Guinness world record setters? Desire in each of us to have a life that matters, a life with some significance. To feel like somebody important. Some people express that desire in very creative ways. As we continue our Colossians series today, we will see that you can have a life with eternal weight; eternal significance; eternal impact, right where your life is today. In these circumstances; in these situations; in these struggles – your life can fulfill its ultimate purpose.
READ Col. 1:13-23
“HE IS ALSO THE HEAD OF THE BODY, THE CHURCH”
We could spend a series of messages looking at this picture of the church as “the body.” But let me just suggest quickly 4 ways that this body picture or metaphor helps us:
1. To help us understand Christ’s work here on earth
· One of the purposes for this metaphor is to remind us that Christ’s physical body is not here any longer. He has ascended to heaven. When he was on earth he preached the gospel, he held the children. Now he has a different way of operating – He uses people. Though certainly he was using people then.
· Look at Romans 10:14-15 “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? How will they hear unless God tells them? [THAT’S NOT WHAT IT SAYS!] How will they hear without a preacher, a proclaimer? How will they proclaim unless they are sent?” Does God just tell people the gospel? No – He sends people to proclaim it to them! And He uses other people to send those proclaimers. Christ is doing His work on earth today through people -–Christ's body here on earth.
2. To help us understand our relationships with each other in the church
I think that when Paul uses the word “church” here he is referring to all saved people in this age. But the New Testament uses this same picture to refer to local churches. Each local church is a small representation of the larger church; each local church is in a sense its own body. SO this teaches us some things about this group of believers in this church:
(I Cor. 12)
- We are not all the same - and that is a good thing (what if the whole body were an eye?)
- No parts are unimportant (there may be parts that seem less honorable, but they are just as important as the others) [i.e., feet]
- You are parts of the same body, there should not be any contention but a loving care for one another [what if body parts went on strike from one another?]
The New Testament uses this picture of a body to teach us how to relate to one another in the church.
3. To help us learn about our relationship with Christ
- COL. 1:18 “Christ is the head of the body, the church”
Without a head, a body can’t:
In the same way we are totally dependent on our head, Christ. We desperately need His Word. The Word allows us to see what is going on around us correctly; it allows us to hear what God wants for us; it gives us the food that we need; it makes decisions and gives us wisdom and direction. We desperately need His grace. We need His wisdom.
b. Pay attention! pay very close attention, and do whatever He wants; immediately; exactly; gladly. What happens if you tell your hands to move, and they say “I’d rather wait a little while”? You would get pretty frustrated! What if they said “No!”? Many times Christ, the head, says to us, the body “Do this.” And we say “I’d rather wait” or “I don’t want to.”
4. In Col. 1 - to illustrate the complete supremacy of Christ
“HE IS THE BEGINNING, THE FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD”
Again (as in 1:15) we see a not quite literal use of the word “born.” It is an idiom, or a poetic way of saying “resurrected.” When you are born the first time, what do you get? (a body) When you are born from the dead, what do you get? (a new glorified, resurrection body) What would it mean to say that Jesus is the “firstborn from the dead”? (The first person to be resurrected from death into a new glorious body) And who is going to come after him? (all of us; all whose sins have been forgiven through faith in his death on the cross will get a new, glorified body when they are resurrected from the dead)
I Cor. 15:42-44
· this is another poetic way of saying the same thing. In Col. 1 He is called first one born from the dead. Now He is called the “first fruits of those who are asleep.” That earliest fruit to get ripe lets you know that there will be lots more coming. Christ’s resurrection from death to a brand new immortal body lets you know that there will be many more coming.
· When He returns we will get a spiritual body. Christ was the first fruits of that resurrection we will experience; he was the firstborn from the dead.
“SO THAT HE HIMSELF MIGHT COME TO HAVE FIRST PLACE IN EVERYTHING”
Both of these things are ways that God is showing off His glory by exalting Christ over everything else. As a matter of fact all of these things in verses 13-18 are ways that God is showing off His glory by exalting Christ to a place of complete supremacy. We are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Christ, that Christ might have complete supremacy. We have redemption and forgiveness in Christ, that He might have complete supremacy. He is the exact representation of God – He is God, and so He gets full supremacy. He created and sustains all things, so He gets first place in everything. He is the head of the church, and the firstborn from the dead, and so he gets first place. God gets ultimate glory through Christ when He has complete supremacy, first place in everything.
All of those things show Christ’s supremacy; show that He has first place. But there is something else in Colossians 1 that should show Christ’s complete supremacy – you. God is doing something else in the world today – he is making you holy and blameless and beyond reproach. In other words, He is making you like Christ. And he is doing this ultimately to glorify Himself by exalting Christ in yet another way in your life today.
READ vv.19-23, 28-29
This is parallel to Romans 8:29 – He predestined us to become conformed to the image of his Christ, that Christ might be the firstborn – first in rank – among many brethren.
In the work of Christ-likeness that God is going in your life right now, He is exalting Christ. Your daily submission to the Word - daily submission to the work of Christlikeness in your life – is directly connected to the glory of God in Christ.
Every decision you make that says “Yes, Christ is everything to me. Yes, I trust Him completely. Yes, I obey Him.” Every decision like that is praise and worship to the glory of God. It exalts Christ, because it shows that He has supremacy in your life.
This means that every day is a day of worship. Every temptation is a moment or opportunity for the glory of God. Even the mundane things of everyday life are wide open doors of opportunity for each of us to fulfill our ultimate purpose as human beings and bring glory to God through Christ.
Sometimes we get frustrated because we may not have the service opportunities we want. We may have made some plans about what we were going to do for God, and they didn’t pan out. Circumstances seem to be frustrating our service. And we can completely miss the fact that our greatest worship doesn’t come in our great acts of service; it doesn’t come in the Sunday morning service. Our greatest worship comes in life’s mundane circumstances; it comes in daily temptations; it comes in places and times when we are all alone and no one but God knows what goes on. In those moments our Christlikeness and obedience and submission are like trumpets that proclaim before the throne of God “Christ is supreme. Christ is most important. Christ is everything!”
And when that happens you are fulfilling your purpose for existence – you are glorifying God.
O BE NOT MERE SHADOWS, ECHOES AND RESIDUE
By John Piper
“We are not God. So by comparison to ultimate, absolute Reality, we are not much. Nevertheless, because he made us with the highest purpose a creature could have - to enjoy and display the Creator's glory - we may have a very substantial life that lasts forever. This is why we were made (Colossians 1:16). This is why we eat and drink (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is why we pray (John 14:13). This is why we do all good deeds (Matthew 5:16).
That is why we exist - to display the glory of God. Human life is all about God. That is the meaning of being human. It is our created nature to make much of God. It is our glory to worship the glory of God. When we fulfil this reason for being, we have substance. There is weight and significance in our existence.
Not to fulfil this purpose for human existence is to be a mere shadow of the substance we were created to have – [it] is to be a mere echo of the music we were created to make. It is to be a mere residue of the impact we were created to have.
This is a great tragedy. Humans are not made to be mere shadows and echoes and residues. We were made to have God-like substance and make God-like music and have God-like impact. That is what it means to be created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). But when humans forsake their Maker and love other things more, they become like the things they love - small, insignificant, weightless, inconsequential (because they are not glorifying God).
This is a shadow existence. It is an echo and residue of what you were meant to be. (You are) an empty mime on the stage of history with much movement and no meaning.
Do not be shadows and echoes and residue. Break free from the epidemic of the manward spirit of our age. Set your face like flint to see and know and enjoy and live in the light of the Lord.”
See how that works? Your life can be just a shadow, an echo of what you were created to be – or your life can have eternally significant substance and impact. It isn’t dependent on whether you are a great missionary who opens up a closed country to the gospel. It isn’t dependent on whether you are the greatest Bible student ever. It isn’t dependent on whether you can stand up in front of crowds and preach eloquently. Whether your life has eternally significant substance and impact and weight is dependent upon the work of Christlikeness in your life today and tomorrow! It depends on your submission to Christ as He works to make you like Him.
Monday morning. Time to go to work. Another day of temptations I don’t want to face, battles I don’t want to fight. Another day of bombardment by the world, discouragement in my soul, and more spiritual failures. I just wish I could do something for the Lord instead of just laboring through these mundane daily battles. When you have those thoughts, don’t forget that in those mundane daily battles lies the opportunity for you to fulfill the very purpose for your existence – for your life to have eternally significant impact because your life is becoming more like Christ, and so God is receiving glory from your life.
As impressive as it is to attach 153 clothes pins to your face, you were not created by the God of the universe to make it into the Guinness book of world records. You were not created to make a million dollars. You were not created to win awards and championships. You were created with a much more significant purpose. To show off the glory of God. Our lives have eternal weight and significance when we get serious and submissive about the work of Christlikeness that God is doing in our lives.
We have seen many things in Colossians 1 that point to the absolute supremacy of Christ. But one of those things is going on in your life right now. It is the work of Christlikeness. While it is only going to happen perfectly when you are glorified, He is doing it now. That’s why the mission of Grace Bible Church is to make faithful followers of Christ. Faithful followers of Christ have meaning; their lives have impact; they have eternal significance for the glory of God.