Listen: Simon Manchester presents Christian Growth
In this series, Simon explores the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae.
The apostle Paul is writing from prison to a church, which he has never visited and maybe never did visit. And they’re very new believers. And he’s full of thanks because the message of Christ has come like a seed and is being planted in their hearts and is born a kind of a tree, which has begun to show the fruits of faith and hope and love.
Loving father, we ask that as we think on these few verses this morning, that you would help us to be receptive like good soil, and that the seed of your word would bear fruit to your praise, and to our joy, we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
I read a true story this week of two men who were walking a beach and they found a bottle with inside it, a offer of a tycoon to give his inheritance to whoever found the bottle. And one of the men said, “This is obviously a hoax, so let’s forget it.” And the other one said, “No, I’m going to pursue it.” And apparently he did pursue it, it turned out to be a true offer, and he received a fortune in money. And I was thinking of this as we come to these five verses in Colossians this morning which were just read for us.
This is the New Testament letter we’re looking at on these Sunday mornings. And the verses are so difficult, you may be tempted to switch off. In fact, you may have switched off already, but I’m hoping that you will switch on and you’ll find these verses to contain a great deal of treasure. We must remember that the apostle wrote these verses to very young Christians and he expected them to chew on the meat of these verses and we should be ready to do so as well. Remember that he’s written to them from prison to say that he’s very glad they’ve become believers, but he’s wary that they will be tricked into walking away from Christ. And so he’s urging them to stay close to Christ. Now, let me tell you what the idea or the concept is behind the verses this morning. I’ll just put this into one simple sentence and that is that some relationships are worth their weight in gold.
I’m sure you know this, that some relationships are worth their weight in gold. And if you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, it is immeasurable, it does outweigh the world and it of course will outlast the world. I mean, just imagine, for example, you got married to Neil Armstrong, the first guy who walked on the moon, your life would never be the same. Imagine you got married to Don Bradman, the great cricketer, your life would never be the same.
When we talk about a relationship with Jesus Christ, we’re talking about belonging to him. We’re not just talking about believing. The devil believes in Jesus Christ. The devil believes in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The devil believes in the cross and the resurrection, the devil believes in heaven and hell, but we’re talking about belonging to Jesus Christ. And Paul is going to explain in these verses that simple faith in Jesus Christ joins you to somebody, that is Jesus, and joins you to him so intimately that every step of his journey becomes your journey.
So did he die? You’re involved in his death. Did he rise? You’re involved in his resurrection. Does he bring new life? You’re involved in the new life. I’ll just give you one more simple example of this. When my children were small, I remember I was invited to do some ministry overseas and we actually made our way through Los Angeles. And so I took the children to Disneyland and there was a new ride at Disneyland, it was the Indiana Jones ride and we turned up that particular day, very late and almost everybody had gone home and the ride was pretty empty. And so we got into the Jeep and we travelled with the Indiana Jones Jeep.
And when we had finished the ride, we just got in the queue and there we were at the front and got in straightaway and did it again. And then again, and then again and everywhere, the Jeep went we went. If the Jeep did a dive, we did a dive. If the Jeep rose up a hill, we went up a hill. If it swerved to the left, we went to the left. If it went to the right, we went to the right, and every person who puts their faith in Christ travels with Christ, the journey which he has been on.
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Now, you might feel that this is crazy and nonsensical, but let me assure you that if you don’t get this, your Christianity will be much poorer, but if you do get it, your Christianity will be much richer. So I’m going to look with you for a few minutes now at two things this morning, the riches that are Christian receives and the reason we receive.
The riches we receive and the reason we receive. So first of all the riches, and the first thing Paul mentions that we receive is a death, but it’s a good death. It’s the death of a monster. Paul is talking about sin no longer being in charge. Before you become a Christian, sin sits in the driver’s seat. It has a controlling position. It causes attitudes, prejudices, unbelief, desires, passions. And think of the secret battle that you struggle with, that maybe nobody knows about except you, nobody, but only you know.
But when Jesus Christ came and died, and when he called you to belong, and when you responded, he removed sin, or what we might call flesh, from the driver’s seat. And Paul describes this in very strange terms, he says a circumcision took place, not a physical one, but a spiritual one. This is not a skin idea. This is a sin idea. Sin was removed from its place. Now circumcision in the Bible was always much bigger than a Jewish ritual. Even back in the Old Testament, in the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord said, “I just long that all my people would have their hearts circumcised, that is changed, wonderfully changed.” And when Jesus Christ brings you to the point of belonging to him, sin he’s no longer in the driver’s seat because he is in the driver’s seat.
Of course sin is still in the car, but it’s not in the driver’s seat. Now, I don’t know if we could measure how wonderful this is because no longer is the sin that can drive you to hell in the driver’s seat. But now the one who is the saviour and will drive you to heaven is in the driver’s seat. There is someone stronger than your sin. This is a great death that we receive.
Second, second thing we receive is a burial. Was Jesus buried? Yes. The Christian shares in the burial. What do we mean by this? We mean that the old life without Christ is dead and buried. It’s behind us. It’s finished, it’s over. Paul uses a very strange word for burial. He calls the burial a baptism because Jesus, in a way, was plunged into death. He was immersed in death. He was submerged in death. He was drowned in death. You may remember in Luke chapter 12, Jesus said, “I’ve got a baptism coming up and I long to get it over and done with.” And he was talking about, of course, his death.
And when a person believes in and belongs to Jesus Christ, the old life is dead and buried. You’re no longer without Christ. You’re now with Christ. I remember this as an 18 year old, I became a Christian at 18. I was completely spiritually dead, deaf and blind. I went along to a camp run by Christian people. I sat in the very back row, completely disinterested, but as the man gave the talks that we had to listen to, I realised that my sins were fatal and the death of Jesus was crucial. And the two little wires came together and I must have offered up some little prayer for help. And I went home from the camp and I had absolutely no change feelings whatsoever, no feelings at all.
But I realised after a few weeks I was a brand new person. A whole lot of things disappeared. Blasphemy disappeared. A relationship disappeared. And I wanted to know God better. And I wanted to get a Bible and read it. And I wanted to pray a little better than I had, ambulance type prayers in the past. And this change had taken place. And to share in the burial of a lost life, of a sinful life is an incredible thing to receive. You might not of course, be very conscious of a big change taking place in your life. But if you have a real appreciation for Jesus Christ, it sounds as though there is a new life ticking away inside you.
Third thing we receive is a resurrection. Chapter two verse 12, “The one who belongs to Jesus is raised with him.” Now, if I was to come and ask you this morning, the question in your pew, have you been resurrected? It’s a very strange and weird question, isn’t it? And for the Christian, the answer is yes and no. Yes, I’ve been raised spiritually to a new eternal life. But no, I’ve not yet been raised physically.
And the signs that you have a new spiritual life are a little bit like the signs that you look for when a baby is born. When a baby is born, you look for signs like this, are they crying? Are they feeding? Are they growing? Are they relating? If they’re not making a noise and they’re not feeding and they’re not growing and they’re not relating, the alarm bells go off. When you become a Christian and you have a new eternal life, the signs are that you cry, that is you begin to communicate with God in a new way. You feed on the promises in his word, they’re very precious to you. You begin to grow more like Christ and you begin to relate to him and to his people. And if those signs are not present, no wonder pastors and people get worried. So Paul makes this wonderful point that if you believe in and belong to the risen Christ, you share in his resurrection. It’s as if, remember the Jeep in Disneyland has gone up and you share in his rising. Spiritual today, physical one day.
The fourth thing the Christian receives, chapter two verse 13 is a rebirth. He says, “You’ve been made alive with Christ.” The non-Christian is dead because of sin. We know this because they’re unresponsive to the gospel. If you talk to them about Christ or you tell them the call of Christ, it just doesn’t interest them. They’re unresponsive. But the Christian is alive because the news of Christ and the call of Christ has been heard and has been taken up. I know that the phrase born again can be an irritating phrase. You might say to some people, “I’m not one of those born again Christians.” I know it can be irritating as a phrase. It can be superior as a phrase, but let me tell you that if you’re going to have a life, you’re going need a birth. And if you’re going to have eternal life, you’re going to need a rebirth.
And John puts this beautifully when Jesus he’s talking to Nicodemus, Jesus says, “You need to be born again.” Which is a way of saying you’re helpless. And then a few verses later, “God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” So you must be born again, pulls the carpet from under the feet. And then John 3:16, the most precious verse, tells you to put your trust in him and have a new life. These things are very significant.
On the gravestone of a man called Peter Milne, who was a missionary for 50 years in the New Hebrides, working among the head hunters, the little church that has arisen, now a big church, has got this on his gravestone. “When he came, there was no light, when he left, there was no darkness.” It’s a wonderful transformation, isn’t it? And when Jesus Christ comes to us and says, “I will have you.” And we respond to him in prayer and say, “I will have you.” We share immediately in the death, the burial, the resurrection, and the new life of Christ. Riches beyond this world.
Now let’s secondly and quickly think about the reason that a Christian receives these things. And these are the last couple of verses. Is it because we’re so nice that we get to receive these things? Is it because we’re so attractive, or so good, or so deserving? Or is it because we’re so dedicated? The answer says Paul is because Jesus forgives, he cancels the charge against us. Friends, imagine you have a day in court coming and everything you’ve ever thought, said, or done is going to be brought out in front of you. And everything you’ve neglected or failed to do is going to be raised as well.
Would that be a day that you’d look forward to? It would not be a day that we would look forward to. Imagine somebody was able to cancel everything that stood against us and tell us everything has been cancelled. When you land in court, the record is clear. We could look forward to that day. In fact, the Bible says the believer is able to look forward to meeting Christ without fault and with great joy, therefore forgiveness is unspeakably valuable. We are able to walk every day in this world, grateful for forgiveness, and we’re able to meet him safely and joyfully one day.
Then Paul says it’s because Jesus makes peace. Chapter two, verse 14, “He removes the barrier between us and God.” Some people think that Paul has in mind the little sign that the Romans would put above the crucifixion, that they would put at the top of the cross of the man or the woman who was being crucified. And the sign would say, “This person is being crucified because they did this.” And Paul seems to be taking up the idea, this idea of Roman justice. And he seems to be saying, do you realise that when Jesus was crucified, he had a little sign at the top of his cross and it said, “This man is dying and suffering because of what Simon Manchester did, and what every believer did. And he’s paying and removing the barrier.”
It’s a wonderful thing to have the barrier between God and us removed and that spills over into our relationships as well. And then it’s because Jesus defeated evil. We read in 2:15, “He disarmed, or he stripped the powers of evil.” If you’d been there on good Friday, of course, it would’ve looked as if the powers had stripped and defeated Jesus Christ. The fact of the matter is he took the weapons out of the hands of the evil powers and the keys out of their hands. And now there is somebody who sits on the throne of heaven, who pulls all the strings, controls all the rulers.
And the very last thing this morning, it says in 2:15, “It’s because he triumphed.” He triumphed at the cross. It was a victory. He was able to call out in a loud voice, “It’s done, it’s finished, it’s accomplished.” And then of course it was publicly displayed on Easter day as he rose from the dead. Do you see friends how a simple I will to Jesus Christ brings you into a relationship with him where you belong to him, which is worth a fortune beyond this world. And we will see that one day. An unspeakable future in front.
Well, a lady took her friend to church one day because there was a special preacher coming along who was going to be talking on a very special subject. And she thought this would be perfect for my neighbour. And she turned up and she’d got her dates wrong. And it was the most boring possible preacher that day. Speaking from the genealogy where A had a child called B and died. And B had a child called C and died. And C had a child called D and died. And as they walked out of church, the lady said to her friend, “I’m so sorry.”
And the friend turned and said to her, “I haven’t heard anything so significant for a long time. It’s absolutely right, isn’t it? A produces B and dies. B produces C and dies. C produces D and dies.” And then she said to the friend, “Who’s got the answer to this?” Well, I hope you’ll see this morning that all the answers lie in the five verses that we’ve looked at in Colossians chapter two, the answer is with Christ.
Let’s bow our heads and pray.
Loving father, thank you for this extraordinary record of the work of Christ. The death, the burial, the rising, the new life, being credited to the simple believer. We pray that these great truths would come home to us in a deep and wonderful way, and that you would be praised. And that we would be as faithful as you can make us. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.