Sermon 2011 04 24 AM

24.04.11 AM Sermon                        Christ and the Christian Gospel # 9 - The gospel of Christ (Col 1:21-2:5)

The gospel : preached by Paul (Col 1:24-29)

 

We continue this Easter morning in our series in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

Paul has been sharing with the Colossians the Gospel of Christ which has the power to save them.

He is seeking to remind them once again of the true gospel so that they might recognise false gospels as they are presented to them.

This morning, I want to highlight four aspects of the true gospel Paul proclaims.

 

1. The Gospel and Suffering

The gospel and suffering are never far apart, indeed, you could say that they are inseparable.

After all, the very gospel itself, the good news contains within it the suffering of Christ Jesus.

Consider for a moment the suffering that Christ Jesus endured.

The prophet Isaiah pictures for us the Suffering Servant : (Is 53:3) “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” He speaks about how (Is 53:11) he “will justify many”, and “he will bear [our] iniquities”. And how “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life.”

Jesus sweated drops of blood in that Garden of Gethsemane. He was beaten, spat at, ridiculed, mocked, a crown of thorns pressed down into his forehead, nails piercing his hands and feet, hung upon a cross, slowly suffocating, thirsty, feeling abandoned by those who had pledged to be there for him, feeling forsaken by God his Father.

The apostle Peter, one of those who abandoned him, who even denied he had anything to do with him, wrote, (1 Peter 2:23) “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

Christ suffered and bled and died.

This suffering was part of the plan - The Lamb of God was taking away the sin of the world.

Christ Jesus of Nazareth, the sacrifice offered one and for all, for you and for me.

(Hebrews 13:12)Jesus “suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.”

He suffered the wrath of God so that wedo not have to.

 

Yet suffering, Paul says, just as it is part of the gospel message, is also part of the gospel people.

Just as Christ Jesus suffered, so his body, the church will encounter suffering.

Suffering identifies the messenger with the one who is the message.

Suffering is a mark both of authentic Christian ministry and also of authentic Christian experience.

In other words, as Christ suffered so his disciples should expect to suffer also.

Christ walked the road to Calvary, the road to the Cross, so our calling is to walk the same road.

It is the only road which leads beyond, to an empty tomb and a resurrection. There is no other way.

Matthew, Mark and Luke all record Jesus words : (Luke 9:23) Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Mt 16:24, Mk 8:34)

Peter writes, (1 Peter 2:20-21)“If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 4:1) “Since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude …”

Martin Luther “If I want to be a Christian, I must wear the colours of the court … suffering there must be.”

The cross is “the natural pattern of the Christian life”

So Paul and Peter urge us to not lament at our suffering for Christ but to “rejoicein our sufferings” (Romans 5:3, 1 Peter 4:13) for they lead to life and glory.

 

2. The Gospel and Servanthood.

Paul speaks to the Colossians about being a servant of the gospel and a servant of the church.

Again, just as the gospel and suffering are together, so the gospel and servanthood are not far apart, indeed, they could be said to be one and the same.

Jesus Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her - likewise we are to live serving and giving ourselves up for one another as we seek to serve Christ.

Christ Jesus said of himself, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

And to demonstrate this, on the night that he was to be betrayed, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.

He washed Judas’ feet who was to betray him, he washed Peter’s feet who was to deny him, he washed Thomas’ feet who was to doubt him, he washed his disciples’ feet, feet that would run away.

Whose feet are you going to wash?

Are there some feet which you are not willing to touch?

So is there anyone that you would not wash the feet of, you would not stoop that low?

 

On Maundy Thursday, our present queen hands out Maundy purses to pensioners, yet in days gone by, up until 1689 with James II, the Monarch would wash and kiss the feet of the poor in Westminster Abbey.

(We should, however, note that the feet were first washed by Yeoman of the Laundry beforehand!)

Most scholars agree that the English word Maundy is derived through the Old French word mandé, translated from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you") said on the occasion of the last supper and the washing of the feet.

 

In a piece of Christian art titled Servant to the World, created by artist Lars Justinen - The image depicts Jesus Christ washing the feet of prominent world leaders: Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, former British PM Tony Blair, Manmohan Singh, prime minister of India. In His hands is the right foot of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In the implied sequence, Osama bin Laden is next. He’s seated beside George Bush, President of the United States, the very man who has promised to hunt him down.

 

Graham Kendrick penned the word: “From heaven You came, helpless Babe, Entered our world, Your glory veiled; Not to be served, but to serve, And give Your life that we might live. This is our God, the Servant King, He calls us now to follow Him; To bring our lives as a daily offering Of worship to the Servant King. There in the garden of tears, My heavy load He chose to bear; His heart with sorrow was torn, "Yet not My will, but Yours," He said. Come, see His hands and His feet, The scars that speak of sacrifice, Hands that flung stars into space, To cruel nails surrendered. So let us learn how to serve, And in our lives enthrone Him; Each other's needs to prefer, For it is Christ we're serving.”

 

Are you willing to be a servant as Jesus was a servant? To serve as Jesus served – sacrificially?

To nurture and display servant-heartedness as evidenced by Jesus?

Are we as a church willing to be a servant church?

“A servant church must have as its priority solidarity with the poor.” (Claudio Hummes)
"Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can." (John Wesley)

Servanthood means accepting suffering, inconvenience, discomfort, humility.

Being a servant of Christ means that we have no other master – a servant cannot serve two masters – we must make a choice - For example you can’t serve both God and money or materialism.

We will only find true fulfilment and satisfaction in life as we give sacrificially of ourselves.

 

3. The Gospel and Stewardship

Thirdly Paul makes clear that the gospel means stewardship - Stewardship of a secret.

Paul speaks of “the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness - the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.”

Here a mystery is made known, a secret is shared, what was in darkness disclosed.

Paul, in his letter to the Christians in Rome speaks about this open secret, this word that he is proclaiming, in this way.

(Romans 10:8-15)this is “the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

But Paul laments when he says (v16) “But not all … accepted the good news.” He says how they heard and they understood, but that they rejected the gospel that would have saved them, whereas others received the gospel and believed in it. (v20-21) “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” But concerning [those who rejected the gospel] he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”

 

Paul proclaims a mystery.

Are you good at keeping secrets?

How good are you at keeping the gospel a secret from those around you?

Some keep the gospel a secret by remaining silent and not speaking about Jesus.

Some keep it a secret by masking it with behaviour and attitudes that point away from Christ.

But Jesus, Paul proclaims, is no longer hidden – the mystery of God’s salvation is out in the open.

The divine purpose has been made plain for all to see – in Christ.

Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. This we are to proclaim in word and deed.

 

4. The Gospel and 5 Ms

Lastly, Paul speaks about the message, method, manner, motive and means of Christian ministry.

 

The Message

Is none other then Jesus Christ – “we proclaim him.” (v28)

The message remains the same – Jesus Christ is the way the truth and life, no one comes to the Father except through him.

We can’t dispense with the message, we can’t outgrow the message.

It isn’t as though we begin with Christ Jesus as the way to be saved and move on to more complicated or sophisticated doctrines or spiritual experiences – this was the mistake the Colossians were making.

The mistake of moving away from Jesus.

Jesus is not to be discarded as one matures spiritually as an adult might discard a teddy bear because he has outgrown it.

Christ Jesus is and is alone who we need to begin with, journey with and finish with on our Christian pilgrimage.

Paul says that perfection comes when one is presented before the Father – this is the climax of the Christian experience and it is all through Christ.

 

The Method

 (v28) “admonishing and teaching everyone.”

Everyone is to hear this gospel, none is to be left out, none must be neglected, no exceptions.

When it comes to having the opportunity to respond to the good news about Jesus, you are not the exception.

Our sharing Jesus, must be done, however, with respect and maturity, to present Christ in ways in which people are able to access him.

(1 Peter 3:15) “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Different people need the same gospel, but different ways for it to be communicated, and there are a variety of methods to communicate Jesus.

Paul gives examples of two ways : “admonishing” and “teaching”.

The word Paul use for admonishing means “to set the mind in proper order” or in other words “to correct the wayward”. Some need teaching, perhaps because of ignorance rather than impetulence.

Paul understands the essential need for teaching for the maturing of the believer, for the process of discipleship - a teaching not just of the cerebral kind, but showing as example, the learning alongside kind.

We need to come alongside each other, the mature teaching the young in the faith.

Gregory of Nazianzus put it this way:

“Some are led by doctrine, others trained by example, some need the spur, others the curb; some are sluggish and hard to rouse to the good, and must be stirred by being smitten with the word; others are immodestly fervent in spirit, with impulses difficult to restrain like thoroughbred colts, who run wide of the turning post and improve them the word must have a restraining and checking influence.”

The Manner

Paul imparts his teaching, he says, “with all wisdom”.

If there has ever been the need for wisdom in making the gospel known, it is today.

As Paul puts it later in his letter to the Colossians, (Colossians 4:2-6) “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And 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. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

If anyone lacks wisdom, they should ask God for wisdom – for their speaking and living out the gospel.

 

The Motive

Paul’s aim is “so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.”

The Greek word Paul uses here for ‘perfect’ is teleios meaning mature, complete.

Paul is aiming to build mature disciples of Jesus – those who stand firm and assured in their faith.

The Christians at Colosse had been knocked off track by faulty doctrine and Paul was seeking to see them back on the right rails again, heading in the right direction and finding their completeness in Christ.

 

The Means

(v29) “To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.”

Paul struggles, toils, sweats, exerts himself for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of producing mature disciples.

Discipleship requires hard work, effort – both for the one discipling and the one being discipled.

Christian discipleship is a struggle, but it is all worth it.

And it is a struggle, Paul points out, that is guided, empowered, energised, equipped by the Holy Spirit.

Only God working in us can produce people perfect in Christ.

 

Anyone, realising the enormity of the task – its scope, its seriousness, may well consider themselves inadequate for the task of presenting the gospel; and making disciples, but remember the risen Lord Jesus’ last words to his disciples :

(Matthew 28:18-20) “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inthe name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

 

 

Questions to Ponder

From Sun 24th April

Colossians 1:24-29

 

1. The Gospel and Suffering:Take time to think upon the many ways in which Jesus suffered, throughout and at the end of his life. (Isaiah 53). He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) What does this mean for you? (see 1 Peter 2:20-21, 4:1,13, Romans 5:3).

If “The Cross is the natural pattern of the Christian life” then how does this come in conflict with today’s society.

2. The Gospel and Servanthood:In what ways can you follow Christ’s sacrificial servant example? (Matthew 20:28) Whose feet would you find it difficult to wash?“A servant church must have as its priority solidarity with the poor.” – in what ways can we at WBC be a better “servant church”? Are there ways in which you trying to serve both God and money?

3. The Gospel and Stewardship:Paul makes known the mystery of the gospel (see Romans 10:8-15). Are you rejecting or accepting the good news? In what ways might you be keeping the gospel a secret from those around you?

4. The Message:“we proclaim him.” (v28) In what ways might you get to know Jesus Christ better and make him better known in the coming days?

5. The Method:Do you need admonishing or teaching or both and why? Is there anyone who you think does not deserve to know about Jesus? Are you prepared to go to whomever God wants you to go? (1 Peter 3:15)

6. The Manner:“with all wisdom” (see also Colossians 4:2-6). Why not ask God for wisdom in the situations that you face day by day?

7. The Motive:How are you ensuring that you mature in your walk of discipleship? How might you be a part of the maturing of others?

8. The Means:“To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” (v29) (see also Matthew 28:18-20) Bring to God your struggles and look to him for his strength and empowering.


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