Life Under Authority

Life Under Authority

Christ the King Sunday aims at teaching or highlighting the fullness of the authority of Christ Jesus in his Lordship over all of creation both visible and invisible. It really emphasis the teaching in the Nicene Creed, “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, creator/maker of heaven and earth, of all things seen/visible and unseen/invisible.” This teaching reminds us of the supremacy of Christ over all spiritualities, philosophies, ethics, and morals. Our true identity as created beings is found completely in the Supremacy of Christ Jesus.

Our perception of our identity makes such a big difference in our life stories, and how we handle authority. When challenging situations come our way, knowing our true identity in the Supremacy of Christ Jesus helps us to align our thinking with the mind of Christ. Living into our true identity as Christian disciples is imperative to our growth and maturity in dealing with conflict in our lives. Christ Jesus can change our mind about who we are and how we view the world around us.

In our Methodist worldview we celebrate each component of our faith beliefs: the Incarnation at Christmas, His Ministry in Ordinary Time, His Suffering and Death during Lent, His Resurrection on Easter, the Ascension on Ascension Sunday, the sending of His Spirit on Pentecost, the current reign of Christ the King, and the Consummation of His Return. Today is Christ the King Sunday in the church calendar year, which celebrates what we might call the Supremacy of Christ Jesus and what that means for us as believers. We celebrate the reign of Christ Jesus and his authority over all creation both in heaven and on earth. When we talk about the authority of Christ Jesus, our flesh gets a little resistant to be sure. And, as we heard in the video today most folks do not fully get to the place of resting in the reality of the Ascension of Christ Jesus.

After Jesus died, was buried, arose from the grave, met with his disciples, then he went up into heaven before the eyes of the witnessing disciples (Matthew 28.16-20, Acts 1.1-11). Angels reminded them that he would come again. This moment is what we understand as the “Ascension.” The Ascension is one of the most neglected teachings of the Christian faith. Few ever hear a sermon or devotion on the matter at hand. Faithful leaders even seem embarrassed by the supernatural aspect of the Ascension and the power of the ensuing Holy Spirit, which is the very presence of Jesus among us.

The best way to describe the problem in the church at Colossae is a word we may be unfamiliar with “syncretism” which means that they were blending their religious ideas from a variety of local traditions. Biola University Talbot School of Theology New Testament Professor Clinton Arnold in his commentary explains that the Colossae believers were blending their beliefs with the cultural understanding of what it meant to believe in God (Colossians, 73-105). Paul deals with the different “factions” in this local community by pointing out that Christ Jesus is the head of every kind of spirituality, philosophy, moral thought, and ethical behavior. Each must pass the Christ Jesus litmus test. It sounds rather heavy handed, but the point Paul is insisting on remains essentially the point of our video today. We are all coming out of seasons of preventing grace or justifying grace, and Paul requires of every believer to cross over into living in sanctifying grace.

In many ways Paul is a stranger to the church at Colossae. Yet, he finds the need to share this teaching with the church around this supernatural reality that we call Church. In many ways the concept of Church is a mystery that we often make simply those folks who meet in a place on Sunday morning to worship God, and visit with their neighbors. It has become a place where friends gather to share their common life together. Paul is offering pastoral care to this group of believers to highlight some theological and ethical problems in their relationships. There have risen among the believers some philosophies, a heresy, that has taken away the true meaning of the mystery that we call Church. Paul penned this letter to open their minds to corrective measurers, and to instruct them of their identity in Christ Jesus.

Paul teaches two key themes in Colossians. First, Christ is over all of the powers of creation, both seen and unseen. Second, believers participate with Christ in his supremacy over life and death through his death, resurrection, and the fullness of his ascended life. Here in lies the mystery of Christianity! It is essential for us as believers to not get stuck on one of the “transformational stops” of salvation history. George Barna really gives us an incredible understanding of the Christian faith journey in our video today. He explains that we are missing the fullness of Christ’s redemption for us. Let’s review the video we just watched from J.D. Walt who runs Asbury Theo. Seminary’s publishing house, Seedbed. There are 10 faith stops that we need to understand are pivotal moments along our Christian’s journey. Barna researched what it means to be a mature and transformed disciple or what he calls the journey to “maximum faith.”

Supremacy of Christ Jesus

Ignorance and Unaware of Sin 1% Holy Discontent

There’s got to be more!

6%
Indifference to Sin 16% Broken by God

Emptied of sin, self, and society

3%
Worried and Concerned about Sin 39% Surrender and Submission

Healing, Completely Relinquishing

1%
Born Again Forgiven from Sin 9% Profound Love for God

God is on their mind all day!

.5%
Born Again Forgiven and Active in Church 24% Profound Love for People Neighbor

Extreme

.5%

Barna’s research shows only 11% of adults find their way past the half way marker of #5 being “born again and active in the church,” and only 2% discover they way past #7 “Broken by God.” What the illustration of collected data represents is our misappropriation of the Supremacy of the Son of God. We most certainly need to ask ourselves: are we doing business as usual and are we doing social justice in our own strength? Barna says it this way, “What we have found in America today in the church we have become so adapt at marketing salvation that people don’t understand the nature of what they are really being asked to do.” We are a nation of consumers, and we are always looking for a great deal! Our approach to salvation in the church is Monty Hall’s Let’s Make a Deal! If you don’t like what you have, trade it for something better.

Paul explains that the church at Colossae has died not just to the power of personal sin, but to the powers of the universe (Col. 2.20)! The church is considered a created cosmic body including heaven and earth, the visible and the invisible! Christ Jesus, the head, reigns over all principalities and powers (Col. 1.15-20). Paul teaches an already experience of the in-breaking Kingdom of Heaven (Col. 2.9-15, 3.1-4). Paul instructs community after community of this in-breaking reality of the Kingdom of Heaven (Phil. 2.5-11, 2 Cor. 8.9, 1 Cor. 15.3-5, 1 Cor. 15.20-28, Rom. 6.1-11, Rom. 8.18-39, Eph. 6.10-20).

When we think of our citizenship in heaven, it begins the moment you were baptized. We already, and not yet have the possession of the Kingdom of Heaven within us. We have inherited a new identity in Christ Jesus. Most of us have no idea what our identity truly is in the Kingdom of Heaven. We rest our identity upon the worldviews of our culture, and of our human nature. But we have been given a redeemed spiritual nature with the infilling of the Holy Spirit that lives inside of each one of us when we accept Christ Jesus as our salvation – then he can become our Lord as well. It is a package deal, Savior and Lord, but we must choose to surrender to this new identity.

The identity we have in Christ Jesus is not bound up in our Methodist heritage, and it is not bound up in our national pride as American citizens. We were not born with this identity, but it has been endued upon us at our baptism. We are marked. Hear these words from Scripture that reflect your new identity at your spiritual birth. These traits are guaranteed to us by the Word of God simply because of who we have become as baptized and spirit-filled citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven.

You’ve most likely heard the warning, “don’t be so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good.” The Gospel according to St. Paul would advise otherwise! Here these words from the third chapter of Colossians, “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3.1-3).

Neil Anderson who served as a practical theologian at Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology wrote a book several years ago entitled Victory Over the Darkness: Realizing the Power of your Identity in Christ. In his book he lists the scriptural references to our new identity in Christ. Hear these words of identity just from the letter that Paul writes to the Colossians…

I am a saint (Col. 1:2). I have been rescued from the domain of Satan and transferred to the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13). Christ Himself is in me (Col. 1:27). I am firmly rooted in Christ and am now being built in Him (Col. 2:7). I have been spiritually circumcised. My old unregenerate nature has been removed (Col. 2:11). I have been made complete in Christ (Col. 2:10). I have been buried, raised and made alive Christ (Col. 2:12, 13). I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins…the bond against me has been canceled (Col. 2:14). I died with Christ and I have been raised up Christ. My life is now hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:1). Christ is now my life (Col. 3:1-4). I am hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). I am an expression of the life of Christ because He is my life (Col. 3:4). I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved (Col. 3:12).

Ever met anyone who just pushed your buttons? Ever met someone who demanded more of you than you felt was reasonable? Ever just want to tell that person how wrong they are in pressing into those places of transformational change in your life? Well, met the Apostle Paul. If ever there was a Christian leader who pushed all the buttons at once, he’s the one! Paul presses every church community to their emotional limits in the areas they needed to grow. Paul did not falter in his commitment to righteousness. And, Paul always had people in the churches that did not want to hear the corrective measures of his instructions. Yet, we find Paul to be the most influential teacher in church history aside from Jesus himself.

Paul is the author of this letter to the believers at Colossae, and young Timothy is the scribe. For us to even begin to scratch the surface of why Paul wrote this letter requires that we understand a bit more about how Paul experienced the Ascended Christ Jesus at his conversion on the road to Damascus. If we read this letter apart from Paul’s personal testimony, then we cannot grasp the meaning of what he is trying to convey to the believers. Again, if we read this letter as a stand-alone text in many ways it becomes a slap on the wrist to the believers who can easily disconnect from the message and count it void.

For us to embrace Paul’s teaching, we must witness the encounter of Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul’s whole life had one purpose – to grow in the knowledge of God and the religious community, but when Saul met the Ascended One he came into a personal relationship with God for the first time. This encounter destroyed his knowledge and religion; Jesus became a person. It took a second encounter with Ananias laying hands on Saul for him to become awakened in his inner-man to the transformation process. But Paul is not the only one in Scripture who experienced an encounter with the Ascended One. To be sure Paul understood that the Ascended One breaks the chains of oppression cancels the laws of sin and death, and brings forth the closure of generational struggles.

The beloved disciple John experienced the Ascended One in the closing moments of his earthly journey. Jesus remained a loyal, faithful, unconditional lover of John’s soul until the day John died at the Island of Patmos. The friendship remained intimate. John rested upon the back of Jesus during their last meal together as well as fellowshipping in the Holy Spirit after his Ascension. John and his brother James were also called the Sons of Thunder. They were not passive aggressive Kingdom people! To be sure John pushed the buttons of his church community calling them to the place of redemptive love that we can read about in his letters.

There is another one who encountered the Ascended One before he ascended to the throne. Isaiah met the Ascended One in a vision before he ever ascended to his throne to be seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Isaiah met Jesus outside of time and space where the laws of science have no jurisdiction. To be sure Jesus defines science and defies science. Isaiah was a man who was married and had two sons. His wife was considered a prophetess as well. This was certainly a holy family. Isaiah as also believed to be in a high position in the local political community. You can bet that Isaiah pushed the buttons of those whom he guided as a religious leader in a time of great political distress in his country.

There was another man in the bible that pushed buttons, Elijah. The prophet Elijah understood the Ascended One and conveyed the awareness through prayer to his servant who saw the multitudes of heavenly hosts ready to do battle on behalf of God himself (2 Kings 6.11-23). I can only imagine the conversations that this prophet had with his constituents. We can read about the story of Elijah and Moses on the Mt. of Transfiguration with Jesus, Peter, James, and John (Mark 9.1-8). To be sure Jesus was pushing buttons all the time! Rest assured that Jesus pushed the buttons of close friends, family members, religious folks, and political leaders. Jesus made mention of the fact that he did not come to bring peace to the earth but a sword, and to divide families (Matthew 10. 34-36). According to Jesus’ very own words, authentic discipleship is costly.

The Gospel message calls everyone it touches to a deeper revelation of the cost of mature discipleship. The greater revelation of God must be laid hold of for harmony and unity to be made manifest in a community. The Gospel message of the Ascended Christ intersects our lives today and requires of us a decision. Will we continue to be like Paul who sought out the destruction of the Kingdom of Heaven across the landscape of Israel, or will we relinquish our religion to encounter the Ascended One who opens our eyes to our true identity?

Bibliography

Anderson, Neil T. Victory Over the Darkness: Realizing the Power of Your Identity in Christ. Ventura, CA: Regal, 1990. Print.

Barna, George. “How Lives are Transformed: Maximum Faith.” 30 Apr 2012.

Boring, M. Eugene, and Fred B. Craddock. “The Letter of Paul to the Colossians.” The People’s New Testament Commentary. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2004. 624-34. Print.

Clinton, Arnold E. The Colossians Syncretism: The Interface Between Christianity and Folk Belief at Colosse. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1996.

Clinton, Arnold E., Thielman, Frank S., Baugh, S.M. “Colossians.” Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. Ed. Clinton E. Arnold. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002. 72-105. Print.

Seamands, Stephen. The Unseen Real: Life in the Light of the Ascension of Jesus. Franklin, TN: Seedbed, 2016. Print.

 

 

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