The Gospel-Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel in Focus

Sermon by Derek Thomas on August 29, 2010

Colossians 1:21-23

Download Audio

The Lord’s Day Evening

August 29, 2010




Colossians 1:15-23


“The Gospel-Centered
Life: Keeping the Gospel in Focus”

Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas

Bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who minister by night in the house
of the Lord! Lift up your hands to
the sanctuary and bless the Lord!
May the Lord bless you from Zion,
He who fills heaven and earth! Let’s
sing to His praise and glory from number 646, “Jesus Thou Joy of Loving Hearts.”


Our Lord and our God, we hunger
for You, we thirst for You in a dry and weary land.
There is no place in the world that we would rather be than with You in
the midst of Your people, under Your means, the means of grace that You have
provided for the filling of our souls, for the stirring of them, that we might
give to You the glory due Your name, that we might know fellowship with You,
that we might receive wisdom and grace spoken into our hearts by Your Word.


We ask, O Lord tonight, that You
would meet with us and that we would know that we have met with You, that we
would say, “Surely the Lord is in this place.”
We ask that You would bless the one who will bring Your Word.
We ask that You would enable us in our songs, in our prayers, to give
ourselves to You, that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our heart
would be acceptable in Your sight.


We pray Heavenly Father that in
all these things we would glorify You and that You would inhabit the praises of
Your people and that You would speak to us in such a way that we are
strengthened and comforted and equipped to serve You for the living of these
days. We ask all this in Jesus’
name. Amen.

Now turn with me if you would to Colossians, Colossians chapter 1.
And we’ll be reading together a slightly longer passage than the one
announced in the bulletin. We’ll be
beginning to read at verse 15.
Colossians 1 and verse 15. I
immediately thought of verse 23 of Colossians chapter 1 where he says, “not
shifting from the hope of the Gospel.”
And tonight I want us to think about living out the Gospel on a daily
basis, having the Gospel before us and day by day, hour by hour, moment by
moment, “not shifting from the hope of the Gospel.”
Now before we read this passage together let’s look to God in prayer.
Let us pray.


Father, we thank You once again
for the Scriptures and pray now for Your blessing.
Help us as we read this passage together to know the blessing of Your
Spirit, the blessing of illumination, that we might read, mark, learn, and
inwardly digest. For Jesus’ sake we
ask it. Amen.

Verse 15 of Colossians chapter 1.
Speaking now about Christ, who in the previous verses he has spoken of the
Colossians as having been delivered from the dominion of darkness and
transferred into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son in whom we have
redemption, the forgiveness of sins, and now in verse 15:

“He is the image of
the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and
invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things
were created through Him and for Him.
And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
And He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He
might be preeminent. For in Him all
the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to
Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of
His cross.

And you, who once
were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in
His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and
above reproach before Him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and
steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the Gospel that you heard, which has
been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a
minister.”

Well so far God’s holy and inerrant Word.

Now Jerry Bridges, who is a revered preacher, teacher, in the land today on, I
think, almost every occasion that I have heard him, and that’s been several
occasions that I have heard him, he has reminded us that we need, you and I, to
preach the Gospel to ourselves every day.
We need to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day.
John Stott says, “The cross is the blazing fire at which the flame of our
love is kindled, but we have to get near enough for its sparks to fall on us.”

Well that’s been what we’ve been trying to do this summer — getting near to the
cross, getting near to Jesus, getting near to the Gospel.

And here in Colossians Paul has spoken of these Colossians as having been
delivered from darkness and transferred into the
kingdom
of God’s Son in whom, he
tells us in verse 14, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.”
It’s all about Jesus. Now if
you were to go to the church in Colossae, one of the buzz words that would come
out — you’d only have to be there for a day or two and there would be a buzz
word — and the buzz word would be “fullness.”
Paul alludes to it several times in this letter — “fullness.”
They were all about the full Christian life.
Living the Christian life on another plane, on another exalted level —
how to have the full life, the full Christian life.
And the way, well let me illustrate what that might mean.

You go to Colossae and there in the
main street there is a bookstore.
It’s the Christian bookstore.
Actually, it’s called “The Full Christian Life Bookstore.”
And as you go in, the first thing that you see is an exercise machine,
and the exercise machine is called “The Slim Christian for the Full Christian
Life.” You make some inquiries and
you discover that in Colossae
there was a belief about exercise, about diets, and sure enough, there before
you in the Christian bookstore is “The Christian Diet for the Full Christian
Life” with a starter pack. And there
in the center is something called “The Liturgical Christian” promising that if
you obey these Sabbath days and if you obey these feast days you’ll experience
“The Full Christian Life.” And
everywhere, all around the bookstore, hanging from the ceiling are angels and
seraphs and cherubs, little angels from bangles that you put around your wrist
and angels with bobbing heads that you can put on the shelf in your car, because
these Colossians are into angels.
They believe that angels are speaking to them, giving them words of knowledge
that has raised them to fullness of Christian experience.
And Paul, Paul is writing a letter to the Colossians and what do you
think? Look, it’s all about Jesus.
It’s all about Jesus. You
know that Christian bookstore? Well,
it’s kind of imaginary. I sort of
made it up, but you’ve been in those bookstores.
They actually exist today, and it’s about all sorts of things.
And yes, over there in the corner you ask for a book about Jesus and the
bookstore manager scratches his head and he says, “Well, yeah I think I’ve got
that book and it’s somewhere in the back and maybe I can find it, but you know
it just doesn’t sell.” Paul is
writing to them about fullness. You
want to experience the full life, the full Christian life, the whole deal?
It’s all about Jesus. It’s
all about Jesus.

And he spells out for them — he’ll chastise them in the second chapter; he’ll
tell them off about their worship that’s given to them by angels and about their
feast days and Sabbath days and their asceticism — but first of all in this
chapter he sets before them Jesus, in four dimensions.
He sets before them in verse 15 Christ in relationship to His Father.
In verses 15b, the second half of verse 15, through to verse 17, Christ
in relationship to the universe. And
then in verses 18 through 20, Christ in relationship to the Church.
And then in verses 21 through 23, Christ in relationship to the
Colossians themselves. He begins,
and all I can do tonight is just outline this.


I. Jesus is the image of the invisible God.

He begins with Christ in relationship to the Father.
He is the image of the invisible God.
This is where the Gospel begins.
It begins with Jesus. And who is Jesus?
He is the image of the invisible God.
This week was the first week of semester, which for me means Systematic
Theology I. It begins with the
doctrine of God and two great questions.
The first can’t be answered — What is God?
About the only thing we can say is God is Spirit and they that worship
Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
A better question is — What is God like?
And do you know, do you know boys and girls, the answer to that question?
What is God like? The answer
to that question is He is like Jesus.
He is like Jesus. You know
when John is writing his gospel he says, “No one has ever seen God.
The only begotten of the Father, He has revealed Him.”
He has, well he uses the word “exegete.”
He’s explained, He’s given us a glimpse of what God is like.
He’s like Jesus.

Do you remember what Jesus said one time?
“He who has seen Me, has seen the Father.”
That’s astonishing. That’s
one of those statements that takes your breath away.
You’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen the Father.
You’ve seen what the Father is like.
This Jesus who gets down on His knees and talks to little children!
I was so flustered about talking to the children I came out early
tonight. (laughter)
Jesus spoke to little children.
He blessed little children.
That’s what God is like. There is
nothing in Jesus that you can’t find in God the Father.
Do you know sometimes we’re okay with Jesus, it’s the Father we’re not
sure about. You know Jesus brings us
warm, comfortable feelings, but the Father, well, we’re not sure about Him.
And sometimes views of the Gospel and of the cross are concocted so as to
make the Father reluctant to love and He only loves because of the sacrifice of
Jesus. And John 3:16 tells us “God
the Father so loved that He gave.”
He is the image of the invisible God.

There was a little baby in my Sunday School class this morning.
He was just a few months old.
You know to be honest, he looked like any other baby, but that’s not what I said
because I’m better than that! I said
to the proud father who was displaying him to me, “He looks just like you.”
And he beamed! It was the
right thing to say! (laughter)
“He looks just like you.”
Jesus is the replica of His Father.

You know, maybe that’s where some of you need to start because maybe you’ve
imprinted a bad relationship with your earthly father on God the Father.
You relate to Jesus but somehow there’s something temperamental about God
the Father. That’s not the Gospel.
The Gospel begins with God the Father loves and loves and loves and loves
again. There is no un-Christlikeness
in God. There is no
un-Christlikeness in God. He is the
image of the invisible God. That’s
the first thing.


II. Christ is the firsborn of all creation.

The second thing — he tells us first, Christ in relationship to His Father — the
second thing he tells us is Christ in relationship to the universe.
“He is the firstborn of all creation.”
Now firstborn here, in the Old Testament sense, firstborn in the one who
inherits. Ligon was talking about
inheritance issues this mornings.
And in the Old Testament, and it was true of western society until fairly
recently, but the firstborn was the inheritor.
He was the one with status.
He’s the firstborn. He’s the one
with all the status. He’s the one
who’s given all the glory. He’s the
firstborn. He’s the firstborn of all
creation. By Him all things were
created. By Him all things are
sustained. Whether thrones or
dominions or rulers or authorities, He made everything.

I have got the coolest iPhone app ever.
I absolutely love it. It’s
one of these things that you always wished you had.
And you just lift the phone up to the sky and it will tell you what that
star is or what that constellation is.
It’s the coolest thing ever.
I have learned more in the last week than I’ve done in a lifetime!
The sheer size of this universe in which we live, that the stars, the
little white lights that are twinkling in the sky that we see, the light has
taken hundreds, no thousands, no tens of thousands, no hundreds of thousands of
light years just to get here. I
can’t take it in. When you look up
at the sky you’re seeing history.
You’re actually seeing the past.
It takes my breath away. And
Jesus made it all! “He made the
stars,” Moses says in Genesis 1, as though it was a trifling thing, like a
throwaway line. “He made the stars,”
just threw them into the sky.

And He holds everything together.
That’s what we can engage in exploration.
That’s why we can engage in science.
That’s why we can go where no man has gone before, because every part of
this universe is held together by Jesus, this Jesus of the Gospel, this Jesus
who dies on the cross of Calvary, this Jesus.
When you enter into a relationship with Jesus, not only are your sins
forgiven, you enter a new universe.
Something, what does the hymn writer say?
“Something lives in every pew, Christless eyes have never seen.”
You know, when you enter into a relationship with Jesus, the whole
universe opens up before you. It’s
His. It is Jesus’ universe.
He made it. He holds it
together.


III. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead.

And then he says a third thing. Not
only in relationship to the Father, not only in relationship to the universe,
but in relationship to the Church.
“He is the firstborn from the dead,” verse 18.
He is the firstborn from the dead.
It’s talking about the resurrection.
He has preeminence over creation.
He has preeminence over death and hell and the grave.
What did the resurrection achieve?
I remember, I was just a little boy, but I remember Neil Armstrong on the
moon. I can remember looking out because the moon shone at least in Wales it did.
I can remember that very evening looking out at the moon and thinking,
“Neil Armstrong is on that moon and he’s just said, ‘A small step for man; a
giant leap for mankind.’” I imagine
Jesus in the tomb, folding His grave clothes as John describes it, and saying,
as He walks out of the tomb, “It’s a small step for Me; it’s a giant leap for My
people. It’s a giant leap for My
people.” There’s coming a day, do
you see, when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess — willingly or
unwillingly — every knee, every tongue, that Jesus Christ is Lord, is Lord.
He is God. The only God there
is – this sovereign, majestic, glorious God who is the image of the invisible
God who upholds the universe that He has made, who is head over all things to
the Church through His resurrection.


IV. He is the Savior of His people.

And then fourthly he says, and he’s speaking now to the Colossians in
particular, “and you, and you,” having just spoken about the peace that He has
made by the blood of His cross, the Gospel, “and you who once were alienated and
hostile in mind doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by
His death in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before
Him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting
from the hope of the Gospel.” In
relationship to His Father, He is the image of God.
In relationship to creation, He is the Creator and Sustainer.
In relationship to the Church, He is the head.
And in relationship to the Colossians, He is the Savior.
You see those first three amount to nothing unless there’s this fourth
one, that He is your Savior.
He is your Savior.

And Paul, Paul understands something here, that it’s possible to shift from the
hope of the Gospel. He’s talking to
Colossians. He’s talking to
believers. He’s talking to
professing Christians. And he’s
saying it’s possible to shift from the hope of the Gospel, to look somewhere
else.

Ligon addressed us this morning like a sword through the heart about
covetousness. And as he finished, I
whispered to myself, “Thank God for the Gospel, because I’m guilty.
I am just guilty. Thank God
for the Gospel.” And so every day,
every single day, we have to preach to ourselves this Gospel, this Savior of
sinners, who through His death and resurrection has reconciled us unto God.

C. J. Mahaney, in his wonderful, wonderful book on the Gospel-centered life, or
the cross-centered life, The
Cross-Centered Life
— go buy it.
Buy two copies. Read one yourself
and give one to your mother or your neighbor.
It will be one of the best things you’ll ever do.
The Cross-Centered Life — and
he says in a concluding chapter, “Here’s what you need to do.
You need to sing the Gospel at least once a day — in the shower, in the
car, somewhere. You need to sing the
Gospel at least once a day.”
“Nothing in my hands I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.”
What’s your favorite Gospel hymn?
Put it up on the fridge. Put
it up somewhere in the house. Have a
CD. Put it in your car.
Put it in your iPod, but sing that Gospel at least once a day.

You know, there are texts in the Bible — there was a great book published in the
19th century called The Hundred
Gospel Texts
— the one hundred Gospel texts.
Repeat a Gospel text at least once a day.
“God made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be
reckoned the righteousness of God in Him.”
You repeat that once a day and I’m going to say, I guarantee it’s life
transforming. It’s life
transforming, because we build or lives day by day, hour by hour, minute by
minute, on the solid foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It’s all about Jesus. these
Colossians were looking to angels, they were looking to rituals, they were
looking to some kind of asceticism and diets and whatever fad happens to be
popular. But it’s all about Jesus.

Paul says one breathtaking statement about Jesus in this passage.
“In Him dwells all the fullness of God bodily.”
All the fullness of God. The
full Christian life is in Him. It’s
in relationship to Him. It’s in
fellowship with Him. It’s all about
Jesus.


Father, we thank You for the
Gospel. You take sinners like us and
You make us clean. You reckon us as
white as snow. You cover our sins
with the blood of Jesus and we are Yours, now and forever.
Father, we pray that we might never shift from the hope of the Gospel.
Keep it before our eyes. Keep
it in our hearts. Help us every day
to preach the Gospel to ourselves.
We ask all of this for Jesus’ sake.
Amen.

Please stand. Receive the Lord’s
benediction. The grace of our Lord
Jesus Christ be with you all.

© 2019 First Presbyterian Church.

This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Web site. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.

Should there be questions regarding grammar or theological content, the reader should presume any website error to be with the webmaster/transcriber/editor rather than with the original speaker. For full copyright, reproduction and permission information, please visit the First Presbyterian Church Copyright, Reproduction & Permission statement.