Christmas sermon series: God's Missionary Heart
The days after Christmas involve taking down the tree and the lights. It might mean a few days off from work, or trying to figure out how to pay for Christmas. It probably also means New Year's resolutions, making future plans to diet, or get out of debt, or start a new job or adventure. Is God in your future plans? This sermon focuses on the New Year and a fresh start. Read the following Bible passages to assist you in preparing to read this sermon: Acts 13:1-3; 14:26-27; 26:15-19; Galatians 2:6-10.
By now you may have the Christmas blues. Christmas, unfortunately, has a way of draining us: the parties, the shopping, the church choir musicals, the visits to family, and the tension that many feel. The New Year, however, has a way of energizing us: new prospects, new dreams, new plans, and the annual resolutions to diet, exercise, get out of debt, and try new things or get better at something. Have you ever stopped to consider how backwards that all sounds?
C.S. Lewis wrote, "The central Christian belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start" (The Case for Christianity, p. 46). Christmas should ignite the soul with a passion for God. The New Year invites us to think of new steps, new hopes and plans, including gaining a fresh start in Christ.
Paul in his Letter to the Colossians speaks of the "Son of His love," meaning that Christ in his love and power equips us with the Holy Spirit and his freshness. Paul writes about the church and how it all starts with God. The key in the ignition of the car, the starting line in a foot race, and the blank canvas for a painter - each serves as a starting point. Christ serves as the starting point for a Christian and the Lord's church, and for your prospects for a New Year.
I. Creation: It all starts with God
Paul begins with a foundational theological tenet: Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:17). Paul acknowledges God as the creator of all things, the maker of heaven and earth. Watch a sunset in its hues of orange in the early dew of a sun-kissed morning. God created it. Watch a bird in flight catching the current of lofty winds. God created it. Watch a deer or an elk jumping a fence in grace and power. God created it. Observe from a ship's deck some dolphins as they glide and leap, arching and angled, out of the water and back in. God created them. Watch an ant as it stores food for the winter. God created it. Watch a snowflake tumble effortlessly from the sky on a winter's eve. God created it. Touch a baby hands, soft and gentle. Hear a baby's cry, a teenager's moan, and an adult's grief in the shadows of death. God created each person and placed value on them as persons under the eye of the "Son of his love."
Colossians 1:13-17 possesses key thoughts of God's creative work in our lives. God delivered us out of darkness. He introduced us to the Son who loves us. He provided a way in Christ so that we can join God's kingdom. His kingdom is more than earthly realms and dominions and authoritative powers. It is a kingdom of life, transformation, joy, forgiveness, and God's ongoing creative work. God created us to serve Him, live for Him, and share him with others. The New Year beckons: Creation starts with God. God desires to give us a fresh start!
II. Your life: It all starts with God
Paul says two things: 1. Every living thing starts with God; 2. All things "cohere," consist, or hold together with God. What Paul means is that if you follow Jesus with all your heart, your life will find Christ at the center. Dependence on Christ involves Him holding your life together and giving it purpose. Does your life, as you face a new year, have purpose in God? What does your life start with?
What are four elements of a life lived in God's purpose?
Paul mentions peace at the outset of Colossians (1:2), and in Romans 5:1 he tells us that we have peace and access to God through Jesus Christ. This peace is more than politicians sitting at a discussing a truce. It is more than a protest against war. It is more than a symbol on a tie-dyed t-shirt. It is personal, revolutionary, life-changing peace that surpasses all understanding. Jesus is our peace. Real peace starts with God.
Paul mentions "deliverance" in Colossians 1:13. Recently I watched the evening news and observed the story of a rescue. A roaring, rapid river turned over a small raft in which two people rode. They were tossed out of the raft and into the river, but were miraculously rescued by a team that threw them a lifeline. Christ has rescued us through the cross from sin and darkness. Deliverance starts with God.
Paul clearly praised God's creative work as a work of forgiveness of sins. Where would we be without the forgiveness of sins through Christ's shed blood? Where would we be without Christ's forgiveness motivating personal forgiveness in our relationships? Forgiveness heals. Forgiveness starts with God.
Paul mentions in Colossians 1:20-21 the word "reconciliation." Christ reconciles people to God and to each other. He makes enemies friends. He takes that which is broken and puts it back together. He takes that which is severed and ties it back together by bonding it to Him. Reconciliation starts with God.
III. The Church: It all starts with God
Paul's heart is threefold: for God, people, and the church. Christ is the head of the body, the head of the church, and he desires supremacy. In this New Year think of your church: plans and programs, ministries and madness of schedule, its celebrations and jubilations, its worship and small groups. If you think of the church, you are bound to think of somebody who annoys you, the music too loud in the contemporary worship service, the deacons, the staff, and the next building campaign.
Stop to consider three things:
It is the Lord's church.
God is calling people to serve Him through his church.
Christ is to be supreme, "preeminent" as Paul labels it in Colossians 1:18.
Christ is supreme in all things. Is he supreme in your church? Its worship? Ministries? Attitude? Service?
This past year has been one of financial challenges, disasters, job layoffs, and crises in family's lives. Who knows what this next year holds? One thing is important for the church: to trust in Christ and to serve him as the one and only supreme God.
Are your weary and worn out from Christmas? Are you worried about the New Year to come? Are you wary of people you are not sure you can trust? Are you overworked and woeful in an attitude of despair? You have a new year ahead. Let Christ give you a fresh start.
Creation starts with God. Praise and thank God for it! Your life starts with God. Ask God to guide it! Your church starts with God. Serve him and trust him to bless it. Everything starts with God. Your new year starts with God. Happy New Year in these days after Christmas.