Where am I finding my security?
A few years ago, Oliver and I went with a group of friends to Turkey to visit the sites of the churches that Jesus speaks to in his letters in the book of Revelation at the end of the bible. Places like Ephesus and Laodicea. We went around in a little minibus. A very uncomfortable little minibus. We seemed to travel for thousands of miles and then pop out to look at some ruins and then we were off again to drive to the next thing. It was fun to be with our friends. It’s probably not my favourite sort of holiday. I love architecture, but I also like spending lots of time just sitting around in cafes soaking up the atmosphere. When we got home and looked at the photos one group of ruins looked much like any other. I do remember visiting Colossae though. There are no ruins there now. It is just a site on a big hill with wonderful views.
I can remember standing there and wondering what happened to those buildings. What happened to that church-to those people? I felt challenged about what I was doing in my life? What was I building? Would any of it last?
We have begun a series of talks on the apostle Paul’s Letter to the church at Colossae. This letter was written by Paul almost 2000 years ago. It contains news of Paul, news of friends and lots of advice about how to live the Christian life amidst the struggles of 1st century Turkey. We face many of the same struggles in our life and faith today. We face particular challenges as our country faces a period of uncertainty and change following the results of the referendum a few weeks ago. How can this letter of Paul to the Colossians help us? Simply put, Paul encourages us to find our security in Jesus and not in the changing and uncertain things we are tempted to rely on to give us security and happiness.
I’d like to look briefly at the background to Paul’s letter just in case you weren’t here last week to hear Rebecca’s talk. The Christians at Colossae had not been converted to Christianity by Paul. In chapter 19 of Acts, Luke tells us that for two years when Paul was staying in Ephesus on one of his trips around Turkey, he held daily discussions about Christianity in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This was in about AD 52-53. It was through Paul’s teaching that the gospel spread to Asia Minor. We know from verse 7 of chapter one that the Christians at Colossae had been converted to Christianity by someone called Epaphras. We’re told later that Epaphras came from Colossae, Maybe he had been along to one of Paul’s talks in Ephesus. In chapter 4 we learn that Epaphras had gone to see Paul during one of his periods in prison. It seems he wanted to ask Paul’s advice.
Some misleading teaching had arisen in the Colossian church. In Chapter 2.8 Paul writes, ‘See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.’ There are clues in the letter to what this misleading teaching contained. What is certain is that the false teaching did not centre on the unique preeminence of Christ.
I want you to imagine that I’ve given you a piece of paper and asked you to draw God. Just think for a moment. What you’d draw? What about if we went and handed out bits of paper around our villages and asked people to draw God, what do you think people would draw?
- Jesus is the image of the invisible God
Paul tells us in verse 15 that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. We don’t have to struggle to imagine what God is like. God has told us. When we look at Jesus we see God. We see God’s character and we see God’s glory.
It’s not about us imagining what we’d like God to be like. Or what we think it would be a good idea for God to be like. We have the fact of God in front of us. When we look at Jesus we see God. Jesus shows us what God is like. This is why it’s so important that we grow in our knowledge of Jesus and grow in our relationship with him. The more we get to know Jesus, the more we get to know God.
- Our security is in Christ
How can the fact that Jesus is the image of the invisible God help us at a time when many of us are fearful of the uncertainty that our country is facing or have other more personal things going on in our lives that are shaking us to the core?
The truth is we are totally secure in Christ. Rock solid secure. We have no need to be fearful or worried about the future because of who Christ is and what he’s done for us and what he is going to do for us. This hymn of praise of Paul’s in our bible reading from Colossians spells out the reasons for our security. If we can grasp this, if we can embrace this, not just in our heads but also in our hearts, then the way we live our lives will be totally different. We will be living in peace and security. Not racked by fear and worry.
Paul lists the reasons for our security in this hymn of praise. We’re going to begin looking at them now and as we do it, I’d just invite you to think, do I know this in my heart? Really know it.
Paul says in verse 16 that Jesus created the world and everything in it. v16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
Jesus is not only the creator. He holds everything together. V17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Every second of your day, every moment, every breath you take (as the song goes) is only possible because of Jesus sustaining the creation.
Jesus is in control. He is supreme over everything.v18 ‘in everything he has the supremacy.’ Nothing can happen to you that is outside Jesus’ control
All the powers of evil and darkness are subject to him. Jesus has disarmed and defeated them at the cross (chapter 2.15). We have to live with evil and suffering in our lives and in our world for a short while, but we can be confident that ultimately the overthrow of Satan and all evil is assured.
Paul writes in verse 18 that Jesus is the firstborn from among the dead. Jesus has defeated death by his own death on the cross. If we have put our trust in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour then we can be sure that the resurrection of Jesus means that our resurrection is guaranteed.
We can be at peace with God. Friends with God. vv21-22. ‘Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.’ We are brothers and sisters of Jesus Romans 8.29
All of this means we are totally secure. We are in Christ. We are joined to him. We are joined to the creator of the world. To the sustainer of the world. He has promised to provide for all our needs. We are part of Jesus’ family. Beloved sons. Beloved daughters. That doesn’t guarantee us immunity from suffering. But it does mean we can face it in a totally different way.
On the morning of the referendum result, we were on holiday with our family in a rented house in Spain. We turned on the TV just at the moment that David Cameron was announcing his resignation. I was very shocked and the world seemed a very uncertain place at that moment as our family tried to wrestle with what this would mean for us all. Later that morning I read my psalm for the day. It was Psalm 75 and in verses 2 and 3 God says this,
‘I choose the appointed time;
it is I who judge with equity.
When the earth and all its people quake,
it is I who hold its pillars firm.
I sensed God speaking to me through these verses to reassure me that my security is in him, not in political or economic systems nor anything else. Paul in his letter to the Colossians spells out in detail why we can be totally secure when we put our trust in Christ.
The question for all of us is: Where am I finding my security? The only solid foundation for our lives is in Christ.
- Christians are called to represent Christ in our world
This security is not just for our own benefit. As Christians we are called to share our trust in the security we find in Jesus with others.
Jesus is the image of God. When we look at Jesus we see what God is like. You and I are created in the image of God.
In Genesis 1.26 and 28 God gives human beings the role of representing God on earth. Our vocation is to image God to the world. To make the invisible God visible to the whole creation. Our vocation is to point to God and give him the glory.
Jesus comes to restore God’s image in us that has been distorted by our sin and selfishness. He shows us what it is like to be fully human in a way we’ve never experienced. He came to fulfil our commission to image God to the whole world.
As Christians, we are called to represent the invisible God to the world by the way we live our lives. This is not just a lone calling. We are God’s family. We are called as church to image God together.
How can we image God to a world that is racked by fear and uncertainty about the future? We can live our own lives in the truth of this revelation by the power of the Holy Spirit. As we do this, living our lives day by day with the people we know, this peace and security will be visible to others in the way we live our lives. What’s inside will be visible on the outside.
We do this by the way we live together. By the way we care for one another. By the way we love one another. By the way we live as a community and share our lives together.
We live in a world where the dominant worldview is that Jesus is not the creator and sustainer of the world. It’s a world view where a good God is not in control. It’s a worldview which says that I need to look out for my own needs because nobody else is going to. These are lies. But they come to us in all sorts of subtle ways pretty much all the time. On the TV. Through social media. In songs. In everyday conversations.
As the family of Christ we are called to remind each other of the hope we have. To let our conversations always to be seasoned with the salt of the truth.
We are in Christ. We are totally secure. We are joined to him. We are joined to the creator of the world. To the sustainer of the world. He has promised to provide for all our needs. We are part of Jesus’ family. That doesn’t guarantee us immunity from suffering. But it does mean we can face it in a totally different way.