Advent 2017 Sermon: Reformation 500

ADVENT 2017: 2nd Sunday, 10 December 2017

INTRODUCTION: Today, as we celebrate the Second Advent, the coming again of the Lord Jesus, we will take a look at the book of Colossians.  And because our topic today is peace, and we’ve just celebrated the Protestant Reformation, we’re going to look at five principles found in Colossians, which defined the Protestant Reformation, and should also define our lives today.  Those principles are Latin phrases called the Five Solas, and they help enhance our  Christian living while we wait for the Second Advent of Christ

Five Solas

They were first developed by Martin Luther and were updated later in history.  But Martin Luther got his inspiration from the Word of God, so it’s only fitting that we look to the Word as well.  I believe all these principles are contained in Paul’s beautiful epistle to the believers at Colossae.  So moving on, we are going to get a quick history of Colossians and then move on.

Purpose: To combat errors in the church and to show that believers have everything they need in Christ. Author: Paul.

It was written to: The church at Colosse, a city in Asia Minor, and believers everywhere.

Date written: About a.d. 60, during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome

Setting: Paul had never visited Colosse—evidently the church had been founded by Epaphras and other converts from Paul’s missionary travels. The church, however, had been infiltrated by religious relativism, with some believers attempting to combine Gnosticism, paganism and secular philosophy with Christian doctrine. Paul confronts these false teachings and affirms the sufficiency and supremacy of Christ.  Colossae. Colossae was located in the southwestern part of present-day Turkey.  It was centered at a crossroads on the main highway from Ephesus straight east.

RANDOM FACT: Colossae and Laodicea shared in the wool trade. The name Colossae was derived from a Latin name collossinus, meaning “purple wool.” The ruins of Colossae are near the modern Turkish city of Denizli.  It’s about 3 hours southeast of Izmir, Turkey.

     Paul starts off with giving God thanks for the Colossian believers, because they were receptive to the gospel, and were growing in faith because of it, then he prays for them, which is a good prayer to memorize:

Colossians 1:9-15 Christian Standard Bible (CSB) 9 For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. 14 In Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The apostle Paul is writing to the believers at Colossae because he has heard great things about the strength of their faith and their love.  And Paul was glad because more & more Colossians became Christians.  The Colossians heard the gospel from Epaphras, who Paul commends.  He prays that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding….SO that they could walk and live in a manner worthy of Christ Jesus, and be fully pleasing to him.  Then Paul prays that they could continue in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with ALL power, according to God’s glorious might.  Paul also prays that the people could have endurance, patience and joy.  He prays that they would give thanks to the Father, who qualified them to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light of Christ.  Then Paul says the FATHER has delivered us from the domain of darkness and has transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins.

As we look at how these verses in Colossians apply to the Second Coming, one of the ways we can prepare for Christ’s return is to keep growing closer to Him.  Paul’s letters are brilliant, but hidden in his letters are prayers.  There are some for the lost, but there are many that are specifically targeted towards believers, to keep growing.  I wonder, KMC AG, what would happen, if…starting in January, you committing to praying verses 9-12 of Colossians 1 for your brothers and sisters here at this church, and your brothers and sisters around Germany on a regular basis? I wonder what we would look like as a church, and as a country if we committed to this.  What kind of revivals would break out? What kind of signs and wonders and miracles would we see?

How It Applies To Advent, Peace & Soli Deo Gloria 

What would happen is that more and more people would give glory to God, whose kingdom we have been transferred into.  When we realize that it is all about God’s glory, we can rest in that.  And in resting in God, abiding in God, stepping back and saying, “to God be the glory,” peace can quiet our souls.

     We can have peace in knowing it’s all about God’s glory — When we surrender to God through prayer and fasting, he moves.  And people are drawn to them and he has their attention.   And he gets credit when crime rates in cities and countries go down, when human trafficking stops, when pregnancy crisis centers have to close, when Syrian refugees become pastors and evangelists and missionaries to Germany AND America, which is what it means by giving God glory.  It simply means giving Him credit and acknowledgement when it is due Him.  This last weekend, when we were in Worms, celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we learned that Luther came up with a Latin phrase called, “Soli Deo Gloria,” glory to God alone.

Let’s get out of God’s way, pray for our fellow believers as Paul did, and WATCH what mighty things God does.  We have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the Father’s Beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Let’s not live like we’re stuck between two worlds; we don’t believe in purgatory!! It’s like driving to the border of France, and  having one foot in France and the other in Germany. You’re not really in either country.  No, but we have BEEN transferred to the kingdom of the Father’s Son, and we have BEEN redeemed and we have BEEN forgiven. I pray that this reality would give you peace, and you would live, for Soli Deo Gloria, to give glory to God alone.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

After Paul pens his powerful prayer for the Colossians and tells them what the Father has done for them, Paul dives deeply into the magnitude of who Christ is, starting at verse 15…

Colossians 1:15-20 Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

The Centrality of Christ 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and by him all things hold together. 18 He is also the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile everything to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

     What does Paul say?  That Christ IS the visible image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  See we were made IN the image of God, but Christ IS the image of God.  All things were created by Christ… 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 Christ is holding everything together.  And not only that, but he is the head of the church.  He IS the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might reign supreme. In Christ all the fullness of God not just dwells, but is PLEASED to dwell. And Christ has reconciled all things to himself, whether in heaven or earth by making peace by the blood of the cross.

Wow.  Paul is saying that all the earth, the heavens, the galaxies, the angelic ranks. They’re all made by, through and for Christ.  He is the living Word, so when God said let there be light, the Living Word Himself went forth, and made light!! And when God took clay and breathed the breath of life into the first man he formed, it was Christ! In John chapter 9, when he took clay and mud and spit into it and made eyes for the man that was BORN blind! He never had eyes until Christ MADE eyes for him on the spot!! Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the day, but God is Spirit, so who did they walk with? The God-Man, Christ!! What better peace is there than walking with Christ, in the garden in the cool of the day?

 In Christ Alone, Peace beyond imagination is found  — I am reminded of the popular song, “In Christ Alone.”

In Christ Alone Stuart Townend —In Christ alone my hope is found,

He is my light, my strength, my songThis Cornerstone, this solid Ground

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.  What heights of love, what depths of peace, When fears are stilled, when strivings cease, My Comforter, my All in All, Here in the love of Christ I stand.

If we give Christ the supremacy in our hearts, we will have peace because nothing will shake us.  Christ said my yoke is easy and my burden is light. You can have rest for your souls, he says.  Rest is not having a life with zero problems; but rest is being yoked to a plow, where  the plow of life is being pulled in the direction of the One who is Infinitely Stronger. That One is Christ.  Solas Christus.  Christ Alone.

SolusChristus

That One who is Christ, is also the one who is the author of our faith, from beginning to end.  So Christ alone, should sit on the throne of our hearts.  And faith alone, is the only way we can comprehend Him, or follow Him, or expect to hear from Him.

Colossians 1:21-23 Christian Standard Bible (CSB) 21 Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions. 22 But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him— 23 if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a servant of it.

     Once we were alienated from Christ and hostile in our minds towards him; and this was expressed in our evil actions.  But for those of us who have an active relationship with Christ, he has reconciled us by his physical body through his death, to present us as a Bride to his Father, holy, faultless and blameless before Himself—IF we remain grounded and steadfast in our faith and don’t turn from gospel that we’ve heard.  This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and we have become servants with it alongside Paul.

     What Paul is describing is the term Martin Luther called Sola fide, or faith alone.  Basically, Christ died to so that we could be holy, before Him, IF we remain faithful You know what I think is a good word for faith? I think imagination and faith are the same things.  I look back to the opening verses of Matthew 18, when Jesus called a child to him and said if the we didn’t humble ourselves and become like little children, we would never enter the kingdom of heaven. But why? Children know what faith is, because they have imagination! Why do we stop imagining just because we grow up? J.R.R. Tolkien, the creator of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbitt, says:

I do not accept the tone of scorn with which ‘Escape’ is used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?”

So this advent, if you want to experience the peace of God, realize that peace also runs deeper than the eye can see, and comes through faith and imagination.

Peace beyond understanding comes through steadfast faith alone. — Sola Fide.  Faith Alone. look at Hebrews 11.  Rahab ran a brothel in ancient Jericho! But yet, she hid the spies Joshua sent & she believed in the God of Israel simply when she HEARD what he did in Egypt [faith comes by HEARING] And Samson…wait, SAMSON???!! He disobeying his parents, and married non-Israeli women [Dagon]. And yet, he was counted as a hero of faith in Hebrews 11. When we imagine God’s promises to be fulfilled before they happen, that’s faith. And through our faith, righteousness is transferred to us.  My prayer is that we would live our lives Sola Fide, by faith alone.

Sola FideMartin Luther Quote

     Now. We’ve talked about how the story of the conversion of the Colossian Christians, and the stories of our own conversions bring glory to God alone.  Soli Deo Gloria.  We’ve talked Christology, the study of the person & nature of Christ, and Solas Christus.  Then we looked back at heroes who saw every situation thru faith lenses.  Sola Fide.  Now, Paul prayed and gave the Colossians more encouragement to grow.  But how do we grow to God? We grow in grace.

Colossians 2:6-15 Christian Standard Bible (CSB) 6 So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude. 8 Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Christ. 9 For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, 10 and you have been filled by him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. 11 You were also circumcised in him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of Christ, 12 when you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him and forgave us all our trespasses. 14 He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; he triumphed over them in him.

 Paul is saying that since we have received Christ and acknowledged him as Lord, now let’s walk in Him.  Let’s be rooted, built up and established in the faith, and let’s abound with thanksgiving, meaning let our hearts overflow and spill over with thanksgiving.   Let’s not be taken captive by philosophies and false religions which were invented by the elemental spirits of this world. The fullness of deity, the fullness of God,  physically exists inside of Christ.  And we have been filled with the fullness of God in Christ, who is in charge of all. Also, we were circumcised, meaning our old man was cut away and buried with him in baptism.  Remember, circumcision was a sign that you were IN covenant, IN a contract with the God of Israel; and if you were spiritually or physically uncircumcised, then you were uncut, so you were outside the covenant family and contract, and you remained in your sin; sin remained attached to you.  THEN we were raised with him through faith in the power of God who raised Him.  At one point we were dead in our sins, transgressions, iniquities and trespasses.   But he forgave us and regenerated us, brought us back to life, by canceling the record o f debt, by nailing it to the cross,  Christ disarmed our demon enemies and triumphed over them.

Look at what the Amplified Bible says about verses 13-15: Colossians 2:13-15 (AMP) When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh (worldliness, manner of life), God made you alive together with Christ, having [freely] forgiven us all our sins,14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of legal demands [which were in force] against us and which were hostile to us. And this certificate He has set aside and completely removed by nailing it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities [those supernatural forces of evil operating against us], He made a public example of them [exhibiting them as captives in His triumphal procession], having triumphed over them through the cross.

Paul is saying look, continue to move forward in Christ.  Continue to walk in him, and grow in the knowledge of Him. Then he says don’t be fooled by all these different religious systems that may sound good, but at their core they can’t answers all of life’s biggest and deepest questions.  Only Christ can sufficiently speak a Word to every issue, that cuts to the heart of every issue.  Paul then says, listen, Christ himself is the greatest proof of the existence of God. Not only that, but the fullness of God dwells in us, if we live in Christ, because He deposits His Spirit into our souls.  Our old man is gone, and we have been raised from spiritual death. And when Paul talks about our sins being nailed to the cross, I couldn’t help but think of Luther and him nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Catholic Church in Vittenberg, Germany in 1517.   Luther argued that salvation is not earned by good deeds but received only as a free gift of God’s grace, Sola Gratis, through Christ. His refusal to retract all his writings, demanded by Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521, resulted in his excommunication by the pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the emperor.  But whatever!  when Luther studied the scriptures, he realized that the Christian life, is based on grace alone.  Sola Gratia.

 It is through grace alone that we are even here — It is grace that sustains us.  We’re not sure what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was….several scholars think it was his eyesight, just from insights we have based on his letters. But we don’t 100 percent know what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was.  But when Paul tried to pray it away, Christ said, my grace is enough, because my power is made perfect in your weakness.  This is the gospel of grace.  It was this truth, this reality that swept through Europe, and changed the church forever after the Reformation.  Plain and simple, live your life in light of Sola Gratia. Grace alone. You can find the peace you need resting in God’s grace.

Sola Gratia

We’ve discussed Soli Deo Gloria, Solus Christus,  Sola Fide, and Sola Gratia.  Now we will come to our final point for today, and that is the importance of the Word of God alone as our compass for all matters of faith and practice. We live in a military community that’s way overcrowded. One housing office for five bases? We live in a world where North Korea shoots missiles into the Sea of Japan for kicks. We have a huge influx of refugees from Syria, Libya and other places here in Germany, most of which are open to the gospel because of ISIS. But a small percentage are terrorists.  But we don’t have to be afraid about the future. We can have peace this Advent Sunday through focusing on the Promises of God.

Colossians 3:1-4, 14-17 Christian Standard Bible (CSB) 3 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

In verses 5-13, Paul gives us many admonishments and describes the differences between the old and new life, that I want to encourage you to read up on. For the sake of time we will move forward for now. But he sums them all up with love in verse 14:

Colossians 3:14-17 (CSB) 14 Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 There’s so much that Paul said, but to sum it up he said put off ALL types of  sin and racial and class divisions; because we’re ALL chosen. And because of this knowledge that we are ALL chosen, Paul says we need to put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, and we need to forgive like Jesus did. And love harmonizes everything. Do you want peace? Let the peace of Christ RULE your heart with thankfulness.  You want to have peace?  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, wisely teaching, and singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, thankfully.

      Paul is saying look, there is a black and white contrast from the old life a person had to their new life in Christ.  He says we’re seated with Christ, just like Pastor Jeremy broke down last Sunday.  And before that, Pastor James said we were in transition, moving from a season of Thanksgiving to a season of Advent, so if we keep our focus on Christ, it will give us perspective.  How do we keep our focus on Christ? Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.

The scriptures are God’s love letters to His Bride.  Let’s be intimately acquainted with them.

 The Scriptures Alone are God’s love  letters to his kids —- Sola Scriptura, Scripture Alone should govern our lives. In Matthew 24,  Pharisees also came up with their own Oral Torah, Torah meaning “law,” the first five books of the Bible, Genesis thru Deutoronomy.  BUT…they considered their Oral Torah to be equal to the written Torah that was written by God himself and given to Moses on Mount Sinai.  Jesus said look, you are making the word of God ineffective with your man-made traditions. The central idea of Sola Scriptura was that tradition should never trump the Word in authority.  Sola Scriptura later in Luther’s was the idea that every individual believer had a right to access to the Word of God, and didn’t need the Pope to interpret it for them.  If we are not intimately acquainted with this book, any and everybody can pull the wool over our eyes.  That’s what the Catholic Church was doing with the common people during Luther’s day. But I promise you, you will find treasure, after treasure, after treasure in the Word of God, if you dig in for yourself.  Sola Scriptura.

Sola Scriptura

As we move to a close today, I just want to leave a last set of motivational passages.  We pray that we would live lives that bring glory to God alone, that we would place Christ alone on the throne of our hearts, that we would realize that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, and that the Word of God should be the lamp to our feet and the light to our path daily.  Our doctrine, our theology, would lead to more kneeology; basically godlier lives, through faith and grace.  Now that we know Christ created everything, and is first in everything, let him be first in every aspect of our personal and professional lives.

Colossians 3:18-24 English Standard Version (ESV)

18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

If you do these things you will bring glory to God alone.  Soli Deo Gloria.  But only putting Christ first can you do these things.  Solus Christus.  Believing you can have an amazing marriage and godly children comes through faith and imagination.  See it even if it hasn’t happened YET. Faith alone.  Sola Fide. It’s only by God’s grace that you can be a great NCO, or SNCO, or officer, or private or airman, or teacher or contractor or federal employee, or friend or Christian.  Sola Gratia.  And then, go back to Colossians and these teachings for encouragement.  Memorize them, internalize them, journal them. Whatever you have to do. But hide them in your heart. Sola Scriptura.  AMEN!

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