Jesus Matters!

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 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, 23 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. (Colossians 1:21-23)

Paul is so good about giving us a big picture of the glory of Christ, magnificent truths, and then telling us how it relates to us. First big picture, and then inserting us into the discussion. So if we are tempted to ask the question, “So what?” about the greatness and the position of Christ in this world, then we have this answer to that question in verses 21-23.

There are passages, many passages, that lift Christ to heights of prominence, and yet we may say, “What does this have to do with me?” We can be that way. So often we just want to know how a truth will change our world, I mean our little world. We can get to a place of apathy, even in regard to what is going on around us, if it does not directly affect us. We may fail to see the connection between world dominating events and their effect on you and me. 

For instance, there are an untold number of atrocities going on around our world. Christians being killed in Africa, Iraq, and Syria to name a few places. Women and children being murdered for their faith. We cannot look at the news without being appalled, I hope appalled, by the evil around us and evil committed toward our fellow man. There is human trafficking happening, kidnappings, taking the poor and vulnerable and enslaving them to be used as objects for the gain of the rich and powerful. That happens even here at home. There are racists and bigots and hate mongers who beat down their fellow man with their words and their deeds. Children, unborn babies being killed by the thousands here and abroad. Thinking of any of these happenings around us, we can get to a place of saying, “So what? None of that really affects me directly.” We can ignore things, shrink back into our bubble and attempt to shield ourselves from what is outside.

We are not called to live that way. We are called to live life with others in mind, we are called to love our neighbors, and to love our neighbors will require getting involved in things that may not directly touch our lives. Get involved because they touch our neighbors’ lives. That is what the good Samaritan did, right?

I’m not saying that any one of us can jump in and solve all the world’s problems, I’m only saying that we can live outside of ourselves and love people around us by helping them with what they are facing. This gives us great opportunity to share the love of Christ, to be as Christ in people’s lives, to share the gospel as we go and do.

We and others may try to ignore travesty around us and retreat to our places of comfort. But there has been a worldwide, universal event that we will not be able to ignore forever. This world event, though pushed aside from the minds of many, will be at the forefront of everyone’s mind eventually. The impact that Jesus Christ has on this world is unavoidable by all people. When we read of the person of Christ from Colossians 1:15-20, who He really is, our attempt to ignore or think Him unimportant is shattered by what comes next, that is verses 21-23. Paul does not leave his discussion about Christ (v. 15-20) somewhere in the clouds, but brings it down to us to say, “Look, this really matters!” This is not a theory class in college, this is truth with which everyone must deal.

And so for us to see this, I want to read verses 15-23 all together, because I don’t want us to miss the connection, the flow between these two very important paragraphs.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 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. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 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. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)

And this is where Paul begins to bring it home to us and show us how we are unmistakably affected by the person of Jesus.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 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, 23 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. (Colossians 1:21-23)

Let’s remember as we look at these verses that Paul is writing to Christians. He is laying out how Christians in particular have been changed by the work of Christ. As we go through this, I’ll point out too, how all people are affected by His work as well. 

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 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 (Colossians 1:21-22)

“And you.” Don’t you love to see your name in the text? Or at least a personal pronoun that represents your name? Or I should say, that is so if you belong to Christ. When Paul says “you” here, he is distinguishing between true believers and non-believers. This is true because he goes on to say, “you, who were once alienated.” He is speaking to and about a distinct group of specific people. A group of people who had a past life of alienation from God and who now are blameless before Him. 

This description is like others we see in the New Testament…

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off (Ephesians 2:1-3, 11-13, 17)

The greatest news ever is that of sinners being reconciled to God. And one of the greatest ways to glory in the current blessings that we may possess is to remember life before those blessings were ours. Reminders of our past, even a past of sin, can be a a conduit through which we can glory in God and in His gracious work.

Remember the context of verses 21 and 22 is that of reconciliation. When Paul uses the term “alienation,” it means that at one time the Colossian Christians and all of us who have not believed, we had at one time been outside of the sphere of God’s particular blessing. We were alienated from hope. And as Gentiles we were almost doubly alienated. Israel had the promise of a Messiah, at least they had that promise, but the Gentiles were outside of that promise to Israel. Israel had been the focus of God’s redemptive plan. But now, now through Christ, the Gentiles also became participants of the covenant blessing, the new covenant. The force of this alienation is not seen really well in the English. From the Greek this could read, “The Colossians were once continuously and persistently out of harmony with God.” And in that continuous and persistent place of disharmony with God, they were just kind of stuck.

It would be like in some parts of the world where people are born within a certain class of people, like a peasant, and there is no way to move beyond that. Where you are born is where you stay. Or like with ethnic differences, where you are born is where you stay, or with gender, God created us male and female, that is how we are. In each of these cases that doesn’t change, no matter how badly we may want something different. 

This is where the Gentiles were. The Jews had a promise, and the Gentiles were outside of that. There are things we cannot change, but God can bring change.

18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:18-19)

It is great, isn’t it, that when we speak of alienation from God, we are able to speak of it in the past tense. “You were,” Paul says.

Not only were we alienated from God, but we were also “hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.” It’s not just that we were passive as aliens, but we were active in our hostility and deeds that were opposed to and offensive to God.

First Paul says we were “hostile.” This could also be translated “enemies.” I think hostility is a good translation because the Greek word has a strong active component to it. Romans 5:10 uses this word as well, translated enemy here: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

It is not like we are passive enemies. You know, there are people around the world who call us their enemies. ISIS would say that we are their enemies, I mean you and me. What have I done to them, what have you done? I don’t know them and they don’t know me. They may say I am their enemy simply because of where I live, in the USA. So, an enemy? Maybe, but only because of an association. It is not that way between God and the unbeliever. 

“Hostile” or “enemy” here could be better understood as “they made themselves enemies.” We make ourselves to be enemies against God.

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

This puts us at the center of a place of responsibility before God. We are not passive enemies, we are active, this is hostility. From where does this come? From our “minds.” This term is often translated “heart.” This is a person’s disposition. Actions naturally come from our minds or our hearts, our inner being, right?

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity (Romans 1:24)

The lusts, desires of the heart and mind come out as actions.

20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23)

This is the really scary thing. If we are not God’s, then we are active, participating enemies, hostile enemies of God from the heart. We are, if we are not His by faith, standing against Him as an enemy.

If you are a believer, then just think of that: this is where you were. If you are not a believer, think about this: this is where you are today.

Evidence of a mind hostile to God is seen in behavior, “evil deeds.” Evil deeds flow from a sinful heart. Or you could say that evil behavior reveals an evil heart. 

All of this leads to or shows a desperate condition. A condition so desperate that no person can change it on their own. And the only one who could change it is the one who was our enemy, the one to whom we were hostile.

In life, if we are in a desperate place and the only one who has any means to help us is our greatest enemy, well, you can see how hopeless that would seem. It must have been what the man thought as the Good Samaritan approached him. “This guy, my enemy, would never help me.” And yet he did, he did in a really big way. And so Christ did as well! 

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 (Colossians 1:22)

Through the death of Christ, His perfect life given for us, the Creator and Sustainer dying for you and for me, through Him we get to a place of peace with God.

How are we presented to God? As holy and blameless and above reproach. We will be presented, there will be a time when we are presented to Him in these ways. God sees us in Christ, because of Christ, as we will be in heaven. He views us now as clothed with the very righteousness of Christ. We are not perfect in our thoughts nor in our deeds today, but we are covered with Christ, with His life, and positionally holy, blameless, and above reproach. 

None of this is by our works of course, it is by the work of Christ. No matter how bad we have been, no matter what sins we have committed, nothing is too much that it cannot be forgiven and nothing is too much that the perfect sacrifice of Christ cannot reconcile us to God. Remembering our lives before Christ can make our new life in Christ that much sweeter, that much more incredibly awesome, it makes His grace real. 

When you hear these characteristics – holy, blameless, above reproach – who do you think of? Who do these things describe? Christ, right? Yes, Christ. And we are clothed with Him.

In a few moments, we will take of the Lord’s Table. As we do, we are told to remember Christ. As you do, remember from where you have come and remember where you are headed. 

From being alienated from Him, from being hostile in thought and in deeds, to reconciliation by His death into a new position of holiness, blamelessness, and being above reproach!

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 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 (Colossians 1:21-22)