Passage: Colossians 1:21-23
Monday 19th July 2021 will be imprinted in our memories as Freedom Day! Or will it? The relaxation of restrictions like mask-wearing, social-distancing, large group meetings and freedom to travel without quarantining, was meant to be met with rejoicing, but sadly it was a bit of a damp squib. Covid infections rising again and with them hospitalizations; businesses struggling to function because of staff shortages after NHS track & trace pinging; the school year ending for many children not by saying goodbye to their mates at the school gates but isolating at home. Not the backdrop to Freedom Day that we’d hoped. But I have good news! There is a ‘Freedom Day’ that isn’t a disappointment. To see this, we’re dropping anchor in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. False teachers had been telling Christians that whilst Jesus was a good place to start, they needed more than him to fully experience God. Things like special religious festivals, avoiding particular foods/drink, ecstatic spiritual experiences, inflicting pain on their own bodies etc. In 1:15-20, Paul exalts the Lord Jesus, making it clear that He is God and that all God’s fullness dwells in Him. To think that we go beyond Jesus to fully experience God is not only a rejection of Jesus but is also a denial of the gospel. Paul takes the opportunity here to remind us of True Freedom Day.
What we were once like (v21)
Have you ever attended a school reunion? I’ve only been to one and it was a bittersweet experience. I was well into my thirties at the time and I’d left Teignmouth Grammar over 15 years before. On the positive side, it was initially great fun seeing old school mates and finding out what they were up to. But on the negative side, as the evening wore on, it was embarrassing to be reminded of all the goofy, immature things we used to get up to. Most of us aren’t especially proud of our past. In order to appreciate our true freedom, Paul begins by reminding us of our pasts, not with regard to school antics, but our hostility towards our Creator- “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour.” (v21) This is the natural human condition of every one of us, whether born & raised in a Christian home or if our only exposure to God’s name was when we people cursed. If people think about God at all and how we stand before him, most assume that He’s well-disposed towards us as his loveable friends. However, although God is our Creator, and we’re made in his image, the bible tells us that we’ve all rejected his loving rule and live in hostility to Him. We’re born with a desire for self-rule and such rebellion is what the bible calls sin and is an impenetrable barrier between us & God.
What God has done about it (v22)
If we continue in life thinking either that sin is not a problem and God just loves us as we are or that sin is a problem and our job is to make ourselves better before him, then we’re missing the gospel. We need to realise that we are incapable of breaking that barrier of sin. But thankfully God has achieved it for us through His Son- “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” (v22) True ‘Freedom Day’ took place when Jesus cried out from the Cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) He took our sin and bore the wrath of God that we deserved as God’s enemies upon himself, and in so doing, made it possible for us to be reconciled with God. And more than that, not only is our sin dealt with but also we become part of God’s family. We read that we’re “without blemish and free from accusation”. We’ve been credited with the perfect righteousness of Christ. We don’t need religious festivals, special dietary regimes, ecstatic experiences or harsh treatment of the body to have a fuller experience of God. What we need is to remind ourselves over and over again of the all-sufficient, glorious work of the Lord Jesus Christ which has made us right with God now and forever. That’s True Freedom!
What we must keep doing (v23)
The next word, “if”, could suddenly throw us into a bit of a spin. Does this ‘if’ mean that what I do determines whether I’m saved or not? What happens when I fail God? Does that cancel out all that Jesus has done for me? Before we totally lose our spiritual bearings, let’s hear what Paul says our response should be- “if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” (v23) Note that he says, “if you continue in your faith” not “if you live a sinless existence”. The Christian life is a battle every day as we not only face our sinful nature, but also the world and Satan. Sometimes we will be defeated in this battle, but we must always remember that Christ has won the war. Our faith must never be in our performance as Christians, but in the all-sufficient, sin-atoning, wrath-absorbing death of the Lord Jesus and his glorious resurrection. As the hymn-writer declares- ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling’. Every day is True Freedom Day because Christ has secured our freedom!
Prayer- Dear Lord God, whilst I was once your enemy, thank you for making peace through Jesus. Thank you for opening my eyes to my sin and my need of a Saviour. Thank you for the gift of your Spirit in me. All glory goes to you now and forever. Amen
Signing Off- With most restrictions now lifted and churches able to function more normally once again from this coming Sunday, I’ve decided to make this the last PPT. I hadn’t anticipated that when the first one went out on the 19th March 2020 (Lord of the Storm– Mark 4:35-41) that I’d still be sending them sixteen months later. I hope that you’ve been encouraged in the midst of difficult times and I pray that you will keep looking to the Lord Jesus Christ- the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Thanks for your messages of thanks. God bless and much love from Keith.