When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts he was running for a second term and it was a very difficult campaign. After a busy morning of chasing votes he arrived at a church barbeque. It was late in the afternoon and Herter had not eaten all day long. He was famished, so he moved down the serving line and he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece of chicken on his plate and turned to the next person in line. “Excuse me,” said Governor Herter, “do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?” “Sorry,” the woman told him, “I am supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.” “But I am starved,” the governor said. “Sorry, I have my instructions; only one piece of chicken per person.” Governor Herter was a modest man, but this time he decided to throw his weight around. He said, “Madam, do you know who I am? I am the governor of this state.” Whereby the woman replied, “Do you know who I am? I am the lady in charge of the chicken! Please move along.”
This dear woman was given orders by her supervising authority and she took her responsibility to obey these orders very, very seriously. Today, we are challenged by the truth Jesus is the Sovereign Authority over our lives. And, as we study Colossians 2, we examine our own souls to discover the measure of seriousness with which we take His authority over our lives. The temptation stands before each one of us to consider Jesus’ sweet mercy and His wonderful tenderness toward us, but in this meditation to trivialize in our daily practice His absolute Lordship over us. This is certainly a temptation for the saints in the Colossian church as false teachers had presented to them a false spirituality which appealed to their pride and to their self-righteousness and to their emotions, but steered them away from submitting themselves, their minds, and their will to the Lordship of Jesus. The only way for us to grow in God, and the only way for us to enjoy true life, is to live out the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our daily lives.
In this study we will look at two verses which are pregnant with meaning. Paul teaches us four practical commitments for us to make in order that we might live out the Lordship of Jesus in our lives. It is great to be hungry for more in our spiritual life and it is great for us to long for the deep things of God for an exuberant Christianity, but as we study this Letter of Colossians we are reminded we need to be aware of false teachers who come to us and seek to tap into this desire for more and this desire for something deeper by approaching us with “new secrets” regarding the spiritual life and new secrets which unlock satisfaction for our soul.
The false teachers of Colosse and the false teachers of today will approach us with new knowledge, self-denying practices, and mystical experiences which will put us on a whole new level and make everything new to us. Such satisfaction we long for and such depth is only found as we root and ground ourselves more in the life-giving river of Jesus. He is the One who is God and He is the One who is Lord and He is the One who is King and He is the One who is Savior.
In these two verses, 6 and 7, Paul shows us receiving Jesus Christ is not the end but the beginning of life. Such receiving is the foundation upon which we can build. It is a profound principle we discover in these two verses: all progress in the Christian life must be consistent with our beginning. A puppy does not grow into a tiger. A kitten does not grow into an eagle. All growth is consistent with its beginnings and when a Christian grows, he or she does not become someone who is inconsistent with the new affections, the new heart-attitudes, and the new mind which is given to us at the very beginning of our Christian faith and at the very beginning of coming to Jesus. Someone more profoundly changed by these affections and these new attitudes given to us by God when we first started to follow Jesus is the pattern and the model set before us today. We do not grow by moving away from Jesus into new truths and new experiences but my moving more to having Him at the very center of our lives.
Do you wish to be mature as a Christian? This message is for you.
There are four commitments for living out the Lordship of Jesus. The first commitment we must make to live out the Lordship of Jesus is the commitment to obey God in faith, as we read in Verse 6,
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him…
This is one of my favorite verses in all of the New Testament. To this day I seek to enjoy meditating on its meaning, purpose, and truth as it applies to my heart and I feel as though I have only begun to scratch the surface and the truth as it applies to my heart. I feel as though I have only begun to scratch the surface as to what the Apostle Paul is teaching us here.
This verse instructs us our experience at first coming to Jesus sets the pattern, mold, and model for how we now are to grow and continue to live out our lives. It begins with two little words: “so then”, and these words point us back to Verses 1 through 5. Paul tells us in Verse 1,
1 I want you to know how much I am struggling for you…
Then he goes on to say, in Verse 2,
2 My purpose is that they (every member of the church) may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding (of the)…mystery of God, namely, Christ…
The Apostle Paul desires every member becomes so centered upon Jesus Christ that they would know Him and see Him in all of His glory and enjoy Him and savor Him day-by-day, week-after-week, and year-after-year, and all through their lives this would be their daily existence. After describing this goal and purpose, he says to the dear saints, in Verse 6, “So then, here is how you can attain to this…”
The point of the Christian life is focused upon Jesus in His fullness. It is the knowledge of Jesus which is the Good News of the Gospel. The Good News of the Gospel is not, first and foremost, our sins are cancelled and we are forgiven, but the very heart and core of the Good News of the Gospel is we see and know the God of great glory and the God of majesty and we can come in relationship with Him. He wants this people to know Jesus is the very focus of our salvation from first to last. Paul exalts them, “So then, since it is true you have come to know God through Jesus, and so then, since it is true there are teachers who are trying to move you away from such a focus upon Jesus as a person of glory, so then, since it is true a life centered upon Jesus is a life of fulfillment and joy, so then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord continue to live in Him.”
There are two parts to these instructions in this verse. The first is a fact which is stated and it serves as a model and a pattern for our Christian life. Then there is an exhortation to act upon and follow.
Let us first consider the fact which is stated in Verse 6: all Christians have received Jesus Christ as Lord. This is the distinguishing mark of the true Christian. Though not all Christians belong to the same denomination; though not all Christians belong to the same race, whether it be Jew or Gentile; though not all Christians adhere to the same doctrinal statements; though not all Christians follow the same worship practices or liturgies, without exception, whether you are a young or old, educated or uneducated, rich or poor, male or female, if you are a biblical Christian this one thing is true of you – you have received Jesus Christ as Lord.
I love the fact the Apostle Paul uses the word “received”. The Apostle Paul did not use the word “attained”, as in “You have attained Jesus Christ as Lord.” No, the word received indicates we are like beggars in the street looking for food, finding a place to dwell, and looking for clothing to cover our nakedness. We receive as a beggar. We have received Jesus Christ as Lord so much Jesus is a gift. Jesus is not a wage we have earned. Jesus is not a right we can demand. No, we have no merit in order to obtain Jesus in our life. If we have Jesus in us it is because of the Father, who by His grace, has given us to Him and we have received. In such, all boasting is excluded. We can only prize the gift and praise the giver.
The first principle of this divine life is not one of giving, but one of receiving. Salvation is by that which comes from Christ to me, not by that which comes from me to Christ. This is the Gospel and is incredibly good news. John would write, in his Gospel, “For as many received Him, to them He gave them the right to be called ‘the children of God’.”
Is your religion a receiving religion or an earning religion? God teaches us we receive Jesus as a gift. An earning religion cannot take away even one of our sins. It is a receiving religion which gives God and Heaven itself.
It tells us it is not only a principle we are to receive, but it tells us who we are to receive. It is not merely a gift of something objective, outside of a personality, but we receive a person, Jesus Himself, unto our selves. It is true we receive His doctrines and we take in everything He teaches, but more than that we receive Jesus Himself. It is true we receive His commandments and we listen as to how He instructs us and in what He tells us to do, but more than that we receive Jesus and His person.
It is true, we receive His ordinances. He tells us, as a people, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, so we receive that and we delight in that. He tells us to believe and then be baptized, so we, as Christians believe and we are baptized as a testimony of our faith in Jesus. But, more than the ordinances, we see so often there is a false receiving whereby someone can receive the doctrines and someone can receive the ordinances and someone could even receive the commandments, but they have not received salvation because salvation is not bound up in these things, it is bound up in the person of Jesus. That is the gift we are given.
Jesus is what makes the Gospel such good news. I confess I am at a loss to accurately describe what it means to receive Jesus. It is a mystery here. Human language falls so far short of expressing the wonder of this reception. Let me illustrate the difficulty this way: suppose there is a man who grew up on an island by himself and the only thing he had to eat from his infancy to adulthood was a cornmeal mush, without any flavoring or sweetener, day-in and day-out. I arrive on this island and I am amazed as he tells me of his life. I begin to describe to him a peach, watermelon, cherries, and apples. Is it not true I would have incredible difficulty of getting that across to him until I take out a peach and I say, “Here is what I am talking about. Taste this.”
Similarly, we talk about receiving Christ to the person who has not yet received Him and whose mind is still dark and whose soul is still lifeless. You can talk about receiving Christ and the person says, “I don’t have any idea what you are talking about,” and that is true. But, as we do talk about this and as we describe this to each other, is it not true we can say, “I know exactly what you are talking about,” for those who have tasted peaches can say, “I understand how you can’t explain it to someone who has never tasted a peach, but I understand what you are saying because that is my experience, too.” This is true the distinguishing mark of Christianity is that all who have the life of God have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and this is the very essence of the Good News of the Gospel. It is great news that I am forgiven. It is great news I have a home in Heaven, but I tell you, more than all of that, I have received Jesus and I am able to understand, see, and partake in the glory of God through Him. That is what the Good News is about.
We know what it means to receive Jesus because 1 John 1 says,
3 …And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus…
We can describe in a way to those who have received it and would nod in agreement, but to one who is not born again it is still only a dark puzzle.
What does it mean to receive Jesus Christ as Lord? It does not mean we pray a prayer asking Jesus into our hearts. Do not misunderstand, there is nothing wrong with praying a prayer asking Jesus into your heart, and in fact there is much right with it, but that is not what it means to receive Jesus. It does not mean we long for some experience with Jesus, as in the midst of a religious revival meeting or religious gathering there is something we experience and we feel close to God or even an experience we have outside the church or as we gaze at the wonder of a mountain scene. It is not an experience we are talking about which seems spiritual to us. To receive Jesus, and to receive Him first as Jesus our Savior, we also receive Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed One who God set aside to send into this world to be the Messiah and to be Ruler. The name Jesus means “God will save His people from their sins if they receive Him as their Savior.” We receive Him as Lord, Master, and King over our lives and everything as God Himself.
To receive Jesus means we embrace all of Jesus’ persons for all of our person by faith. It means we look to Him as Savior, as the Lord’s Anointed One, and as Master. To receive Him means we recognize Jesus’ right to be our Savior and we enjoy this glory and we acknowledge His supremacy and His Lordship over our lives and over our hearts.
There are some today, sadly, who teach the error a person can receive Jesus as Savior without receiving Him as Lord and these are two different stages. First, you receive Him as Savior then sometime, subsequently, and perhaps never in this life, you receive Him as Lord. Someone presenting this gospel, therefore, hides Jesus’ authoritative claims because these authoritative claims are recognized to be a stumbling point in the heart of the sinner and rebel who does not wish to submit to God at all, but who wishes to go on with their very lives. They speak only, in explaining the Gospel, of the attractive offer of forgiveness and of Heaven without talking specifically about the person of Jesus Christ in all of His majesty and in all of His authoritative Lordship.
By doing such, we only hide His glory and the Gospel is not first and foremost about forgiveness. It is first and foremost about revealing the life-giving glory of God to dark, lifeless souls. To the true Christian, Jesus is immeasurably sweet for all of His person for all of our lives.
Bernard of Clairvaux would write the hymn, Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee,
Jesus, the very thought of thee
with sweetness fills the breast;
but sweeter far thy face to see,
and in thy presence rest.
Billy Graham would write in one publication, and I believe him on this, “No man can be said to be truly converted to Christ who has not bent his will to Christ. He may give an intellectual ascent to the claims of Christ and he may have had an emotional religious experiences, however he is not truly converted until he surrenders his will to Christ as Lord and Savior and Master.”
Let me press the point home to your heart. Have you received Jesus Christ as Lord? I grow so concerned as pastor at Bethany Baptist Church that there are some in the congregation every week who have not and perhaps you are one of those. Jesus, in His kindness, has come to the door of the heart and He has knocked, calling you to open up the door to receive Him to yourself, all of Him for all of your life, but you left Him outside the gate. Perhaps, as you hear me speak these words you realize, “Yes, that is what I have done. It is not that I have denied who He is, His instructions, or His commands, but I have not received Him, His person, into my life, submitted my life to Him, and embraced Him wholly and fully as my own.”
Why would you wait another hour? Why would a sick man who is aching and pained by the disease which racks his body wait even another minute before he would go to the physician who has a cure to relieve him of all of his ills?
Receiving is the simplest of acts, isn’t it? It requires a humble heart to recognize you have a need, but it is the simplest of acts. Cannot a child receive? Cannot the poorest among us receive? Cannot the lowliest, the one who struggles with sin the most, receive? Of course they can. If it were an issue of merit there would only be a few and I would argue, and the Bible would argue, there would be none! The fact is stated, all Christians have received Jesus Christ as Lord.
We now look at the exhortation, in Verse 6,
6 So then…continue to live in him…
This should be translated, literally, “so walk in Him as Lord.” This is a call to obedience. It is not a legalistic obedience which merely obeys out of fear of condemnation, but it is a joyful obedience which is the fruit of genuine faith.
The pattern for our living is rooted in our receiving. The Gospel is not just for a long-time ago when we needed acceptance from God and we needed some pardon and we needed forgiveness, but the Gospel also, friends, Christians, brothers, and sisters in Christ, is for today. It is so essential we proclaim the Gospel to ourselves, for just as we received Christ Jesus that is how we are to walk and live in Him, with the Gospel front and center.
How did we receive Jesus Christ? I could have a hundred descriptions, but let me give just three. First, we received Him in humility and in repentance. We were most sensitive to the destructive nature of our own sin, were we not, when we first received Jesus Christ? Then we come to the awful realization our soul was not adequate before God and it could never become adequate in our selves. We became most conscious of total inability to dress up our own souls, revive our own spiritual food, and clothe ourselves with spiritual clothes, so we cast ourselves upon God’s mercy. Our daily walk must be like that, where, in humility, we come before God recognizing our own inadequacy, the awfulness of our sin, and the awfulness of our own practice. We place no confidence in our own strength, and as such we have no boasting in our own righteousness.
When we receive Christ Jesus there is a heavy realization of our own sin and of the beauty of Jesus, and so it is every day. If we are to progress in the faith and if we are to live in the Lordship of Jesus Christ this must be true.
Yes, we grow in holiness and in practical righteousness, but we do not grow in our own self-esteem and in our own self-confidence. Our confidence is only in Christ and our esteem is only found in Him. We do not look down upon others who have not made the progress we have made in our fight against sin. Just as we have received Christ Jesus, recognizing we are the worst of sinners, so we walk in Him.
I like what Charles Spurgeon said in one of his messages by way of exhortation, “Lie low, brother. Lie low, sister, for what the old, epic plowman used to tell me is true, if you are one inch above the ground you are just that inch too high. So, lie low and thus continue to walk in Christ, yourself being nothing and Christ being everything.” Isn’t that how we receive Jesus Christ?
You know if you get to be something, Christ cannot then be everything to you, but if you are still nothing, and less than nothing in your own estimation, as you sink in self-esteem your Lord will rise to His right position in your sight and so you will be walking humbly in Him even as you ought.
The second description is we receive Christ Jesus by look unto Him. Remember the thief upon the cross. He turned and he riveted his eyes upon Jesus and he said, “Jesus, when you enter into your Kingdom remember me.” And Jesus said, “This day you will be with me in paradise.” Just as you have received Christ Jesus by looking unto Him and fixing your gaze upon Him, so walk in Him.
Let’s look at another of my favorite verses in the Bible in 2 Corinthians 3,
18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Do you catch what this passage says about a basic principle for learning to live out the Lordship of Jesus Christ? It is this: we have to look upon Jesus and behold Him. That is what we did when we first came to Jesus Christ; didn’t we look to Him for salvation? So, now, everyday, our minds, our hearts, our passions, and our affections are all consumed with Jesus Christ, and the more we gaze upon Him, the more we meditate upon Him, and the more we know of Him the more we are changed. That is the principle and that is how we walk in holiness. It is not by striving harder to live according to the Law and not by having the Law in front of us day-by-day. That only leads to condemnation, guilt, and failure, but here is how we live out a life of holiness: we set Christ before us day-by-day.
Just as you receive Christ Jesus, so walk. This does not mean we are passive, but it means we actively gaze upon Jesus Christ, His perfection, His life, His sacrifice upon the cross, the glory of His resurrection, the work of His present person as He is seated at the right hand of God interceding for us, being for us the High Priest, the Mediator, and the thought of His returning in great glory and great power. We behold His glory everyday as we meditate upon the fullness of the Gospel, the Good News for us in Jesus Christ.
The principle is: we become what we admire. I have a neighbor boy who is working hard to become an NBA basketball star. He is only about 5’7” or 5’8”, but from the time he was little he wore Michael Jordan jerseys and Michael Jordan shoes. I am sure he had a Michael Jordan poster in his room. He admires Michael Jordan and he kind of looks like Michael Jordan. He is a really good basketball player. He probably won’t attain to that height of Michael Jordan’s skill, but by admiring Michael Jordan he is becoming more and more like him.
We become what we admire and the challenge for us is to get our eyes off so many of the heroes of this world and the pursuits the world would have set before us and focus our eyes upon Jesus.
The third description is we grow by God’s grace through faith. We do not become holy by striving to obey the Laws more and not by making a longer list of Laws to obey. We become holy by coming to God in faith and believing God to provide for us all of His resources. It does not mean we are passive. Remember the word “walk” earlier in this study? I wish the NIV would retranslate this because the word walk is always active; you cannot walk passively. You can be “rolled”, but you cannot walk passively! You have to get yourself in gear actively and so it is with the spiritual life.
We walk in Him, how? It is faith and not in our own strength. Living out the Lordship of Jesus Christ requires we obey God in faith.
Commitment number two is: we grow mature in Jesus, as we see in Verse 7,
7 rooted and built up in him…
Here are two metaphors. The first is the metaphor of a plant which is sinking its roots down deep. The next is the metaphor of a building which is being built upon a foundation. Paul is saying, “Just as you are rooted in Christ Jesus, grow deeper in Him then you can be built up. That is how you live out His Lordship.” You have to desire to be built up. You have to have a vision for your life by saying, “Yes, this is what God intends for me.” We do not become believers in Jesus Christ and say, “Well, here I am. I am saved. I have my ‘fire’ insurance. I am going to Heaven and that is all that really matters.” No, that never happens in the authentic Christian and in the life of one who has been born again.
What happens in the life of one who has been born again is God laid a foundation for a purpose. You never walk out into a field and say, “Here is a foundation. What a nice foundation and that is its purpose. Why did you build this foundation?” “We just wanted a foundation sitting there. That is the reason we put that foundation there.” “Did you have plans for a building?” “No, we never had plans. We just like foundations. That is what our company does.”
There is a foundation for a purpose and the foundation has already been laid. It is Jesus Christ and now we can be built up, not on another foundation which would make us move away from Jesus Christ. That is what the false teachers were teaching, but you build your life up on Jesus.
How is it someone can be “built up” on Jesus Christ? We are built up “in Him”. Fundamental to growing in maturity is growing in our connection to Jesus. In John 15, Jesus is teaching and He says, and I believe He is giving the exact same principle Paul is writing to the Colosse church,
4 “(Abide) in me, and I will (abide) in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must (abide) in the vine. (You cannot) bear fruit unless you (abide) in me.” 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Leonard Ravenhill, a great evangelist, told about a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village in Europe. An old man walked by and one of the tourists asked a question, “Were any great men born in this village?” The old man turned and said, “Nope, only babies!”
The truth is, were any great men born again in this church? No, only babies! That is how we all start. If people are going to become great men and great women it is not because of their beginning. It is rooted in their beginning and without that beginning they would never become great, but the purpose of our life is to grow up and mature.
The third commitment in order to live out the Lordship of Jesus Christ we must gain understanding of the truth. We obey God in faith and we cannot mature apart from obedience. We grow and mature in Jesus Christ, but we must have a passion and a vision for Christian maturity and we must gain understanding in the truth, as we read in Verse 7,
7 …strengthened in the faith as you were taught…
The important word is “the”. Paul is not saying, “Strengthen in your faith,” or “Strengthen in your trust in God.” Paul is saying, “Strengthen in ‘the’ faith.” Anytime we see the article “the” in front of the word “faith”, Paul is talking about truth God has set aside for His people to know and to understand. What we need is understanding, for without understanding we cannot mature and we cannot be built up and we cannot live out the full Lordship of Jesus Christ in our life. God has given us the responsibility to continue to learn and to grow more in our understanding; not to move into other truths but to move deeper into the Truth which was first presented to us when we became believers.
Satan has a very difficult time with people who are full of understanding. He has a difficult time tempting them. He has a difficult time deceiving them because there is such a rock solid stability in their lives. That is true for an entire church when the church has a great understanding, because people desire understanding. Satan has a very difficult time hindering that church from bringing glory to God because it is difficult to make inroads with sin and with false doctrine, so the Apostle Paul says we are to be “strengthened in the faith”.
In order to be strengthened in the faith we have to desire wisdom. If you read the Book of Proverbs, over and over again it says, “Get wisdom. Above all other things, gain understanding, seek after it; listen to the instructions of your father. Above everything else, gain understanding. Wisdom and understanding are more precious than ruby and it is more valuable than gold. Get understanding.”
This is what the Apostle Paul is saying; we need to get understanding. How do we do that? We meditate upon the Scriptures and I do not mean just an intellectual study, but a heart study where we are responsive to it. We pray the Scriptures into our own soul. You do not have to be an academic and an intellectual in order to gain understanding, but you do have to go to the Word with both your heart and your head. Obey God.
Understanding is not just an intellectual pursuit, but it is a spiritual pursuit and disobedience will keep you from ever understanding God and His will for your life. Obey God.
The last thing I will encourage you with in regard to gaining understanding is to listen actively to sound teaching. In 1 Timothy 4, the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to be diligent in these matters of receiving instruction and preaching with these words,
13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.
It is true the preacher has a responsibility to prepare his messages, but it also true the listener has a responsibility to prepare your heart to receive and gain understanding.
The last commitment is to give thanks always, as we see at the end of Verse 7, as in a river overflowing its banks,
7 …and overflowing with thankfulness.
Kent Hughes writes, “Thankfulness is a good test of our spiritual state. A thankless spirit betrays a life which is no longer focusing upon the greatness of Christ. It is looking down, not up. Thankful hearts herald spiritual health.” Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you.
How do we live out the Lordship of Jesus? We obey God in faith. We grow mature in Jesus and we say, “I know God wants more than for me to remain an infant Christian.” We gain understanding of the Truth. We begin to give thanks, and as we have a thankful heart to God in all these things, God begins to change us and we live out gloriously the Lordship of Jesus.
I close with a reading from C.S. Lewis and I love the analogy he uses, “I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel we are good enough. He has done all we wanted Him to do and we should be obliged He would just leave us alone. But, the question is not, ‘Are we what we wanted ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us.’
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and He is stopping the leaks in the roof and so on. You knew those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised, but presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense; ‘What on earth is He up to?’ The explanation is He is building quite a different house than the one you thought of, throwing out a wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, and making courtyards.
“You thought you were going to be made into a decent, little cottage. He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
Friends, let us submit to Jesus as that Grand Architect of our lives, that He might make us what He intends for us to be.