Welcome back everyone to our Summer Bible study on Paul’s letter to Colossians. This is just our third week in the study but I’m thinking that you already are seeing what an awesome letter this is, how powerfully it is written, and how relevant it can be to us today, all these years later in 2021. As we start processing and personalizing this letter, I think it’s easy to see that Paul and Timothy might as well be talking to you and I. It’s just that big of a deal, and hopefully is that personal of a Bible Study. If you remember back to our introduction to the series, the first thing we learned was who Paul (with his buddy Timothy) were writing to and why. He was writing to a small, kind of unimportant town named Colosse that sits in a very wealthy area. He was writing to them to recenter them on Jesus because after Paul’s team planted this church and moved on to plant another, the church of Colosse began to drift away from Jesus as “ALL” and “Enough” and “The Central Focus” of their lives. It’s interesting but this really was a pattern that Paul dealt with as he planted churches. They would plant a church, bringing the truth and enormity of Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the Cross to those far from God, which is so awesome…then they would leave to go plant another church, and things would go a little wonky. Often, the religious people around that church would come in after Paul or his leaders left and would push in on and influence these young Christians in ways that were not Biblical. Literally bullying these young Christians away from the freedom that they should have in Christ, pushing them back into the prison of religion. Different forms of heresy would pop up, and while this had to be frustrating for Paul and the churches to walk through, it also gives us Paul’s letters…which is pretty amazing if you think about it. Most of the New Testament comes from Paul often in prison or on trial, circling back to these young churches to keep them on track, and focused on Jesus and living in the true freedom that all Christians should live in…which really is such a struggle for so many of us Christians to find or focus on or simply live out. This is exactly what began to happen here in Colosse, this pattern continued. The religious moved in after this church was founded and started pushing around young Christians pulling them away from the very life they had just found as they accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Last week Ken had a big task. He worked us through the first 12 verses or so of this awesome letter and really focused us on one of the most profound truths we must wrap our minds around, that eludes so many of us Christians, and that is where true spiritual maturity is found…and it isn’t found in looking intelligent or gaining more knowledge. It isn’t found in looking more important or holier than someone else…we learned that to be mature is to be basic…it’s found in Jesus, and He is enough. This is something that eludes so many Christians, and Ken did an awesome job laying it all out for us last week…so if you haven’t read his talk please go to our blog and do so!
This leads us into a really important conversation today, focused on Colossians 1:13-14. So, let’s start with verse 11, but really our focus will be on verses 13 and 14.
Colossians 1:11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. NLT
There is so much for us to talk about here, but I really want us to focus on those last two verses, so just for fun let’s read them again in the Message version.
Colossians 1:13 God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, 14 the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating. MSG
You know, it’s just never going to take Paul long to remind each and everyone of us of what God did for us through His son Jesus. Which leads me to the first question that I want to ask you today.
Do you remember your grace story? Do you remember that moment when Jesus became part of your life? Do you remember how you felt when you were stuck in that dark dungeon or pit that Jesus lovingly pulled you out of? When was the last time you sat and reflected on the fact that you are so loved, so valued, so cherished by God, that He would rescue you from death, transferring us to His Eternal Kingdom through His Son Jesus…who took care of it all for us, purchasing our freedom and forgiving our sins? Take a moment, do you remember how that felt, you know, that first day you realized you were truly forgiven and free?
You know it’s interesting, I have heard some say that you need to forget your past, and that if you remember where you have been maybe you aren’t fully sanctified or that Jesus hasn’t fully transformed your heart and mind…when I hear that I think of what we miss when we try to ignore or forget our rescue by Jesus. I think it’s important and healthy to move on, to not stay stuck or keep reliving things, but to move forward…but, and this is important, we do have memories…our minds are not necessarily erased when we become a Christian. And I think when you truly are set free by Jesus, it’s good to remember…and Paul is backing me up on that and does so…often. So, it’s important that we do not keep reliving things, but I wonder how many people think they should never look back and in doing so, lose sight of the most amazing thing that has ever happened to them…they lose sight of their own salvation story in an effort to be more sanctified or spiritual or free. I think many people distance themselves so much from what Jesus rescued them from, that they lose out on so much joy, passion, and energy that comes from remembering their grace story. I also have to wonder how a person that thinks you shouldn’t remember your past reconciles scriptures like this from Paul, or how they reconcile how Paul constantly teaches in general!
Ephesians 2:11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. NIV
Paul does this time and time again, reminding us of our salvation, of our rescue, of the fact that we were once far away from God but now we are with Him through Jesus and what He did for us. Time and time again Paul does this! In fact, Paul talks all the time about his past! He is constantly reminding us of where he was, the mistakes and sins that he committed. He literally calls himself the worst of all sinners…lol…think about that. Not too many Spiritual Leaders are out there trying to lead, or gain a following would run around talking about themselves this way…
1 Timothy 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. NIV
So, why would the Apostle Paul, writer of Scripture, the original church planter, who is trying to bring everyone to know Jesus as he now knows Jesus, speak this way about himself? Does this mean he isn’t truly saved? Does this hurt his credibility as a church leader speaking this way? Shouldn’t he be trying to elevate himself or look really holy and spiritual? Paul says he is the worst of all sinners…twice! I love verse 15 in the New King James…
1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. NKJV
Paul has tapped into something so important, and it’s the key, the truth, the reality for all of us which he desperately preaches, teaches, and tries to model for us over and over and over again. We must hold our salvation story, our rescue by Jesus so close to our hearts and minds that we don’t lose sight of it. I wonder how many times we see a Christian who is frustrated or flat about this God stuff, where things like going to church and spending real time with God on a daily basis just feel like work…if this exact thing isn’t at the heart of their issues with the spiritual journey. They have lost sight of, forgotten, or just distanced themselves too far from the incredible gift of Jesus in their life! I think this is the key! Paul does this over and over again, in the midst of a world that really pulls our eyes off of God each and every day, he wants us to stay centered on our salvation story! Paul had an extremely difficult life, yet he lived a life of worship, and gratitude, and joy, and freedom even when literally in prison…he has been shipwrecked, beaten to near death, bitten by snakes, whipped, rioted against by angry mobs, threatened, and locked in prison over his faith, but in all of that he was free, and full of worship and gratitude and energy because He never lost sight of what God did for him through Jesus…do you see what I’m after here today? So, let’s go back to the verses we are studying here today…
Colossians 1:13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. NLT
Listen, I don’t know if you have been a Christian for 30 years, or for 3 days, but we have to hold our salvation close. As you reflect on those two verses and think through how Paul is constantly reminding us of what God did for us through His Son, I want to ask you our question of the day again.
Do you remember your grace story? Do you remember that moment when Jesus became part of your life? Do you remember how you felt when you were stuck in that dark dungeon or pit that Jesus lovingly pulled you out of? When was the last time you sat and reflected on the fact that you are so loved, so valued, so cherished by God, that He would rescue you from death, transferring us to His Eternal Kingdom through His Son Jesus…who took care of it all for us, purchasing our freedom and forgiving our sins? Take a moment, do you remember how that felt, that first day you realized you were truly forgiven and free?
Paul seems to understand something really significant here, that we can struggle to understand. He lives in it and has a massive advantage on the rest of us in life…and we have established that he walked through a ton of pain and adversity…his advantage is that he never lost sight of or distanced himself from Jesus and his own rescue story…and I would like to really focus on some of the benefits that we walk in when we hold our salvation close.
When we hold our salvation story close, we live a life of worship and gratitude. I would maybe add to that, that we would live a life of worship and gratitude regardless of the circumstances or challenges that come our way. Paul’s life was very tough, full of pain, insecurities, beatings, and dark prison cells, and none of it pulled him away from worship and gratitude because he never lost sight of where he was, and what Jesus pulled him out of…we saw a great example of this in his letter to his buddy Timothy there…and also his thought process on why it’s so awesome that the worst, the chief of all sinners has been rescued. I would like to remind you that his letters to Timothy are his last before he is executed for his faith…and he talks this way moments before being executed…
1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. NKJV
Do you see it? Because he is so aware of his rescue story, he lives a life of worship and gratitude and so can you! It’s huge to live this way, regardless of your circumstances or how difficult life can be, you can live a life of gratitude and worship as you hold your salvation close.
When we hold our salvation story close, we find passion and motivation…and energy! I will say as I hit my mid-40’s if there is something I would be looking for it’s some of the energy I had in my 20’s and 30’s. I can blame it on age, or life and the challenges that life throws at me, or my four teenagers…I’m kind of kidding there, but the reality of life is that it is hard…and as a Christian doing your best to live a Christ-centered Godly life in this world that just pushes against God in every way…it can be tough. There are moments where we question and doubt. There are moments when we struggle and wonder if it’s worth it. In those moments where we struggle, we need to rally around our rescue story…just like Paul did time and time again. Check out the writer of Hebrews here…this is so important to see!
Hebrews 12:2 Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed — that exhilarating finish in and with God — he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. 3 When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! MSG
Why is this so important? It’s important because life is hard. You will find yourself struggling at times, doubting at times…and wondering if it’s all worth it. In those moments, we focus on Jesus and what He did for us on that Cross! We are to go over it again and again, that is what shoots adrenaline into our souls. Think about Paul and how often he comes back to his own salvation and what Jesus did for us all. Do you see it? This is the key, when we hold our salvation story close, we find motivation, passion, and energy! I wonder if you are a long time Christian sitting here today, and something just hit your heart in this moment. Maybe it’s been a long time since you have felt passion for Christ, or energy to engage God, or your true Spiritual Life and purpose…there was a time when you had so much passion and energy and just focus for God and over time it’s gone away. Church and your spiritual life are just kind of stuck, it’s part of the routine, another trip out to church, another trip home. Get up, do the Bible thing because you know you should, but it’s just lost its luster…you can get that back, it’s not gone, you can find it again by going back and remembering and focusing on God and what He did for you. Remember where you were and remember how it felt to be rescued by Jesus…remember it, and go over it, talk about it, and focus on it…that will shoot adrenaline into your soul.
When we hold our salvation story close, we have empathy and love for others who need Christ like we all do! You know, this is another major factor in remembering what God did for us through Jesus. When we hold our salvation close, we have a passion for helping others find Christ as we all need Christ in our lives…because we have walked in their shoes and know how it feels. This is what it’s all about right? Finding Jesus and then helping others find Him too! This is the Great Commission from Jesus…
Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” NIV
We have been set free, so then we who have been rescued should help others find that same freedom and grace and forgiveness in Christ! This is Paul’s passion, helping others experience what He has…he who remembers and understands what it means to be a sinner far from God. Which we all have…because we recognize and acknowledge that we all sin right?
Romans 3:22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. NIV
If we do not hold our salvation close, we can judge others, and lose sight of the fact that we are all sinners in desperate need of a savior. This is where so many hurts and so much damage is done by church people to the non-church person…we lose sight of our own rescue story and lose the empathy and love we should have for those far from God, because we forget we were there too. You wonder why you have lost passion for those in need of Christ, maybe it’s because you have forgotten what Jesus has done for you too…remember your salvation story, remember how you felt before Christ, and how you felt when He pulled you out of that dark pit…and you will have the kind of passion and love for others that we read that we should have in Scripture.
When we hold our salvation close, we have a humility and love in our hearts which allows us to serve. You know there is an interesting thing that can happen to us Christians over time, especially when we distance ourselves from our rescue story. To be transparent, it’s something that I watch unfold around churches way more often than I would like to admit. We find Christ and start with this pure hearted humility and love for Him and appreciation for our salvation story, but over time as we spend more time with God and read the Bible, what can happen if we aren’t careful is that we actually become filled with pride. We move into this spot where we think we have arrived in some way Spiritually. And suddenly, we know better than everyone on what should be happening. We lose the gratitude we found in our salvation and the humility we found in God’s unconditional love, and we become judgmental and hard-hearted towards the brokenness of others. So, we came to church and found Christ maybe after years of struggling with religion and people who judged and hurt us while we were far from God, and then if we are lose sight of our salvation story, we become like the people that hurt us and judged us when we were hurting and searching for God’s love. This happens more than I would like to admit…frankly it is hard to watch…but somewhere along the way at the very core of that pride is how far we have distanced ourselves from our rescue story.
Philippians 2:1 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care — 2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. MSG
Some strong words from Paul here, and he doesn’t stop with that, he tells us how to stay humble and true to God, and willing to serve…it’s to go right back to what Jesus did for us all. Paul does it time and time again…remember your salvation, hold onto what Jesus did…
5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 6 He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. 7 Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! 8 Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death — and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. MSG
When we hold your salvation close, we live in and walk with hope, that only comes through Jesus and what He has done for us. So, hope is so important, and we need to remember the hope we now have through Christ. We don’t live a hopeless life but look forward to each day as we walk through life with Jesus. Paul actually described what a terrible spot we were in prior to Jesus in that Scripture we read earlier from Ephesians where he said we were without hope prior to Jesus!
Ephesians 2:12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. NIV
Paul literally calls Jesus our hope…it’s how he starts his letter to Timothy…
1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope. NIV
When we hold our salvation story, what Jesus did for us close, we have hope and hope is a really big deal. I know I threw a lot of Scripture at you today, I actually am tempted to add some more here, but I wanted to get at something that we are so passionate about here at MRC with you today that many of us Christians seem to struggle with, and that is remembering what Jesus did for us…remembering your rescue story. I wanted you to see why Paul would go over his story and testimony time and time again. I wanted you to see why he reminds himself and all of us that he is the worst of all sinners. I wanted you to see how often he brings up Jesus and what He did for us all…I believe it is more than just to fill out a letter or because he ran out of things to say, I believe it’s because he has found the key to living out his faith, and walking in that abundant life to the full that Jesus told us He came to provide for us and that we seem to struggle to find. Christianity can be so hard, when you distance yourself from what Jesus did for you…and I think your enemy knows that and works to pull you away from your own rescue story. Which is why Paul pushes in on it harder and harder…we must remember our salvation story and hold on to it, keeping it close to our hearts and in the forefront of our minds.
So I would like to close with some questions today and we will start with the question of the day.
Do you remember your grace story? Do you remember that moment when Jesus became part of your life?
If you have been a Christian for a while, I want to ask you this; Has your own personal walk with God become flat, or stale?
When was the last time you sincerely thanked God for rescuing you through Jesus?
Can you remember how it felt, to know God’s love, His grace and forgiveness for the first time…truly knowing you have been saved regardless of all your sin, all you mess, and all your issues?
Do you see how important it is to hold your salvation close? Do you see how life, time, sin, and different distractions can pull you away from your rescue story and do you see the damage that comes from that?
Have you been told that you should never look back and never remember your past or your issues? How is that working out for you? How do you reconcile Paul remembering his past constantly and telling you in Ephesians to remember yours?
Are you embarrassed of your past issues, and your life prior to Jesus rescuing you? If so, what do you do with Paul bragging about being the worst of all sinners? What could that mean for you today?
Who do you know that needs Jesus in their life the way we all do? Who can you share your rescue story with today?
Have you asked Jesus into your life as your Lord and Savior? If you haven’t, you can do so today and start walking in this new life, this free and victorious and true life we all seek.
We love you so much, and I wanted you to really see something today. We must hold our salvation, our rescue story close. When we distance ourselves from our salvation it causes so much damage to us and those around us who need to know Christ the way we all do. When we hold our salvation story close, it allows us to live lives of worship, and gratitude. It drives our lives and fills us with passion, and energy. It’s our rescue story that leads us to live with empathy and love, with humility and soft open hearts towards people who need Christ the way we all do. It’s Jesus and what He did for us on a personal level that allows us to live with hope because He is our hope…we must, you must hold your salvation story close. When you do I believe we begin to actually walk in that life to the full, that freedom, and joy that we all say we have but often wonder why don’t…this is why Paul brings it up all the time!
Colossians 1:13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. NLT