Who is Jesus? As you just saw, you can find a wide variety of answers to that question. We talked two weeks ago about counterfeits and how tragic it is when people get duped – not just out of their hard-earned money – but in matters of eternal consequences. And judging by the wide variety of responses in this video, it’s clear that many people are getting duped about Jesus Christ. They’ve been deceived about who He really is.
And that’s not just in the secular world. If I were to ask that same question – “Who is Jesus” to a room full of people who have gone to church for years, there would probably be many people who could not give a full and accurate answer of who Jesus is and what He’s done.
And this was the exact problem that the church in Colosse was facing in 60 AD. There were people in the church who were being confused and deceived about who Jesus Christ is. False teachers were spreading counterfeit beliefs about Jesus. And so that’s one of the main reasons that Paul writes this letter (what we call the book of Colossians) to the church in Colosse. To address this issue, Paul’s gives them – what I’ve called Christianity in a Nutshell – and he spells out for them in this book, in no uncertain terms, the truth about Jesus Christ.
And so that’s exactly what we want to look at today, because quite frankly, I don’t want to get duped. I don’t know about you, but I want to know the truth – especially when my eternal future is on the line. What does the Bible say? Who is Jesus Christ? And what difference, if any, does He make to my life today? So that’s what we’re going to look at this morning.
We want to pick up today where we left off last Sunday – Colossians chapter 1, today starting at verse 15.
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
I think we’ve got to stop right there. That is a profound statement. Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites had not visibly seen God. Because God is spirit, they were not able to physically see him. However, the Israelites had certainly experienced his presence. God was not hiding from them. He had revealed His presence on many occasions. One of the most vivid times when God made his presence known was on Mount Sinai – just before he gave the law to Moses. Let’s take a look at that passage for a minute.
Then the Lord told Moses, “Go down and prepare the people for my arrival. Consecrate them today and tomorrow, and have them wash their clothing. 11 Be sure they are ready on the third day, for on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai as all the people watch. 12 Mark off a boundary all around the mountain. Warn the people, ‘Be careful! Do not go up on the mountain or even touch its boundaries. Anyone who touches the mountain will certainly be put to death. Exodus 19:10-12
Being in the presence of God was no small thing. God gave them three days to focus on getting ready for his arrival. They had to wash their clothes. They had to stay far away from the mountain where God would be arriving. They couldn’t even touch the boundaries of the mountain or else they would be put to death. This is serious stuff… Jump down to verse 16
On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled. 17 Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a brick kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently. 19 As the blast of the ram’s horn grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God thundered his reply.
Being in the presence of God is both amazing and terrifying. Although the Israelites never saw the person of God – they sure experienced his presence in a powerful way. So with that in mind, think now of how profound it is for Paul to say “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.”
That God who descended on that mountain in the form of fire – that God who made the mountains shake – The God who thunders his reply to Moses. This person Jesus Christ is the visible image of THAT invisible God. That’s amazing!
I mean – who knew? Think of all the people that knew Jesus as he was growing up – think of the people he bumped into in the marketplaces – think of the Romans soldiers laughing at Him as they nailed him to the cross. This guy Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God? It seems pretty hard to believe. But it’s true. Paul continues….
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.
As you can see, Paul has some pretty loft claims about who Jesus is. Now most people today have no problem accepting the fact that the man Jesus existed. There is enough historical evidence around that if you do your research, you would likely conclude that, Yes, somewhere around 30 AD there was a man named Jesus who lived in Israel. But what most people refuse to accept is that this man, Jesus, was God. They’ll say He was a good man, he was a great teacher, he was a prophet of God. (We heard all those things in that video…) But they don’t accept that Jesus was God. And yet that’s exactly what Paul is clearly stating in these verses. Look at…
He existed before anything was created…
Jesus was not created. He existed before anything was created. When I was pastoring in Mirror, there was a fellow who had been coming to the church for a while and he told me one day that he believed that Jesus was created by God. Like you and I, he came into existence when he was conceived. But Paul is clearly teaching against that. Jesus existed before anything was created. He was present and part of the whole creation process.
through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth….
So not only did Jesus already exist before creation, everything was created through Him.
I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed in the creation account in Genesis, but when God talks about creating man, he speaks in plural. Let’s look at that for a second. Genesis 1:26
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.” Genesis 1:26
Who’s God talking to? Who’s “us”? From this passage in Colossians (and from others), we can conclude that God is referring to the triune God – The trinity – God the Father, God the Son (who is Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus was very much a part of the creation process and in fact, Paul says He continues to hold all creation together.
He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together…
Paul is not describing ‘a good man’. Paul is not describing ‘a great teacher’. And Paul is not describing ‘a prophet of God’. Paul is describing someone who could be nothing less than God Himself.
And Paul isn’t the only one who describes Jesus that way in the Bible. These verses in Colossians sound very similar to the first few verses in the Gospel of John. Let’s look at those: As we read these verses in John chapter 1, you’ll see that John talks a lot about “The Word”. When John refers to “the Word”, he’s actually referring to Jesus. So have that in your mind as we read… John 1:1.
In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He existed in the beginning with God.
3 God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
Sounding familiar? Skip down to verse 14
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John 1:1-4, 14
John spells it out for us. The Word (or the Father’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ) who was with God and who was God – became human and made his home among us.
Back in the 1990s Alanis Morissette put out a song “What if God was one of us?” Does anyone remember that song?
The course goes – “What if God was one of us – just a slob like one of us – just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home….
I don’t think I would put it quite that way, but in essence, that’s exactly what John 1:14 says happened. God became one of us. He became human and made his home among us.
In fact, when you read the Christmas story in the book of Matthew, we find that the name given to Jesus as a baby means exactly that – God is with us. We read that in Matthew 1:23.
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23
So who is Jesus? It seems very clear from the Scriptures that Jesus Christ was no ordinary man. He was not just a good person, not just a great teacher, and not just a prophet of God. But Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God. He is God with us.
And this is a foundational truth of Christianity. We’re going to talk a little bit more next week about how everything we believe as Christians – our salvation, our forgiveness, our hope of eternal life – all hinges on the fact that God became one of us and died in our place.
But for today I just want to dwell on the amazing fact that God chose to come and be with us.
Go back to the very beginning. When God created the world, he didn’t just put everything in place, set it all in motion and then just let it go! He didn’t just sit up in heaven and watch the events of earth unfold like a good movie. No – God chose to be present with Adam & Eve. He wanted to be part of their lives. He wanted their experience of life to be with Him. We read about God coming down to walk with them in the cool of the day. We read about their conversations. And even after they sinned, God didn’t leave them. Their relationship was changed that day, but God was still present.
And this theme of God being present with man continues throughout the Old Testament. We read about God promising to be with Abraham and with Isaac and with Jacob and with Joseph and with Moses.
Earlier we read about God coming down on Mount Sinai to meet the Israelites. In fact, in Exodus chapter 24 you can read about Moses and the 70 elders actually eating a meal in the presence of God! That would be amazing!
We read about God being with the Judges – Samson, Ehud, Samuel.
We read about God being with King David, King Solomon, King Hezekiah.
And all throughout the prophets – we read about God’s promised to send the Messiah and he would be Immanuel – God with us. This theme of God being with us goes throughout the whole Bible.
And it all comes to a head about 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ became the visible image of the invisible God. Immanuel was born. God was with us. The Word became flesh and made His home among us. It wasn’t the first time God was with us, but it was the first time God became one of us.
What other god has ever done that? What other god loves his creation so much that he became one of them so that he could die in their place to offer them salvation and so that they could live with him forever? There’s only one God who loves like that.
But the story doesn’t even end with Christ’s death and resurrection. When Jesus returned to heaven after he rose from the dead, do you remember some of the last recorded words that He said? Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
I am with you always! That’s been God’s desire since day one. To be with us. Always.
It’s pretty mind blowing to think that the God who created the universe – the God who just spoke and all the planets and the sun and all the billions of massive stars in the sky just appeared – that God wants to be with you. He wants you to know him. He wants you to enjoy a close friendship with him. He wants you to be with Him.
As Christians, we have the hope of eternity with God. But we don’t have to wait until heaven! God wants to be with us today!
I grew up in a very Christian environment. My family and extended family were all Christians. I attended church and youth group every week. I attended a Christian school. I spent my summers at Bible camp. I grew up speaking Christian-ese…
And so one of the things that I was taught at home, at church, at school, and at camp was to do my devotions each day. To read my Bible and pray. And so for the most part – I tried to do that. But I think for much of my experience, I missed the point.
The time I spend reading my Bible was just reading my Bible. It was checking something off my to-do list. I wanted to be a good Christian, and by reading my Bible each day – I figured I was.
But I’m realizing now more and more, that God isn’t so concerned with me reading x number of verses each day or spending x number of minutes in my Bible. God just wants me to be with him. God wants me to know him. He wants me to acknowledge his presence in my life. And not just for 15 minutes in the morning – but all day. Certainly my Bible reading can be part of that, but it’s not the only part.
God wants me to experience life with Him. He wants me to drive my van with Him. He wants me to mow my lawn with Him. He wants me to play with my kids with Him. God wants to be ever present in every day in every moment in every activity of my life.
I’m not sure where you are in your journey with God this morning. Maybe some of you feel very far from God. Maybe you don’t know Him. Maybe you’re not ever sure if you want to know Him. That’s alright. But let me encourage you – God wants to be with you. He created you and He loves you more than you can imagine. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done – either good or bad – God loves you just the same. And He would love nothing more than to spend eternity with you. He loves you that much.
But you’ve got to make that choice to be with Him. We only have this lifetime to make that decision. If we choose not to be with Him in this life – He will, with much sadness, honor our choice and we will spend eternity apart from him.
But if we choose to be with Him – if we acknowledge who He is and what He has done for us, He promises to be with us for the rest of this life and for eternity.
Hebrews 13:5 says:
“For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” Hebrews 13:5
What an awesome promise!
If you’re a Christian this morning – that promise is for you. Jesus hasn’t changed his name – it’s still Immanuel – God is still with us! He’s with us when things are going great. He’s with us when things are going lousy. He’s with us when we sin – he’s with us when we repent. He never abandons us.
I know even as Christian there are times when we feel far from God. Sometimes we have those mountaintop experiences (like Moses and those 70 elders eating a meal in the presence of God) where we can really feel that God is real and present in our lives, but there are also those times that follow that where you feel like you’re just wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Where is God in those times?
Let me assure you – God hasn’t gone anywhere. He will never fail you. He will never abandon you. Even in those times of disobedience where we foolishly choose not to obey God – He still never leaves us.
I think in those times we feel far from God – perhaps its because we aren’t looking for Him. Maybe we’re focused on what God hasn’t done yet. Or maybe we’re focused on our circumstances. Or maybe we’re just focused on ourselves.
But I think as soon as we look for God – we’ll see that he’s still there. He never left us. He didn’t abandon us. He is still with us.
And thanksgiving is a great time to remember to look for God. Look for all the evidence that He’s still there.
It can be as simple as looking at the sunrise. Yup – God’s still there – he’s still holding all creation together. He causes the sun to rise and he causes it to set. The world is still under his control. He’s still there.
Take a deep breath. God’s still giving you life. He gives you air to breath every moment – he’s provided food for you to eat – he’s given you a place to lay your head at night. He’s still there – taking care of you.
We could go on and on for some time – and I hope you do all day. Take this thanksgiving weekend to remind yourself again and again that Jesus Christ is Immanuel – God is with us.
Keep looking for evidence of Jesus. Thank Him for who He is and for what he’s done – and for being with you from now to eternity. Acknowledge his presence in every moment of every day and take the time just to be with Him.
Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He is Immanuel – God with us.