Good morning, everyone! I hope you already are pumped to be gathering with the body, and happy to worship God for who He is and what He has done, even after yesterday’s Chiefs game. I didn’t actually watch it, but I heard it was rather frustrating. We’ll just move on from that subject.
But because we have a good number of guests coming from week to week, I want to give just a tid-bit of who we are at the beginning of the message each week, starting today. The first part of our DNA as a church: We are Gospel-Driven. Let me read why we’re Gospel-Driven. This is from our Raintree 101 class:
“The Gospel is the gloriously great announcement of what God has done through the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to satisfy His own wrath and to secure forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life for all who repent and trust in Christ alone for salvation. Therefore, the gospel is not what God requires. The Gospel is what God provides. The Gospel is not about human action, it’s about divine achievement. The gospel is not a moralistic “Do!.” The gospel is a merciful “Done!” The Gospel isn’t good advice – it’s good news. We at Raintree Community Church want the gospel of Christ to inform and empower all that we do to the glory of God.” Powerfully written by Pastor Kenny and others in the last few years. So, if you’re a guest, that’s a little of who we are. In everything we do, we are Gospel-driven.
Some of you found the statistics I shared last week about Americans and biblical knowledge rather interesting, so I thought I’d give you a few more statistics this morning. According to a Barna poll conducted last year, 92% of Americans believe that Jesus Christ was a real person who actually lived. 92%. That might feel like good news to some of you, until you think about the fact that Jesus has had more impact on the human race than any other person who has ever lived, and yet 8% of Americans think he never even existed. Here’s another: 62% of Americans say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their lives today. 62%. The interesting part about this is that only 56% of Americans believe that Jesus was God, and only 31% believe that Jesus never sinned. So 62% of Americans say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus, but only 31% of Americans believe Jesus never sinned.
Obviously, there is much confusion in the world as to who, exactly, Jesus was and who He is. Most of this confusion is due to a lack of belief in the Word of God, because the Bible paints a very clear picture of Jesus’ identity, especially in the passage we’re looking at today. Most of us understand, though, that the world doesn’t know who Jesus is, because the world doesn’ have God’s Word as their source of truth. But I want to suggest something for us, for those of us who are born-again Christians, for those of us who DO claim to believe the Bible is Truth: we too can have a skewed view of who Jesus is.
It’s easy for us, even as Christians, to paint Jesus the way we want Him to be, as opposed to the way He actually is. “I kind-of like to think of Jesus as a sweet grandfather just rooting me on from Heaven.” Or “I like to think of Jesus as someone who really wants me to never give up.” These thoughts may not be wrong, but instead of thinking of Jesus in terms of what we would like Him to be, shouldn’t we simply ask, Who is the historical Jesus? And what were HIS goals and ambitions?
You know, our sin can suppress truth and twist how we see the world. Not only that, but the enemy can obscure our view of Jesus’ identity, and he desires nothing more than for people to see Jesus as different than He really is. It’s supremely important for us to look not to what we want Him to be, or what works for us, but instead look to the Scriptures to see who Jesus really is: Jesus is the supreme God of the universe who, when seen and treasured as He really is, brings great purpose and glory to the life of the Christian. This is what we’re going to see this morning from Colossians 1- When we see and treasure Jesus as He really is, His identity will have more bearing on our lives than we can even begin to fathom.
Turn with me to Colossians 1. It’s fitting that after last week and talking through the importance of the Word for knowing God better, that we come to a passage in the Bible that is the clearest presentation of the identity of Jesus Christ of any passage in Scripture. Let’s read it: Colossians 1, starting in vs. 15.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.
This morning we’re summing up Jesus’ identity into three titles from this text. Throughout and at the end of our time, we’ll see how an accurate understanding of who Jesus really is can drastically impact our lives. Who is Jesus? First,
- Jesus is God (vv. 15a, 19).
Vs. 15, He is the image of the invisible God. He’s the exact image of God. Not, partially, or mostly, but FULLY God. Vs. 19 also says it very clearly, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” He is absolutely, 100% God.
Now the reason Paul was hitting this truth so hard, and the reason he spends like the first three chapters of Colossians hitting this truth over and over is because this was the main reason Epaphras had come to him in the first place. If you remember, Epaphras was most likely the founder of the Colossian church, and because of several issues, he travelled 1000 miles to Rome where Paul was imprisoned to get some advice on what’s happening in Colossae. That’s why this letter was written.
Heresy had creeped its way in. Heresy, in case you don’t know what that is, is untrue doctrine. This untrue system of belief was multi-faceted, but basically it denied that Jesus was actually God. Greek philosophical dualism had creeped its way in. This dualism claimed that all matter, anything physical, was bad. So basically, the world is bad. Everything physical is just bad, and spirit is good. And because God is spirit, which is good, he couldn’t have created the world, which is matter, therefore is bad.
So, according to this belief system, God began sending out spirits from himself, emanations, angels, reflections maybe, kind-of like ripples in a pond. These emanations were not God, but they had parts of God’s character within them. The first spirits were good, and then billions and billions of spirits later they started getting bad, and eventually one of them was bad enough to create the earth. Now Jesus was one of the good emanations, which meant that he was not God, though he may have had a few Godly traits, and also it meant that he didn’t create the world, because matter was bad and a good spirit couldn’t create something so bad.
Now stay with me, because this isn’t as far from us as you might think. Because Jesus was a good emanation, but not God Himself, according to this belief system, Jesus himself was not enough for salvation. He’s just one of these spirits or emanations. We have to worship all of them and we have to do other things, like have this extra spiritual knowledge that only comes supernaturally. Something called Gnosticism was mixed in there, or at least what later became known as Gnosticism. But you get the idea- there were some pretty messed up views of who Jesus was.
So far, you may be wondering, how did the Colossians end up so far off of the truth? Well, let me tell you why: they began to let their culture define truth for them. You may think this all sounds crazy, but I think we may be surprised at how much we let culture determine how we think about Jesus! No matter how much we teach and discuss and worship Jesus Christ as our substitute who fully paid the price that we could not pay, we STILL sometimes think of Jesus primarily as someone who shows us how to live and be good people so that we get to go to heaven. It’s like we think Jesus dying on the cross gets us started, but then we have to be good enough to really earn it. There is, no doubt, a certain way that a born-again Christian lives, but thinking that Jesus is PART of our salvation, and being a good person finishes us up in getting into heaven is just as heretical as thinking that Jesus is just some spirit from God among billions of others, who can’t alone get us to heaven. We must let the Bible determine how we see Christ, not our culture, not even mainstream Christian culture.
Jesus is God, the image of the invisible God, the invisible made visible. And he didn’t just have a few Godly traits– all of God’s fullness dwelled in Him! He wasn’t just some spirit or angel, among many that needed to be worshipped. He was and is God Himself. Paul made this clear, but we can’t forget that even Jesus made this clear multiples throughout the Gospels (Jn 10:30; 14:9). Jesus is God. The second answer this morning to the question, Who is Jesus?…
- Jesus is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe (vs. 16-17).
Let’s look at Creator first. Vs. 16- “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through him and for him.”
Paul, again, completely refutes this idea that Jesus was just one of the angels or spirits that came from God. Jesus made everything, so it wasn’t one of the worst spirits down the line that was bad enough to create the earth. In fact, he wasn’t some angel or emanation, because He Himself created angels! From the middle of this verse, “thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities,” those are ranks of angels. Not only is Jesus not an angel, but He Himself created all angels!
Now you and I may not have too much trouble believing that Jesus created everything. Maybe you do, maybe you have trouble with this; Either way, I want to challenge us to really dwell on this truth that Jesus created everything! Sometimes we think way too little of Jesus. In fact, I’d say often we think too little of Jesus. So to put us in awe for a moment, let me give you some math I did this week. I’ve heard this before, but I wanted to check the math this week, and I’m glad I did, because it was actually a little off.
Our Solar system includes our sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. The Solar System is 7.44 billion miles in length just from the Sun to pluto, not including when planets are on both sides of the sun. If we bring our solar system down in size to about 15 miles across, you want to know how big the earth would be: 1 inch in diameter. Again, if we brought the solar system down to being as long as the distance from this church to the heart of Raytown, the earth would only be 1 inch in diameter. Quite remarkable, right? Check this, though. If we were to bring our entire Milky Way galaxy, which is 100,000 lightyears in diameter, all the way down to about 15 miles in diameter, guess how big our entire solar system, the 7.44 billion mile solar system would be? It’d be completely invisible. It would be about 1/100th of an inch in diameter. We couldn’t see it. And do you know how many galaxies like our Milky Way galaxy there are? We don’t know. Experts say at least 100s of millions, if not billions of galaxies in our universe.
Jesus created all of that. Jesus was the agent of creation. This is who our God is. Romans 1:20- “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” He’s the Creator, but what else is He? He’s the Sustainer. Now this may be something you’ve never really thought about thoroughly.
Look at vs. 17- “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” He is the reason for every balance or consistency in the universe. He literally holds it all together. He is the One who keeps planets in orbit. He is currently sustaining gravity, and all massive galaxies and stars and planets. But he is also currently sustaining every single atom and particle that make up matter.
Every solid, liquid, gas, or plasma is composed of atoms. The average person has how many atoms. 7 billion billion billion. In other words, 7 with 27 0s behind it. That’s how many atoms in our bodies. But even each atom can break down into particles– protons, neutrons, and electrons. Jesus currently sustains every particle and point in the entire universe. The reason this stool stays as it is is because Jesus is currently sustaining every single atom and particle that make it up. This may sound weird, but the reason this doesn’t suddenly change into a squirrel is not because that’s just crazy, Ryan. It’s because Jesus is currently preserving every particle in this stool and keeping it as it is, as opposed to changing it into the particles that make up a squirrel. I don’t know why I chose squirrel as the example, but there ya go.
Here’s the question, with all of this: Do we not often think of Jesus only in terms of how he might help with my problems? Do we not sometimes or often think too small of Him? Or really, do we not think of him at all? Has mainstream Christianity lost a real, biblical view of Jesus in all of his glory!? Our narcissism causes us to think of Jesus only in terms of what I want. Even with churches, all we care about in looking for a church is what it offers me or my family, what I can get out of it. I can’t help but think we’ve made Jesus into this little action figure hero that we pull out of our pocket when we face problems so that he can get rid of all of those pesky problems. Is that who Jesus is? Or, we’ve made him into the ultimate soccer-mom, who’s purpose is to root us on from the sideline and fix our boo-boos if we get hurt. Is this all Jesus is? No.
Jesus’ very existence is not for our whims and pleasures! He doesn’t want us to use Him for what we want and think of him only in terms of our goals or desires. In fact, at the very heart of Christianity is self-denial. But not self-denial for the sake of self-denial. We don’t just punish ourselves or deny that we matter, by any means! What do we do? We LOSE ourselves in the beauty and majesty and glory of who Jesus is. Have you lost yourself in light of glory of Jesus? Do you see Him as God, and as the Creator and Sustainer or ALL things!? Or, in your mind, does He exist simply to fill some small part of your life that wasn’t quite fulfilled, and that’s really all the bearing you want Him to have on your life right now? Look, please hear me:
Jesus does fill an incredible void. He does bring great joy, indescribable joy, but not the Jesus we’ve made up in our minds! Only the true historical Jesus of the Bible will bring real purpose and joy to the life of the of Christian. Don’t be fooled into finding false hope in a fake Jesus. Find real hope; see Him as He really is! Trust in the real Jesus. This brings us to the third answer to the question, Who is this real Jesus?
- Jesus is the supreme King (vs. 18, 15b, 17a).
Vs. 18- “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent (or supreme, or he might have first place). So how is He the Supreme King?
- Firstborn: He’s the firstborn, we see that twice. Vs. 15, “the firstborn of all creation”, and vs. 18, “the firstborn from the dead.” Now that doesn’t at all mean that Jesus was born. Firstborn refers primarily to rank in the family. Obviously, most often the first-born son was the heir, but it wasn’t always the actual “first-born” who was considered the firstborn. For example, Jacob and Esau- Esau was born first, but Jacob was the “firstborn” and received the inheritance. So the point here is that Jesus ranks higher in importance and supremacy and glory than anyone who is a part of creation, including angels, and also he ranks higher than anyone else who was raised form the dead—the firstborn from among the dead. Jesus, being the firstborn, is the one with the right to inherit all of creation.
- Head of the Body: He’s the supreme head of the Church. This goes along with the “body” metaphor for the church. If the church is the body, then Christ is the head, meaning He gives life and direction for the church.
- Beginning: Also in Vs. 18, He is the “beginning”, the word meaning source and center. The church has its source of life and its origins in Jesus Christ. Long before we chose Him, he, according to Eph. 1:4, “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” Jesus is not an angel. He’s not just a good moral teacher. He’s not only part of our salvation. He’s the very source of our salvation! He is enough. He’s more than enough.
He is before all things, the supreme King, more important and central and authoritative and glorious and beautiful than all other things. He is God, He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and He is the Supreme King, that “in everything, he might be preeminent, he might have first place, he might be supreme.”
So here’s the question. Do you see Jesus as he really is? Do you treasure the historical Jesus of the Bible? Or have you created a Jesus in your mind that doesn’t actually exist? The real Jesus, as he’s presented in Scripture isn’t just an action figure superhero who’s main purpose is to fix our problems. He isn’t some sort of supernatural soccer-mom who, from the sidelines, just roots us on in our own ambitions and goals for life. He has His own great purpose for the universe. There’s no greater purpose for which to live than to join Jesus, the supreme King, in His plans and His ambitions. There’s no greater joy and meaning for the life of the Christian than in Him.
When I was in high school, the main thing I wanted was to become a famous trumpet player. That was my ambition. I practiced hours and hours every single day. Maybe you had some sort of ambition like this, maybe you have one right now. There’s nothing wrong with goals and even ambitions, but the question is, are you captivated most, consumed by the greatest ambition in the universe? Are you consumed with a desire to join God is seeing Him glorified in all things?
The height of earthly glory in our minds might be the Super Bowl, or the World Series, or fame, or riches, or power. But the implications of Colossians 1, what we’ve studied today, echoes the sentiment behind 2 Corinthians 3:11, which says, “For if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts.” The glory of the real Jesus, the historical Jesus of the Bible, will never fade. Don’t settle for a lesser Jesus than the real Jesus. Don’t find false hope in a fake Jesus. See Him as He is, treasure Him as He is, and find the greatest purpose and joy that you can possibly have in Him. Let’s pray.