The Gospel Changes Our Relationships  

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

“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” (Colossians 3:18–4:1, ESV)

A man in his family ride in to church on Sunday morning. They go off to their respective classes. The man in a SS teacher so he teaches his class then goes to the worship service where he serves as an usher. The man an his family is well respected in the church and they are on many committees and wield great influence. After church the man gets in the car and on the way back begins yelling at his children for not cleaning their rooms before church, mocking them, belittling them, and domineering over them. He gets home and isolates himself in a room ignoring his wife and his children as he gorges the afternoon with television.

That night he approaches his wife hostile and angry over the amount of money she’s spent on groceries that month and the two get into a huge fight over their finances. She gets angry at him for spending to much on hobbies while he gets angry at her for not making as much as she does. The two spend the rest of the evening not talking to one another. At work the next day after yelling at the kids some more because they weren’t ready on time he goes into work. His boss is on vacation this week so he spends the morning goofing off with his employees and just letting calls go to VM. During lunch he gathers around his co-workers as they tell stories about their boss to poke fun and demean him. They spend the remainder of the afternoon gossiping about some other employees then clock out. He goes back home. Gets angry at his wife again as she doesn’t have dinner on the table yet. He refuses to help with the dishes or get the kids into bed for the night. He goes to his room, shuts the door, and checks out. The next day, rinse and repeat.

Unfortunately this fictional story I just told is a far to common reality in our churches. We have men, women, and children, who are quite adapt at playing the Christian part while in the building, but when their faith comes to their private and personal relationships there is often a breakdown. We might be able to fool our pastor our SS class and our friends at church about our faith, but those who know us best - our spouse, our children, and our co-workers - can spot a hypocrite easily.

Paul today addresses that the Gospel impacts our most personal relationships. If the Gospel isn’t changing the way you think as a husband or wife, or a father or mother, or an employee or boss, then you either have some serious immaturity and blindspots in your life or you may not know Christ at all. The Gospel changes our most personal and daily relationships from family to work.

1. The Gospel in Marriage Relationships (3:18–19)

2. The Gospel in Parenting Relationships (3:20–21)

3. The Gospel in Work Relationships (3:22–4:1)

Christ Over All: Christ is Your Life


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

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1–4, ESV)

Can people really change? We tend to be skeptical don’t we? We seems to be pessimistic about people’s ability to change, including Christians.

That lady in our Sunday School class who continually gossips and complain, seems to be destined to do so forever.

That Negative friend who always tears everyone else down always tends to be negative forever.

That brother who is enslaved to the brown bag of liquor seems to never be able to break away from his slavery.

The prideful pastor who thinks so highly of himself continually looks down on others as inferior.

The teenager who seems addicted to pornography and just can’t seem to break away from the enslaving pictures on his computer screen.

The husband who seems unable to love his wife because he lusts after other women seems to forever do so.

As we encounter these people and even ourselves it is easy for us to just throw up our hands and say, “He’s just being who he is, people never change!”

Yet, the Bible teaches us that people can change. A prideful punk kid named Joseph becomes a humble obedient servant of God. A weak and cowardly man named Gideon went on to be a mighty warrior for God. The bloodthirsty Paul who made it his life work to kill Christians became the world’s greatest Christian missionary. Change is possible and the Bible is filled with stories of men and woman who change when they encounter God.

Yet, we tend to be very confused about the Christian life often thinking we can do it ourselves within our own might or we tend to just throw up our hands and give up! How do people truly change? How can we really grow in our Christian walk? How do we deal with these sins that seem so enslaving to us?

The key to true change rests in our identity in Christ. As we study Colossians today we will see that, We must have our identity in Christ if we hope to live the Christian life.

Colossians So Far

To understand the significance of these four verses at the start of Colossians 3 we have to understand the rich theology and doctrine that Paul has been teaching us so far. He begins the body of his letter by celebrating Jesus who is the image of the invisible God. He highlights Jesus as the divine creator who is pre-eminiant over all. Just like our series title states, Christ is Over All. He rules and has authority.

Paul has also been teaching heavily on our union with Christ. Paul emphasis that the identity and life of the Christian is tied to the person of Christ. By faith we are united to Christ and we live our life in him. We are saved by the blood of Christ as he reconciles us back to the father. Through Jesus’ life and death we are united, wedded to him by grace.

Therefore, we should not go back to worldly rules and regulations for they are of no value and unable to truly change. Paul has addressed the false teaching happening in the church warning them and condemning these false teaching as worldly and of no value. Rules and regulations cannot get us any closer to God and rules and regulations cannot change us. Behavior modification seems to be all the rage today as we try to manage our vices through will power, but Paul tells us that its an empty pursuit. You can’t change your heart by managing your external behavior. True change must go deeper. We can’t truly kill the weeds in our life by mowing them down. We must get on our hands and needs and allow the Spirit to pull up our sin by the root.

The puritan John Owen said it like this, “mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world…all other ways of mortification are vain, all helps leave us helpless; it must be done by the Spirit.”

Colossians 3:1–4 serves as a pivotal change in the book of Colossians. Largely what has been taught in Colossians so far is deep teaching and doctrine. These first four verses mark the transition from Paul’s teaching of doctrine to his applying it in the Christian life. Christian Doctrine and Application are not two separate ideas. Christian thinking must always lead to Christian living. Paul takes these four verses in Colossians 3 in order to help demonstrate how our union with Christ fuels the ethical teaching he begins to teach in chapter 3. True change results from finding our identity in Christ. The more fully we understand our union with Christ the more our life is filled with Christ’s life. Paul in these verses actually is going to make an even bolder claim - You cannot live the Christian life without first being united to Christ by faith.

Two Great Mistakes When it Comes to the Christian Life

Many Christians tend to be confused over the essence of the Christian life. From my observations (and also from Paul as we’ve seen in Colossians) there tend to be two opposite but equally dangerous understandings of the Christian life. Before we talk about what the Christian life is, lets first talk about what it is not. Here are the two mistakes in understanding the Christian life.

1. The Mistake of AntiNomianism

AntiNominanism is simply the idea that as a Christian we simply don’t care about holiness or the Christian life at all. AntiNomianism literally means “against the law”. The first dangerous mistake about the Christian life is to not care about the Christian life at all. These so called Christians will point back to some point of time in which they made a decision for Christ but then go on to live completely apathetic to Jesus. These people really don’t care what Jesus says about their lifestyle. “Who cares if I sin, I made a decision twenty years ago”. These people continue to live in sin, unrepentantly thinking Jesus doesn’t care about their sexual sin, their materialism and selfishness, and their entertainment choices. Those who reject the Christian life think of salvation as simply a get-out-of hell free card like you’d pick up in the monopoly game. Salvation for them is just fire insurance, something to pick up before they die, but completely avoid the Christian life. These are the professed Christians who refuse to belong to a church, refuse to repent from sin, and refuse to live out there faith in any visible way. These are those who claim to be healthy trees but who produce bad fruit, not good fruit.

“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 1:22–23, ESV)

2. The Mistake of Legalism

An equally dangerous mistake in the Christian life is to think that the Christian life is what causes us to achieve salvation. This is the mistake of legalism. Its the complete opposite of antinomianism. While antinomianism says I’m saved so who cares how i Lives, legalism says “I care how I live, so that I can be saved”. Legalists put up rules and regulations and intensely pursue good Christian living in hopes that they might be good enough to garner salvation. Legalism rejects grace and salvation by faith in exchange for a works based righteousness. The legalist thinks that what saves him is his own goodness, not the grace of God. Paul also addressed the danger of legalism in colossians too doesn’t he?

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—” (Colossians 2:20, ESV)

So the Christian life is not anti-nomianism meaning Jesus doesn’t care how I live at all, and the Christian life is not legalism meaning I have to live the Christian life to earn my salvation. What is the correct way to think about the Christian life?

The Correct Understanding of the Christian Life

The Christian life results from understanding who we are in Christ and we live our life out of that identity of being in Christ.

It is important we understand the order Paul gives us. He first lays out the indicatives of the Gospel, before ever giving us the imperatives. What are indicatives - Well those indicative verbs are those that express meaning and identity. The indicatives tell us who we are. So in Colossians 1–2 Paul has been outlining who we are in Christ. At the start of Chatper three he tells us “If then you have been been raised” or “For You have died”. In other words, Paul says that before we have any hope of living the Christian life we must first and foremost understand who we are in Christ.

Paul is preparing to outline for us so very practical ethical teaching of the Christian life. He is going to spend most of chapter three telling us how the Gospel impacts our life. How it tells us to put off an old sinful morality in exchange for a new morality and new life in Jesus. However, it all hinges on this important clause at the start of the chapter. Paul only admonishes us to attempt to live these things out because we have been united, and thus raised in the new life of Christ. “If then you have been raised with Christ”

So the indicatives of the Gospel - Who we are in Christ always come first. The imperatives are the commands - Do this, do that. So Paul says if you have been raised (indicative), seek the things that are above (imperative) the imperatives always come after the indicatives. This importance is crucial and the antidote to the mistake of anti-nominanism and legalism. It corrects both of the mistakes. When we are truly born again, saved by faith in Jesus it changes who we are. We have a fundamental change in identity. That identity then leads to new behavior and a new life.

So our identity in Christ leads to new action. Just what is our identity though in Christ? Who are we know that we are in Jesus?

  • In Christ, I am perfectly righteous, given the righteousness of Jesus I now stand before God blameless before him.
  • In Christ, I am a blessed given all the inheritance of heaven as my possession and given new life.
  • In Christ, I am adopted into the family of God. I live my life as a son or daughter of the king of kings.
  • In Christ, I am accepted though other people might reject me or mock me, in Jesus I have the full and permanent acceptance of God.
  • In Christ, I am reconciled through the blood of Jesus God has brought peace to my soul and I am no longer an enemy of God, but his friend.
  • In Christ, I am new. My old life has passed away and I am now a new Creation in Jesus Christ. My past no longer enslaves me because in Jesus I have his new resurrected life.
  • In Christ, I am protected from the powers of darkness and my own sin. God holds me in his hand.
  • In Christ, I am victorious as I live my life in the resurrected victory of Christ, though sorrows and defeats may come in this life, my life is sealed in the victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • In Christ, I am loved greater than I ever hoped to be because God saw me at my worst and still choose me to be his child.

You see, when we understand our identity that is in Christ, when we grasp the indicatives of the Gospel then we have the Spirit’s power to enable us to live out the imperatives of the Gospel. True change in the Christian life results of seeking to live our life out of our new identity in Jesus Christ.

  • Because I’m righteous in Christ, means that I seek to live righteously because that’s who I am.
  • Because I’ve been made holy by Jesus, this means I hate my sin and loath it and long to rid it from my life.
  • Because I’m God’s child, it means I want to live in a way that bring honor to my Father seeking always to obey his will.
  • Because I am a new creation, its foolish for me to go back to an old sinful way of living.
  • Because I am victorious in Christ, sin no longer has an enslaving hold over me and can be put together by the Spirit’s power.
  • Because I am accepted in Christ, I can live my life without fear of failure. Though I may fail in defeating my sin, God in his grace covers my failure in Christ’s acceptance.

This is why Paul gives the indicatives “You have been raised” before he gives us the command “Seek the things that are above” or “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”. As we seek to live our Christian life we must always seek to live out our identity that comes from our union with Christ.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Our Life is Christ

Another principle from this passage that is hugely important from this passage is that all of our life belongs to God. If we understand that the Christian life is a change in our identity and a change of who we are, it means that all of our life must be lived out in that identity. If we are joined to Christ by faith, it means all of our life is his!

We tend to compartmentalize our life so much as Christians. We have our life broken up into neat little segments that should not intersect with one another. I have my work life, family life, entertainment, life, church life, spiritual life, financial life all separated in individual containers that don’t interact or touch. This is not a correct understanding of the Christian life. The Christian understands that Jesus is the center of everything he does. All areas and compartments of our life come under his authority. Our identity in Christ must be evident in every area of our life. From what we say to what we watch, from what we read to how we spend our money. Christ is Lord over every inch of our lives. Christ is over all your life, not just a segment of your life. Christ is either Lord over all, or he is not Lord at all.

“If God be God over us, we must yield him universal obedience in all things. He must not be over us in one thing, and under us in another, but he must be over us in every thing.” - Peter Bulkeley

What areas of your life is not under Jesus authority?

Understanding the Christian Hope

Paul fleshes out this idea that if our life is in Christ, if we have both died and raised with him then our life is hidden with God. The idea behind this word hidden is not so much a secret, but God’s protection. When we turn our life over to God and place our life in his hands. When we by faith make him Lord over all, we place our life in good hands.

Al Parish was a professor from my college Charleston Southern University. He was an economics and business professor who garnered quite a lot of prestige in the community. But, it came to find out that Parish squandered nearly $90 million from about 460 investors in what the government called a massive Ponzi scheme. His personal wardrobe alone was valued at $2 million. His chartered-jet travel bills ran as high as $1 million, authorities said.

Many in the Charleston community had put their lives savings in this man’s hands to manage for them. The investment and trust in this man proved to be incredibly tragic.

How opposite is this from us trusting our lives to God! When we hide our lives and place them in his hands, he will not lose us and he will not disappoint us. Rather, by the power of God we will be preserved continuing in Christ as we seek to live the Christian life. When we are united to Christ it is a permanent union that cannot be separate though we fail in stumble. If we have truly been born again and if our identity has truly changed by the grace of God, our life is hidden with Christ.

When Christ appears, this Christ who is our very life, we too will also share in his glory. How amazing is this! We who were sinners, who were enemies with God have now been brought into share in the very glory of Christ. Because we are connected and united to him by faith when Christ comes again we will not only be saved from our sins but we will share in his glory.

God in his divine power will make sure we become who God says we are. As we seek to live the Christian life we struggle and its often tough killing our sin and living in obedience. Yet, When Christ our life appears this long pilgrim journey called the Christian life will come to fruition. In a twinkling of an eye we will be changed. The process of our sanctification will be made complete and those whom God has justified he will glorify!

Can We Change?

So can people really change? Yes, but true change only comes by having a change in identity. True change can only come by receiving a new heart.

Do you want to change? The first thing you have to ask yourself is do you know Christ? Have you turned from your sins and given Christ your life. Have you put your faith in Jesus and trusted him as your savior and as your Lord? If not, change will continue to be an impossible task. Sure you may be able to change a behavior here or there by your will power, but you cannot change your heart. Only God can do such a thing. If you do not know Jesus, I invite you to come and put your faith in him and experience a new identity that gives you the power of God to truly change.

For those of you seeking to live out the Christian life, remind yourself of you who are. Remind yourself of your identity with Christ, and let the incredible transforming love of God shape you and mold you into his image. Yes, the Christian life can be difficult. Putting to death our sin is tough work as we will see next week, but it is possible and it is possible only because God has given you a new identity through Jesus. Christian, Christ is your life. Do not put the imperatives before the indicatives. Today in your struggles remind yourself of who you are in Christ and rest in the fact that when Christ is your life, by the power of God when he returns your journey will come to an end and you will appear with Christ in perfect glory.

Christ Over All: Let No One Disqualify You



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 at the church’s website. Note: Sermon Audio for this sermon started late.  The first several minutes of the sermon did not record.

“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:16–23, ESV)

From the dawn of the Christian faith, the church has always struggled with adding to Jesus. Every false teaching is some variation or form of seeking to add to what Jesus has done. Teachers will come and argue for new revelations or new rules to follow or promote a self-made religion of works.

God’s grace is so radical that we tend to have a hard time believing it. Are we really saved completely and totally by grace? Don’t I need to do something to earn it? Is Jesus enough, don’t I need to add other ideas and beliefs to him? Do I need to create new rules or have new experiences to be more connected to God?

In our passage today we are going to see Paul take on the false teaching in Colossians and refute it by telling us there is nothing we need that we do not already have in Christ!

1. Do not judge other Christians with man-made rules (v. 16–17)

False Teaching: In addition to believing in Jesus, you must follow strict rules about eating and drinking, celebrating certain festivals, new moons, and strictly following the Sabbath.

Paul’s Criticism: Rules and regulations are but foreshadow to the substance which is Christ.

Paul connects this passage to the last. You will remember he lays the ground work for how we should respond to false teaching. Jesus by his power put to open shame all the teaching and wisdom of men. Jesus, possession all the fullness of God, unites us to himself. As we are joined to him by faith we are die to ourselves and we are raised in the new life of Jesus. Our life is wedded, joined, fashioned, united in Christ. Just as a husband and a wife become one flesh in their marriage convenient, so too do we become one in Christ as our life is united to his life.

Dangers of Legalism

Paul tells us not to let anyone pass any judgement on us because of our union with Christ. If we are in Jesus, than no one can pass judgement on us. Apparently there were some false teachers in Colossae that were teaching that you had to add to Jesus by adding extra man-made rules. We get a glimpse of some of those in v. 16. The teachers seemed to be arguing that a Christian should eat or drink certain things, be sure to celebrate certain festivals and new moons, and be sure to strictly observe the Sabbath.

There will always be those Christians who are more pharisee than Christian. They argue that as Christians you have to add certain rules and actions before you become a Christian. It’s not salvation by grace alone, but its grace plus your ability to keep their man made rules. All the rules of legalism tend to shift a little bit in every generation of the church, there is this tendency to want to add to what it means to be a Christian.

Baptists in particular have been a little notorious for this the past few decades haven’t we? You will here people say that you can’t be a Christian if you have a glass of wine with dinner or that you can’t be a Christian if you smoke or you can’t be a Christian if you dance or you can’t be a Christian if you don’t dress a certain way. You can’t be a Christian if you go to the movie theater or if you listen to any type of music other than church music. Some will even say that a Christian can only listen to certain styles of music

You see it in worship services it comes up again and again with our own list of expectations. All deacons must wear a coat and tie when passing out the Lord Supper. All pastors should be clean shaven. All music in church should only accompanied by a piano and organ. We have to do things in a certain way in a certain method.

Legalism is when our traditions (which can be good things) become fast-hard rules in addition to the Bible’s teaching. Legalism tends to focus on external behavior while neglecting our internal hearts. So its funny we tend to be legalistic about appearance or about behaviors (like dancing or drinking) but we tend to completely ignore things of the heart (like pride or gossip).

So why is legalism a mistake? The reason is because it thinks we can earn God’s favor or acceptance by following certain rules. The problem is that it teaches we earn God’s favor by rule following not God’s grace. So when we begin to add a bunch or rules to the Christian faith that the Bible doesn’t outline, then we begin to add to Jesus and thus create a religion of works not of grace.

Look at Paul’s reason why this rules are empty. In v. 17 he tells us that they are shadows of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Paul is pulling some language from greek philosophy, particularly platonic thought. But the idea of this is, the body and the shadow.

When I was a little kid, around 2 years old, I was out in Texas as my Dad was in seminary in Fort Worth. My parents would take me outside on a nice hot Texas day, but as I was outside playing or going for a walk and then I would start freaking out. I’d start screaming and getting distraught. It took my parents to figure out what was wrong with me, but they began to figured out that the problem was that I was afraid of my own shadow. Little toddler Justin couldn’t comprehend that the shadow is connected and points back to me. The shadow isn’t a separate thing that exists by itself, but I’m the one that’s causing the shadow.

Christian Freedom

Paul says its the same way with the Law and any other rules and regulations. They all point to Christ. He is the substance, he is the one that causes the shadow. To be a legalist is to fear the shadow and not the one causing it. Jesus satisfied all the demands, rules, and laws in your place. There is no more work for us to do. It is finished.

Paul is teaching us here that the Christian is free when it comes to those things. The Christian has freedom in Christ to eat what he wishes to eat, drink what he wishes to drink, wear what he wishes to wear, you get the point. “For freedom Christ has set us free”.

So why are we free from legalistic-man made laws? Because in Christ we are justified and righteous. If you have been united by Jesus you have received perfect righteousness. Therefore, you cannot earn God’s favor by creating a strict set of rules and expectations for you to follow. God has already given you his favor and acceptance. Therefore no one can judge you concerning food or drink, or anything else.

Free to Pursue Holiness Not Sin

I must exercise one word of caution here. The Christian is completely and totally free in Christ. God’s grace is that radical and scandalous. Yet, the improper response is to say, well if I’m already justified and free, then I’ll go do whatever it is I want to do! I’m getting drunk tonight or I’ll be first in line to the 50 shades of grey movie releasing this week. Our freedom in Christ does not give us freedom to sin. Rather, the Christian has been changed in such a way that his hearts longing is holiness. The Christian is free to pursue holiness.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1–4, ESV)

2. Do not seek after new religious experiences, but hold to Christ. (v. 18–19)

False Teaching: In addition to Jesus, you must seek after additional emotional religious experiences and new spiritual revelations.

Paul’s Criticism: Christ is the head, from which the whole body gets nourished and is joined together and grows. To seek experiences disconnected form Jesus is to be disconnected from God.

There are those who seem to look down on other Christians because of their spiritual experiences. These false teachers were doing just that. They were looking at the Colossians Christians and disqualifying them because they were not having the same “experiences with God” that they were having. But these mystical experiences with God these false teachers were advocating are extremely dangerous.

We are told that they were insisting on asceticism. What is that? Well its for religious reasons avoiding any sort of indulgence. They avoid any such worldly pleasure or comfort in order to get closer to god. So these teachers were practicing hermit type lifestyles, worshiping angels, in or order to receive spiritual experiences and visions. These false teachers were looking for new revelations and new insights and new spiritual experiences that would accelerate their spiritual growth. They were experience chasers always looking for the next powerful goosebump type moment. They were seeking for new things to add to the Christian faith and new insights in visions. Paul says that these false teachers became puffed up, looking down on Christians because they were not having the same “spiritual experiences” and “intimacy with God” that they were.

Paul tells them to hold fast to Christ the head. He is the source of all spiritual growth. There is no need to abandon Jesus to go look for other spiritual truths or experiences. As a Christian, united to Christ, all the fulness of God has been given to us, poured into our hearts as the Spirit of God indwells within us. Paul tells us that spiritual growth happens as we stay connected to Jesus, the head, not abandoning him to look for something else.

Paul’s illustration here is very helpful for us. Jesus the head of the body, keeps it nourished and knit together in unity. He joins it together and he causes it to grow. So Paul’s criticism of the false teaching is this: to seek experiences disconnected form Jesus is to be disconnected from God.

The image Jesus gives us of the vine in the branches from John 15 continues to be helpful for us as we think about Paul’s point here. Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches. When we remain connected to him we have access to spiritual life and power that comes from Christ as the source. If the branch is removed from that source of spiritual nourishment it will quickly die. So these false teachers were leaving the vine of Jesus to go seek nourishment elsewhere. The only problem with that is this, only in Jesus is their spiritual life.

Spring will quickly be coming an one of the great things about spring is flowers! Daisies, roses, lilies, the list goes on and on. What happens though as soon as you cut that flower from the plant? It begins to die. Slowly and surely its losing its life because it is no longer connected to its source of nourishment. The same thing happens when you cut a branch on the tree. It might look alive at the moment, but it will eventually wither and die. Those who seek spiritual experiences and revelations apart from Jesus too are disconnected from the head and will thus die.

The emotional experience cycle

Many Christians have bought into this false teaching here of looking for the next spiritual experience. I remember in my high school years in particular when I was a young Christian trying to learn what it meant to follow Christ. So much of my relationship with Jesus was tied to spiritual experience. It seemed like I was dependent on some emotional moment or big spiritual conference or event to help me feel close to God to help grow. So may relationship with God was like a roller coaster. When I went to a youth event or a conference I felt connected to God and when I got to my normal everyday high school life, God seemed far away. I found in my heart to begin looking to the next big spiritual experience to cause spiritual growth in my life.

Here is what I began to realize and here is what I’m still learning, because I’m united to Christ and he lives in me I can live every day in closeness and intimacy with God. I don’t need some mystical event to cause closeness with God, I’m already close with God because the Spirit dwells within me. I’m united to Christ! So the key to Christian growth is not looking towards some outside spiritual experience, but understanding deeper the experience of Grace that God has given me in my union with Christ. The key to Christian growth is by staying connected to the head, Jesus by daily staying close to his word and abiding in Jesus.

This is one of the dangers I see with some of our more charismatic brothers and sisters. They are brothers and sisters in Christ, but I do think they tend to over emphasize spiritual experience sometimes to an idolatrous level. It’s all about the next emotional event, speaking in the tongues of angels, etc. As I’ve participated in worship with more charismatic brothers sometimes I leave scratching my head asking, “Were we worshiping Jesus or were we just chasing some sort of experience?”

So it is becoming more common to import mystic ideas into Christianity. We start looking for a new Christian book, a new bible study, or a new guru to helps us deeply experience God. We begin to chase after anything other than God as revealed in his word. We think we need something new to add to help us in our Christian life. Jesus and the Scriptures are just simply not enough.

A Word on the book “Jesus Calling”

On extremely book that represents this idolatry of the experience is an extremely popular devotional book called “Jesus Calling”. This is a devotional book that is written as if Jesus is speaking directly to the reader. But the author Sarah Young describes her writing of this book, and her comments reveal the danger of this book, and why it should be avoided by Christians. Listen to this quote from the author Sarah Young on the creation of her book:

“The following year, I began to wonder if I, too, could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication: I did all the talking. I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day. I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believe He was saying. I felt awkward the first time I tried this, but I received a message. It was short, biblical, and appropriate. It addressed topics that were current in my life: trust, fear, and closeness to God. I responded by writing in my prayer journal.”

The book is written as if Jesus is speaking to the reader, but the author Sarah Young makes a far more audacious claim that Jesus is actually speaking through her. She sees that the Bible is sufficient and she needs new revelations she needs a new spiritual experience in addition and a new vision.

Why do I bring up this book, because doesn’t this book illustrate exactly what Paul is warning about here in Colossians? There will always be those who claim to have hidden insight into God that others lack and those who seek to forsake Christ for mystical spiritual experiences.

So a quick word to those of you who use this book as a devotion or something like it. You don’t need Sarah Young to channel a new word to you from Jesus. You have the word of Jesus right here in the Scriptures! It is more than enough. Growth in Christ comes when we are connected to our head Jesus Christ. We don’t need to leave the vine to go searching for new revelations or new experiences to add to Jesus. He is enough!

3. Do not think you can change yourself by rules. (v. 20–23)

False Teaching: The source of true change is to submit to a strict rule system and avoid anything worldly so that you can change yourself.

Paul’s Criticism: True change happens by God as we press into our union with Christ, not through self-made religion and worldly regulations.

Paul then asks a rhetorical question in light of these false teachers in v. 20. The question is this, “If in Christ you died to the world, why would you still live in according the the ways of the world?”

Paul then sums up some of the common phrases of the false teachers. Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch! We must avoid everything and by avoiding everything we are able to get close to God! Paul tells us that this philosophy made by men may seem like wisdom, but its actually not. Rather, it is simply promoting a self-made religion that cannot in any way change our hearts. It is of no value when it comes to stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

The Idol of the Self-Made Man

Americans tend to have a ideal of the self-made man or woman. We like to think that we can change ourselves and we can fix it if we only try harder or get more disciplined. We like to think we can pull ourselves by our boot straps and make ourselves a success. But the ideal of a self-made man is impossible when it comes to true and deep spiritual change.

These false teachers thought they could create change in their lives by following rules and regulations, but Paul says this self-made religion has no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. No matter how you mange your external behavior true change comes from our union with Christ. True change comes from a heart transformed by God’s grace. We are changed from the inside out, not the outside in.

As a pastor I get to spend a lot of time talking to people about their struggles, sin, and issues. I’ve noticed we are so quick to want an easy 3-step answer to our problems. We want a 3-step program to solving our marriage problems, fighting sexual lust, dealing with our drunkenness, or solving our financial problems.

Next week we will get to explore this idea more thoroughly as we start Colossians 3, but we must understand how change works in the Christian life. Change in us is caused by God as we connect ourselves to Jesus. Change happens to us by the Spirit as he deepens our love and relationship with Jesus. We cannot change ourselves, but rather we must depend on God to change us!

Much of what’s called preaching today in churches isn’t proclaiming Christ but promoting a self-help, self-made religion. It encourages you to solve your own problem and gives you 5 steps to a better life. A lot of what’s called preaching is simply the heretical cliche of “God helps those who helps themselves”. Here is what we have to understand, we cannot help ourselves.

Final Thoughts

We cannot save ourselves by rules, and we cannot experience God by fabricating spiritual experiences, and we cannot change ourselves by our own might. We cannot add to Jesus. He alone is all we need. We must recognize our need for a savior. We must become more aware that it is only by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that we have forgiveness and new life. Jesus is the source of our salvation. He is the only way to experience God and he is the only one who can cause really and lasting change.

If you are not a Christian today, I invite you to turn from your sins and trust in this Jesus who gives you life.

If you are Christian, do not let anyone judge you or disqualify you. In Jesus you possess the fulness of God. You have his righteousness. You have the same relationship to God the father as Jesus the son has. You can change and be made new all because of Jesus Christ. So do not rely on yourself and do not try to add to what Jesus has done. May God put to death any efforts to self-made religion and led us to fall on our knees this morning wholly dependent upon Jesus who is Lord over all.

Christ Over All: Alive in Christ  

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

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:6–15, ESV)

We all wear glasses. We all look at the world through a filter to better understand ourselves and all that we observe. These glasses are called a Worldview. Either these glasses will help us see the world as it is, or it will distort the world like a fun house mirror.

Everything is religious, and our religious beliefs are pivitol in determining our worldview. Theology used to be thought of as the queen of the sciences, ruling supreme over every other intellectual discipline. Our religious beliefs filter who we interpret scientific date to how we interpret literature. Our worldview impacts everything we see and think.

Paul urges the Colossiasn to be firm in Christ and to walk in him. He wants them to be established in the teaching of Christ. He wants their worldview to be determined by Jesus. So Paul teaches that Jesus is greater than all other worldview because in him the fullness of God dwells bodily.

1. Do Not Be Captivated by False World Views

Paul is concerned about false teaching and there is some heresy cropping up within the church that he is concerned about. We will see more about this Heresy next week on the specific false teaching the Colossians were facing, but to give you sneak peek for today, it was some sort of syncretism. Now that’s a big word. What does syncretism mean? Imagine syncretism is K&W Cafeteria. What do you do at a cafeteria? Well you go in, you make your way through the line and you get to pick your own meal. Maybe you take some fried chicken, some green beans, maybe a yeast roll – you get the picture you assemble you meal based off of your personal preferences.

Well syncretism is a when you turn religion and philosophies into a cafeteria. Maybe you take a little from Christianity, a little bit from eastern mysticism, a little bit from pluralism, etc. Now what makes syncretism so difference is that people often don’t notice they are doing it. What happens is slowly over time people create a faith and religion of their own making.

This is the issue that was going on in the Colossian church and it is the same one going on int he church today. Slowly but surely we will start adding to the Christian faith and importing popular philosophies of the day into the church.

We must be on guard against our syncretistic tendencies to compromise the Christian faith with false teaching. So though our modern philosophies might be a little different than the ones the Colossians were facing, we too have popular ideologies that we must be careful not to import into Christianity. Let me share three of the most common in the south.

3 Most Common False World Views

1. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Moralistic therapeutic deism (or MTD for short) is a term that was first introduced in the book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (2005) by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Denton.

So its moralistic because the concern is to have a happy life by being a good person and being nice to others. Good people go to heaven, so the emphasize is on being moral.

Therapeutic, meaning that God exists simply to affirm you and to make you feel good about yourself. He is a God who does not judge any decision you make, he just wants you to love yourself as you are.

Deism, meaning God doesn’t interfere with my life. He largely lets me do whatever it is I want to do and i live my life apart from him and only helps when asked. He is like a divine butler that exists to serve me when I ring my bell.

MTD is a diluted, watered-down version of Christianity that is actually anti-Christian. Hundreds of thousands of people who check Christian on the US census actually are not Christian but adopt to MTD. The cultural Christianity we see all around us is simply Moralistic Therapeutic Deism masked as the Christian faith.

Let me say this strongly enough to get our attention – if moralistic therapeutic deism describes you than you simply are not a Christian. Not in any biblical sense. The Bible does not teach moralistic therapeutic deism, but rather Redemptive God-Centered Theism

Redemptive: There is a grave issue humanity and it is that we are sinners. Our hearts are corrupted and no good we do can please God. Our only hope is the God who takes initiative to redeem us in Jesus. The emphasis is not to live a moral life, but to be redeemed by Jesus.

God-Centered: God doesn’t exist for you as your butler or therapist, rather God exists for God – doing all things for the glory of your name. To be truly happy is to find our identity in God’s, God-Centeredness.

Theism God is not distant and inactive, rather he is present and ruling. The Christian lives his whole life under the rule and lordship of Jesus. The Christian is not his or her own, but understands that he has been bought with a price and has been redeemed to bring God Glory.

2. Religious Pluralism/Tolerance

Similar to MTD, this is the philosophy that there is really no one way to God. All religions just lead to the same pathway. So whether your hindu, Islamic, buddhist, jewish, or Christian everyone is just worshiping the same God.

This theology is demonstrated in the “coexist” number stickers we see on cars and mini-fans. All religious are right and it is just a matter of personal taste which one you choose. All that matters is that you just believe.

What’s the problem? Well, first, all the truth claims of these different religions are contradicting. Either God exists in trinity or he doesn’t. Either Jesus is the only way, or he’s not. Religious pluralism breaks one of the fundamental logical laws, the law of noncontradiction. Secondly, the Bible affirms that Jesus is the ONLY way to God.

3. Materialism/Atheism

All that is is the material world. The universe is a cosmic accident, random and pointless. As many in our culture begin to adopt the religion of atheism, they live there life as their is no God.

The philosophies of men are like fashion trends, as soon as they go out of style they come back in style. By the time I’m in my 70s, if God gives me that long of a life, who knows what the thinking and popular worldview of the day may be. Chasing after them is like standing on shifting sand or like chasing a helium balloon on a windy day. Paul instructs us to walk in Christ – to be firm and established in him. Rooted and built up. Christians will always be faced to adjust or modify the Christian faith to bring it in with the modern times. Yet Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. As Christians we can not be victim to temporary intellectual trends but rather hold firm to the eternal word of God which teaches us that Christ is all.

Do not be held captive by false world views, but rather be captivated by the fulness of Christ.

2. Be Captivated by the Fulness of Christ

Paul’s answer to why we should be held captive by Christ above every other philosophy or worldview is essential. He says that the reason we should think and live according to Christ is because the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily in him.

Paul is pulling back up language from the Christ Hymn earlier in chapter 1. Jesus is God. He reigns and rules over all. Indeed, that is the title of this series through Colossians – Christ Over All. Here Paul sees Jesus the essential philosophy or worldview because Jesus is God.

His logic here is pretty simple but so very neglected in our modern thinking. If there is a God whose created the world, wouldn’t we want to hear how he thinks about the world? Isn’t the truest perspective the one given to us by God?

Imagine for a second you were getting ready to go on an Amazon Expedition. You’ve never even set foot on a nature trail, but you are set on walking through the Amazon Rainforest. You get on a plane and travel down to South America. As you prepare for your hike through a dangerous and unknown journey you meet a man who offers you his help. He’s grown up in the rainforest and he knows it like the back of his hand. He’s helped many tourist make the expedition. He knowns the dangerous areas and he knows how to avoid getting swallowed by an Anaconda or eaten by piranhas. Yet, you stubbornly refuse his help, insisting that you navigate it on your own without any help. So you set out in the rainforest unequipped, inexperienced, and probably to your own doom.

As we seek to understand the world we live in on our own, its as foolish as going into the Amazon without a guide. So as we seek to understand the world we live in, shouldn’t we listen and follow the teaching of the one who has created it?

Is Jesus enough? Is he enough to understand the world? Can he give answers to my perplexing questions? Do I need to add to Jesus and to his Gospel. Should I seek to incorporate other worldview and philosophies into my Christian faith? Can I take Jesus and sprinkle in a little mysticism along with a little deism and then add a little bit of materialism. Humanity is not just idol makers, we are religion makers. In fact many are so audacious to cook up their own religion borrowing elements from all kinds of sources to concoct a religion of our own ideas and making.

People do this even with Jesus. Rather than seeing Jesus as he has been revealed in Scripture people look for a feminist Jesus, an anti-supernatural Jesus, a pro-homosexual Jesus, or a socialism Jesus. It is common for people to reinterpret Jesus into whoever they wish him to be and add him to their man made philosophies and ideologies.

Paul is strongly cautioning the Colossians, and I to you this morning – do not do that! What more are you looking for? You don’t need to add anything to Jesus, he’s perfect just as he is.

In Christ, we have received all we ever need. What will adding some sort of other teaching or philosophy bring to the table? Nothing. For in Jesus is all the fullness of God, and in Christ we have been filled. God has provided us with everything we need for life and godliness in Jesus.

Paul is going to flesh this idea out again and dwell on our Union with Christ. That phrase Union with Christ has been a big theme so far in this letter, especially in this passage.

In these few verses the phrases “In Him” or “with him” appear nine times. It’s a thread that runs throughout the entire passage.

Paul then starts talking about circumcision in v. 11. What all is he talking about here? Well this passage’s interpretation is a little debated, but let me tell you what I think Paul is trying to do here.

Circumcision is the Old Testament sign of the covenant. In other words we set you apart as a Jewish man as under the Covenant was physical circumcision. It distinguished you from other men who were not a part of the covenant. Now Paul says, those in Jesus have been circumcised but this is not a circumcision of the body, rather Paul says its a circumcision made without hands. In other words, this circumcision Paul is talking about isn’t a physical circumcision but a spiritual one. God has circumcised our hearts.

We call this the new birth or regeneration. It means that for the Christian God gives him a new heart that has eyes to see the greatness of Jesus. God causes this new birth to happen in us so we are able to turn from our sins and put our faith in Jesus.

So under the New Covenant, the sign of the covenant is our regenerated hearts, hearts who have been born again. For the Christian whats sets us apart isn’t that we have received physical circumcision, but that we have been born again by the Spirit of God.

So Baptism then is a external picture of an inward reality. This is why we believe baptizing infants isn’t biblical. Our protestant brothers who baptize babies think that as they baptize infants they are bringing them into a covenant community in hopes that they might one day be born again. They give the external sign of the covenant (baptism) before the inward sign of the new birth has taken place.

As Baptist, and I would say using Colossians here as proof, baptism must follow after the inward circumcision of the heart. In other words, we believe baptism is reserved only for believers of Jesus who demonstrate evidences that they have been born again.

This is why we baptize those believers seeking to join our church though they may have been baptized as infants. We do it because they haven’t received true baptism. Baptism is the external sign of a person who has inwardly been born again.

Yet, Paul’s point here isn’t to teach us on baptism (though it does teach us a lot about baptism), his point as we look at it in context is this. Our baptism represents our union with Christ. In Jesus we are united to him and baptism by immersion represents this union with Christ. Think about the imagery of the baptismal act.

A believer stands in the water, he goes into the water buried just as Christ was buried, then the person is raised out of the water just as God raised Jesus from the dead. If we are in Christ then we die to ourselves and are raised by faith through the power of God.

Every one of us born into this world is dead in our trespasses and sins. We are born with uncircumcised hearts. We are in rebellion against God and do things our own way. Within us there is ZERO spiritual life. There is nothing, we are quite literally dead inside.

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt dead inside like there was nothing there? You may be here today – simply unmoved by any of our worship this morning. Maybe this is your first time with us or maybe you’ve been coming for decades but when you come to worship nothing awakens inside you, as you think about Jesus there’s just nothing – your dead.

But, God does what we could not do for ourselves. Jesus came to make our dead hearts alive! He comes to take our uncircumcised hearts and cause them to be born again. Jesus takes our hearts of hardened stones and shatters the hard exterior and pumps it back to life.

God made us alive with him – How does God make you alive? By connecting you to the life of his son by faith. Just as Jesus was resurrected to new life, that is the source of our new life. When we are united to Jesus by faith we are made alive and forgiven of all our sins!

How does Jesus do this for us? How can he forgive us our sins? Paul says in v. 14 that Jesus canceled the record of debt that stood against us. Their are legal demands you own God. Your sin is an incalculable debt. It is beyond comprehension. It is an amount you could never ever pay even if you spent every minute of your life trying to pay it back. Yet, Paul says Jesus canceled this debt for us. Yet Jesus didn’t just wave a magic wand and make it go away, rather he paid the debt for you as he was nailed to the cross. Jesus nailed it to the tree and purchases us freedom from our sin.

So what more are you lacking? If in Christ we have everything, what more do we need? If through Jesus we have been set apart as the people of God and saved from our sin, what will any other philosophy or religion bring to the table?

For in Jesus all the fullness of God dwells bodily. He is in all his fullness God and by faith we as Christians are in Him. We share in his life, in his death, and in his resurrection.

So look at Paul’s conclusion at v. 15 – He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

At the cross Jesus proved the foolishness of the wisdom of man. For in Jesus’ defeat he provided victory and in his death he gives us life. Jesus is the head of all rule and authority. And he mutes any opposition. He the philosophy and man made worldview and disarms them and puts them to shame. He exposes them as a sham, and he triumphs over every other worldview and thinking by the foolishness of His cross.

I’m not sure where you are at today in your relationship with God, but let me give you a few brief big take aways from what we’ve learned today.

  • Have you been united to Christ? Have you been saved by Jesus?
  • Are established in your faith and in Christ not to be shaken or influenced by empty man-made philosophy?
  • In what areas are you trying to add to the Christian faith?
  • Do you realize that Jesus is enough – you are not lacking in anything. In Jesus you have all the resources you need?

When God saves us he gives us eyes to see the world as it truly is. He gives us hearts to understand his purposes in the world. Christianity is the only true worldview and the only right way of looking at the world, because it is a worldview given to us none other than the creator of the universe Jesus Christ.

And in the words of C.S. Lewis, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Christ Over All: Stable in Christ  

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.

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.