July 4 Re-opening


COLOSSIANS 1:13-20, 28-29

I have been looking forward eagerly to the time we could gather here in person for the first time since Thanksgiving or Christmas 2019. And I looked forward to sharing with you, as we walk into what is being called a new beginning. It is rather strange that our new beginning goal seems to be to get back to the situation in 2019. Most new beginnings look forward to being better than before. Yes, the pandemic and its restrictions have definitely skewed our thinking, even our expectations. This is especially true seeing the recent past normal was not good. The church and the Judaeo-Christian truth has been under attack. Let a person known as a Christian have any type of problem and the news media seem to delight in letting everyone know. Church attendance in Canada has been on the decline for some time and the pandemic seems to have speeded up our losses. Getting back to the previous normal is not what the church needs.

The bible is full of new beginnings. Of course, the initial beginning was creation when God made the heavens and the earth and all that populate them. Then after Adam and Eve chose to sin by eating the forbidden fruit, God made a new beginning by slaying an animal and using the skin to cover their shame, which foreshadows the sacrificial atonement defined in the laws of the Old Testament.

There are other new beginnings in the OT including the calling of Abraham and establishing the nation of Israel. And there are many promised new beginnings for the future of Israel and the coming of Messiah. One of these was in the Bible reading in the Daily Bread booklet last Saturday from the prophet Jeremiah which reminds Israel that after the 70 years in Babylonian exile God was going to bless His people once again by answering their prayers. The nation would be sovereign once again. When I read that I thought, we have it bad being locked down for several months, what about 70 years? But God had a new beginning ready for his people.

Of course, the new beginning of all new beginnings was the coming of Jesus into the world he had created to bring us redemption, the forgiveness of our sins. The New Testament tells us that God in all his fullness came and walked on our planet as one of us in every way except that he was without any sin.

This culminated in Jesus’ death on the cross, his resurrection and physical ascension into heaven and the establishment of the church. How is that for a new beginning!

One of the amazing things we are taught in the Scriptures is that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross affected not just the future but the past. Shortly after Jesus’ baptism John declares,  “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” We learn that Jesus’ shed blood, the perfect sacrifice, makes permanent the forgiveness of sins temporarily covered by the blood of animals in the old covenant. What grace and mercy from God is revealed in this fact!

This new beginning is so complete that those who are in Christ Jesus are called “a new creation.” In fact, Paul refers to Jesus as the new Adam, which indicates that our DNA would identify us and all humanity as the children of Adam, but that those who are in Christ are part of a new race, the new humanity, who are spiritually children of God in Christ.

So, who is this man called Jesus? How can all these things be true of a single human being? I am so glad you asked those questions. Let us see how Jesus can be sufficient for all these things as we look at the portion of the book of Colossians that was read for us earlier.

In fact, let us read from verse 9 where Paul tells the Colossians that ever since he had heard of them coming to faith in Jesus through the ministry of Epaphras he has not ceased to pray for them. There follows one of the most powerful of scriptural prayers.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you  may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

How well is this prayer being answered in our lives today?

And this prayer is just Paul’s lead up to the next section which, depending on your version of the Bible, will be headed either the sufficiency of Christ, supremacy of Christ, the incomparable Christ, or the pre-eminence of Christ. Now the titles are given by the translators to let us know what the next paragraphs are about. Whatever heading your Bible may have, you must be aware that there is just no other person who compares to Christ Jesus. He is above all other men. Period!

The first thing in the new beginning brought about by the coming of Jesus is that we have been redeemed, transferred from Satan’s domain and are members of God’s forever family. He has made us new creatures and our sins are forgiven and we have a new nature. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.

Jesus can do this because he is God, the image of the invisible God. John chapter 1 makes it clear, as does verse 16 here in Colossians 1, that Jesus was before creation and is the creator God along with His Father and the Holy Spirit. Just to be clear we are assured in Colossians 1:17 that Jesus is before all things, and he holds all things together.

So, for the world, Jesus is creator. And for each one of us he is our redeemer or saviour. The one who delivers us from our sinful state and makes us a new creation as sons and daughters of the living God. He does this by his death and resurrection and his complete victory over sin and death. He can do this because of who he is.

In verse 18 we learn that for the Church, which is his body, He is the head. We do not need much explanation to understand what the relationship of our heads are in relation to our bodies. The head is leader and governs all that the body does in a healthy body.

So, once we are saved or redeemed or set free from sin and established in the family of God or His body, the church, Jesus is still at work in bringing us to maturity and a righteous life. God begins the work of sanctification – a big word that means making us holy – at our new birth but he has much more for us as we live in our new relationship to him and each other.

In verse 19 we find that the Father is at work through the Son to reconcile all things to himself, making this effective work of peace by the blood on Jesus’ cross. Verse 21 makes it clear that though we were not reconciled to God we now are reconciled – that is we are at peace with God – so that Jesus might present us to his Father as people who are holy and blameless and above reproach. Just as our parents want what is best for us, so our Saviour wants us to be the best we can be as he presents us to the Father. This is God’s will for us, the Saviour’s plan for us. We are called to be holy. To be right and to do what is right before God. How are we doing? Are we pressing forward and praying for each other to be all that God has in mind for us? Are we walking forward with God in power and holiness? That is our call. And because of who Jesus is and is revealed in these verses, He can make us holy if we cooperate with him.

Much more could be said about the holiness God wants for us. In fact, much of the NT is focused on our personal growth in holiness. But just let me say that we need to love and obey the Word of God, spend time with God in prayer and work with each other to move towards holiness, doing what is right and being right in our hearts. We must allow the Holy Spirit of God who dwells within us to have his way in who we are and how we live. And remember he is holy.

But I do want to remind you that one reason all this is important is because there is yet a new beginning ahead. One of these days Jesus is going to appear in the clouds of the sky and call his people to join him in the air and all who are his will be with him forever. This short sentence involves a lot of hope and blessing, lots of fears and losses. But in the bible, this is called the “Blessed Hope of the Church.”

Jesus is going to return, and we need to be ready. Jesus tells us to watch for that day. No one knows the day or the hour that Jesus will return but we need to be living holy lives when it takes place. All the events of the last times are set in place and while there is some disagreement among biblical scholars as to the sequence of events, all bible believers know each event will indeed take place and we will spend eternity with God if our names are written in the Son’s book of life. Have you received Jesus as your saviour and living for Him? If so, your name is there. We need to live holy lives to be ready for Jesus’ return.

And if you do not believe in Jesus as your redeemer from sin, then in all love I need to tell you the bad news. Everyone who does not belong to Jesus will spend eternity in conscious punishment. None of us likes this truth of hell but it must be told.

Like I said, the bible is full of ‘new beginnings’ and each one is a blessing from God. And the promise of this new beginning in Jesus can be yours today.

So, if you have not joined God’s family by believing in Jesus then please do, it is the only way to truly benefit from all the blessings that God has provided for his people.

And are you committed to a life of holiness? If not, then I would encourage you to make that commitment to your loving heavenly Father. Enjoy the fullness of all God has for you as a living sacrifice to Him.

Romans 12:2 says, Stop being conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.

You know, if Jesus is worth following at all, He is worth following completely, and living a life of holy obedience and joy. And we all need to let others know that this new beginning is for everyone. Share the gospel. Above all, fall in love with Jesus all over again.

Ron MacKinnon

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