Each Monday I’ll be putting up my sermon notes and audio file for the sermon series from Forest Hills Baptist Church “Christ Over All: A Study from Colossians”. This is an edited copy of my sermon notes, not a transcript of the sermon. You can listen to the sermon audio above or directly for at the church’s website.
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 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, 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 1:21–23, ESV)
Paul reminds the Colossian Church of who they used to be and reminds them of how they’ve been reconciled by Jesus while charging them to continue and stand firm in the Gospel. We must remember how we have been reconciled to God by Jesus and continue to follow him all our lives.
1. Remember Who You Used to Be (v. 21)
Paul, thinking and reflecting on the supremacy of Christ over all and dwelling on his ministry of reconciliation turns to the Colossians, “and you”.
It is easy sometimes to start studying the Bible or talk about theology and think only in the area of the mind. Every human being tends to be a hypocrite in some regards, even the Christian. We never fully workout what we believe into our lives. We have difficulty consistently following what we claim. For the Christian, we believe that Jesus is Lord over all. He is the image of the invisible God. He is pre-eminent supreme over all that is. Not only that but he is the reconciler, the one who brings us to the father and forgives us of our sins.
While all that is true, I’ve seen to many who claim to be Christians say these things about Jesus, but they are not personal to them. When they talk about Jesus, he seems to be a distant concept, or when they talk about his salvation of sinners, they fail to see that they in fact are the condemned sinner saved by God. In other words, to be a Christian is not just to know the Bible or know Christian ideas, but to personally experience the reality of them yourself. You’ve not only been taught the Gospel, you’ve been transformed by it. The good news of Jesus is not simply an answer you can get right on a quiz, but you’ve personally experienced this grace.
Paul, dwelling on the supremacy of Jesus turns to the Colossians and reminds them of how this Jesus has personally transformed them. He calls them “and you” to remind them of who they used to be.
Have you ever met someone with amnesia? Someone who has forgotten who they were and who they are? I’m convinced there are a great number of Christians out there who have Gospel Amnesia. They’ve forgotten who they really are and they’ve forgotten who Jesus really is.
We talk about the Gospel a lot here at Forest Hills. Gospel means good news or good message. What is the good news? The good news is that God saves sinful humanity by sending his son to take on their punishment on the cross. All of this is undeserved as we are saved only by God’s grace. We talk about the Gospel all the time here, because we are a forgetful people. We need to remember who we were and what God has done. Every week as we gather together we remind ourselves through singing and teaching just what Jesus has done for us.
It is so easy for us to forget our identity found in Jesus. We must reminder ourselves regularly of this good news and call each other to live consistently in light of these truths.
So if you are a Christian, who did we use to be?
We were alienated from God. Separated from him. Our relationship with him is estranged. In other words, there is something fundamentally wrong with your relationship with God.
The Bible tells us that this thing fundamentally wrong with us is called sin. Every single human being who has ever walked the face of the earth (except for Jesus) is a sinner.
God created us for himself, to love him and delight in him. Yet, every human being reject God doing things his or her own way. Rather than loving God above everything else, we put other people and things in the place of God. We dethrone God from our lives and put in place greed, sex, boyfriends, girlfriends, our reputation, comfort, selfishness, pride, you name it. In fact humanity seems to be infinitely creative in fashioning new idols to worship.
This sin puts friction between us and God. As infinitely holy, he cannot defile himself with sin. So because of sin their is a gulf, a chasm of separation between us and God. This is what Paul means by alienation. We were separated from him.
To be separated from God is a frightful thing. For God is the just judge who punishes sinners and brings justice. God being just, gives sinners what they are due, the very wrath of God. This is why Paul would say in Romans, “The wages of sin is death”. Death and punishment is what sinners deserve. Our sin estranges our relationship with God. Yet we are not only alienated, we are enemies and hostile to him.
Hostile in Mind
Paul tells us that we are hostile in our mind. Sin is not only action but thought and motive. Some of you may say that you are not much of a sinner. You’ve never murdered anyone and your not a terrorist. So you think, “I’m a pretty good person”. Wrong. God’s definition of sin is much wider and much more comprehensive. Sin is not only action, but how we think and our motives behind our actions. The problem with humanity is not that we do bad things but that we are bad people. Sin comes from the very depths of who we are.
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matthew 15:19, ESV)
Sin affects our thinking and our hearts. Humanity surpasses the truth about God. We invent worldview that explain a world without god or we create gods of our own making. Humanity is deeply confused about God.
Not only does sin make us confused as it blinds our eyes from the truth, we are actually hostile to God’s ways. We see God and his ways as oppressive, old fashioned, intolerant, or judgmental. So humanity blasphemes God, accusing him of wrong doing and seeking to break free from his oppressive yoke.
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”” (Psalm 2:1–3, ESV)
Not Only are we hostile in mind, that hostile thinking leads to evil actions.
Because we hate God, we begin to live life in active opposition to Him. Because we are sinners we live our life our own way. We lie, cheat, and steal. We gossip, slander, and insult on another. We get drunk, smoke pot, or watch porn. We sleep around, cheat on one another, and destroy marriages. We are violent, murderous, and abusive. We become judgmental, self-righteous, or holier-than-thou. Because we are hostile in our thinking we live in hostility to God. We hate him. We think of ourselves as god and live accordingly.
It is a frightful thing to live in opposition to God. Each and every one of us were at one time an enemy with God. Some of you still are. You are hostile to God and his ways. You are angry with him and your not sure why. Your living life in rebellion against him. You are alienated and separated from God. What you need is to be reconciled back to God. The only problem is that you cannot do it yourself. You cannot absolve your sin and you cannot spurn away the wrath of the Lord. You are in desperate trouble. But there is good news coming. Because we will find out shortly just how God brings peace with his enemies.
Remembering your failures can be painful.Yet, Paul’s reason for calling the Colossians old life to their mind isn’t for their embarrassment or dread, but to demonstrate the intensity of God’s underserved grace he gave to them. As Christians we should not feel the need to hide our past, and we certainly not forget who we used to be!
2. Remember What God Has Done (v. 22)
What does it mean to be reconciled? To reconcile means that the relationship is repaired. It is fixed and mended. The two parties are brought back into right relationship with one another. Whatever the point of contention between the two has been absolved.
So we were enemies with God, but if you are a Christian you are reconciled to God. Peace has been made. The hostility and fighting you’ve been doing has stopped. God has brought you to himself. The greatest of all our needs is this – Peace with God.
I want you to notice one important thing about v. 22. Who is it that’s doing the reconciling? Is it you? Nope. How does the text read. “He has now reconciled”. So who is doing the reconciling? It’s God!
We cannot reconcile ourselves to God. It doesn’t matter how much good you may do in this life, all of it is unable to bring peace between you and God. In fact, our good actions are often just our rebelliousness in disguised. In our hostility the motive for our good action is not to please God, but to be thought of as a good person or to impress our fellow man, or to think more highly of yourself.
God takes the initiative. He is the one who has paved a way. Though he does not need us, we need him. God by his mercy, made a way for us to be delivered from our sin. God has made a way to bring peace to your heart.
How Has God Reconciled Us? Through the Death of Jesus as he stands under the wrath of God in our place on the cross. Listen to Paul describe this in Romans 5:6–11.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6–11, ESV)
Why Has God Reconciled Us? To present us as holy, blameless, and innocent before him. God loves us and chooses to glorify himself by taking we who were enemies and making us his children. He takes our filth and our sin and he cleans us, purifies us and makes us holy. Through Jesus you are able to stand before God and posses the perfect righteousness of Jesus.
3. Continue in Jesus (v. 23)
The most dangerous false teachings are the ones with a subtle and often unnoticeable shift. Many of you have been taught “Once saved always saved”. Meaning that you walked down an aisle, say and prayer, get baptized, then you go live your life your own way. Now that they have their “get out of hell free card” they live their life their own way, in sin, and continuing in their rebellion against god, while claiming to some deluded security in the phrase “once saved always saved”.
Do I believe that you can lose your salvation? No, not at all! Rather the Bible teaches that there is no one or no thing that can pluck you from the hand of God. So what’s wrong with “once saved always saved” phrase? Its not so much that the phrase is wrong, but that its incomplete. The Bible doesn’t teach that salvation is some item to possess or purchase through a magic prayer or an alter call, rather it is described in a much more organic way. Salvation in the Bible is not compared to a ticket to heaven but being grafted into a vine. Salvation is being connected to the true vine Jesus Christ, and the true Christian is one who stays connected to that vine. Remaining in that vine till the day he or she dies. The Christian is one who has been united to Christ. We have are attached to him, connected to him. The true Christian is one who is permanently united to Jesus.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4–5, ESV)
The correct phrase to describe the Bible’s teaching is not “one saved always saved” but "once saved always persevering”.
One of the most frightening realities as a pastor is when I ask people to share about their testimony and how they came to know Jesus and they start telling me about their church membership history. Your testimony is not your church history! For there will be many regular church attendees who find themselves in hell.
““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21–23, ESV)
Are you in Christ? Not, are you a church member. Not, have you been baptized. Not, do you believe in God. Not, do you come to church. But are you in Christ? Have you been reconciled to God? Are you connected to the vine? Have you joined yourself to the firm foundation Jesus?
As we read Paul’s warning here to the Colossians he is not doubting that they will persevere to the end. This phrase Can be translated, “Provided that you stand firm” or paraphrased like “At any rate, if you stand firm in the faith - and I am sure you will”.
Yet, there are some who seem to shift away from the hope of the Gospel. Its not that they lose their salvation, its just that they never had it to begin with. One of the greatest tragedies is watching someone shift from the hope of the gospel, a hope they never truly had or believed. Like Jesus said in the parable of the sower,
“Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.” (Matthew 13:5–7, ESV)
There are those who seem to show initial signs of spiritual life, but it proves to be ingenue, fake, and phony. Over time they shift away from the hope of the Gospel either by being scorched by persecution and the difficulty of life or being choked out by the things of this world.
This idea of perseverance in the Christian life can create some anxiety within our hearts. If I am truly connected to Christ, can I fall away? Yet, God promises us that those who have truly been born again will never fall away. Just as we have been justified by the grace of God so too will we endure and preserve to the end by the grace of God. The same God who saves us in the same God who preserves us.
“My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:29, ESV)
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, ESV)
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28–30, ESV)
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39, ESV)
The assurance of your salvation is not tied to your ability to remain in God, but by God’s ability to keep you. He is the sovereign God who does not lose a single sheep of his flock . Those whom he justified he will glorify. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. The Same God who by his grace reconciled you to the son, is the same God who keeps you reconciled. So do not forget who you used to be, an enemy and hater of God. Remember that God has reconciled you by his son therefore church, stand firm in this unshakeable foundation until the Lord Jesus calls you home.