Sunday July 14th 2019
Pastor Galen Zook
Feeling like a Billion Bucks
Imagine with me that all of a sudden you received a call out of nowhere letting you know that some long-lost relative whom you’ve never met has just died, leaving you with an inheritance of a billion dollars.
It sounds crazy, but let’s say that you find out it’s not a hoax, it’s really happening. You absolutely will be inheriting a billion dollars, the only thing is that you don’t know when you’ll actually be receiving the money. It could take weeks, months, or maybe even years to actually have access to the money.
How do you live in the meantime? How does the knowledge that you will someday be a billionaire change your perspective on life?
For some us, maybe we would go out and spend as much money as possible, racking up tons of credit card debt, buying cars and multi-million-dollar mansions, knowing that in when we get our inheritance money we’ll be able to pay it all off.
Maybe some of us would give all of our money away to charity, knowing that don’t need to save any money for retirement because someday we’ll have all the money we’ll ever need.
Maybe some of us might drop out of school or quit our jobs because, after all, who needs a college degree or a job when you have a billion dollars?
I’m sure that some of the more cautious among us may not change anything about our current lifestyle. You’d continue to pinch your pennies and live simply and save money, just in case the whole deal falls through and you don’t receive the money after all.
But probably for all of us, the knowledge that we are set to one day inherit a billion dollars would drastically change the way we think about ourselves and live our lives.
Most likely we would start to stand a little straighter, walk a little bit more confidently, maybe even strut a little bit. Even if we don’t spend all the money we don’t have yet, we would probably begin to dream about the things that we will someday be able to afford. We’d probably start thinking more about the future, and less about the past.
In their letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul and Timothy commend the church in Colossae for their “faith in Christ Jesus” and their love “for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for [them] in heaven”(Col. 1:4). In verse 12, Paul and Timothy tell the Colossians that they “share in the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:12).
Now, what was it that prompted Paul and Timothy to write this letter to the Colossian Church – a church that they had never pastored or even visited, a church full of people who had never even met them? Why did Paul and Timothy want to remind the Colossians of the inheritance that they had in Christ Jesus, and of the hope laid up for them in heaven?
The people of Colossae were Gentiles, meaning that they didn’t come from a Jewish religious background like Jesus’s first disciples and like many of the members of the early church. The Colossians came from a diversity of religious and cultural backgrounds, but they had all chosen to put their faith and trust in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. In fact, Paul and Timothy state that they have been “rescued…from the power of darkness and transferred …into the kingdom of [God’s] beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). So although they were Gentiles, the Colossians have been transformed by the redemptive love of Jesus.
But as we’ll find out in a few weeks when we look at chapter 2 of the book of Colossians, it seems that there were some who were trying to take the Colossian church “captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition” (Col. 2:8). These would-be deceivers seemed to be telling the Colossians that their salvation wasn’t really secure, that in addition to putting their faith and trust in Christ, they needed to observe certain cultural practices, certain dietary restrictions, and observe particular festivals and holidays in order to truly be followers of Christ (see Col. 2:16).
But Paul and Timothy want the Colossians to know that there are no second-class citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Even though the Colossians are Gentiles, even though they weren’t born into a religious household, even though they didn’t grow up going to church or have a lot of Bible knowledge, and even though they haven’t adopted all of the super-uber religious rituals and practices that others were telling them they should do, their salvation and redemption is secure.
Why? Because they are “in Christ”! In fact, this is how Paul and Timothy address this letter. Right in the beginning of this letter, they say, “Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae” (Col. 1:1-2).
So the primary social location of the Colossians, more than the fact that they are Gentiles living in Colossae, is that they are in Christ. And so Paul and Timothy want the Colossian church to know that they can stand with their heads held high, they can walk in confidence and boldness as children of God because they are in Christ. They are citizens of the Kingdom of God, and they share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.
What was the Colossians’ Inheritance?
Now what exactly is this “inheritance” that the Colossians share in? And what is the hope that has been laid up for them in heaven? This inheritance and hope is not just the reality that we will someday spend eternity with Jesus in heaven — although that is indeed part of it. It’s all the promises of God throughout Scripture. It’s the promise that God is with us, it’s the promise of eternal life which starts here and now. It’s the promise of the Holy Spirit living inside of us, the assurance that we have been set free from captivity to sin, and the promise that we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus.
Yes, we will someday go to be with Jesus and live with him for all of eternity. But our inheritance is already assured, already secured, and that should change the way we live here and now.
It’s Not About Avoiding Pain and Suffering
Paul and Timothy go on to pray for the Colossian church. They pray that the Colossians would be “filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” that they would “lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9-10). They pray that the Colossians would be “made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power and may be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father” (Col. 1:11-12a).
Notice that Paul and Timothy do not pray that the Colossians would be free from pain and suffering, or that they would live lives of comfort and ease. They don’t pray that no bad things would ever happen to the Colossians. Instead they pray that, whatever comes their way, the Colossians would be able to endure it with patience and even given thanks to the Father, “who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:12b).
Paul and Timothy understand that suffering and pain are realities of life. These things are unavoidable. No matter how many resources we have, no matter our standing in society, the reality of living in this world is that we will face troubles.
The promise of God all throughout Scripture is not that we will have material prosperity or blessing or that we will be able to avoid pain and suffering. The promise is that God is with us, that we have access to the power and grace of God, and that there is hope beyond the grave.
And so Paul and Timothy want the Colossians to know that they have access to these same promises, they are recipients of that same inheritance. And Paul and Timothy long for the Colossians to be filled with the knowledge and grace of God so that they can withstand whatever comes their way.
There are some of us here today who may need this reminder. Maybe for whatever reason you have been made to feel less-than. Maybe because of your cultural or religious background, your social standing, your age, gender, race or ethnicity, your wealth or lack there-of, or some other sort of arbitrary designation, you have been made to feel like you’re not good enough or that you don’t belong.
But this morning I want to remind us that there are no second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God. If you are in Christ, then you have a hope laid up for you in heaven, and you share in the inheritance of the saints in the light! You have been rescued from the power of darkness and you have been transferred into the kingdom of the beloved Son.
So you can stand with head held high, you can walk in confidence and boldness because you are a child of the Most High God.
That means when someone cuts you off in traffic, when someone ignores you or looks right past you, when someone slights you or disrespects you, when someone looks down on you or derides you, you can say to yourself, “They don’t know who they just disrespected! They don’t know that I am a child of the King, I have an inheritance that is out of this world. They don’t know who it is that they just slandered or persecuted, because I am in Christ.”
Lives Worthy of the Lord
The knowledge that we are in Christ, that we have a hope laid up for us in heaven and that we share in the inheritance with the saints should completely and utterly transform our lives. And it should also transform the way we think about others as well. Because if our inheritance, the hope that we have in Christ, and our relationship with God is not dependent on our wealth or power or social standing, then neither is anyone else’s.
And so as Christians, if we really grasp ahold of the fact that our identity is in Christ and it’s not based upon these external factors, then we should be the most loving, others-oriented, justice-minded, grace-filled, welcoming and inclusive people in the world. Just as the Colossians were known for their love “for all the saints” (Col. 1:4), may that be true of us here at Hampden Church as well!
As Paul and Timothy prayed for the church in Colossae, I want to pray for us — that as we grow in the knowledge of God’s will for our lives and as we grow in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, that we too would lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, and that we would bear fruit in every good work! (Col. 1:10).
God, fill us with the knowledge of your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, that we may lead lives worthy of you, fully pleasing to you.
May we bear fruit in every good work as we grow in the knowledge of God.
May we be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may we be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to you,
Thank you for enabling us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light, for rescuing us from the power of darkness and transferring us into the kingdom of your beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.