Read Colossians 1:15-29
I enjoy a movie that has mystery with a few twists. Just when I think I have it figured out, I discover that I’m wrong. Then I pick up on something else and again am led to a wrong conclusion. The script writer and movie producers that do this well keep you riveted to the screen. They reveal just enough to get your mind churning, but never enough to give away the ending.
It has been over 40 years since I played the game of Clue. It is a game of elimination. By asking a series of questions you try to solve a murder mystery. In the end, someone guesses that Professor Plum did it with a lead pipe in the library, only to be proven wrong and disqualified. Then someone guesses Colonel Mustard with the candlestick in the study and wins.
The rules have grown fuzzy now and I doubt that I shall allocate any of my remaining time on this planet to their review, but the goal was to figure out who did what to whom and with what and where and surely some other important factors that I have since forgotten.
We often do this with what we believe. We want to know who’s who and where they fit into the grand scheme of things. Angels and demons have surely been around for a while. Humankind has been around a shorter time. The universe and all that is within it seems to be incredibly old.
For all of those folks that like to say the universe is expanding, I have to ask: “What exactly is it expanding into?”
We like order.
We like hierarchy.
We like predictability and certainty.
We like structure and organization and to know exactly how everything fits together. That is unless you are putting together a swingset. Then we just want to buy it assembled.
But in our lives, in our world, in this universe, there is still some mystery. In our efforts to understand God, there is still much mystery.
We know God is holy, righteous, just, merciful, and he spoke creation into existence. How long those first days were is a matter for some interesting discussion, but the fact that God is creator, law-giver, and judge is easy enough to comprehend. We expect those things.
But over the course of time as we know time, God has moved more and more from the area of mystery to that of revelation. His greatest revelation is that of love.
God is love.
God loves us with an everlasting love.
God sent love into the world so that we may live.
God has called us to love one another.
But just who is this God? What does he look like? How can we get to know him?
What makes him different from the gods of legend and myth that just do what they want for their own amusement?
We speak of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three entities and then we speak of them as one person. Sometimes the more that is revealed to us, the more mysterious this whole God business seems to get.
Paul, in writing to a church that he did not plant, does his best to put some perspective on this matter. Now Paul is often wordy and sometimes arrives at his conclusions via some very circuitous routes; but in this letter he is very straight forward.
He says, let’s talk about Jesus. He is the image of the invisible God. In the Greek, his is the Eikon of the invisible God. In our digital age, we understand the term, “Icon.”
W’s, and X’s, and A’s on our computer screen tell us that we are working with Word or Excel or Adobe. That swoosh shaped check mark tells us that it’s a Nike product. A red “N” on a white helmet tells us that the Cornhuskers are on the football field again. Here’s a revelation to go with that icon. Do you know what the “N” on the helmet stands for?
That’s right. It stands for Knowledge.
Paul’s first point as he writes to this church in Asia Minor is that Jesus is how we can see God. He is the Eikon of the invisible God. When we see Jesus, we see God.
It’s amazing that we don’t think it’s amazing that Jesus looks like a Northern European or American with a good tan. His hair style is from the 1960’s. That’s what he looks like in most of the pictures that I have seen.
Really, shouldn’t his hair be a little darker with some curls and his nose a little bigger? Shouldn’t he be balding on the top of his head?
Jesus didn’t post his picture on Facebook, have a self-portrait done, or leave behind a family photo album; but he is the image of the invisible God. But somehow we don’t have an image of the image of the invisible God. Or do we?
The image he left behind was one of love, obedience to his father, forgiveness, of arms stretched out calling us to come to him all who are heavy laden, and of arms outstretched on the instrument of his death.
The image of the invisible God is an image of a life lived for us.
Jesus is the Firstborn over all creation. That is not to say that just before God created Adam, he created Jesus. No, it is to say that Jesus ranks first in the universe. Jesus reigns supreme.
Jesus is the creator. Paul, like John, reminds us that all things were made through Jesus. In Genesis, we read the words, “Let us make man in our own image.”
The God-head is at work. Many want to attribute the creation to God the Father, but we have recurring references that Jesus was there and was creating. Nowhere do we read that God the Father was the exclusive creator or that all the work was done by one part of the trinity to the exclusion of the others. John’s gospel tells us that everything that exists was made through him, but God has this mysterious quality about working in unity with every aspect of himself.
God in three persons is not a psychiatric diagnosis. There is no schizophrenia here, for our three-in-one God is a God of harmony.
By him and through him, everything in creation was made. Look around. Nothing that was made got here any other way. It might say, Made in China, on the label; but Jesus brought all things into existence that let someone in China make that item.
Does that mean that God the Father and the Holy Spirit had to take a back seat?
No. It means that Jesus is God. He is creator and he also came in the flesh to live among men.
And because he made all things, he existed before all things. Remember how Jesus rebuked the self-righteous religious leaders in John’s gospel. He said, “Before Abraham was, I am.”
Now we often refer to God as God the Father and God the Son and God the Spirit, but in our relationship with God, it is Jesus who takes first place.
It may have been the Spirit that hovered over the formless earth a long time ago, but it is Jesus who brings us to right relationship with God.
Jesus is our sustainer. He holds the fabric of the universe together. Creation was not a fire and forget experiment. Jesus sustains us in a troubled and chaotic world—a world that he overcame.
He is the head of the church. He has no denominations or boundaries. Jesus is head of the church. We are the church.
He is the firstborn from among the dead. Jesus stepped out of the heavenly realm to live and die as a man so he could take his life up again. So too will we.
The favorite words of the infantry are, “Follow me.” The infantry leader learns these words from the beginning. It is not, “OK, you guys go take the hill.” It is, “Follow me.”
Jesus said, “Though you may die, you will live.” He told Martha and he is telling us, he is “the resurrection and the life.”
Jesus was first at the creation and he is first among those to be resurrected.
Jesus is our redeemer. He has claimed us from this world. He calls us out of this world. He chose us.
You might think, “I know all of these things. I was brought up learning these things. I believe all these things.”
But what you know and have learned and believe has been revealed to you by the grace of God. For so many in the world:
Have not learned.
Do not believe.
The mystery of the gospel has been revealed to you. We do not live in a world without hope. Christ has atoned for our sin. God loves us and will keep on loving us.
But the world does not live in this same hope.
This hope has been revealed to the saints and we are to take this blessed hope to the world.
This mystery of hope is Jesus Christ and the fact that we know the truth must not dilute the fact of how powerful a truth it is.
But for much of creation, this was a mystery. Jesus, the Christ, a Redeemer, and Sustainer were not revealed to God’s Chosen people for ages. The Psalms and the prophets provide a glimpse of a Messiah to come, but only those who have lived over the past 2,000 years have enjoyed the privilege of having this truth revealed to them.
From the beginning, God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—loved us. He still loves us. He will continue to love us.
We know that God the Father exists and is good and holy.
We know that his Spirit is here to walk with us.
But we see the image of the invisible God in Jesus Christ. We see the extent of God’s love in Jesus Christ. We see our creator and sustainer and redeemer in Jesus Christ.
And our life is in him.
Our hope is in him.
Our today and tomorrow and eternity are in him.
In Paul’s time, it was important to make these things clear because of those who would subvert the gospel. There were those that contended that Jesus did not live in the flesh. There were those that contended that Jesus could not really die on the cross. Some thought it unthinkable that God would live as a man.
It was important that Paul counter these heretics.
We should be thankful that Paul had occasion to put these words into writing so that we might learn from them. Likewise, Paul might have been thankful that he lived when he did and the heretics were few.
Today we live in an anything goes world.
I’ll take a little Jesus, add some Buddha, and just so we don’t offend anyone, let’s thrown in some scientology. Let’s make sure that our Christianity agrees with our politics and economic theories before we espouse them to anyone. You might think that is crazy, but most of the world won’t.
Today, it doesn’t seem to matter what the Bible says. We want to believe what we believe. So many people are proclaiming to be Christians or Bible believers and have never read the Bible.
They have never read the Bible. They forward something they got from the internet or some social media and reposted it.
It has to be true because I agree with it. Ouch! How self-centered and self-righteous is that?
We are the saints of God. The truth has been revealed to us. We have an obligation to know the truth and to share the truth.
Paul was in the same boat. He saw the gospel being attacked by anyone who wanted to make a case for their own cause.
Paul would also share with us that there are disputable matters, but what is not disputable is that:
Jesus is Lord.
He is creator.
He is the firstborn over all creation.
He is sustainer. He will not leave or forsake us.
He is firstborn from among the dead. There is a resurrection and Jesus was the first to cross this threshold.
He is our redeemer.
Jesus is God.
Jesus is how we know God.
And while we do not condemn other religious or people who believe other things; we are responsible for sharing the truth.
The truth that has been revealed to God’s saints is Jesus Christ. Now God the Father and God the Spirit may do what they will to bring others to right standing with him; but what has been revealed to us is Jesus Christ.
Knowing Jesus is Lord is the most important element of our faith. Jesus is the only way we have been given to the Father. Jesus called his Spirit into our lives to accompany us, but we know salvation and life and how to love one another through Jesus.
And while he has called us friend; he is surely God.
While he lives within us; he is surely God.
While he offers us peace and even rest in a chaotic world; he is surely God.
And we who are called saints need to understand and convey and defend this message for it has been revealed to us.
Much of the world is lost in ignorance and heresy and lies and deception.
Jesus told his followers that he was the way, the truth, and the life. He said the only way you will know God the Father is through me.
God the Father has been pleased to reveal himself to us through Jesus the Son.
We must not take this revelation lightly, for it has not been given to all but to us. We are charged and commissioned to carry this message to a lost world.
We do not do this as attackers, but as liberators.
We do not force the truth upon anyone, but we are never timid to share it.
We do not wield the truth as a sword of condemnation but as one that cuts through the darkness and reveals the light.
If you are alive today, you either know that Jesus is Lord, he is how we know God, and he is the resurrection and the life or you don’t.
If you know this, then count yourself privileged to be among God’s saints.
If you know this, then count yourself charged with taking this message of life to the world.
If you know this, then number yourself among those equipped to defend the gospel by speaking and living the truth.
We need to get our noses back in our Bibles, spend more time on our knees in prayer, and cast out all fear as we share the truth that we know in Jesus Christ.
Paul talked of being mature in Christ. How can we tell if we are maturing?
We grow in grace.
We speak the truth in love without fear of the consequences and without a condemning spirit.
And we know with absolute assurance, that Jesus is Lord, Creator, Redeemer, Savior, the Firstborn among the dead, the way, the truth, and the life.
We don’t scare people to believe in Jesus but we should have certainty in our words. We must project our assurance and maturity in both word and deed and lead people to Christ.
For there is no other gospel, and we who are alive today are charged to defend this gospel of peace, the gospel of truth, the gospel of Jesus Christ for he has been revealed to his saints.
He has been revealed to us. Let us never take this fact, this blessing, this responsibility lightly.