SERMON TITLE: Christ Is
TEXT: Colossians 1:15-23
SPEAKER: Jon McKanna
Watch the sermon here.
Take notes here.
Good morning everyone my name is Jon. I’m the Director of Worship and Communications here at Gateway Church, as well as the North Main Campus Pastor. It’s great to be with each of you this morning here at the County Road 9 Campus. As always I want to say welcome to my favorite people at Gateway Church, the North Main Campus. I can't wait to hear how things went over there today and please know that I'm thankful for each person who's making sure the services happen while I'm here.
Question and confession time…how many of you by a show of hands, struggle with forgetting things? This isn't for you to answer for your parents or your friends or the girl that stood you up last night, this is for you. Raise your hand if you struggle with forgetting things. At the North Main Campus, I'm going to be checking the security camera footage to make sure that you participated! Alright, thank you for those hands. It's evident that I'm with like minded people today. Those that didn't raise their hands just couldn't remember if they forget things or not.
But I haven't preached a sermon here since March. There's been a lot of things that have happened during that time like baseball season, Summer, the new Resource Centers at both campuses, and even a new website that quietly rolled here at Gateway Church. And I forgot something pretty important. I forgot how to get my manuscript where it needs to go. I know there are buttons to push, right click and left click and a way I'm supposed to save it, but I just couldn't remember how to do it. I needed help remembering so everyone that needed it, had access to it. And I'm hoping that this sermon today will help us remember some things that maybe we've forgotten about Christ.
We're back in our sermon series entitled "Deep Cuts''. Throughout this year you've heard from various staff members as we've shared a verse or passage of scripture that may speak to us on a deeper level. Just like our staff members who've shared, I'm sure that many of you, when you hear that description, have a verse or a handful of them that have simply stuck with you over the years. These passages are rooted in circumstances that you were facing at one point in your life, most likely a specific trial or struggle that you found yourself in. And if you're a note taker, you marked them in your Bible in some way and most likely wrote some notes in the margins. That's definitely the case for the passage for today which is Colossians chapter 1. I have things highlighted, circled, underlined. And then there are notes about my notes. So let's go ahead and turn to Colossians 1 in your Bibles or on your device.
While you're turning there, I want to share a little background information on the passage so we have some context to work from. Paul is writing a letter from prison. He's in prison for preaching about Jesus. He's writing the letter to a church that had formed in the city of Colosse. So this is a letter to followers of Christ who had heard the gospel from a man named Epaphras. In chapter 4 we find that Epaphras was actually in prison with Paul. From that time together he was giving Paul an update, part of which was sharing about false teaching that had started to infiltrate the church. While we don't know a whole lot about the city of Colosse other than it was destroyed by an earthquake. We can see that much like I shared about the city of Corinth back in March, and much like the world we live in today, the city of Colosse was exposed to various religions and philosophies. Those were making their way into the church. So Paul was writing to address it.
He starts off with his typical greeting and thanksgiving. Paul's letting them know how thankful he is for their faith and love for God's people. He's telling how lives are being changed all over by the same "Good News" they had heard and believed in. And then as one commentator notes, "Paul wrote to the Colossians to help them grasp ever more firmly who Christ is and the rich glories of all that God has done in him." (Garland, David E., "The NIV Application Commentary, Colossians/Philemon," 32 (1998).) That is where we are going to jump into our passage for today. Colossians 1, starting in verse 15.
"15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And 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, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 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, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister." Colossians 1:15-23 (ESV)
Depending on which translation you're reading from this section will have a heading. It may say "The Preeminence of Christ" or "Christ is Supreme". Regardless of the heading, what Paul is doing is reminding these followers of Christ that Jesus is first, the best, the most important, or to use a very popular term in our world today…the Greatest Of All Time.
How often have you heard or been part of a debate on who is the greatest player of any given sport? Whether it's social media images of Tom Brady wearing all of his SuperBowl rings or news stories that debate which NBA star is truly the greatest, we've all heard them. Maybe you're not the sports fanatic but you could definitely get caught up in a conversation about which automaker produced the greatest muscle car of all time. Or maybe for others it's more about which shoe or clothing designer is the greatest of all time. Regardless of the debate, many of you listening today are very passionate about which side you land on and have all the facts and figures to backup your position. In your mind, there is no debate on which is the greatest. In fact for some there is no reason to even compare.
Paul isn't talking sports, muscle cars, or designers, he's laying the groundwork for the fact that Jesus is the one that should be first and really is the greatest of all time. This is the idea here, but if you ask me the phrase GOAT is overused and I don't want the importance of Christ to get watered down because of it. So we're just going to focus on who Christ is in this passage. We get this right off the bat with the first three verses that we just read and they make that very clear. Let's take a look at verses 15-17 again.
"15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together." Colossians 1:15-17 (ESV)
In studying this passage over the years I've been drawn to the New Living Translation that starts out with the words "Christ is." So no real clever sermon title for today. It's simply the first two words of our passage. Note takers…if you haven't already, you may want to write those words down because you're going to hear them repeated a lot today and by the time we're done you'll have a list to remember and even add to. Ok, back to our passage.
Paul starts out by reminding his readers one of the many reasons Christ is first. He's reminding us that Christ is God…made visible. In John chapter 10 verses 30 and 38 Jesus said, "The Father and I are one." and "the Father is in me, and I am in the Father." Then later in John 12:45 Jesus said, "For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me." Paul was reminding them of Jesus' very words and the truth they had received and believed about him. Christ is God.
Then in verse 16 we see that Christ is Creator. He is the creator of all things. That truth is something that we read in John 1:3, "God created everything through him, (through Jesus) and nothing was created except through him." (NLT) Hebrews 1:2 says that through Jesus God created the universe. Let's just stop and think about that for a minute. Christ is Creator of ALL THINGS. We don't have time to run that truth to its completion. There are just far too many things to work through in our lifetime let alone in our time together today. But he is the creator of all things. How could anything or anyone ever be greater than him? How could anything or anyone ever come before him?
As if that's not enough, Paul goes on to share that Christ isn't just the creator of all things but that all things hold together in him. I may be the only one here today that struggles with this at times, but maybe you do too. I struggle to hold it together. I struggle just to hold my thoughts and words in check when other drivers on the road don't seem to understand what it means to atleast drive the speed limit or to use a turn signal. Or probably the thing that gets me most often is when the ones wearing Blue or pinstripes either don't know the rules (which is too often the case in the younger years) or there is no consistency in how those rules are applied. So those playing the game have no idea where the strike zone is or what is or isn't going to be called a foul/penalty that day…in either of these cases, I often fail to hold it all together. And these are just small things in the scheme of life.
Many of us here this morning have gone through really big things in life. Many of us have lost loved ones and in some cases it came out of nowhere. Some have battled disease and fought for your life. Others have been faced with losing their career as a company downsized or got bought out. Or maybe you had plans for what your career was going to look like and things have taken a different direction and you're not so sure about where it's headed. Still others have faced relational fallout with family, friends, even a spouse, maybe you're still searching for that someone. All of these bigger circumstances or life events leave us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually drained. Try as we may, we just can't hold it together any longer. Those words come out and can't be taken back. Or we do things that are out of character for us and then have to deal with the regret.
That isn't the case for Jesus. Time after time he was able to hold himself together whether he was being tempted in the wilderness or dealing with fake people around him. He was even able to hold it together while being falsely accused, being spit on, and eventually being put to death. Through all of that, knowing each and every detail of what would happen, he was able to hold it together. He was able to do the will of his Father. Not only was he able to hold it all together throughout his life here on earth, according to our passage, in him ALL THINGS are held together. He even holds us together when we can't hold ourselves together! And notice that there isn't a timestamp or expiration date on that. There's no qualifiers to be included. Nothing falls outside of his reach.
Some of you will remember the song, "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands". If you grew up in the church I'm guessing you used to sing that song. And it was almost a game to put anything…any object, any person, you name it…we'd throw it in the song and he'd have it in his hands. I'm not sure why I did that because 70% of you will be singing that song in your head the rest of our time together and won't hear another word I say. But that's the imagery here. Christ has it ALL in his hands and he's holding it ALL together. We can be encouraged and have great hope because that's not going to change.
In the first verse of our passage Paul is letting us know that Christ is God. Christ is Creator. Christ is Sustainer. Still we often struggle to put him first, where he belongs.
Let's move on to the next three verses of our passage, verses 18-20. "18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." Colossians 1:18-20 (ESV)
Here we see the list of reasons continue, of why Christ is first and a little more of what that means. Christ is the head of the church. Christ is the beginning. Christ is preeminent or as the New Living Translation puts it Christ is "first in everything". I have this underlined and circled in one of my study bibles. Then next to it I have some questions that I wrote out: "Is he first in our lives? Every area? Every decision we make?" That's followed up with the note, "Why he should be first!" which has some notation pointing to the verses we just read, verses 19-20.
I want to go back to those questions I had written down at some point in my life. When we're faced with a decision to make in regards to our relationships, career, finances, or even the way we simply spend our time each day…do we consider Christ in this and do make him first? This idea of making Christ first takes intentionality. It requires us to make that conscious choice each day of what will be most important. Will we make our happiness, our satisfaction, our desires most important? Or will we make the choice that following Christ and his example comes first? Jesus said this would be required to follow him in Luke 9:23, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross DAILY, and follow me." (NLT) It has to be a conscious decision each and every day and if we're honest this seems impossible.
A little over a year ago I was introduced to a book and program that a friend of mine thought could be helpful to me. In this program you're asked to commit to a handful of things every day for a period of 75 days. If you were to ask me how to summarize it, I'd say it's a matter of scheduling and planning out your daily life around this handful of things that are now priorities for you. There are no excuses or compromises allowed in the program. After committing to making them a priority, if you fail you have to start over no matter what day you're on. That's just how it works.
As I dove into the book and started the program I was taken aback. I was actually shocked at the time I had in a day. I was saddened as I realized all that I had allowed to swallow up my time and my attention without even realizing it. I was even more amazed at the change that occurred in my mind and in my body by being intentional about a few simple things. If you don't believe me and want to put this to the test, just try one of the five things. Commit to drinking one gallon of water each day and just do that for a week, not the full seventy-five days. That's only one of the handful of things and you're only committing to doing that for one week. But I guarantee you'll quickly find out the effects it will have on your body and on your sleep habits. You'll make adjustments in your day and plan things around that gallon of water. You won't have a choice!
While this isn't a Christian program and isn't focused on our walk with God in any way, I saw the benefits in it and found ways to apply it in my life. It strengthened me mentally and in turn helped me grow in my faith. We are fully capable of making Christ first, in every area…in every decision. Despite how we feel in life and what we tend to think, we have the time to study God's word. We have the time to spend in prayer each day. We have time to connect with the people that God has placed in our paths. We just don't realize it. We don't make it a priority and in many cases we just simply don't do it.
But when you do, when you commit to making Christ first in every area of your life. You will most likely be shocked and saddened like I was when I started this program. You will be shocked at the growth in your life. Shocked at what all God is capable of accomplishing in and through you when you make Christ the priority and there are no excuses and no compromises. I've also found that we will be saddened by the times we haven't made Christ the priority, which is something to confess and repent of. We will also be saddened by the responses of those around us because some simply won't understand the choices we now make and the priorities that we have, which makes it hard to continue on. It makes it hard to not make excuses and to not compromise.
Christ has done more than enough to "earn" being first, as if it's something he has to earn. Verse 19 says that in Christ "all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell". At first glance you might think, well yeah Christ is God we covered that in the first verse of this passage. But it's more than that. One commentary shared the importance or meaning of this phrase. "The fullness is in Jesus Christ. Not in a church; not in a priesthood; not in a building; not in a sacrament; not in the saints; not in a method or a program, but in Jesus Christ himself." (https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/colossians-1/). The fullness of God is in Christ and he alone is to be first. He alone is to be our priority. The priority can't even be all of the other things we may associate with him or with serving him.
Then verse 20 continues with more reason when it says that "through him (through Christ) God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ's blood on the cross." (NLT) The same commentary I mentioned a moment ago says, "The blood of the cross speaks to us of the real, physical death of Jesus Christ in our place, on our behalf, before God. That literal death in our place, and the literal judgment he bore on our behalf, is what saves us." (https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/colossians-1/). We are saved from the guilt, shame, and consequences of our sin through Christ. We have our sin penalty paid in full through Christ. We are able to be in right standing with God now and for all eternity through Christ. Christ is our reconciliation. This truth about who Christ is, is the main reason why I love these verses. It's also because of what comes next.
Let's continue reading the next two verses of our passage for today, starting in verse 21 and this time I'm going to read from the New Living Translation. "21 This includes you, who were once far away from God. You were enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault." Colossians 1:21-22 (NLT)
Here we see a really amazing change that takes place. Josh talked about this last weekend when he shared his story and two other stories. First off, Paul is reminding those reading the letter of where we would be without Christ. We were far away from or alienated from God. In fact we were God's enemies! In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul says we were living apart from Christ and excluded from being a part of his people. In addition to that we lived in this world without God and without hope. (Ephesians 2:12) That's where things start. BUT CHRIST IS OUR RECONCILIATION and the story isn't over.
Because of the blood of Christ…Because of Christ's willingness to surrender his will to the Father's…Because of Christ's willingness to lay down his life…we are no longer far away from God…we are no longer his enemies…we are no longer living in this world without hope. We are now able to be in his presence. And as we stand in his presence he looks at us and sees us as holy and blameless, without a single fault. If I was cool like Cody O. and Joe Sherrieb during VBS, I'd do a backflip every time I read these two verses. But I'm much older and don't want any videos of my failed attempt at a backflip to go viral. So I simply underlined, circled, and highlighted those verses.
Your story may not seem very exciting. You may even think that it's boring, like some in my Life Group shared last week. But when we truly understand the fact that we were separated from God and what all that means. When we see where we are now because of Christ, the story is amazing. Hopefully we can all be encouraged today and feel a great sense of hope as these verses have reminded us once again of what Christ has done for us and what our story is all about.
Let's finish out our passage for today, reading verse 23. "23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister." Colossians 1:23(ESV)
In reading this verse it might seem like Paul is doubting their faith, but that isn't the case at all. We know that from reading verse 5 of the next chapter when he declares their faith is strong. One commentary explains it this way, "He is confident that because they have understood what it means to be reconciled they will remain faithful to the gospel that reconciled them. He writes this as an expression of confidence and as a warning to avoid the religious fads of the false teachers of Colosse." (Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, vol. 8, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 284.)
We have that same warning today. In a world where everyone and everything is vying for our time and attention, we have to keep focused on Christ and keep him first in all things. In a world where there are opinions and teachings contrary to God's truth, we have to make sure that there are no excuses and no compromises and we're holding on to God's truth.
Today I wonder which truth about Christ stuck out the most for you, which truth cut the deepest. Christ is God. Christ is Creator. Christ is Sustainer. Christ is the head of the church. Christ is the beginning. Christ is preeminent. Christ is our reconciliation. Or maybe it's something else that you've written down as you listened and read through our verses. Regardless of which one I hope that you circled or underlined it in your bible or you highlighted it on the bible app. I hope you've made some notes to help remind you again some day when you things in life grab your attention and you're struggling to hold it together.
For some today, you identified with where we started in the progression that Paul talked about. You feel far away from or alienated from God and you've been living without hope. That could be why you're here today or why you've tuned in online. My prayer is that you find hope today, that you respond to the truth of the gospel. I pray that you respond to all that God has done through Christ's blood that was shed. I pray that you can get excited for the first time as you read in verse 21 where it says, "This includes you!"
I hope that all of us have been reminded of who Christ is. I hope that we've all been reminded of all that God has done in and through his Son. I hope that we've all been encouraged as we're reminded of how God sees us, through his Son. I hope that we all take time this week to continue that list of all that Christ is for us and for those God has placed in our paths. I hope that we are all intentional about our time this week and make Christ first in everything. Let's Pray.
For those overwhelmed by circumstances and struggling to hold it together.
For those distracted by this world, to turn their attention to Christ and make him the priority.
For those who are living far from God and with not hope to see the hope they have in Christ.
For our time to gather around the table together today.
I pray that we all go this week seeing and remembering who Christ is and making him first in all things. You Are Sent.
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