This message was especially encouraging to people. If it encourages you, please let me know by leaving a comment. – Shayne
The vision statement at Lockwood Church describes the reality we hope to see in this way: Committed: to Christ, to Christlikeness, to each other, and to the world. The life pictured in these terms is a cataract of love and grace that flows from the fountainhead of a transformational commitment to Jesus Christ.
The English word committed has two senses. It describes the subjective state of “being all in,” of feeling dedicated and devoted. This is a relatively new meaning, which first appeared in English usage in 1948. The older meaning, which goes back to medieval times, is of a thing or person being entrusted, or of a task being delegated, to the care of another.
We will only be committed in the contemporary sense of the word (will only be all in, dedicated, and devoted) if we are committed in the earlier sense of the word (our lives are entrusted to Jesus Christ, their care delegated to him). It is futile to work up a feeling of commitment when the act of commitment has never been performed. People who try will eventually fall away from Christ, find that they lack faith in him, and end up being agnostic or atheist.
If you are listening to this, whether here or on the radio or online, and you no longer claim to have faith in God, look to see if this was true in your own experience. You once had a feeling of commitment but never actually and intelligently committed your life, time, reputation, and future to Christ. You were with Christ – in the sense that you were attending church, maybe doing Bible study, or even teaching and preaching – but you hadn’t entrusted your life to him. You were like a woman who lives with a man but has never entered the covenant of marriage with him.
That is not who we want to be at LCC. Our goal is not a feeling, though we are grateful for the feelings that spring from our commitment to God. But making a certain kind of feeling our goal is a mistake. Feelings of dedication and devotion will come … and go (as such feeling come and go in marriage), but our reality is that we have committed ourselves to God for his purpose and are under his care.
Again, this is like marriage (which is probably why God used marriage as an illustration of our relationship to Christ). I am married whether I feel like it or not. I entered the covenant of marriage with Karen Wilson on June 30th, 1979. Whether I am filled with affection or anger toward her, whether she respects me or thinks that I am a jerk, I am still married to her. I may get dementia and not recognize her, not remember that I am married to her, but that will not change the fact that we are married. I am committed to her not just with a feeling but with a covenant. I am hers and she is mine, and that is that. And that is good.
Or take the army as an illustration (which the Bible also does). Let’s say I am an 18-year-old who, two days ago, took the oath of enlistment. But now I have had a sudden realization: I don’t like the army. I don’t feel like a soldier. In fact, I identify as a civilian, not a G.I. That may be but, when I took the oath, I committed myself to the army for two years of active duty and six years in the reserves. Whether I feel like a soldier or not, whether I have a strong sense of devotion and dedication or not, I am army.
Before we dig into Colossians 1:15-20, let me ask you to reflect: Are you committed to Christ – that is, have you entrusted yourself to him like a recruit who takes the oath and entrusts himself to the army? Have you given yourself to Christ like a bride who gives herself to her husband through covenant vows for better or worse, for richer or poor, in sickness and in health, through life and to death? Being a Christian is not about feeling a certain way; it is not about holding certain viewpoints; it is not even about praying a sinner’s prayer (though all those things can go with it). It is about confessing Jesus Christ Lord in a commitment of yourself to him. Apart from that commitment, you are not a Christian; you’re a girlfriend, but not a wife; you’re a high school senior in the recruiter’s office, but not a soldier.
I’ll let you in on what I am trying to do in this message: I am trying to persuade you to commit yourself to Christ. If you haven’t already done so, I am going to tell you why you should. (I’m the army recruiter handing you a pen; I’m the matchmaker telling you about Mr. Right.) If you have already committed to Christ, I am going to show you why you should stand by, reaffirm and rejoice in that commitment.
Why should you commit your life to Christ? Why pin your hopes on someone who lived 2,000 years ago? Why invest your time and money? Why change your lifestyle? If I were limited to a one-word answer, that answer would be: Jesus. He is the only reason you need. I know that preachers often tell people they should commit their lives to Jesus, so they don’t go to hell. Yeah, that too. But the worst part of hell is missing out on Jesus. Jesus is the treasure. He is the pearl of great price.
That preeminence of Jesus shines through our text, which is a magnificent hymn of praise. From verse 15 through verse 20, there are no less than 12 pronouns that refer to Jesus (and an additional implied pronoun). Paul and the early church had met Jesus and they couldn’t give over it! There is no one remotely like him. To know him is to love him.
And to see him … to see him is to be transformed, transfigured, and made new. St. John understood and wrote, “We shall be like him” – which corresponds to St. Paul’s, “We shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling on an eye” – “for we shall see him” (1 John 3:2) What may be my favorite verse from any hymn goes like this: “He looks, and ten thousands of angels rejoice, and myriads wait for His word; He speaks, and eternity, filled with His voice, re-echoes the praise of the Lord.”
If we only see him through the glass of this life darkly, the eyes of our hearts but faintly illumined, if we merely behold the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, even so, we are changed. My life has been transformed in this way. But when we see him (Paul’s words) “face to face,” when we see him (John’s words) “as he is,” we will undergo a metamorphosis that will transmute, transform, and transfigure us into something we cannot now imagine. And when, in the words of the Revelation, “every eye will see him,” the world itself will be reborn.
What magic is at work that will transform us and make the world new? Only Jesus.
I want us to see Jesus today, even if through a mirror darkly, even if through the beclouded eyes of our spirits. But that will require the mediation of his Spirit on whom we must depend.
Let’s read our text, this stirring hymn to Christ (Colossians 1:15-20): He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
Why should you commit to Christ? The Apostle Paul gives us 7 reasons: (1) Because of who he is; (2) because of what he has created; (3) because of where that creation is headed; (4) because of what he is doing now; (5) because he is the head of the church; (6) because he is the first to overcome death; and (7) because he has proved that he has our interests at heart. We could spend hours on this, and – glory to God! – we will spend eternity on it, but today we have about fifteen minutes. So, let’s get to it.
First, you should commit to Christ Jesus because of who he is. He is the invisible God’s image, all creation’s firstborn. I will focus on Christ as image, but I need to say this about the firstborn. The Jehovah’s Witnesses (God love them!) use this text to support their doctrine that Jesus is the first created being, but they do interpretive injustice to the word “firstborn.” It is used refer to the first of numerous children, but it is also used as a title for the first in importance. So, Solomon, who was neither his dad’s nor his mom’s first child, was given the title Firstborn – the one with the status and authority. It is in this sense that it is used of Jesus. His status is “First and Foremost,” and all authority belongs to him.
Besides that, the text emphasizes that all things were created in Christ. He is not the first of all created things but their Creator. The Watchtower Version obscures that fact by inserting the word “other” into these verses five times even though it isn’t there in the Greek even once. So, it says things like, “by means of him all other things were created,” and “he is before all other things,” and “all other things have been created by him.” That is not translation; that is propaganda.
You should commit to Jesus because he has the primacy – he is First – and because he is the invisible God’s image. We need to understand what that means. When God created humans, he made them in his own image. That, as far as we know, distinguishes humans from angels and animals and every other creature.
We were created in God’s image … and who is God’s image? Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God. We were made to be like him. But the image of God in humans was marred by the rebellion when humanity rejected God and, in so doing, defaced his image.
But God did not give up on the plan. God never gives up. Instead, through Christ his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and the impartation of his Spirit – God is renewing his image in humans and thereby restoring the beauty and blessedness of creation. So, Paul will later tell the Colossians that they “have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9-10).
You were modeled on Christ, who is both the image of God, and the prototype on which you were based. You were designed to be like him. That’s why you should commit yourself to him.
Why commit to Christ? Because you were not only made to be like him, but you were made in him – and not just you, but everything in Creation. Our text says that all things were made in (or by) him, and that all things were made through him (v. 16). Everything owes its existence to Christ. “Without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:2). Matter exists because of Christ. Dark matter exits because of Christ. All creatures that are not comprised of matter – there are myriads – exist because of him. All creatures that are comprised of matter – like humans, trees, bears, whales, rocks, and watermelons – exist because of him. You exist because of him. He made everything and he know how it all works – including you and me.
Let’s say you have a very complex piece of technology that isn’t working right. To whom would you rather take it– the person who made and programmed it, or just another user? The one who made it, right? When you commit to Christ, you are putting yourself in the hands of the one who knows how you work best because he made you.
Why commit to Christ? It is not just because he was the source of all creation but because he is creation’s goal (v. 16). Not only did all things come into being in him, but all things came into being for him. The Greek preposition implies motion: all things are moving toward him. He is both the beginning of our journey and its end, our source and our goal. You and I were not made for ourselves but for him and we, like Augustine, can pray: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Why commit to Christ? It is not just because he created everything in the past or even because everything is moving toward him in the future, but because he keeps everything going in the present. Look at verse 17: “In him all things hold together.” All things: you, me, the planet, the cosmos, the universe. Everything.
A little over a month ago, researchers and staff at the ignition facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory accomplished a remarkable feat. They started a nuclear reaction that produced more energy than it took to ignite it – for the first time ever. The world scientific community is on pins and needles, as it should be. This accomplishment portends remarkable changes for our world.
This has been sixty years in the making. The team at Livermore was able to sustain that nuclear reaction for a few billionths of a second. Billionths. Jesus has been sustaining all the energy of creation since it came into existence (and he isn’t even tired). “In him all things hold together.” He is, even now, as the author of Hebrews put it, “sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).
Apart from him, all things would come apart, and it wouldn’t take even a few billionths of a second. You, your very existence, is dependent upon him. He holds you together when life, and death, and the four forces of nature threaten to pull you apart.
Why should you commit yourself to Christ? Because he is (v. 18) the head of the church. People commit to the church only to find its leaders and members let them down. But the head of the church will never let anyone down.
Why should you commit yourself to Christ? Because he knows how to live right through death. He is (v. 18) “the firstborn from among the dead.” He not only knows how to beat death, but he gives his Spirit to those who are his so they can beat it too. The trajectory of human history changed forever on the morning Christ Jesus came out of the grave. He is the pioneer of our faith, forging a way through death for himself and for all who follow him.
So far, I’ve given you six reasons to commit your very self to Christ: (1) Because of who he is; (2) because of what he has created; (3) because of where – or rather, to whom – that creation is headed; (4) because what he is doing now; (5) because he is the head of the church, acting through the church on earth; and (6) because he knows the way through death and will lead his own people out.
Six great reasons to commit yourself to him, six proofs of Christ Jesus’s incredible power, incomprehensible intelligence, and masterful control. But as impressive as those things are, they leave something out: they don’t demonstrate that he is for me. They don’t convince me to trust him. Knowing that he is smart and strong and capable is not enough to move me to take the oath, to bind myself to him in covenant. I’ve known people who are smart, strong, and capable … and mean, unreliable, and selfish all at the same time! How can I entrust myself – my life, my future, my reputation – to Christ with any assurance that he will care for me?
That brings us to the seventh reason you should commit yourself to Christ, which comes from verse 20. We will not find Christ in eternity’s workshop making galaxies and stars and angels and dominions (though he has done all this). We will not find him on heaven’s throne, ruling over those galaxies and stars and angels and us (or at least not yet). Nor will we find him in the great mysteries of physics where he binds the four forces of nature together (though he is there). We will find him where he has chosen to reveal himself: on a cross, dying to reconcile us to God; dying to restore us to the glorious image; dying to make all things, in heaven and on earth, what God is his joyous love made them to be, including you and me.
This is why you should commit your life, your time, your future – your very self – to Christ: Because “He loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:2).
Thank you for another uplifting message this morning…from one of my favorite passages. I never tire of reading it or hearing it commented on.
God continue to bless you, your family, and your church.
I’m 82 and I’m still “learning how to do life from Him”.
Larry, at 82 you’re just getting started! We’ve got so much to learn – and gloriously so!
Thanks for the blessing; it means a lot to me!
Great message, very informative.
It’s a great passage on which to meditate. Thanks for the encouraging word, Tad. – Shayne