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The Modern World View of the Gospel 3

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The Modern World View of the Gospel 3

The Modern View of the Gospel 3

Colossians 1:6

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

Let’s start at Colossians Chapter 1 verse 6. It runs in a continuation of verse 3, “We always thank God” for you Colossians, and then in verse 5 to 6, “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel (which is the subject) which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing — so among yourselves, from the day you heard and understood the grace of God in truth.”

So he’s talking there about the gospel. You can see that’s the purpose of that whole verse: “the gospel which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing — so among yourselves, from the day you heard and understood the grace of God in truth.”

So it sounds like a wonderful thing. Oh, that’s great! It’s in the whole world, and it’s bearing fruit, and it’s growing among them – right from the day they first heard it and understood the grace of God in truth. It’s all growing, and bearing fruit.

I just think that today people don’t think that way! They don’t think that, “Oh, the gospel! Oh, yes, it’s so wonderful.” Now maybe they do in some places, but I think in the West, they think this: “That sounds wonderful. ‘The gospel which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing — so among yourselves, from the day you heard and understood the grace of God in truth.’”

I think here in the West, people think, “Oh, the gospel! Oh, yeah, that’s that, ‘Jesus died for our sins.’ Oh yeah, and you have to get forgiveness for your sins.” Then immediately their dear minds go to the churches that exist, and all the activities of religion – Christianity. I’m afraid I don’t think they think of it that way!

They think of it a conglomeration of beliefs, ideas, ethics, behavior, and social groupings — that somehow mean Christianity! They don’t think of it as the gospel that in the whole world is bearing fruit and growing, so among yourselves.

Now maybe in China they do. But I would suggest that in our Western world, it’s kind of complex what they think of it. I think some of them may think of it as abortion. Others may think of it as our attitude to ISIS. Others may think of it as daycare at church. Others of us may think of it as the noisy, charismatic churches. Others as the staid respected churches where people go with all their prejudices. But I don’t think people think of the gospel in that joyful wonderful way!

I think part of the reason is what Fromke pointed out in his book, The Ultimate Intention. He was one of those writers that we all got to know during the 60’s and 70’s. He made the point that the story of the gospel in our 20th century was a bit like somebody who had set out on the journey that had a plain and obvious ultimate intention to it — but somehow lost its way.

If you remember, he had the famous diagram that he drew. I don’t have a board for writing on, but it’s easy to explain to you that the ultimate intention was here {pointing, and the starting point was here {pointing, and the journey stayed about there {pointing}. Then it was heading for something

to do with God’s image and growing into God’s image. Then here it hit sin.

It began to be preoccupied with its own problems and ideas, and the road bent down from this straight road, and began to twist and turn among all the versions of the gospel, and the forgiveness of sins, and Christ dying for our sins, and what we had to do in repentance to get back to him. Then it slowly began to try to find its way back to the road that lead to the ultimate intention.

His suggestion was that in these days, it hadn’t found its way back. It was still on the detour, and that Christianity and the Christian churches were preoccupied with them being lost and trying to get saved from their lost condition – rather than ever getting up to what the ultimate intention was — which of course was the image of God, and his fulfillment of his plan for us all in the universe.

So the ultimate intention was never reached. He pointed out that this was the great tragedy of Christianity. It was in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s that it lost its way! It forgot about the ultimate intention that God had, which is the one that is outlined in Genesis 1:26 – that we would be made in his image, like him.

I’ll elaborate it rather more than is there in that verse: we would be made in his image. I always think of him turning around to his Son, and saying, “Let us make man in our image – so that they can live with us forever in love – in the love that we have – and that you can make the universe through them what I had planned it to be, and develop it.” That was the simple gospel.

Of course, I think I’ve shared with you before – it seems to me there is something in that that speaks to man’s lost condition today. Because if anybody has any doubt about mankind in these days – it’s certainly not about their feeling that they don’t know where they’re going. There’s just a general feeling in the world today: “I don’t know what this thing is about! I don’t know where we’re heading!” The ISIS thing is only an obvious terror and panic for us. But the world itself is full of panic, disparate opinions, opposing views, and directions that are colliding with each other almost every day in life.

Most people have that attitude to life. There’s nothing very joyful or simply wonderful or delightful about it. I would suggest to you that quite apart from the difficulty in America that young men and women have in financing their education – I think most of them don’t know what they want to do! They’re not really clear in what they should be doing in life. Everything seems to be up for grabs. Everything seems to be going in all directions, and mostly in the directions that will bring you whatever money will get you through to the next week.

So it seems to me that today we have a picture of a Christian gospel that has lost itself in an emergency salvation detour that has forgotten completely why we were created in the first place. So there’s great vagueness about the gospel, and about what it is. I think that’s the great need.

I would suggest again to those of us who are concerned with the Internet – I think there is a crying need for a plain simple explanation such as we have shared repeatedly. I’m sure I bore you with it! – that we are here because we have a loving Father who wants to live with us forever in love, and he wants us to live with his Son. For that reason he has actually made us part of his own Son.

I’ve said to you before, “I do not think for a moment that most people think that at all.” I think they would laugh at us. You know that we are God’s workmanship. You! You and I – God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that he, our Father, has prepared beforehand, that you should

(cid:9) walk in them. {This is a slight paraphrase of Ephesians 2:10.}

“I think that’s a wonderful fairy tale. I have no notion – no idea at all – that the maker even knows me. In fact, I think he exists somewhere – but I don’t think he knows me. And I certainly don’t think he’s made me in his own Son, as you say. I’m in Jesus Christ? I, who use that name as a curse word – I’m in Jesus Christ? No. Don’t be stupid!” I don’t think they have any idea.

So I would suggest yet again to us that this outline of the gospel that we have in verse 6 is not a glorious thing for people nowadays. It may be talked about joyfully here. But I don’t think of the gospel as a wonderful joyful thing. I frankly think it would be refreshing if they thought the Maker of the world turned around to his Son and said, “Let’s make people like ourselves who can live together with us in love, and can develop this whole universe along with us.” I think people would go, “That’s a great idea! I’d love to be part of that.” But they don’t even know that it exists in the Bible. But even if they did, they have no notion that’s the truth.

So I would actually go the other way. I would say to you: if you forget what the gospel seems to me to most people to be these days – then actually the real gospel is just as wonderful as what is described here in verse 6. It’s a wonderful idea.

I think it would bring great relief – much the same as we were saying to each other – about the idea of everybody eventually getting the opportunity to come to God, even after this life. We thought — that’s interesting. The normal attitude even at a Christian funeral is kind of bleak! People aren’t really absolutely enraptured about the idea of death. They think, “We really don’t know what’s there.” I think it’s very much like that with the gospel.

I don’t think they think of the gospel as a wonderful, joyful, delightful thing – because I think we have buried it under what Fromke said. I think we’ve buried it under the detour. I think that most people would say, “Oh, the gospel! Oh, yes, your sins can be forgiven because Jesus died for me, instead of me dying. Oh yes – I know that.”

But I think it’s kind of a concept that they have – what John Wesley would have said, “a train of ideas in the head.” It’s not the disposition of the heart. The heart does not rise in joy to it. The mind kind of agrees with it, or considers it as a possibility – but not as a wonderful, uplifting thing.

But the reality is tremendous! It’s very exciting when you read the Great Commission there – have dominion over the birds of the air, over the fish of the sea, over everything! {This is Genesis 1:26.} It seems so exciting! It looks so exciting when you see that European probe riding on the back of that comet (as happened in 2014). You feel, “Boy! That is a wonderful universe! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be part of the people that develop that?”

It seems to me that’s uplifting. Of course, that’s the truth of it. But I don’t think they even know Ephesians 2:10. And if they know it, they do not for a moment believe it.

Why I’m enthusiastic about this verse today, to be able to say to you who are listening to this is: That’s what we need to get over to them! We need to have wonderful images that transmit to them the whole wonder and joy of what God has really called us to.

I think it would do the same for people as we were talking about in regard to: “Is there a second

probation {after death}?” as one man suggested. Is there a second opportunity after death to eventually be conformed to Jesus’ image, and eventually because of God’s love, his steadfast love that never ends, and his mercies that never cease – is it possible that there would be that kind of lightness of heart for us in reality?

I think undoubtedly that is the lightness of heart that exists. I think that God is describing a party. I think he’s saying, “My Son, let us make man in our image, and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, over all the planets, over all the solar systems, and enable you through them to develop this universe in the way I have planned.” The Ephesians 2:10 verse follows from that, that “We are (God’s) workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” and that that was what God was describing in Genesis 1:26 — that they would have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air.

God has planned all that. He has it all laid out already. He knows exactly what you will be doing forty years hence. He knows exactly what you’ll be doing seventy or eighty years hence. He has it all planned, and it’s ready for us. Of course that’s the gospel. But the world has no notion of that. So it’s left with this rather gray, bleak view of life after death.

Yet, we have a feeling that the people whose faith and life we’ve come to respect through the years – undoubtedly had only joy in their minds as they thought of heaven. I think of my grandmother – Salvation Army lady. Oh – they just looked forward to it. They were anxious to get there! Those who know God are people who are always looking forward to it. It’s not by any means a second best. It’s what we were looking forward to. It’s the purpose of life.

I would dare to say I look at it that way. I think it will be great!! I think this present life will be nothing compared with what is there for us. It seems to me that’s the gospel, and that’s the gospel that this dear guy {Paul} is describing here. That’s why he says it’s bearing fruit. It’s blossoming. It’s going everywhere! People are anxious to know it, are fired up by it, and are lifted and elevated by it. That’s what we have to put on the web.

I thought so strongly about it that we should each commit ourselves to writing an email to somebody every day, saying, “Send somebody a flower today. Do something creative today. Create order today. Put something right today.” We should actually take action, and take positive action to encourage other people and ourselves to do something beautiful today, to stop saying, “Stop ISIS,” and start saying, “Start joy. Start order. Start beauty. Start peace. Start generosity, and do something definite.” Because it is possible for man to be gripped by the negative, and to be gripped by the unreal and the untrue. It takes strong action to resist this.

If you say to me, “Where do all those ideas come from?” I thought — we have to do something. We have to make a start on the Internet. It’s as if we’re gripped in the present situation. It’s gripped us! And each of us has the little things we’ve done on the Internet, and we think they are quite good and not bad. But we’re in a paralysis in a sense, and we need to break out of it, and tell people what the gospel really is. It’s utterly different from what is being shared.

You all probably know as well as I do: Arrrggh! It’s ordered all right – but dead order. There is a deadness to the Christian sites. There’s not a liveliness about them. I think our job is to express the joy and delight and the reality of what God has saved us for and created us for.

That’s undoubtedly what the world needs. It’s interesting, isn’t it? At a time when the world is

full of new things – full of fiber optic communications that are faster than ever. Full of new gadgets – new smart phones — it’s also a time where there’s kind of a tiredness in the air. Maybe not the malaise that President Carter talked about some years ago. But if not a malaise, there’s a weariness in the world that runs through many things. There’s a great need for the life of God.

So I think we should pray about it, and ourselves consider seriously doing something, and especially maybe sending an email to somebody every day. “Do something creative today,” or, “Create order today,” or, “Send a flower to somebody today.” But – something that would contain that fountain that is talked about in the song, “The peace of Christ makes glad my heart, a fountain ever springing.”

That is God’s norm as you see when you hear that bird welcoming you once more with his song in the morning. Or the birds that you see soaring in the air. Obviously his heart is that.

So we should pray that our websites will be that – they would stand out in what is a not too exciting scene, as you look around these days. Let us pray.