Categories
Life

Discipleship is All About Jesus

Yesterday in my sermon on Colossians 2:6-7 (link coming soon!), I said that this short text from Paul is his view of discipleship in a nutshell. Paul tells us what discipleship is all about when he says that we are to “walk in [Jesus], having been rooted in him and now being built up in him” (literal translation). He writes to the Colossians because false teachers were saying they had to believe that receiving Jesus was an okay start, but once you get going in Christianity, you need something else. More than likely, the Colossians were tempted to go back to practicing Judaism.

Paul wants the Colossians—and us—to know that Christ, not anything else, is supreme. You started with Jesus. You go on with Jesus. You end with Jesus. This means that as disciples, our goal should be that Christ become progressively more and more supreme in all of life to us. Discipleship is not about being built up on theology, spiritual disciplines, morality, traditions, church programs, or anything else. It is a life being built on Jesus for his glory. Discipleship is all about Jesus.

This means that we live the Christian life the same way we started: repentance and faith in Jesus (cf. Mark 1:15). That’s our rhythm. We continually turn from counterfeit glories back to Jesus, our true glory. We don’t become Christians by trusting in Jesus and then move on to something else, as if it were more advanced. No, instead Christ and his gospel are always progressively becoming more and more  beautiful, glorious, delightful, and, therefore, “real” to us.

At one point in the sermon, I mentioned a (literal) illustration that might be helpful. It’s sometimes called “The Gospel Grid” or “The Cross Chart” depending on who you talk to. Here it is:

crosschart

When we become Christians, we don’t know very much. We don’t know very much about our sin and rebellion. We didn’t truly understand what it cost God to save us (the death of his only Son). We just knew that Jesus did die for us and we were captivated by him. At some point, we may be tempted, like the Colossians, to go on to something else. This chart is a visual reminder that “being built up in him” means that Jesus and his work on the cross should become “bigger” to us. That is, we should increasingly see what it cost the Supreme One to redeem sinners. As the chart shows, over time, disciples grow in their awareness of God’s holiness and of their sinfulness. As we mature, the cross seems bigger not because we sin more or worse (hopefully not, at least!). But because, unlike our physical eyes which worsen with age, our spiritual eyes have better vision than months, years, or decades ago. God’s grace in the gospel increasingly becomes sweeter and more amazing than we previously thought.

This reality is in Ephesians, too. Paul prayed that this church would have the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened to see the depths of gospel grace (Eph. 1:18-20) and that Christ would dwell in their hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17). These are prayers for Christians! What did he mean by praying this? He meant that he wanted Christ to be more real to them in their everyday experience. He wanted them to revel in Christ’s supremacy and work in the gospel. He wanted them to delight in the God who gave it all up for them. He wanted Christ’s glory and beauty to melt their hearts so that counterfeit glories would be rejected. He wanted their discipleship—their Christian life—to be a continual cycle of getting to know Jesus better and becoming more like him.

When Jesus becomes “bigger” or “more real” to us things change. We start to point people to him, not ourselves and our traditions, preferences, programs, models, etc. We start to sacrifice our comfort, time, resources, and energy for others knowing that the Supreme One gave it all up for me.

And most importantly, as I said in the sermon yesterday, we become humble, grateful people. Paul calls for us to “abound in thanksgiving” (v. 7b). When you are captivated by grace, you become thankful. Why? Because you can’t take credit. God has given you a gift. When the gospel of grace is big to us, thanksgiving is big, as well.

So let’s not be tempted to move on to something else. Nothing is more advanced than Jesus and the grace he gives because of the gospel. He is supreme and our discipleship is all about him.

Categories
Life Ministry

Looking Forward to Wearing a White Robe

Here’s a segment of a sermon I preached called “You Can Change” from Colossians 3:1-17:

In a passage that accentuates the tension between what we are in Christ and what we experience in our daily life on earth, Paul gives us a tremendous word of promise. 

Right now, in our effort to put on virtue, we wrestle with sin and brokenness. We are marred and, in some way, not yet whole. We have been raised with Christ, yet there is still a stain inside of us. And this stain inclines us toward evil. Our efforts to live virtuously will always fall short. And this is not an failure of God’s grace, but rather evidence that indwelling sin is a reality.

And that’s where v. 4 comes in to play. “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” One day the one in whom we find our identity will appear and we will be “further clothed” and share in his glory.

The promise we have is that one day there will be no more vices to be avoided. There will be no more struggling for virtue. There will be no more New Year’s resolutions. When Christ returns in glory, there will be no more need to clothe ourselves with virtue because, as Revelation 7:14 says, we will wear robes that have been washed white in the blood of the Lamb.

Listen to the whole sermon.

Categories
Theology

The Supremacy of Christ in Colossians 1-2

Colossians 3-4 is filled with practical exhortation for Christian living. But before Paul lists imperative after imperative, he sets forth the supremacy of Christ as the foundation for Christian experience. It’s beyond a doubt that the big theme of Colossians is “Jesus is Supreme.”

  • It is through Christ that believers have been delivered from the domain of darkness into God’s kingdom (1:13).
  • It is in Christ that believers have redemption and forgiveness (1:14).
  • Everything exists through Christ and for Christ (1:15-16).
  • Everything is held together by Christ (1:17).
  • The church exists because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and the entire cosmos will be reconciled to Christ (1:18-20).
  • In Christ the fullness of God’s presence dwells (1:19; 2:9).
  • Personal and corporate reconciliation to God only comes through Christ (1:21-23).
  • The glory of the mystery of God’s inclusion of the Gentiles in his redemption is Christ, the hope of glory (1:27).
  • Christ is the subject of Christian proclamation and instruction (1:28).
  • Christ himself is actually the substance of God’s mystery (2:2), and in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (2:3).
  • It is by faith in Christ that believers are to walk and be built up and established (2:6-7).
  • Believers are filled in Christ (2:10).
  • Christ is the head of all rule and authority (2:10).
  • In Christ believers are spiritually circumcised (2:11).
  • As evidence of this spiritual circumcision, believers are baptized and raised in Christ through faith by God’s power (2:12).
  • In Christ believers are made alive (2:13).
  • In Christ God has triumphed over and crushed and put to shame his enemies (2:15).
  • Christ is the substance of all Old Testament shadows (2:16-17).
  • Christ is the head of the body, and the body grows only through its union to him (2:19).
  • Believers have died with Christ to rules and traditions influenced by demonic and pagan forces and man-made religion (2:20-23).

Christ is supreme, indeed.

Categories
Life

You Are Weird to God

When you hear the word “alienated,” what comes to mind?  You probably think words like of “strange,” “foreign,” or “different.”

How about “weird”?

If you look up “weird” in the dictionary, you might find something like this: “involving or suggesting the supernatural; unearthly or uncanny: a weird sound; weird lights.”  Interesting.  That sounds like they are describing a UFO or an alien.

Well, in Colossians 1:21, Paul writes that we “once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.”  The previous six verses describe the incredible attributes of Jesus — his divinity, supremacy, and preeminence.  Because Jesus is all those things, and we are not, it makes us different than he is.  How do we respond to something that is different  from us (in the negative sense)?  We usually say, “That’s weird!”  When God sees sin, he says, “That’s not right.  That’s not how it’s supposed to be.”

Because of our sin, we do not belong in the same universe as God.  He is so perfect.  We are so sinful.  That’s a huge difference.  Our sin separates us from him; it causes us to not be able to experience relationship with God.  We are estranged.  We are lost.  Simply, in God’s eyes, sin makes us weird.

But the good news of the gospel is that Jesus, the righteous God-man, came to die for us, the unrighteous weirdos.  That’s what Paul tell us in verse 22:

[And you, who were once alienated]…he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.

Jesus died that we might be holy and blameless before God.  Jesus’ death takes away alienation and brings on a new nature.  His death reconciles us to God.  His death secures our relationship with God.

Let’s praise God that his criteria for receiving love isn’t that we are like him.  He loves sinners.  He loves weirdos.  And he sent his Son to make us right with him, so that we might become more like Jesus for all eternity.

Categories
Theology

The Gospel According to Isaiah

Some have called Isaiah the “fifth gospel” because it is so blatantly clear about the coming Messiah.  It was written before the gospel narratives in the New Testament, so perhaps it’s not “fifth” in order.  Perhaps a better name could have been given.  Nevertheless, Isaiah preaches the gospel of Jesus, and it couldn’t be more clear.

Isaiah speaks of a day that is coming Jacob shall take root and Israel will fill the whole world with its fruit.  He speaks of a day when Jacob’s guilt will be atoned for.  He speaks of a day when people from all over the world will worship Jehovah in Jerusalem.  Here’s what he writes in 27:6-9, 13:

In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit.  Has he struck them as he struck those who struck them? Or have they been slain as their slayers were slain? Measure by measure, by exile you contended with them he removed them with his fierce breath in the day of the east wind.  Therefore by this the guilt of Jacob will be atoned for,and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin: when he makes all the stones of the altars like chalkstones crushed to pieces, no Asherim or incense altars will remain standing…And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.

“Jacob” is going to take root and “Israel” is going to bear fruit in the whole world.  We know that all those who are of Christ are the true Israel.  What will this taking root and bearing fruit be?  Colossians 1:6 says, “[The gospel] which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing — as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.”  This fruit of Jacob is truth of God’s grace in the gospel of Jesus.  This fruit is gospel fruit which God works in us, and it is the only fruit that will last forever (John 15:16).

In verses 7-9, the main idea is that God uses affliction to purge his people. Even during exile (v. 8), God’s discipline of his people was carefully considered. Everything that happened to them was done for their good (Rom. 8:28). Isaiah tells us that God’s people (“Jacob”) will be atoned for through suffering so that “no…altars will remain standing” (v. 9). God wants to bring his people to idol-free worship of himself. The great fulfillment of this is seen in Jesus, as he atoned for our guilt through suffering and death. He was stricken and crushed by God (Isa. 53:10) so that his people’s sin would be removed. Atonement for sin requires death (cf. Isa. 22:14), and Jesus made the final atonement on the cross.  This great atonement gives God’s people the ability and access to come to God’s altar instead and worship him instead of worshiping at the altar of idols.

The chapter closes with a beautiful picture of God’s people worshiping him “on the holy mountain at Jerusalem” (v. 13).  Everyone who was lost in Assyria or driven out of Egypt will come and sing praises to God. These people are the people of Israel — everyone who worships Jesus as God and Savior. This is God’s chief end for the world — that people should be gathered together to glorify and worship him.

The story of the planet earth is that God is making one people for himself and his Son is the one shepherd who provides atonement for these people.  God’s Son is the one king who leads these people.  This grand story is working toward a climactic ending where the people of God will come to worship him in his holy city.  This is the story of earth.

And it couldn’t be more clear.