Worship Theme: Jesus Appears as the Lamb of God
Sermon Theme: Fullness
A faith – a life – that is rooted in Christ and built up in him…one that is strengthened in Jesus and connected to him – that’s a life that is full. Paul penned his passionate plea in Colossians 2:6-15 about “Fullness.” January 15, 2023.
He wanted it more than anything. It was a passionate desire of his, but it was in question! There was a hindrance. There was a threat. Paul wanted to see the Christians in the city of Colossae to be full – full of grace, full of hope, full of truth. But there was a threat to Paul’s desires coming true. That threat was a false teaching that were being spread in their midst.
Paul was under house arrest in Rome while he awaited his trial before Caesar. There was a guard posted there, but he was allowed to receive visitors, visitors like Epaphras, who lived in Colossae. Epaphras traveled to Rome to visit Paul and to give his report to him about what was going on in that city that they both loved. Epaphras founded the church there Colossae 4 or 5 years prior and he cared deeply about its people, as did Paul. That’s why Epaphras made the 1300-mile journey to get to Rome and that’s why Paul offered his encouragement to Epaphras and it’s why he put his pen to the scroll to write them a letter – an attempt to build those young Christians up and to reinforce for them the truth of the gospel. He wrote to them his letter of love– the one we call Colossians.
And it’s a portion of that letter that is our Second Reading and the basis of our sermon today. We begin in Chapter two, verse six. There Paul implores the Colossians: So then, just as you received 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.
The key to success for a tree is the roots. If a tree doesn’t have a solid root system, it’s not going to last very long. A tree with weak roots is a weak tree. Either the wind will come and knock it over or drought will choke it out. If a tree is going to grow up, it must first grow down, sending solid roots into the ground.
Paul says that faith is the same way. Before you can do anything with your faith, before it grows up to be seen and experienced by others, it has to be rooted – it has to tap into Christ as the life source and gain its nourishment from him. Then, and only then can it be built up and strengthened.
A faith – a life – that is rooted in Christ and built up in him…one that is strengthened in Jesus and connected to him – that’s a life that is full. And it’s from that full life that thankfulness overflows. Without being full of Christ and his love and his promises, you can’t overflow with thanksgiving. Without being full of Christ, you can’t produce faith. Without being full of Christ, your faith can’t grow!
And that’s why Paul penned his passionate plea. That’s why he wrote this heartfelt letter. He wanted the Colossians to be full – full and overflowing!! See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
The world and what it has to offer is hollow! The lies of the devil are baseless. His promises are empty. Yet they are so easy to listen to nonetheless. The call to be like those around us is a compelling call - “just act like everyone else, don’t stick out. Don’t speak up, sit down!” The temptations toward works righteousness are appealing to our sinful nature! “Certainly, you’ve got to do something to show God that you are good! Sure, there’s his love, but God must wait to see what you are going to do with it!” The desire to indulge in the pleasures of this world and to experience “joy” as the world defines it – it’s appealing at first, but we find out soon how hollow those promises really are. We like to be independent and “be our own people” but when that means closing our ears to God and his will and his Word, that leaves us hollow! And worse. It leaves us at odds with our God and against him. It leaves us worse than empty. It leaves us in a place where we should be filled with the anger and rage of our God. For listening to the hollow promises that the world has to offer – for ignoring God and going our own way, we should be filled with every ounce of God’s wrath and punishment.
But Jesus came to fill us with something else – his forgiving love. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. The one who was fully God became a man for us. What an incredible Savior is ours - fully God and fully man! Who can fathom what our God has planned and carried out for us! The one who was full and could not be made fuller, came to fill us with his love. He filled us by emptying himself. He filled us by humbly taking on the nature of a servant. He filled us by filling our shoes and living life in our place. He filled us by becoming our substitute. He lived under the law of God and perfectly satisfied its every demand. And then he gave us credit for his full and perfect life. Instead, humble and empty, he carried our sins and bore their consequences. He was despised and rejected by God. He bore the beatings and shed the blood that should have been ours. The one who is God himself, was rejected by God and sentenced to die. Jesus bore the awful consequences for our sins so that we could be brought to fullness. 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.
The charge of our legal indebtedness is an interesting concept that Paul brings up here. The word behind that translation is really a word that means “the hand-writing.” It is referring to a piece of paper, written by hand, that binds us to an agreement. In this context, the paper would be the agreement that we will obey the law of God and the understanding and responsibility to pay with our lives the debt that we will owe if we are not able to hold up our end of the bargain. That means that the note in your hand and the one in mine read the same way. Guilty! Sinner! Condemned! We can read it if we want to but we know what it says. “I deserve to die!” “I deserve hell!”
But Jesus scribbled out that paper with a word of his own! “Forgiven!” “Paid in Full!” “It is Finished.” Jesus took your debt sheet and mine and he nailed them to the cross. And now the charge is canceled. And now the debt is gone. Paul says: He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. In (Jesus) 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, having been 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.
In the Old Testament, God commended that every male born to a Jewish family be circumcised. This was the mark of God’s covenant with them and the reminder that they were his people. God’s people were connected to him through that special act. We, New Testament believers, are connected to Jesus as well - with a circumcision not performed by human hands. We are connected to Christ in our baptism. In baptism our sins are forgiven, we are washed clean and our new hearts are filled with the Holy Spirit. Baptism is the drowning and burying of our sinful nature and yet at the same time it is our resurrection to new life with Jesus. In Baptism, we are filled with forgiveness and peace.
And now, Paul’s desire for the Christians in Colossae –it’s also my desire for you. So then, just as you received 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.
Baptized into Christ and full of the Spirit, now we can live our lives for God. We are full of meaning and purpose and value in God’s sight. We are full of the love that Jesus showed to us and the love that we now have the privilege to share with others. On our own, we are empty – but in Christ, we are full. Our lives here on earth are full of grace and every blessing and we know that our futures are full as well – full of peace and hope and joy because our God has secured our place in heaven with him! Here we have joy in knowing our God. There it will be joy in fullest measure! All this is ours because our God was full of love and because in Christ (we) have been brought to fullness. Amen.
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