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"Christ in You, the Hope of Glory"

Col.1:25-2:11 Sept.13/15


It was 4 Sundays ago - August 16 2015. Yvonne and I were holidaying in Branson Missouri for a week and found a Baptist church near our accommodation which had been creatively re-purposed from a dinner theatre. A little different feeling, sitting in a comfy chair with a desk-shelf in front of you, suitable for holding your Bible and bulletin, a coffee cup - whatever! The rows were all tiered like steps going down a huge staircase. Might have been ideal for a potluck in some respects - never need to set up tables - except you'd never have anyone sitting across from you to talk to.

Anyway, this particular morning the congregation was commissioning two sisters as missionaries, I think with New Tribes Missions, off to Papua New Guinea or some such distant place. One sister had previously been on the mission field, the other was just starting out. They spoke passionately and with conviction about the need to carry the Good News about Jesus Christ to those who don't know Him before He returns. As they spoke, it seemed that was the focus of their hope - Jesus' return in glory and those who believe in Him being caught up in the clouds to meet Him (1Thess 4:17).

Now, I'd heard a seminar by Andrew Farley at Kingdom Bound based on his book, The Naked Gospel, and had bought and been reading his book over my holidays. Farley's thesis is that the cross is the dividing point in human history. Jesus died to complete the Old Covenant, so by faith in Him sinners could receive forgiveness and the Holy Spirit, eternal life welling up with His very presence within them. Yet in the church, we often slip back into legalism, living as if under Old Covenant rules and regulations, as if we were still waiting for the cross - or as if it had never happened.

There are some parts of what Andrew Farley says that nail me - convict me. As a pastor it IS easy to slip back into majoring on the shoulds and shouldn'ts, the do's and don'ts; to be teaching moral behaviour and warning against sin. But that's not the main focus of the New Testament or the Gospel of Jesus. That's more about grace, forgiveness, and walking in the power of the Holy Spirit - to the point the apostles were accused or misunderstood by some as preaching people should go on sinning so grace might abound (Rom 6:1,15).

So our theme this month is taken from Colossians 1:27: "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Yes we eagerly anticipate Jesus' return and our rapture, but in the meantime let's not forget He's already WITH us in a spiritual sense: it's not like we're stuck back in the Old Testament waiting for centuries to pass before Messiah comes.


There's a key word recurring in this passage, an unimposing preposition that's just two little letters. It's essential to Paul's idea of the Good News. The two letters are I-N: "in Christ" / "in you" / "in me". So one might say the emphasis of the Gospel is not SIN but IN. John 1:17 "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." Law, given under the Old Covenant, makes us conscious of sin, how far we've fallen short of God's standards and our desperate need of a Saviour; grace, on the other hand, comes to us in the form of Jesus Christ, providing forgiveness and new life, a fresh start with His indwelling Counselor IN us.

Let's look first at what Paul says is IN Christ. In Colossians 2(2) He's been talking about "the mystery of God, namely, Christ". By "mystery" Paul doesn't mean what the Gnostic teachers did - some secret knowledge understood only by insiders who'd been initiated into the 'mystery cults', like the mystery of a 'secret handshake'. Paul talks about mystery more in the sense of a gift package, as for someone's birthday present: it's a mystery what's inside, but it's intended to be unwrapped and become known, displayed...You don't just leave the gift wrapped up and put it on a shelf to admire!

Col 2:3 "in whom [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." God inspired the writers of the Bible to teach humankind how the world came to be and to what end; that Creation by God's word was "very good". The Gnostics taught that matter was created through a "demi-urge" and was evil, so Christ could never dwell in an actual material body. That would lead to a very negative view of the environment, for example. In Christ (Scripturally understood) are treasures of wisdom and knowledge - the truth; as He said in John 14:6 "I am the way and the truth and the life."

Paul goes on to say in Col 2:9f "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority." What's in Christ, then? All the fullness of God-ness, in bodily form (that's scandalous to a Gnostic!). Jesus is not just a created being inferior to God, but is God Himself as part of the Trinity, "head over every power and authority" - supreme, foremost, no competitors; Satan doesn't even come close.

"In Christ you have been brought to fullness." Never forget how much is yours "IN CHRIST"! In Him, you have all you could possibly want, the whole shebang, the package deal, all the riches of Deity, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Don't let the tempter try to sell you short, convince you he's got something better to offer. Instead ask Jesus to reveal to you the next level, to display or unpack to you more or His goodness, beauty, and truth.


Amazing to consider all that's "in Christ" as the apostle puts it. But then Paul does something absolutely mind-bending: talks about Christ IN US! Col 1:27 "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." A mystery or secret or wonder that's gloriously wealthy, chock-full of rich meaning.

This isn't just an overstatement in an exuberant moment, or rhetorical exaggeration. This is key to apostolic teaching. Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:17 "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Indeed it's rooted in Jesus' prayer the night He was betrayed: John 17:22-23 "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me." This was the experience of the apostles at Pentecost, when "what seemed to be tongues of fire" came to rest on each of them (Acts 2:3). Peter interpreted this in Acts 2:33 - Jesus "received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear."

"Christ in you," Paul puts it. What's it mean for a believer to say, "I have Christ in me"? That gives us an identity greater than just us alone in our humanly-born individuality. There's a connection to Jesus. What we suffer, He suffers. In 1:24 Paul can say, "I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions..." Paul sensed that in some way, when people imprisoned him or beat him or stoned him, they weren't just doing it to him, they were doing it to Jesus. His afflictions were Jesus' afflictions. To hit Paul, ambassador of the Gospel, was to hit Jesus. So when much earlier Jesus confronted Saul the priests' bounty-hunter and "hit man" on the Road to Damascus, Christ started by asking: Acts 9:4 "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Not, "Why do you persecute followers of The Way," but, "Why do you persecute ME?" Jesus took personally the sufferings of his people, felt it along with them.


This new identity - Christ in me - can also be expressed, "I am in Christ", which is found more often in Paul's writings. In this passage I find SEVEN implications of being "in Christ".

1) As already alluded to, in Christ - I have JESUS IN ME. 2:6 "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him..." You received Him by trusting in Him, believing in your heart Jesus is Lord and confessing with your lips He rose from the dead (Rom 10:9). Jn 1:12 To as many as received Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right / power / authority to become children of God: you've received new birth, Him IN you.

2) In Christ, you're no longer cast adrift on the shifting seas of human opinion, the views of talk-show hosts, or what's currently "politically correct" as the media or general public perceive it: you're given a FOUNDATION & FRAMEWORK. 2:7a "Rooted and built up IN HIM..." The first metaphor, roots, is organic, biological: when was the last time you tested your muscle by trying to uproot a black walnut tree that was growing where it shouldn't be?! The second image is of construction, a building going up in stages - excavate for the basement, then add the main floor, perhaps a second floor, finally the roof - you are Jesus' ongoing building project!

3) In Christ you are given STRENGTH. 2:7 "Strengthened in the faith as you were taught..." Paul describes this better back in 1:29, "To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy [whose energy? Christ's energy - subject of v28], which so powerfully works in me." Literally, it's as if Paul's saying, "I work and struggle depending on Christ's energy that energizes me like dynamite." Another verse some of you know with the same idea: Php 4:13 "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

4) In Jesus we can enjoy a GUSHER OF GRATITUDE. 2:7c "In Him...overflowing with thankfulness." John puts it in Jn 1:16 "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another." Considering all Jesus has done for us, and His presence in us - grace begets gratefulness, we can overflow with thanks. Despite his many trials and persecutions, he could write to the church at Thessalonica (1Thess 5:18), "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you [WHERE?] in Christ Jesus."

5) In Christ we have PURPOSE. Paul says in 1:29 "To this END I strenuously contend..." and 2:2 "My GOAL is that they be encouraged..." Having Jesus in us gives us a sense of direction, purpose, meaning in our life; He is "The Way." We're not left wandering around aimlessly, random molecules colliding accidentally in an endless void.

6) and 7) In Christ we have HOPE and GLORY. Back to 1:27 "This mystery...is Christ in you, the HOPE of GLORY." Jesus is the "guarantee of a better covenant" (Heb 7:22). Paul says God "put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." (2Cor 1:22) We don't just have a vague hope of heaven, we already carry around in us the "down payment", the "deposit".

As for glory - God is most glorious of all, but He has chosen to let that glory be reflected in us! (2Cor 4:6) And last week we heard Paul explain to the church at Corinth, 2Cor 4:17 "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."


Frankly, there are times in our weak that we probably don't FEEL like "overflowing with thankfulness". We're tempted by tiredness or selfishness or pressures to forget our fundamental "rooting" IN Christ. How do we keep the gusher flowing, the aquifer unplugged?

1) EXCISE THE BULLY. Our flesh, carnal impulses and selfish appetites, wants to take over like a bully. Those wayward appetites need to be cut off. 2:11 "In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature [flesh], not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ..."

Note as Paul puts it, this is past tense, something already done when we trusted Christ. Not something we do, but He does. So pray yourself back into it: ask Him to keep it real. Preach His truth to yourself with verses you've memorized. Recall the treasure you already have in Christ: you're already complete, you don't need that morsel or 'whatever' to make you complete. Proper habits help here: 2:5 "I...delight to see how disciplined you are..." Temptations seem stronger when we're overtired.

2) EVADE THE BS. (Not saying what "BS" is, to be polite, but I'm sure you know what I mean; this is Huron County, after all! Clue: it's NOT "Bible study" we're evading.) 2:8 "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." In contrast to Biblical teaching, our culture is FULL of "hollow and deceptive philosophy" - NLT "Empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ." Perhaps theoretically we should attach a label in capital letters to the top of our TV screen or computer monitor that says simply, "IS THIS BS?" What's the LIE the world's trying to sell you on, that would steal from and disintegrate your joy and completeness in Christ? That you need gadget "X" to be truly happy? That viewing porn will leave you feeling more fulfilled? Don't be taken captive: discuss and expose the marketing lies. Evade the BS.

3) ENCOURAGE YOUR BUDDIES. Fellow Christians help us remember we're part of the "body of Christ": not only do we have Christ in us individually, together we are His temple: 1Cor 3:16 "Don't you know that you yourselves [plural] are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" So Paul states his goal in Col 2:2 - "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love...." Get together with fellow Christians for Bible study and fellowship; join a small group or connect up one-on-one; even just grab a coffee and pray for one another, as simple as that. If you are in Christ, you are automatically a foot or hand MEANT to be connected to an eye or ear. Don't deprive yourself of the perspective and encouragement another Christian can offer you - even if their temperament IS a bit different than yours! That may be an advantage. Eph 4:16 "From him [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."


Christ in you, Paul affirms, is "the hope of glory." On Oct.3 Todd Burpo, the pastor-author of the book Heaven is For Real, is coming to Blyth to share his experience of his critically ill son's glimpses of heaven. This promo video shows us some aspects of the hope we can have in an afterlife, when we know Jesus is for real...[7-minute video]