September 2019

Submission in Christ, 29 September 2019

Submission in Christ
Series—A Love Supreme
Colossians 3:18-4:6

Series Big Idea:
Christ is above all others. This is a study on the book of Colossians.

Big Idea:
Followers of Jesus not only love God, they submit to one another, live life for God, and submit most of all to the LORD.

I want to begin today with one of the most offensive words in the dictionary. No, it’s not a swear word, but to some people it might as well be one. The word is

Let’s face it, we don’t like to submit…to anyone. If we miss a deadline on a research paper, it’s the teacher’s fault for not working on our timetable. If the police officer pulls us over for going 90 on I-75, something must be wrong with their radar. If the boss actually expects us to…work…!!!

Humans have been rebellious since Adam and Eve fell into temptation in the Garden of Eden, certain God didn’t really mean what He said.

Call me old school, but I believe in God, I believe in the Word of God, and I trust God understands reality better than I do. He’s had a little more experience with this thing called life than I’ve accumulated! So today I want you to suspend any skepticism or disbelief and imagine a world in which everyone followed God’s instructions, where everyone submitted to Jesus. It’s actually quite beautiful!

Today we’re concluding our series A Love Supreme, a look at a letter written by Paul to the church in Colosse. We started chapter three last week and we’re up to verse eighteen.

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (Colossians 3:18)

“Wait, wait, wait!!! You started with that one? So women are supposed to be second-class citizens, taking abuse and allowing their husbands to do whatever they want to them?”

Actually, this isn’t the only time these words appear in the Bible. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul wrote,

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)

“There goes that misogynist Paul again.”

I often say context matters, especially in the Bible. Yes, these verses have been abused by insecure, cowardly men to manipulate their wives. But the verse before says,

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

Is that a picture of domestic violence or coercion? Hardly. The next verse in Colossians says,

Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. (Colossians 3:19)

Does that clear it up? God’s design for marriage is one man and one woman mutually surrendered to one another. Loving one another. Serving one another. There’s no place for dominance or control. The original Greek word for love here, γαπω, agapao, means “to love, value, esteem, feel or manifest generous concern for, be faithful toward; to delight in.” Last week I shared Scot McKnight’s definition of love:

Love is a rugged commitment to be with other people, to be for other people, and to grow together in Christ-likeness.

That’s a beautiful picture of a godly marriage.

Of course, marriage itself is old school. Today, about 15 percent of babies worldwide are born to parents who aren’t married. In the USA, it’s about 40 percent, though it’s 53 percent for Hispanics and 71 percent for African Americans. Now this isn’t to shame anyone, but according to a
report from Columbia and Princeton researchers, children born to unmarried parents do not fare as well as children born to married parents. Furthermore, unmarried parents are more likely to be poor, suffer from depression, and report substance abuse.

My point is simple: when husbands and wives submit to one another, when they love and respect one another, they create a healthy environment not only for themselves, but for children.

Speaking of children…

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)

Does this mean they have to whatever they’re told, even if it’s abusive or sinful? Keep reading.

Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. (Colossians 3:21)

Common sense makes this portrait of a godly family clear and attractive. There’s no mention of rebellion, selfish behavior, or scheming. There’s no room for sin here, but rather instructions for healthy families.

I know many of you have never experienced a healthy family, for one reason or another. I urge you to break the cycle, find a mentor family, and leave a better legacy for future generations. It might be as simple as saying, “Can I hang out with you and your family sometime.”

No marriage is perfect. No family is perfect. We are all sinners. But when our focus is on loving God and loving others as we love ourselves, we’ll experience something no self-absorbed, me-first community can ever know. It’s old school, but it works. It’s God’s design. And it loves and respects everyone—men, women, and children. Submission in Christ—as well as submission
to Christ—is the best way to live. The home is the optimal environment for making disciples and passing the baton of faith to future generations.

Now Paul turns to a relationship even more controversial than marriage: slavery. It was a reality in his world. But slavery at the time of this writing was not like the race-based chattel slavery in our country’s shameful history where a person was property and lacked any legal rights.

The Greek word here,
doulos, can be translated slave or sometimes servant or bondservant. Often, they were not life-long slaves, but rather prisoners of war.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism. (Colossians 3:22-25)

There’s good counsel here for all workers, regardless of their status. All of our work—all of our lives—should be worship. It should be for God’s glory. Note God will not show favoritism to those who take revenge upon wrongdoers.

Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 4:1)

This sounds a bit like the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

By the way, slavery has not ended. More than 20 million people are in modern slavery today, some suggest as many as 46 million.

Paul’s culture was filled with domination. Women were literally second-class citizens. They were treated like property. Slaves were subject to abuse, too. But Paul’s instructions were counter-cultural. Like Jesus, he elevated the status of women…and slaves. It has been suggested that he writes more about slaves precisely because a slave, Onesimus, would deliver this letter and the letter to Philemon, Onesimus’ master, who lived in Colosse. Paul was an advocate for the weak and marginalized. He promoted mutual submission, respect, and love. His teaching shattered the Jew/Gentile, male/female, slave/free divisions and hierarchies. Historically, the gospel has liberated the oppressed, the outcast, minorities, and the poor. The book of Philemon is a great example.

We all need to humbly honor God with all of our relationships, no matter our cultural status. Our identity must always be as sons and daughters of the most high God, first and foremost. He is the Master of us all. Jesus is LORD.

And when we are treated poorly—by anyone—we can remember the Messiah who submitted his own life for the very sinners who killed him. I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the church in Philippi:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

Paul never advocates for abuse or tyranny. He simply reminds us of the one we claim to follow, Christ Jesus.

Now Paul shifts his focus from the family and work toward more personal matters.

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2)

Are you devoted to prayer? How do you pray? Is it a laundry list of requests? Are you watchful? Do you record answers to prayer? Are you thankful?

God is not a genie waiting for us to summon him with our wishes. He’s our Father and our Master who wants a relationship with us. He wants to do life with us.

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (Colossians 4:3-4)

Paul requests prayer, but not for himself. He’s under house arrest in Rome. Wouldn’t you request prayers for freedom?

Instead, he prays for the proclamation of Jesus, the mystery of Christ. He wants the guards to know Jesus. He wants other prisoners to know Jesus. He wants everyone to experience the gospel, to encounter the Messiah. All he seems to care about is Jesus!

Robust prayer will include worship, confession, thanksgiving, and petitions. Relationships are two-way, ongoing conversations, and that’s what God desires with us.

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. (Colossians 4:5)

This is a brilliant sentence. Here’s my person interpretation:

“Love non-Christians so that they might become Christians.”

The phrase “make the most of every opportunity” in Greek is similar to our expression “cornering the market,” like buying up all of a given item. He wants the Colossians to be the wisest when it comes to treating unbelievers.

I believe the reason churches in our country are closing at an alarming rate is not because of the culture of the world, but because the church has failed. We have not loved well. We’ve judged. We’ve condemned. We’ve pointed fingers and yelled through megaphones, but we haven’t always loved well. We haven’t always acted wisely toward outsiders. And we haven’t made the most of every opportunity to share the gospel.

If that frustrates you like it frustrates me, let me remind you of the upcoming Saturate Toledo endeavor. We’re hoping to deliver Jesus Film DVDs and booklets to every home in the five-county area in November. We’re going to pray as we deliver goodie bags. We’re seeking to make the most of this opportunity, which includes all of the free DVDs and booklets we can distribute.

Tonight’s another opportunity to serve outsiders…dinner church at 5 PM. Bring an unchurched friend with you.


Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6)

Paul doesn’t literally mean use table salt when you talk! Salt was a tasty preservative. There was no refrigeration back in the day. Our conversations are to be full of grace, life-giving, value-adding. Are yours?

So What?

There are so many things to apply from this text. Ultimately, we are to submit to Christ. We are to obey God, even when we might not feel like it! We are also to submit to one another in love. Love God. Love others as you love yourself.

Speaking of love, today we celebrate the greatest love of all, God’s love for us, expressed on the cross as Jesus died for us…that we may be made alive in Him. Today we celebrate submission to Christ, obedience, through baptism.

Credits: series outline from D6.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

  • New in Christ, 22 September 2019

    New in Christ
    Series—A Love Supreme
    Colossians 3:1-17

    Series Big Idea:
    Christ is above all others. This is a study on the book of Colossians.

    Big Idea:
    When we put to death our old, sinful selves, we can become new in Christ.

    New. For decades, marketers have been using it to sell their products. Try the new and improved cleaner. Taste the new burger. Drive the new car. Buy the new fashion. As an entrepreneur, I love new. But not everyone is so wired.

    Some people are afraid of the new. “It’s an oldie but a goodie,” they might say. But when it comes to humanity, we’ve all been tainted by sin. We’re all broken. We’re all in need of grace, forgiveness, and salvation. No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, you can be made new in Christ.

    We’re continuing our series A Love Supreme, looking at Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae. Chapter three is loaded with contrasts between old and new, before Christ and after Christ, sin and Spirit-filled, selfish living and christoformity.

    I may have just introduced you to a new word:
    christoformity. Jesus invites us to be like him, to be formed to the pattern of his life. That’s radically different than self-actualization. Perhaps you noticed that our “tolerant” culture accepts the most outlandish behavior and identities…except for godliness. We have become a culture of self-idolatry, not only doing but being whatever or whomever we feel like, with no regard for our Creator and His vision and will for our lives.

    This is why Christianity is revolutionary. Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people come to life! But first, they must die to themselves, their agendas, their preferences, their desires. The first two commandments in Exodus 20 are no other gods or idols. In our self-absorbed society, nothing could be more offensive.

    For two chapters, Paul has been telling this early church community about the supremacy of Christ. He has written about their freedom from sin and religion. He begins chapter three by saying,

    Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

    Some Christians are so heavenly-minded, they’re no earthly good! But too many of us live so focused on this life—on this moment—that we fail to see what’s ahead. This is obviously in the presence of little children. They can’t see the next minute, much less the next day, week, or year.

    College students work for four years—or more!—in their quest for a piece of paper.

    Olympic athletes train just as long for a piece of medal. As they lose sleep, sweat, endure injuries, and bleed, they’re not focused on the moment. They are looking ahead to that moment when crowds will cheer them to what they hope will be victory.

    In the same way, we must set our minds on things above. Sure, we need to eat and find shelter and care for our health, but our focus should not be the same as that of unbelievers. We are in Christ. We are citizens of heaven. We need to be training for eternity, preparing for the next life while fully living this one for the glory of God.

    What do you have your heart set on? Maybe it’s a new car, a home improvement project, or a job. Perhaps you’re consumed with stress over your debt, worried about your health, or counting down the days until vacation. None of those are necessarily bad things, but they’re all so temporary. In a hundred years—maybe in one year—it will be forgotten. Paul’s not saying don’t see earthly things, but rather don’t seek earthly things.

    I’m speaking to myself here, too. Don’t think for a moment I’ve mastered this! Unlike many in this world, we have many choices to make, especially about our time, maybe our money, possibly our energy. Most of us don’t spend all day hunting for food to eat. We’re blessed with wealth in this nation, but that wealth can so easily become an idol.

    New in Christ means we are dead to our old selves.

    Is anyone else convicted? We need to put to death our old self, our sinful nature. You can’t serve God and yourself at the same time. There’s no such thing as a part-time LORD, even on Sunday morning! We need to see things from His perspective before we make it all about us, our pleasures, our desires, our will. It’s not about empty religion or self-righteousness, either. We are to be with Christ.

    Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. (Colossians 3:5-7)

    I’m glad no one in here has ever dealt with any of these sins! To put these to death means we should desire them as much as a dead person! It doesn’t say avoid them or manage them or not to play with them too often. Paul says put to death the earthly nature. Kill them!

    There is no room for sexual immorality in the life of Christ-follower. Period. That means sexual activity is sacred and reserved for the marriage covenant, husband and wife. If you don’t believe me, there’s twenty more mentions of sexual immorality in the New Testament. Google it!

    Impurity. That’s an umbrella term. The funny thing is, most of us know when we encounter something that is impure, whether it is entertainment, conversation, materialism, or even workaholism. Is your mind pure? Are your relationships pure? Are your words pure?

    What about lust? Evil desires? Greed? Put it to death! You
    used to be into that stuff, but you’re new in Christ.

    New in Christ means we are dead to our old sins.

    We can kill our sins or our sins will kill us! Literally. All sin leads to death, ultimately.

    There are two reactions we can have toward our sin:

    1. 1. We can struggle and try to put it to death.
    2. 2. We can rationalize it and embrace it. I urge you to skip this option! All sin leads to death, ultimately.

    If you are struggling with your sin, you’re not alone. This is why we need one another. I think it’s why Jesus’ half-brother said,

    Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

    We can’t run this race alone. We need to help one another. Pray for one another. Encourage one another. We need to put to death our old sins, but that may take a lifetime to be fully realized. The struggle is real. Paul himself said,

    …the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:19)

    Admitting and confessing our sins, Celebrate Recovery, small groups, one-on-one relationships, scripture memorization, Christian counseling, and quality time with God are all useful in helping us stay on the path of godliness. Spiritual practices—sometimes called spiritual disciplines—are proactive steps we can all take to grow closer to God. One of my favorite books on the subject is John Ortberg’s
    The Life You’ve Always Wanted. He has some great insights on prayer, confession, celebration, servanthood, scripture, and even suffering.

    Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. (Colossians 3:5-7)

    The wrath of God is coming, family. Paul’s saying put sin to death. You used to do those things.

    Maybe you’ve mastered this list of sins. You’re not off the hook!

    But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:8-11)

    The invitation to be new in Christ is available to everyone…Jews and Gentiles, men and women, black and white, young and old…we’re all invited to follow Jesus…and die to our old selves and our old sins. Jesus transcends all barriers and unites us as one family.

    New in Christ means we put on the new self, we become a new creation. What does that look like?

    Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)

    Let’s camp out here for a bit! It’s nearly impossible to simply stop a habit. You need to replace it with something else. A new focus is required. If I say, “Don’t think of a purple elephant,” how many of you are thinking of a purple elephant?

    But if I said imagine the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen…

    Paul provides a great list to describe the new self.


    New in Christ means we are alive to love.

    I really wish we had another word for “love” in the English language. It feels too soft and mushy. Some equate it with fondness or even lust. I love ice cream. I love the Mud Hens.

    Scot McKnight offer what may be my favorite definition of biblical love:

    Love is a rugged commitment to be with other people, to be for other people, and to grow together in Christ-likeness.

    Love is a rugged commitment (covenant).
    Love is a presence. It is “with.” It’s not expressed from afar.
    Love is advocacy. It is “for.” It has their back.
    Love is transformation. The goal is for us and them to become like Jesus.

    I believe the only way you can truly love is to first experience love. You can’t give what you don’t have.

    Have you experienced God’s love? Really? Put on love. Wear it. Share it. That’s what “the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” is all about. Love.

    Is that what Christians are known for in our culture?

    Paul understands the struggle to love, to obey. He wrote,

    For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:15b)

    Again, the struggle is real, but if we allow Him access to our lives, if we truly surrender, if we pursue God, we will gradually become more like Jesus.

    Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)


    Is that what Christians are known for in our culture?

    Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Colossians 3:16)

    I love the image of Christ dwelling among us. He is here! The Holy Spirit lives inside every man, woman and child who is new in Christ. This is why we gather, we teach, we admonish one another, we sing, and we are filled with gratitude. We’re no longer dead. We’re not taking our cues from the culture. We’ve put to death our sin, selfishness, and idolatry. We’re new in Christ, alive in Christ, followers of Christ, and we are becoming like Christ.

    And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

    Whatever you do, it’s all about Jesus.

    You were made by God, for God, and for God’s glory.

    How does your work reflect this?
    How do your relationships declare this?
    How does your calendar and checkbook reveal this?
    How does your heart communicate this?

    So What?

    Every Sunday, sermons are preached all around the world with the same basic message expressed in an old song by Mylon LeFevre: Love God, Hate Sin. If only it were that easy! Life is a struggle. Following Jesus is battle…because we have a real enemy who wants us to sin, who tempts us to disobey God, who literally is trying to kill us. But we’re not powerless.

    We’ve been given the Holy Spirit. It comes when you invite Jesus to be your leader, your master, your LORD. In a word, it’s about surrender. That’s what this entire passage is about…dying to self and being made new in Christ. There are two parts. We must surrender and die…
    and we must allow the power of God to be unleashed in our lives.

    Our actions do not earn salvation, but they do follow salvation. Christoformity—and sanctification—occur as we die to ourselves and become like Jesus.

    Perhaps today is the day for you to begin your journey with God. You can do so with a simple prayer:
    Jesus, I give you my life. That’s it. Total surrender.

    Maybe today is the day for you to put to death your sin. Kill it! No more white lies, pornography peeks, greedy thoughts, or toxic words. Total surrender.

    You might think you’re a good Christian, avoiding sin, but are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Would others use words like compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, peaceful, and loving to describe you? Total surrender.

    Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people come to life! It’s a process. It’s ongoing.

    It involves our focus. It starts in the mind.
    It involves our actions. It moves to our hands.

    New in Christ. It’s not about trying harder. It begins with total surrender.

    Credits: series outline from D6.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • 2020 Vision, 15 September 2019

    2020 Vision: Back to our Roots
    Series—A Love Supreme
    Colossians 2:6-19

    Series Big Idea:
    Christ is above all others. This is a study on the book of Colossians.

    Big Idea:
    We must always remain rooted in the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

    Why are you here?
    These were the first words I ever spoke from this platform nearly four years ago. It’s a simple question with a variety of answers, some more spiritual than others, but all leading to you being present this morning. One response can be found in our lobby:

    For the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

    This phrase is taken from the first two verses of the book of Revelation:

    The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:1-2)

    Although the kids have been in school for several weeks and the football season is well underway, today is really our fall kickoff. Technically, fall begins this Saturday. More than a message about the next few months, I want to talk about the upcoming ministry year, the upcoming calendar year, what I’d like to call 2020 Vision. It’s hard to believe a new decade begins in less than sixteen weeks.

    Before we look ahead, I want to mention a word I’ve heard people using a lot around here. Some have said we are a “
    conservative” church…or used to be…or should be. Unfortunately, to many, that means one thing: Republican. But we must never confuse faith with politics. Here’s what “conservative” means according to the dictionary:

    holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation,

    Are we a conservative church? Should we be a conservative church? No…and yes.

    On the one hand, we must recognize that our world is changing. 2020 will look much different than 2010, to say nothing of 1920 or AD 20.

    We need to be guided by our Alliance family’s core values (seen on posters in our lobby).

    One of them states:

    Achieving God’s purposes means taking faith-filled risks. This always involves change. - Hebrews 1

    Do you see the paradox? This value is not, by definition, conservative, yet holding to our values
    is conservative!

    Here are our other values:

    Lost people matter to God. He wants them found.
    Luke 19:10
    Prayer is the primary work of God’s people.
    Philippians 4:6-7
    Everything we have belongs to God; we are His stewards.
    1 Chronicles 29:14
    Knowing and obeying God’s Word is fundamental to all true success.
    Joshua 1:8
    Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple.
    Matthew 28:19
    Without the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, we can accomplish nothing.
    1 Corinthians 2:4-5

    We must always remain rooted in the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

    Is Jesus conservative?

    God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever…and yet He is moving. He is doing new things.

    Why are you here? Quite literally, we wouldn’t be here without a man named Albert Benjamin Simpson.


    Today I want to go back to our roots. I don’t mean 2007 conservative. I don’t mean 1987 conservative. Let’s go back to 1887!

    A.B. Simpson came to Toledo on December 5, 1887 and planted the Toledo Gospel Tabernacle, now known as First Alliance Church. Since then, we’ve had several buildings, a number of pastors, and thousands of people who have called our family home. Getting back to our roots means we look at who we got here. Why did Simpson travel from New York City to Toledo? He wanted everyone to know Jesus: rich, poor, black, white, young, old, male, female.

    Our series this month,
    A Love Supreme, is a study of the book of Colossians. Paul wrote to the church in Colossae…

    Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:11)

    Paul wrote to another church,

    So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)

    It’s all about Jesus.

    It’s not about the color of the carpet, the volume of the music, the hair of the preacher, or the clapping abilities of the congregants.

    It’s all about Jesus.

    Our text for today is found in Colossians chapter 2.

    So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)

    It’s all about Jesus.
    We must always remain rooted in the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

    Paul continues…

    See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

    There are tens of thousands of Christian denominations in our world, which I find tragic. Many of them came about when one church split from another over human tradition. Perhaps the two most divisive issues in the history of Christianity have involved communion—where Jesus simply told us to remember him—and how much water to use in baptism! This is called religion! This is what Jesus despised! He did away with the Jew/Gentile walls and division. The focus must never be on legalism, but life. The life of Jesus. The abundant life Jesus offers.

    For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:9-12)

    It’s all about Jesus. It’s about dying to ourselves and living for Christ.

    In two weeks, we’re going to have another baptism. The symbolism is so rich, entering a water grave and being raised with Jesus, experiencing new life.

    If you’re a follower of Jesus—or want to be—and have never been baptized, please let us know today, either in person or via e-mail.

    Are you ready for some good news?
    Are you ready for some great news?

    When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)

    That is one of my favorite verses in the Bible! Jesus made a public spectacle of satan and his team of demons when he died for us. He triumphed! He died for all of our sins—past, present and future—if we repent and follow him.

    Jesus is alive!
    Jesus is the victor!
    Jesus is LORD!

    It’s all about Jesus.

    It’s not about religion. It’s not about legalism. It’s about Jesus.
    We must always remain rooted in the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

    Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. (Colossians 2:16-19)

    We need to be connected to Jesus. We need to focus on Jesus. And when we do, we look at culture and politics through the lens of Jesus, and not look at Jesus through the lens of culture and politics.

    We must hold our traditions and preferences loosely… while holding biblical orthodoxies tightly.

    Put any two people in a room and they’ll discover differences. Division is easy. Unity is another matter entirely. Jesus’ one prayer for us—it’s in John 17—is unity. He prayed that we would be one as he and the Father are one.

    A.B. Simpson never sought to start a denomination. He merely planted churches which didn’t formally become a denomination until almost a century later in 1974. He didn’t want to get caught up in quarrels and controversies. He wanted to focus on the essentials and let the peripheral issues remain peripheral. As a result,

    We are a diverse family.

    This is true both The Alliance. 40% of Alliance churches in the USA are non-anglo, speaking 37 languages and dialects! That’s just in the USA. 90% of Alliance members live outside the USA!

    Here at First Alliance Church, we are growing more diverse, which I think is a beautiful thing. I believe every church should reach its community, serve its city, reflect its population. As we’ve been welcoming new people to First Alliance Church, some people have gotten a little uncomfortable. That’s ok. It’s not about you or me anyhow.

    It’s all about Jesus.

    I recently heard a speaker make an incredible statement of diversity. She said diversity is inviting someone to the party. Inclusion is inviting them to dance! We need to invite everyone to dance! We want to be more than a friendly church. We want to be a family of friends.

    If you don’t like diversity in this life, you won’t like what’s next! John gives us an amazing vision:

    After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

    “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)

    We’re different because God made us this way! Each of us is unique and special.
    Anyone can get along with people like them. The beauty of the gospel, the distinction of the people of God, is that they become all things to all people, like Paul. They sacrifice their preferences, welcome strangers, and they see themselves as a mosaic—a collection of different, broken pieces that come together to create a work of art through which light shines. Consequently,

    We must love and respect others…always. They are masterpieces.

    Jesus’ half-brother, James, said never play favorites (James 2). We’re not here just for young people or attractive people or rich people. Every person in our family is created in the image of God with dignity, value and worth, a masterpiece, God’s masterpiece. We all need some restoration and cleaning, but we all have something to offer. That’s the way family works. You might disagree with the politics or fashion or worship style of your brother or sister, but they’re family. They deserve love and respect. Always. Over and over again, the Bible demonstrates that love for God and man has its greatest expression in community.

    Recently, someone told me
    love is listen, overlook, value, and encourage. I like that!

    Jesus died for the whole world. Everyone. All people. All nations. All generations.

    We must be mission-driven…commission-driven. It’s about making disciples.

    Jesus has given us a commission—not a suggestion—to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). We’re not about programs or distributing religious goods and services. We’re not a social club for members-only. We are on a mission from God. The way we describe is…

    We are a Jesus-centered family restoring God’s masterpieces in Toledo and beyond for His glory. (Ephesians 2:10)

    We are a diverse family. We are called to be a loving family. We are here for both the city and the world. We’re going back…to our roots.

    So What?

    This fall we’ll be joining what will hopefully be hundreds of churches in our region giving everyone in our five counties a chance to hear the gospel…to see the gospel! Saturate Toledo is providing all of the Jesus film DVDs, booklets, and bags. We’ll get together and pray, stuff the bags, include our church info, and hang them on doors. It couldn’t be easier. Begin praying now for this unique outreach opportunity. It could change our community.

    Dinner Church continues to exceed our expectations. We already have featured artists booked for the fall. We might need to buy more round tables since we’ve filled most every seat at the ones we have, but that’s a good problem! Unchurched people are encountering Jesus each month and I couldn’t be more excited!

    Celebrate Recovery has been growing, serving not only people struggling with addictions, but also the 2 out of 3 participants who are dealing with the hurts and pain life brings to each of us.

    This is our fourth year serving
    Rosa Parks Elementary, both students and staff. The impact has been tremendous.

    Next month our
    After School Klub begins its 21st year serving the next generation. This will be Sharralynn Cook’s second year leading the ASK and if you haven’t worked with her, you have no idea what you’re missing! It’s an all-new Klub! Toledo Urban Impact is just one of our ten Home Missions partners.

    That Neighborhood Church—our sister congregation in The Alliance—has offered to assist us in serving our growing population of people in need of basic life skills. Our partnerships with TNC and other area churches—including The Tabernacle and Vineyard—will unify and build God’s kingdom in Toledo and beyond.

    We’ve also been getting help from Allegheny Alliance in Pittsburgh. Urban ministry is new for many of us, and we’ve been blessed with many trailblazers who have offered to equip us.

    Perhaps our most important ministry—besides our prayer teams—is our
    small groups. They remain the core of First Alliance Church. If you’re not in a group, you’re missing out on community, care, fellowship, and fun. An hour on Sunday is not enough to sustain a vibrant spiritual life. We were created to do life together.

    Why are you here? I hope it’s for Jesus. I pray it’s because of our mission:

    We are a Jesus-centered family restoring God’s masterpieces in Toledo and beyond for His glory. (Ephesians 2:10)

    We need to be conservative—rooted in God’s Word, our core values, our history…but doing so involves change. It involves new wineskins for new wine. It means opening the doors wide for new people…and more importantly getting outside our four walls to love and serve the world…in deed and word. It’s about the inspiring vision of our founder, A.B. Simpson, and most of all…

    It’s about Jesus. It has always been all about Jesus.

    We must always remain rooted in the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

    You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

    Jesus is LORD, 1 September 2019

    Jesus Is LORD
    Series—A Love Supreme
    Colossians 1:9-23

    Series Big Idea:
    Christ is above all others. This is a study on the book of Colossians.

    Big Idea:
    The Messiah is above all, and that has huge implications for our lives if he is not only Savior but also LORD.

    How many of you like
    music? How many of you like jazz?

    Our world is filled with opinions about the greatest rock band, the best gospel singer, the finest classical composer, and the most talented rapper, but when it comes to jazz, most people seem to agree on two things:

    1. The greatest jazz album of all-time is Miles Davis’
    Some Kind of Blue.
    2. The second great jazz album of all-time is John Coltrane’s
    A Love Supreme.

    Today we begin a new series on Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, a small city in modern-day Turkey. Unlike nearby Laodicea and Hierapolis, Colossae has never been excavated, though plans are in the works. The theme of the book is the supremacy of Christ, but since that seemed a bit foreign to our modern lexicon, I’ve chosen to entitle this series
    A Love Supreme. It’s not about jazz, but about Jesus, the definition of love. He is supreme. His love is supreme. His lordship is supreme. As we noted in our last series, the gospel is Jesus. The good news is that Jesus is LORD. He will be our subject throughout our study this month in the book of Colossians. Jesus is supreme!

    A few weeks ago we looked at the radical conversion of Saul. Because of his calling to the Gentiles, he went by the name of Paul and, as prophesied, suffered for his faith in Jesus. He wrote four prison epistles—or letters: Ephesians, Philemon, Philippians, and Colossians. This letter was written while under house arrest in Rome in AD 61. Paul begins his letter to this church with eight verses of introduction and then he continues…

    For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. (Colossians 1:9a)

    This is a beautiful statement. The “reason” is their faith in Christ and love for all God’s people. The “we” here is Paul and Timothy. They have not stopped praying for the Christians in Colossae.

    Who are you continually praying for? Some of you have told me you pray for me weekly, or even daily. I’m so grateful. I can’t imagine where I would be—
    who I would be—without prayer.

    In the Christian & Missionary Alliance, we believe
    prayer is the primary work of God’s people. It is powerful and effective. It’s not talking to the wall, but rather communicating with the Creator of the universe! We’ve seen God answer countless prayers…and He’s not going to stop now!

    We can’t stop now, either. We need to pray for our church family, for our neighbors, our city, nation, and world.

    Have you ever wondered
    what to pray?

    “LORD, I pray for everyone in the whole world to be blessed today!” That’s a nice prayer, but if you want to be just a bit more specific, Paul’s example is helpful.

    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: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 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. (Colossians 1:9b-12)

    What a great list! When we pray for others, we can ask God to grant them

    • - Knowledge of His will (we often learn by doing, by obeying; deed and knowledge)
    • - Wisdom and understanding
    • - Fruit in every good work
    • - Growth in the knowledge of God
    • - Strength
    • - Endurance
    • - Patience

    Would you pray that for me? Would you pray that for our elders and staff? Would you pray that for First Alliance Church. This isn’t my church. It’s not our church. We are God’s church. We are fully dependent upon His power, His grace, His favor.

    I want to remind you we have three weekly prayer gatherings here—Sundays at 9 AM, Thursdays at 7 PM, and a wonderful men’s group on Tuesdays at 8:30 AM.

    I can’t imagine where we would be without prayer!

    The heart of Paul’s prayer is that the lifestyle of the people. He was concerned about their theology, of course, but he specifically prays that they would live lives worthy of the LORD. He prays that they would bear fruit. Likewise,

    Our lives should bear fruit.

    Notice this doesn’t happen because we try hard, but rather because of prayer, because of God’s power, because of Jesus. He is the one who said famously,

    “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

    What kind of fruit do we bear when we are connected to the vine of Jesus? The fruit of the Spirit:

    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

    Do we produce this fruit? Do we earn it, strive for it, work for it, make it happen? No! We surrender and submit to the Lordship of Christ. We let him lead our lives. We confess our sins, repent and turn away from them, and invite the Holy Spirit to fill us, change us, transform us to become more like Jesus. This is why prayer is so critical. It’s a daily thing. It’s an hourly thing. It’s a moment-by-moment thing.

    Paul ends verse twelve by saying they give joyful thanks to God…

    For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

    Have you ever been rescued? We’ve all heard of people being rescued at sea, after being trapped in a cave, or after a natural disaster. I can’t recall ever being in such a situation, but I imagine it’s incredible. We’ve been rescued from darkness into His glorious light. He have redemption. We have forgiveness. We have freedom!

    Now Paul begins to describe Jesus.

    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15-16)

    You were made by God, for God, and for God’s glory.

    These verses declare that all things were created through Jesus and for Jesus. He is the image—or literally
    icon—of the invisible God. He makes God visible! Jesus told Philip that when you’ve seen him, you’ve seen the Father (John 14:9).

    He had no beginning, for he is the Creator! He has all authority and rights over His creation.

    He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:17-18)

    Jesus is

    He is above all things. He is before all things. He holds together all things. He’s the head of the church. He is our Senior Pastor. He is the beginning. He is the firstborn among the dead. He’s the LORD of lords and the King of kings. Jesus is supreme!

    Is it any wonder this passage may have contained remnants of an early Christian hymn?

    For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

    All of the fullness of God dwells—permanently lives—in Jesus. Then Jesus died to reconcile us to God. He created, and then after we sinned He re-created, He redeemed, He reconciled sinners who repent, making peace, wholeness, completeness.

    Someone recently asked me why I talk so much about Jesus instead of God. It was a terrific question! I explained Jesus is God. We worship one God who is in three Persons. We call this the Trinity. It’s a word not found in the Bible, but the idea behind it is present throughout scripture. God the Father, God the Son—Jesus—and God the Holy Spirit. They are all God, yet they are different Persons.

    Many have tried to explain the Trinity with analogies, which might be the best thing we can do to attempt to understand God. After all, He’s God! He doesn’t fit in a neat box.

    An egg has three parts: shell, yolk, white. They are all egg, three-in-one.

    Another common illustration is a clover. Each leaf is 100% clover, yet each is unique.

    For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

    Throughout church history, some have recognized Jesus as God but not human. This is called the heresy of Docetism. They believed Jesus only appeared to have a body but did not actually suffer on the cross or rise from the dead.

    Some recognized Jesus as created by God the Father but not himself God. This is called the heresy of Arianism.

    What we see in these two verses is that the fullness of God dwells in Jesus. He is fully God. The Father sent the Son, Jesus, to earth to die, to shed his blood on the cross, to reconcile all things to himself. That includes us, hallelujah! Our sin separated us from the holy God, yet Jesus died to reconcile us to the Father, and only Jesus could do that because Jesus is the only human to walk this earth who is also fully God.

    This is such good news, friends!

    Jesus reconciled us to God by his death.

    Paul further explains…

    Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (Colossians 1:21-23)

    If Jesus never actually died—as some believe—we are hopeless. We cannot be reconciled. We remain alienated from God because of our sin. But there is plenty of evidence not only that Jesus died, but also that he rose from the dead and is alive today.

    Jesus is not only our Savior, but also

    The gospel is not just that Jesus died, but that Jesus is LORD. He is above all. He is supreme.

    I’ve often spoken of vampire Christians who only want Jesus for his blood. They want a Savior, but not a LORD.

    They want to be saved, but they don’t want to serve.
    They want to be forgiven, but they don’t want to follow.
    They want to go to heaven when they die, but they don’t want to live for Jesus now.

    True faith will lead to faithfulness over time. We will grow. We will mature. We will look and act more like Jesus. We will love God and love others as ourselves. We will experience real peace, true joy, abundant love, and deep contentment. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

    How can we not sing?
    How can we not praise?
    How can we not rejoice?
    How can we not celebrate?

    We have a love supreme!

    Credits: series outline from D6.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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