bank. Well sometimes that’s what we do, because inevitably it comes to a moment that we have to choose to act on the basis of what God has said to be true. Ultimately, we need to act. Here in this Book of Colossians incredible things are said about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, and we need to know what it says. It says here that in Christ we have the fullness of God, that we share in that fullness that was in Jesus Christ as God Incarnate. We share in that fullness now. We have that fullness. It says also that we are no longer condemned. God has done everything necessary to deal with our sin. We are no longer under the power of sin. We can live differently and we are raised to a new kind of life through the power of the Holy Spirit. So we need to know it. We need to believe it. And we need to act on it.

Let’s pray. God, we hold this before you. We believe its true. And so we ask now that we might individually and together take you seriously, and so here where we see that you have done these things for us to give us a new life, we pray that we will now, knowing it and believing it, that by the power of your spirit will face the choices that you put in our lives and we will choose to be like you, for we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sermon Outline Notes:

God has done it all in Christ:
Fullness in Christ
Died and Raised in Christ
Our response: