Building blocks of evangelism

Preached on: Sunday 6th March 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here22-03-06 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Colossians 4:2-15
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s word:

Holy Spirit, come among us and soften our hearts to what You might say today through Your word.
Holy Spirit, help us to hear the call of God.
Holy Spirit, come with power and deep conviction to change us and shape us, to make us your ambassadors. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

I would like to read you a modern-day parable that someone has written and it is called The Life-saving station.

‘On a dangerous sea coast, notorious for shipwrecks, there was a crude little life-saving station. Actually, it was merely a hut, with only one boat but the few members kept a constant watch over the turbulent sea. With little thought for themselves, they would go out day and night, tirelessly searching for those in danger. Many lives were saved by this brave band who faithfully worked as a team in and out of the life-saving station. By and by it became a famous place. Some of those who had been saved, as well as others along the seacoast, wanted to become associated with this little station. They were willing to give their time energy and money in support of its objectives. New boats were purchased, new crews were trained. The station once obscure, crude and virtually insignificant, began to grow. Some of its members were unhappy. The hut was so unattractive and poorly equipped. They felt a more comfortable place should be provided. Emergency cots were replaced with lovely furniture. Rough handmade equipment was discarded and sophisticated systems were installed. The hut, of course, had to be torn down to make room for all this new equipment, furniture and systems. By the time of its completion the life-saving station had become a popular gathering place and its objectives had begun to shift. It was now used as a sort of clubhouse being an attractive building for the public to gather in. Saving lives, feeding the hungry, strengthening the fearful, calming the disturbed these rarely occurred now. Fewer members were interested in braving the sea on life-saving missions so they hired professional lifeboat crews to do this work. The original goal of the station wasn’t all together forgotten however, life-saving motifs still prevailed in the club’s decorations and there was a liturgical lifeboat preserved in the room of sweet memories with soft indirect lighting which helped hide the layer of dust upon the once used vessel. Shipwrecks still occur in those waters but now most of the victims are not saved, every day they drown at sea and so few, so very few, seem to care.’

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with that.

Are we the people in the parable? Are we simply content with our clubhouse and our place in the clubhouse. As we come to share in Communion today and gather around the Lord’s table, do we take just simple comfort from the fact that we’re okay, we are part of His family, we have our place, we have our faith but we maybe have forgotten the wider world Jesus came for.

These are questions we each need to ask of ourselves and of us as a congregation. Have we forgotten or neglected our calling?

I feel quite certain it’s a question Paul would ask of the church in our day given our reading today. Up to this point Paul has been directing the attention of the Colossians upwards to Jesus and inwards to care for one another and to grow in faith, to strengthen that faith. But now he turns outward and he calls the Colossians to turn outward as well and so he writes ‘Pray for us too, that God may open a door for our message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should.’ As he begins to turn outward, his instinct is to ask for prayer, and as Paul often does, he leads by example because in the very next verse he goes on to call them to be similarly outward focused ‘Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders. Make the most of every opportunity. When you read the words be wise.’ I wonder what it conjures in your mind ‘Be wise to how you behave towards outsiders.’? We, I think, believe it means to be nice and polite, which I don’t think it does actually mean because in the New Testament wisdom is not about how to live a successful life, it’s not about how to have the good life, it’s not about knowing the answers, it’s not about just being nice and kind or something like that. Having wisdom in the New Testament is about understanding who Jesus is and what God has done and is doing through Jesus. And so, to be wise towards the outside world is to understand the outside world in relation to Jesus and to who Jesus is and what Jesus came to do.

And so, what has Paul already said about Jesus and his letter that would be of importance for the outside world? Well, in chapter one of Colossians he says that if you don’t have faith in Jesus you are alienated from God and an enemy of God and your mind and the only way to be reconciled to God is through Jesus. Or go into chapter 3 and Paul says there that because of sin in the world and in our lives the wrath of God is coming there will be judgment upon our actions.

That is the wider context. And so, although Paul doesn’t talk about an outward focus until chapter four and it’s only a couple of verses and we might be tempted to think ‘Oh, it’s just a wee tag on here’ it’s really not, it’s not an optional extra that slipped Paul’s mind, because he was writing for another purpose. He was writing to ground their faith and strengthen their faith but he can’t help himself in turning outward and remembering that everything he’s written so far has relevance for the outside world and so sharing Jesus is not an optional extra for us, it’s of eternal significance and really he’s just echoing Jesus who said in those verses we quote so often ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ The stakes are high because he goes on to say ‘Whoever believes in him that is in Jesus is not condemned but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only son.’

That is the context of scripture that drives home Paul’s argument that we are to be wise, we have to understand the outside world in relation to Jesus, to who he is and what God has done in and through him, and it’s why Paul goes on to say ‘make the most of every opportunity’ make the most of every opportunity.
I wonder if we are like Archipelas who needed a reminder from Paul, ‘complete the ministry you have received’ he’s told do. We need to be reminded to complete our calling. Our calling to invite people to follow Jesus that they might be saved.

Sharing Jesus with the outside world is not an optional extra. It has eternal significance and if we don’t take that on board, if we don’t try to grow in this some way, somehow, we’re just going to end up like that self-indulgent clubhouse and we’re no longer a life-saving station.

As we come around the Communion table today, let us remember why Jesus actually died, not to make us comfortable, not even to make us nice people, but to save us and to bring salvation for the world, including the world that is outside our doors right now.

Now, let me be honest friends, I’m as poor at this as anybody. I shy away from this as much as the next person, and so, I’m not standing up here as the finished product and not standing up here as an expert in this. I’m simply trying to open up God’s word for us Sunday by Sunday and let him speak. So, it’s not hypocritical for me to say this. I’m preaching as much to me as I am to you, but one of the things I love about God’s word is how He equips us through His word, by the example and the writings of His church. He equips us and so Paul, in his writing, actually gives us building blocks to help us share our faith and I want to briefly touch on four.

He writes ‘devote yourselves to prayer being watchful and thankful and pray for us too.’

Building block number one is prayer. Because, if you’re not praying, you won’t be sharing. Paul’s probably got in mind prayer beyond simple evangelism and mission. I’m sure of that because of what he writes in chapter one. So I’m taking a particular focus here, let’s admit that. But he quickly goes on to talk about evangelism and I think for him evangelism and prayer will be intimately tied because, think this through, as you thank God for what you have received, the grace and mercy you have received, for the love He has shown you, and as you express that thankfulness to God, a passion, a zeal, an excitement arises in you and you’re like ‘I want to share this with others.’ And so, if you’re not in prayer, thanking God for this, you’re probably not very excited and you’re not really want to share it with people. We need to be praying in the place of thankfulness but as we thank God for that we might be like ‘Well, I want to share this.’ and so, we ask him for open doors, as Paul does, and then as we begin to ask for that, when we’re out and about in the community, or we’re talking with people, we’re more mindful of those opportunities. ‘Oh, I could have said something there. Oh, this is where Jesus might be relevant. Oh, I could pray for that person, I could say and pray for that person, because well, there’s a God that I can pray to you. Become more aware of those opportunities, but then we’re going to mess up, aren’t we, we’re going to not take the opportunities at times, we’ll take some and we’ll miss out on others, and so, we go back into prayer and we were saying to God ‘God I didn’t take that opportunity you gave me and I’m sorry I allowed my fear, I allowed my discomfort to hold me back and I didn’t love my neighbor as I loved myself. I was more in love with my comfort and my image and reputation than I was in that person’s welfare.’ And we’ll start to repent of that and as you repent of that it gives you resolve that the next time the opportunity comes you’ll take it.

In a place of prayer we are prepared for evangelism. And so, if you’re not, you won’t be prepared. If you’re not praying for people to come to faith, you won’t be prepared either. So that little card that I’ve left down on the table there, that’s person number one to be thinking of, but maybe add to that one or maybe two others, especially if that person on your card is not a local person. We are called to evangelism, to mission, to sharing the good news with this community, in this place. So, who is that to you. In my own life I have my phone, I have an electronic calendar and I have little reminders that pop up every day. One stream of reminders is around people, family, friends, situations that I want to pray for. And I have family members I’m praying for to come to faith. I’ve got friends that I’m praying to come to faith. I’m going to just about, I’m going to add dads that I’m meeting at the playground that I want to come to faith. I then have a second stream of reminders that I break up my pastoral grouping – so Elders, wee idea for you pastoral grouping leaders – each day pray for a different couple of members from your pastor grouping, and there are members of my pastoral grouping who have spouses that don’t believe and I’m praying for those spouses to come to faith. I’m not saying you have to go to that extreme but who are the two people you’re praying for that are locally not believing in Jesus. The reason I probably rabbit on about this so much is because I am praying for this, it’s there in my consciousness, and you won’t give a jot about this if you’re not praying for this. So, we need to be in the place of prayer.

Building block number two is relationships. Paul says ‘Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders and let your conversation be always full of’ and it goes on. You can’t have a conversation, you can’t name two people, you can’t act towards people you don’t have a relationship with. So, who outside of the church locally do you have relationships with who are you building that relationship with? Maybe a neighbor, maybe a friend, maybe a colleague. But we need to be in relationship. We can’t just be a wee holy huddle and we’re looking who are you building relationships with. Hopefully you are and you can name two people.

Building block number three is when you’ve got those relationships we hopefully have some conversation and he says ‘let your conversation be always full of grace seasoned with salt so that you may know how to answer everyone.’ And I think we get a whole list of wild ideas about what this could mean. I think we interpret it through our nice, comfortable, kind of middle class, lens at times. And so, when we read ‘let your conversation be always full of grace’ again we read that as well, be nice, be polite, that kind of ilk of interpretation. But I don’t think that’s what Paul means because let’s remember the context of Paul’s day, he’s writing to a group of people who are ostracized, ridiculed, mocked, even persecuted for their faith. To be a Christian then was in a hostile environment, not necessarily our environment, although it’s getting more hostile, and so, in the context of that time, to be full of grace can mean two things I think. To be forgiving and forbearing when people ridicule you and mock you for following Jesus. They were mocked because they believed in a crucified Messiah. ‘Your God can’t be powerful, he was killed!’ was how it went, and they would have to show grace in their conversation as they forgave and as they bore with that.

But God’s grace also upholds us, upholds our faith so that we believe until the very end. We cling on even in the hard times. That is a work of God’s grace and so I think also that being full of grace in our conversation can be that when you are ridiculed and when people malign your faith and when they say it’s rubbish and nonsense that when you stand there and you kind of take it on the chin but you say ‘I still believe in this Jesus’ and you’re not going to dissuade me and you’re not aggressive about it but you’re just firm and you’re resolved that is you walking in grace and that is powerful in our day.

Paul also goes on to say that conversation should be seasoned with salt and again there’s two dynamics here I think at play. One is that Jesus said that we are ‘to be salt and light’ and in the message translation of that passage in Matthew the author there draws out that we have to bring out the God flavors, the flavors of God’s kingdom. So, that might be at play. But also, in the day, salty conversation was a conversation that was earthed in reality, it was earth in the everyday of living, and to combine those two thoughts together I think what Paul might be getting at is when you get to talk about faith, don’t talk about some highfaluting theology, and don’t talk about the organization of church, talk about how Jesus is real to you, of what He’s done in your life and is doing in your life talk, about your testimony. Bring out God’s flavor from your own life that they might see it, that they might know it. And I think combining all that together helps us to know how to answer everyone because, with this part of the verse, we often think we’ll have to have an answer for every possible question under the sun, every question about science, every question about morality, every question about the Bible, every question about theology. None of us, not even the minister, can answer everyone with all those questions.

But I wonder, as you hold on in faith to Jesus, in that conversation, as you share what Jesus means to you and has done in your life, that is a powerful answer. Because we can debate matters of theology and morality and philosophy, and everybody can come up with their answer but when you share your story, it’s a little bit more difficult to ignore that and to explain it away because your story of faith has power in it. And maybe, that’s what we need to focus more on. What is your story of faith that you can share. And it might not be a whoop-dee-doo story of faith, you might not be in the greatest place of faith right now, you maybe are not in a place of rejoicing, but you know,, in our day in our world, being able to say how you hold on in faith amidst the dark times and the times of suffering and the times when Jesus doesn’t seem as close, that’s powerful. Over lockdown we had multiple testimonies shared on Tuesday, Testimony Tuesday, and so many of them included times of faith in the hard times and they were powerful.

So, what’s the story that you can share in conversation with people?

And the fourth one builds on all this too in the latter bit of Paul’s letter, as he closes off, he lists a whole lot of people. People he ministers and serves with, people that he labors with, and digging into some of their stories there’s two in particular, Mark and Demas that jumped off the page for me, because they’re kind of two sides of the one coin of perseverance with grace.

Mark was a colleague of Paul’s and in Acts chapter 13 we read that we can read there that he deserted Paul he left for some reason, we don’t know why, maybe it was fear, maybe the opposition was too much, we just don’t know, and it hurt Paul, it betrayed his trust and he wouldn’t serve with Mark for a time. But now Colossians is a little later on in the story and Mark is back involved with Paul. Mark is persevering in ministry again and there’s been grace and forgiveness.

Demas is the other side of that in the time of Colossians. He’s serving alongside Paul but by the time of second Timothy Demas is said to have deserted Paul then, he’s went the opposite way, he’s not persevering any longer, he’s not relying on God’s grace.

And in these two examples we see that to be effective in sharing our faith and sharing Jesus with the outside world, we do need to persevere. That might not come easy, it might be the scariest thing about our faith, but we’re called to persevere and when you don’t feel able, when you don’t feel good at this, when you feel weak at this, as I do, then that’s probably the best place to be in, because what does God say to the church in Corinth ‘When you are weak then you are strong’ that ‘his power is made perfect in weakness’. You don’t need to be the finished article, you don’t need to be an expert, but you do need to be committed to this, to make some form of commitment to persevere because, if we don’t if, we don’t complete the calling we have received, we’re just going to become, if we’re not already, and I’m not saying we are, but we could very well easily become, just a self-indulgent clubhouse and forget our call to be a life-saving station. Because, as we gather around this Communion table, it reminds us there are eternal things at play. We often focus on the love of God and forget the other side of that coin – Jesus came to die to save us.

Let us remember the full gospel and give ourselves to being that life-saving station.

I pray it may be so. Amen.

The rule of Jesus

Preached on: Sunday 27th February 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above Sunday 27th February 2022. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-02-27 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Colossians 3:15-4:1
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Please do be seated

Let us come to God in prayer before we think about His word. Let us pray:

Holy Spirit we pray for you to come amongst us and soften our hearts to the word of God Holy Spirit come and shape our lives under the rule of Jesus come Holy Spirit with power and deep conviction for we ask it in Jesus’ name amen

this past week we saw the next phase of president Putin’s plans of invasion for Ukraine the world waits now with baited breath to see what will transpire that this is happening on our doorstep that this is happening to a country that really poses and seeks no threat no issue with Russia i think it leaves us all a little dumbfounded whatever the underlying motivations whatever the end goal what is clear to everyone is that we are seeing a world leader a ruler of a nation exercise his power in some of the worst ways imaginable now Putin is not the only world leader we could critique for their misuse of power and so in general i suspect we have a rather large distrust of leaders and the rule of leaders so when we come to a passage like the one today we might engage it with a whole lot of baggage a lot of distrust and criticism what is more our culture has vastly changed from Paul’s day in his day slavery was part and parcel of everyday life and shame on us is still a part of modern day life but not to the same extent and the dynamics in families and the role of women have changed as well this means that we face a temptation as we approach our passage today we face the temptation to rubbish it or ignore it or skip over it or say it’s an example of a text that exhorts a misuse and abuse of power and helps to maintain such power imbalances and structures

but if we go with that vein of thought and do not take the time to dig into these verses we will miss out what God was doing in that day and what God is seeking to do in our day through his word changing the world one life one mind one heart at a time and to get to grips with this passage we first need to appreciate the guiding thought to Paul’s writing which is this the rule of Jesus shaping the lives of his people is good the rule of Jesus shaping the lives of his people is good maybe you think oh here goes Scott picking another idea of the thin air so let me explain where i get this from whenever we approach scripture to try and understand what the bible is teaching us there’s a number of things we need to do and two of the things are this first we need to identify and look out for what is repeated what’s the words that are repeated what are the ideas that are repeated second we need to be aware of the context of the writing and of the wider context of the scriptures so what’s repeated Paul speaks of the peace of Christ the rule of Christ the name of the lord Jesus there’s a repetition there the name of the lord is repeated six times in six verses and again there’s a reference to Jesus as master in heaven so clearly whatever Paul is getting at Jesus is central to this Jesus is shaping this passage what’s the context the context as we heard last week is the kingdom of God the kingdom of God shaping our lives clothing us to be fitting for the kingdom of God both now and for eternity and so it’s the rule of Jesus shaping the lives not of society but of his people Paul is writing to God’s people writing about how their shared activities help to shape their lives so he says we are shaped by the work and message of Jesus actually he says the peace and message of Jesus but I’ll get to that in a moment because i think he’s speaking of the work and message of Jesus we’re shared we’re shaped by our shared activities our thankfulness our teaching our exhortation our singing together all this shapes us shapes us around Jesus and then Paul talks of being shaped by the reality of Jesus in those later verses children are to do what pleases the lord you can’t please someone who doesn’t exist and so it’s be aware of the reality of Jesus he is real this is not just some guy in an old book or a history lesson he is real he is there or verse 23 that whatever we do we do it as working for the lord and that masters are to be mindful we’ve all to be mindful that we all have a master a lord in heaven and we will be accountable to him we are shaped and to be shaped by the reality of Jesus

and so what’s guiding Paul’s thinking is that the rule of Jesus is shaping and is to shape the lives of his people and i’ve added that that’s good i think it’s there in Paul’s writing but you might be wondering well is it good really like if the bible includes such passages and such writings about wives submit to your husbands and slaves the whole regime of slavery doesn’t get challenged in the scriptures is the rule of Jesus really good

well let’s go back to context this God who made himself known in Jesus he wants to give grace and peace and strength to his people he’s already given hope and redemption he has provided the means of forgiveness of sins at his own expense that he died on the cross nailed to that cross even when we were enemies of him in our minds chapter one of Colossians this same God who we’re not enemies with now if we have faith in Jesus this same God has overcome the enemies we still face of death and sin and the devil and he did it for sake of you and me this is the God who did that that we might chapter 3 have life in him and our life might be hidden in him so that it is secure that we are part of his kingdom now and will be for all eternity this is the God who inspired such writings this is the God whose kingdom we’re called to shape being this is the God who invites us to allow him to shape our lives and it is good and for our good

the wider scriptures also speak of the kingdom of God there’s too many scriptures to pick on but I’ll stick with Paul who says in romans for the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness peace and joy in the Holy Spirit the kingdom of God the rule of Jesus is good he seeks to bring righteousness peace and joy to your life to this world that is his ultimate end goal

so Jesus is no Putin he’s not even a Boris he’s not akin to that boss that you know that was grumpy and dictating to you in the workplace Jesus is good and his desire to shape our lives is for our good so how are you going to approach his word today and the invitation to let him rule in your life will it be with trust and his goodness or will it be with criticism or a weariness maybe even a prideful disposition because it’s so easy to think we know best isn’t it it has been the plague of humanity since the beginning of time go back to the beginning of the biblical narrative Adam and Eve one thing not to do don’t eat from the tree and yet they end up doubting the goodness of God God’s holding something back from you and so they decide they know what’s better and they disregard God they doubt his goodness and we and they have paid the price ever since so how will you respond to God’s word God’s rule and his invitation today is it going to be with trust in his goodness trust to allow the rule of Jesus to shape your life

now Paul in particular in our verses today wants the rule of Jesus to shape our relationships and he names three areas of relationships, relationships within the church relationships within the family and then the master slave relationship those we are subject to or those who are subject to us and so beginning with the relationships within the church Paul says in verse 15 let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to peace and be thankful now when we read this verse we probably end up thinking about feelings and about us individually because as a society we are very feelings driven and we are very individualistic so we end up thinking that Paul is talking about some subjective peace that we’ve to let somehow rule in our hearts and that’s often to guide our thing thinking and our feelings and our decisions if you’ve got peace in your heart then you’re good it’s probably how we often approach such language but it’s not what Paul means Paul in the letter to Ephesians talks about the dividing wall between peoples between Jew and Gentile and in Galatians talks between not just Jew and Gentile but male and female slave and free there is this dividing wall

but now through Jesus through his work on the cross there is no division there needs to be no division that we can be reconciled to him and to one another and that is the peace he has won we are called to one body we are one body that is the peace that has been secured and for that peace for the people who make up that peace from all the different backgrounds of life we are to be thankful yes we need to be more thankful in general but that’s not what Paul is to be thankful saying here it’s in the context of being a body of recognizing that the people sitting around us the people who make up our fellowship the people who make up the Christian body beyond just our local congregation are people Jesus died for who were worthy apparently for him to die for

and that is to shape our thinking that is to shape our relating that is to shape the church now how do we keep that thought how do we maintain such an outlook or challenge behavior and ways of relating that are against that kind of thought well Paul says in verse 16 let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through Psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit

did you notice that it’s addressed to you

as you teach and admonish not you the minister not you Paul the apostle you every one of us has a part to play in this

we’ve all to do that as we talk about our faith as we point one another to Jesus as we sing the songs of faith we remind ourselves about the reality of Jesus about who he is about his will and his teaching about his work on the cross and so we remember how to relate to one another and we allow the gospel to shape our living

so who’s the person in church that gets under your skin it might be the minister

who’s that person that’s voice oh just greets you the wrong way who’s that person with the outlook that’s just so different from you and you can’t understand them who’s that person whose demeanor just gets you down who’s that person with a theology that you think is dated or heretical or just doesn’t belong here maybe it’s time to be thankful for them

and how can we

talk about our faith so that we keep the gospel central that we keep pointing each other back to what Jesus has done and of his relevance in our lives and his presence in our lives so for example when you are meeting during the week or after the service maybe ask each other a question what did you take away from Sunday I think there’s always something to take away I’m sure I’ve told the story before that when I was a young Christian i we went i was on a summer mission and we went to a service and i thought this old minister was talking the biggest lot of nonsense and I didn’t understand a word I just had a really hard prideful heart and I ranted and raved after the service and my friend Laurie same age as me been a Christian for a bit longer uh he just said well this is all the stuff that I got and I was I have been challenged since then that you might not have agreed with my message or whoever’s preaching but there will be something you can take away from the hymn from a prayer from a reading so focus on that maybe God’s got something in that for you and then share that with someone else so that you build up their faith don’t just keep it to yourself or maybe say to them how can I pray for you this week could we try and ask that question a bit more amongst one another because when you ask that question not just oh I’m thinking about you or how’s your week going when we ask how can I pray for you we’re reminding one another there is a God we can pray to that we’re not on our own that this world might be looking like it’s going to hell in a hand basket but there is a God and we can call to him and he cares for us

we are called to be a people who in our relationships point each other to Jesus keep the gospel central to all our relationships and all our decision making so that was the easy bit what about the rest of the passage that talks about those apparently maybe slightly dated very tricky verses relating to husbands and wives fathers and children slaves and masters well I’m not going to share an awful lot of hard and fast points of application on that section I’m afraid because in many ways we don’t know the context of Paul’s meaning here that when he says wives submit to your husbands as is fitting in the lord or husbands love your wives and do not be harsh to them what is Paul meaning and what is the context he writes into is he is he mindful because the commentaries are just all over the place on this um and i generally have a kind of I don’t read every commentary but a fair number is he referring to as the situation like in Corinth where spouses were thinking about divorcing their other spouse because one was a believer and one wasn’t a believer and they were worried was this marriage a bad thing is God against my marriage and Paul writes to say no stay in your marriage is that what it means to submit to your husband in that context or is Paul aware of a kind of behavior that is that is wrong and unhealthy is there manipulation going on in the side of the wife maybe or something one or two commentators said that because there’s that old adage and I’d never normally quote this because my wife would probably kill me um the man might be the head of the wife or the family but the wife is neck

she’s in control really

literally there are books written on the subject matter here no matter which side of the debate you go for whether you think there is or is not a role for a husband to play a leadership function within a marriage

but let’s notice a few things at least a few things that need named first of all Paul says that wives are to submit not obey it’s children who are to obey parents and so there is no green light here for husbands to be controlling manipulative or violent and Paul also qualifies his statement that it is only as far as fitting in the lord what is fitting in the lord well let me just give you one example that we’ve already looked at that verse in romans that the kingdom of God is one of righteousness peace and joy and if there is none of that in your marriage if there are things happening in your marriage that are meaning that there is not righteousness peace or joy then there is something going wrong there

also to go back to the letter of Ephesians there’s much more teaching there on this relationship between husband and wife and Paul says that the relationship between husband and wife echoes the relationship between Jesus and his church that he says that as Christ loved the church husbands are to love their wives but equally the church is to submit to Jesus to his rule his leadership that he is head of the church now submission in the context of Jesus in the church is an act of trust to submit to Jesus as an act of trust so is Paul simply meaning that wiser to trust their husbands to trust that their husbands will put them first and seek their best is that what he means

then there’s what Paul says to husbands that they are to love their wives and not be harsh to them and in a culture where women were seen as little more than property as a thing that we were belittled by all faiths Paul is being very counter-cultural he is really shaking things up

and so though his words may seem dated aren’t they still relevant today too which husband here loves their wife as Jesus loved the church how many of us men whether by our words or by the looks upon our faces or in our body language have communicated harshness to our wives this week

whatever Paul’s getting at here ultimately in all these relationships it is about the gospel shaping them and husbands and wives whether married or single with children and a slave master relationship or in the church every relationship is to be shaped by the gospel so is it and with our children either your children or the children who attend church do we communicate the gospel so for example do we communicate to our children well you’re only loved you’re only appreciated we only want you here if you do as we tell you as you obey our rules

or do we communicate differently that you’re loved as you are not as you ought to be not as you should have been not as you might become you are loved as you are

because isn’t that the gospel that Jesus loved you despite you being a sinner despite you telling God to take a hike despite you being an enemy of God Colossians chapter one in your mind God died for you and me that’s the gospel how is that gospel worked out in your relationships is Paul’s point

so where might you embody the gospel and so embody the role of Jesus in your relationships

now despite what I’ve said despite the various caveats I’ve put on it some of us will still feel that Paul did not go far enough some of us will think that his teaching here propped up slavery for hundreds of years and that it still props up the subjugation of women

and why is whilst i would and will counter such claims we do need to acknowledge that the church has a shameful past when it comes to slavery and a shameful past when it comes to the treatment the care and the place of women too many a man too many a slave owner has taken these verses out of context and used them to justify sinful behavior men and women are equals in the sight of God made in the image of God loved equally by God

additionally the church has been woefully slow to change seem more to be playing catch up to wider society and then be maybe dragged into ways that are not of God because we are playing catch up we were called by Jesus to be salt and light to be salt and light and too often we have lost our saltiness

because salt not only preserves but it brings out flavor let’s go back to romans 14 what is the flavor of the kingdom of God righteousness peace and joy we have not brought that out in society

and so I think it’s right that as a church we now have a gender-based violence team and you might think that that is just a pandering to society where the church feels obligated to have such activities but i see it as part of our discipleship as part of what it means to pursue Jesus and embody the kingdom and i’ll explain why in a moment and I’m glad that we now have that team as part of the discipleship team rightly so and in the coming months we hope to roll out some opportunities for you all if you wish to engage with that to understand more about gender-based violence why is this an issue why what does it lead to and how can we do something about that and i encourage you not to become skeptical about it and think it is a pandering to society but to see it as crucial to your discipleship and our day and to come and invest your time learning about gender-based violence because here’s the thing

the changes that have come since Paul’s day in relation to men and women slaves and free it all came about because of Jesus teaching an example and it was built upon by the early church and yes it was built upon by Paul Paul’s teaching as it relates to home life as it relates to the slave master relationship was vastly different to his culture to not see people as things as property to not only value men and the free and Paul’s day he was incredibly egalitarian he would have been vilified for such a position

and whilst you may think he did not go far enough i found this quote helpful in one of the commentaries this week Paul does not protest against the institution of slavery or the dynamic between men and women and we should admit that his approach is subtler he has found a fixed point on which to stand from which to move the world slaves too are human beings slaves too are people Jesus died for women are people who Jesus died for all are loved all our people all are valued

and Paul’s teaching began to change the world maybe not fast enough for you maybe too slowly often times not appreciated often times ignored or thwarted but it was the Christian faith which gave the impetus to value people differently it was the Christian faith which would lay the foundation upon which wider change would come in society and to the dynamics between men and women

from the Christian faith things began to move in the world

so what about your life and your context where are we called to put the work and message of Jesus into practice in our relationships such that the world moves

it might not seem like much with all that’s going on in the news it might not seem like much but every choice matters every choice moves the world that little bit more towards the kingdom of God because did you notice all the little words of action in the passage let teach sing do it all submit love obey provide they’re all action words and they’re all words that require you and me to make a choice to exert our will our power not to dominate as a Roman dictator does a Russian dictator does

but to use our power to allow Jesus to rule in us and through us that the hallmarks of his kingdom might be seen in our day in our lives in our relationships in our community

that then the rule of Jesus might shape more and more lives for the good it might not seem like much but every choice is a choice to help the world move

and that happens one life at a time one mind at a time one heart at a time i pray that we make that choice today and every day may it be so. Amen.

Share in His Kingdom

Preached on: Sunday 20th February 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-02-20 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Colossians 3:1-14
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s word. Let’s pray:

Holy Spirit, breath of God, come soften our hearts to the word of God.
Holy Spirit, come and reveal truth that life and freedom might flourish.
Come Holy Spirit with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

I wonder if you can think of someone either living or deceased who, to you, embodies Jesus? Can you think of someone whose character, whose life, whose faith just meant that they shone Jesus to you? If you’re sitting next to someone why not for the next 30 seconds just turn to them and see who comes to mind for you. Over to you for 30 seconds.

Well, feel free to pick up those conversations afterwards and maybe I think that the weather’s a little bit less windy than it was so maybe, afterwards, outside you can also see who else came up with different ideas and I would love to hear the names and the folks that you thought of. I’m sure I’ve got some similar ideas to you but actually some ways, what’s more upon my mind, is how did they get like that? How did they grow in such a character, in such a way that they embody Jesus, that you noticed and that you remember? There’s another thought that I wonder about also, could it be that you, me might be there one day? That someone might look at us and see Jesus in us? Could the next generation see Jesus in you already?

And our passage today, Paul continues to build on all that he’s written in chapters one and two, his great prayer for the Colossians, of Jesus and Jesus is supreme over all, this Jesus that Paul seeks to make known, the commission that Jesus gave to Paul and so, he’s right into the Colossians, to strengthen and safeguard their faith from these false teachers, from this false avenue of worship. But now, going into chapter three, things change. He’s beginning to now say ‘Well, if this is who Jesus is, if this is who you have faith in, and it’s a real faith, and a genuine faith, then there should be a way of living a lifestyle that is congruent with that, that should accompany that faith. But even then, Paul is going to have a few surprises for us. Surprises that make Christianity different from those false avenues of worship and, as he’s done throughout this letter. he’s going to get the Colossians to look up to Jesus but also so that they can see the truth about themselves as well.

And so, he writes in the first portion ‘You have been raised with Christ who is seated at the right hand of God. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ and God when Christ who is your life appears then you also will appear with him in glory.’ And, as is typical of Paul, he fits enough into four verses that really could do with four sermons but you’re not gonna get that thing instead, I’m gonna give you my best summary thoughts of what I can condense this down into and it’s this – you share now in the future Kingdom of Jesus, you share now in the future Kingdom of Jesus. But let me explain where I got that from in this these verses.

There’s two people on display, there’s Jesus and there’s the Colossians, so, what’s the picture of Jesus here? Well, he is named Christ which is not His surname/ It’s not His surname, it’s His title. He is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah in Hebrew and that was a promised figure who would come to bring God’s Kingdom and to bring salvation upon the earth. And He is now seated at the right hand of God, which is biblical language, picture language, for saying that salvation He has accomplished. He’s not working and laboring at that. He has accomplished it so, he is seated. And He is seated at the Father’s right hand, He’s seated at the throne of God. And all this picture language of Jesus is showing us that that He is Hing, He is King of a Kingdom and although we don’t experience that fully yet, He has broken into this world in His coming. But notice what else it says of Jesus ‘when Christ appears.’ He’s coming back. He’s coming back to bring the fullness of His Kingdom into the creation. Created order, that’s a picture of Jesus.

So, what’s the picture of the Colossians, we have here? Well, they have been raised because they have died, and we touched on this in previous sermons, that they have died to old masters, as chapter 1 verse 13 said, they have been brought out of the dominion of darkness but they’ve been raised with Christ, they have been brought into the Kingdom of the Son, the Kingdom of Jesus and so their life is now heading up, wrapped up in Jesus and in His Kingdom, and it doesn’t maybe look like that sometimes but that is what the truth is. And so, it goes on, here’s your life and then you also will appear with Him, when He appears you will appear, when His Kingdom comes you will share in that Kingdom, you will share in the glory of that Kingdom. And so, we get the summary phrase ‘you share now in the future Kingdom of Jesus.’ He is the King of all, as we saw in chapter one, He’s supreme and He has a Kingdom and you share in that Kingdom. It’s so crucial to biblical theology. It’s so crucial to the writing of the scriptures. It’s so crucial to this very passage. Is it crucial to your life? Does it shape your life day-to-day, week-to-week, year-on-year? Does it shape your purpose and your values? Does it shape your living and your choices? Does it shape the confidence you have as a Christian? You’re not just a member of the Church of Scotland, which is declining. You’re part of the Kingdom of God and one day that’s all there will be.

But really Paul is just echoing the teaching of Jesus. If I was to ask you to say what is the Gospel, what would you say? What is the good news? Would you come up with the same answer as Jesus. ‘Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the good news. (the Gospel) The time has come, the Kingdom of God has come near.’ Now, that’s not to deny that the Gospel includes the cross, or faith in Jesus, both of those are essential if you want to share in the Kingdom of God, but the Gospel is about the Kingdom of Jesus. That’s the Gospel!

Two years ago a few months before the pandemic struck we had an end of year all-age service just at the end of 2019, hopefully you might remember back to that and that you were there, we asked you a question and gave you some post-it notes to write on – is this jogging any memories now – and on the way out you were asked to post it, post up your post-it notes and we would collect them in and we were doing this as part of our purpose and values – and if you don’t know what they are check out our website – now on the day we got 150, 200 plus post-it notes and the question we asked you was ‘What is important to Jesus?’ and we got answers ranging from the Bible to prayer, to church, to people, to love, to forgiveness but guess what wasn’t there, not one posting – the Kingdom of God – not once, not one. Now, why is that?

Let me say, I don’t think it’s your fault, I don’t think it’s your fault. If anyone is to blame for that scenario happening, it lies with the ministers, generations of ministers who’ve not taught that. Not just me, not just Murdo and Scott, but generations before that. That maybe we ministers have been so wrapped up by our culture, our individualistic culture, that we have focused so much on the individual, and not focused on the Kingdom, not focused on the fact that so much of scripture is addressed to our community, not just to an individual, or we get so wrapped up in the institutions and the congregation and the parish and, to be honest there ain’t anything of that in here! It doesn’t seem like God really cares much for denominations or a parish system or whatever/ It might be His focus is on the Kingdom, on unity. There is no them and us as Paul says in verse 11 ‘Christ is all and is in all Christ.’ is all that matters and He is in every person who calls himself a Christian.

But, wherever the blame lies, can we change our thinking now? Can we go forward from this point now, much more shaped by a Kingdom mindset so that it does affect our day-to-day life? Because, if we don’t, we’ll hit a barrier a glass ceiling or maybe not even a glass ceiling, a very solid ceiling of faith both individually and together because, without that theology of the Kingdom of God rooted deep in us, shaping our mindset, shaping our lives individually and collectively, we won’t have the right outlook on faith or life and we’ll just hit a ceiling. It would be like a barrier where the plants have just got a barrier over and they can’t flourish and grow and they just grow inward. Your faith, our collective faith, will just grow inward without that framework of the Kingdom of God. It’s so important to the scriptures and it’s so important to this passage, because Paul goes on now to say well if that’s true of you, if you share now in the future Kingdom of Jesus, there’s a lifestyle that goes along with that.

And so, he goes on to say ‘Put to death therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature. You must also rid yourselves of all such things as these. You have taken off your old self with its practices.’ Again, there’s a lot in here and these three strands seem to again have a similar thought to them and I would summarize it this way – cast off what is not fitting for Christ’s Kingdom, cast off what is not fitting for Christ’s Kingdom. Because here and in the later verses of the same passage, he uses this picture of clothing that is or is not fitting for the Kingdom of Jesus and here he’s saying to cast it off. I’m pretty sure at one point I’ve told you that Gill and I got invited, when I worked with the Scout Association, to the Queen’s Garden Party in Holyrood, at Holyrood Palace. Lovely day, thankfully it didn’t rain and everybody’s getting really glammed up and there was Gil looking fabulous and hat and everything on, and there’s me less fabulous and my Scout uniform, now I did have my kilt on so we better dash of color, but imagine if we rocked up there and t-shirts on ‘Down with the monarchy’! I’m not really sure that would have went down so well, it would have been scandalous, it would have been an absolute mockery of things, it would have been ill-fitting. And the same is true with our lifestyle, with how we live our faith. There is a faith, a lifestyle that is fitting as someone who belongs to the Kingdom and there is a lifestyle that is ill-fitting and Paul wants us to put to death what is ill-fitting.

Now, because that makes us uncomfortable, we often shrug it off, we want to look at the positive rather than the negative, but we need to grasp the more negative and to help us do that I want to very briefly read out three analogies that I picked up in my reading because they between them they grasp some of the what is Paul is getting at here and what differentiates what Paul is teaching, what the Christian faith is teaching from those other false avenues of worship and the three pictures are: the house; the well; and the cage.

The house – When you ask God into your life you think He’s going to come into your inner house, look around and see that you just need a little cleaning and so you go along for the first week while thinking how nice life is now that God is part of it, then you look out the window one day and to your horror you see a wrecking ball outside. It turns out that God actually thinks your whole foundation is shot and you’re going to have to start over from scratch.

The well – A Tennessee farmer once said ‘What comes up in the bucket is usually what’s down in the well’. The list of vices Paul gives points to an inner pollution. No list of do’s and don’ts will ever change that pollution, the only solution is to change what is down in the well of our very souls.

The cage – The false teaching Paul opposed put the wild animals of lust and hatred into cages, there they remained alive, dangerous, beating at the bars, threatening to get out and capture their captor again, Paul’s solution is more drastic – the wild animals are to be killed. The old method of holiness attacked symptoms; the true method goes for the root.

Paul’s not really teaching a list of do’s and don’ts, he’s much more interested and you’ve been changed from the inside out, been changed in the depths of your being so that what is fitting for the Kingdom grows and exudes from you, that when people see you, they see Jesus, and we could spend literally sermons on this thought as well, but I don’t have the time and so I want to refer you to a resource that I found helpful not only on this particular topic but on several others as well. It’s a book by Timothy Keller called ‘Prayer’ and he’s basically bringing together his research and his life over many decades of ministry to say this, this is what I found useful and in that he has a chapter on finding the grace of God, the grace of God, and in it he talks about how you can put to death the sinful nature your earthly nature and what he writes in there is fresh and life-giving and really helpful. The whole book is great but even just for that one chapter it would be worth having a copy. Now, if you don’t want to particularly buy it I’m happy to lend out mine so first come-first served and you can take it away today. Because Paul is serious about this. We really do need to put to death what is ill-fitting so that we can grow in that lifestyle that is fitting but, as Keller writes, it’s finding His grace to forgive yes, but grace also to change. As we saw in our last series, our series on Grace before the summer last year, Grace is also in the scriptures synonymous with God’s power, God’s power to transform you, power to change you. But to access that power there first has to be something else that comes before and I briefly just want to touch on this because if you want to access this power you first need to be, need to have died and be raised to life as Paul says or in the language of Jesus, you need to be born again.

Now, some of us are going to say ‘Well, I didn’t have a clear conversion moment, Scott, so how do I know?’ and many people can say that, but they still know with certainty that they’re a Christian, that they have died and been and raised to have life in Jesus. Because none of us is born a Christian, coming to church doesn’t make you a Christian, being baptized or being a member doesn’t make you a Christian, the only thing that makes you a Christian is that you have died and been raised with Jesus. So, how can you know, how can you know with a degree of certainty and encouragement?

Well, what I’ve found really helpful in discerning this is Paul’s writings in second Corinthians and he says in chapter 5 ‘and he (that is Jesus) died for all that that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.’ and what Paul is saying is that, someone who has died and been raised to have life in Jesus within them, as a desire to no longer live for themselves but to live for Jesus. Now, none of us gets it right perfectly, even the minister had a very clear conversion experience and I’ll go into some detail on this in a moment, he doesn’t get it right, go ask my wife, every day there are issues, but at the core of a Christian should be that desire for this to be true of their life, that they don’t want to just live for themselves, they want to live for Jesus, and increasingly so. If you can say that’s true of you then you know you have died and been raised to life, and if you haven’t, and if that’s not there, there might be reasons for that. I’d happily talk that through or maybe we can ponder it at home on our own, because, if you desire to live for Christ rather than just for yourself, if you are have died and been raised to life then you share in Christ, you share in His Kingdom. And so, because of that, there is a lifestyle that is fitting and unfitting for that and God wants to help us grow in that by accessing His power, accessing His grace. So, that’s putting to death what’s ill-fitting and first accessing the grace of God by knowing that we’re in Christ.

So, how can we put on what is fitting and what does that even mean ‘to put on what is fitting’? Well, Paul says ‘set your hearts on things above ….. set your minds on things above, not on earthly things…. you have put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator therefore ….. clothe yourselves’ That middle sentence I have practiced it so much because they just trip over it quite easily, it’s a bit tricky there. And there’s two things I want to highlight for us.

‘Earthly things’ – first of all I think it’s very possible that we could read this and get the wrong end of the stick with Paul because when you think of earthly things on a first read we might begin to wonder well is Paul talking about some form of escapism like have I not to be bothered about what I wear, or am I not allowed to enjoy a glass of wine, or company with friends, or the chocolate bar? What is it that he means like by ‘focus your minds and hearts on things above and not on earthly things’? Like, what is that about? And for me, what helped this week, was to realize that in verse 2 ‘earthly things’ there’s a Greek phrase used there, ‘earthly things’ that’s the same Greek phrase in verse 5 for ‘earthly nature’. So, in verse 5 Paul is saying there’s this part of your earthly nature that is opposed to God, opposed to the will of God, that is ugly and just wrong, that’s your earthly nature, but earthly things in chapter verse 2 is just the same phrase and it’s the same thing. So Paul is not against you enjoying life, he’s not calling you to be so heavenly minded that you’re not involved in the day-to-day of life or not enjoying the day-to-day of life, that’s not what he’s about, ultimately he’s about saying that we need to change from the inside out about what we think about, what captures our hearts, that it wouldn’t be these earthly wrong things but other things, the good things of God, that he’s given us, that the good things in Him, the good things of His will.

And so we have the second phrase saying that we’ve to be ‘renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator’ and until this week if you’d asked me ‘What does that mean Scott?’ I probably would have waffled some nonsense, I’m pretty good at that not always maybe convincingly, but I can waffle as good as the next minister probably, but until this week, I had not a clue really what that meant.

But this week, I had an experience on Monday that I’m about to tell you and then in the midst of that I also happen to be researching and trying to understand the scriptures and the two came together and I’m just so excited to share what I got because I just find it so life-giving that God’s just perfect timing brought those things together! So, on Monday, Gill comes home from visiting her parents and she shares with me the news that her dad had spilt milk on her phone such that and left it for a while, I might add, such that that the earpiece of the phone wasn’t working properly. Now, she has a nice new iPhone not the brand new one it’s a couple of years older I think, but it’s pretty good, it’s not a cheap phone, and inside me starts bubbling a whole range of emotions. I didn’t say anything but my mood, the vibe I was giving off was a bit prickly, a bit moody, We term it, Gill and I, my passive aggressiveness which it is, it is passive aggressive. I don’t vent so I don’t go into a rage as Paul says but there’s this just exuding of my passive aggressiveness and at first Gill thinks ‘He’s annoyed.’ I’m annoyed at her that this has happened, but we’ve kind of learned to work through conflict, thankfully, over these many years of marriage, and we’ve got to that point so we talk it through and I say to her ‘Well, I’m not annoyed at you, what actually is going on is I’m worried. I’m worried about finances. I’m worried that here’s more that we’re going to have to fork out for and cost of living crisis and all, that just amalgamation of things and worried, and so my worry has generated this passive aggressive prickliness.’ We kind of talked that through but at the same time I’m reading up about this verse and this passage and it just jumps off the page with fresh life and just spoke to me because what I realized was this, my passive aggressiveness, my prickliness, came from my worry over finances but my worry was a sign that I didn’t trust my Heavenly Father didn’t trust His love and provision because, if you think about it, let’s go to Jesus, did Jesus ever show passive aggressiveness? No! He showed anger, injustice but not passive aggressive and that’s because He never worried and He never worried because He was perfectly trusting in the Father’s love and provision. And so, for me, what I’ve realized is, that I need to have my mind renewed, my understanding of God and His character, of what it means to be His child, so that I don’t worry, and, the next time her dad spills milk on the phone, which is bound to happen, then I’m going to respond in a more Jesus-like manner with gentleness and kindness and ‘Oh, that’s grand. No worries.’ whatever it might be, I have no idea, but it won’t be passive aggressiveness. I’m not there yet and there’ll be many more days of passive aggressiveness I’m sure, but I’ve realized this. But it all starts in the mind and being renewed in your mind of what you understand of God and of His character and of His will. And the same is true of the sin and of the lack of Jesus image in your life, of all the ways that you show what’s here or in the other scriptures, where you’re not showing Jesus or you’re going against the will of God. It all starts from what needs to change in your mind, and I want to give you just a few quick worked examples based on the passage.

So, chapter verse 5 Paul says ‘put to death your earthly nature’ which includes sexual immorality and I don’t know what that brings up in your mind but just to let you know what the scriptures teach, that sexual immorality is sex outside of marriage. Now we can debate and discuss that at another time but sexual immoral immorality, sex outside of marriage is the thing that’s the outward product. What is the thinking that leads to that? It’s either you don’t understand the Biblical teaching about sex and where that is to be experienced marriage, or you think you know better than God. And so, well that’s something that needs to change in your thinking too or something else maybe around temptation on and how-to walk-in God’s ways in the face of temptation. There could be a number of things in your thinking that need to change so that you walk in God’s will, and on the outward product is not sexual immorality anymore.

Let’s take verse 11 where Paul is talking that ‘there’s no longer Jew or Greek and Jew or Gentile’ and there should be no division. There should be no Brightons or Slamannan, Brightons or Polmont, Brightons or Maddiston Evangelical, there’s nothing of the Kingdom because what needs to change in our mind is that as verse 11 says ‘Christ is all and is in all’ Christ is all that matters. The Bible doesn’t give a jot about denominations. So, that needs to change in our thinking so that we have a much more Kingdom outlook and then we evidence greater unity and less about them and us and that we’re all one family wherever we’re based.

Or let’s take verse 13 where Paul talks about bearing with each other forgiving one another ‘forgive as the Lord forgives you.’ Now, let me first say that there are some elements of forgiveness, some things that are done to you that require a lot more nuance than I’m going to give just now and forgiveness can sometimes be a lengthy process, I’ve been there with some things, and they’re not even the worst things that you can experience. So, please bear in mind that, there’s lots of caveats around this. But it’s not uncommon for people in churches to experience stuff that peeves you off and so you just get really annoyed and you end up having a grievance against someone but then you don’t forgive and that grievance becomes bitterness. We’ve all probably been there. That stems, in part, there’s a process there and maybe that’s what you need to understand, the process of reaching forgiveness, but in part it can stem from thinking you’re better than the other person. So pride or not understanding that actually you were an enemy of God and yet He died for you so if He’s willing to extend you forgiveness why are you not willing to extend that other person forgiveness? There’s so much that could be wrong in our thinking or just not formed in our thinking, that is in line with the scriptures that on the other hand we end up displaying just bitterness and unforgiveness. You could do that with everything in here, lust, evil desires, idolatry, greed, everything stems from something that needs to change in our thinking so that, in us, has renewed the image of Jesus,

And I pray, church, that we would really take this on board. Take this on board so that our today’s generation sees that the Christian faith is not about just ticking a box and coming to church, it’s not about even being a nice person, it’s about knowing the living God whose grace you know, whose grace is at work in your life, such that you’re changing and you exude Jesus in your day-to-day life, because you’re part of His Kingdom and the grace and power of His Kingdom is at work in your life and you’re then embodying that Kingdom by casting off what is not of it and putting on what is.

I pray that that would be our testimony, our story and that we would share that with today’s generation. May it be so. Amen

Reality found in Christ

Preached on: Sunday 13th February 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-02-13 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Colossians 2:16-23
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s word:

Holy Spirit come among as we pray and soften our hearts to the word of God Holy Spirit come among us and help us see the life offered to us in Jesus Holy Spirit come among us with power and deep conviction for we ask it in Jesus name amen

I’ve got a question for you to think about and at first hearing it might sound a little shocking, maybe even heretical. Here’s the question.

If you were to make your own religion what would it look like? If you were to make your own religion what would it look like? And I’m not asking that simply because I’m at home and safe from you all, I do have a reason and it is tied to our passage. What is more, the question gets at something in human nature in general, because we are wired for worship whether we end up worshiping sport or money or sex or power or family, we worship something and as John Calvin the great reformer and theologian said ‘Our heart, the human heart, is a factory of idols we end up worshiping something more often than not.’ Sadly, it’s not God. What are we worshiping? If you make your own religion what would it look like?

I suspect if we were to actually make our own religion it would be very like the world religions today. There would be something in it that would give us a benefit because all religions do. There’d be something in it whereby we do something that something that looks spiritual, religious, that have pre things to do and things to have as part of that religion. There would of course have to be, I suspect as all the religions do, a way of improving yourself, because none of us are perfect, we’ve always got room to improve, and, because we’re not perfect and we do wrong things, there needs to be a way of balancing the scales. All of these would likely feature in whatever we made up as our religion.

But, in our passage today, Paul wants to keep the Colossians faith in Jesus exclusively in Jesus. I might add and to achieve that he speaks of things that they are to reject.

He says in verses 16, 18 and 20 ‘Therefore, do not let anyone judge you, do not let anyone disqualify you. Why do you submit?’ In these three portions he’s basically getting at the same idea – reject false worship – and he’s going to give us two broad avenues of worship that we are to reject so that we keep our faith exclusively in Jesus.

The first chunk, the first paragraph is really to do with shadow worship. He says in verses 16 to 17 ‘Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink or with regard to a religious festival, a new moon celebration or a sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come.’ These are a shadow of things to come, we are to reject shadow worship and Paul outlines at the start there are a whole range of Old Testament practices and he says they’re all a shadow. They were all something pointing back to the real thing. They were pointing to something else. They’re a shadow,

So, for example, the eating and drinking laws. They were to identify who was part of the people of God, to say who was in and who was out, and that was a shadow pointing to the reality. Or the religious festivals which were annual events often tied into forgiveness, spiritual forgiveness, again pointing to another reality, The monthly new moon celebrations often tied to a theme of spiritual renewal. And then, the weekly sabbath day which symbolized freedom and security and rest in God, again pointing to something else, All of these were a shadow says Paul. They are fleeting. They are temporary, They’re not the real thing. So, reject now such worship. He goes on to say this in verse 18 ‘Do not let anyone who delights in false worship and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen. They are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.’

So, let me unpack a few words and phrases here. False humility probably has connotations of fasting and so it may be fasting to bring on a spiritual experience or fasting to appear very spiritual and mature. Worship of angels can mean a couple of different things, we’re not entirely sure. It could mean the actual worship of angels rather than God, or it could have could mean having a spiritual experience where you’re caught up amongst the worship the angels are giving to God and you’re kind of joining in that experience but really, whatever it means, ultimately Paul says in the next sentence they are ‘idle notions’, they lead nowhere, they are not worth anything.

He says also, that this kind of worship, this false kind of worship, just puffs people up, it makes them prideful, makes them full of hot air. And so, again, don’t let them disqualify you. Reject such claims and such teaching because that form of worship is empty. It’s again, a form of shadow worship, so reject it.

Let’s go back to that intro question thinking about if you were to make your own religion what would it look like. Well, I suspect if we did try and create our own religion we would naturally seek a kind of positive side, a positive side to our religion. It brings us benefits and asks us to do things which just appear spiritual, appear good on the surface, pure beneficial and Paul’s principle in this portion of our passage is that the Colossians are to reject shadow worship so as to keep their worship on Jesus alone, they are to reject shadow worship things that look beneficial and worship Jesus alone. So, what about us? Do we engage in shadow worship? Do the people in our community engage in shadow worship?

You know across the three years I’ve been here I’ve seen different forms of shadow worship. I’ve or heard of things at least I know of one place where people were organizing a fun night by inviting a spiritualist to host an event and indeed there are around and about, maybe more so in West Lothian, but probably here as well, there are spiritualist churches and sadly that’s quite a misleading title because a spiritualist or a spiritualist church or meeting is about connecting with spirits of people who have died, either friends or family, and I want to briefly mention this just in case you or someone you know is ever thinking of engaging in such things and I want to point out why doing so is not healthy, is a shadow form of worship. Because the Bible teaches that when someone dies, whether they know God or not, their spirit automatically goes on to whatever lies ahead, to either be with God or to face judgment. There is no mix up, there’s no accidental staying behind or anything like that, it’s one or other, and that means that whatever is happening in a spiritualist meeting or event and whatever has been facilitated by a spiritualist, should it be real at all, it can’t be a human spirit, it’s not going to be anything of God’s kingdom, because God doesn’t deceive, he doesn’t lie and try and trick us, and the only other spiritual force or place that that could come about then is the dominion of darkness, which Paul talked about earlier in Colossians, basically the demonic. So, I caution you against such things. I would caution anyone in our community against such things and in fact actually, when I heard about that event because it was somewhere important to me and I didn’t want them to have that event I did go and speak to the management and say I really don’t think this should be happening and here’s why. We do, as human beings, engage in shadow worship.

There are also people in groups which engage in other kinds of shadow worship. You might know or have been involved in a right or ceremony which claimed religious connotations and maybe include symbolism, maybe the symbolism of being blindfolded, maybe the symbolism of having something tied around your neck and it might just have been described as a metaphor or that it didn’t carry any great meaning or effect but actually, it does, it is a portrayal a symbolism of spiritual dynamics the blindfold inviting spiritual blindness the thing tied around your neck talking about silence. These are not healthy practices and if you’ve engaged in them or engaged with a spiritualist or a oui-ja board or whatever, it might be you’ve potentially opened yourself up to forces beyond Jesus, because nothing in our faith encourages us to engage in such practices and if that unsettles you then please just come and have a talk with me, and we can find freedom and life in Jesus.

So, those are maybe more out-there kind of things and it might seem like a bit of a side issue for many of us but if I don’t talk about it, who is going to talk about it. So, this is my one time just because it comes up in Colossians I, right I’m going to mention this.

So, let’s think about more everyday things. Let’s think about things within the church, for example. So, in the first part of this passage Paul talks about people who are claiming to have spiritual experiences, a real spiritual high and if you’re not having that, seeing that, experiencing that, then maybe your faith in Jesus is insufficient or not real, and it makes me wonder – Are we seeking a spiritual high rather than seeking Jesus? Are we, in our faith, simply about making us feel good or about following Jesus? Because, you know, following Jesus is really hard. There are times when sacrifices are made. There are times when feeling close to Jesus just isn’t there. You feel distant from Him and that doesn’t mean He’s not real, doesn’t mean that your faith’s not genuine. And if we are seeking a spiritual high, a spiritual experience, if our faith is only about making us feel good, then we’re worshiping that rather than worshiping Jesus. Or in the church we have other dangers as well, because we can end up worshiping so much else than Jesus. Although we think we’re worshiping Jesus. So, for example, we might say I wish there was more band music or I wish there was more organ music or I wish there was more silence or I wish there was more noise and informality. You know, do we worship the style of worship more than we actually worship Jesus? Or we’re talking about buildings as well in the church circles just now and will we keep our building, will other buildings close? And, if our building was to close, would you stop coming to worship? Would you refuse to go elsewhere? Could that suggest you worship the building more than you worship Jesus? There’s so many different ways that this can happen, that we end up engaging in shadow worship rather than the worship of Jesus, and Paul’s call to us in this first part of the passage is to reject shadow worship because it is fleeting and empty.

So, let’s go back to that intro question, if you were to make your own religion what would it look like? and what we’ve discovered. We’ve looked at the positive side, the benefits, the things you might do in a positive manner and as part of that religion but, you know, every religion deals with the negative side of humanity somehow. We need something in our religion that deals with our brokenness and tries to balance the scales of that so that there’s justice in the world.

And I think that Paul is aware that the false teachers are going to or are or are already trying to push a false worship that seeks to deal with that negative side of our humanity, but in unhealthy ways. So he says for example ‘Why do you submit to its rules? Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’ These rules which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use are based on merely human commands and teachings.

Now. let’s be clear, Paul’s not against morality as we’ll see in the next couple of chapters but he is careful to differentiate between as he says rules that are merely human commands and teachings with what is from God and what is actually effective. Because, let’s see what he says in the next verse ‘Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.’ Now, let’s be clear, by sensual indulgence Paul is not just meaning sex or sexual temptation, although that is included, if you look in the letter to the Galatians chapter 5 you’ll see Paul listing various ways that the flesh portrays itself; yes, there’s the sexual stuff, but there’s also envy and greed and bitterness and anger and rage and such like. All of that is part of how our flesh, our sinful nature, shows itself and displays itself and we war against that, and the tendency of humanity is just to create more and more religions that try and deal with that through tick boxes, through a list of rules, rather than trying to get to the heart of the issue, which is our sinful heart, We would rather deal with anything, we would rather have a list of rules as long as your arm, rather than face up to our willful rebellion in our hearts against God, we’d rather do anything else, speak about anything else than face up to that reality, and have God deal with that reality in the depths of our being.

I wonder if in past generations you’ve seen some of that as well. I’m conscious that I think there was a period of time, maybe it was more in the States but possibly here in the UK as well, where Christians were not expected to do certain things there, they might have not drunk and alcohol, and they might not have went to dances, they might not have went to the cinema. Now, those rules may have come in for good reasons, at least on the surface, but, actually, did it deal with the real issues the issues of our heart? Did they actually foster anything of the fruit of the spirit of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness or indeed self-control? Probably not. And so, we have to wonder if such rules were simply hollow, they lacked any value, because they didn’t change us from the inside out, they gave the appearance of being holy but didn’t actually nurture holiness. It maybe relied much more on our strength of will than on the power of God’s Spirit to change us. After all, Paul says in Romans 8 ‘If, by the spirit, you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.’ You have a role to play putting to death the misdeeds of the body but it can only happen by the Spirit, by the Spirit that we put to death over the course of our life, we put to death the misdeeds of our body so that we grow in greater likeness to Jesus, displaying the fruit of the Spirit in increasing measure, that is part of the hope of the Christian journey but it’s a process, and it can’t be in our own strength and so, Paul is saying that we are to reject futile rule making because it’s passing, it’s hollow, it’s simply trusting in the wrong things.

So, what about us? What about you? Where are you tempted to trust the wrong things rather than trust in Jesus and in the power of His Spirit? For example, maybe you have a sense that you need to appease God, that you’re not perfect and you do wrong things. All of us probably have that feeling at times but, are you trying to appease God in your own way, with your own resources, your own achievements, your own sacrifices? Do you ever think along these lines, that surely God accepts you, surely God will welcome you into heaven, into the kingdom of heaven, into His family because of your moral life, because you’ve given up so much, or done so much, or went to such great lengths? Is that what you base your confidence, your faith upon? Do you think that your religion and your activity in the name of religion will be enough? Because, after all, Paul says this in Galatians ‘For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse. As it is written ‘cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law.’ Clearly, no one who relies on the law is justified before God because the righteous will live by faith.’

If we try and rely on our own merits, try and obey the rules, try and tick the boxes, if we stumble at one fault, that is the whole lot cast down, that is the whole lot stained, because, as the verse says, to live by the law you have to do everything and if you don’t you’re under a curse. So, the law doesn’t actually justify you because you can’t be justified, can’t be made right with God through what you do, you cannot live a good enough life to earn salvation, it’s all futile rule making, and Paul calls us to reject it because it is passing and hollow.

So, Paul has given us two avenues of worship to reject. We’re to reject false worship and we’ve to reject futile rule making. But, you know, along the way as Paul does, he weaves in some positive encouragement, positive reminders, positive truth, because after all, he wants the Colossians to keep their faith exclusively in Jesus, and so he just can’t help himself but point to Jesus because, in Jesus, is the life we seek. He says in verse 17 ‘These are a shadow of the things that were to come.’ The reality however, is found in Jesus, the reality is found in Jesus, all that was portrayed through the Old Testament, the forgiveness, the spiritual renewal, the freedom, the security, the welcome into God’s family, the rest that you yearn. for all of that is now found in Jesus. so come to Him. And you know, finding something, when you’re looking around the house and you find it, you take hold of it and you keep a hold of it, It’s that idea here, as well. Lay hold of Jesus and keep a hold of Jesus because the life you seek is in Him. Paul goes on, he also said they have lost their false teachers, have lost connection with the head from whom the whole body supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. The head from whom the whole body grows. The image of a head and body we know from chapter 1 verse 18 is speaking of Jesus as the head and the church, as the body the members or the individual Christians. And so Paul, is saying that the life you seek is in Jesus but you need to stay connected to Him. Don’t be distracted, don’t be taken away elsewhere, stay connected to Jesus. And we understand that picture language, don’t we, because our head and our body are so intricately tied and connected through our head. It’s how we access food and what we drink through, our head is how we take an air that our body needs, our head is where thinking and senses are processed, through our head is where the life comes from the body and when the head becomes disconnected from the body, well, the body’s dead. The same is true of the Christian life, any spiritual life. If you want life, it’s through Jesus and you need to stay connected to Him.

But Paul has one final little bit that throws us a bit of a curveball maybe. He says in verse 20 ‘You died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world. Why, as though you still belong to the world do you submit to its rules?’ It seems a little bit oxymoronic because, how can life come from death? It seems a bit odd but actually, Paul is simply echoing the teaching of Jesus here because Jesus said in several of the gospels ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life, will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me, and for the gospel, will save it.’ The language of ‘take up your cross’ and of ‘losing your life’ is the language of dying that your will, dies and submits to the will of Jesus and follows in His way. It is a language to help us understand what in part it means to be a Christian, to follow Jesus, that the things that we maybe want we have to die to. How we understand the world wrongly is to die the priorities that we think are so important. Sometimes need to die so that we find life through Him.

The life we seek is in Jesus and in sharing in His death and taking up our cross and losing our life for His sake. We come into that life we yearn for and that means we need to allow things to die. We need to allow our man-made forms of worship to die. We need to allow our shadow-worship, we need to allow our futile rule-making, to die. Because we are now in Christ. We are now a new creation. We’ve come out from under those false old ways, that shadow-worship, that futile rule-making. We don’t need to submit to it any longer. We don’t need to submit to that old way of life anymore, because we have died to it and we now have life through Jesus.

Friends, the spiritual life we seek, the life of meaning, community, freedom, the life of forgiveness, renewal, hope, joy, peace, security, that spiritual life we yearn for is to be found in Jesus. We don’t need to make up our own religion. We don’t need to answer the question I asked at the start. We don’t need to go to a spiritualist. We don’t need to belong to an exclusive group. We don’t need to seek spiritual highs or tick religious boxes or appease God with our own efforts. The life we seek is found in Jesus so, reject shadow-worship, reject futile rule-making and simply come to Jesus. Trust in Him. Worship Him. Hold fast to Him. Stay connected to Him because the life you seek is found in Jesus.

May we each find that life today and all the days of our life. May it be so, Amen.

We close our service as we sing together our final hymn ‘All I once held dear.’

Confidence in Christ Jesus as Lord

Preached on: Sunday 6th February 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-02-06 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Colossians 2:6-15
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s word:
Holy Spirit, come among us and soften our hearts to the word of God.
Holy Spirit, come among us and help us see the truths of Jesus and hear them for ourselves.
Come Holy Spirit now, we pray, with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.I wonder, do you ever feel like your faith has waned or diminished somehow? Maybe when you were a teen or a young person? Maybe when you took on a new role in church that was a real high point in your faith journey, but you know, maybe something’s happened and your faith has taken a knock it’s dropped, it’s dimmed, and maybe now you’re feeling less confident in your faith? And you know, if that’s you or someone that you know, it’s very similar to what Paul was feeling for the Colossians. Maybe even very similar to what the Colossian Christians were feeling themselves, because, in their case, Paul was afraid that other teachers, maybe especially Jewish teachers, would come in and try to influence the church, trying to undermine their confidence, their confidence in the faith and so, he writes now both to safeguard and strengthen that faith.

He begins by taking them back to the start of their faith journey. He writes in verse 6 ‘So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord.’ Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord and with those eight words, Paul has the heart of his letter. This is the central bit to the whole letter. It concludes what has kind of come before. It has been building up to this point but those eight words prepare for the rest of the letter too, and we can just so easily skip over them because we’re like ‘Oh well, we know that language. We know what that means and yet, in the first century, those eight words were radical. Those eight words were daring, dangerous words because, to claim Jesus as Lord, well that was to assert that no one else was God, no other God was God, and it was to transfer your allegiance to Jesus, above all other allegiances, including the Roman Emperor and that was dangerous to do back in the day. This was a claim that could get you ostracized from your family, from your local community. This was a claim that could get you arrested, even killed but, really, it’s the natural conclusion of all that Paul said before. Particularly Donald’s passage a couple of weeks ago in chapter one where we looked at the supremacy of Jesus. This one who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation and whom the fullness of God dwell. This is a natural conclusion that Jesus is Lord and so Paul is saying that to be a Christian is to have received Jesus as Lord, the Lord of your life. It’s to have transferred your allegiance to Him, above all other allegiances.

Now, we might say ‘Well, I’m a Christian because Jesus is my Savior.’ and that might well be true but true saving faith also includes transferring your allegiance to Jesus as Lord because, when we repent, we’re not simply saying sorry for things that we’ve done for our sin, we’re turning from that old way of life and we’re seeking to live a new way of life under the Lordship of Jesus, and that was part of Jesus’s teaching as well. He says in Matthew chapter 11 ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.’ The rest of salvation, the rest that comes through knowing you’re forgiven and reconciled to God, but he goes on ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.’ That language of the yoke and taking it upon you was a Rabbi’s way of saying my way of life, my teaching, take it upon you come under my authority, learn from me. It is coming to Jesus as Lord and so, you might know some knowledge about Jesus, you may even think well of Jesus, you might even say ‘Well, I’ve asked Jesus to forgive me’ but biblical faith, saving faith, includes receiving Jesus as Lord. That is central to being a Christian because, you know, even the demons believe that Jesus is God in the flesh, even demons believe that you can go to Jesus for forgiveness but they don’t receive Him as Lord.

So, can I ask you, have you, have you received Jesus as Lord? Have you transferred your allegiance to Him?

I’ve told my story of coming to faith on a number of occasions but a central part of that faith story is that I transferred my allegiance to Jesus. Up to that point, at the age of 19, I’d been pretty much living how I wanted to live. My way was the highway, and I just did what I wanted to do, and it hurt a lot of people along the way. Actually, it was a very selfish life but when I came to faith I realized not only did I need forgiveness, which I did and which I asked for, but I had to turn from that old way and I had to come under the Lordship of Jesus. Now, I didn’t know that language, I didn’t know that’s what I even really did, but looking back, that’s what happened. I came to transfer my allegiance to Jesus to see that He had to become my Lord and I had to live under His authority. can I ask you friends, have you come to that point, truly come to that point, where Jesus is more than just a nice guy, an old teacher, a figure of wisdom, he might even be someone you regard so highly? Because you can be forgiven through Him but if you come to know Him as Lord, true repentance includes that. So, can you say that, with the Colossians that you have received Jesus as Lord?

So, that’s what Paul begins this section by reminding them, of taking them back to the start of their faith journey, that they received Jesus as Lord and he does that because Paul is concerned for their spiritual welfare. He says in verse 8 ‘See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy.’ Paul is concerned for their spiritual welfare, He’s concerned that someone is going to take them captive through other teaching and the words there ‘take you captive’, the language there has echoes of the day of slave traders coming and taking off victims body and soul and taking them into a new way of life, a life that is no life really, and Paul doesn’t want that for them, he doesn’t want them to be taken away from the life they found in Jesus and taken into slavery and so as to safeguard and strengthen their faith in Jesus, Paul wants to give them confidence in Jesus and to build up their confidence in Jesus.

He gives them four reasons that they can have such confidence and his first reason is this – Have confidence in Jesus, because He is fully God. In verses 9 and 10 Paul says ‘For in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.’ So Paul’s concerned that some teachers are going to come along and they’re going to say ‘Well, if you want truthfulness, if you want to really know God, Jesus is not enough, you need to to do something else or you need to have something else or know something else or know someone else.’ But not so, says Paul, because in Jesus actually the deity, not just divinity, the deity lives in Jesus and that means that Jesus is not a demi-God, He’s not half-divine and half-human and nor does He simply have a human body within which is a divine spirit or mind ‘No, no, no.’ all the deity fully lives in Jesus. He is the sole human being who embodies the fullness of God and, as such, that means He’s the head over every power and authority. He is all authority over them. He is the Lord Almighty, the unopposed ruler. He is more powerful than any other. He is the Lord. To have confidence in Jesus, the one who is fully God.

Reason number two, have confidence in Jesus because you have been fully integrated into God’s family. You have been fully integrated into God’s family. He says in verse 11 ‘In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self, ruled by the flesh, was put off when you were circumcised by Christ.’ Now these verses can seem a bit odd, slightly out of place and pretty dense stuff as well, and it’s because of these verses and because of what Paul writes here that it seems likely Paul is concerned about Jewish teachers coming along to undermine the faith and confidence that Colossians have in Jesus otherwise, why would Paul go off on this tangent. And so, we need to remember first of all what circumcision was about. It was about being obedient to God’s covenant in the Old Testament and it signified that someone was part of the people of God. It was a sign, a way in, and so Paul is aware of this from the experience with the Galatians, that people might come along and say ‘Well, if you really want to belong to the people of God, if you really want to be saved, if you really want to be reconciled to God, then you need to have circumcision it’s not just enough to have faith in Jesus’ but Paul says otherwise. It says otherwise in just about all these letters and his argument here is that they actually, the Colossians and any Christian has been circumcised, already circumcised, and the only sense that really matters, a circumcision of the heart, not done by hand, a circumcision of the heart done by Jesus and what Paul means is this, that when you come to faith in Jesus and you put your faith in Him such that He becomes your Lord, not simply your Savior, but your Lord as well, that means you’ve submitted to the Lordship of Jesus, His rule in your life, you’ve transferred your allegiance to Jesus in the depths of your being, where it really matters, and that’s what circumcision was meant to facilitate and enable and represent That old circumcision was meant to represent that inner circumcision and so, Paul says your whole self, ruled by the flesh, ruled by sin that that old way of life where you were under the mastery of sin, that is not gone because you’ve been circumcised in the heart where it really matters and so at that point of repentance when Jesus became your savior and your Lord, you put off that old master and you receive Jesus as your new Master, your new King, your new Lord, and you transferred your allegiance to Him and that means you’re no longer an enemy of God. Chapter 1 verse 21 ‘Because you receive God and his lordship through Jesus in your life’ and that means you’re now part of His people and so you’re fully integrated into God’s people and that is represented and displayed and affirmed in baptism, particularly the baptism of immersion, is particularly helpful to portray this and so Paul writes in verse 12 ‘Having been back buried with him in baptism in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God who raised him from the dead.’ So the idea here is that in the baptism of immersion where you go under the water to be baptized that that is a dying a picture of dying going underneath the ground that you’re buried with Christ, you’ve died to your old way of life, you’ve died to your other masters, and you’re rising to a new life in Jesus, to having Jesus as your Lord and submitting to Him. That’s what Paul is getting at here and so through these verses Paul is saying, have confidence in Jesus because you’re fully integrated into God’s people, you’ve had the true circumcision, the true circumcision of your heart, which the Old Testament physical circumcision was meant to point towards and help facilitate, that inner circumcision has happened and so you don’t need that other circumcision because your allegiance is now in Jesus who is God after all, and so you are part of the people of God and you can have confidence in Jesus.

Reason number three, have confidence in Jesus because you are fully forgiven. Paul says in verses 13 and 14 ‘When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ he forgave us all our sins having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness which stood against us and condemned us. He has taken it away nailing it to the cross’ and so Paul says that these Colossians, before they had faith in Jesus, were dead in their sins which every human being is before faith in Jesus, and in the uncircumcision of your flesh that that sin, your flesh, was your master in that previous state. You were dead, you were estranged from God, the source of life but then God made you alive and He made you alive by forgiving your sins by forgiving you fully through Jesus’ death on the cross. Now, the phrase in these verses where Paul says ‘the charge of our legal indebtedness’, that phrase, the charge of our legal indebtedness, that’s Paul’s shorthand here of referring to the Old Testament law. The Old Testament law would simply build up a list of things that we failed to do, a list of ways that we rebelled against God, ‘that we were enemies of God in our minds by our evil behavior’ Chapter 1 verse 21, and as such, the law simply put us under a doomed future, a curse, because we sin and we sin and we sin, and we send some more and all that means is that our future, the only future ahead of us, without receiving forgiveness, the only future that was ahead of us is eternal separation from God because of sin, but Paul is saying that now, through Jesus, you can have that debt taken away, not ripped up and forgotten about, but actually borne by Jesus on the cross. There it is nailed with Jesus and He dies our death, He bears the punishment of our sin. God can’t simply ignore it because He’s a holy, righteous God but, out of love, He dies in your place and in my place and if we put our faith in Jesus, we can be fully forgiven such that the law, the charge of our legal indebtedness has no charge against us now when we have faith in Jesus, when we belong to Him because we’re fully forgiven, we’re reconciled to God. Chapter 1 ‘and so let’s have confidence in Jesus because of his death on the cross.’

Reason number four, have confidence in Jesus because you are fully secure. Paul says in verse 15 ‘and having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them triumphing over them by the cross.’ Now there’s various references in this letter and in other letters of Paul’s to the spiritual forces to powers and authorities and it’s not exactly clear what Paul means by that language. Here he doesn’t really expand upon it overly much so it could refer to demonic powers, it could refer to foreign gods, it could simply refer to the Roman government even. Of course, it could refer to all three and whichever one, it is ultimately Paul’s point is still the same, that Jesus has disarmed these powers, Jesus has disarmed any embodiment of rebellion against God and so that means that Colossians, by having faith in Jesus, don’t need to fear these powers, they don’t need to submit to these powers. Again, they don’t need to try and appease these powers once more, rather they’ve to see that, in Jesus, they have the true God of true Gods, they have the Lord of all creation who, through his death, has won the final victory and such that one day His kingdom will be established and that will be all there is. So, have confidence in Jesus because you’re fully secure through Him.

Those are the four reasons that Paul gives to the Colossians. Reasons to have confidence in Jesus and I wonder friends, which reason do we need to take heed of today in our own life?

Do we need to have confidence that in Jesus? We have the one who is fully God, so why look elsewhere? Why look for faith and another God, or by another name? Simply come to Jesus.

Or do you need to have confidence that through Jesus you’re fully part of God’s family? So, why are you taking other steps to try and earn it, earn your way into God’s family, earn your status or your welcome in God’s family. You are part of God’s family.

Are you needing to have greater confidence in the forgiveness you have through Jesus? And so, you don’t need to look to your own solutions, you don’t need to try and appease God with your good behavior. Come to faith in Jesus and a confidence in what He’s achieved on the cross.

Or do you need to know that you’re fully secure in Jesus, that you don’t need to fear other powers, you don’t need to trust in other sources of security or salvation? Trust in Jesus, have confidence in Him, for in Him you’re fully secure.

Friends, where is it you need to grow in your confidence in Jesus today? Where is it you feel undermined? In these four areas of life, we can feel undermined by so much, so Paul exhorts us, as he exhorts the Colossians, to have confidence in Jesus and Jesus alone, because of these four ways.

And so, Paul has seen seeking to safeguard and strengthen the Colossians faith in Jesus as Lord and he gives those four reasons but actually, Paul said something else as well, something I skipped over just to help me structure this sermon.

In a useful manner Paul earlier on said this ‘So then, just as you receive Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him. Strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive.’ Paul doesn’t want to see this group of Christians just hang in there with a lukewarm or dry faith. His picture of the Christian life is not that someone comes to faith in Jesus and just hangs in there until the day they see Jesus’ face to face. No, no, Paul has a greater vision for the Christian life. He wants to see these Christians continue in Jesus, to continue exclusively in Jesus, to continue strong in Jesus, to continue in Jesus with thankfulness. That’s his heart and vision for these Christians and so he says ‘Continue to live your lives and him keep trusting in Jesus. Pursue Jesus with passion and with excitement, with overflowing with thankfulness because’ as he says you’re rooted in Him already, you’re rooted in Him when you received Him as Lord, you’ve become rooted in Him so now, be built up, don’t be undermined, don’t just hang in there, with the smallest amount of faith or knowledge or joy or passion, be built up, build on the foundation you have in Jesus Lord so that your strength, faith is strengthened and then you’re not taken captive by other false philosophies which are empty, which are dead, which don’t lead to life, don’t allow your allegiance to be transferred from Jesus to something or someone else keep your allegiance in Jesus and evidence that by continuing to live in Him and grow in your faith.

And don’t we need to hear this as well church? There is so much in life, whether it’s on social media, in the newspapers, and what we see on the TV and the demands of the marketplace to try and get us to buy different things. There is so much around us in our culture which seeks to draw our allegiance away from Jesus and give our allegiance to other things, to find our security, to find our salvation, to find hope and confidence and authority in other places rather than in Jesus. And you know friends, there are local groups, local institutions which you might even be a part of on a voluntary basis, which are seeking to lead you astray. They might even claim to be Christian in nature. They could even involve the Bible in certain ceremonies and rights, but you know, they might prevent you from mentioning the name of Jesus, they might bar you from mentioning His name in prayers or in other activities and meetings. And if that’s the case friends, if you’re part of a group that’s like that where the name of Jesus is banned then it’s seeking to draw you away, it’s undermining the authority of Jesus, it’s not encouraging you to have Jesus as your Lord, truly and so I caution you there.

But whether that applies to you or not friends, all of us at times can feel an emptiness in faith, even in life and all of us at times can have faith feel like it’s waning a little bit or that God seems more distant than He once was, there are times in all of our lives when our confidence in Jesus is undermined but the answer is not, it is not to go looking elsewhere. The answer is to seek Jesus, to pursue Him afresh, to continue in Him, to continue exclusively in Jesus and keep our allegiance to Him because, let’s remember these great promises of Jesus ‘Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, for everyone who asks receives, the one who seeks finds’ and then later in the same gospel He says ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’

Friends, do you need to come to Jesus afresh today maybe this year? Do you need to come to Him, to find the rest of knowing God that you don’t need to look elsewhere? In Jesus, you have God in all His fullness so come to Jesus. Do you need to know the rest of being part of God’s people, His family through Jesus, that you’re safe and secure in Him for all eternity? Do you need to know the rest of being forgiven, of reconciled to God through Jesus death on the cross? Do you need to know the rest of being secure in Jesus that He has disarmed all powers and authorities? You don’t need to fear them. Have peace through Jesus and come to Him afresh today because friends, Paul exhorts us to continue in Jesus, to come to Jesus that we might have confidence, that we might overflow with thankfulness for all that we have in Him because, in Jesus, we have the one who’s fully God in Jesus, we are fully part of God’s people now and for all eternity, in Jesus we are forgiven, we are secure, so let’s continue confidently and thankfully in Him. I pray it may be so. Amen.

We close our service with our final hymn, How firm our foundation. We’re going to sing it to a different tune than we know it would normally but it’s a tune that should be well known to you. We sing together then, How firm a foundation.

The main thing

Preached on: Sunday 30th January 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-01-30 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: COLOSSIANS 1:24-2:5
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us come to God in prayer. Let us pray:
Holy Spirit, be amongst us and open our minds to the word of God.
Come Holy Spirit and open our hearts that we might hear the voice of Father God to us.
Come Holy Spirit with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

So, 2022 is upon us and nearly a whole month has passed, one twelfth of the year has nearly gone and, for me at least, it’s flying past. Maybe that’s the newborn baby thing of sleep deprivation and the days blurring together; maybe it’s been out of the manse for about half of January because of a beetle infestation; who knows. One or two things, you know, to juggle and deal with. That means my month has just flown by. I wonder how yours has gone? But what is 2022 going to be the year of, do you think? What will 2022 be the year of? The year of getting back to normal? I thought I’d get a bit more of a ‘Yeah’ than that ‘Amen brother!’ And getting rid of these masks, eh? Or is it the year we see the end of the reign of Boris Johnson? I won’t ask you to vote in favor against that one! Is it the year that Russia does invade Ukraine? And what about for the church, us locally, the Church of Scotland nationally? Is this the year when it becomes a bit clearer what the shape of church will be? What buildings are going in the years to come, to be open or closed? Is that going to become a bit clearer?

All of these issues are important and they all have the potential to impact us one way or another but, as I’ve prepared for this week, there’s part of me has wondered – Are some of these, or maybe all of these are, something that can distract us? just consumes us so much that we fail to keep the main thing the main thing? Partly. I’m led to wonder about that because, if you read on in Colossians, and we’ll get to that there in the weeks to come, but in Colossians chapter 4 Paul says he’s a prisoner, he’s in chains. And so, he is in prison, he’s in chains because of his faith and being in prison in those days carried with it the threat of the death penalty. He is facing those circumstances and yet he will not be diverted, he will not be consumed by his circumstances and he will keep the main thing the main thing because he says in verse 25 that he’s become a ‘servant of the church by the commission God gave him’, he has a commission from God and he has real clarity about that commission. He knows he’s to present the word of God in all its fullness; he knows he’s to share the good news, the ‘mystery the gospel’ as he calls it, about Jesus, and by sharing that he hopes to build up the church, so that it remains firm in faith and encouraged in heart. he hopes, by sharing the gospel, that more people, the nations, will come to faith in Jesus and so he is clear about this, he is compelled towards it, and he will not be diverted.

It makes me wonder about us brothers and sisters. Makes me wonder about us, because, we too have a commission, don’t we? This is the beginning of my fourth year with you now and I think every year I think I’ve started with these same verses so we probably should be quite familiar with them by now Jesus says ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ We have been given a commission, a commission by God, and it’s a commission that carries eternal significance for the people we know, the people in our lives, the people in this area. We have to go and call them to follow Jesus and, when they respond in faith, to help them grow in faith and become mature followers. Paul would not be diverted from his commission – I wonder are we do we put it off? Or ‘I’ll get to it Scott when things are normal? You know, when I can get rid of the mask, finally I’ll be able to do x, y and z; finally, I’ll be able to give myself to them commission from God.’ Or ‘When (fill in the blank).’ Could be so many other things that we just allow to so consume us, so divert us that we never get round to this commission. I wonder, could this be the year when we learn that little bit more to keep the main thing the main thing?

And it’s a challenge that I will have to face all over again, as I learned to be a dad of two children, and one of them particularly young. It’s a commission, that I feel like I’m still learning to know what it means to be a minister and that keeps changing on me because we have a congregation of about 500 on the roll and that’s going to nearly double in size when, in the years to come, we go into a union with the other churches. What does it even mean to be a minister to that size of congregation? I’m not sure I don’t know, I’m going to have to learn, might have to stop things, might have to start things. I’m having to learn how to keep the main thing the main thing too but, if we commit together in this, then maybe we can encourage and spur one another on, maybe we can learn together to keep the main thing the main thing and I hope there’s a part of you that is rising up and saying ‘Yes, I want to this year!’ It’s a month into the year maybe this is your new year’s resolution, if you didn’t make one, that you want to keep the main thing the main thing but, in all likelihood, I wouldn’t be surprised, if there’s a part of you that’s fighting that, just wants to keep it at a distance, that maybe there’s not even a part of you that wants to say ‘Yes’ because you just feel weighed down, weighed down by weariness, weighed down by disillusionment or fear even, and so there’s this war in you that knows that you should maybe say yes but you just you can’t because of all that the last two years have brought, but maybe because of all that you are facing personally, in work, or in life, or in faith, that it’s sapping your reserves, it’s sapping your hope, and so we just don’t feel able to say yes and it’s so easy to become diverted and you know what is more, on top of all of that, we know that, don’t we, that our commission is costly to follow and put into practice. What Jesus says, it’s going to be costly, we’re going to have to give up time and energy, we’re going to have to give up maybe comfort or money, or maybe even popularity, we might have to stop doing things that we have been doing for a long time, and so, in the face of all, that it’s been natural and understandable for us to not feel able to say yes and to want to just put off that that bit more of 2022.

You know, Paul knew hardship and yet he still pursued his commission. He writes in verse 24 ‘Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body which is the church.’ Paul knew hardship, he knew affliction he knew suffering, and yet, somehow, Paul kept persevering. How was it that this man was able to keep saying yes to God’s commission despite his chains, despite the threat of execution for his faith?

Before we get on to answer that I just want to pause and unpick this verse a little bit because, as we read it we might it might raise questions for us, and we might wonder is Paul saying that the cross is insufficient, that it is lacking something. Is that what Paul means by Christ’s afflictions? And well, the answer is a very clear ‘No!’ No, the cross is not lacking, because Paul, in his letters, never refers to the cross as an affliction. Christ endured and if you look at even just the book of Colossians in chapter 1 verses 21 and 22 and in chapter 2 verses 13 and 14, Paul makes it very clear that what Jesus was to achieve on the cross he did achieve, that you can now be forgiven through Jesus’ death, that on the cross He died so that you could be forgiven and fully reconciled to God, so that you can stand before Almighty God without blemish, free of accusation, and reconciled to your Heavenly Father. That offer is there for every one of us. The cross is not lacking in any way, but what Paul knows is that to be a Christian is more than to attend church. To be a Christian is to do more than simply pray or read the Bible. To be a Christian is to be more than just a good person. A Christian is someone who is united with Jesus, not in an abstract way, but in a very deep spiritual way. When you are a Christian, you are part of the body of Christ, and so Paul knows that, as he suffers, Jesus suffers alongside him; as he suffers to fulfill his commission, Jesus suffers with him; and this is what helps Paul persevere, because he goes on to say in verses 27 and 29 that the mystery the gospel, the good news, he seeks to share with the nations, is that you can know Christ, you can know Jesus in you, not Christ with , not Christ around you, or near you, or above you, but Christ in you, in you, and it’s when Christ becomes that real to you, you then have the hope of glory, the hope that this life with its afflictions, with its hardships, with its suffering, this life isn’t all there is, that there is a spiritual dynamic to life, that there is a hope of a new heaven and a new earth, that there will one day be God’s kingdom in all its fullness. That’s the hope of glory.

but that hope is not as real and tangible if you don’t know Christ in you, if Jesus is just a nice story to you, if Jesus is just a figure from history, or a wise teacher to learn from, you won’t have that glory, that hope of glory, and what is more Paul knows that, as he contends, strenuously contends, Jesus is in him working powerfully. There’s power to help him persevere, there’s power to help him labor, there’s power to help him keep going. I wonder, friends, do you know that power by knowing Jesus, that power that helps you overcome sin, that power that helps you keep going, and keep laboring, in his name, tired though you may be? Friends, to be a Christian is not to know loads of stuff in the Bible, to be a Christian is not to be busy with religion, to be a Christian is not even to come to church, or keep a building open, or keep the organization running, principally, to be a Christian, is to know Jesus personally.

And so, let me ask – Do you know Jesus that way? Is Jesus a reality to you? And, if he’s not, or if Jesus seems distant, maybe this is the year you press into that, maybe this is the year you pursue Jesus in a fresh way? There are so many ways to get to know and journey with Jesus and maybe His invitation for you this year is to get to know Him in a different way. To engage with the scriptures or to engage with prayer in a different way. But to meet with Him. to know Him personally. And so, I’m really excited that this year we’re doing Huddle again and you would have seen that notice in the news sheet that Huddle is a way for us to grow in faith. And do you know that the key question in Huddle is? What is Jesus saying to you? The second key question is – What are you going to do about that? But that is the key question – What is Jesus saying to you? And so, if you want to grow in faith, if you want to be able to answer that question, then why not get involved in Huddle come, and speak to me, I probably again need to know today if that’s something you want to do. because we need to get dates in the diary. So, if you want to grow in faith maybe think about Huddle. Maybe think about getting into the word of God differently this year, somehow. There are so many ways. Or engaging with prayer and praise maybe in a different way. That you might have the hope of glory.

So Paul, he had clarity of commission and he knew Jesus personally and that gave him hope and power for his life and his circumstances but, you know, I think there was one other thing his life, his writings teach us today, one other thing that, if it wasn’t there, his commission still wouldn’t have been fulfilled because I think it’s possible, friends, I think it’s possible to be clear about the commission and you might be able to recite Matthew 28 to me and you might be able to say to me ‘Well Scott, I know Jesus and I have the hope of glory.’ it’s possible to have both of those things and still not fulfill your commission, because there’s something else that Paul had. Paul knew that to fulfill our commission, his commission, our commission, we must invest in the eternal, we must invest in the eternal, the eternal, the spiritual, that relationship with God, that faith which is so intangible, isn’t it, faith is just so intangible and infuriating at times, it’s less concrete than the rest of life and so we give ourselves to work, we give ourselves to whatever it may be, that a new hobby, or another issue, or another, which is so much more concrete than God, and the things of God’s kingdom. I was reminded of this just quite recently I met up with some friends from school 20 years on and there’s a real group of these guy friends that we just keep meeting with and I love seeing them, they’re real brothers to me, and some of them, quite a few of them, are in engineering of one form or another and I get talking to them and they they’re able to tell me all the different ways that they are developing technology and I just sit there amazed and slightly envious that they they’re so concrete in what they’re able to see their job brings about, and then there’s another friend and he’s in education, he’s a high school teacher and he’s able to say the difference he’s making in the lives of young people and he also has some quite funny stories about what goes on at high school at times and we have a good chuckle and again there’s a bit of me that’s like ‘I’m really envious of you that you’re able to see that, and know that it’s much more concrete’ because, when they come to me and say ‘Well, how’s your job going, Scott?’ I haven’t quite found the right answer to that yet because I tell them a little bit of what I’m doing and it’s just blank look, move on, because my job is about the intangibles in life, often it’s about faith and about the kingdom of God, and there are times when it hits the really hard times of life as well, and we don’t know what to say in those times and so we kind of skip quickly on about what Scott does. I investing in the eternal, is hard, it’s intangible, it’s less concrete and so, because of that again, we’re often like ‘Well, I’ll get around to it when I feel like. I’ll get around to it when I don’t have to wear a mask. I’ll get around to it when I’ve got a wee bit more time’ But that wee bit more time never seems to come, because all those more concrete things just seem to press in upon us, and in Paul’s life and in his ministry he displayed loads of ways that he invested in the eternal. He pursued God in prayer and he writes about what he’s praying for the Colossians as he does for all the churches and he invests in the eternal by cherishing the church and you can read how he cherishes the church and he invests in the people of the church but you can see how he invests in eternal by sharing the good news with others that they might come to faith in Jesus as well.

So, friends, what would it look like for us to invest in the eternal in 2022? What would that look like for you to not just invest in what is concrete but to invest in the eternal and invest in faith and then the kingdom of God?

I’ll give you some ideas just from Paul’s own example.

So, I mentioned that he prays. Are we praying for your day, are you praying for this church, in our ministry? You know, we have a Thursday prayer time and it’s online just now because of Covid and, hopefully, that will change one day, but if you have a telephone and I won’t ask you to put up your hand if you’ve got a telephone, because everybody’s probably got a telephone, if you have a telephone, you can join that time of prayer, you don’t need a computer, you don’t need a smartphone or tablet you can simply phone up and listen in and you don’t have to say a word other than maybe ‘Hi’ just to say hi but after that you can be silent the rest of the time, but by listening in, you are praying and you are praying and investing in the eternal. Might this be the year when we see our Thursday time of prayer grow in size again? Because the churches that are thriving across denominations generally are those churches that are coming together for prayer. Might we invest in prayer this year?

Paul’s example also shows that he invests in relationships, he invests both in people outside the church and he invests in people inside the church. So, what would that look like for you? Are you investing in relationships? Are you building relationships with the local community? And how are you building relationships amongst one another? Most of us, if not all of us, are in a Pastoral Grouping. You know, you don’t have to leave it just to your Pastoral Grouping Leader to care for your pastoral grouping. You can work alongside them. You can say to them ‘Hey, I’d be willing to maybe give someone a call or pay someone a visit or send someone a card.’ You can get involved certainly, speak to your Pastoral Grouping leader and we’ll help make it happen, because it doesn’t have to just rest on a small group of people, in fact it can’t, it needs every one of us.

Or what about using your gifts? Rachel prayed for it this morning particularly amongst our work and volunteering with young people. Paul labors and uses his gifts to help others to serve the church. You know, our Junior Boys Brigade section might not run after the summer because we don’t have enough volunteers. Do we want that to stop? Do we want that to have to stop because we don’t have enough volunteers? And so, we have to stop investing in the eternal of those young boys? The only way it’s going to be able to keep running is if people step forward and volunteer and there’s probably any number of other areas of ministry where that’s the case. Could you step forward and volunteer with the Junior Boys Brigade? You don’t have to be the main leader because we have a very able main leader but she cannot do it on her own, we need others to help. Could that be you?

Because we have a commission, a commission from God, a commission that transcends our current pressures and insecurities, the concerns of our day, because it’s a commission to invest in the eternal, to invest in the eternal welfare of others. We have a commission to go make disciples, to call people to follow Jesus, and if we want to see that commission fulfilled in greater measure this year, then we must learn to keep the main thing the main thing and we must do that by having clarity of commission, knowing Christ is in us, and then investing in the eternal. I pray it may be so. Amen.

Spiritual vision

Preached on: Sunday 16th January 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. there is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this sermon.
Bible references: Colossians 1:15-23
Location: Brightons Parish Church

I am a bit of an expert in physical vision or so I think.

I’ve had my eyes tested more times than I care to count and when I go to the optician almost inevitably the optician will put up a great big card and asks me to read the letters on the card and I start off very well, I can do the top lines, and I’m very pleased with myself, then we get to the middle and I can do some of them and then when I get to the little bottom lines and the letters begin to get smaller, I start guessing and eventually I run out of guesses. That’s physical vision, and I’ve had to go regularly to have my eyes tested, and one of the things that strikes me is how subtly I can lose my vision. I wonder what I’ll be like in another 10 years’ time. Wonderfully my sight is stable at the moment but I’ve got to be careful.

As I said to the children, there are more ways than one of seeing. The apostle Paul reminded the Ephesians that they had eyes in their hearts. ‘I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.’ We have different kinds of vision. I’m well aware of it when I’m working on an academic problem and it’s very difficult and then, suddenly, there comes a moment and from my brain and my mind these simple words ‘I see!’ We’ve got vision inside ourselves, we’ve got spiritual vision too, and I would just like to ask you how often do you have a spiritual vision check?

It’s very easy just to avoid that and our spiritual vision can sometimes certainly go away. As Eric was saying in his moving prayer, we’re bombarded with so many things. The world around us and we’re looking this way and that and we lose the central focus. So many things compete for our attention and we can lose our focus on Jesus Christ, our Lord, very easily. I was reminded of this even in preparing this sermon. I was pulling out books and commentaries that I hadn’t looked at in years and suddenly I realized that I’d been losing my spiritual vision. And I was reading about the person and work of The Lord Jesus Christ, reading very deep books and I don’t intend to go into their depths with you today. I’ll spare you that. But it made me aware of just how easily and how subtly we can lose our spiritual vision.

William Cooper, the hymn writer, put it like this ‘Where is the blessedness I knew when once I saw The Lord. When first I saw The Lord. Where is the soul refreshing view of Jesus and His word.’ It’s just so easy to lose our spiritual vision. Things happen in life. Sadness, disappointments and all that. I’m just covered and we’re so glued to that and worried and sometimes we really redefine our faith. We even redefine the person of Jesus to suit ourselves, to make Him non-threatening, to make Him just somebody that we can refer to when we want, rather than when He wants to talk to us. Oh, it’s so subtle, certainly the essence of modernity corrode us.

But you know, the consolation is, as we come to God’s word and to the epistle to the Colossians and also to the Laodiceans, they were to read it too, it wasn’t just Colossae that had the problem, this is an old problem. Vision of Jesus was becoming fuzzy and colossal and the Colossians and evidently the Laodiceans too, were losing their focus.

It was happening for a variety of reasons. Different teachings around, different philosophies, and they were seeping into their souls and some were probably listening to the teachers and enjoying the different messages without being aware that they were gradually drifting away from the bedrock of their salvation. It happens so subtly folks and it’s an old, old problem, and Paul is tackling it in Colossians and what he does here is something quite dramatic, in a way, as he speaks to the Colossians telling them of how Jesus has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. He then gives us this amazing picture of that very Son and it occupies most of the passage that we have read together.

It’s a very complicated passage in many ways. As I was preparing myself over the last six weeks to speak to you, I became aware of how scholars tussle with it and if we were to go round down their particular road we could be in here for weeks. I’ll try to avoid that.

But he puts it before them straight, a big picture of Jesus a big, big picture

The heights and depths of this passage are truly amazing, and the passage acts as the cornerstone for the rest of the letter. As I was reading through it I noted the number of times that the sections in this chapter were taken through like little blocks and built on again with implications for what the Colossians did in their own lives.

But what Paul does primarily is that he makes them look up. He says, come away from these teachers and the philosophies for a minute and start doing that, looking up and see the salvation that has been prepared for you in Jesus Christ. He puts this picture right at the center of the letter or at the beginning really, but it is central to it all and he asks them to look at it and what I want to do today is to take you and make you look up to Jesus.

When Brent Haywood spoke to us at the very beginning, he used the image of balancing that broom on its handle and, you know, I’ve almost been going around with that, almost trying to do it because it’s such a good image. So often, when our vision fails, we start looking down and we can’t anymore balance the broom on our fingers. It’s a great image. And that’s just what was happening here so Paul’s antidote to that is to just give them straight, a picture, a great picture of Jesus Christ.

Now, there are various views about this passage. One of them is that it may well be an earlier statement of belief that Christians had been wrestling with this, before Paul wrote this letter. As I said, it’s not a new problem that they had formulated. What mattered, what really mattered, and it was a crucial statement of some kind and there’s a lot to be said for that because, if you note at verse 21, he changes a little and he says here’s the picture in verses 15 to 20, here’s the picture and here are the consequences of that picture, what you have to do and what you have to remember. Now, all I want to do today, very simply, is to take you through the main points as they seem to be to me, of the picture of Jesus that Paul gives. As I say, it’s very complicated at one level but I want to draw out just the simple points so that you take them away and perhaps will be encouraged to look at them further when you leave here, look at the picture as we go. What a picture.

As I was preparing, I was thinking of Rio de Janeiro and I’m sure you will know why because as you go into Rio de Janeiro there’s a huge statue sitting above it of Christ the Redeemer but even that’s inadequate, very inadequate. It lifts our eyes but it doesn’t take as much beyond stone and concrete. Here we have a wonderful picture in which Jesus is lifted up first of all. Paul says through this passage guided by the Holy Spirit Jesus is supreme in and over all creation.

First point – Jesus is not simply a spiritual being, He is spiritual, deeply so because He is very God of very God, He is the very image of God as well, but He is also supreme over creation, He’s not separated from creation, He’s not divorced from it, but at the same time, He’s over it. He’s come into this creation in the incarnation but the amazing thing is that He has been there from the beginning of time. He is before all things. He’s not simply being born for the first time at Christmas Day. He takes on our flesh but He’s there from the very beginning. It’s a complex thought but you know we acknowledge Jesus, The Lord Jesus’ role in creation. In our hymns don’t we and I’m going to put in a wee hymn, a verse from a hymn with each point so that you can think about it – ‘Jesus is Lord, creation’s voice proclaims it, for by his power each tree and flower was planned and made. Jesus is Lord, the universe declares it, sun, moon and stars in heaven cry, Jesus is Lord.’ I often hear that verse going through my head.

Jesus, the supreme Son of God, coexistent with the Father, is the agent of creation. The process of creation is a different matter to me. I don’t fully understand it and I will leave it gladly to the scientists to work out all of it, but I know, on the basis of the scriptures, who has been the creator and for whom it was all created. So, that’s the first point.

Second, Paul points out that Jesus is supreme over all thrones and powers, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities. All things were created by Him and for Him. He’s not just another king and He made that point Himself on this earth. He is integral, as we said, to the making and sustaining of the physical world but even its greatest rulers were created by Him and fought them in heaven and on earth and also in the supernatural realm because these principalities and powers often refer to the supernatural and it may well be that the Colossians were having a wee listen to all sorts of supernatural ideas and Paul brings them back and says, look here, there’s one that’s greater than all these powers, all thrones and powers. What did Isaac Watts say these many years ago ‘Jesus shall reign where the sun doth his successive journeys run. His kingdom stretch from shore to shore, till moon shall wax and wane no more.’ He’s over all of that.

Third, Jesus is supreme over the church and He is the head of the body the church. He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead. We have funny ideas of the church sometimes, don’t we. We think of it sometimes as a building, sometimes as a denomination, and then we think who’s at the head of the denomination, is it the pope, is it the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and is it the Queen. And each of the structures has its own physical head but beyond that and over the church, as we know it, as we meet together as believers, with our fellow believers throughout the world, Jesus is Lord and He’s head of the church. We sing it as in these other hymns so we’ve got a hymn for this ‘The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord. She is His new creation by water and the word. From heaven he came and sought us, to be His holy bride, and with His blood H bought us and for her life He died.’ We actually know these things. That’s what I’m telling you, but there are times in life when we need to come back and reinforce them and hear them again because of the seepage into our souls of modernity and our loss of focus and vision.

And then, at the end Paul of the first passage, Paul makes clear to us and to the Colossians that Jesus is supreme in the resurrection. The first born from among the dead. When the phrase first born is used here it generally means that He’s got the position of the first son in a primogeniture context and has everything, the authority and He has this that in all things He may have the preeminence. He was the one who conquered death. There were other resurrections through His power before He went to the grave. Lazarus, for example, but Jesus did not die a second time, He went into heaven and there He is and He has and all of that, the preeminence, We need to remind ourselves of that. It’s a glorious truth put before us in the New Testament and we sing that too. there’s an Easter hymn that I just love ‘Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son. Endless is the victory thou o’er death has won.’ It’s not just an Easter hymn, it’s a hymn for every day. Birch Hoyle’s wonderful translation of it. I often hear it going through my head and the music lifting me heavenwards.

And then finally, at least in my little interpretation, Jesus is supreme in reconciliation. He’s bringing us to God. He’s bringing many sons and daughters to glory and Paul emphasizes that there’s no need for any add-on. He’s complete. He’s got the pleroma the fullness of God within and He is the one who has the authority, solely Jesus, to bring us into God’s presence and that is profound as well. So many doctrines there are that tell us that we need something else, that we can’t really depend on the reconciling power of Jesus. These ideas have been around for a long time, as I’ve said, they were there in Colossae.


‘My hope is built’ said the hymn writer ‘on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but holy trust on Jesus’ name. On Christ this solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.’ I don’t know what hymns will be sung the day I go at my funeral but I’ll tell you this, I want that one sung because it really sums up the totality of where, as Christians, we ought to stand.

And then there’s the next section here, the consequences for us. We could just admire the wonderful work of Jesus but we’ve got to make it ours and we’ve got to persevere with it as the reverend George Macdonald reminded us last week. ‘But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body, if you continue in your faith established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.’ Brent mentioned the Christian hope when he was opening up this passage, this epistle to us and it’s a wonderful thing the Christian hope. The writer to the Hebrews says ‘we have this hope as an anchor for the soul’ and as somebody who was brought up in the Hebrides with boats I just love that. I see the times when we brought in the boat of an evening and we pulled up the anchor chain and we put it on it on the bow and we knew the ship was holding fast but we had to lift that chain put it on and do our bit and the same is through here.

See, when we lose the big vision, the up vision, we become very earthly, we start to look down. It’s the Brent’s brush again. Powerful image. And our eyes go down and we wobble and this was happening with the Colossians. I’m sure Reverend Scott Burton and others will cover these points better than I possibly could, but just at the beginning of chapter three Paul says this to the Colossians ‘Since then you have been, since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not earthly things, for you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.’ Wonderful words and it’s only by looking up, as I’m trying to encourage you to do today, that we can escape the down-drag the gravity of earth which is all around us and tries to seep into us and shape our spiritual vision and gradually we lose it.

So, my friends, this morning, the question as I conclude ‘How is your spiritual vision?

Often the optician will ask when he or she puts in a lens or adjusts the modern thing ‘Better or worse?’ and I would ask you this morning how’s your spiritual vision to come to this passage of scripture ‘Better or worse?’

I do hope that it will be just a little better for having been here today and you’ve been able to look up and not be pulled down as we so often are by the suction and gravity of this world. Paul has given us an eye-test here with a great picture, a great bit of writing on a book reading it.

How’s your spiritual vision? I trust this morning as you go out it will be just a little better. Mine certainly is a lot better for having had the great privilege of preparing for this service. Amen.

We are going to conclude now by singing a hymn, another modern one. Michael Soward’s lovely hymn ‘Christ triumphant, ever reigning. Master, Savior, King.’ A truly wonderful hymn. I love this one because it does exactly what I’ve been saying we should do, and Colossians encourages us to do – look up to Christ triumphant ever reigning.

A prayer of perseverance

Preached on: Sunday 9th January 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this sermon.
Bible references: Colossians 1:9-14
Location: Brightons Parish Church

If we think that being a practicing Christian is an easy task, then we need to think again. It takes a certain doggedness, a persistence, a type of character that the Bible often refers to as Endurance  or Perseverance or Steadfastness, to maintain a Christian lifestyle.

In Matt 24 Jesus speaks about the signs of the end of the age with all its trials for Christians when he says, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but those who stand firm to the end WILL be saved”

Perseverance in the Bible is a character trait that is often emphasized in the Scriptures. In over a 100 NT texts, the Bible encourages people to live out their faith with perseverance.  It looks like the ability of a believer to endure and persist and never give up in the face of difficulty is something not only commendable, but also very necessary. The famous preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon once wrote, “By perseverance, even the small snail managed to reach the Ark and be saved from the floods.”

And in our text today it is this perseverance that the Apostle Paul is praying about when he prays for the Church in Colossae.

They had heard the truth, understood the grace, had a functioning church and were trying to live out their faith, in the context of their society, just like us.  But they were living in a time of conflicting paradigms. The young Christian Church was challenging and changing spiritual values and the paradigm shift, the change in world view, was to found in the Gospel message: the message of being reconciled to God thru faith.

In the metropolitan city of Colossae in the time of Paul there were many Gods and even more ways of worshipping them. There were false teachers, even within the ranks of the Christian believers. The truth about the Gospel was at a premium, even in church leadership. There were teachers who were adding their opinion and subtracting the truth from the Christian message. Many believers were in fact confused about their very reason for being, about their mission, about their relationship with the world and ultimately their relationship with Jesus Christ their Saviour.

Does all that sound a bit familiar to us? It should, because we are today experiencing a drastic change in world view that is impacting tremendously on the church.

There is a Post Christian and Post-modern world view out there that is challenging the very fabric of church life and Biblical truth as we have known it.

Today we are asking ourselves again, “What does it take to be a Church? What is our mission? How do we relate to the world and to Jesus Christ in these times?”

And the Apostle Paul prays for the Church, and his prayer extends over centuries to cover the believers of all times. Paul is praying for us, for you and for me, even at this time.

But what is this prayer? The text in Colossians 1 vs9 makes it clear that whatever it is, it has something to do with a knowledge of God’s will, and seeking it  thru spiritual wisdom and understanding.

So Paul prays for us to take a step back for a moment from what we are doing and then look with spiritual eyes on how we should endure, or go forward, or  persevere, in a way that will please God.

And he prays for the believers to persevere in many areas of endeavour:
To persevere in bearing fruit in good work the Colossians were asked to re-assess how they served WITHIN the church, how they served AS the church in a community of largely other-minded or indifferent people. Bearing fruit in good works means doing things from an INNER motivation rather than reacting to outside influences. As Jesus once said in Matthew 12:33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.

The prayer was also that they should persevere in growing in the knowledge of God If we look at Col 1 vs 15 onwards we see that this knowledge is nothing less than acknowledging the Supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things, “He is the image of the invisible God” says that text.  We have to know and love Christ to grow in a true knowledge of God.  Jesus said to his followers in Matthew 11:27 “No one knows the Father except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  And he followed it by saying “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

The Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, has to open our spiritual eyes thru our study of the Bible and our devotion to prayer, and our fellowship with believers, all in Christ’s name.
And then Paul’s prayer is to also persevere in being strengthened with the mighty and glorious power of God.

Has anyone here made any Near Year Resolutions?  Every year I make resolution not to make a New Year resolution.  That’s because my will power buckles under the weight of a piece of chocolate. Or whatever else I may be trying to give up. We cannot make a resolution to persevere, because we cannot persevere in ANYTHING without the power of God and the Spirit of God. We cannot depend on ritual or ceremony or cold charity. We cannot depend on our status or background or personal will power. In living a life worthy of the Lord we have to depend totally on God to work for us and thru us, so that WE become the love of Christ sent into the world.
And then the Apostle prays for the believers to persevere in giving joyful thanks to God.
We have to give thanks because God has made us who we are. None of us is self-made. Our text in vs 12 reminds us that it is the “Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the Kingdom of light”.

God has put the stamp of Jesus Christ on us and given us a Kingdom. And Jesus himself was a model of thankfulness. Whether it was breaking bread with his followers or breaking the power of death over his friend Lazarus, every gift from his Father was received with thanksgiving. It can be no less for us as his followers.
Our text also assures us why we can take confidence in this prayer of perseverance of the Apostle, why we should be living a life worthy of the Lord, why we should please the Lord in every way.
Our text in vs 13 puts our striving and perseverance into perspective, for it was Jesus Christ,  says Paul, who persevered for us, who endured for us, who delivered us, who saved us:

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

As we go out today into a New Year of challenge, we can all be assured of one thing by this Apostolic prayer of perseverance: And that is that our strivings should always be to the glory of God.

When times are hard, when difficulties pile up, we can say with the Apostle Paul in Rom chapter 5: “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Let us pray:
Gracious God, we thank you for the knowledge of your Word and your Will given us thru the Scriptures, by the power of your Holy Spirit. We thank you for the strength to endure and for the gift of hope, the hope of glory. And we give joyful thanks to you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord in whose name we pray Amen.

Saturated in The Word

Preached on: Sunday 2nd January 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20220102 slides.
Bible references: Colossians 1:1-8
Location: Brightons Parish Church

So, let me assure you this is not a power kick. I’m not running up to get into the pulpit as quick as possible but I just know that having sat upstairs recently it is really difficult to see the speaker when the speaker’s down there, so that’s why I’m here at the moment.

Now, today we’re going to break the sermon into two parts – sorry Andy, I’m mucking up your Bible arrangement here I need more space – we’re gonna, we’re gonna split the sermon into two parts so, when I stop speaking, I haven’t finished.

So, this is part one and then we’ll move on to further parts of the service.

We’ve already said that today we’re looking at a new book. New book, new year, the book of Colossians. So, I thought I would start to see what the brain fog is like at this time of year by asking a few questions. Now, I know what it’s like I sit there with you when someone says that they’re going to ask questions you’re thinking ‘Don’t ask me!’ You don’t need to answer anything. Think about these in your own mind.

Before Advent, what was the name of the book of the Bible that we were studying? Okay, probably easy enough.

Next question – What was, what was the main thing that you felt that you learned from our study in the book of Malachi?

next question – If you met me out the front in the fresh air later on and I said ‘Give me a summary of the book of Malachi’ How do you think you would go?

I put some of those questions to myself this week as I was getting ready to look at the book of Colossians and I thought it was a bit of a challenge to be honest, but new year, new book, new series, I want to throw that challenge back at you, and I want to, I want you, in your mind’s eye, to think a month ahead, or two months ahead, once we’re well through the study of the book of Colossians, and I want you to picture being able to talk to me and summarize the book of Colossians. You think you could do that? Do I think I could do that?

I take great inspiration from listening to other people talking about their spiritual disciplines. For example, taking our Minister Scott. Last year Scott got us all or offered a Bible reading plan, he followed it himself, he built it into the rhythm of the church, he allowed us to make questions, he put on some sessions about it, and he lived it through himself.

Think of what else Scott’s been doing while he’s been here. He got us into a series on prayer and he tried to get us to pray, to practice prayer, to think about different ways of praying, he even videoed himself walking around the streets praying. Wonderful, wonderful, spiritual discipline. Disciplines for us to learn.

Could you bring up the screen please, yeah next, next slide.

This is my friend Sundeep. Judith I think you’ve been to Sundeep’s place with me. Sundeep, like me, is an adopted son of Scotland. Sundeep’s from India and there’s something kind of mystical about Sundeep. He tells me that he flips a coin every new year and decides whether to grow a beard or not and then when he grows it for that year he doesn’t cut it and I’ve seen it in about October, it’s quite impressive, it has to be said, but Sundeep has a spiritual discipline that I just love.

He saturates himself in the Bible. He saturates himself in the Bible. Now, I’m sure you’ve got a picture of someone who’s just reading and reading and reading and reading and reading, and not doing anything else. Sundeep doesn’t do that. Sundeep from India believes that the scriptures were written to be heard and so Sundeep saturates himself in listening to the Bible and he puts the Bible on around the house. He’s got one of those audios, a good one is Youvision for example, and he plays it and he plays it and he plays it. So, he plays the Bible in the kitchen. He plays the Bible when he’s in the car. Apparently puts his headphones on and he plays the Bible when he goes to sleep at night. He saturates himself in the Bible. I wonder what that would look like if we did something similar?

Next picture please.

I wonder if anybody can tell me who these two chaps are? The guy on the left, not too difficult, I don’t think, Any ideas? Justin Welby. Does anybody know who the guy on the right is?

That man’s name is Dick Lucas. Dick Lucas is a retired minister in London. He’s 96 years old and Dick Lucas has a practice, every year he picks out one book of the Bible and he studies it for the whole year. That’s a Bible study.

Next slide.

I’ve been preparing for today. I’ve looked at one of Dick Lucas’s commentaries on Colossians because he’s actually, you’d miss him in the street, this is what someone has said of him ‘Lucas is the author of a number of evangelical books and commentaries with John Stott, J.J. Packer and others. Lucas was a key figure in shaping the conservative evangelical movement in the United Kingdom during the 20th century.’ That man was a key mover in our church in the 20th century the great thing is he’s still going and he’s still producing work and he’s still studying the Bible. I love, that I love that spiritual discipline. What would it look like if we, as a church, really got serious with the Bible and started studying it at that depth? What would it look like?

Sundeep saturates himself in the Bible. Lucas saturates himself in the Bible. As we’ll see when we go on to look further in Colossians, Paul also saturated the Colossians with the truth of the Gospel.

Right my voice is starting to tire so I think we should break.


Almighty God, now, as we open up Your Word and see what you have to say, may You breathe upon it, May anything that comes from me that’s not of You be just cast away like chaff but may Your truths go deep down inside as we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Right, time to do some scene setting. The book of Colossians, well, in fact, I should stop just there, it’s not a book, it’s a letter. It’s a letter from Paul and Timothy. Paul is in prison. We know that because he says as much at the very end of the letter but if you go through the book of Acts you can trace through just exactly where Paul went and what he did.

Paul’s story is in the second half of the book of Acts and you’ll see that he winds up in prison quite often and there’s one reason for that; Paul consistently preaches the resurrection, he preaches the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He consistently gets into trouble with his own ethnic group, the Jews. He consistently gets in trouble with every other ethnic group in the Roman empire, the Gentiles. And, basically, well he just offends people.

Actually, that’s not quite true. The message that he brings is what offends people. You’ll see it again and again as you read through, he starts riots in Ephesus – not himself, but a riot flows from it – there’s death, there’s a plot to kill him when he’s in Jesusalem. He eventually, he was probably executed in Rome. He’s just a troublemaker. He offends people. His message offends people. And in a Scotland of 2022, we have to realize that the message of the Gospel is offensive.

So, what’s this letter about? Paul, writing in prison, dispatches a letter to this little group of Christians in Colossae. Now, at the time, it’s probably maybe 30 years after Jesus has been killed and the resurrection of Jesus, so the Lord Jesus Christ is in everybody’s living memory, and although Paul’s never been to Colossae, he writes this letter to encourage people, as Billy read to us, he writes and he says ‘Look you’re doing great.’ Massive encouragement, massive encouragement to the small group of Christians in Colossae but it’s not just some random letter of encouragement. You see, Paul’s been told that there’s something going on in this church that is not good and he wants to nip it in the bud.

You see, they’ve got muddled like my duck on a bike. They’ve got muddled by all sorts of things. Now, in this letter it’s not explicit what it is that they’ve got themselves confused about, and I think it’s actually very interesting that Paul, on this occasion, does not explicitly set out what the problem is. You see, anybody who’s read anything about Saint Paul and about his letters, will know that he was really, really good at calling things out. he was really good at calling things out. I mean, let me put it this way, he was a little bit more Glasgow than Edinburgh, and plenty of the letters in the Bible, Paul does exactly that. At one stage Peter really cops it. If you ever read the book of Galatians or the end of Romans and you’ll read of the accounts where Paul, well, let’s just say he had a real nose for sniffing out heresy. So, although something really serious is going on in this little church, Paul’s decided not to confront it up front. Instead, he’s tried a different strategy, Saturation, saturation. I talked about Sundeep and how he’s saturated in the Bible, well, Paul decides that he would saturate the Colossians with Jesus, he’d saturate them with Jesus’ supremacy, His sovereignty, His sacrifice.

It’s as if he’s decided that whatever it was that was undermining these Christians, they just needed more Jesus. Jesus front and center. And you know, to be honest, initially it’s all a bit over the top. You have a look go home during the week and read the first two chapters of Colossians. I hesitate to say it but, Paul’s a bit of a fanatic. But there’s a reason for it. You see, they were getting conned, they were getting distracted, and they were getting confused by conflicting messages. You see, on the one hand there are all sorts of pressures to conform to tradition, probably Jewish traditions, and then, on the other hand, there were all sorts of weird philosophies coming on. They had nothing whatsoever to do with the Gospel.

Now, you might find this odd, but when I was a brand-new university student about 100 years ago I put this verse up from Colossians 2 on my bedroom wall. Colossians 2:8 ‘See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of the world rather than Christ.’ You see, one of the papers I was studying was philosophy and I knew that that could be a real danger, that the things of the world could really take me over. How on earth at that age I’d grip that I don’t know, but I must have found that verse in the Bible and put it up there. And that was Paul was trying to point out to these guys because they were like my crazy duck on the bike, they were all over the place, and people were throwing in all sorts of things that were extra to the to the Bible, extra to the truth, extra to the truth of the Gospel. And you know, I think we get that today, I think we get that.

There’s a wee phrase I’ve heard more and more it goes something like this:

‘Well, I don’t know what to think anymore’ ‘I don’t know what to think anymore’ Just look around us. There’s moves afoot again to change the law to permit assisted dying. Now, there’s some in the church that’s saying that’s okay, and there’s others in the church that, it’s not this church I’m talking, the church nationally, but there’s others in the church that are calling it out as a great evil. Or, and I hesitate, but there’s this business in our own denomination, an allowance for ministers to solemnize what the law of the land is calling same-sex marriage. Or there’s this whole question of gender recognition and the massive confusion that that is causing our children, and all of us, as to what a man and a woman is. Political confusion but it’s also dividing the church.

‘Well, I just don’t know what to think anymore. It’s all a bit befuddling.’

Paul’s solution at least with these new Christians in Colossae, is to help them get their thinking right to center the church on Jesus Christ, and the truth of the Gospel, and so he writes to impress upon them something that’s become, frankly, unfashionable or at least it’s a word that’s become unfashionable these days.

You know that word is? Doctrine, doctrine. What we really believe. So, Paul sets out in the letter to say ‘Here is what the Gospel is. This is what you believe. This is the work of the cross. Not only that, Epaphras got it right when he told you what it was.’

Now, I hope that as we get into this series we’ll see that being explained more and more from the pulpit, as we see just what these intense words in the first two chapters of this book really, really are. It’s hard to digest. You’ve got to take it slow. Paul is a fanatic but in those two chapters, like I said earlier on, if we really study God’s word, if we really get to know those two chapters, it’ll be a bit like when Ewan was balancing that broom; we’ll be looking up and we won’t be looking down.

Here’s what Colossians 3:1 says – I was tempted to bring the broom up but I couldn’t trust myself it would drop from here, but imagine I’ve got the broom – ‘Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above not on earthly things for you died and your life is now hidden with Christ and God when Christ who, is your life, appears then you will also appear with him in glory.’ I think that’s marvelous!

Time’s running out for me and I haven’t actually got to the part in the Bible reading that Billy gave to us, so, I’ve probably got seven or eight minutes maybe. Let’s bring up Colossians 3:1-4 if we could Neil. Thank you very much.

This is perhaps, the broom and the duck are silly, silly illustrations but Paul’s letter is a massive encouragement to look, to look up, but here in verses 3 and 4 he’s giving them a massive encouragement and he’s saying ‘I’ve heard about you, I’ve heard about you, we’ve all heard about you, we’ve heard about you even though we don’t know you, and we’re praying for you. We thank God for you because we’ve heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints.’

Now, sometimes it’s hard to pray but I found this verse really, really encouraging. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to start to pray. Sometimes we can feel dry and aren’t in the mood to pray, or we’re just not motivated. Go to this verse. Paul just starts by saying thank-you, thank-you God, thank-you God for the Colossians. Thank-you God for the people at Brightons, thank-you God for the people in Falkirk, thank-you God for the people we know and such and such. That’s a really, really easy way to get into prayer.

But what is Paul giving thanks for? Verse 5 – it’s the faith and the love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven, and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the Gospel that has come to you. God’s grace in all its truth faith and love from hope. Now, faith, hope, faith, love and hope are big themes throughout the New Testament and we’ll get into that further as we’re doing this study. But I wonder, I wonder about this for a moment? Are there reports from Brightons about their faith and their love so that other Christians are praying for them and thanking God for their faith and love? I wonder, I wonder if people think upon us and pray and thank God for that? It’s a question for us to ponder isn’t it? Now, I’m putting that challenge down. I want to make sure that there’s not something that’s lost from this part of the passage and this is what I will finish on. Their faith and their love is founded on something. The Word says that it springs up from something. It springs up from hope. Well, that’s not true. It springs up from the hope, the hope and again hope is a massive theme in this book a massive theme of Paul’s.

I hope that others preaching this service, this series will go back and get into that some more but let me just let me just touch on hope for a moment. Hope is one of those words that you actually hear a lot at new year.

‘Well, I hope 2022 is a bit better than 2021.’

‘Well, I hope we can, I hope it snows so that we can go sledging.’ I think this is not forecast.

‘I hope Falkirk win the league.’

Can I say that that’s hopeless?

Setting your sights on the unknown like Covid 19, I mean we do hope that the vaccine program, the vaccine program is going to put paid to the pandemic and we do hope that it’s going to go away, but that is not a Christian hope, that’s just wishful thinking. It’s like taking a lottery ticket. Christian hope is something so much different and so much deeper and again that’s what Paul is trying to teach these young Christians in Colossae. Your hope is in something which is certain. If we had time I would take you into Romans 8 where Paul unfolds what hope means. That hope is a certainty. Hope is seeing something that is certain, that we do not we do not see now but that we know Christian hope is certain.

It’s not like the hopelessness of today. It’s not like my crazy duck that seems to be a metaphor of the world that we’re in, where we’re going around in circles and our heads are spinning and our eyes are turning, and it’s just hope less. There’s a bumper sticker that you see on the back of cars in New Zealand. It only came to mind this morning when I was thinking about this and the bumper sticker says ‘He who dies with the most toys, wins.’

How wrong is that! How wrong is that.

Think of the broom, think of the magnificent Ewan Norton and his broom trick, and think of my crazy duck. We don’t want to be like these Colossians. We want to learn from this. We want to learn from this book. We want to balance the broom.

May that be so as we go forward into this year. May that be so.

Isaac Watts wrote a magnificent, magnificent hymn Amazing Grace. I might have that wrong, it might be John Newton. Actually it was John Newton the slave owner. Amazing Grace. And that’s the amazing grace that Paul talks about and that’s the amazing grace that we’re going to sing now. Amazing, Amazing Grace.

Introduction to Colossians teaching series

Preached on: Sunday 2nd January 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here Intro slides.
Bible references: Colossians
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Give him a go but I call him my ‘duck on the bike’. The family think I’m I’m mad with the duck on the bike but here he goes.
High tech Christmas everybody!

What on earth am I doing talking about these things? I promise you, it will become clear.

If you could bring the map up. Brilliant. Today we’re starting a new series in a new book and we’re going to be studying the book of Colossians if you can and I always find it helpful when I’m reading the Bible to try and figure out a bit of what’s going on and who’s writing the book, where it’s coming from, and what’s going on, so I found this map, not a great map, but it shows you where Colossae is and you can see that Colossae’s in the middle of modern day Turkey and it’s about a hundred miles inland from a Roman town called Ephesus, where you get the book of Ephesians from, and well, the thing about the Colossians was they were they were a bit like my duck on a bike. Can you bring my duck on the bike up just so people can see him. He’s a bit squashed I think that’s photography copyright Brent Haywood.

But my duck on the bike, he gets a bit crazy and his eyes go spinning and, as we’ll learn about later on in the sermon, that’s what happened to the Christians in Colossae. They got a bit befuddled and they got a bit muddled up, but Ewan showed us what the apostle Paul taught them when he brought them the book because in the book, and we’ll learn about this as we look as we look at the passage later on, when Billy reads it to us, but in the book Paul was encouraging them not to get befuddled by everything down here, by what’s going on in the world but he encouraged them to look up, to set their minds on Christ, to set their hearts on Christ and then by looking up things on earth kind of had a way of working out.

So, I hope that was an okay children’s address for some of you oldies.