Renewing Our Vision of Jesus (Colossians 1:15-23)
Big Idea: Our greatest need is to renew our vision of Jesus.
Earlier this year we visited Banff. We got to see mountains, and those mountains leave me breathless. I can’t believe how grand and beautiful and amazing they are.
Whenever I visit somewhere with mountains, I ask people there: Do you ever start to take those mountains for granted? Do you ever stop being amazed by them? Usually, people say no, but we know the truth: of course they do.
A lot of things amaze us at first, and then get boring later, not because they’re boring, but because they get routine.
- You get a new job. It’s amazing, and then it gets routine.
- You have a first kiss. It’s unforgettable, but the thousandth kiss gets routine.
- You get your dream job. It’s everything you wanted, but then it gets routine.
- You get married. It’s amazing, and then it gets routine.
It’s called hedonic adaptation:
We humans have a powerful propensity to adapt after continued and repeated exposure. Seeing the same thing, doing the same thing, or being with the same person again and again lowers its impact on our emotional experience. Put simply, we get used to things over time. (Cassie Holmes)
It helps us when we’re in pain. We adapt to hard things and they become normal. But there’s a downside: we also start to adapt to things that are amazing and they become blah. We lose our amazement at what’s truly amazing.
It’s one of the greatest spiritual dangers we face. Because it’s possible to see the beauty of Jesus, and be captivated by it, only for that beauty to become routine, and for us to begin to fill that place in our lives where only Jesus belongs with lesser things. That’s exactly what happened with the church we’re going to talk about today.
We’ve just begun a series on Colossians. When this letter was written, Colossae was a small, agricultural city with a diverse population that had seen better times.
But the good news of Jesus had reached that town. A church had started. But that church had a problem: they had a high view of Jesus, but they were tempted to start to hold on to things that had nothing to do with Jesus. In other words, their view of Jesus started to become obscured by other things. They wanted to add some Jewish legalism, ritualism, and mysticism to their faith in Jesus.
We do that too. As a church, we’re committed to a high view of Jesus. He’s everything to us. But I also recognize that it’s easy to start to let other things crowd in and obscure that view of Jesus. Actually, nothing is more common than the danger to lose our view of Jesus and start to let other, lesser things crowd in, causing us to miss the beauty of something far greater, far more glorious than we can imagine.
And so Paul says, let me tell you about Jesus.
Today’s sermon is an attempt to get rid of our hedonic adaptation and take a fresh look at Jesus so we’re amazed again. Years ago in Chicago, a famous evangelist named D.L. Moody said, “I am going to make Jesus Christ so attractive that men will turn to him.” He knew that giving people an accurate view of Jesus would accomplish more than anything else he could do. That’s what I want to do today too.
Who Is Jesus?
And so, who is Jesus?
That really is the question, isn’t it? It’s like Paul is saying that we need to take a fresh look at who Jesus is, because seeing him for who he is changes everything.
I like Paul’s approach here. He doesn’t begin with the false teachers and the dangers they face. Nothing wrong with that approach; in fact, Paul does that in other letters. But in this case, it seems that Paul has decided that the main issue is that they’ve forgotten how glorious Jesus is. Their primary need is to take a good, hard look at who Jesus is, because once they do, that will solve a bunch of other problems.
It’s like Paul is saying, “Let’s deal with the most important issue here. Once we take a fresh look at who Jesus is, it will start to sort out a lot of the other problems we face. Until we get this right, nothing else will really matter.”
So who is Jesus? Take a look at who Jesus is, because seeing him just may be what we need. Many of our biggest problems are solved by seeing who Jesus really is. Sometimes what we really need is to see the glory of Jesus.
Marvel at Jesus’ supremacy (1:15)
“He is the image of the invisible God” (1:15). Jesus is no mere man. He is the image of the invisible God. This means that if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. You can’t see God, but people saw Jesus, and by looking at Jesus you get a clear picture of who God is and what he’s like. Jesus made the invisible visible. He is, as Hebrews 1:3 tells us, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”
But that’s not all. He’s “the firstborn of all creation.” I think Paul probably had Psalm 89:27 in mind when he wrote this: “And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” Paul’s not talking about Jesus being born. Back then, the term firstborn was more about rank or supremacy. Back then, the firstborn got the wealth, status, standing of the Father. Theologian Michael Bird says, “That Jesus is the ‘firstborn; does not make him a created being. To call someone ‘firstborn’ is to say something of their primacy in rule, preeminence in role, and priority in rank.”
So, Paul is saying, there is nobody above Jesus. Nobody ranks higher than him. He is supreme. When it comes to God, Jesus shows us what God is like. When it comes to creation, he’s over all of it. He’s the highest over everyone and everything. Nothing and nobody is better than Jesus.
See Jesus’ supremacy. But then:
Marvel at Jesus’ handiwork (1:16-17)
To underline the point that Jesus is over all of creation, Paul teaches us that Jesus created all of it. Not only that, but all of it exists for him.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (1:16)
This blows us away. That’s how we know Jesus isn’t just another creature like us. Jesus is actually Creator, not creature. Everything that exists does so because he made it. When we read in Genesis 1 that God created the heavens and the earth, Paul is telling us to understand that it was God the Son, Jesus Christ, who created heaven and earth.
The Colossians held some funky views about angels. So Paul tells them that Jesus actually created them too. In Judaism, they understood there were four classes of angelic beings. Here, Paul says that Jesus created them all. Even supernatural powers were made by him. He’s over them. We have nothing to fear.
Jesus created everything from the most glorious angel, to the farthest galaxy, to the smallest insect. He’s created it all. And he’s the goal of it all. All of it exists for his glory. Everything that’s been created exists for one reason alone: to bring Jesus glory.
“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (1:17). I think, out of everything, this part amazes me the most. We tend to think that God created everything and invented the laws of nature, almost like we might spin a top and then watch it go. But that’s not what’s happened. Not only did Jesus create everything, but “he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). Every atom, every cell, every object, the entire universe holds together because Jesus is holding it all together on an ongoing basis. If Jesus stopped for a moment, everything would cease to exist. Right now the chair you’re sitting on only exists because Jesus is holding it together.
Jesus is supreme. Jesus is the creator and sustainer of the universe. But there’s one more thing we need to see.
Marvel at Jesus’ salvation (1:18-20)
And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (1:18-20)
Not only is Jesus supreme, not only is he the creator and sustainer, but he’s also head of the church.
When he became human, he did so not by laying aside his nature as God. Every part of his divine nature was present in his humanity. As a human, he was still fully God. And then he dealt with our sin problem by dying for our sins. He then busted out of the grave to defeat death. He solved our two biggest problems: sin and death, so that anyone who trusts in him no longer has to be afraid.
And not only this, but he’s reconciling everything to himself. He’s fixing the entire universe. What does it mean that he’s reconciling everything to himself? It means that everyone and everything will ultimately be submitted to Jesus, either by bowing the knee before him voluntarily, or by being brought into submission to him involuntarily. We either bow before him because we see his greatness and trust him, or we will one day bow before him because he’s disarmed and defeated us.
Take a look at Jesus. He is glorious. He’s over everything. He created and sustains everything. He’s fixing everything. Everything exists for him. His glory solves our greatest need. Our greatest need is to see Jesus in all of his glory.
How Should We Respond?
How should we respond to all of this?
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (1:21-23)
Did you catch that?
First, make sure that this is true of you: that you have switched from being alienated and hostile, doing evil deeds, to being reconciled to God. When you see Jesus in all of his glory, it only makes sense to trust him, to give your life to him. Do that today. He invites you. He will welcome you.
But there’s more. Continue in the faith, stable and steadfast. Don’t deviate from the gospel. Don’t get sidetracked by anything else. You don’t need anything other than Jesus because there’s no one and nothing better than Jesus.
Today our church celebrates its ninth anniversary. Here’s our greatest need: to renew our vision of Jesus. May we never get used to him. May we never settle for anything less. He is all that we need.
Lord, help us to see Jesus in all of his glory. And help us never stop being amazed at who he is and what he’s done for us. And help us to worship him and him alone. In Jesus’ name. Amen.