The 30th of this month will commemorate the anniversary of the ending of the Vietnam War. Of all the conflicts our country has been involved in, perhaps none has stirred so much controversy. Not only were there battles fought overseas but protests, sometimes violent in nature, broke out on the streets of the U.S. homeland. There were those who supported the war because they thought the spread of communism had to be stopped. However, few were willing to advocate an all-out effort to win the conflict because that kind of escalation could lead to the use of nuclear weapons and the end of the world as we know it. Some opposed the war believing that if the United States wasn’t going to utilize all its resources to win, then we shouldn’t allocate the lives of our soldiers in an attempt to merely support the status quo. Whichever side one may come out on with regard to being for or against the Vietnam War, one thing that shouldn’t have been up for debate was support and appreciation for American soldiers who fought so valiantly in such harsh conditions. One may question the worthiness of the war’s goals and the wisdom of the leaders making the decisions, but the worthiness of the sacrifice of those fighting on behalf of the interests of our country should never have been up for debate. Yet sadly the pages of history and the memories of many who returned record being welcomed back home with scorn and disdain rather than with the deserved honor and the earned ticker tape parade of conflicts past.
On the 16th of this month we remember the anniversary of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. There is no more consequential nor controversial event in all of human history. Unbelievers look upon “the word of the cross” as foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18). To them Jesus, if He existed at all, was merely a poor Jewish carpenter turned rabbi who fell victim to the finicky nature of a mob and the powerful cruelty of an immense empire. However, to those who are genuine Christians, “the word of the cross” is the power of God unto salvation (1 Cor. 1:18). Jesus’ sacrifice was a worthy one, THE only worthy one, that could redeem a fallen humanity. Who Christ is and what He has done is something, in fact THE THING, to be celebrated and honored both now and forevermore! In this month’s newsletter we will look at Colossians 1:13-20 to see that Christ’s sacrifice is worthy and to know what that worthy sacrifice on the cross availed to all who will believe.
Christ’s Sacrifice is Worthy (Col. 1:13-20)…Though we will devote the least amount of space in this article to this point, it is the most important to be made. In this short little passage from a book which only totals four chapters, we find that Jesus is the exact image of the invisible God, over and above all of Creation, the One through Whom all things were Created, the One who holds all things together, the Head of the Church, the firstborn from the dead never to die again, the One who has first place in everything, and the One in Whom dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily! Indeed such a grand One, the Greatest of the great, the King of kings and the Lord of lords is without question a worthy sacrifice! Whatever He would devote Himself to must then be worthy in the estimation of He whose judgement is beyond reproach, whose character is without blemish, whose love is without guile, whose power is beyond limit, and whose knowledge is unsearchable.
Christ’s Worthy Sacrifice Rescued Us (Col. 1:13)…The local tv news crew was out and about filming a segment on the dangers of “thin ice” forming over some bodies of water. Their work probably would have never made it to national news except for the unexpected event that unfolded before their eyes and camera lenses. A man was walking his dog when somehow the canine got away from him and ran onto an iced-over pond. The pooch didn’t make it very far before the surface cracked and he found himself underwater. The dog’s owner, without hesitation or care for himself, plunged in immediately, swam to his precious pet and thrust him back towards the safety of the shore. The man put his own life in peril, but not without a purpose. The dog would have been lost had it not been for his intervention.
Although you might need to be a dog lover to fully understand an owner jumping in icy water to save their pet (if it had been me, I might have been saying a fond farewell to Fido!), one can sympathize with the desire to rescue an innocent animal that has unwittingly put itself in a compromising position. That being said, we might think of the situation differently if the canine were known to have been a constant thorn in its owner’s side, always barking late into the night, turning over the trash cans, making a mess of the carpets in the house, and even biting the hand that feeds it. We might expect the owner to throw such a dog into icy water, not jump in to save it!
The Scriptures don’t refer to us as lost dogs, but they do liken us to sheep who have gone astray. However, unlike dogs and sheep who may wander away from safety and sense unintentionally, we have a mind and a will that deliberately choose to go against the ways and will of God. Our forefather Adam originated sin and all of us ever since have been making “noble” attempts to perfect it! Humanity has rebelled against our Maker time and time again. He shows us the way, He sends us His Word, He promises eternal blessings when we follow Him and warns of the dire consequences that materialize when we do not. Still, we turn every one to our own way and follow after that which we deem right in our own eyes (Isaiah 53:6; Judges 21:25). Yet, seeing our sinful history and knowing the evil that lurks in our hearts, God still so loved the world that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but would have everlasting life (Matt. 15:18-19; Romans 5:8; John 3:16)! We didn’t fall in the ice of sin and its consequences, we jumped in. Jesus, knowingly and voluntarily, jumped in the ice Himself to rescue the perishing if we but repent and put our trust in Him!
Christ’s Worthy Sacrifice Transfers Us Into His Kingdom (Col. 1:13)…Undoubtedly you’ve seen pictures and videos of the recent horrors in Syria. How vicious must a dictator be to unleash chemical weapons on his own people, even upon women and children?! If the scenes of toddlers and babies choking to death due to poisonous vapors doesn’t move your heart, then I would question if you have one beating inside of your chest. I’m not saying here that the U.S. should bomb or not bomb, send soldiers or not send soldiers, etc.—I’m simply saying that the injustice of babies and children dying in such a horrific way ought to grip us all and send us to our knees.
Long before the events of the past couple of weeks erupted in Syria, a matter of political debate in our country is whether or not refugees from war torn countries in the Middle East should be admitted into America. There are those who believe that for humanitarian reasons we should allow pretty much anyone into our borders to save them from their life-threatening situations. Others, while certainly not wanting to be inhumane, caution that we must have a sure system of background checks in place before admitting refugees to our shores because while there are many in genuine need there will doubtless be some who make it in with desires to cause trouble, perhaps massive trouble, to Americans. I don’t seek to make any political point or policy one way or the other here, but I do think these events provide a powerful illustration with regard to Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Scriptures tell us that through the cross believers have not only been rescued, but we have been transferred into the Kingdom of God’s Beloved Son! Think of it, those who are Christians are not only rescued from the dangerous perils of the world system and the kingdom of darkness, but we have been transferred into the kingdom of light with a full citizenship in Heaven (1 Peter 2:9; Philippians 3:20)!
Christ’s Worthy Sacrifice Redeems Us (Col. 1:14)…Perhaps you’ve been in a hard place financially in life and been forced into pawning some items for money to pay a pressing bill or to buy needed groceries. You know how it works. You take in things that you probably payed quite a bit for and the pawn broker gives you pennies on the dollar. If you wish to “redeem” your possessions then you must pay back all of the price the broker gave you plus additional interest. Most of the items brought into the pawn shop never return to their original owner. If they didn’t have enough money to live on before they pawned their possessions, then they seldom have all the money necessary for their needs plus extra to pay off interest to the pawn broker.
We, the human race, sold not just our possessions into sin’s pawn shop, but indeed we sold our very selves into the slavery of sin. All of us individually, indeed all of us combined, could not muster near the required funds of righteousness to “redeem” ourselves out of bondage. We were hopelessly lost and undone without God and His Son. Jesus, the second Adam, the perfect and spotless Lamb of God, the One who was fully God and fully man, the One tempted in every way such as we are and yet without sin, was the only One who could pay the price for our redemption (Heb. 4:15). He did so willingly (John 10:18)! All who genuinely repent and put trust in Christ can be redeemed out of sin’s bondage and set free from sin’s power.
Christ’s Worthy Sacrifice Reconciles Us (Col. 1:20)…Redemption is a transactional term. Reconciliation is a relational term. Redemption is difficult. Reconciliation, if it’s possible or proper to say, is even more difficult. It’s one thing to forgive a debt that’s owed to you. It’s one thing to pay a debt that you don’t owe. It’s another thing entirely to take the one who has sinned against you, the one who owed you an immeasurable debt, the one who has rebelled against you time and time again in every way imaginable, the one who whose debt you paid, the one who has scorned you and slandered you with vile profanity, and welcome him to your table and regard him as a full-fledged member of your family.
In Luke 15 Jesus tells a story that we have come to call the Parable of the Prodigal Son. A young man, the youngest of two brothers, comes to their benevolent father and asks for his share of the inheritance to be given to him in advance. This was like the son saying to his father, “I wish you were dead already so I could have what’s mine, so I could get what’s really important to me.” The dad yields to his son’s request and the young Jewish man sins in many ways. He goes to a Gentile region and takes up residence (something a Jew was not to do). He then wastes his inheritance on what the KJV simply calls “riotous living” (breaking the 10 Commandments no doubt). When his money is all gone so too were his friends. The young man then ends up working for a Gentile at a pig farm and finding himself so hungry that he wanted to eat the slop given to the swine (perhaps the lowest of the lowest positions a Jew could find himself in). One day the prodigal son “came to himself”, remembered his father’s house and concocted a plan whereby he hoped to be received back. He would go to his dad, confess his sin, declare that he was unworthy to be called a son any longer, and humbly ask to be treated as one of his father’s hired servants. Not sure of what the outcome might be he heads towards the old home place. Things didn’t go exactly as planned. They went BETTER than planned! The loving father runs to him before he reaches the house and embraces him. The son isn’t even able to get out the entirety of his prepared speech before the dad sets in motion a plan whereby the young man would receive a new robe, a new pair of shoes, a new signet ring on his finger, and a party where the fatted calf would be slain to celebrate the coming home of one who was dead but is now alive, one who was lost but is now found. No recriminations; that’s true reconciliation.
Reconciliation means God not only pays our debt, but He wants no distance between us. It means He not only gives us a pardon, but He sets us a place at the table. Reconciliation means there are no second class citizens of the Kingdom and no black sheep children in the family. There’s no “elephant in the room” when we approach the throne of grace through the sacrifice of the Son and in the power of the Spirit (Heb. 4:14-16).