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Sep 17, 2017

What's Happened To Us?

What's Happened To Us?

Passage: Colossians 2:8-15

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Colossians

Keywords: baptism, freedom, identity, in christ, new life, slavery


This passage and message looks at some of the life-altering things that God has done for every child of His and how that can transform every corner of our lives. What we really believe about who we are will shape how we live and relate to every person we meet.


What’s Happened to Us?

Colossians 2:8-15

September 17, 2017


You may have noticed what the title is for today’s message.  It is a question that everyone from local talk shows to national news organizations have been asking this week about what happened in our community at Freeman High School.  “What’s happened to us that we have become a society in which it is possible in any large city or small rural community to say goodbye to your child in the morning and find out they have been killed or maimed by a classmate before the day is over?”  It is a question that our culture needs to find answers for because this sort of thing will probably become more frequent the farther our culture walks away from God. 

            Our biblical passage for today, is the same as last week.  Only today, we’re going to fill in that ‘bookshelf’ of missing truth that stands between the two ‘bookends’ of truth about the demonic realm we talked about last weekend.  Instead of asking despairingly, “What on earth has happened to us?”, I want to ask from God’s perspective “What has happened to those of us ‘in Christ’ already?”  “What are the amazingly good things that have happened to us?"  "And how has what has happened to us able to change the rest of our experience in life for the rest of our lives?” 

            Let’s start this journey this morning with a question:  Who are you?  Turn to someone near you and, in 3 short statements, tell them who you are. 

            Now, to simplify this for the sake of illustration, let’s answer this question about ME.  Who am I?  [Identify which responses are not about my nature but about my…

  • Name
  • Profession (pastor, teacher, missionary)
  • Activities (beekeeper, runner, gardener, skier, backpacker, community leader, reader)
  • Residence (Spokanite, American)
  • Preferences (Conservative, huckleberry fanatic, ice cream addict)
  • Physical characteristics (that can change but won’t alter fundamentally who I am, i.e. tall, graying, 20-20 eye-sighted)
  • Performance characteristics (achiever, hard worker, light-sleeper, high metabolism)
  • Roles (father, husband, grandpa, board member, counselor, pastor, professor)

So WHO am I if you take away all those things?  If I’m lying in a hospital bed, comatose, unable to move or even breath on my own, WHO AM I???  How can you describe me in ways that cannot be taken away from me?

  • I’m a Repsold, the son of my parents.
  • I’m a living, eternal soul.
  • I’m a child of God.
  • I’m a saint.
  • I’m a new creation in Christ.
  • I’m a vessel of honor
  • I’m redeemed by God
  • I’m a servant of the Most High God
  • I’m…

Now, I’m going to give you about 60 seconds to look at our passage, Colossians 2:9-14, and find as many things as possible in this passage about what God has done to/for you “in Christ.”  What has happened to any child of God according to God himself?  (Give 60 seconds and then ask for answers.)

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. [Debt-free, Christ-credited, clean-record, free of condemnation, accepted/loved/ embraced/cherished rather than condemned….]

  • Complete/full in Christ
  • Spiritually circumcised
  • Buried with Christ
  • Raised with Christ
  • Made alive with Christ
  • Completely and totally forgiven
  • “Record”-free; no spiritually criminal record
  • Out of debt/debt-free spiritually
  • Free from condemnation

As you can see, we’re still in the first half of this book.  Paul structures many of his letters to churches the same:  he lays the theological foundation in the first half of the book and then builds upon that the practical living superstructure of our spiritual experience. 

            The truths about who we are and what we have in Christ are some of that ‘foundation wall’ that he is laying here.  And we may be tempted to think, “So what?  I don’t see how that is supposed to affect how I’m feeling about life or responding to my troublesome family member or coworker.” 

            Truth be told, any and every one of these realities about our life in Jesus Christ has massive potential to completely change those relationships and every corner of our lives.  It all depends upon whether or not we actually believe that is who we are now.  And once we really believe that about ourselves and our relationship to God, every one of our relationships and even experiences in life on the human plain will change significantly

            Let’s go at it a different way.  What does our culture say people need in order to have a fulfilling, happy, satisfying, rich life? 

  • Money + status/power/control that comes with money = whole person?
  • Accomplishments + recognition that often comes = whole person?
  • Appearance (looks, clothes, etc.) + admiration those might bring = whole person?

We also wrongly believe that if people lack these things, they never can be truly happy, content and full in life.  We wrongly assume that failure in any of the above = hopelessness.

            In God’s kingdom, there is really only one equation that works:  You + Jesus Christ = the deepest wholeness & meaning

For biblical illustrations of this, we need look no farther than the Garden of Eden and the life of Paul, the author of much of the N.T.

ILLAdam & Eve—when sin entered in, what kinds of human problems developed that never existed before?

  • Acceptance replaced by rejection—an isolation problem developed; we now have a need to belong.
    • Paul changed his “belonging” fight from a Pharisee to a follower of Jesus who was persecuted by his former peers but beloved by thousands…and now millions.
  • Innocence replaced by guilt and shame—a sense-of-worth problem developed; we now look to things like giftedness, talent, intelligence or appearance to fill what can only be filled by God.
    • Paul clearly looked to all his earthly accomplishments before conversion but then saw them all as rubbish in comparison to knowing Christ ( 3:3-11)
  • Dominion replaced by chaos, weakness and helplessness—we now think we need strength and control over others and life.
    • Paul was using lethal force to control people and their religious beliefs. He abandoned that when he found Christ and sought only to use love to influence people. 

NOTE:  Interestingly, Paul will go on in Col. 2 to talk about the legalism that the Colossians were in danger of adopting in their faith.  Legalism is simply another manifestation of this desire/need to control either ourselves or those around us. 

A diagram may help us see what is going on when we experience certain feelings or thoughts or temptations or even illnesses.  Knowing what happened to our humanity when Adam & Eve sinned in the Garden will help us understand what God has done and what we need to do to reverse those negative effects of sin.

[See Neil T. Anderson’s “Effects of the Fall” Figure 1-8, p. 33, Overcoming The Darkness.]

So now let’s go back to the list of things Colossians 2 says God has done FOR us or done TO us.  But as we do, remember that just because someone does something for or to you doesn’t mean that you automatically change your behavior or the way you look at yourself or life. 


  • Just because someone puts $10,000 in your bank account doesn’t mean that a.) you will know about it or get the updated bank statement that day, or b.) do good things with it.
  • Just because THE most important Being in the universe says YOU are more valuable than the entire universe may not immediately change how you feel about yourself. You may have been told your whole life growing up that you missed the mark when it comes to the things our culture looks to for a happy life.  You may have been told you were too plain or too clumsy or too stupid

But a change of how we feel and live must start with a change in what WE really believe about ourselves.  We must begin to align our self-worth, not with what others or even we think of ourselves, but with what our God and Creator thinks about us. 

So back to our passage.  Let’s talk about WHAT these realities are and HOW they might affect us.

Vs. 9— We are complete/full in Christ

 “…in Christ you have been brought to fullness”

While Paul doesn’t limit this statement of “fullness” in any way, he does indicate just how great he wants us to know this “fullness” refers to.  Remember from last week that I said this is sort of a play on words?  Just before this he used that same word “fullness” when he spoke of Jesus himself:  “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” We’re talking God-sized “fullness” here! 

            So take your pick.  What areas of life would you like God to share His “fullness” a bit more with you?  Where do you feel deficient? 

  • Needing wisdom? God’s got it all. 
  • Need protection? God is sovereign and powerful. He also has all the grace any of us would need for suffering.
  • Need a sense of worth? Needing to be cherished?  God is the best lover of your soul you will ever encounter by far!
  • Need care? Your God takes care of sparrows.  How much more will he take care of you?

This first statement about being “brought to fullness in Christ” is really the granddaddy statement of them all.  Everything Paul will list after this is just a subset, a minor clarification of the fact that anyone who is IN CHRIST has the entire fullness of God himself available to him/her every moment of every day.  It’s up to us to probe and discover what that means and how it can radically change us from now into eternity. 

Let’s keep going.

Vs. 11—“In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ….”

Here’s a rather odd description to our 21st century American-culture minds:  “…circumcised by Christ.” 

            In the O.T. and to Jews still today, male circumcision was a physical sign that you were part of God’s people.  You had either been born into a Jewish family that put their faith in Jehovah and marked you as belonging to Yahweh OR you were a Gentile that had decided to convert, undergo the physical surgery and join the Jewish community as a convert.  That was the act of circumcision.

            But what was it to symbolize or what did it symbolize? 

 Circumcision was to by something that reminded us that we need a permanent/irreversible cleansing from sin, a “cutting off” if you will of the flesh that should remind us we also need a continual “cutting off” of things that lead us into sin. 

            Notice that this is NOT something God is asking you to do to yourself.  This is something God already did for you by Christ.  When you come to faith in Jesus and find yourself “in Him”, God says He has already done some radical surgery in your heart.  He’s already cut away some stuff that defiles you.  He’s already marked you permanently with a spiritual surgery that separates you from your old nature. 

As the NIV translates it, Your whole self, ruled by the flesh, was put off when you were circumcised by Christ….”  That person that used to be “ruled by the flesh” has been cut away and thrown off when you came to faith in Jesus.  We couldn’t have gotten rid of it even if we had wanted before that.  “Self-circumcision” doesn’t work real well!  In fact, it doesn’t work at all!  But “in Christ”, your already in “post-op” recovery.  The real spiritual slavery we were in to our flesh has been broken.  We can still live like slaves to sin BUT we don’t have to anymore! 

APP:  Think of your most challenging temptation.  As powerful as it may still seem in your experience, God has already severed the shackles that used to hold you.  Now it’s simply the growth challenge of learning to live like a child of God instead of a child of this world. 

Vs. 12--12 having been buried with him in baptism….”

More metaphorical speech.  Baptism for the Christ-follower is a public, visible symbol of this spiritual reality.  When we put our faith in Jesus and start worshiping Him as Lord and God, what He did to identify with us in His baptism, we are doing to identify with Him in our baptism. 

            Though he was sinless (and John the Baptist knew that which is why he objected to baptizing Jesus), Jesus chose to identify with our need for repentance and cleansing by being baptized.  Now we have a need to identify with Jesus in his death through baptism.  As the sinless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, Jesus died when he took on our sin.  He was buried thus proving that His body actually entered death. 

            When we undergo baptism by immersion, we are saying and symbolizing that we want that burial to be ours—our old sin nature, our life that was “ruled by the flesh”, laid to rest…put in the grave.  Dead bodies have no power.  Dead flesh only stinks.  And when you are immersed in water in baptism, it is a sign that your old life has now been immersed in Christ’s death.  It is our affirmation that any power it now has is only power I let it have or give to it.  Before Christ, that part of me has been buried. 

Vss. 12-13—“…in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ.”

            On that day when you and I will actually have our new bodies, on that day of resurrection, how different will life in that resurrection body be from life in the body you now have?  We really barely know, don’t we?  From the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection body we know that we’ll be able to move bodily from one location to another almost instantaneously.  We know that we’ll be able to move through locked doors and closed rooms.  We know that we’ll be able to move from earth to heaven without donning a space suit or oxygen mask.  In other words, we’ll be able to move between different dimensions of reality that we cannot see or experience now in this 3-dimensional universe. 

            That resurrection life will have some similar life experiences we enjoy now—eating, communicating, touching, seeing, etc.  But just as Jesus’ resurrection life was very different from his pre-resurrection life, so our experience of being “made alive with Christ” by God is both similar to our old life and radically different from it.

            When we get our resurrected body, will any of us pine away for this old mortal body?  Never.  That is how different our new life in Jesus is to be compared to life before Christ.   

God has “made you alive” in a way you were not “alive” before.  And it will take us the rest of life here on earth and all of eternity to plumb the depths of just how much life there is “in Christ/God.”

Vs. 13b—“… He forgave us all our sins…”

Is there any other relationship in this world that you will ever have in which you will never exhaust the forgiveness of the person you may wrong over and over and over again?  No.  People have limits.  We’ve all had people who gave up on us and relationship with us after the 2nd…or 4th…or 400th offense against them.  As much as we would like, people don’t have to forgive us…and we can’t make them. 

The older we are, the more we may experience that.  People we thought would forgive us one more time don’t

People we thought would forgive us once don’t

But here is the proof that God will never treat you that way.  When we come to Jesus and accept his death on our behalf, God “forgives us ALL our sins”—past, present, future, known, unknown, “small”, ginormeous…ALL. 

            We still have an Accuser of the Brethren who wants to make us THINK we haven’t been forgiven all.  So he keeps trying to use the tools of shame and guilt and discouragement and fear to keep us thinking God is really ticked at us and just about ready to drop kick us out the door of His family…and it’s all a lie. 

            Here is a singular truth that could totally transform most our lives:  ALL is FORGIVEN!  In a world that is short on forgiveness and long on holding grudges, this is amazing news.  And it is reality.   

            But it is a reality that you and I can choose to believe OR ignore and, worse yet, choose not to belive.  We can choose to rejoice in this truth day after day OR live under the lie day after day that we aren’t totally forgiven. 

ILL:  This and every spiritual reality we have in Jesus Christ is like the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery in the U.S. on December 18th, 1865.

            How many slaves were there on December 19th?  In reality, NONE.  In practice?  Millions!  Of the nearly 4 million freed slaves, many continued to live like slaves, some for years afterward, because they either never learned the truth about that law or chose not to believe it.  Some allowed their former masters to continue their abusive relationship of master-slave.  In other places, the local authorities refused to enforce the new law of the land.  Many kept doing just what they had been doing when they were slaves.  So it became very difficult for them or their children to really believe anything had changed. 

            But imagine that you are a slave who actually reads the Amendment.  Imagine you actually see the President’s signature on that Amendment passed by the Congress & Senate.  Imagine that you now know you can live free.  You realize that you can actually change states if need be.  You can move to where you will actually be treated as a free person.  You can own property, choose a city to live in, create or apply for any job of your choice and educate your children as you see fit. 

            Will it come easily?  Probably not.  There will always be liars ready to tell you you are still a slave, you have no rights and to threaten your life with violence.  And every time that happens, you’ll have to make another choice:  will I give up the reality of no slavery and go back to living like a slave when I don’t have to OR will I “fight the good fight” of learning to live as the free-man I am so that my children who come after me won’t have to fight those same battles but can go on and reach even greater heights of free-living than I have given my experience and past. 

            This is all about living out the NEW IDENTITY we have “in Christ.”   For every old-life, pre-Christ lie of sin that afflicts us, God has a new truth, a new reality, that has the capacity and possibility of setting us free to enjoy life with him as it was originally intended to be. 

            Jesus actually modeled HOW that life in right connection with God can actually be experienced.  God isn’t asking us to drum up our own will power and just “imitate Jesus.”  We can’t possibly do that.  But what we can do is look to Jesus for everything that will enable us to live in victory as He did.  Now that His Spirit lives in us, learning to “walk by the Spirit” is how we will engage that new life.  Learning to “abide in Christ” is how we will make Jesus’ life our life. 

            Some of that will require spiritual warfare with demonic forces as we talked about last week.  Most of it will require learning how to live life as the new creatures we are in Christ and learning how to let God work in us so that we become people who actually experience His life flowing through us in words, feelings, deeds, thoughts and actions that are what He wants any given moment. 

            The theological term we often apply to that learning process is “sanctification.”  It is learning how to take what God has actually and already done for and to us and put His divine will at any given moment into practice through the work of the Holy Spirit in us. 

            I’m not saying that this is an “easy” or “simple” process.  It’s a life-long process.  But neither is it complex or impossible.  Walking in the reality of who we now ARE in Jesus, shedding the old nature’s ways of doing things and putting on the life of Jesus Christ is something that involves our minds, our souls, our emotions, our bodies and our wills. The difference now is that our spirit is alive in Christ and we have a whole new “operating system” installed in our souls.  We are now someone we never were without Jesus AND we are becoming in Him and under His coaching someone that He created us always to be.   

[See alternate diagram, Figure 5-8, of Victory Over the Darkness, p. 94.]

ILL:  Imagine that you have grown up in a family in poverty.  Your parents are both unemployed and live on welfare.  Their lives are held captive by addictions from alcohol and drugs to laziness and fear.  They’ve never helped you with homework so your grades are poor and you hate school.  And they daily make life painful for you by telling you that you’re a looser, a joke, a disappointment and a failure.

            Imagine that your junior year of high school, you get called out of class to meet someone who says to you, “John, you’ve been chosen for the next space mission we are developing.  We’re going to Mars.  Don’t question why we chose you. We just did.  The choice is still yours, of course, whether you want to be an astronaut or not.  It will take a lot of work to become a functioning astronaut.  But once you say “yes”, you will immediately be one of the most privileged persons to have ever lived. 

            You will receive personal tutoring every step of the way.  And I’ll be adopting you into my family and you’ll come to live in our home.  Ours is a family that will be supportive and encouraging of this new direction.  We will pay the millions of dollars it will take over the next 8 years to train you.  We will love you as well as lead you as one of our own children.  You will have athletic and academic coaches who will see to it that you learn what you must and become what you must to succeed. 

            You may get discouraged at times.  You may feel like it’s impossible some days.  You may wonder if it is worth it some months.  There will be some amazingly exhilarating days when you are learning to fly, experiencing weightlessness and surpassing all your peers in your tests and skills.  But it will be more than worth it, trust me.”

            Along the way, your family and old friends will probably start harassing you.  They may keep telling you that you’re stupid, lazy, that this thing you are trying to do is impossible and that they hope you fail. They may accuse you of “being too good for them” by your failure to spend time drinking and drugging with them.  You will probably end up losing most of your friends who criticize you for your accomplishments and keep telling you to come back to the nightly parties and drinking binges instead of working out and studying hard.  

            What will you do along the journey if your old friends and family come up to you and says, “Hey, you’re not an astronaut.  You’ll never be successful at this. You’re just pretending to be something you aren’t.  Stop this nonsense and come with us back to our place.  We’ve got a great party waiting there...just like always!”

            IF you still think you are more of a stupid stoner than a smart space geek, you might just walk away from being an astronaut.  But you will still be my son/daughter. 

Hopefully you will know by then what you really are:  more an astronaut than a nobody.  You will want to go to Mars more than you want to go to the kegger.  You will walk away from the family and friends that you used to have knowing that the family and friends that you now have are leading you into a life that is far healthier, far richer, far more interesting, more exciting, more meaningful and more fulfilling.  You will have tasted what astronaut life is like.  And you will actually see yourself more as you really are—an astronaut destined to hurtle through space at thousands of miles an hour rather than a drug addict who crawls through life a slave to substance abuse and dies in a miserable alley somewhere. 

The choice is yours…today and every single day.

APP:  This is a very poor analogy to what God offers us in “life in Christ.”  He has chosen us and knows we’ll be up to the challenges if we’ll just say “yes” to Him.  He knows our potential like no one else.  He actually has all the wealth, experience, wisdom and resources necessary to make us into something we cannot even imagine right now. 

But we must say “yes” to his invitation.  [Invite people to say “yes” to Jesus.]

            Once you’ve said “yes” to Jesus Christ, the training and coaching begins.  You will need to keep saying “yes” every day in order to keep growing stronger and “smarter” in this new life you have chosen.  You will need to grow in your identity as an astronaut.  You will need to learn to live a different life. 

Some days will be really enjoyable.  Others will be agonizingly hard. But you will never be alone, left only to your abilities.  There will always be people there to help you realize this dream. 

This is why we are offering more opportunities for you to dig your roots down into Jesus this fall. (Talk about Tues. night and Sun. a.m. Adult Ed classes.)  SIGN UP NOW!

(Time for Questions?)