Over the years, banks have made it increasingly difficult to counterfeit money. And the reason for that is that, over the years, counterfeiters have become quite skilled at creating counterfeits and these counterfeits dupe banks, businesses, and ordinary people out of their hard earned cash.
Thankfully, probably because of these security features or ones like it, I’ve never experienced getting stuck with counterfeit cash and I hope I never do. But I have had experience with counterfeits.
Last summer I took up the hobby of collecting silver. I bought some collectors coins from the Canadian mint. I bought some “junk” silver from eBay – that is, old Canadian or American coins that 50 years ago had actually had some silver in them. And I also bought some silver coins and silver bars from various mints all over the world.
I was fairly naive at the time and didn’t do my research as well as I should have. To make a long story short, I spent some of my hard earned cash on some counterfeit silver. I have one here – I keep it to remind myself to be a little bit wiser in future eBay purchases.
To just look at it – it seems like the real thing. It’s the right size, right shape, the design matches the real thing. But underneath the thin silver coating, is a bar of copper. It is not a pure silver bar as advertised. It was a fake. It was a counterfeit – I had been duped.
If you have ever been duped by counterfeits, you know the feeling. You’re mad the other guy for taking your money! You’re mad at yourself for falling for their deception.
It stinks. No body likes getting duped.
But you know, people get duped all the time. We live in a world where many people have been duped about God – about who He is and what He’s like – About the meaning of life and realities after death. Our world is full of counterfeit religions and counterfeit beliefs.
And getting duped in this way is far more serious than getting ripped off on eBay. I mean, we’re talking about life-changing, eternal consequences here. So it is absolutely imperative that we can sort out what is true and real and what is counterfeit when it comes to our beliefs about God.
And what makes it increasingly difficult is that many of these counterfeits are very convincing. I mean, that’s the nature of a counterfeit – it looks like the real thing. If it wasn’t convincing, no one would fall for it.
So with so many convincing, yet different beliefs about God and who He is and what life is all about, how do we make sure that we believe what is really true and real? How do we keep from being duped?
Well, the people that lived in the city of Colosse had the very same dilemma. Now, if you’re not familiar with the city of Colosse, that’s understandable. It’s one of those ancient cities that have long since disappeared from the map. You can still find Colosse today (it’s in modern day Turkey) – but it’s not a really a thriving city anymore.
I found just a couple of pictures on the internet of what Colosse looks like today. It’s pretty much just a grassy hill. Well at one time, Colosse was a grand city and around 60 AD, it was home to a newly planted church. Now in your Bibles you find a book called Colossians. Colossians is a letter written by Paul to this new church plant in Colosse – to the Colossians.
Now it’s interesting to note that Paul didn’t start this church. He started a lot of churches in a lot of cities, but the church in Colosse wasn’t one of them. In fact, this church was started by a man named Epaphras. And as far as we know, Paul had never even been to Colosse. So why did He write this letter to the Colossians?
Well, it seems that the church in Colosse was having a hard time with counterfeits. Not counterfeit money – but counterfeit beliefs about God and Christianity – specifically about the person of Jesus. There were these false teachings going around and people were getting duped. They were being deceived. And so Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians to set the record straight – to give them the truth about Jesus Christ and about Christianity.
And so basically, the four short chapters in the book of Colossians are Paul’s summary of the Good News. They explain who Jesus really is and what He’s really done – and how we are really supposed to live because of that. It’s Christianity in a nutshell.
And so that’s what we want to look at for the next several Sundays. Paul’s Christianity in a nutshell – the book of Colossians. And our aim is to learn the truths of the Gospel so that we don’t get duped – to understand the truth of who Jesus is, what He has done for us, and how we are to respond because of that.
I want to begin with a quick look at just the first 6 verses.
“This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.
2 We are writing to God’s holy people in the city of Colosse, who are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.
May God our Father give you grace and peace.
3 We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, 5 which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News. 6 This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace. Colossians 1:1-6
Let’s just pause here for now. Let’s start with this first nutshell truth: In a nutshell, Christianity is about changed lives. Look back at verse 6. Let’s read that again.
“This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.”
Christianity is about changed lives. It’s not about going to church. Or doing good things. Or being a good person. It’s not about following all the rules. It’s about God changing your life as you hear and understand the truth about God’s wonderful grace.
Now there are a lot of things in this world that claim to change your life. Winning the lottery might change your life. An effective weight-lose program might change your life. Being in a car accident might change your life. Meeting that special guy or girl might change your life.
But the change that God brings to your life is far, far more significant than any of those. This morning I’ve asked Sarah to come and briefly share her testimony with you. Sarah is a real life example of someone who has had their life completely changed by the truth of God’s wonderful grace. Now that doesn’t mean she was a drug dealer or anything like that before she met Christ – but God has totally changed her life.
[Online readers: Sorry – I don’t have a transcript of Sarah’s testimony….]
Sometimes you hear testimonies of drug-dealing, murderous, gang-leader criminals that hear the Gospel in prison, get saved, and become completely different people. Their stories are always so captivating. But Sarah never got into drugs, she hasn’t killed anyone, she never went to prison. She just grew up hearing about Jesus and made a commitment to Him at Camp when she was still a kid. Is her story less amazing? Was her life less changed? No way! The fact that Sarah was saved from her sins – rescued from an eternity of suffering, adopted into God’s family – is spectacular!
Look just a little further in Colossians chapter 1. This is actually supposed to be part of next week’s message, but look at what Paul says in Colossians 1:13 & 14.
“For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.”
That sounds pretty spectacular to me! When Sarah put her trust in Jesus – believing that He died on a cross – taking the punishment for her sins – and rising to life again three days later, when Sarah believed all that, she experienced a remarkable change.
Sarah’s sins were forgiven. Her guilt was removed. Her eternal destination was changed from eternal death to eternal life. She went from being an enemy of God to being adopted by God. She was rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of light. And what’s more, everyone one of us who have accepted Christ as our Saviour have experienced those same spectacular changes!
Turn in your Bibles back just a little bit to Ephesians chapter 2. This is a great passage that really paints a clear picture of this amazing change that happens when we put our trust in Jesus. Ephesians 2 – starting at verse 1.
Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 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.
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. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Wow! Isn’t God good? What He has done for us is amazing! This passage starts off – once you were dead because of your sins…. but then He gave us life! What a change! And of course, it’s not talking about physical life and death here. But spiritually. We were dead to God. Because of our sin, we were cut off from him. We were like a branch cut off from a tree. That branch has no life. It withers and dries up. It’s dead. It’s useless. And before God gave us life – that’s what our life was like. We felt withered and dried up. There was something missing in our life. We didn’t have lasting joy or peace in our hearts or that sense of true satisfaction. We had no life in us.
Maybe some of you are experiencing that right now in your life. Maybe life seems empty and hopeless. Maybe you feel like there’s got to be more. Maybe all you’ve got inside you is pain and frustration. If that’s the case, let me assure you – Christ can change all that.
Now that’s not to say that God will erase all our problems. But He will give us strength and joy and peace in the midst of our problems. He gives us hope for the future.
As many of us have experienced for ourselves, Christ came to give us life. Verse 8 says that God saved us by his grace when we believed. The moment that we accepted Christ as our saviour, suddenly, we weren’t dead anymore. God gave us life. He gave us that lasting joy and deep inner peace and true satisfaction. In fact, verse 10 tells us that God “created us anew” in Christ Jesus. Its like we became a brand new person. 2 Corinthians 5:17 actually says that specifically.
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Wow! That’s a serious change! We’re not a dried up, withered branch anymore. We are a new green shoot that is alive and growing and able to produce fruit.
And that’s actually another aspect of the changed life. Not only are we changed in an instant when we believe – going from being dead in our sins to being alive in Christ – but we are also continually being changed from that point on. God changes us to become more like Christ in our thoughts and our actions and our attitudes. Romans 12:2 tells us…
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2
As we stay connected to God – just like that branch stays connected to the tree, God continually transforms us. As we spend time with God in prayer, as we read His Word, as we spend time with other Christians who are doing the same thing, God changes us. He changes the way we think – which in turn changes the way we act.
This is something that God has been teaching me recently. The way we think completely determines the way we act.
If I think that the ice on a certainly lake is several feet thick, I might drive my truck out on the ice to go ice fishing. But if I think that the ice on that lake is only a few inches think, I most certainly will not take my truck out on the ice. If my thinking is wrong, I could be in very big trouble.
That’s why it’s so important to let God change the way we think, because if we think wrong – we will act wrong. But if we think right, we will act right.
When we allow God to change the way we think, it changes everything.
Imagine if God changed the way you think about others, for example. If you could think about others the way God thinks about others, do you think you would act any different? Just that one little area of our thinking would change everything.
It would change how we interact with our neighbors. It would change how we parent. It would change how we work. It would change how we treat our spouse. It would change how we date. It would change everything.
God transforms us into new people by changing the way we think. But He can only do that as we choose to stay connected to Him.
None of this change comes automatically. God doesn’t change you without your consent. All of this change that we’ve talked about this morning only comes as you make a conscience decision to let God change your life.
Sarah talked this morning about how she made a choice. She chose to believe that God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to live on this earth some 2000 years ago. She chose to believe that this sinless man Jesus, died on a cross and rose again from the grave three days later. She chose to accept Christ’s sacrifice for her and to accept the free gift of eternal life that God offered to her. She made that choice – and her life was forever changed.
How about you? Have you ever made that choice? Have you ever consciously made the decision to accepted God’s unconditional love for you, to accept the sacrifice of His Son Jesus, to accept his forgiveness, to accept his gift of eternal life?
If you haven’t – today would be a great day to make that choice. If that’s something you’d like to do, I’d sure encourage you to come talk to me or to someone else that you know – we’d love to help you take these first steps in this new life with God!
And if you have already made that decision – perhaps even a long time ago – I’d add a further challenge for you.
What changes are you allowing God to make in your life right now? Science tells us that everything that is alive, grows. So if you are alive in Christ, how are you growing? How are you changing?
Are you still making those conscious decisions to allow God to change your life? Are you giving Him opportunity to change the way you think? Are you spending time alone with him in prayer? Are you feeding your mind a regular diet of His Word? That’s where growth and change happens.
We talked at the beginning of this message about getting duped – and how horrible it is to go through that.
Satan would love to dupe us into staying the same. He would love to see us stagnant and not growing. Disconnected from God. Not producing any fruit. He’d love to distract us with a million other things and keep us so busy that we miss out on spending that time with God and being changed.
Don’t be duped. Take the time this week to let God change your life by changing the way you think. Decide right now to spend at least some time every day this week with God in prayer and in his Word. Set an alarm on your phone to remind if you have to.
If this is something new for you – you’ve never spend time alone with God on a regular basis, well, there’s no specific formula for how you do it. To get you started, you might want to try going through a devotional book or an online devotional series. These usually have a short passage from the Bible and some thoughts to get you thinking about what that passage means. The idea is that you read through one of those each day and allow the truths the Bible sink down into your heart, and then spend some time just talking to God – I think you’ll find that God will begin to change the way you think.
There are all kinds of devotionals out there. Just to give you one example, if you go to biblegateway.com/devotionals – there are a huge list of different devotionals that you can choose from – devotionals written for men, for women, for families, devotionals that walk you through the Bible, there are even audio devotionals that you don’t have to read – you just listen to them.
But however you do it, choose today to do something. Spend that time with God. Make the choice to let God change your life.