Colossians 1:1-8 (Week 2 – Jesus Plus Nothing Series)
Jason White



Jesus plus Nothing = Your True Identity

Being in Christ gives you a new identity.  You are no longer defined as a sinner.  You are not even a sinner saved by grace.  You are a saint.

Colossians 1:2-6… 2 To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.  3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you.





Sermon Audio Transcript
I'm not sure if you're familiar with who Brennan Manning is, Brennan Manning was a Christian author he passed away about 10 years ago or so. But he wrote several well known books such as the ragamuffin, gospel, Arbus, child, the relentless tenderness of Jesus, among many others. And in a lot of his writings, he was very open and authentic. He was very real and honest about things that went on in his life, things that he struggled with. And one of those things that he wrote about often was the struggle that he had with his mom and the relationship that he had with her and how what happened to him through that relationship really began to shape and form him in different ways that then begin at one point to affect his behavior. He talked about how when he was super young, she would come home from work and he would run to the door to try to throw his arms around her and just hug her and welcome her home only to be pushed away and told that he was a nuisance, and he should go sit down in the corner and just shut up. I can't imagine a mom saying that to her child. But this was his reality. He mentioned a few different instance, incidents that happen. One of them was when he was eight years old, and he confronted his mom about her loving his brother, even more than him. He specifically said this, I said to my mom, you love Robert more than me, don't you? You've always loved him more. I hate you. He said, My mother just looked stunned. But I didn't relent. I continued to accuse her the truth is Roberts always been your favorite. You've always been kind to him and mean to me. And then my mother just stormed towards me and began punching me over and over and over again to the point where I fell to the floor, and then she straddled me and continued to punch me just screaming, shut up, just shut up. A couple of years later, when he was 10 years old, he saved up his money and he went to the store to buy a Christmas present for her. He bought kind of this really nice note pad for her and took the time to wrap it and everything was under the tree. Christmas morning. They were all their brother, sister, grandparents, parents, everybody, she sees his gift begins to open it up, sees what it is and says What in God's name is this? What am I going to do with this? And she took the notepad and threw it back at him and said, What a waste of money. Unbelievable what this mom was saying to her child. But again, this is the reality. This is what Brennan Manning was dealing with when he was growing up. And these events and the things that were were said, these Cutting Words just were embedded deep within him and really became part of his identity. So much so that he just he knew that he was worthless, he knew that he was a nuisance, he knew that he would never, ever amount to anything. At first, he tried to deal with it by just kind of closing himself off emotionally. I'm just going to stuff that down and pretend these things don't happen. I'm not going to deal with the feelings in the emotions. But when he was 16 years old, it began to surface as it always does, at some point in our lives, we can't stuff that stuff down without it eventually coming back up. And when it came back up, he didn't know how to cope with it. He didn't know what to do. And so at 16 years old, he turned to alcohol, he started drinking to try to cover up the pain and the hurt in his life. And eventually, Brennan Manning became a horrendous alcoholic trying to deal with this pain trying to deal with this hurt in his life. You know, I hear stories like that. And again, you hear stories like that, and a lot of us it makes us cringe. Like I've said a few times, it's hard to imagine a mother talking to her child like that. And in these particular ways, but there's probably some of you, unfortunately, who cringe when you hear those kinds of things, because it's, well, it's personal for you. It's the way that your mom talked to you. It's the way your dad talked to you. It's the way one of your grandparents talk to you. It's the way your spouse talks to you today. You don't need me to tell you how much that hurts. how painful that is. You don't need me to tell you that that begins to get embedded deep within you to form an opinion about who you really are. To shape you maybe those things are really true. The thing is, is whenever we begin to see our identity, a lot of times our actions are influenced by who it is that we think that we are we behave Out of what we believe about our selves, that affects the way that we live our lives, affects the way that we live the Christian life, what it is that we believe about our selves, Henry. Now, one puts it this way, self rejection is the greatest enemy, he says, of the spiritual life, the greatest enemy out of all the enemies that there are the greatest enemy out of the spiritual life is self rejection, he says, but the thing is, is you don't have to have had some extremely traumatic experience in your background or childhood to experience struggle with identity. And with self rejection, the world that we live in, seems to also do a pretty good job with helping us out in that particular area. I mean, it can be as simple as the way the world elevates people and puts them other way prettier, they're smarter, they're more successful in sports or in business, and they're just better than you are. And we compare ourselves to these people. And then we form opinions about who we are based on these other people who are elevated, so high in these different positions. And we form our opinion around those things, and just begins to form our self worth, and our identity based on what we see out in the world. Of course, there's a number of different philosophies and teachings and ideas in our world that can influence our thinking about who we are, and our identity, and shape those kinds of things. What we really need to do about it are to earn an identity, that kind of thing, a lot of times, they're way off base from anything that we see in Scripture, the truths that are found here. And sometimes, for a lot of us, they're easily recognizable like that, just see that that's way off in left field out in the world over there. But what we often don't see is what sometimes happens within the church. What happens within certain popular teachings and circles and things that we listen to online. And one of the examples would be a fairly popular teaching within Christian circles that say, our identity as Christians is primarily that of being a center, and that we have a lot to change about ourselves, since we're such horrible sinners. And so we better get busy trying to change into it, so that we'll have a better identity, we become a better person, a better Christian. Sometimes it's labeled miserable sinner, Christianity, or miserable sinner identity. One pastor who agrees with this label as being our identity had this to say about it. He says, our guilt is so great, see if I can get that up on the screen for you. He says, our guilt is so great that we dare not think of it, it crushes our minds with a perfect stupor of horror, when for a moment we try to imagine a Day of Judgment, when we shall be judged for all the deeds that we have done in the body, heartbeat after heartbeat, breath after breath, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, and all full of sin, all nothing but sin from our mother's womb to the grave. nothing but sin, from our mother's wounds, all the way to the grave,if what we believe about ourselves affects our behavior. And if we're poor, miserable sinners, then we're going to walk around pretty defeated a lot of times again, because the most natural thing in the world for a sinner to do is to sin. And so we're going to step into those things often and just feel defeat after defeat after defeat, or we're going to go not, ah, I'm going to have to prove to God that that's not who I am. And I'm going to earn I'm going to show him that I love him. And I'm going to become way better at my behavior and adapting all of these things to make sure that I feel better about who I am only to change and fail again, and feel miserable and rejected again. And so we have all of these different things in our lives that affect what we think about ourselves that affect our identity. Sometimes it's our parents or an authority figure that we talked about earlier. Sometimes it's what the world is saying and US comparing ourselves to other people. Sometimes it's teachings and philosophies that we see out in the world. And yet other times it's what we even see from churches and pastors and teachers and being influenced by those that we grow up with. The question is, what's the truth? What's the truth about your identity? Well, as Paul opens up this letter, we're going to see the answer to this question. In these first eight verses. The apostle Paul starts off in Colossians one, verse one by saying, Paul and apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God and Timothy, our brother, what's he doing? Hear as he starts off this letter, he's making an introduction. This is a typical standard greeting that he would have written, right? He's saying this is from like you might do if you were writing an old school letter or an email, it's from me from Paul, I'm just kind of writing this out and making sure you know, he mentioned that he is an apostle of Christ Jesus. But this is not of his own doing. He didn't make himself an apostle, he didn't earn the title by anything. It was by the will of God, this was a Jesus plus nothing equals Paul being an apostle kind of thing. It was his work that he did. It was his calling on his life, he mentioned that Timothy, our brother is also involved in this ministry that they were doing and helping to maybe write this letter together. But this is just a standard, typical greeting. After he finishes this open rate Mark, this is still part of the greeting. And the introduction, though, he's tells us who it's to. All right, he already said it was from it was from Paul, I'm the one writing this letter. Who is it to now this is what we really want to pay attention to is how God addresses the church at Colossae. We know the title of this letter is Colossians. And he's writing it to the church, the people in Colossae. But this is how he referenced them, God's holy people, some translations, it says, saints, these are God's holy people to its to its to those saints who live in Colossae. Now, notice what he didn't say here, he didn't say to the poor, miserable sinners who are saved by grace in Colossae. He chooses his words very carefully, he writes the same thing to pretty much all of the churches that he writes here to God totally people to the saints. This is an identity statement. This is no small thing that he is saying here. As a matter of fact, David garland, when he was writing his commentary had this to say about that. He says, literally, the Greek in the situation reads in Colossae, in Christ, he says the parallelism implies that the recipients may reside in Colossae. But more importantly, they live in the sphere of Christ, in Christ and related phrases appear frequently in Paul's writings. And the concept is central to his understanding of our salvation. To be in Christ means to be incorporated into him, so that he may encompass the entire life of the believer, the recipients may be Colossians. But the only identity that matters to God is that they are Christians, they are in Christ. It is no small thing to see this language and to see the way that Paul identifies them, and labels them as those who are saints to be in Christ means that there's an inseparable union, your spirit is joined with the Holy Spirit. And you're involved in this in separable union with Jesus from the moment that you put your faith and trust in Him, and He forgives all of your sins and comes to dwell in you. And being united to him in that way. being incorporated in him, as David garland puts it here means that something dramatically has changed about you about them, who are God's holy people, they are no longer the sinners that they once were, their nature has changed since they've been united to Christ. Now, they've been transformed and made into someone different. Now, Paul knows that they will still sometimes sin, He's not calling them saints based on their behavior. You and I use that terminology. And I Oh, they're just such a sight, because they're talking about behavior and things that we're seeing they're doing, but because he's saying your identity doesn't come from your behavior, but from your new birth that you receive in Christ, he knows that you can still sometimes sin, right? I think that's even evidenced and what he says right here too. So he says to God's holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, he wouldn't bring that up if they couldn't have also been what? unfaithful. He writes the similar language to the Corinthian church, right? And he calls them saints. But if you're familiar with what was going on in the church in Corinth, you probably wouldn't call them faithful, though, at least the way they were living their lives. They were walking in their flesh, they were walking independently from who they were in Christ and him being their source and doing things in their own strength, but here he references them as faithful brothers. But the big thing again, is that their identities changed if they begin to be unfaithful at some point, it doesn't Change their identity, all of a sudden, that doesn't mean that they're not united to Christ, or that anything really has changed from them, it just means that they temporarily acted out of who they were in Christ and thought they could accomplish something in their own power, and strength. The difference in being labeled a sinner saved by grace, and being a saint is no small thing. It's huge again, because we tend to act out of what it is that we believe about ourselves. And so Paul starts off this letter to the Colossians, reminding them just in the way he addresses this letter, just in the opening line, the introduction, who they are, they are saints, who are part of the church in Colossae. He finishes up and writes Grace and peace to you in this section from our Lord,from our God from cut our father, I can't read a promise. All right. But this is saying that this letter is to be a means of grace, right? It's meant to be a means of grace and out of that grace, that they're going to experience peace, a peace, that they won't be able to get anywhere that comes from the Father in His finished work through Jesus on the cross to accomplish their sainthood and what it was that he was able to call them. Here. When you get to verse three, begins a new section, this was the introduction to the letter, but Paul enters kind of a Thanksgiving area, which he does in a lot of his letters as well, in a prayer section. He says, We always thank God, the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, why? Why does he thanked them every time it is that he prays for them? Well, he tells us right here, here's why. Because we have heard of what two things. Number one, your faith in Christ Jesus. And number two of the love that you have, for all God's people, when we pause, and we give thanks to God for you, we give thanks for two reasons, because of your faith in Christ, and because of your love for all people. Now, when you read that, and if someone said that about you, then we might be tempted to think, yeah, I do have pretty good faith in Christ, right? He's bragging on me, and so thankful for me for the great faith that I have, you know what, I am pretty loving. I'm pretty good at loving all of the people that are God's holy people, especially right. And we may begin to think about those. But Paul says this, and then he quickly transitions you see this little dash right here about to get to what he says next, and is closely linked to this, to make sure that they don't begin to have those kinds of thoughts. And he points them back to well, our identity and the place that this comes from, like we've been talking about already, this morning. So Paul goes on right here follows it up and says the faith. Now we're going to talk about the faith and the love that he was just giving thanks for the faith in Christ and the love for all of God's people. But notice what he says this is the faith and love that sprang from something, they come from somewhere, something's causing that to happen, right? What is it it springs from the hope stored up for you in Heaven, and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you you may remember, if you were here last week, during the introduction, that we talked about the problem, why Paul was writing this letter in the first place, there were false teachers, there are all these different teachings and philosophies a pluralistic city, and this is true, this is true, Jesus is good. But you need to add this, you need to do this. And you'll have a better deeper experience a more enlightened experience, you'll really have everything at that point in time. And so right off the bat, even though Paul's not addressing the problem, yet, he's beginning to use the language like this is the true message out of all the messages that you're hearing the false teachers, the ones out in society, they're trying to say, this is right, this is the true one here. But again, he comes back and says that this faith and love that he gives thanks for springs from this hope. Now hope in the Bible is not like, Man, I really hope that the Cowboys win this afternoon, you know, I mean, which I do, by the way, but you know, sometimes that's kind of wishful thinking. We're not always real confident that those things are going to happen. Biblical hope is a deep rooted confidence that something is true, or that something will happen in the future. And so when we're talking about this hope, we're talking about a hope that's stored up somewhere. It's a reality. It's already there, whatever it is that's providing that and it's a one that's in heaven. Now this is tied into everything that he said so far. He's used the language to God's holy people who are in Christ. All right, well guess where Christ is seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven, right. So if you're in union with Jesus Christ, who's sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven, and guess where you're seated right now, with Him in Heaven at the right hand of the Father, it's an inseparable union that you're experiencing with him, you are spiritually already seated in heaven, you didn't become a Christian and get to go to heaven one day, you already are spiritually there, right. Now, the moment that you said yes to Jesus, you were in Christ in something dramatically changed about you in because that's a stored up reality that's already there, then you have hope from that, in that deep place where that new identity, that new birth, where that spiritual union, and that that that spiritually seeding in heaven is already happening is where the faith in the love springs from, it's an expression of an inward reality, an outward expression of an inward reality, because you've been changed into someone new, you have a new identity, you have all this hope stored up from you in Heaven and where you were, then now you're learning to walk in faith and independence on Christ, I'm beginning to see that I'm just so thankful for that I'm beginning to see the love of Christ that is in you now being expressed through you towards all of God's people. And so he's thankful for those things and highlighting what it is that this true message, this true gospel has provided for him that Jesus plus nothing equals everything kind of gospel, and is even doing through them. As we get into the last part of what it is that he says here, we're getting to verses seven, and eight. And this is the last part that we're going to look at today. But first, we're gonna look at six, because I'm trying to skip on it says in the same way, in the same way as what, in the same way as what the gospel was doing in your lives, that I just pointed to the faith and love and the hope and all of those things. The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it, and truly understood God's grace. Notice that since the day you heard it, and understood, on that day, again, in that moment, something dramatically changed about who you are. Now, why is Paul trying to highlight here what God's doing around the world? I mean, he's writing this letter to the church at Colossae, the things that were going on the problems that were happening in there to address that, why is he talking about what it's doing in the whole world rather than in vim in their whole context? Well, he did highlight what was going on in them. But here's the thing. Again, we said this a pluralistic society, all these different philosophies, all these ideas, all these false teachers and all this stuff. We live in a pluralistic society, we're hearing all of these things. And sometimes when it gets really noisy, and people keep saying it over and over again, all of a sudden, you and I have a tendency to go, well, could that be true? Is it Jesus plus this or is it Jesus plus that is there more to it than I've really thought maybe it is true, I keep seeing these people say that over and over again. And so Paul is trying to give them some evidence that, hey, this is the true gospel. And it's not just impacting your lives, here's evidence that even further evidence that it's true, and not just impacting you, it's doing the same thing all the way throughout the whole world, since the big God. And he's not just involved in this. He's involved in doing it all over the world. And when you begin to see that your faith grows, you go, Oh, it really is true. So what God's up to in those ways, and it would be wise for you and I to be reminded that God is doing the same thing today. He's bearing fruit and growing things throughout the entire world, even though we hear all kinds of things to the contrary, today. He now finishes up here in verses seven and eight and says you learned it, what was it? What did they learn the gospel, right? He's been talking about the gospel, the good news of Jesus, you learned the gospel from a path for us. We talked a little bit about him. Last week, we said that Paul, did not plant this church a path for us did they learn the gospel from a pastor's we believe that he was from Colossi he traveled to maybe Ephesus where we read about an X night team where Paul preached the gospel, heard it was transformed and change goes back and tells everybody about it and they accept Jesus and now a church is planted. So he reminds them that you learned the true gospel that he just referenced. Right? The one that's true out of all of these other things from a path for us, our dear fellow servant who is a faithful man History of Christ on our behalf. He's pointing them back to that day that they heard it there. And then he finishes up and says, and who also told us and so we get the idea that Epaphras visited Paul, again, he's the one who went to him and in jail and told him about the false teaching and the things that were going on. But he also told us of your love, but watch this, in the spirit, once again, he makes sure to highlight that it's not really your love. It's not your being such a great person, and you're just such a loving guy. And he told us about all of those things. It was your love in the Spirit. What does that mean? Well, in Christ, thisinseparable spiritual union, you're in union with the one who is love. And so that love, again, is being expressed through them. And so he's quick to just point them back even one more time, to what we've already highlighted all throughout this section, their place of identity. So Paul starts this letter off. I mean, if we just look at these eight verses, and where was what we do, this is the way we read it, we're gonna walk through them, you know, what, what is the truth that's found here? What did it mean to the people that he was writing it to? And then what does it mean to us today? Still, right. And so as we look at these things, we're saying again, that he's writing this letter to a bunch of Christians in a pluralistic society, city dealing with all of these ideas and distractions and philosophies. But notice, Paul did not say one thing about those philosophies and about the teaching and begin to address it, what is you start with the true gospel message, that you are completely forgiven, that you are put in Christ, that you are a saint, that he's the one who begins to express that love that you have out of them, he starts there, and reminds them of who they really are. Because if they see that, they if they know that they're gonna be able to recognize the false gospels that are around them, and they're going to be reminded, I don't need to add anything to the gospel. I don't need to add anything to my identity, because Jesus, plus nothing equals everything Jesus plus, nothing is the one who gives us our identity. He makes you went to who you are not your job to go out and earn an identity and prove who it is that you are. It's what he does. This is who the Colossians were. And it's who you are. Today, if you've said yes to Jesus. So if you've grown up in a situation where maybe someone told you that you were nothing, that you would never amount to anything that you were worthless, no today that that's not true. If you've put your faith and trust in Jesus, you are in Christ, you're a saint, you're holy, you're righteous, and you are a set apart Child of God, it means that if if you've thought of yourself as inferior, being inferior to other people, you view them as smarter, better, looking more talented, or whatever, and you base your identity on those things. It's not true in Christ, you are a saint, you are holy, righteous, and you are set apart as God's child, if you've grown up in a church setting where someone has told you that you're just a poor, worthless, miserable sinner, who is saved by grace know today that that is not true. We've seen it in Scripture in Christ, you are a saint, you are holy, you are righteous, and you're a set apart child of God means that you can rest in who you truly are based on being in Christ, and that God is going to produce fruit in you and through you to make impact on this world and in His Kingdom, as you continue to receive from Him as your source. told you earlier about Brennan Manning's relationship with his mom and what it was like when he was growing up and how it really began to shape his identity. I told you that one of the ways that he coped with his identity was through drinking alcohol, and he really did become a horrendous alcohol. He was crazy addicted to it, drank a lot of it. He tried coping with his hurt and his pain through the drinking and the drugs and many other ways. But no matter what, could never move past it, he hated himself and eventually got to the point where he was even considering taking his own life. But God finally had this moment where he broke through, he broke through all the walls that he had built up around his heart, he broke through the pain of his abusive mother and everything that went on there. He he broke through his own addiction and for the first time, he began to experience the love of God. He said, My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ, and I have done nothing to earn or deserves it. In other words, Brennan Manning was learning to find his identity not in what other people were saying about him or had said about him in his past, not in what other people did to him, or even in the things that he had done or not done. But in Jesus, and in Jesus alone, was in that moment that Brennan began to spend the rest of his life writing and teaching about God's grace in our identity being found in him. As a matter of fact, in one of his final books, he said that his message could be summed up as this, God loves you unconditionally, as you are, and not as you should be on the outside, because nobody is as they should be on the outside. This grace is indiscriminate compassion, it works without asking anything of us, grace is sufficient, even though we huff and puff, with all of our might, to try to find something that it cannot cover. Grace is enough, Jesus is enough. And he's enough for you to your union with Him, brings you your identity and so rest in it today. Allow it to be the place from the place that everything else flows in your life. And if you've never said yes to Jesus, would you receive Him in His grace today? He wants to forgive you. He wants to come dwell in you, and He wants to give you a brand new identity. Let's pray.