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 AVAILABLE SOON. there is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this sermon.
Bible references: Colossians 1:15-23
Location: Brightons Parish Church
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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.

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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
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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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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 abovesermon text 20220102. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20220102 slides.
Bible references: Colossians 1:1-8
Location: Brightons Parish Church
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PART 1

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.

 

PART 2

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 folk 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.

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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
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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.

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