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26th December, 1999

Note: This is the last sermon for 1999.
A new series will start in February, 2000


  The Man behind the Centuries
     
  Colossians 1:13-29


This week's edition of TIME features the Man of the Year. Next week it will be the Man of the Century. But two weeks ago it focused on the Man of the Millennium. The news magazine declares of all people who have ever lived, Jesus Christ is the most influential. He is the Man of this millennium and of all millennia. TIME magazine lists the most powerful people of all time then concludes: "It would require much exotic calculation, however, to deny that the single most powerful figure, not merely in these two millenniums, but in all human history, has been Jesus of Nazareth. Not only is the prevalent system of denoting the years based on the date of his birth, but a serious argument can be made that no one else's life has proved remotely as powerful and enduring as that of Jesus."

Ironically as we enter the year 2000, some mainline denominations, including our own, are disputing the uniqueness of Jesus and the written Word that testifies to Him. Accepting as moral the sexual practices of a few clergy has become a key issue. Already some within the Uniting Church are also claiming the right of all single young people to indulge in sexual practices and to ignore Scriptural teachings and prohibitions. The issue lies not in immoral sexual behaviour, although this is very important, but in who Jesus is, and the nature and authority of the Gospel record that preserves His teaching. The presenting issue is the removal of sexual prohibitions and the endorsement of the practise of homosexuality. The real issue is who Jesus is and what authority has His teaching today.

This acceptance of immorality concerns not only Biblical Christians, but also Jews. Rabbi Apple from Sydney's Great Synagogue writes in this month's edition of their Journal, "Judaism cannot cope with an ethic in which right and wrong are matters of opinion and you can basically invent any standards you like; it insists that civilization cannot survive without eternal, immutable moral principles. It cannot cope with a life style in which holiness or hedonism are equally legitimate; the only valid way, in the Jewish point of view, is that of holiness and decency." The Rabbi agrees with evangelical Christians who dispute the liberal attitude of dismissing the Scriptures as normative and Jesus as unique, while relying on their stories and feelings.

The church at Colossae in Western Turkey had fallen into the modern trap of considering Jesus Christ as simply a great man whom we honour. This small church, 150 kilometres east of Ephesus on the coast, was founded by one of the Apostle Paul's young assistants while Paul was ministering at Ephesus. Paul wrote to them to put them right and to expand their concepts of the living Christ. His introduction in Colossians 1:13-29 shows Jesus Christ to be the Millennium Man!

1. THE MILLENNIUM MAN'S PERSON.
Paul reminded his readers that God 13-14 "has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Jesus is acknowledged as God's Son. It is through His Son that we have been redeemed with our sins forgiven.

That immediately puts Jesus beyond everyone else. No one else has redeemed us. No one else enables our forgiveness. The reason why this was possible was because 15"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." Only God can save us. And He chose to do so through Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was the visible disclosure of the God we cannot see. As John put it 1:18 "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made Him known." Jesus has primary place over all creation. He is first in time, existing from all eternity. He is first in status, as God's only natural Son. He is first in authority. We are made creatures and adopted into God's family. No one else could do that. Only Jesus who was both God and Man, could relate to Creator and creatures to reconcile us. That is why Jesus is the Millennium Man.

2. THE MILLENNIUM MAN'S WORK.
Many people think the work of Jesus began at His baptism. The Scriptures tell of the pre-existence of Christ. At the start of the creation record we read Gen 1:26 "God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,.." God the Father would determine creation. God the Spirit would brood over the waters. But it was God the Son, the pre-existent Christ, through whom God created the world. John says of Jesus: 1:1-4 1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men." His work concerned our redemption, but it started with the creation of all.

If you have never associated Jesus Christ with the act of creation, like some at Colossae, think of what Paul writes: 16 "For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." Jesus Christ is the agent of creation: "For by Him all things were created". Jesus Christ is the reason for creation: "all things were created by Him and for Him." Jesus Christ is the source of creation: "He is before all things". Jesus Christ is the centre of all creation: "in Him all things hold together." He is the centripetal force, the Omega point that holds all of creation including the universe in harmony. Does not that blow your mind? That is a key point in research for physicists and astronomers today. Doesn't that blow your little ideas about Jesus? Jesus the Millennium Man.

3. THE MILLENNIUM MAN'S FOLLOWERS.
It is easy to talk about Christ as the head of the Church and we as His body. There is more to it than that. Paul wants immoral people who belong to the church to understand. The church is not a human organization based upon our rules. As such it would be a failure. If God wanted an effective and efficient tool to promote His work, He would never endorse a church that allows members to choose their standards! Yet God has endorsed our church, not because we pick and choose our standards of behaviour, but because so many believers trust in Jesus. Some may disobey His word and will, but mostly His people believe and obey. When we trust and obey, God honours His people as His body the Church.

The church is not a human attempt to promote God's work. It is God's creation, using fallible human beings to be His body on earth. Paul writes:18 "He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead." Jesus is the head of the church, its authority. Therefore His Word as spoken and recorded in the New Testament is to be obeyed by Christians. It can not put to one side by those who prefer immorality to obedience. Jesus is the source of the Church's life. He was the first to be born again from the dead by His resurrection. His resurrection is central for it involves our resurrection from the dead. John 14:19 "Because I live, you also will live." No wonder Jesus Christ, the one and only, the unique Son of God, the first to be raised from the dead of all who believe, should "in everything have the supremacy." Paul later repeats this 2:9-10 "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority." When Christ is head of the church, we live under the authority of His word and will. Jesus is the Millennium Man.

4. THE MILLENNIUM MAN'S PURPOSE.
It would take One who possessed the qualities of both God and humanity, to reconcile the creature with the Creator. The significance of Bethlehem was that God was coming among us to save us from our sins. Some want Christmas without Calvary. But the manger and the cross belong together. 19-20 "For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things." The purpose that dominated the coming of Jesus, was to be the death of Jesus.

He was born in the fields among the shepherds who tended the temple lambs that were to be sacrificed for the sins of the people. Jesus was the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. The purpose of the incarnation is only fulfilled in the reconciliation of the Cross. It was a reconciliation of "all things" not just all people. There was a cosmic redemption, a renewal of the whole environment envisaged in the Cross.

The purpose of Jesus Christ was cosmic in scope because God intended 20 "through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the Cross." Central to the coming of Jesus was the Cross. God overcame our estrangement from Him through the Cross. God overcame our rejection of Him through the Cross. He made "peace through His blood, shed on the cross." Paul later repeated this: 2:13-15 13"When you were dead in your sins, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross." There is the cosmic purpose! Jesus the Millennium Man, is the Man behind the centuries.

5. THE MILLENNIUM MAN'S RELEVANCE.
This is the nub of the matter. Our little ideas of Jesus diminish His relevance to us. People do not think seriously enough about Jesus because they do not understand their own situation. Paul writes 21 "you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour." That is how you are now if you do not believe in Jesus. You are alienated from God and His enemy due to your thinking and your evil behaviour. That is "sin": being apart from God and behaving badly. That is your state if you do not believe in Jesus as Christ.

Here is the Good News! 22 "But now He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation." You have been reconciled with God without fault and free from any accusation. What a wonderful accomplishment! All done for you by Jesus. All you have to do is to believe in Him and continue in your faith. Paul makes it clear: 23 "if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel." What you must do is to understand and believe Him as your Lord and Saviour.

What I must do is ensure you hear these truths and have the opportunity to respond. Paul concludes: 28 "We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labour, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me." That is why every week I preach Jesus, so that every one has an opportunity to become perfect, whole, saved, in Christ. I never tire of preaching Jesus! Accept Him now! Jesus is the Millennium Man, the Man behind the centuries, the One who makes you right with God. If you know Him as this scripture presents Him, all you can do is believe Him to be your Saviour, and obey Him as your Lord. The Millennium Man calls you to be one of His people.


  GEORGE CAREY: "JESUS 2000" Harper Collins 1999. SERMON: 4152. "JESUS:BIGGER THAN OUR LITTLE IDEAS!"

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes



Send an e-mail to Gordon Moyes - gkmoyes@wesleymission.org.au

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