If we would ask Jesus, “So what is your role? You’re the Creator and the Sustainer. You’re the physical revelation of the invisible God.” He would say, “Well, that’s with regard to the physical creation. Let me tell you about this other creation. This is something really special. This is the creation of what I did. It’s called a spiritual body. It’s why I came and it’s called “The Church.” So let me tell you who I am. Not just with the physical world, yeah, I made it. But I made something else. I am the head of the body, the Church. I am the firstborn from the dead, the first resurrected, in order that I might have supremacy or first place in everything.”
The word “head” here means both source and authority. He says, “I am the source of the Church and I am the authority. I am the CEO, I’m the Lord, I’m the Master, I died for these people. When they trusted Me, My Spirit, the Holy Spirit, has come into their lives, and now the expression of My body isn’t Me walking around. It’s them. God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, taking up residence in regular human beings, and I am the head of that group of people.”
He’s not talking about a building, He’s not talking about a local church. He is talking about every single person in whom the Spirit of God dwells, that you are born again, you’re a follower of Christ. He goes, “I am the head.”
And then He says, He uses this word again, “I am first in rank, I am the firstborn.” Now, He wasn’t the only person, right? In the Old Testament, you had people who rose from the dead. Lazarus in the New Testament, you had people rise from the dead.
When He says, “I am the firstborn in the resurrection,” He is the first who is resurrected and will never die. And the first with a resurrected body and I Corinthians 15, Paul teaches in the same line, “Because He rose you will rise with Him.” But He is the first to rise in a way that will be just like you will rise with Him for those who believe.
And so what is the truth here? The truth is Jesus is Lord over the Church and the response is we must obey Him and would you underline: fully? We must obey Him fully.
He is not content at all to be sort of on the pantheon or the salad bar of multiple God choices, which is how things work. You know, like, a little Bahá’ì here, a little Christianity here, maybe a little Buddhism over here. I’m just going to eclectically take what I sort of believe and what I like about different things and there are parts of the Bible that are really good and parts of what Jesus said are really good and I’m going to selectively obey what I think is best for me.
And, see, when you really do the math on that, and this is how people live, this is how even a lot of Christians live, I’ll do that. I’m not going to do that. You know, that command, that’s a pretty old fashioned command. I just don’t think I’m going to do that one. And, by the way, it’s pretty costly, could be pretty painful, there might be a lot of risk. So I am going to obey this and this and I’m not going to do that, I’m not going to do that.
You know who becomes God? The person who decides what’s right and what’s true and what you’re going to do is the person who becomes God and the idol that we worship is ourselves.
So we basically say, you don’t think about it this way, and we slide into it. But, I know better than You about relationships. I know better than You about the future. I know better than You about sexual purity. I know better than You about ethics in business. But these things sound pretty good and, of course, I want great relationships and I want to have a great relationship with You. It’s called “selective,” or “partial obedience.”
And statistically it is killing us. I mean, it’s killing us. It’s killing us because when non-Christians meet Christians who selectively obey, what they realize is, I don’t want any part of that. You say this but really you’re living that.
It’s killing us because when we don’t obey God, you know who loses? We do! It’s His good, acceptable, and perfect will. There is always a hard process. You find a great athlete, I will tell you, a great musician, a great artist, a great businessperson, if you asked them, “What does it take?” “Oh, clear focus, strategy, discipline, it’s hard, you pay a price, you invest, and…”
Well, that’s how God made life to work. And that’s really not a whole lot different than, “I’m in a new relationship just like a marriage to a person and you learn to communicate and you learn to put the other person first and you learn to work through issues and you don’t give up.” And what happens? Difficulty, ups, down, difficulty, ups, down. But pretty soon, you have this deep, rich relationship. And the same thing is exactly what happens in our relationship with God.
But what so many of us do is we get to the point, Oh, that’s a hard one! And so right now, about fifty percent of all Evangelical believers in the United States between the ages of eighteen to thirty, currently live with their boyfriend or girlfriend and say, “I agree with all of Christianity but I just don’t think this ‘not sex before marriage’ could really be, I mean, it’s the twenty-first century. Give me a break.”
Or we have about thirty percent of our teenagers who probably have never heard a whole lot different, it’s no worse sin than any other sins. But about a third of our teens in our churches think that same-sex unions are okay, as long as people love one another.
See, at some point in time, someone “calls the shots” who is Lord and God and Jesus said, “That’s Me. I am the head, I’m the firstborn, I am the Lord,” and here’s the thing, “I love you.” Trust is hard, but it’s only hard if you don’t believe that God is the Creator and the Sustainer and He is worthy and He really has your best in mind. I have never yet met anyone who has made really hard, faith decisions to do what they know is right, not out of some formula, If I do this, God will do this, but out of relationship to not break God’s heart, [who regretted it.]
And usually there is a front-end cost and some pain and some difficulty. And then there is this amazing reward. Because God loves us. Jesus said this to His disciples: “Those of you that have My commands and keeps them, those are the ones that love Me,” John 14:21.
But He said, “That wasn’t the end.” He says, “Then I will come with My Father,” and I love the old version of this, “and We will make Our abode with you.” In other words, the presence of the Son and the presence of the Father, by the person of the Holy Spirit, “We are going to take up residence in you and We are going to flood you with the reality of Our love and Our kindness and Our power and Our holiness and We are going to transform you from the inside out.” See, that’s why the baby came in the manger – fully man and fully God.
I remember early in my Christian life, because I have been a master at selective obedience, actually, and rationalization, it’s a gift I have.
And so I was living this way and I remember reading through the Old Testament and it was maybe my second time through and it’s a pretty thick section, so it took me a while. And I had never read the Bible growing up.
And there was this kind named Saul and he’s handsome and big and strong and God made him the king because the people asked for it. And so he has a couple victories and then God gives him this really tough assignment and he is supposed to eliminate everything – the animals.
And he feels a little peer pressure and so he rationalizes and instead of killing all the animals he decides that, Well, I’ll make them a sacrifice. And he selectively decides what part of God’s command he is going to obey.
And I’ll never forget Samuel the prophet comes and he says, “Saul, man, what are you doing? This is God. He said, ‘Do this.’” “Oh, I obeyed Him! I obeyed Him! I obeyed Him!”
And then there is this line, I have it underlined in my Bible in some funny color. And Samuel says, “If you obeyed Him, what is this bleating of the sheep that I hear?” And then he turns around and goes, “Well, I wanted to save the sheep because I am going to make a lot of sacrifices to God and I’m going to do a lot of good things and I am sure He is going to appreciate it.” And Samuel says, “You do not get it, with God. With God, obedience is always better than sacrifice.”
He doesn’t want your stuff, He doesn’t want your time, He doesn’t want your money, He doesn’t want your religious activity. He wants you to obey.
And I remember reading that, thinking, I think my selective obedience days need to come to an end. And maybe I need to give God my girlfriend life and my basketball life, my ego life, and my future and just trust that Someone who came and took on human flesh and made everything and sustains everything could probably figure out to give me the best woman, the best future, and in my perverted little mind, the best basketball.
If you could but believe how good God is. And what Paul is trying to help these Colossians who are being bombarded like we are in our day, he said, “I want you to understand, Jesus is the physical revelation of the invisible God. I want you to understand this Jesus is the Creator and the Sustainer of everything! And I want you to understand He is Lord. He is Lord, rightfully, over all the Church. And so you can know Him and you can trust Him and you have to obey Him.”
And then the fourth question is: What are your goals? It sounds like a silly question to ask God, but I asked Frank. And we got talking for a while and I didn’t tell him, it was just a very warm conversation and I didn’t bring up his girlfriend or any of that kind of stuff. He just turned to me and I found out her name and it sounded like a neat relationship and how they became friends for a long time and, “We were just friends.”
And he said, “We didn’t date or anything and then all of a sudden one day it was like, wow, you know? She is really neat and we love each other, we complement one another,” on and on and on. And it was very interesting, so I said, “So, what is in your future?” He goes, “I think I should marry Mary Anne.”
It’s interesting, he realized what he really wanted, he wanted a permanent reconciliation. He wanted to come together in a permanent relationship that they could both really trust and know the other person is going to be there for them.
And if you would ask Jesus, “Why did You become human and take on the form of a little baby, and become fully man and fully God? What was the goal? What was the game plan? What were you trying to accomplish?”
And He would say, “… the Father was pleased to have all His fullness,” it literally means, all the fullness of deity, “dwell in Him.” And why? “To,” underline that word, “reconcile,” – what? “reconcile,” bring together, “all things to Himself.” Well, what do you mean by, “all things?”
“Things on earth and things in heaven.” That’s the “why.” The word reconcile, literally, is: you know what it’s like, you’ve had a fight with your boyfriend or girlfriend and you get reconciled. I have had, on a handful of occasions, people who have divorced and they get reconciled and I have had the chance to remarry them.
Or people that are separated, or you can be reconciled with your boss, you can be reconciled with a friend, you can be reconciled with a mate. But here’s what reconciliation is. You go from adversaries to friends. Heart to heart connection. You become friends. Things are right now.
And in a fallen, evil world the purpose and goal of Jesus coming to the earth was to make right or to reconcile everything on earth or in heaven. But did you notice? It doesn’t say, “Or under the earth.” There are some things that are irreconcilable. There is a third of the angels that followed Satan. And there are people that have come to this earth and been given offer and opportunity and say, “I want nothing to do with God.”
To which God, in His dignity says, “You can have your own way. All your time on this earth and forever and ever and ever, I will not force Myself. This is a love relationship.”
And notice He describes exactly how He did it, “Having made peace through His blood, shed on the cross.” When Christ died, this little baby grew up, and He hung upon a cross and when He hung upon a cross – your sin, my sin, the sins of all people and all time – were placed on Him and He became our sacrificial substitute and God the Father looked down from heaven, and for the first time ever, looked away because your sin and my sin were placed on the substitute of Christ and He became sin, a sin offering, on our behalf and peace occurred between us and God. And what we could never do for ourselves, Christ accomplished.
He covered or atoned for our sin so that all people have been made savable. It doesn’t mean all people are saved or all people will be reconciled, because God doesn’t force Himself. But all people have been made savable.
The offer is: Your sins, the good news of the Early Church was not, “Do A, B, C, D, and E and then God will love you and forgive you.” It was, “God has already forgiven you by the death of His Son, and proved it by the resurrection. Do you want the free gift of eternal life?”
“As many as receive Him,” John would write of Jesus, “as many as receive Him, to them He gives the right,” or, “the authority to become children of God, even to those who believe on His name.” It’s an amazing offer. That’s why it’s called, “good news.”
The truth is, Jesus is the sovereign King of time and eternity. See, He is going to reconcile all things to Himself. And there is a coming day when this earth will come to a close and the reigning King will come. And not just the temporal heaven, but there will be a new heaven and a new earth and the new heaven will come down on this very physical new earth, and He will reign as King forever and ever.
And here is your response: You will reign with Him. Those who have trusted Christ, by faith, who His Spirit comes in and indwells you, and as you follow Him and He changes your life, this God has a plan and the plan is bigger than just now. You will reign with Him forever.
And what that does is it changes the lens by which you look at everything. See, we are Americans. We want everything now. Instant gratification. We want great relationships now, we want the business to go now, we want our kids to be great now, we want everything – now, now, now, now, now.
Godliness, patience, endurance, life-change, character happens by people who understand: I live in time but I am made for eternity. I am going to prioritize and make decisions and trust and do what counts for eternity, not just now.
It changes your perspective. See, everyone today is, “I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait.” Or it’s fear, fear, fear. This might happen, that might happen. As though, like, okay, this little, seventy or eighty years you get, like, okay. What if some really bad things happen but you’re really right with God? And you live forever and ever and ever? And what you do now, even if it doesn’t all work out the way you would like it to for the present, actually sets you up for something that is better and better, longer and longer, and forever?
When I was in Singapore, I learned something (and later in China) - that they think differently than we do. They think about time completely differently than we do. For Chinese it’s like, “Yeah, we’re going to do this in a hundred years. We feel like this is going to work out.” They actually think and plan that way.
I was in a set of high-rises, beautiful high-rises and all these new buildings and it looked just spiffy and this brand new harbor. And the guy I was with turned to me and he goes, “You understand, this is all reclaimed land.” And I said, “Well, what do you mean by that?”
He goes, “Well, for thirty years, from China, we have taken granite, just boatload and boatload and boatload and barges and we brought granite, for the first twenty years. And then we brought tons and tons and tons and tons of sand. And then we let it settle for another ten years. And then we built all this and all the plans are drawn. In fact, look over here.”
And we went over to the top of this high-rise. He goes, “Look out over here.” He said, “Do you see all that area? We are going to reclaim all, see those barges out there?” I said, “Yeah.” He goes, “Yeah, they’re doing the same thing.”
So the city government has thirty-year plans? Oh. And he looked at me like, Thirty years? I mean, that’s nothing. That’s nothing. It’s nothing.
Do you want to hear something else? Seventy years is nothing. It’s a vapor. It’s nothing. You will reign with Him. And how you will reign will be determined by how you walk now.
If He is the image of the invisible God, if He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, if He is the Creator and head and Lord of the Church, in order that He might be supreme or first placed in everything, in every galaxy, in every relationship among humans and angels and visible and invisible, here’s the only question I have: Doesn’t it make sense that the baby in that manger that was fully man and fully God, who lived to be Jesus and died and rose from the dead, and sits at the right hand of the Father and holds all things by the Word of His power, wouldn’t it make sense for Him to have exactly the same place in your heart and your life and priorities that He has with everything else?
And you know what I love? What I really love about Jesus and the Bible, I could explain everything I have said to an eight-year-old who could completely get it. Because, see, the common people heard Jesus gladly. And so He is the King. The question is: Is He your King? He is the Lord. The question is: Is He your Lord?
He sustains the universe. The question is: Does He sustain your life? And you know what? It starts with a step and the step is: No matter what it means, no matter what it costs, since You are who You say You are, I am all in.