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November 19 - Colossians 1:15-2:10 - "Gospel Vision"
MPC 19th November 2017.
Friends, this is an exciting Sunday. But maybe you're here this morning with a good dose of scepticism. Maybe you feel you've heard it all before.
And so it comes to a day we call vision Sunday and you're sceptical because you think, This vision stuff. It's just more words. That never turn into anything.
And it's just same old same old. But look the reality is, you've all got a vision for our church. Whether you've stopped to think about it or not.
I'm not so much talking the spooky kind of vision in the night idea. The voice of God booming in a dream.
The American pastor and author Andy Stanley puts it this way.
He says that a vision is just a 'dream of what could be, fuelled by a passion that it should be.' Kind of an audacious daydream. Driven by enthusiasm. By passion.
Maybe you've seen some changes through the years. They've been driven by that kind of vision. Someone dreamed 92 years ago of planting a church here. Someone dreamed back in 1961 of building a building. Someone dreamed in 2001 to extend it. And paint it yellow. Which I know for some of you is more of an aesthetic nightmare. The question is, what next? What, in five years? In ten years?
What is it that we dream could be? What is it that we're fuelled by a passion about, five years from now? Ten years? A drive. An excitement. What are we convinced from our hearts that should be in the future of our church?
Vision is a dream of what could be. Fuelled by a passion that it should be.
For you, maybe you just want things to stay as they are. And you're passionate about that. Maybe you've got kids. And you can look at all kinds of challenges in the years ahead. And you're scared for them. But your passion is that as a church we're still here and thriving. When your kids are having kids.
Here's the thing though. Because we're a church. We're on a mission that's already to some extent mapped out for us. We're in a different place and a different time, but we're caught up the same disciple-making mission that Jesus left with all his followers for all time. When he said in Matthew chapter 28, go and make disciples. Teach them to obey my commands. Which first and foremost is the command to love one another. Go and do it all over the place.
Our tag line for our mission... is growing followers of Jesus.
The vision question is the question of what that's going to look like. How we're going to do it. What's going to make the way we're doing it... distinctive. And God willing, effective. What's the scale of it? What's the shape of it? What's the vibe of it?
I want to look with you briefly at the apostle Paul's vision for the Colossian church. Which he spells out in the passage we've just read. We've looked at it before. Because on a day like today there's no better passage.
Paul's just said some huge words about Jesus in Colossians chapter 1.
That he's the image of the invisible God. That he's the The first-born over all creation. That he's before all things, that he's over all things; that all creation was created through him and created for him. That he's the head of his body, the church.
And that by his physical death we can be presented in God's sight holy, without blemish, free from accusation.
... if, says Paul, you continue in your faith, established and firm, and don't move from the hope held out in the gospel.
Paul's vision for the Colossians. And his vision for all of us. Is a gospel vision. And fundamentally, it's about growing deeper. In exactly the soil where you've been planted. Which is what he says in chapter 2 verse 6 and 7.
Now you might say that's not very visionary. But let me guarantee you, it's challenging. Because there seem to be so many other things on offer.
Read it. Chapter 2 verse 6 and 7. And keep an eye out for the metaphor. The word picture of the tree.
Because Paul's goal for them... is that they'll keep growing exactly where they've been planted. In the good ground of the gospel we've looking at the last few weeks. Colossians Chapter 2, verse 6 and 7. Follow his words.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord... continue to live in him; (here's the tree); rooted and built up in him. Strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Can you see it? Make sure your roots are drawing deeper in in him. Not somewhere else. Growing stronger. in him. And overflowing with thankfulness.
Now did you notice, almost every sentence in our passage, every paragraph... ends up in the same place. Jesus Christ.
It's like Paul's totally one eyed. Step back to Colossians 1 verse 28 and look again. He says,
28 We proclaim him [he's talking about Jesus] We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
Spotless. Without blemish. Because of Jesus. To this end I labour, says Paul. this is my goal. "Struggling with all his energy which so powerfully works in me."
Can you see there who he wants to reach? He says, he's teaching everyone. He wants to see all kinds of people with their sins forgiven. Standing spotless before God on judgement day. He ways to see Jews. He wants to see Australians. He wants to see Asians. all kinds of people.
So he says, because of that, we proclaim Jesus.
You know, it's tempting to go off message, isn't it? To think our primary message is about marriage. Or about conservative values. But that's not our core business. Paul says, "he's the one we proclaim. Jesus Christ."
Teaching. Correcting. With all wisdom. About Jesus.
So that we may on the last day, present everyone... hand them back to God the Father...
Spotless. Forgiven. Blameless. Because of Jesus. The king who's died for our sins.
That's Paul's vision. And at every point, it's all about Jesus. As the gospel grows and spreads.
And the thing is, it has. Hasn't it? See, there are countless people. All over the world. With that same story. Finding their hope in Jesus, and then sticking with it. Our women heard first hand stories on Friday night. People like Elise. Who even through the worst of times, found a new grip on faith.
Which is Paul's great goal playing out, year after year, all kinds of people. everywhere. Even Mitchelton.
Which means it's our job as a church to make sure Jesus is the focal point over and above anything else.
To be a church where all kinds of people can come to faith in Christ unobstructed. A church where people who come in off the street curious. And discover it somehow just all makes sense.
Kids being faithfully taught in Kids' church not just a morality. And to be good. But to know and trust the goodness of the Lord Jesus.
Teens. Actually being discipled towards Christian Maturity. And not just hanging out and playing games.
It's happening. And we need to make sure we're committed to keeping it happening.
Chapter 2 verse 2. In a very long sentence. Paul goes on to spell out his purpose. Which is kind of similar to vision, isn't it? It's the passion that gives the drive.
Colossians 2 from verse 2.
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love...
But that's not all.
Encouraged and united so that they'll end up with complete understanding.
But that's not all.
In order that they may know the mystery of God... namely... Christ.
Remember I said every sentence, every paragraph, brings us back to Jesus.
Because in him, says Paul, in Jesus... are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Encouraged. United. Full of understanding. With the sole goal of knowing that Jesus... is all they need. Is sufficient. Without the need for any turbo charged add ons or optional extras.
Friends; that's why the New Testament keeps urging us to be church. To gather. To keep loving one another. To keep encouraging one another. It's all with the goal of knowing the Jesus we already know. And sticking with him.
See, Paul's writing to the Colossian church because they're being told Jesus is just a starting point. That there's a richer spirituality they're somehow missing out on. That there's a new wave they need to be riding.
And Paul says, no, my purpose... in all it's fullness... is a united, loving church, that fully understands... that the full mystery of God is all there in Christ already. That he's fully revealed the father; that he's fully made peace on our behalf. In his death for our sin. And that he's fully poured out his spirit on our hearts. And there's no more wisdom than that; there's nothing bigger than that, there's nothing better than that, there are no more rules than that, there's no deeper mystery than that. To find anywhere.
Chapter 2 verse 4, that's what he's saying. "I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments." They might sound fine. But they'll lead you astray.
Even if you're longing for something more impressive. And socially acceptable. Let's preach success maybe. Or prosperity. Let's preach morality. Paul says, don't listen.
Follow what he says in verse 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."
Instead. Grow where you're planted. Because, he says in verse 9, in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form. And in Christ. You have been given that fullness. Nothing lacking.
We really are meant to be changing the world by preaching Jesus. Changing our communities. By preaching Jesus. And the change comes one step at a time. One heart at a time.
And then being a new kind of community ourselves. Of all kinds of people. A community that reflects the grace we've received. In the way we treat each other.
Our vision has gotta be to keep doing that. No matter what new wave comes along. No matter the new philosophy turns up. We've got to keep at it. With all the energy God gives you. For all the years God gives us.
But here's the thing. While the gospel doesn't change and while the goal doesn't change, we've gotta keep looking for fresh ways to do what we do. Fresh ways of getting together, and encouraging one another... to keep on keeping on. In our faith in Jesus.
Can I ask you for a minute to dream. You know, MPC's a church that many of us love. We love being part of. But in a way that can make us feel so content that we've run out of dreams. Sometimes it's like we're on a cruise ship. Taking it easy. Sipping a cool drink.
It's not meant to be that way.