First Mennonite Church
June 17, 2018
A Life Worthy of the Incomparable Jesus
Text: Colossians 1:9-23
It is likely that each of us can remember a time when we failed to portray the best Christian character. And although we can give all the reasons as to why it happened, nonetheless, it was not what it should have been. I remember once when Emmanuel was about 12 and I asked him to go out and water the plants in front of the house. After he went out I heard the neighbor’s dog barking and as if it was about to attack something. I went outside and there was Emmanuel with his back to the neighbor’s fence oblivious of the dog barking because he could not hear it. He was very close to the fence and the dog was trying hard to get him. The dog got more aggressive when I got out. I was so upset at the situation that, when the neighbor came out, the only words I could say were, “That dog is so annoying.” Realizing I was very angry, my neighbor left with the dog.
The passage for today is Paul’s call to the Colossian church about the high moral standard of life they were expected to live and about the source of power to do so. In this passage Paul told the Colossians that they were able to live a life worthy of the name of Christ if they only try to understand the supreme and incomparable nature of Jesus Christ. If the Colossians were to realize that Jesus is God’s agent of creation and that the final goal of everything created is to give honor and praise to him, they would realize that their very purpose in life was to do the same—to honor and praise the Sovereign Lord in every aspect of their lives.
The letter of Paul to the Colossian church contains one of the most beautiful descriptions of Jesus Christ. It is therefore imperative for us to evaluate our understanding of Jesus and the resulting way we live our lives. There is a question all men and women will have to answer sooner or later: who is Jesus Christ? Our answer to this question should be both with conviction of the heart and through evidence in our daily lives. The answer to the question is ultimately a matter of life and death.
St. Paul’s letter to the Christians in the city of Colossae was motivated by his desire to ground their understanding in the profound mystery of the identity of Jesus Christ. Paul knew that the Colossian’s level of knowledge of the Lord directly impacted the way they lived their daily lives. If their knowledge of Jesus was poor, so would their moral lives be. If the Colossians could only see who Jesus is for real, their moral lives would also be transformed. Thus, St. Paul started first by praying for this church.
The apostle Paul declared, “For this reason, we have not ceased praying that you may be filled with the full knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord . . . .” This part of Paul’s prayer clearly links the knowledge of God’s will with it reflected in daily life. The believer can only be able to live a life worthy of the Lord if he or she knows the will of God. To be able to live wisely—not according to the world’s wisdom, but God’s, we need to know the will of God. But knowing the will of God only comes by intentionally wanting to know it. Are you intentionally seeking the will of God for your daily life? For us adults, it is easy to pursue the things that interest us or we can afford to buy or do. Are the things we spend our money, our time, or our energy within God’s will? It is easy to follow one’s own desires. It is easier to pursue our wants, or go with what’s in fashion. For you young people, it is easier for you to follow the ways of your friends, in their habits, fashion, language, and so on. But do you pray to ask God for direction in your life? Do you seek God’s guidance for your future career, for your future mate, and for the many things that pull you here and there? Jesus is Lord of everyone, young and old.
St. Paul continued his prayer that his Christian brothers and sisters would be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and that they may be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father. Paul wanted the Colossians to live a godly, persevering and joyful Christian life. And for those things the Colossians needed to tap into Christ’s glorious power. But they would only do so if they knew the true nature of Jesus Christ, which Paul does not delay in telling them. Therefore, following this prayer Paul gave this extraordinary description of the nature of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. But the Colossians never saw Christ in person. Thus they also depended on the portraits of Jesus as presented in Paul’s message. Paul’s life embodied Jesus’ humility, truth, compassion, and every aspect of Jesus’ character. Paul’s sacrificial love for this and all the other churches reflected the sacrificial love of Christ of giving himself for our sake.
Paul also declared that Jesus is the first born of all creation. This statement, according to our translation, presents a problem. Does it mean then that Jesus was created first? And if so, he does not precede creation, but is part of it? If so, how then can Paul say the following, “for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together”? It would not make sense. If Jesus is first in the order of creation, he cannot create and much less be in the nature of God. The Greek word prototokos is often used to indicate genealogical order of births, but also to indicate status, i.e. sovereignty, superiority. And that is precisely the way Paul used the word prototokos to describe Jesus’ relationship to creation. Jesus is sovereign over all of creation. He is the creative agent of it. Everything was created for him. That is, the world and everything in it can only find meaning in the one who created them. The goal and purpose of everything is to honor and praise the Lord. The whole cosmos only holds its ongoing intricate order because of Jesus.
But Jesus is not only creator and sustainer of everything, 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. It is here where the rubber hits the road, as people say. Jesus is supreme in the church. That is, Jesus should reign in my life and in your life. Jesus’ words should govern the way we live; we should follow his example of sacrificial love for others. We should be patient with one another. Our lives should reflect the holiness of the Lord. We should trust in God’s providence. Jesus is the head of the church. Therefore, we as a church have been given the opportunity to reflect to the world what Jesus did on behalf of the invisible God. Just as Jesus made visible the invisible God, today we are called to make visible the Jesus the world cannot physically see. We have a high calling to live a life worthy of our Lord Jesus Christ. But this kind of life can only happen if the eyes of our spirit are open to see the true nature of the incomparable and sovereign Lord Jesus Christ. He is supreme and first in all things. He made visible the invisible God. He is sovereign of all of creation. In him and for him all things were created. In him all things find their meaning and purpose of existence. Jesus is our head. He is the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything Jesus would be first. And because in Jesus dwelt the fullness of God, God was pleased to reconcile through him all things, in heaven and on earth, through his death on the cross.
We are called to live a life worthy of this glorious and incomparable Jesus. So let us desire to know and experience Jesus as we have never done before. Let us ask the Lord to reveal himself to us as we have never comprehended before. Let us pray that God would open our eyes to see his Son in a new light.
Jesus should be first in all and everything. Let us pray at the beginning of our day that Jesus would indeed be first in our life. Let us allow him to take over our speech, to guide our decisions, and to let his love and patience be the source of our motives behind everything we do or say.
The Lord we confess and we have committed to follow is Lord of creation, but also Lord of our everyday lives. He is incomparable and yet we have been given the privilege to make him visible to those around us. Let us pursue the life worthy of Jesus who has called us. Amen!