Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Colossians Week 5 - The Fullness of Jesus

Today we’re going to continue making our way through the book of Colossians and if you have your Bibles you can open up to chapter 2 of Colossians where we left off with verse 9. 

Now since we have been going through the book of Colossians, we have been taking it section by section, so that we can get a fuller understanding of what the Holy Spirit was trying to reveal through the author Paul. 
That is until we came to chapter 2 verses 6-23. We talked about how this section dealt with so much information that we need to cut it into to parts. The first part dealt with verses 6-8, where we talked about how Paul was telling us as individuals that we needed three things: 1) To be built up in Jesus by solidifying our understanding of who he is, 2) That we need to have our faith strengthen through serving people, 3) And that we need to be continuously thankful by looking at the good God has done for us.
Then we talked about how these three things that we need in our personal lives are to combat, momentary philosophies of how we approach our relationship with God, human traditions of how the Church is supposed to act, and spiritual forces that our trying to divert our attention away from God and onto momentary problems.
It was all this that we talked about, which needed to be flushed out, before we could talk about the next part of the section.
So now knowing that we need to be built up in Jesus, to combat momentary philosophies. Knowing that we need to have our faith strengthened through serving, which combats against human traditions getting in our way in reaching people. And knowing that being continuously thankful keeps our eyes on God and away from the momentary problems of this world that the spiritual forces around us want us to focus on. It’s now that we can move forward in understanding the next part of the section. So if you have your Bibles with you, would you please open up to verse 9 of chapter 2 in the book of Colossians. Where we’ll read together. 

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.

Let’s take a breather right there, and digest everything that Paul is writing.

After I had begun my own personal relationship with God, I tried to attend churches. While I sat through a lot of sermons over time, it seemed to be that I was hearing the same thing over and over. Don’t do. Don’t do this, don’t do that.
And when I heard the Gospel message given, it was seemed like it was, “God saved you from sin.” Now, I’m not saying these things I heard were bad, but there began to be something missing in my relationship with God. I felt like this whole being saved thing was more about the things I wasn’t supposed to do. But as I read the Bible, it seemed like there was more to the story than just the things I was saved from, and the things I wasn't suppose to be doing. 
A few years of this went on and for one of my studied I had to read the book the Four-Fold Gospel by A.B. Simpson. In the book, Simpson talked about what we were saved from, sin and death, but then he added a section on what we were saved to. He gave point after point about how we are not just saved from something, but we are saved to something.

Here, Paul tells us that we are not only saved from something, but we are saved to something.

Verse 10 says, “10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.”

Paul is saying that when we put our trust into Jesus as our Savior we are being brought into fullness. Paul goes on to give us three overarching ways that Jesus accomplishes bringing us into this fullness: 1) By triumphing over the spiritual powers of this world, 2) By putting to death our old self-focused lives, 3) And by raising us to new life.
Our being brought into fullness can only pass through the work of Jesus on the cross, and through his resurrection. Paul is picking up on what Jesus had taught, as recorded in the book of John 14:6, “6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Us being brought into fullness can only be accomplished through Jesus, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead.

But what is the fullness that Paul is talking about? What does it mean to be brought into this fullness.

Well, Jesus says in John 10:10, “10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

So this fullness is a fullness of life. But what does that mean?

I want to share with you something else from A. B. Simpson. He wrote a hymn in 1904 called “Himself.” Take a moment to read through the lyrics below, or follow the link to hear the song for yourself: https://youtu.be/CvTPC3JtiCI

Verse 1: 
Once it was the blessing,
Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling,
Now it is His Word;
Once His gift I wanted,
Now, the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing,
Now Himself alone.

All in all forever,
Jesus will I sing;
Everything in Jesus,
And Jesus everything.

Verse 2:
Once ’twas painful trying,
Now ’tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation,
Now the uttermost;
Once ’twas ceaseless holding,
Now He holds me fast;
Once ’twas constant drifting,
Now my anchor’s cast.


Verse 3:
Once ’twas busy planning,
Now ’tis trustful prayer;
Once ’twas anxious caring,
Now He has the care;
Once ’twas what I wanted,
Now what Jesus says;
Once ’twas constant asking,
Now ’tis ceaseless praise.


Verse 4:
Once it was my working,
His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him,
Now He uses me;
Once the pow’r I wanted,
Now the Mighty One;
Once for self I labored,
Now for Him alone.


A.B. Simpson recognized what the fullness was that Paul is writing about here in Colossians. 

The fullness of this life is not the things we have, but to know Jesus the Creator. From the second section Paul, has been hammering us with knowing Jesus. That it is the relationship with Jesus that is the most important aspect of this Christian life. From this one understanding,  everything else extends. 
Paul tells us in the first chapter of Colossians, “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.”
Getting to know the God who created us is what it means to be brought into fullness. Because when we enter into that place, everything us comes together. 
The questions we have, the struggles we experience, the desires of our heart, all this begins to be understood in the presence that God created us to experience. This is why it is so important that in the book of Revelation chapter 21 it says, “3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

This experience that is talked about in the book of Revelation is meant for every person who puts their trust into Jesus as their Savior. And that experience is meant to begin now. It is not a wait and see experience of some by and by time, but rather what is talked about in the book of Revelation is a more intense experience that we are to be having right now in this life.

But here’s the thing, we tend try and create a false experience, a false fullness. And it’s this false experience that Paul addresses, starting in verse 16. Let’s continue reading.

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 Christ. 18 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.

I’ve heard people talk about organized religion, and a lot of what they say is true. But do you know what the worst thing about organized religion is? Organized religion is meant to create a false spiritual experience. It accomplishes this through a list of do’s and don’ts. Through controlling it’s people with what they can and cannot do. By telling them to follow a certain pastor, or rabbi, or teacher. Organized religion desires to have us experience the fullness of God within a box that can be managed, by another.

But here’s the thing, Christianity is not an organized religion. It is a faith based relationship. And as we’ll see the next time, there are things that we can do to help us in our relationship, but those things are between us and God, not us and a pastor. Not us and a rabbi, not us and a teacher. 
I believe it is my calling as a pastor to help us go through the Scriptures to uncover the truths as the Holy Spirit of God directs us, but I am not, nor should I ever be the basis for your relationship with God.
Nor should any of you be the basis for my relationship with God. We are equals, walking this path of understanding our relationship with God together. We are to give grace to each other to achieve, and fail as we move forward, knowing God. 
Yes, there are some set perimeters, such as there is only one way to find this fullness and it’s through the death and resurrection of Jesus, but there is a lot of areas within that, that we need to discover together with God, as he reveals it. 

Paul is telling us that we have been brought into fullness of a relationship with the God of the universe, let’s not try and revert back to a false spiritual experience that is based on blanket do’s and don’ts that confine us more that liberate us.

Church, this is what we need to do: instead of taking our God as a religion to follow, and looking for that next spiritual experience, we need to seek God as a relationship that is fulfilling just because it is him.

The question I want to ask today is this, “Do you know Jesus in a full way, or is your relationship with him a religion?”

This week, every time you're in the shower I want you to say a prayer asking God to help you live in the fullness that Jesus has brought you into. Why the shower? It’s a place of solitude where nothing of the world is beckoning you. We all need to live in the fullness that Jesus has brought us into, if we did, how much different would the Church be if we had the life focus that A.B. Simpson had when he wrote, 

Once it was the blessing,
Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling,
Now it is His Word;
Once His gift I wanted,
Now, the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing,
Now Himself alone.

And I would add, “once it was the experience, now the fullness of the Lord, I seek.”