Giving Christ First Place

Steve Viars January 22, 2017 Colossians 1:15-22

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9 reasons to believe in and act on the preeminence of Jesus

I. He is the Image of the Invisible God

A. The original word for image – eikon

B. Two emphases

1. Representation

Hebrews 1:3 - And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature…

John 14:9 - He who has seen Me has seen the Father…

2. Manifestation

v. 15 - He is the image of the invisible God…

John 4:40 - So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.

II. He is the Firstborn of All Creation

“firstborn” – prototokos

Colossians 1:28 - We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

III. Creator of Heaven and Earth

Colossians 1:16 - For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

Romans 1:18-20 - For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

IV. Holds All Things Together

Colossians 1:17 - He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Hebrews 1:3 - And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.

V. He is the Head of the Body, the Church

Colossians 1:18 - He is also head of the body, the church…

VI. He is the Firstborn from the Dead

Colossians 1:18 - …the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.

Acts 2:32 - This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.

VII. The Fullness of God

Colossians 1:19 - For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him…

“The revelation made of Christ in the blessed gospel is far more excellent, more glorious, more filled with rays of divine wisdom and goodness than the whole creation, and the just comprehension of it, if attainable, can contain or afford. Without this knowledge, the mind of man, however priding itself in other inventions and discoveries, is wrapped up in darkness and confusion.”

“This therefore deserves the severest of our thoughts, the best of our meditations, and our utmost diligence in them. For if our future blessedness shall consist in living where He is, and beholding of His glory, what better preparation can there be for it than a constant previous contemplation of that glory as revealed in the gospel, that by a view of it we may be gradually transformed into the same glory?” John Owen, The Glory of Christ [reprint, Chicago: Moody, 1949], pp. 25-26

1 Corinthians 1:23-25 - …but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

VIII. He is the Reconciler of All Things

Colossians 1:20 - …and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself…

IX. He is the One Whose Blood is Precious

Colossians 1:20 - …and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross…

Outlined Manuscript

- this morning I’d like to begin by introducing you to some people and to ask you to think about…why do they do that?...and how do they do that?...let’s start with…

1. Sue – Sue goes down to the Hartford Hub each week and helps urban children with their math homework…that subject has always come naturally for her…o now she wants to share what God has given her…

- with urban children…of ethnicities different than her’s…

- and different backgrounds and values…and honestly, they can be a bit rambunctious…

- so why does Sue do that…and how does she do that?...then there’s…

 

2. John – who’s very intelligent and has climbed up the ladder at work very quickly…

- but he’s well liked by his co-workers because he’s humble and helpful…

- instead of lording his intelligence over others…he shares it and tries to assist in getting better at what they do…

- so why does John do that…and how does he do it?...then there’s…

 

3. Sally…who just returned from vacation to a beautiful destination…

- she visited some very picturesque places…even better than the banks of the Wabash on a January day…

- but it wasn’t just restful…it was worshipful…she came back more in love with Christ than ever before…

- in fact she found herself whispering in quiet awe at these gorgeous sites – my Savior made that…why did she do that…and how did she do it?...then there’s…

 

4. Frank…Frank’s in a tough spot…because his father just received a bad medical diagnosis…

- and it doesn’t look good…and Frank is profoundly sad…because you only get one dad…

- but he’s also calm…surprisingly so…there’s a quiet trust that characterizes his thoughts, words, and his actions…

- how does Frank do that…and why does he do it?...then there’s..[by the way, I hope you’re remembering these names – there will be a quiz later]…then there’s…

 

5. Bob…Bob struggles with sinful anger…

- he doesn’t like it when things don’t go his way…he knows he can say things that are mean and hateful…

- and he gets mad enough that others are intimidated and avoid him…

- but lately Bib has been getting up earlier in the morning, and going to a quiet place in his home and opening his Bible…

- he’s saying things to God in the calmness of the morning like…

- Lord, I want to submit to your sovereign plan today…I want to think differently about the challenges and disappointments you allow me to face…

- and he’s even starting to see some incremental change…

- why is Bob doing that…and how is he doing that…then there’s…

 

6. Jill…Jill’s on fire right now…

- she knows she’s had a negative impact on her family and friends…

- she’s a complainer…she’s bitter…her conversations are filled with negativity and gossip and she drags down those around her…

- but she’s determined this year to change…

- not in some “make a new year’s resolution that’s already fading” kind of way…

- but in a – I’m going to get some counseling, and link up with a mentor and really tackle this kind of way…

- so she’s waking up and praying about it…and trying to consider these habits from the perspective of the heart…

- she’s asked her friends and family members’ forgiveness and also requested that they hold her accountable…

- and sure she’s got a long way to go…but she’s confident…that’s the key…she’s confident that she’s going to change in this area…

- why is Jill doing that…and how is she doing that?...then say hello to Jody…

 

7. Jody – Jody is a single young woman who has learned to endure all the insensitive things people tend to say to those who are unmarried…

- and sure sometimes she’d like to haul off and wallop someone at the family holiday gathering or at the church house…

- but somehow she’s gotten to a good place…a healthy place…

- where, her relationship with the Lord is so satisfying that her marital status doesn’t rule her or define her…it’s important, but it’s not ultimate…

- why is Jody doing that…and how is she doing that?...(2 more friends…)…there’s also…

 

8.  Fred…Fred has a knack for bringing people together…it’s amazing…he’s the reconciler…

- so 2 people are at odds at work…and he can get them together to work it out…

- or last year when a couple of family members got crossways with one another…Fred’s the one they called…

- there’s just something about his ability to bring people together…

- why does Fred do that…and how does he do it?...last one…meet…

 

9 Lisa…Lisa has had a pretty tough life…she’d be the first to say that she has made some very foolish choices…and surrounded herself with some very foolish people…

- she has a PhD in the school of hard knocks…

- but she isn’t wallowing in her past…in fact after she turned things around, she received counseling training…

- and surprise, surprise, surprise – it’s amazing how often she ends up working with people who are struggling with guilt and shame from the bad choices they made in their pasts…

- and when Lisa is done, her new friends have been able to put all of that behind them…

- so why does she do that…and how does she do that?...

 

- can I ask you this – would you like to be like Sue, and John, and Sally, and Frank…and all the rest of my imaginary friends this am…

- because the ultimate answer to both the why and the how questions is – it’s because they are in Christ…and deeply in their hearts they want Him to have first place in everything…

- and here’s the key – they have gotten to that place because they have sound biblical reasons – a rather long and comprehensive list of them – sound biblical reasons to think that way about their Savior…

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to Colossians chapter 1…page 157 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- our church’s theme this year is In Christ Alone…we’re doing this for a lot of reasons including the fact that this is the 500th year of the Protestant Reformation and this shorthand for the 5 great solas of the reformation – that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scripture alone, to the glory of God, alone…

- we’re going to be looking at more history later this year…and that will give you an opportunity to read at least one book on the reformation like you promised to do a few weeks ago (or at least that’s the way I took your response…since no one got up and stormed out when I made that suggestion)…

- but we wanted to start with a verse by verse exposition of the book of Colossians…because it contains some of the richest Christology in all of Scripture…

- and there’s a reason for that – the Colossians had been exposed and impacted by a kind of heresy that – like even most cults and false teaching today – in some way or another undermines the person and work of Christ…

- so it’s extremely helpful and even practical to scour these verses very carefully…just ask Sue, and John, and Frank…(but I’m getting ahead of myself…)

- I appreciate Pastor Aucoin’s introduction to the book last week – this morning let’s begin with verse 15…(and as I read – please look for answers to the why and how questions we’ve already been thinking about)

- read Colossians 1:15-23.

- this morning we’re talking about Giving Christ First Place…and with the time we have remaining, let’s think about Nine reasons to believe in and act on the preeminence of Jesus.

I. He is the Image of the Invisible God.

- part of the Colossian heresy was that all matter was evil…and therefore God would never dwell in a bodily form…

- lest that sound outrageous – that’s a form of Greek dualism that still raises its head in Christian circles in our day and age…

- and while I don’t want to bring back unpleasant memories, it hasn’t been that long ago that a couple of people were circulating a book about worship behind my back that suggested that if a piece of music stimulated your body in any way including the possibility of you tapping your foot – it was sinful and should not be a part of a Christian’s life and worship…

- so, theology matters…in all sorts of ways for all sorts of reasons…

A. The original word for image – eikon.

- it’s not hard to see what English word group would come from that…

- icons, or statues…in Bible times, the word had…

 

B. Two emphases

1. Representation

- that’s what a statue is…a representation of something else…

- and incidentally, human beings are said to be made in the image of God…

- but there’s a big difference between being made in the image of God – and being the image of God…the perfect and unblemished representation of God’s character and likeness…

- Hebrews 1:3 - And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature

- which is why Jesus could say -- John 14:9 - …He who has seen Me has seen the Father…

- what an incredible statement about His deity and sufficiency and His perfection…

- but it’s also about…

B. Manifestation

- v. 15 – He is the image of the invisible God…

- it’s one thing to read about the character of God the Father in the Scripture…it’s something else to see those attributes fleshed out – literally and figuratively – in His Son…

- here’s a random example – it’s one thing to read that God the Father has compassion for the nations…it’s something else to see Jesus—the image of the invisible God…do this…John 4:40 - So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.

- you understand how scandalous that would have been, right?...

- and friends – that explains Sue…she’s going down to serve and share her gifts at the Hartford Hub…because she wants to have Jesus to have first place in everything, including her schedule…

- and in so doing – her Savior who lives inside of her – and who is making her into His image – He and Sue are the image of the invisible God to those dear children…

‑ here’s a take-away to chew on this afternoon and throughout the week – what would be different this week, and how could Jesus be given a greater position of preeminence in my heart and life – if I was more in tune with how he is the image of the invisible God?...

- [Heather – please work with Scott Grass to get 6 pics of the 3 recent youth mission trips]…

- I was really glad to see a number of our teens take mission trips in the past month to Albania, and Mexico, and Uganda…

- why would young people go around the world to spread to spread the good news of Jesus Christ…

- could it be that Jesus is coming to have first place in their hearts and lives because deep inside they can’t get over how their redeemer is the image of the invisible God?...

- I would also say this – to the degree that is true about the next generation – there are reasons to be very optimistic and hopeful about the future…

II. He is the Firstborn of All Creation

- “firstborn” – prototokos

- this is actually a phrase that some cults try to use to suggest that Jesus did not eternally preexist…

- one the many obvious problems with that idea is that it contradicts everything else in the passage…

- Jesus wasn’t created – He created all things…

- the point here is preeminence of position…some of the false teachers were suggesting that true spirituality was found in worshipping angels or some other spirit beings…

- but Paul’s argument is – select any aspect of God’s creation – and our Lord stands out in beauty and character and wisdom and grace…

- that’s why we His followers choose to give Him first place in everything…

- and that explains John…who has an unusually high intellect…but he doesn’t try to draw attention to himself because of that…he’s a humble man, and a helpful man…because His Savior, the one who endowed him with those abilities – is worthy of honor and praise…he is the firstborn of all creation…

- Newton Pena and I just returned from a marvelous trip to the Dominican Republic…

- we were there to participate in the 5th annual biblical counseling training conference in the city of Santiago – and this particular conference was on Domestic Violence…

- and here’s brief explanation of our strategy…

 

- the point is – the kinds of truths we’re seeing about the preeminence of Christ have practical implications to the way we handle our anger and frustration…

- so we’re not just there to talk about biblical principles…we’re there to talk about the Savior those principles point to…

- later in this passage Paul will say -- Colossians 1:28 - We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

- that’s what our friend John does by his humble and helpful approach to those around him regardless of his superior intellect…

III. Creator of Heaven and Earth

- that one’s not hard to understand…

- Colossians 1:16 - For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

- but it’s certainly hard for many in our world to embrace…

- and if there’s any question about how God feels about that – Paul made it crystal clear in…Romans 1:18–20 -     For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

- and friends, please don’t think – well, yes, that was a problem back in bible times…

- listen – [I’m not in a bad mood – but I would be less than a pastor if I did not point out…]

- there are all kinds of people in our town who want to talk about how to educate children – and they can discuss practically any idea or book or theory or person in the world…except the Lord Jesus Christ…the Creator of heaven and earth

- there are all sorts of people who want to talk about mental health and addictions and counseling – again, from every book and theorist under the sun…but no place for Christ…

- there are all sorts of non-profit groups and foundations in this town trying to do all sorts of social work…but they absolutely will not allow any discussion about the place of Jesus in that work…

- if I were to get wound up this am – I would suggest that there is a surprising amount of wrongful discrimination in this community toward people who believe what these verses are saying…and we can’t right all those wrongs by the end of business today…

- but we can certainly be like Sally…who observes the beauty and wonder of God’s creation…and quietly whispers…or when appropriate, boldly proclaims…My Savior made that…I want Him to have first place in everything…

 

 

IV. Holds All Things Together

- Colossians 1:17 - He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

- what an incredible statement…it makes you want to break out into the old spiritual – He’s got the whole world in His hands…

- the writer of Hebrews made the same affirmation…Hebrews 1:3 - And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.

 - that is why Frank is able to handle this devastating news about His father…

- He really believes that, in Christ, all things hold together…and sure he’s hurting, and He’s crying out to his merciful, sympathetic high priest…

- but he’s in Christ – the Messiah who has this kind of sustaining power…

- how could he possibly worry or fret about the future if he really believes this?...

- one of the amazing aspects of what is happening in the DR is that God, in His grace, has allowed us to follow that strategy in several countries now…

- the approach is that we have more and more guests coming from around the world to our BCTC in February…and yes – that amazes us…and we want all the glory and honor to go to the Savior we’re studying this am…

- so this year, we already have ____ registered…and ____ are from other countries…

- and if a pastor, and usually a group of pastors…really appreciates the Christ centered approach to counseling and soul care and community based outreach ministry they’re hearing about….and believe it will help them strengthen their churches in another country…we’re happy to try to partner with them…

- the strategy was very effective in Brazil…because often another piece is if one of their key leaders will come to Lafayette and study at our seminary MDiv program for 3 years…so in Brazil, that was Sacha Mendes…and now the impact around that country is amazing…and I’ll have the privilege to be back in Manaus, on the Amazon River this year…now their third major conference site training well over 1000 pastors and church leaders

- now we’re seeing that in the DR and also Mexico…and we’re now identifying the next countries for the development of that strategy…

- I want to thank you this morning for the way you serve during the BCTC…[develop current needs]…

- your willingness to do that has an amazing impact on our guests…but you do that because you want to be part of promoting a Christ-centered approach to daily living…because He’s come to have first place in everything for you – and why not – in Him all things hold together…He’s also…

V. He is the Head of the Body, the Church

- Colossians 1:18 - He is also head of the body, the church…

- that’s why Bob is getting after this sinful anger problem…

- he recognizes the way he’s handling frustration and disappointment as a lot of things…including rebellion against the one who is in charge of the church…and He wants to change that….

- he wants Christ to come to have first place in everything…

VI. He is the Firstborn from the Dead.

- Colossians 1:18 - …the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.

- now we’re talking about the resurrection…now we’re talking about the proof that the price He paid on the cross to secure our forgiveness and redemption was accepted by the Father…

- so we stand with the apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost – and joyfully proclaim -- Acts 2:32 - “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.

- that’s what explains Jill’s confidence that she doesn’t have to have a negative impact on her friends and family with that tongue of hers…she can overcome complaining and bitterness and gossip…

- you know why – because the one “she’s in” – the Lord Jesus Christ…He isn’t dead…

- He’s the firstborn from the dead…

- and by the way – Jill doesn’t have anyone else in her life like that…which is why He has first place in everything…Jesus is also…

VII. The Fullness of God

-  Colossians 1:19 - For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,

- The great puritan John Owen said -- The revelation made of Christ in the blessed gospel is far more excellent, more glorious, more filled with rays of divine wisdom and goodness than the whole creation, and the just comprehension of it, if attainable, can contain or afford. Without this knowledge, the mind of man, however priding itself in other inventions and discoveries, is wrapped up in darkness and confusion.

This therefore deserves the severest of our thoughts, the best of our meditations, and our utmost diligence in them. For if our future blessedness shall consist in living where He is, and beholding of His glory, what better preparation can there be for it than a constant previous contemplation of that glory as revealed in the gospel, that by a view of it we may be gradually transformed into the same glory? (John Owen, The Glory of Christ [reprint, Chicago: Moody, 1949], pp. 25–26)

- that’s how Jody is handling her marital state so well…it’s not that it’s easy, or even her first choice…but she’s in Christ…so the fullness of God is personally dwelling in her…and the more she contemplates that…the more she finds herself satisfied and joyful in Him…

- another exciting aspect of the BCTC is that our friends from Cuba will be with us…Pastor Norberto is viewed as the leader for literally 100’s of other pastors in that country…and yet he and his son Leslie are fully committed to an approach to outreach and soul care based completely on the sufficiency of Christ and His Word…

- it’s taken us a while because all of the political changes both there and here – but we’ve finalized our strategy and we’ll have teaching teams heading there multiple times over the next three years…we’re doing this in collaboration with teachers from the DR which is a delightful partnership….

- but in many of these third world countries – they are struggling with the alternatives of materialism, and secularism, or all sorts of theological error…so we want…

- 1 Corinthians 1:23–25 - but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

- and you might ask – will the strategy work?...think about this phrase – “it’s the Father’s god pleasure for all of the fullness to dwell in Him” – if we’re trying to point people around the world to Christ and Him crucified – how could it not work?...

- by the way – let me just say that the counseling center is bearing the burden of much of this financially…and we’re having to make some hard decisions…like how many pastors are we going to try to train over the next three years…

- and if God has blessed you unusually…and you would like to invest specially in this kind of kingdom work – that would be a big help to us right now…you can just use one of the white envelopes and write Latin America strategy – or sit down with Pastor Green and Pastor Pena and discuss it further…we’re also told here that…

 

- something else about the BCTC – do you remember a little over year ago when the pastor’s wife Amanda Blackburn was brutally murdered?...

- Amandas’ parents Phil and Robin Byers are good friends of ours…Phil is the pastor at First Baptist in Elkhart…

- they and many members of their church have been to the BCTC…and I’m happy to tell you that Phil and Robin are going to speaking on Thursday night of our conference…we’ll live-stream it so you and anyone else you invite can participate on-line…

- but I promise you that the principles we’re seeing here in this text will be on grand and marvelous display…

VIII. He is the Reconciler of All Things

- Colossians 1:20 - and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself…

 - that’s how Fred developed that knack of bringing people back together…he doesn’t create division, he heals it…because He’s in Christ…

 

- I’m also really glad that _____ of our own church members are going to take a week off work to go through the BCTC training themselves…

- why?...how?...because they want to learn how to better reconcile men and women to God…and men and women to one another…

- NCC update…

IX. He is the One Whose Blood is Precious.

- Colossians 1:20 - and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross…

- how is Lisa able to get over the sins and abuses of her past?...

- it’s because she’s been washed in the blood of the Lamb…and her sin is now as far as the east is from the west…

- and she wants to share that message with everyone who will listen…

- no wonder God brings so many people with similar experiences around her…

- friends – there are many, many reasons why Jesus deserves to have first place in everything…

- there’s another way I saw that first-hand last week…

- Pastor Arocha’s wife Olgita has started an orphanage…

- many times these children come with no name…no documentation…nothing but the clothes on their backs…

- but Olga and her staff – who will also be here at the BCTC – have developed a loving, Christ-centered place for these dear children to live…

- they currently have between 90-100 children…

- a church in Kansas partners with them and pays the tuition for every school age child to attend a local Christian school…

- the children come to church and so Sunday evening I was speaking to a couple of boys in about 3-4th grade after the service…they teach them English because that is an important part of their future success…

- and so they came up and introduced themselves to me, and we talked for a while and then as they left I just thought about what it would be like to not have anybody willing to be your mom…or anyone willing to be your dad…

- and so as I was driving back to where I was staying…they were driving back to an orphanage…

- but what was amazing was the joy of the faces of those two young men…

- because of the Christ-centered approach Olga and her staff are taking…these precious boys and girls are finding the principles of Col. 1 to be true…and therefore, Jesus can be coming to have first place in their young lives…

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video