Colossians 1:9-14 (Week 3 – Jesus Plus Nothing Series)
Jason White



Sermon: You Already Have an A

If God were handing out grades based on how you are doing in the Christian life, what would your grade be? Many of us have this mentality where we are earning points for the good things we are doing and having points deducted for the bad things we are doing, but Colossians 1:9-14 reveals the truth that we are already qualified, have been rescued, and are in the Kingdom. It sounds like you already have an A.

Colossians 1:12-14…12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.




Sermon Audio Transcript
If God was giving out grades for how you were doing in the Christian life, what would your grade be? God was handing out grades. He's up there taking grades on how well it is that you are doing and performing in the Christian life. What would your grade be? And how would you measure that? How would you determine what it is in your mind? Your grade would be? Would it be based on your performance in some way? Well, I went to church today. You know what, I'm here right now. Surely, I'm getting some points for that right now. I mean, I've got young kids, it was hard to get here. We made it here. Right. And so certainly, there's some brownie points for me being here. You know, I read my Bible this week. I've been reading through my yearly plan so far. I mean, I'm three weeks in and I'm still trucking. So I probably got some points for that. Right. You know what, when we pass the offering a second ago, I actually put some money in the plate. And so surely, that was worth a little bit. Oh, you know what, I did not share my faith with someone this week a prop. A probably got deducted five points or so for not doing that right. Or, oh, my gosh, you know, what I, there was that time that I spent some time gossiping this week, or I lied to my parents this week, or treated my friend this way, I probably got some points to duck. Oh, but you know what? I did listen to that sermon online this week. And you know what, that that wasn't even in the context of the church hours that I'm supposed to be at. So surely I got bonus points for that one, right. And so I think a lot of us maybe tend to view the Christian life like that. I mean, maybe we're not really keeping score and thinking about it in terms of grades. But we are often let's be honest, doing things to make us feel better about how God really does view us and how it is that we're doing, right? Or we're looking to make up for those things that we know we got points deducted from in some way. And so I want you to be thinking about that this morning. And what that looks like in your own life. For some of you, maybe you got to be in your mind, right? Maybe you've got a C plus, for some of you, you may be going you know what I mean? Honestly, if God's taken grades this morning, I know that I have an F, right? I know my sin. And I know the choices that I've been making, especially here lately. And so listen, I've just given up what's the point I've tried, I haven't really been able to accomplish it, I know I have an F. And so maybe you've kind of even thrown in the towel, you've checked out of this whole thing. You don't really even care right now. And you're just doing whatever it is that you kind of want to do. And so again, I want you to be thinking about these things and where you fit in. I mean, if God is measuring things, and he's giving out grades on how you're doing in the Christian life, think about what your grade would be, as we walk through this passage today. Because I think what you see here may change your perspective. On the way you think about whatever grade it is that you have. Here's the way that Paul starts in Colossians one, verse nine, he says, For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. For what reason, Paul says, For this reason, we've got to remember that we're still in the middle of a letter, we're eight verses in to this letter that the apostle Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit had written to them, and that when this letter was received, the practice was for them to read it all out loud to the church from the beginning, to the very end, they weren't breaking it up into sections like we're doing and really diving into it. And so when we just start in the middle of a passage and go for this reason, we go, Oh, I'm reminded that this is the middle of a letter, this has to be taken into context with other things that were said. Paul had said, this, just a few verses later, we have heard of number one, your faith in Christ Jesus. And number two of the love that you have for all of God's people. Like we know this, we talked about this last week, Epaphras had gone to see him and updated him on what was going on. He say, man, they have faith and trust in Jesus, and they're loving all of God's people. And so Paul saying, we've heard of that. And it's the faith, the same faith that he's talking about here, the same love that sprang from something, it didn't come from them. It was something deep within them the hope that was stored up for them in heaven, which of course is the work of Christ and what it is that he had done in the work of salvation. And so he's highlighted these things already making them know or letting them know that he's heard about those things. And so we get back to verse nine, and then we go, Okay, for this reason, for since we've heard about these things, we want you to know, then that we haven't stopped praying for you. And now Paul shares with them what it is that he hasn't stopped praying for them. So let's see what it is that Paul prayed for them. He says, we continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord, and please him in every way. You know, a lot of us, we come across a verse like this right here, and we say, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way. See, he is keeping grades, he see he is keeping score up there. Apparently, there's a way to live your life that's worthy of him in in a way that pleases him over here. And you'll probably get points for those things. But if you're doing things that don't please Him, and you're living on worthy of the life of the Lord, then your grade is certainly going to be lower. And so a lot of times we see this, and that's where our mind goes, and we go, yes, I've got to get busy. I've got to get out there doing those things now to please the Lord. And to make sure I'm living a life worthy of him, I have got to make an A, I want him to be proud. I want him to be pleased with me. But is that really what Paul is saying here? And I don't think so. And I'm going to share with you why. And I think it's gonna become even more obvious as we continue to walk through the passage and dive into it a little bit deeper today. But the first thing that I want you to know is that we need to take these things into context, like we said earlier, and it's helpful sometimes to know kind of the overall outline of the letter where he's going, what he's going to be doing in and through this. And so what we know about the Apostle Paul is this, that the way that he typically writes these New Testament letters to these New Testament churches, is through vertical indicative and horizontal imperatives. Here's what I mean by that not that a vertical indicative refers to something that is real or certain, in objective fact. And so Paul would write these truths, like the Holy Spirit is revealing truth to him. And he's showing this to them. What is true about who God is about who Jesus is about what's happened to them in Christ, if they've received salvation. And then he finishes with the horizontal imperatives, which refers to the things that we do now how we live in light of the vertical indicative in light of those truths of who God is, and what it is that he has done to us. And what we know about this letter, if you were to look at it as a whole, that in general, Paul, through chapters one and two is writing vertical, indicative, he's writing truth, and in the being inspired by the Holy Spirit there about those things. And chapter three, he's going to get to the horizontal imperatives and see how this really plays out in everyday practical living based on the work that Jesus has done in us and will continue to do through us. So that's the first thing that we need to see. Because what section are we in? We're in chapter one, we're in the vertical, indicative section. So when we come across this verse that says, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way, and we go, I gotta get out there and do all of this stuff with a warden, please Him, we go, Wait a minute. I'm not even in the horizontal imperative section yet where he's really telling me all the stuff that I'm supposed to be doing apparently, right now. So I need to look at this in light of that and try to Okay, well, then what's he really saying here, if that's where we're at? Okay, so now that we kind of keep an eye on that, and we start to dive into this a little bit deeper, here are some of the things that we are going to see. And we've already read this, but I just want to dive into it a little bit deeper now. So let's go back into it. And Paul says, we continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. So in other words, he's saying, I'm praying that all of you will get out there and fill yourself with that knowledge of God and get busy reading the Bible and making sure that you go through it in a year and you know everything about it because that way you're going to get a good grade. Is that what he's saying here? That what he's praying, we're continually asking whoGod to do what fill you with the knowledge of his will. It doesn't sound like something that you do. It sounds like he's praying for God to do that in you or to do that in them. The emphasis is on him and what it is that he is doing. In other words, it's not your job, to fill yourself with the knowledge of God's will, in who he is. It's his job. When I was reading this and preparing for it and reading a number of commentaries, I just loved what Richard Melek had to say about this. Look at what he says. He says, it is this great, he says it is unthinkable that someone could simply learn to know God, most truth may be learned. But watch this divine truth must be what revealed, obviously, such knowledge must come from God, since he alone clearly reveals his own mind. In this context, Paul stated that God takes the initiative to reveal Himself and His will, the human response is to trust him to do it. Not your job, to fill yourself with God's knowledge. Only God can reveal Himself to you. He's God, if you could figure him out on your own. He's not a very big God. God has to take the initiative. He is the one. So Paul's praying, here's what I'm planning. I'm praying for God to reveal himself because only he can do that in your job church, he's saying is to trust him to do that to reveal more of his indicative of his truth about him. So Paul prays for God to do this. And then we get to the so that he's praying this, so that remember where we were at earlier, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord. So here's what we do often. We'll go okay, I see that in the first part, Pastor Jason, I see that he was the emphasis is on God, he's gonna reveal the knowledge to us about his will, once we know more about him, and we know His will now now it's my job to get out there and live that life that's worthy of the Lord, and to please him in every way, right? No. And here's why. Because the you see this little code Colin, right here. Paul's not done with his sentence. He's still going. He's saying that I'm praying these things, so that you may live a life worthy of Lord and please him in every way. And guess what he's about to do now. He's going to show us what it looks like to live a life worthy of the Lord, and what it looks like to please the Lord in every way. And this is where we're going to learn so much about this process that we're talking about today. So let's look at what he specifically says will please him, there's four things, there's three listed here. We'll talk about one in just a moment. I'll read the whole thing first and come back in verse 10. He says, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all divine power according to his glorious might, so that you might have great endurance and patience. The first thing that Paul said, pleases the Lord is when we bear fruit in every good work. Now, what I want you to notice here is the verb that Paul chose. The word there is bearing isn't producing. Doesn't say producing fruit. In other words, it's not our job to produce the fruit. We simply bear the fruit. It's Jesus's job to produce fruit. He even said so and John 15, remember where he says, I'm the vine, and he says, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit apart from me, he says you can do nothing. So it sounds like the focus is on him. It's about being in Christ. It's about trusting him to produce the fruit in us and through us. We just bear the fruit. The life giving stuff is in the vine. It's not in the branch, it flows from the vine into the branch that we are has to come from him. And then the fruit gets dropped down through that the branch just receives what the vine produces through it. That's what we are. We are receivers, right? And so the first thing is not Hey, get out there and produce some fruit. Get out there and do those good works and make sure that you're investing in the kingdom and you'll be getting an A it's a what will please him is for the Lord to produce the fruit and you to simply bear it as he does it in you and through you. The second thing that he says will please him in every way is grow. Weighing in the knowledge of God now, I think we kind of already covered that one. I mean, in verse nine, what was he praying, we ask God to fill you with knowledge, right? Here's the thing. This right here is written in the passive voice in Greek that Paul was writing in, in passive voice means that you aren't the one that's actively doing the growing in the knowledge, its passive, you're the recipient, again, of that God is the one doing this, he's the one acting upon it, he will be the one growing you in the knowledge of God again, because he's the only one who can reveal Himself to you in that way. So he's going to be pleased if Jesus is producing fruit in you and through you, and God is revealing his knowledge to you as well. The third thing that we see living life worthy of the Lord pleasing Him being strengthened, man, gotta get out there and and start doing my spiritual disciplines. You got to be strong, gotta gotta work out got to work out the spiritual stuff, right? And then you'll be pleased, I'm gonna get that a right but Oh, no being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might. It's not my strength. It's not my power. What pleases the Lord is for us to receive his power that is at work in us and through us. And here's what it does. The result of his power working in us and through us is that we'll have great endurance and great patience. You ever heard a sermon on man you really need to endure, make sure that you're really enduring. Make sure that you're being faithful to God all the way through this, make sure that you're working on your patience, and you're doing all of these things. according to Scripture, this is a result of God's power, not you and your work of what it is that he's doing in you. And through you. Sure, does it sound as we read through this, like, the God is a drill sergeant kind of mentality that we sometimes think of him as does it sound like the school teacher, the mean, school teacher who's just looking for any excuse to deduct some points from your grade, I'm watching I'm keeping an eye on you. I see everything that you're doing. And I've got my red pen here. Ready, buddy to just mark some points off of you. Doesn't sound like that's who our God is. I love this quote from Steve Brown in his book, scandalous freedom. I've read this before, and I'll probably read it again. But let's go to it this time. The good news is that Christ frees us from the need to obnoxiously focus on our goodness, to focus on our commitment to focus on our correctness, religion has made us obsessive, almost beyond endurance, Jesus invited us to a dance and we've turned it into a march of soldiers always checking to see if we're doing it right. And we're in step and in line with all the other soldiers. We know. We know that a dance would be more fun, but we believe that we must go through hell to get to heaven. So we justkeep on marching. It's true, right? Christian life is not like a march to a drill sergeants orders. He's not the teacher looking to do this. We're constantly having to keep our eyes and focus on our performance. And if we're doing it right, it's it's really like a dance we we talked to last week about how we're united to Christ, we have in spirit, right, a spirit of soul and a body. God is Spirit, the moment that we say yes to Him, and He forgives us. The spirit comes to dwell in us and unite himself to us. We are in union with Jesus, and Jesus is inviting us to dance. If I invited my wife up here on stage to dance with me, which I'm sure a lot of you would really love to see. But I'm not going to give you that privilege this morning. But if I did, then we would be in union we would be holding hands looking as if we are one. And if it was done correctly, which it wouldn't be if I was leading. But if I was doing it right, and I was leading, it would look like we were flowing together as one and I'm helping guide her and move her in this rhythmic way. And there's music and we're enjoying it. And it's fun. And we're talking together as we participate in it together to move towards our destination and through and around the dance floor and Jesus is the one who we're united to he is the one who takes the lead and leads us on a dance. He's not a drill sergeant, he's invited us onto the dance floor of life. And he gets to be the one who leads. And we get to participate and just be in rhythm with how he's guiding us and leading us to move throughout life and enjoy what it is that he is doing in us and through us. And what he's doing as we dance with him as he's leading us to bear fruit. As we call him, the text he's leading us in that dance to grow in the knowledge of him is the lead. He's leading us to be strengthened for endurance, and patience.Are you dancing? Or are you marching? Paul goes on, finishes up, this is so good. This is one of my favorite passages of the Bible.The fourth thing he says, and that will please him and make live a life worthy of him is giving joyful, thanks to the Lord to the Father. Now he's quick, as soon as he says that, about why, why does it please Him to give thanks. And look at it. It's because of what it is that he's done. Right? And so who has the father who has what qualified you? Do you know what it means to be qualified? It means that you've met the requirements for something, right? If you're going to play on the high school basketball team, you have to qualify to be on the team, you've got to meet the requirements, you've got to be good enough to be on the team. If you're gonna be a part of the Texas Rangers organization, you've got to qualify, you can't walk into that locker room and put the uniform on, you've got to qualify, you got to meet the requirements to qualify for the team. But if you've met the requirements to be able to play on the team, then you've qualified for that thing. What is it that you have qualified for? Your inheritance?Notice this has passed, tense has qualified you. He's not going to qualify you in the future. He's not qualifying you right now. He's pointing to something that has already happened in their life. It is something that he has done. How is it that he has already qualified you to share in this inheritance, he finishes up and this is the last two verses that we'll look at? For he referring to the Lord has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Sun he loves in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Somebody should Amen that because that's good. Look at again what it is that he says here. Watch the past tense. He has rescued us. already done it. What it is that he's rescued. What's he rescued us from? The dominion of darkness? Did you know that you were in the dominion of darkness? Oh man, I was never to do now's a good kid. I grew up in church I managed never been a time I didn't know Jesus, right? Well, apparently, all of us at one time or another. We're in the dominion of darkness under the dominion of darkness. We're born into this world with sin. It's a part of who we are. If you've never said yes to Jesus, you're still living in the dominion of the darkness. This is what the truth is, this is what Scripture shows us. But if you've said yes to Him, then He has already rescued you from he's taken you out of the dominion of darkness and done what he's brought you into the Kingdom of the Sun. He loves. Did you know that you're already in the kingdom? If you've said yes to Jesus, you've already been qualified to be in the kingdom. You won't be in the kingdom one day. You're in the kingdom. Now. He's rescued you from the dominion of darkness. He's brought you into the kingdom of the Son that he loves. How did you do that in home? Jesus, we have redemption. He's paid the price. We owed a debt that we couldn't pay for our sins he paid Read the price which was death on the cross in his, through His finished work on the cross, given us forgiveness of sins. So now that he gives us complete forgiveness, he now has an environment that is acceptable to dwell in again, sin was the barrier that kept us from being able to be in that union and him being in us. But now that it's gone, he can come live in us. And as he does, he makes us righteous and holy, we're out of the dominion of darkness, we're in the kingdom of sun because we're in union with Him. This is what Paul is saying here. So if God is giving out grades, if God's giving out grades, and you've already been qualified, if you've already been rescued, if you've already been brought into the Kingdom of the Sun that he loves, if he's going to be the one to bear the fruit through you, if he's going to be the one to grow you and knowledge, if he's going to strengthen you with his power, then it sounds like to me that you've already got an A. Sounds like you already have an A. I read a quote to you earlier from Steve Brown, he has written a number of books I read one from scandalous freedom, he tells the story and another book of his about an experience that his daughter had in school one time, and I want to share that story because it just so ties in to what we are talking about today. And in this particular book isn't one that's written by Steve Brown, but the author references Steve, and what it is that he says here about that experience? This is so good, you're ready. Thank you. Better be because it's, he, he says that one time, his daughter, Robin found herself in a very difficult English Literature course that she desperately wanted to get out of. Anybody ever wanted to get out of an English literature class, this guy. All right, she sat there on her first day and thought if I don't transfer out of this class, I am going to fail. The other people in this class are much smarter than me, there's no way that I can do this. So she came home with tears in her eyes and begged her dad to help her get out of the class. So she could take a regular English course, Steve said, of course. So the next day he took her down to the school. And they went into the meat the head of the English department. She This is Steve's words. The head of the English department looked up and saw me standing there by my daughter, and can tell that Robin was about to cry. There were some students standing around. And because the teacher didn't want Robin to be embarrassed, she dismissed the students saying, I'd love to talk to these people alone. And so they left. As soon as the students left and the door was closed, Robin began to cry. I said, Hey, I'm here to get my daughter out of that English class. It is too difficult for her. The problem with my daughter is that she's too conscientious. She says, Oh, can you just put her in a regular English class, please? She just said Mr. Brown. I think I understand the issue and the problem here. But could I have just a moment? Can I have just a moment to talk to Robin alone? Sure. Sure. Sure. She said, Robin, I know how you feel. But what if I promised to give you an A, no matter what it is that you did in the class? If I gave you an A, before you ever even started? Would you be willing to take the class? My daughter is not dumb. And so she said, Well, I think I could do that. Teacher said well, I'm going to give you an A in the class, you already have an A so you can just go on to class. Later the teacher explained to Steve what it is that she had done, she explained how she took the threat of a bad grade away so that Robin could learn English literature. And Robin ended up making straight A's on her own. In that class. The author goes on to say that is how God deals with us because of Christ finished work Christians already have in a the threat of failure, judgment and condemnation has been removed. We're in forever. Nothing we do will ever make our grade better. And nothing we do will ever make our grade worse in his life by his death and with His resurrection Christ our substitute secured for us the everything that a that we come into this world longing for and yet are incapable of securing for ourselves. All the pardon all the approval all the purpose all the freedom, the rescue, the meaning the righteousness, the cleanse. In significance, the words and the affection we crave and need are already ours in Christ, we don't need to add anything to it. The operative power that makes you a Christian is the same operative power that keeps you a Christian. The unconditional, unqualified, undeserved, unrestrained grace of God. In the completed work of Christ, the banner under which Christians live reads, It is finished. So relax and rejoice, Jesus plus nothing equals everything. And everything minus Jesus equals nothing, you are free.What pleases God is not you trying to perform for him, not keeping a checklist of all the good things you're doing and an eye on all the things you're trying to avoid and the bad things that you're doing, pleases him is to rest in His finished work on the cross pleases Him to give Him thanks for those things, to trust him to use you to bear fruit as we saw in the text, to trust him to grow you in the knowledge of him whose job it is to do so in the first place to trust Him to fill you with the power that allows you to endure and be patient in the trials and the struggles of this life. And so when you leave here today, would you focus on how you all ready have an A, because of what Christ has done for you, and continues to do through you. I hope that you see that focusing on the A and having an A based on his finished work on the cross will free you up to step into the dance of the Christian life. Some people never get on the dance floor. You know why? Because they're scared. Why are they scared? Because I'm going to do it wrong, because I will fail because other people are going to look at me and they're going to make fun of me. And guess what, if you already have an A, then you can step onto the dance floor. You don't have to worry about failing. You don't have to worry about what other people are thinking and however they're judging you in that way. You're free to step into the dance and just go wherever it is that he leads and enjoy him in the process and trust him to lead you where it's best for you to go and just watch what it is that he and only he can do in you and through you. Are you dancing or are you marching? Hope that you're dancing? And if you've been marching, you're invited to the dance today.