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Where Do We Stand With God?

To start us off this morning, I’m going to make a couple of assumptions about you and what you believe. I hope that ok. I realize that I could be wrong – but this is what I’m going to assume about you.

If you’re sitting here today, I’m going to assume that you probably believe in God. Maybe you don’t know exactly who God is or what He’s all about – but I’m going to assume that if you are here attending church, then you at least believe that God exists. That’s my first assumption.

Secondly, if you believe that God exists, I’m also going to assume that you probably want to be in His good books. If there is a God, you don’t want Him to be angry with you. It would be helpful to be on good terms with Him. You may even think it would be a good idea to be His friend. At the very least, you certainly don’t want to be His enemy. That wouldn’t be good at all. If there is a God, it’s probably important for God to like you and not be mad at you.

I think those are pretty safe assumptions for anyone who believes in God – whether you’re a Christian or a Muslim – a Mormon or a Hindu – there is this underlying thought that if God exists, then I need to be on good terms with Him. I need to please Him – and not anger Him. That’s why we read about people throughout history in all parts of the world, worshipping different gods. Sacrificing to them. Bowing down to them. Bringing them offerings. Going through all the rituals. Doing whatever it takes to have that god smile upon you.

It seems that humans throughout history agree that having God on my side is a good thing – having God against me is a bad thing. I think most people would agree with that line of thinking.

But here’s where our problem lies. How do we know if we’re on good terms with God or not? What does God require? What pleases God and what angers God? And if you anger God, is there any way to get back in His good books again or are you done for good? How do you know where you stand with God? This is where everybody starts disagreeing. In fact, this is a pretty grey area for a lot of religions.

In a lot of religions, you can’t ever be sure where you stand with God. Sure, you can try your best, but there are no guarantees. When I was teaching at the Christian School in Mirror, we briefly examined Hinduism in our Bible class and that uncertainty was a key theme that we noticed. They have literally millions of gods that they worship, and there are all kinds of different ways to please their gods, but you just never know if you’ve done enough. Have I prayed enough? Did I live good enough? Have I managed to do everything required of me?They always have that uncertainty.

So how do you know? How do you know where you stand with God? How do you know if God’s angry with you? How do you know if God’s pleased with you? Can we even know?

Well, this morning we’re going to see what the Bible has to say about all that. We’ve been looking at the book of Colossians for the past few weeks and that’s where we’re going to be looking for the answers to these questions this morning. 

Now just to give you some background before we get into our passage today, we’ve been going through the book of Colossians – what I’ve titled “Paul’s Christianity in a Nutshell”. Last Sunday we asked the question: Who is Jesus? And the answer that we found in Colossians was that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. In other words, Jesus is God in the flesh. He is Immanuel – God with us.

We talked about how Jesus wasn’t created by God – but rather, he was present with God in Creation – and in fact, everything was created through Him and to this day, he holds all creation together. Obviously Jesus was not an ordinary man. He was not just a good teacher or a wise prophet – He was and is God.

And that is a key point to remember as we go into our discussion this morning.

So let’s pick it up where we left off last Sunday in Colossians 1 – verse 18 and we’ll read to verse 23.

18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.

19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, 20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

23 But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.

Colossians 1:18-23

Now that’s quite a bit of information to try to process all at once, so let’s break it down into some bite sized pieces. We asked the question: How do we know where we stand with God? Are we in his good books? Are we not? How do we know?

Well, verse 21 tells us the default relationship that everyone of us has with God at the beginning of our lives.

21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Colossians 1:21

Well, that’s not very encouraging, is it? This is not good news. We already established that no one wants to be God’s enemy – and yet, that’s exactly what Paul says we are! This verse isn’t just talking about the Hitlers and the Osama bin Ladens and the notorious serial killers. Remember, Paul was writing this to the church in Corinth – to Christians. He says… “This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies!”

In fact, throughout the Bible we read that everyone one of us finds ourselves as an enemy of God because of our sin. Ephesians 2 is one good example of that. Ephesians 2:2 says…

You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

Ephesians 2:2-3

Now that doesn’t mean that we’re all drug-dealing, axe murderers. In fact, probably most of us live pretty decent lives. We love our families, we pay our taxes, we shovel our neighbours sidewalk in the winter – for the most part, we live pretty decently. How then is it right that Paul says we are God’s enemies – we’re subject to His anger?

Well, it may be true that we live pretty decently, but I think all of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, know that inside, we have a heart full of sin. We know how easy it is for us to become jealous of what others have, to be envious when something good happens to someone else, to be greedy, to hate, to wish bad things upon the people who hurt us, to be selfish, to think about me before anyone else. I think we’d have to be pretty delusional to think that we’re always good all the time. We know we’re not. There’s a lot of junk that goes on in our hearts – it doesn’t always come out in our actions, but those sinful thoughts and those sinful attitudes are in there.

That’s our sinful nature. And it’s that sinful nature that is a direct affront to God. It goes completely against His perfect character. It’s in direct opposition to who He created us to be. Remember, God created us in His image – to be like Him. But instead, because of our sin, our very nature goes completely against who God is and who he created us to be.

All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

Ephesians 2:3

By default, that’s where we stand with God. We are subject to his anger. That’s not a good place to be at all!

But this is where the good news of Jesus Christ comes in! If you read the two verses in Ephesians that immediately follow that bad news, we read in verse 4:

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. Ephesians 2:4-5

And the verses we read in Colossians explain it a little further – go to Colossians 1:19

19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, 20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

That word ‘reconciled’ – it means brought back together again. That’s what Jesus did when He died on the cross – He brought you and God back together again when He paid the price on the cross for your sins.

You see, before, you were enemies. Because of your sin, God’s holiness and his justice demanded that you be separated from Him forever. God is perfectly just, so he can’t just turn a blind eye to sin. His perfect justice must be served.

But, while God’s holiness and his justice demanded that you pay the price for your sins and be separated from Him forever, God’s love and compassion demanded that you be forgiven and be reconciled to God. You see, God loves you so much that His heart breaks at the thought of you being separated from Him forever. After all, He created you. He formed you in your mother’s womb. He gave you your unique personality, your talents, and your abilities. You are his special creation and He loves you like crazy. And although you’ve sinned and your sinful nature is a direct affront to God, He still wants nothing more than to forgive you and give you a new nature, and to begin a new relationship with you. But He couldn’t just ignore your sin either. The penalty had to be paid.

And so the only way for both God’s justice and his love to be satisfied, was for Jesus, God’s Son, to come to earth as a man, and to die on the cross – to pay the price for your sin so that you could be forgiven and be reconciled to God. That’s a crazy love, isn’t it?

That’s why it is so important to know that Jesus was not just an ordinary man. An ordinary man could not have died in our place. (He would have been paying for His own sins and his own sinful nature, not ours.) Only a perfect, sinless man could die in our place.

I don’t know how much you know about the Old Testament, but before Jesus came to earth about 2000 years ago, God had given people a way to be made right with Him kinda temporarily. Jesus would be that way once for all, but in the time before Jesus, God had instructed the Israelites sacrifice a lamb to pay for their sins. It was kinda like an illustration of what Jesus would one day come and do for them. The lamb would die instead of the one who sinned – just like how Jesus would die, instead of us.

But the thing I want to point out is that the animals that were suitable for sacrifice had to be without defect. They had to be perfect. Look at Leviticus 22:21-22. This are just a sampling of some of the instructions for how the Israelites were to bring their sacrifices to God.

“If you present a peace offering to the LORD from the herd or the flock, whether it is to fulfill a vow or is a voluntary offering, you must offer a perfect animal. It may have no defect of any kind. 22 You must not offer an animal that is blind, crippled, or injured, or that has a wart, a skin sore, or scabs. Such animals must never be offered on the altar as special gifts to the LORD.

Leviticus 22:21-22

Only perfect animals could be offered as sacrifices to the Lord. This was an illustration of the perfect, sinless Son of God who would one day die for us. And Jesus Christ is the only qualified person for that. We already talked about how all of us – as decent as we are – are still sinners. We still have that sinful nature.

But not Jesus. 1 Peter 1:18-19 says…

“For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.”

1 Peter 1:18-19

If Jesus was just another ordinary man, he would have been born with sin – just like you and I. He would have had that sinful nature. He would have been sinful – not sinless – and there would have been no way He could have paid the price for our sins. But praise God that Jesus was not just another ordinary man – Jesus Christ is God. He is sinless, and He did pay the penalty for our sins so that we could have eternal life.

And look at the result. Paul says in the last part of verse 22:

As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

Colossians 1:22

That’s pretty incredible! We went from being enemies of God to being holy and blameless without a single fault before Him. Can you imagine! When you accept God’s forgiveness, He wipes the slate absolutely clean. In fact, He gives you a brand new slate. It’s as if you are perfect. Like you never, ever sinned. You are holy and blameless before Him.

It’s the great exchange. Jesus takes your sin – and He pays for it on the cross, and in exchange, he gives you His righteousness.

Then when God looks at you – he doesn’t see that sinful nature anymore. He doesn’t see your lifetime of sinful acts – Jesus took all that. Instead, He sees you just as He created you to be – in the image of God. He sees Jesus’ lifetime of righteousness. He see you as blameless, holy, without a single fault. Isn’t that incredible?!

Doesn’t that just encourage you to know that when God looks at you – he doesn’t see your track record of sin? He sees the track record of Jesus. The perfect, sinless track record of Jesus.

Now of course, that’s not a license to sin – to do whatever we want now that we’re forgiven, thinking that God will be oblivious to it all. It’s all paid for anyway. No. Jesus came to save us from our sin – why would we want to live in it any longer? Why would we live as His enemy after all He has done for us?

And perhaps that’s why Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, ends this section of his letter basically by saying “And don’t you forget it!” Verse 23…

“But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.”

Colossians 1:23

So I too, want to encourage you this morning – believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Jesus Christ is the sinless Son of God. He died in your place so that your sins can be forgiven and you can be reconciled with God. If you believe and accept God’s free gift of Salvation, your sins will be completely wiped out and in God’s eyes, you will be sinless and without fault. This means that God has no problem being with you forever.  In fact, nothing would bring Him greater joy then to spend eternity with you. This is the good news! This is the Hope we have through Jesus Christ!

And so depending on where you are in your journey with God this morning, you can apply all kinds of lessons from this passage.

If you’ve never made the decision to accept the forgiveness that Jesus has made available to you, why don’t you do that today? There is no reason to put it off any longer. God is waiting and ready to wipe your slate totally clean and give you a brand new, fresh start. It doesn’t matter what kind of life you’ve lived – how good you’ve been or how bad you’ve been. Jesus has paid the price for all of it. He wants to exchange your sin for His righteousness. If that sounds good to you, please come and talk to me after the service and I would love to help you take those first steps with God.

Or maybe you have accepted Christ’s forgiveness sometime in the past, but you know that in recent days or weeks or months or even years, you’ve turned your back on God. You’ve gone your own way and done your own thing. But you know, God hasn’t changed how He feels about you. He still loves you like crazy. He won’t give up on you. For you too, He is waiting and ready to wipe your slate clean and give you a brand new, fresh start. 1 John 1:9 tells us…

“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:9

You too, can exchange your sin for His righteousness. He’s the God of second chances. And third chances. And fourth chances – in fact, He’s the God of as many chances as it takes. He loves you like crazy and He won’t ever stop.

Or maybe you’re already living that new life that God has promised! You have peace and joy knowing that your sins are gone. It’s such a relief knowing that God no longer holds those sins against you. I encourage you, as Paul says “continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it.”

This week, you’re still going to struggle with your sinful nature. You’ll still be tempted and there’s a good possibility that at some point, you’ll give in and you’ll sin again. And at that point, Satan would love to get you to doubt your standing with God. He’d like you to believe that you’ve messed up too many times to be forgive again. He like you to believe that God has given up on you. That it’s too late to make things right.

Don’t fall for that. You know the truth. Paul says, “Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.” You are no longer condemned. You are no longer enemies with God. Yes, you will struggle with your sinful nature until Christ returns. Yes, you will make mistakes. But, because of what Jesus has done for you, you are forgiven. Because of the great exchange, Christ has taken your sin and given you his righteousness. You are blameless and spotless and holy as you stand before God.

Continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it.

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