Scripture: Colossians 2:1-14
When we talk about growing as disciples (or followers) of Christ, most often we focus on our outward behaviors. But if you think about it, what is it that motivates our behaviors? Our beliefs; what goes on in our heads. This is why the Apostle Paul encourages us to seek transformation through the “renewing of [our] minds” (Romans 12:2). The renewing of your mind— your thinking-self—has been the purpose behind this sermon series. My hope has been that where it’s necessary, when it comes to what you believe and tell yourself, you will replace any lies with the truth.
Christian author and speaker, Neil Anderson, who’s written books with titles like Freedom in Christ, Living Free in Christ, Victory From Addiction, Your Life in Christ, has said, “The major strategy of Satan is to distort the character of God and the truth of who we are. He can’t change God, and he can’t do anything to change our identity and position in Christ. If, however, he can get us to believe a lie, we will live as though our identity in Christ isn’t true.”
There are two important and connected takeaways from this quote which is true for every person in this room in whom Jesus Christ lives. One, your identity in Christ—who you are—is a fact. It’s a current reality. It’s not a reality about what may be someday in the future, but an actuality that is so right now at this moment, regardless of what anyone says or thinks. Who you are in Christ is as established and true as the law of gravity for the earth. It’s reality is independent of anything we can say or even believe. In other words, not believing it to be true doesn’t make it not true. Who you are in Christ, regardless of what you or anyone else believes, in a current reality.
However—and this is the second takeaway—what we believe does affect our experience of who we are in Christ. The goal of Enemy of our souls is to trick us into believing that which is not true. It’s to get us to look at a square and call it a circle (so to speak); or to say that right is wrong and wrong is right; or to say that both good and evil come from God. Even though he can do nothing to change our identity, he works every day to distort the truth of who we are so that we’ll live as though it’s not true. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood (human beings), but against the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6.12).
It’s not something that most mainline pastors talk a lot about, but the fact is, our greatest battle in life is not with rogue dictators, or high cholesterol, or cancer, or any of hundreds of things with which we struggle in this world. Our greatest battle is a spiritual battle – it’s a battle for our soul, and our only weapon is the armor of God (cf. Ephesians 6:10-17), which includes wearing the “belt of truth” (v. 14). In Christ we have the fullness of life, real life. It starts today, in this world, and goes for eternity with God. And the best way to truly experience that fullness of life is to live in the truth of who we are in Jesus Christ.
Four weeks ago we were reminded that in Christ, each of us is a beloved child of God, and an actual friend of Jesus Christ. As a friend of Jesus, he enjoys spending time with you. He’s not ashamed to call you his friend, even if you do things he doesn’t particularly like or approve. Our mess-ups can’t make his stop liking us! And as a child of God, you’ve received his gift of eternal life. You have coming your way everything Jesus received from the Father, including your resurrected body when Christ returns to redeem this broken world.
- The lie we reject: that our actions cause God to be displeased with us, and that he’s therefore out to get us, to trip us up
- The truth we believe and declare: in Christ we are children of God and friends of Jesus.
Three weeks ago we were reminded that in Christ we no longer live under God’s condemnation. I know it sounds harsh (especially to our ‘enlightened’ 21st century perspective on spiritual matters), but the biblical witness is that apart from Christ, a person is subject to God’s holy condemnation. This was true for all of us here before we came to faith in Christ. Fortunately, for our sake Jesus bore that condemnation in his own body when he allowed himself to be crucified. Christ, we’re not punished for the bad things we do.
- The lie we reject: the hardships we all experience in life are evidence that God’s punishing us for the bad things we’ve done.
- The truth we believe and declare: in Christ we are no longer condemned by God.
Two weeks ago we were reminded that in Christ we are God’s greatest masterpiece. Self-condemnation and self-hatred is one of the distinguishing marks of our human condition. We look at what we can see with our eyes and all too often we don’t like it. We’re aware of our failures, despite our best attempts to be otherwise. But the fact is, in spite of all of that, Christ in you means that you have been resurrected from death to life, never to die again. And God considers that his greatest accomplishment in all of creation.
- The lie we reject: we are ugly, of little or no value, and have little worth.
- The truth we believe and declare: in Christ you are God’s masterpiece.
Last week we were reminded that in Christ we can endure all things. Life can be hard. Really hard at times. But we’ve been given the Holy Spirit who is our strength. He’s our strength to endure all that life may throw our way.
- The lie we reject: the belief that I can’t do it; I don’t have what it takes; it’s not within me to deal with it.
- The truth we believe and declare: We can endure all things through Christ who strengthens us.
The final truth I want to focus on in this particular series is this: in Christ, you are complete and whole as a person.
Speaking for myself, of the five truths in this sermon series, this is probably the one I personally struggle with the most. I get it that Jesus sees me as his friend, and that my hardships are not God punishing me, and so on. But this notion that despite my failure and shortcomings, I’m still complete and whole—that’s one I have to constantly remind myself of. And that’s because when I look at myself, I mostly see a person who’s a long way from being perfected in love. I know I don’t love God with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. I know I don’t love my neighbor as myself. I know how far I’ve got to go. And so it’s sometimes difficult for me to think of myself as complete and whole in God’s eyes.
Again, this is why it’s so vital that we remember that what is true about our identity in Christ is independent from what we think or believe about ourselves. And the truth is, in Christ I am complete in God’s eyes. In Christ, you are complete in God’s eyes. There’s nothing more we have to do to make God love us, accept us, and want to be with us. While it’s true that God’s not finished with us, and that his Spirit is even now at work in us to make us more and more Christ-like, he nevertheless looks at us and sees his completed work.
What’s my proof? Colossians 2:9-10:
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.”
Let’s pick this apart.
- In this context, “Deity” is a reference to the Creator of the universe, Yahweh, the One who spoke and everything seen and unseen came into existence. The Father, the first Person of the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).
- The fullness of” means the totality of, the essence of, 100% of whatever’s being talked about.
- “The fullness of the Deity” means the totality of God the Creator; the entire essence of the Father.
- “…in bodily form” is a reference to the physical body of Jesus.
To put it all together, “The fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” is to say that the entire essence of God the Father, the Creator of the Universe, was manifest in the person of Jesus. Jesus embodied God. He embodied the fullness of God.
But there’s more. Paul adds, “and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” The same term he used to describe Jesus’ reality (“[God’s] fullness…lives in”) he also uses to describe our own reality (“you…brought to fullness”). As the fullness of God was poured into Jesus, so the fullness of Jesus Christ has been poured into each of us. Because the fullness of God dwells in him, then through him we mysteriously experience that same fullness of life. In Christ, we are complete and whole because the truly complete and whole One lives within us. In Christ, therefore, we are complete and whole because the truly complete and whole One lives within us.
How do we reconcile this with the fact that we know we’re still a work in progress…that we’re as of today we’re a masterpiece, though not-yet-finished?
Here’s my answer: our completeness and wholeness is that of Christ in us. And that’s because when God the Father looks at you, who he sees first and foremost is his Son, Jesus Christ. Yes, God’s aware of our sins and shortcomings; he’s not blind to those facts. But in his sovereignty, he has chosen to focus on his Son in us. When a baby’s born, parents are fully aware of the fact that it’s crying, making a mess of its diapers, waking them up all night, generally being highly demanding and utterly self-centered. But most of those parents look past that reality and see their “perfect” child, right? We look at that extremely needy infant and see perfection. Likewise, when God look at us, despite displaying the realities associated with human brokenness, he sees his perfect Son.
And so this truth remains: in Jesus Christ, you are complete and whole as a person because the One who is complete and whole lives in you.