- Psalm 25:1-15
- Colossians 3:1-11
Dr Joseph Haroutunian, a professor at McCormick Theological Seminary, came to America from Armenia. One day a well-meaning friend said to him, “Your name is difficult to pronounce and difficult to spell–it could hurt your professional career. Why don’t you change your name to Harwood or Harwell or something like that?”
Dr Haroutunian asked, “What do those names mean?”
His friend said, “Well, nothing. They’re just easier to remember.”
Dr Haroutunian said, “In Armenia when my grandfather was baptised, they named him Hartounian which means ’Resurrection.’ I am Joseph Haroutunian, and I will be a son of Resurrection all my days.”
This man knew Christ. He knew that his life was hidden with Christ in God. He knew when Christ, who is his life, appears, that he also will with Him appear in glory.
God who is hidden to sinful man
“Your life is now hidden with Christ in God”. (Colossians 3:3)
The Bible teaches us that it is impossible for a human being, sin-stained and mortal, to see God. The holiness of God demanded distance between Him and man. No-one ever saw God personally. He was the One concealed in the cloud, and when He appeared to his people, He kept distance between Himself and man. The people saw the manifestation of his power and holiness, but Him they never saw.
When God commanded Moses to build the tabernacle, He was very specific about the holy and the holiest sections of the temple. These were designed to keep the people away from the holiness of God. In fact, the whole sacrificial system was designed to assure that the people would always be reminded that they are sinful in opposition to the holy God. It is almost as if everything about the Old Testament worship was designed to keep the people away from God, not because He did not love them, but because his holiness demanded it.
Everything about the sacrifices called for the perfect to come: a perfect High Priest, a perfect sacrifice, a perfect righteousness, a perfect love, a perfect holiness. Everything about the sacrificial system screamed out, “Inadequate!” It called for a sacrifice which would bring God and man together again like it was before sin entered into the world through the rebellion of Adam and Eve. Yes, it called for a second Adam.
God from whom nothing is hidden
However, nothing is hidden from God. No-one ever saw Him, but He knows everyone and everything. Nothing is hidden from the eyes of God. Daniel, talking to king Nebuchadnezzar, declared about God:
He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. (Daniel 2:21-22)
Jeremiah writes about God:
Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:24)
David said in Psalm 139:
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:7-12)
Man’s desperate situation
If we just take these two aspects about God into consideration, we will understand that mankind finds itself in a desperate situation. First, there is an impossible mountain and unbridgeable distance between God and us. Second, God knows all about us, and that is enough to condemn us all to eternal destruction. To compound this problem, we, according to our human nature, are not even sensitive to the things of God and heaven. Our hearts are inclined to sin and we enjoy the road to our eternal destruction. Also if we wanted to, we could not bridge the distance between God and us. No good works, good intentions, good thoughts or anything we may deem as acceptable are acceptable before God. Our hands are stained with sin, our minds are corrupted by sin, our hearts are spiritually dead, our eyes are blind to the things of God, and our ears cannot understand the sound of the Gospel.
The way to God
Based on what we heard as Gospel from the previous chapter we now with joyful hearts and minds accept with the apostle the excellent news of the Gospel in Colossians 2:13, 14
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)
The sum of this argument is this: The way to God is the way which is from God.
Can you remember the words participation and association of last week? By faith, I associate with Christ, and the result is that I participate in what He did when He came to fulfil his mission from the Father, which was to bring eternal life to sinners whom His Father loves. Therefore, when Christ died, by faith I participated in his death. When He rose again, by faith, I associate with Him and consequently, I participated in his resurrection. This is possible because the death of our Lord and his resurrection are our righteousness before God. Through baptism, we hear the Gospel sound clearly: your sins are forgiven because by faith and grace Christ’s death took away the curse and sting of death. At communion, we hear the Gospel sound clearly: When Christ died on the cross, God was satisfied, because the Lamb of God took away the sins of the world.
This then takes us to chapter 3:3
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)
The result is astounding and amazing. You died, but you live. How is that possible? Your life is hidden with Christ in God. What a transformation! God who was hidden to the sinner now hides the sinner in Him! How is this possible? It all revolves around the salvation in Christ. In the Old Testament, the regulations were designed to keep sinners away from the holiness of God because of the imperfect sacrifice and righteousness of both the High Priest and the sacrifice. It resulted in atonement to be done over and over again by a fallible human being.
It is a different story now. The author of the letter to the Hebrews puts it this way:
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings, you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, O God.’ ” (Hebrews 10:1-7)
He concludes the same chapter with these marvellous words of grace:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith … (Hebrews 10:19-22)
This is grace and mercy: through Jesus Christ, we now have access to God’s throne of grace. Our life is hidden with Christ in God.
The word hidden also means that our lives are safe with Jesus Christ in God. That safe indeed, that it will be kept by God till the day of the return of our Lord. Peter writes in 1Peter 1:3-5
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)
Paul declares in Colossians 3:4: “Christ is your life”. He is the only One, the only possible way to God, the only possible salvation, the only righteousness acceptable to God. With Him one lives; without Him one is dead. John in 1 John 5:12 hammers in this truth:
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12)
This, of course, begs the question: Do you have that life? Do you know Jesus Christ this way? Do you know Him as your Saviour? Mr Joseph Haroutunian knew, and he proclaimed it loudly and clearly.
If so, you probably look forward to the day of the revelation of Jesus Christ. On that day, every knee will bow before Him and acknowledge that He is the son of God. And with Him, He will have the names of those belonging to God, bought in his blood. And He will call those who died in Him to live with Him; He will call those who are still alive at his return to Him. In his hand, He will hold the scroll of the names of the elect written in the Book of Life, sealed by his own blood.
And eternity will break forth. What a marvellous future do the children of God have! It is just such a pity that some who hear this Gospel might harden their hearts and reject the righteousness of Jesus Christ. They have no life, no future other than eternal destruction away from God. I sincerely hope this is not the case with you.
When we ponder these things and apply it to our lives, what impact does it have? Let’s just name a few things:
- We, who were spiritually dead and operated from God, by his grace in Christ Jesus are now living in Christ, and to the glory of God. “You have been given the fullness of Christ.” (Colossians 2:10) “You were raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raise Him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12). “You have been raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1)
- With Christ, we already have a place in heaven. “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)
- We will see the glory of our God at the return of our Saviour: “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4, ESV)
- This means that our sinful mindset and rebellious hearts were renewed and we were made new. Paul writes,
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)
- The implication is that we are called to become what we’ve been made. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3, ESV) The command is “set your hearts” and “set your minds”. Paul is not saying that we should seek to possess the things above, but that we must seek, or attune, ourselves entirely to the heavenly realities in Christ. We don’t need to strive to make heaven our own—we already have it in Christ—rather, we should make our heavenly status the guide for all our thinking and acting.
- Those who associate with Christ and by faith participate in the salvation He worked out, intentionally seek the things above by deliberately and daily committing themselves to Christ to display the values of the heavenly kingdom and the living out of those values. In other words, we need to continually develop a heavenly mindset in all we do.
- How do we develop this mindset? It takes us back to chapter 1:
… that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; (Colossians 1:9–10, ESV)
How? Through a growing knowledge and a life grounded in “the word, the Gospel of truth” (Colossians 1:5) Know your Bible!
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 21 October 2018