Through this entire year I have been preaching on the theme "New Discoveries about Jesus." We have made new discoveries, researched latest archaeological finds, considered the new papyri, confronted the theology of those theologians who identify with the Jesus Seminar. We have answered the criticisms and seen the validity of the scriptures and the traditional doctrines of the faith. We ended the year looking at six crucial issues: "Where Do We Look For Jesus?", "What Evidence Is There That Jesus Existed?", "How Can we Know Jesus Lived?", "Did Jesus Perform Miracles?", "Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?" and "Is Jesus the Only Way?". Now to end, I proclaim "Jesus: Bigger than our little ideas!"
All of my life I have been fascinated with the Lord Jesus Christ. I investigated this week and discovered that I have preached or written about Jesus, in full or in part, during the last fourteen years only, (since I bought a computer and so can check on these things accurately), on 12,929 occasions. I have completed 1,374 manuscripts about the life, teachings, death, resurrection, and influence of Jesus of Nazareth. Now there are only 630 weeks in this period that I could speak so that averages over two manuscripts every week for fourteen years. But each manuscript was preached or lectured or printed many times on radio, TV, Thursday Chapels, Staff meetings, Communion Services, services in our homes and hospitals, in the open air, in the Opera House, in other churches, in cathedrals, in churches in many countries and in hundreds of evangelistic crusades. I have taught His miracles in hundreds of healing services, and His counselling methods to 35 classes each of which lasts 24 weeks.
Someone might say: "Aren't you sick of speaking about Jesus?" "Have you anything fresh still to say?" "Is there anything you know you haven't yet said?" The answers to these questions are "No", "Yes" and "Yes". "NO" I haven't become sick of speaking about Jesus. He has become dearer and nearer to me each day. He's my Friend." "Yes, I do have a great deal that is fresh still to say" " Yes, there are many things I know that I haven't yet said." For when you preach from the Bible consistently and usually consecutively as I usually do, a preacher never runs out of information and inspiration about Jesus Christ.
This year we have been looking at what many scholars and theologians have been saying about Jesus since 1990. We have examined their books and discussed their ideas. But week after week it came home to me that Jesus Christ is bigger than our little ideas about Him. The scholars declared that Jesus best befits the role of a Jewish holy man, a Galilean thinker, a wandering preacher, a charismatic Holy man, a radical social reformer, a man of the Spirit, an uncomfortable prophet, the marginalised Messiah and so on. Each description was valid in part, but each description was too limited. Jesus was bigger than each of the parts and greater than the sum of the whole. Jesus does not fit into our orderly pigeon holes. Jesus is bigger than our computerised concepts and neat small labels. Jesus is bigger than our little ideas.
Paul understood that. The church at Colossae in Western Turkey had fallen into the trap of many modern thinkers of considering Jesus Christ was simply a great man whom we honour.
This small church, 150 kilometres east of Ephesus on the coast, was founded by one of Paul's young assistants while Paul was ministering at Ephesus. Paul wrote a letter to them to put them right and to expand their concepts of the living Christ. His introduction in Colossians 1:15-29 shows Jesus Christ is bigger than our little ideas about Him.
1. WE NEED A BIGGER IDEA ABOUT CHRIST'S PERSON.
Paul reminded his readers that God 13 "has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Jesus is already acknowledged as God's Son, the King of God's Kingdom, and it is through His Son that we have been redeemed with our sins forgiven. That immediately puts Jesus beyond everyone else this world has ever seen. 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 who 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 the primary place over the whole creation. He is first in time, existing from all eternity. He is first in status, as God's only natural Son. The rest of us are creatures adopted into God's family. No-one else could make that possible. Only Jesus who was both God and Man, could relate to Creator and creatures to reconcile us to God. All our little labels we place on Jesus are too small. We need a bigger idea of His person.
2. WE NEED A BIGGER IDEA ABOUT CHRIST'S WORK.
Many people think of the work of Jesus beginning at His baptism, but the Scriptures insist on the pre-existence of Christ. Back in Genesis at the start of the creation record we read 1:26 "God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,.." It would be God the Spirit who would brood over the waters and God the Father who would determine creation, 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. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men."
In case you have not associated Jesus Christ with the act of creation, like some at Colossae, Paul wants you to get a bigger idea of Christ's work. He 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. 17 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 astromoners today. Doesn't that blow your little ideas about Jesus?6.
3. WE NEED A BIGGER IDEA ABOUT CHRIST'S BODY.
It is easy enough to talk about Christ as the head of the Church and we are His body. But there is more to it than that. Paul wants little thinkers who look at the church with miniature minds, to gain the bigger idea. The church is not a human organisation designed to promote Christian truth. If it were I would not be part of it. As a human organisation devoted to promoting Christian truth it would be a failure. If God wanted an effective and efficient tool to promote His work, He would never have endorsed the Uniting Church! God has chosen the church, not because it is competent, but because it believes.
The church is not a human effort at promotion of God's work, but a divine 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, 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." This thought of Christ as head of the church blows our little ideas of Him.
4. WE NEED A BIGGER IDEA ABOUT CHRIST'S PURPOSE.
It was going to take a Jesus Christ that possessed the qualities of both God and humanity, to be able 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 "For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, 20 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, because He was to be 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. But note, 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. This Jesus is bigger than our little ideas!
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, 14 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 a bigger idea - His purpose!
5. WE NEED A BIGGER IDEA ABOUT CHRIST'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: alienated from God and enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. That is called "sin". Being apart from God and behaving badly.
That was our state once. 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." We have been reconciled with God without fault and free from any accusation. What a wonderful accomplishment. All done for us by Jesus Christ. All we have to do is to believe in Him and continue in our 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 have these bigger ideas of Jesus Christ, and believe in Him as your Lord and Saviour.
What I must do is ensure you hear them 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. 29 To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me." That is why every week I preach Jesus, so that everyone has an opportunity to become perfect, whole, saved, in Christ. I never tire of preaching Jesus! Accept this bigger idea of Him now!
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