Colossians 1:15-18 (Apostles’ Creed #2)
The Apostles’ Creed helps us to both define and profess what we believe… both as individual Christians and as the Body of Christ, the Church. It sets the field for what’s essential and relevant to our faith.
Relevant… now that’s a catch word that gets tossed about a lot in the greater Church today. How can we be more relevant? How can we preachers offer more relevant messages in the 21st-century? How do we take the “old, old story” and make it practical for modern life?
Of course, so long as were truly talking about actual relevance… as in the relevance of telling the story… of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ… and seeing the relevance of God’s Word in modern life... I’m OK with that. I’ll talk about that kind of relevancy all day long!
But so many who profess a more “relevant” gospel, are actually proclaiming NO gospel at all.
I say that, because a gospel that’s all prosperity (for example), that’s all acceptance... a gospel that’s all happiness… all joy… all sunshine… all blessings… is no gospel at all. And... on the other hand... a gospel that’s all demands… focused on rejection... all rules… all compliance, and judgment… is no gospel at all.
The gospel necessitates the preaching of the whole counsel of God. The judgment AND the grace. The sin AND the forgiveness. That’s why I try to be relevant, but only in the context of striving, as best I can, to proclaim the whole gospel of Jesus Christ.
Obedience tempered by grace. Surrender of self in light of the mercy of God. The valleys of life and the mountains of life - the highs and lows - are all part of the gospel story. It’s not one-sided at all. It takes the complete gospel, to know the true gospel.
In a day and age when “relevancy” means nothing more than “self-help” messages, and when all the world wants to hear is vague references to a “spirituality” that’s based on what I want to hear - God’s Word... the Holy Scriptures are the very wisdom of God, given to us for life. They are the very revelation of God‘s character... of God‘s love for us. The Word of God is the very prescription, that Christ’s life can be ours.
Jesus didn’t come so that life would be easier, or for us to become more popular... or to help us “live our best life now.” Jesus came, he died, to save us... and to reconcile us to a holy God. Literally trading places with us... he took our death, so that we might have his life.
When you and I gather as God’s People on Sunday mornings... yes, it’s always important that we become better parents... or better employees... or better friends - or better, whatever! But our goal, our focus, is to be better followers of Jesus Christ! That’s why we’re here.
We’re here to cultivate a better understanding of what it means to live a life of gratitude for the mercy that’s ours in Christ. To cultivate a better understanding of what it means to live our lives for Christ, in Christ, and through Christ. To help us learn what it means to reflect Christ’s love and grace in this world. And if we’re talking about all that... if we’re working towards that during our time in this place... we’re relevant enough.
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things (these temporal, and important things, the things of this life) will be added unto you.”
And that’s why the Gospel is still relevant today.
Of course, as we talked about last Sunday, the Apostles’ Creed was written nearly 2000 years ago. Some have tried to declare it “irrelevant” to modern worship and life. Antiquated... too “old school” to be practical.
But I disagree.
The Apostles’ Creed boldly professes... and helps us to boldly profess... that “I believe... (WE believe) in Jesus Christ... God’s only Son, our Lord.”
We live in a time of “cancel culture” don’t we. Just watch the evening news and they’ll be quick to tell us what needs to be done away with in our everyday life. Doctor Seuss books? Pepe’ le Pew? Mr. Potato Head? The list goes on... The pronouns “he” and “she.” It’s crazy... but the craziness has a point... and a goal. And the church needs to awaken. It’s ultimately about canceling the standard, the guide and rule of all things that threaten the “me, myself and I” theology and doctrine of the day. And the greatest obstacle, is God’s Word.
Of course cancel culture has been tried before. Nineteen centuries ago, when the Apostles’ Creed was first written… The Roman emperor Domitian proclaimed himself to be a God... and he was to be called Lord. But, followers of Christ said, “NO! We serve one Lord... Jesus Christ is our Lord!” It was specifically defined - not only in the Gospels - but in the Creeds of the church. And many would end up giving their lives, their very last breath... in defense, of Jesus being Lord. They would become martyrs of the faith. It’s interesting the word martyr is derived from a term that means witnesses. Those who had literally had their lives taken away in the process of declaring Jesus and Jesus alone is Lord, were remembered as witnesses. Witnesses to the gospel.
So... what does it mean for us to declare that Jesus Christ is our Lord?
In 2015... 21 Egyptian Christians, working in the oil fields of Libya, were captured by Isis and given the opportunity to recant their faith in Jesus Christ and declare their faith in Islam. All 21 refused. All 21 were martyred. The video was posted online... it was broadcast on news channels around the world... you surely saw it, and remember. But at the moment of their execution many of those believers can be seen saying, “Lord Jesus Christ.”
What does it mean for us to declare that Jesus Christ is our Lord?
Of course, the point I’m trying to make is that for you and me to declare Jesus is our Lord is far more significant... more serious... more radical... than most of us appreciate today. It’s radical and serious enough in many places in this world - even in the 21st Century - to cost your life.
When you and I profess Jesus is Lord... we are professing, along with the church from the very beginning... that Jesus Christ is God. Our scripture for today, from Colossians: Jesus “is the image of the invisible God... for in him all things were created... through him and for him.” John’s gospel puts it like this: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...” Jesus himself said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), and, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Something we need to understand... something that’s relevant for us today... is to know that Jesus wasn’t crucified... he wasn’t killed (executed) for teaching people how to be nicer! He wasn’t crucified because he expanded the bounds of God’s love to the undeserving or the outcasts. He was executed because he claimed to be one with God.
And when you and I profess Jesus is Lord, we’re making that same, bold... radical claim. That God (the Creator, the Sovereign, Omnipotent maker of all things) loved us so much that he became one of us, in order to save us. And to show us just how far God was willing to go... for you and me.
It’s “foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved” (1 Cor. 1:18).
What say you church? Is Jesus Christ Lord? Do we literally believe what we profess, week in and week out? Are we willing to put our trust (our active, participatory, lived-out trust) in the reality that Jesus Christ is Lord?
That he “is the image of the invisible God... for in him all things were created... through him and for him?”
I say yes... I believe.
For this is the word of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God. Amen.