Why’d He Do It? Our Salvation (Part Two)

(Please read Colossians 1:13-23 in your Bible.  I’ve prepared these remarks using the NIV.)

Jesus gave up His life so we might live eternally.

“The actor who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s 2004 blockbuster The Passion of the Christ says he has been shunned by Hollywood since taking the role.

“Jim Caviezel was a regular name on cinema hoardings before agreeing to take the lead in the controversial, bloody retelling of Christ’s final days. He headlined the 2002 remake of The Count of Monte Cristo and starred opposite Jennifer Lopez in the 2001 romantic drama Angel Eyes. However, Caviezel told an audience of churchgoers in Orlando, Florida on Saturday that he had ‘been rejected by my own industry’ after choosing to join Gibson’s cast.

“Gibson, he said, had initially offered him the role, only to call him back 20 minutes later and beg him not to take it. ‘He said, ‘You’ll never work in this town again.’ I told him, ‘We all have to embrace our crosses,’’ said Caviezel. He added: ‘Jesus is as controversial now as he has ever been. Not much has changed in 2,000 years.’

“A passionate Christian, Caviezel told the audience at the First Baptist Church of Orlando he had learned to accept that the destruction of his acting career was a price worth paying. “We have to give up our names, our reputations, our lives to speak the truth,” he said.

“The Passion of the Christ was an enormous box office hit in 2004, taking more than $600m worldwide after attracting huge numbers of religious filmgoers.”

<Ben Child, writing for the Guardian, in 2011. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/may/03/jim-caviezel-passion-of-the-christ on 4/1/16.>

I did a little follow-up research and found that his acting career moved from the big screen to the small screen where he has worked steadily since making these comments in 2011.  While I was there, I also found out some interesting facts about Caviezel and the filming of The Passion of the Christ.

  • Dislocated his shoulder during the filming of The Passion of the Christ (2004).
  • Was struck by lightning during the filming of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004). Assistant director Jan Michelini was also hit (for the second time during the shoot). A crew member said “I’m about a hundred feet away from them when I glance over and see smoke coming out of Caviezel’s ears.”
  • Shortly after accepting the role of Jesus Christ in the Mel Gibson film, The Passion of the Christ (2004), he realized his initials were the same as that of Jesus (J.C.) and that he was the same age most religious scholars claim Jesus was when he was killed (33).
  • While filming the whipping scene in The Passion of the Christ (2004), one of the whips missed the steel board on Jim’s back and cut a 13-inch gash into his back.
  • Portrayed Jesus Christ a second time in the Word of Promise audio bible.
  • Republican.
  • During the filming he had pneumonia and suffered hypothermia.

<Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001029/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm on 4/1/16.>

As tempting as it is to comment on “Jesus” being a Republican, I believe I’ll just let it pass.  Instead, I want to remind you what we learned in part one.  Jesus Christ is the icon (“image”) revealing God the Father to us.  We who believe are, in turn, to be the icon of Jesus.  You’ve just read about how difficult it was for Jim Caviezel to be the on-screen icon of Jesus.  Do you imagine that your day-to-day walk of faith should be easy?  Have you heard Jesus describe the life of faith as taking up your own cross, enduring suffering in order to portray Jesus where you are?  The vast majority of us will never see our portrayal of Jesus on the “silver screen,” but that’s not why we’re doing it anyway.  We’re not acting.  We are the reality of Jesus in the world around us.  Relish your part.  Realize you’re part of an ensemble.  Make your portrayal of Jesus as real as the Spirit gives you grace to make it.

<Review: 1. Jesus is supreme (15-19).>

<NEW>

  1. What Jesus has done for us (13-14, 20).

First, as indicated in verse thirteen, He has RESCUED US.  The Greek word for RESCUE means just what you’d expect: “to liberate, save, or deliver someone or something.”

In this case, Jesus liberated, saved, and delivered us FROM THE DOMINION OF DARKNESS.  In the Bible, DARKNESS is symbolic of ignorance, falsehood, sin, and evil.  To be rescued, then, means that Jesus has informed us of the truth and forgiven our sins.  He’s done everything needed for us to start over.

The second thing is also revealed in verse thirteen: He has transferred our citizenship from this world to heaven; He BROUGHT us from the DOMINION OF DARKNESS to the KINGDOM OF THE SON.  The word translated as BROUGHT refers to people who are “reestablished” in a new place.  In civil documents of the day, this word was used to refer to transfer of citizenship from one country to another.  A military strategy of the time was to take away as captive members of a conquered nation; they would serve their conquerors as slaves.  In either case – civil or military – the word pictures a large group of people migrating from one place to another.

Paul is using it in the military sense in verse thirteen; we were captives to sin.  But Jesus conquered sin and has taken us back from our place of slavery.  He

has BROUGHT us to our true home. The DOMINION OF DARKNESS is in sharp contrast to the KINGDOM OF LIGHT which all SAINTS inherit, according to verse twelve.

Third, in verse fourteen we read that He has redeemed us from slavery to sin (IN WHOM WE HAVE REDEMPTION).  In their legal system, slaves could be released from bondage in two ways.  One: if they were purchased and set free by their new owner.  That would be called REDEMPTION.  Two: if they were won as prizes in a war or offered as tribute by a conquered nation, the conqueror could set them free.  This was called EMANCIPATION.  Again, I think Paul prefers the military imagery in this passage.  Jesus emancipated us by conquering our enemies of sin, Satan, and death.

A fourth saving act is found in verse fourteen; Jesus has forgiven our sins. The word translated as FORGIVENESS literally means “to send away.” When God forgives our sins, He sends them away.  He forgives and forgets. We are to do t same; forgive as we have been forgiven.

The fifth act mentioned in this passage is that He has reconciled us to God (v. 20).  The word RECONCILE means “to change.”  This passage is full of changes by Jesus.  Notice the scope of this: ALL THINGS are reconciled to God the Father.  The salvation Jesus provided has universal scope, but of course, not all persons will receive it..

From DARKNESS to light (13).

From slave to free (14).

From guilty to forgiven (14).

From God’s enemies who are alien to His purpose, to His family who prove useful for His kingdom (21).

From unholy to holy (22).

There is no middle ground here. We were utterly hopeless and He saved us to the uttermost.

  1. How Jesus did it (21-23).

In verse twenty-two we learn that  He did it IN HIS FLESHLY BODY THROUGH DEATH.  It sounds morbid, but the shadow of the cross extends all the way back to the baby in the manger.  Christmas is not worth celebrating without observing Good Friday.  Jesus was born to die.  God’s plan called for a human body because the sacrifice of a human life, the shedding of human blood was the only way to reconcile God and man.

But not any human life would do.  Jesus lived as the only and ever God and Man in one.  We must always defend the dual nature of Jesus as if our lives depended on it, for that is literally true.  If Jesus is not who the Bible says He is then we are not saved.

Look again at verse twenty-two.  There it states that He did it TO PRESENT YOU HOLY AND BLAMELESS AND IRREPROACHABLE BEFORE HIM.  HOLY means separate from the godless aspects of the world in which we live and morally pure. BLAMELESS means that we are no longer guilty of sin.  Only our God who forgives and forgets can make His children BLAMELESS.  IRREPROACHABLE is a legal term referring to a person who cannot be charged with a crime.

In other words, this is a moral, emotional, and spiritual state which we have no means of achieving on our own.  It is a state of grace.  In His grace God the Father chooses to clean us up, to mend our ways, and make us an acceptable “bride” for God the Son.  It is God the Spirit who lives in us and with us and accomplishes this transformation.  It is a metamorphosis that makes a caterpillar flush with envy.

And finally, in verse twenty-three we learn that He did it FROM THE HOPE HELD OUT IN THE GOSPEL…PROCLAIMED TO EVERY CREATURE UNDER HEAVEN. HOPE is a biblical term for a thing God has promised.  Because God has promised it, the thing is certain; it will come to pass.  Though you do not hold it fully in your hand now, you can be certain that one day you will.  It is not the same as a wish or a desire.

That is the basis for the Good News – the GOSPEL to which the Apostle Paul and every breathing believer gives a life of service.  That is the basis for a message that deserves to be taken TO EVERY CREATURE UNDER HEAVEN.  This is another nod to the universal nature of the Gospel

Don’t miss the condition on which our receipt of the Good News is based: IF YOU CONTINUE IN YOUR FAITH, ESTABLISHED AND FIRM.  Genuine faith, the kind that allows us to participate in the glorious Resurrection, is a life-long commitment.  It is real when it lasts.

I want to conclude with a quote from John Maxwell’s book, Think on These Things –What Does Hope Do For Mankind?

Hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest. Hope motivates when discouragement comes. Hope energizes when the body is tired. Hope sweetens while bitterness bites. Hope sings when all melodies are gone. Hope believes when evidence is eliminated. Hope listens for answers when no one is talking. Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping. Hope endures hardship when no one is caring. Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing. Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking. Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging. Hope dares to give when no one is sharing. Hope brings the victory when no one is winning.
<Retrieved from http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-david-dewitt-quotes-encouragement-victory-livinghope-845.asp on 4/1/.16.>

May your most endearing hope be to accurately reveal Jesus by living as He lived.

 

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Why’d He Do It? Our Salvation (Part One)

(Please read Colossians 1:13-23 in your Bible.  I have cited the NIV below.)

Jesus surrendered His life on the cross so we might live eternally.

One of the errors that threatened the first century Church, one of the reasons Paul wrote this letter, sounds very familiar to our ears as it is a growing error of our age as well.  It is the failure to understand who Jesus Christ is.  The understanding that is part of true and saving faith is that Jesus Christ is both God and Man.  Anything else is false.

One of the oft-repeated things said about our youngest generation especially is that they want Jesus but they don’t want the Church.  That’s error enough, but what really matters is the Jesus they want is one who’s been watered down to the level of political correctness, a Jesus that avoids offense at all costs.  Anything other than the biblical view of Jesus is a false, worldly creation, impotent to save and not worth worshiping.  Easter is robbed of its meaning and is a superstitious celebration of Spring.

I’ve learned a new word this week: “glurge.”  Dictionary.com defines glurge as “stories, often sent by email, that are supposed to be true and uplifting, but which are often fabricated and sentimental.”

(Retrieved at http://www.dictionary.com/browse/glurge on 3/24/16.)

I learned this word because I almost shared a glurge with you to introduce this morning’s message.  It seems that a story has been circulating around the Internet since 2001 that tells how Dr. Robert Schuller’s teenage daughter Carol (NOT Cindy), was in a motorcycle accident having a leg amputated. As the story goes this accident lead to an exchange of letters between Carol and actor John Wayne. Allegedly, Carol’s letter lead to “the Duke” receiving Jesus as his Savior three weeks before his death.

(To see this used as a sermon illustration by Jimmy Haile, (“Hope for the Hopeless,” 7/16/2011), go to http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-sermon-central-staff-stories-christianwitness-79891.asp to see it largely refuted, go to http://www.snopes.com/glurge/duke.asp or https://www.truthorfiction.com/johnwayne-schuller/.)

Unfortunately, the only parts of the story that can be confirmed as true are Carol’s accident and John Wayne’s death.  If the rest of the story were true, you’d assume that Dr. Schuller would have told such an inspiring story in his own pulpit, but he never did.             Too many people have decided that the Bible and the view of Jesus it presents are a “glurge.”  They deny the truth of Easter and some go so far as to deny that Jesus existed.

And with these denials, they forfeit their only hope for life.  Only the true Jesus offers any hope for a life of meaning in this world and eternal life after death.

You may not have known it before now, but part of the reason we’re here this morning is to celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ is NOT a glurge and that just as He lives, so shall all who – by faith – put their complete trust in Him.

  1. Jesus is supreme (15-19).

Verse fifteen states that He is the IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD.  The word IMAGE has two meanings in the biblical Greek language.

The first is “likeness.”  As you might expect, this refers to a reproduction of appearance such in a mirror or other reflective surface, or a portrait intended to be as realistic a depiction as possible.  One way the ancients honored their rulers and heroes was to put their eikon, their portrait, on a coin.  Wait.  We do the same thing, don’t we?  On a physical, scientific level, this sounds like nonsense: how do you reflect someone who is invisible?

The second is “Manifestation.”  This is not a physical reproduction, but an emotional/personal/spiritual one.  It can truly be said that Jesus reflected God the Father in thinking, feeling, morality, and spirituality.  This is the meaning Paul intended.

The Greek word in question is eikon, from which we get an English word familiar to computer users and Orthodox Christians: “icon.”  In computer usage, an icon is not a program, file, or website, but a picture that you associate with a program, file, or website, and the means of accessing them.

According to Genesis 1:26-27, God created humanity in his IMAGE; to be an “icon” that points back to him.  A problem arose when our parents Adam and Eve sinned against God.  The stopped being an accurate representation of God.  Sin marred them and they were no longer a manifestation of God’s presence.

William Barclay commented on this word, “’Look at this Jesus.  He shows you not only what God is; he also shows you what man was meant to be.  Here is manhood as God designed it.  Jesus is the perfect manifestation of God and the perfect manifestation of man.’” (The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 118.)

Also in verse fifteen, He is the FIRSTBORN OVER ALL CREATION.  In their culture, the firstborn son enjoyed privileges and rights that none of the other offspring held.  He was his father’s representative and primary heir.  In the Old Testament, this title is reserved for the Messiah.  But here FIRSTBORN is a title of honor and rank more than a statement of birth order.  Paul’s use of the term is not to imply that Jesus was created, but that He existed before creation and holds authority over creation.

That is why Paul wrote OVER ALL CREATION. God the Son played an active role in creation, as Paul makes clear in vs. 16+17: it is stated so plainly and forcefully, no comment is needed.

We need to appreciate this point because it makes the Incarnation so much more powerful; it gauges the depth of His sacrifice.  Think of it: the Creator made Himself subject to creation!

In verse eighteen it is written that He is the HEAD OF THE BODY, THE CHURCH.  In this Greek, the word HEAD has these two meanings.

The first is what we’d expect from our own use of the English term.  A person who is “head” of an organization is its leader, its chief executive officer.

The second is unfamiliar to us; Greek scientists considered the head to be the source of the body.  In intercourse, the man supplied the head and in gestation, the limbs and body descended from the head.  So they thought of Jesus as the source of the Church’s existence.

In Hebrews 12:2, Paul identifies Jesus as the AUTHOR of our FAITH.  Jesus is the Writer, the Originator of the story of the Church.  Whether or not we’ve taken the story in the direction the Author intended, well, that’s a discussion for another day.

One of Paul’s frequently used metaphors for the Church is THE human BODY.  In this physical life, the head guides the body.  The function of all the organs and life itself depends on the brain inside the head.  The Church is called the Body of Christ so that we never forget from whom we came and always maintain the greatest possible reflection and imitation of the life of our HEAD, Jesus Christ.

Also in verse eighteen, He is THE BEGINNING, THE FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD.  These phrases sound like repeats or restatements of what we’ve already learned.  But the details of the Bible are important, so we know this is not just repetition.  Instead, it reveals a new truth and looks ahead to the resurrection of the faithful to eternal life.

By virtue of His death and resurrection, Jesus is the BEGINNING of the resurrection that puts God’s people in heaven.  The Resurrection of Jesus set into motion a series of events that have been playing out in human history ever since, events that will culminate in His Second Coming and our being raised to eternal life.

Here the word FIRSTBORN does mean first in the sense of order.  Jesus is the first person to be resurrected from death to life.  This means our resurrection will be similar to His.

In vs. 19 we read that IN HIM ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD WAS PLEASED TO DWELL.  The focus here is on the word FULLNESS.  It means that the entirety of what it means to be God could be found in Jesus.  He is not a “second rate” version of God, but God in flesh.  Picking up the picture of an “icon” again, we can say that Jesus is not just a sketch of God, but he is a full and personal testimony to all that God is.

I like the part that says THE FULLNESS OF GOD WAS PLEASED TO DWELL in Jesus.  Remember that on more than one occasion in His ministry years, God the Father expressed His pleasure with Jesus by means of a supernatural voice that came from heaven itself!  In the Greek the word DWELL suggests a permanent residence, not a temporary one.  The divine side of Jesus’ nature is permanent; He always has been God and He always will be God.

In verse nineteen Paul wrote that He has FIRST PLACE IN EVERYTHING.  The phrase FIRST PLACE is a description of authority.  Having a divine nature, Jesus also exerts divine authority over EVERYTHING.

This is what Paul wrote to the Philippian believers; in response to Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, God the Father recognized His ultimate authority: THEREFORE GOD ALSO HIGHLY EXALTED HIM AND GAVE HIM THE NAME THAT IS ABOVE EVERY NAME, SO THAT AT THE NAME OF JESUS EVERY KNEE SHOULD BEND, IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH AND UNDER THE EARTH, AND EVERY TONGUE CONFESS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Let’s look one last time at that Greek word eikon which is so important to our understanding of why Jesus was born into the human family in the first place; why He ministered, then was killed and raised to life.  Jesus is the means by which God became personal to His people, a revelation of man’s ideal and God’s eternal nature.

Here’s what William Barclay wrote, “Eikon…was the word which was used for portrait in Greek.  But this word had still another use.  When a legal document was drawn up, such as a receipt or IOU, it always included a description of the chief characteristics and distinguishing marks of the contracting parties, so that there could be no mistake.” (The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 118.)

One of God’s purposes in this text is to remove all doubt about the person and nature of Jesus Christ.  He was and is God.  It’s mind-boggling to think that God would choose to become part of His creation; that He would suffer insult, pain, and death at the hands of people He created.

What grand motive would compel such a choice?  We’ve spent the last seven weeks examining several motives.  Today we’ve begun to look at the effect of Jesus’ choice:  our salvation.  Jesus did it to save us.

Primarily, this was to save us from eternal death, to bring us to life just as He had been brought to life.  Jesus wants to share His life with us.

But it isn’t just eternal life Jesus wants to share.  It is, secondarily, abundant life in this world.  Abundant life is found in choosing to be like Jesus.  It is experienced when we act as icons of Jesus, personal manifestations of His character, acting in obedience to His will.