April 6, 2003 Colossians 1:15-20
“Why worship Jesus?” (pt. 2)
Last week, we began to look at Colossians 1:15-20 and the top ten reasons to worship Jesus. Worship is the key to the health of any church and every Christian. It is central to who we are and should impact every area of our lives. One country preacher recognized how important worship is and even trained his mule with words of worship. The day came when he had to sell the mule. The preacher told the new owner that the mule was trained to go when the rider said "Praise the Lord," and to stop when the rider said, "Amen." The buyer mounted the beast and commanded, "Praise the Lord," and the mule shot off like a rocket. The startled rider panicked. "Whoa!" he screamed. The mule was headed straight for a cliff, "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!" At the last second he remembered the minister’s instructions. "Amen!" he shouted, and the mule screeched to a halt right at the edge of the cliff. As the new owner peered over the precipice, he wiped his brow and sighed, "Praise the Lord."... At least, he entered heaven with praise on his lips.
As we examine the other 5 of the top ten reasons to worship Jesus, my prayer for us is that worshipping Jesus will become so much the theme of our lives that words of praise will be the first words we speak in the morning and the last words we speak before we draw our final breath.
1. Worship Jesus because He is the REVEALER of the Father. “image of the invisible God”
2. Worship Jesus because He is the RULER of all creation. “firstborn over all creation”
3. Worship Jesus because He is the CREATOR of all that exists. “by Him all things were created”
4. Worship Jesus because He is the BEGINNER of all things. “He is before all things”
Scientists are working hard to discover the beginnings of the universe. They are building bigger and bigger telescopes that can see farther and farther. Why do they want to see so far? Is it so that they can learn more about God’s universe so that they can worship Him more? No, they want to see farther because they figure that the remnants of the beginning of the universe are out there somewhere.
Imagine a bomb. Put yourself in slow motion, and set the bomb off. Watch as the pieces of the bomb spread out in an ever-widening sphere. If you, as a scientist, wanted to learn more about that bomb and didn’t have access to the spot where it actually exploded, where would you look? To the outermost portion of the expanding sphere because that area contains the remnants of the beginning of the explosion. That’s exactly why scientists study the farthest edge of the universe - to learn about the BIG BANG. The are correct in their belief that meaning and understanding is found in beginnings. But they are incorrect in where they are looking for the beginning. They need to look beyond the universe all the way into heaven, and I don’t think they will ever build a telescope capable of doing that.
Here in our passage, Paul says of Jesus that “He is before all things”. The word that is translated “before” actually means “beginning”. Jesus is the beginning of all things. Before anything else was, Jesus was. When Moses asked God what His name was, God said, “I am that I am; that is my name.” (Exodus 4) God is the One who has always been and who ever will be. He is the great I AM. Jesus picked up on this title and used it over and over again to refer to Himself. He said I am the bread (Jn. 6:35), I am the Light (Jn. 8:12), I am the Gate (Jn. 10:7), I am the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11), I am the Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25), I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn. 14:6), and I am the True Vine (Jn. 15:5). Then, in John 8:58, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I AM!” The Jews knew what Jesus was saying. They picked up stones to stone Him because in using the title “I AM” for Himself, He was claiming to be God. If Jesus’ claim was not true, that would have been blasphemy which is a crime punishable by death. Paul says of Jesus, before anything else was, Jesus was already there.
Tony and Lynn have a song that they have sung a couple of times here at the church called “Alpha and Omega”. Some of the words from that song are taken from Rev. 1:8 - "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." The rest of that passage makes it clear that Jesus is the One who is speaking. He is the Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and the Omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet. He is the Beginning and the End. He is the source of all things as well as their completion and fulfillment. If you are looking for the answers to the big questions of life, look no further than Jesus!
5. Worship Jesus because He is the SUSTAINER of all things. “in Him all things hold together”
In Hebrews 1:3, it says that Jesus is “sustaining all things by His powerful word.” Do you remember what Jesus used to create the world? Over and over again, in Gen. 1, it uses this formula: “And God said…” Jesus used His spoken word to create all that is. Jesus uses His spoken word also to hold it all together. Someone has said that “Jesus is the glue of the universe.”
A moment ago, we looked at the magnificent size of the universe as it continually expands. Now look at the smallness of one single atom. Consider the nucleus of an oxygen atom, something that Jesus provides for us to sustain us. Inside are 16 particles. Eight of them are called “protons” because they have a positive electric charge. The other eight are called “neutrons” because they are neutral – they have no electric charge. According to the laws of physics, there is nothing to naturally attract them to each other, and yet they stay together so tightly that not even the force of a nuclear explosion can tear them apart. So the question becomes “What holds the nucleus together? Why doesn’t it fly apart? And therefore, why do not all atoms fly apart?” – San Diego: Creation-Science Research Center, 1973, p. 31-33 as quoted in “Colossians” by John MacArthur
Even non-Christian scientists realize that there is a real dilemna here. According to one scientist, the understanding that some atomic nuclei have no electrical charge to keep them together “implies that all the massive nuclei have no right to be alive at all. Indeed, they should never have been created, and, if created, they should have blown up instantly. Yet here they all are. …Some inflexible inhibition is holding them relentlessly together. The nature of the inhibition is also a secret…one thus far reserved by Nature for herself. – cited in Chestnut, “The Atom Speaks”, p. 38
Most of us here are not scientists, so let’s think about this problem a different way. Have you ever played around with a magnet? Magnets are attracted at opposite ends because opposite ends have opposite charges. The (+) end has an abundance of what the (-) end has a shortage of. What the (+) end has, the (-) end wants. But a neutral pole has no need for anything and nothing that it really wants to give away. Perhaps I can illustrate it this way.
You come home from work, and you are in a romantic mood. You’ve either had a really bad day and need some loving (on the [-] end), or you’ve had a great day and have an over-abundance of love to give away (on the [+] end). Your spouse, who got home before you, has had neither an exceptionally bad day nor an exceptionally good day – just a neutral one. You can tell what position he or she’s in by asking the question, “How was your day?” If she answers “fine”, you know she’s in the neutral position. So he or she just sits on the couch feeling satisfied with no real desire to do anything. You come up and start making advances trying to create some sparks. No attraction, no response. You start doing a back rub hoping that a little friction will create some static electricity. Still nothing. Then you start nibbling on your spouse’s ear or doing whatever you think will create some attraction, only to be ignored once again. Eventually you give up. It becomes clear to you that there is no mutual attraction taking place in the marriage at this moment. What prevents you from walking out that door and finding someone who will share your attraction? What holds together a marriage where what I have described is the normal everyday pattern? The same thing that holds together that atom of oxygen and every atom in the entire universe – the power of Jesus. Jesus holds all things together by the power of His word.
Question: Do you think that the God who holds the universe together even though everything in it left to itself would fly apart can hold you together, even when it feels like your world is about to explode? Do you think that He can hold your marriage together? Do you think that He can sustain your sanity? YES! He can!
6. Worship Jesus because He is the LEADER of the church. “He is the head of the body”
We have been hearing of incidents of “friendly fire” happening in the war in Iraq over the last couple of weeks. One marine unit was fired upon by another because they thought that they were the enemy. A member of the 101st Airborne attacked his own troops. A British plane, and now it appears an American F-18 Hornet plane were shot down by our own Patriot missiles. “Friendly fire” is always a difficult thing to deal with. Actually, with the size of the operation, I’m surprised that there haven’t been more incidents. The one thing that has kept it in check is competent commanders who coordinate all the different branches of the military and all the different operations that they are involved in. I can’t say for sure, but I would imagine that there is not much hesitancy among our troops to be immediately obedient to the directions that their leaders give them because they know that their lives and the lives of their comrades are dependent upon their obedience.
Here in the church, we know a lot about “friendly fire”. We are very skilled at lobbing hand grenades of hurtful words. Some of those hurtful words can come from the people that are closest to us. A pastor was retiring after 25 years in his church. As he came to clear out his bedroom he found a small bowl with 5 eggs and $500 in it. Baffled he called his wife and said: “Darling, what is this little basket under the bed with five eggs and $500 in it.” "Oh " she said " I must confess that every time you preach a bad sermon I put an egg in the basket" Secretly the pastor was pleased: "Not bad five bad sermons in 25 years" he thought: "And what about the $500?" "Well every time I get a dozen, I sell them!"
In the church, instead of forgiving and restoring people who have failed us or God, we shoot them down with missiles loaded with poison judgment and condemnation. When someone tries to take over a position that we hold, we blow them away with a land mine of possessiveness. Someone has well said, “To dwell above with the saints we love, that will be glory. But to dwell below with the saints we know, well that’s a different story....” It’s surprising sometimes that the church is able to accomplish anything of worth when you consider all the differences that there are in personalities, backgrounds, and spiritual gifts. But just as a good military leader can take the differences between the varied branches of military and the personal differences in his own unit and use those to his advantage to accomplish an objective, so we have a great Leader who can unify us.
Verse 15 of Ephesians 4 names Jesus as the Head of the Church. Then it tells what will happen in the church as each member of it follows Jesus’ leadership. (Eph 4:16 NIV) From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
As the Head of the Church, Jesus:
Joined the parts together – He chose who was going to be a part of His team.
Grows the parts together – He developed and trained us to prepare us for every obstacle that we might face.
Loves the parts together – He put within us the capacity to love one another so much so that we would be willing to sacrifice ourselves in order to retrieve a fallen comrade much like those soldiers risked themselves in order to retrieve Jessica Lynch this week. (NOTE: Isn’t it sad that male soldiers who might never admit their love for another soldier would gladly sacrifice his life for him, but we who gladly admit our love for each other might never be willing to sacrifice anything for another person in the church?)
Works the parts together – Once He has chosen us, developed us and built us into a unit that actually cares about one another, then He sends us out on multiple missions to defeat the enemy and free those the enemy has held in his grasp.
We spent a lot of time several months ago, talking about the different parts of the body and how under the leadership of Jesus and the empowerment of the Spirit, work is accomplished and needs are met. The One who can take all the differences and mold them into a cohesive whole and then actually use them to accomplish something of eternal significance is to be worshipped.
7. Worship Jesus because He is the CONQUEROR over death. “firstborn from among the dead”
8. Worship Jesus because He is the CONTAINER of all that is God. “all his fullness dwell in Him”
I want you to write down some references there on your note sheet. When you get home, I want you to take a highlighter or some other means of easy identification so that you will have these verses at your fingertips if you are ever challenged on your belief that Jesus is fully God. They are Col. 2:9, Titus 2:13, Heb. 1:8. Each of them is on the back of your note sheet as they appear in the Greek. (Col 2:9 NIV) For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, (Titus 2:13 NIV) …our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, (Heb 1:8 NIV) But about the Son he [the Father] says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever…” All three of these verses say the same thing: Jesus is God. Every characteristic that makes God, God, is also true of Jesus. He doesn’t possess just a portion of those characteristics in the sense that the mythical Hercules possessed a portion of Zeus, his father’s power. He possesses all that is true of God to its fullest extent. He has all knowledge to the same extent as the Father. He has all power to the same extent as the Father. He is eternal just like the Father. All that is found in God is also found in Jesus.
Last week, as everyone was leaving, someone asked me a very insightful question. He said, “If Jesus is God, why were there times that Jesus seemed to be limited in His knowledge while He was on earth?” And this person used the example of when Jesus said that He did not know when He would be coming back to earth and that only the Father knew this piece of information (Mk. 13:32). There are other oddities too. In Lk. 2:52, it says of Jesus that He grew in wisdom and in stature. How could God grow in wisdom? In yet another instance, Jesus seemed to be surprised by the faith of a centurion soldier (Mat. 8:10). How do you surprise God when He knows everything including the future?
Turn your note sheet over, and look at the first passage on the left – Phil. 2:5-11. Look at the third line of English text just above the number 8, and you will see the words “Himself emptied” or “emptied Himself”. Depending on what translation you are using, in your Bible, it reads something like “made himself of no reputation”(KJV) or “made himself nothing”(NIV). The passage goes on to say that Jesus became a man. Jesus was 100% God and 100% man at the same time. He possessed all the characteristics of God that we just listed and more while possessing all the characteristics of mankind – He got tired, He had to eat to stay alive, He went to the bathroom and He felt physical pain. In becoming a man, Jesus Christ, eternal God, willingly sacrificed something for us long before He went to the cross. The words that we read in Phil. said that He emptied Himself of something. What was it? I know that it was not any of those characteristics that make Him God. Col. 1:19 and 2:9 clearly teach that. Part of what Jesus gave up was the glory that He had in heaven. Instead of having angels constantly bow down at His feet, He became a servant that washed other’s feet. He was despised and rejected by men even as it says on the front of your bulletins today. He willingly set this glory aside. He set something else aside too. Though Jesus still possessed all the characteristics that made Him God, “By taking on human nature, He [voluntarily] accepted certain limitations upon the functioning of His divine attributes.” – Erickson, Christian Theology He still had the all the attributes of deity, but He chose not to use some of them and purposely limit Himself. Why? In order to build a relationship with us.
Have you ever played any sports or competitive games with your children? Most likely, depending upon how old your children were at the time, you could have easily blown them away. But instead of using all your skills, strategies and abilities, you held back. Let’s use the example of a softball game in which parents are playing against young children. The parents might willingly choose to place a limit on their own abilities. They could bat with the opposite arm or make the distance to the bases twice as long for the adults or run slower than they were actually capable of doing. Just because they voluntarily limit themselves and thereby fall short of their full potential does not mean that they don’t still have the capability to hit one out of the park. Why would they choose to limit themselves? Because there is something more important than winning the game. Establishing and growing a relationship with their children is more important than blowing away the competition. In order for that to happen, they must bring themselves down tot he level of their children. That is exactly what Jesus did for us, and it is also why He did it. He limited Himself in the free exercise of His divine attributes even though He still fully possessed them so that we could enter into a relationship with Him.
The fact that Jesus is both God and man is a good thing from our perspective. It means that He can be our great High Priest (Heb. 4:14-15). Everything that you and I have gone through, Jesus went through it too. He felt the emotions that we feel. He sorrows with you when you feel like quitting, and He rejoices with you when you win a victory. Jesus knows what it feels like to be a human being. That’s what makes Him the best Mediator that we could ever hope for.
Jesus’ humanity also made it possible for Him to die. That brings us to the 9th reason to worship Jesus.
9. Worship Jesus because He is the RESTORER of my relationship with God. “making peace through His blood”
Jesus’ introduction to the only recorded sermon that He ever delivered includes these words (Mat 5:9 NIV) Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. The reason that Jesus could say this is because His whole mission was to do what it took to bring peace between God and man. Whoever was willing to do the same would show in their lives that same kind of characteristic that Jesus possessed. Through His cross, Jesus made it possible for God and man to be reconciled, but He also made it possible for man and man to be reconciled. In Eph 2:14, it says, (Eph 2:14) For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. Jesus’ cross brought God and man together, it brough Jew and Gentile together , and if it can do that, it can bring you and those who are far from you back together. It can bring families together, neighbors together, churches together, and whole communities together.
The fact that Jesus can reconcile man and God proves that He is God because in order for that reconciliation to happen, there had to be forgiveness of sin. The Pharisees rightly claimed that only God can forgive sin (Matt. 9:6), yet Jesus claimed that ability for Himself. When some men brought a lame man to Jesus, Jesus first claimed to forgive His sins (Mark 2:9). When questioning arose over His right to do this, He then turned and healed the man thereby proving His ability to heal and to forgive sin. In Col. 2:13, it says, “He (NIV interprets the pronoun to refer to God, but actual Greek is ambiguous about whether this refers to God or Christ) made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.”
Phil. 2 talks about the work of Jesus Christ on the cross to provide the payment for forgiveness so that man and God could be reconciled. In that passage, God the Father puts Jesus, God the Son up on the highest pedestal. (NOTE: not the 2nd highest pedestal; He pulls Him back up to the pedestal that He, the Father occupies and says, “Worship Him!”) In Rev. 4, the Lamb who had been slain is worshipped right alongside “Him who sits on the throne…” The reason Jesus was exalted and worshipped was not just because of His death on our behalf. Many people throughout the centuries have died on our behalf. Soldiers in Iraq have died and will die for this nation. But we do not worship them. We honor them. We are thankful to them and their families. That is very different from worship. The reason we worship Jesus is because He is God. His death on the cross makes it possible for us to worship willingly and in love for the one who is on the throne.
It is said that Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, once had captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, "What will you give me if I release you?" "The half of my wealth," was his reply. "And if I release your children?" "Everything I possess." "And if I release your wife?" "Your Majesty, I will
give myself." Cyrus was so moved by his devotion that he freed them all. As they returned home, the prince said to his wife, "Wasn’t Cyrus a handsome man!" With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, "I didn’t notice. I could only keep my eyes on you - the one who was willing to give himself for me."
10. Worship Jesus because He is GOD!
The Bible uses many other words to describe Jesus, and many of those are recorded in the words to a song that I recently became re-acquainted with. The words go like this:
“Master, Redeemer, Savior of the world
Wonderful, Counselor, Bright Morning Star
The Lily of the Valley, Provider, and Friend
He was yesterday, He’ll be tomorrow, the Beginning and the End
Jehovah, Messiah, The Mighty God and King
He’s the Bread of Life, He’s the Lasting Word of love that I sing
Light in darkness, the Door to heaven
He’s my home in the sky
He’s the fountain of Living Waters
They never shall run dry.
But the angels called Him Jesus
Born of a virgin, and Mary called him Jesus
Oh, but I call Him Lord”
I hope that as we have spent these two weeks talking about what the Bible has to say about Jesus that something has become very clear to you. It is impossible to have a relationship with God without having a relationship with Jesus. When I go to people’s homes and attempt to engage them in conversation about spiritual things, they will often say something like this: “I believe in God” as if that is enough. That’s all fine in good, and it gives us a good starting point. But what about Jesus? That’s my question for you today – what about Jesus? Who are you looking to to give you meaning and fulfillment? Who are you trusting to sustain you through the difficult days of life? Whose commands are you willing to follow all the way to death? Who set aside His glory and became a servant so that you could have hope? And who died on a cross for you to bring you into a relationship with God? The answer to all those questions is Jesus. And the answer to all the needs and questions in your life is Jesus. Worship Jesus!