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Evan Earwicker: The Supremacy of Christ, Colossians 1:15-20

July 31, 2023

Audio Recording

Relationship with Christ is the point and the plan of the gospel. When we have Christ we have everything. Everything we pray about concerns Christ because he is in everything and all things are held together through him.

Jesus Above All
Jesus Above All
Evan Earwicker: The Supremacy of Christ, Colossians 1:15-20

Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:07 Well, we're gonna be in the book of Colossians today. Pastor Ben started our series in the book of Colossians last week, and I will continue it today. we're gonna be again in Colossians chapter one, if you have a Bible. And if you don't, we're gonna put it on the screen as well. as, as you go there, I wanted to tell a story. I was the youth pastor here at Westside for several years, several years ago. And at that time, we were making a really concerted effort to make ourselves available to volunteer in the school system, especially in our high schools. And so that looked like, chaperoning dances and volunteering at games. And some of our team would go and, and, and assistant coach, and, all these different ways, whatever we could do to help our schools, we wanted to be available. And a couple of our students happened to be in choir at one of our high schools, and they found out that the choir teacher was looking for someone to come and help, judge auditions for the choir. And so one of the students thought, oh, pastor Evan is a musician. Maybe he'd be interested in doing that. So came to me and asked, and I said, I like music. I like judging people. Sure, we'll do it. It was great.

01:19 so I show up at the school and, and I, I go into the, the choir room and they introduce me, and then the choir teacher says, okay, so, I will be spending time with the girls, and, Evan here is gonna take the boys into a different room, and we're gonna teach you the parts to this song that you're gonna sing for your audition. And so she hands me the sheet music for this song that the boys were gonna have to sing for their audition. And as she's handing it to me, you know, that internal voice that she, we all have, here's what the internal voice said. It said, Evan, you need to tell her that you can't read sheet music.

01:57 .

01:59 I took the music and I looked her in the eyes and I said, sounds great. We'll see you in 20 minutes.

02:05 Went into the practice room, there's a piano there, and 12 high school boys staring at me. So I sit down at the piano and I play piano. Okay? So I, I play piano. You might've seen me here from time to time leading worship from the piano. And you might think Evan's a piano player. no, I'm not. I'm a worship piano player. And there is a distinction between a worship piano player and a real piano player, a worship piano player. You may not be familiar, only has to know four chords and maybe one minor. And then you just move those around all day long, okay? If you know worship music, we wanna say thank you to Chris Tomlin for writing all his music with only four chords. It makes it really easy.

02:46 Now, in an actual musical setting, there's things like notes and music and things that are just beyond me, okay? So I, I sit down at this piano and I fake my way through 20 minutes of teaching these boys how to sing this song, okay? A lot of air quotes going on. We step out of the room and the girls start singing the song that they actually learn. And then the boys get up, and one by one it becomes very clear that this is the first time they're hearing the song as the choir director is playing it. And I sat there next to the choir director, and I just shook my head as if to say, I'm just so disappointed in these boys. They don't have it . They don't, they're never gonna get there. I I think there's probably a young man out there right now, and he, he's starting his career in like, you know, zoology.

03:39 He has a beautiful voice. And the world will never know. They will never know. 'cause he missed his chance. if you're like me, you want to present in such a way to everybody around you that you can meet the expectations that are placed on you. Anybody like that? You don't wanna fall short of expectations. You don't wanna disappoint people. You don't wanna arrive at something and realize that you're under-resourced for the task. You don't want to come off like, maybe you're not what they're expecting you to be. In Colossians, Paul is riding to this church. He did not start this church, but a, a coworker of his started this church. And, and here's this, this young Christian movement starting in the city of Colossae in the ancient Greco-Roman empire. And the church is caught in between these pressures. On one hand, you have internal pressure from, the Jewish believers who are in the, in the community of faith in the church.

04:42 And, and it's been about, you know, 20, 30 years since Jesus walked the Earth. And so the memory is fading a bit. And there's these questions of what we have, Moses' law, we have the Torah. Do we really need to put all of our faith and hope in Jesus when we have a pretty good set of rules? Could we, could we kind of go back to that and, and lean on that as the, the foundation of our faith? And then outside the church in this very Greek city, you have all this pressure to just embrace the status quo, which is idols and, and worship of gods that are on every corner. And so in between these two extremes and these pressures, you have this group of followers of the way followers of Jesus. And Paul is writing to them because he knows how intense the pressure is to go one way or the other, and to drift from faith in the cornerstone that is Jesus.

05:38 And I don't think this is, a reflection of some kind of menacing attitude that a, a, a believer would drift away from their faith. I think many times drift from faith happens because we have good intentions, because we don't wanna disappoint people because we want people to like us, us, right? And so we begin to kind of shape, shift our view of Jesus and, and who we think of him, and how we view Jesus based on who we're around the company we keep. And Paul is right into the Colossians to say, stay firm in your faith. What Jesus is not, don't make him. And what Jesus is, don't downplay. And we're gonna see in the next couple weeks, as Paul begins to walk through some of these issues that the Colossians Church is facing, he begins to address and give pastoral advice to this church.

06:34 But in chapter one, he doesn't give any advice. Chapter one, there's no how to, there's no nice application, nothing. Yet, in chapter one, Paul does something else. He writes about Jesus. He gives us some of the most poetic and intensely elevated expressions of the person and the greatness of this person Jesus. Not only Jesus as the, the, the, the man who walked the earth and healed and taught, and but Jesus as the incarnation, Jesus as the full expression of God. Before he gets to fixing the Colossians issues, he's gonna hold up the name of Jesus really high. And so here's where we pick up in Colossians chapter one. We're gonna start in verse 15. This is Paul's great hymn of praise to the exalted Christ. It says, Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created in his supreme overall creation.

07:41 For through him, God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see in 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. He existed before anything else. And he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He's the beginning supreme over who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. And this is not just a a chronological first. This is preeminence. This is, this is Jesus above all else for God. And in all his fullness, was pleased to live in Christ. And through him, God reconciled everything to him himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and unearth by means of Christ's blood on the cross. And the church says Amen. Amen. Amen.

08:37 This is Paul's one of Paul's great hymns of praise to Jesus. If you're like me and you've read the gospels, you've read these stories about Jesus walking with his disciples, healing, raising Lazarus from the dead, opening, blind eyes, multiplying loaves and fish, and you think, man, that seems great for them. My faith doesn't have the benefit of walking side by side with Jesus on the mountainside. My faith doesn't have the benefit of seeing him with my eyes or sharing breakfast on the beach like he did with Peter. I don't get that kind of experience with Jesus that disciples had. Here's the cool thing. Paul didn't come onto the scene until after the death resurrection and the sense of Jesus. So the experience that Paul has, knowing and loving and exalting Jesus is the same experience that's made available by the Holy Spirit to us today.

09:35 We may not have the John type experience of remembering what it was like to sit with Jesus at the last Supper, but today we can have the experience Paul had whereby the Holy Spirit, we experience the presence intangible ways, the presence of Jesus who was before all things, and who holds all things together. That's good. After the decade since Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected, it probably was tempting for these young churches to begin to downgrade the person of Jesus, right? So Jesus made a lot of claims about himself. He pointed to himself as being equal with God. he said, and we're gonna look at this later in the, in the message today, in, in John 14, that he was the way, the truth and the life. And no one got to God, no one got to the Father, except through him. He said all these elevated things about himself.

10:28 And after several decades, you know, memories start to fade. And I think it probably would've been easy and maybe even more palatable in their culture to downgrade the preeminence, the greatness of Jesus, and to make him one among many other things. And so Paul, before he ever gets to any of their issues, he says, don't you dare do that. Jesus is the fullness of God made man. We don't take Jesus and make him more palatable. We don't take the greatness of who Jesus wildly and, and what must have been perceived as insanely claimed to be. We don't, we don't take that and make it small enough to where everyone's like, oh, we're cool with it now. No, we hold up Jesus, the Jesus who claimed to be on equal footing with Almighty God and said, I'm the only way. And that is tough, but we don't diminish Jesus.

11:23 And this is what Paul is, is inviting the Colossian church to wrestle with. Are we really okay worshiping a Jesus who made these kind of claims? Are we really in it? If Christ is the image of the invisible God, can we really hang with that kind of Jesus? So we get to this poem, and then we're like, okay, that's great, Paul. Nice song, good work, super moving. Now what are we supposed to do? where's the application? Like, give me some how tos, give me, give me the d i y Come on. I need the recipe for what I do with my life. Now, you know, our church in, in Colos, Colossae, you know, we have issues and we only have so much letter space. So get to the point, Paul, you might be sitting there today. You're like, get to the point, Evan , you know, we got 16 minutes, lunch is ready.

12:22 Those subs won't eat themselves, or whatever you're heading to after this. And there is a natural drive for us to say, okay, that's nice. That's inspirational. Even maybe in worship today, you're like, okay, we get it. Yes, that was nice to sing about those nice things. Now I need some actionable points. And Jesus again and again, deserves to be set up and looked at and worshiped and understood to be the fullness of God made man, we gotta start there. Otherwise, we will not have the correct perspective to begin to deal with the issues of our hearts. We become equipped to address all the things on the inside of our hearts and all the issues in the community, only after we see Jesus for who he is, the fullness of God poured and filled in this person called Jesus. And you know, if you've been around West side, you might've seen our slogan, life love Jesus.

13:23 You say, I have a note called a slogan. Well, it is, it's a slogan. It's a, it's a brand. And I think sometimes we can use Jesus almost, and hear me out. We can use Jesus as a brilliant marketing ploy without really inviting the presence of a living Jesus, to shape us on the inside. And so what we don't want is we don't wanna have a church, and we have our, our, the name of Jesus flying in banners over shoveling Park Road, which we do. And yet, when we get on the inside, we have no concept of what it is to worship Jesus and Jesus alone. And so Jesus becomes, for the church that is seeking him for this community that is, is hopefully leaning into the way of Jesus more than a marketing plan, more than just a, a theme or a slogan or a nice brand or a logo.

14:16 Come on. Jesus becomes the centerpiece of all we say, and all we do and all we're about. In fact, I read this post, from a pastor over in England named Pete, Greg, and he said this, and I, I thought this was, a really good way to frame this idea of Jesus at the sinner. He said, can I be honest with you? I'm actually not into prayer. I'm into Jesus. And so we talk. I don't believe in the power of prayer. I believe in the power of God. And so I ask for his help a lot. I'm not into evangelism. I hate evangelism. I'm into Jesus. And so I talk to people about him. I'm not into social justice. I'm actually into Jesus. So I find myself picking fights with his enemies. I'm not into worship all those soft rock songs over and over again.

15:09 Ugh, , I'm into Jesus. So when I see him, I smile, I bow. And yes, okay, I admit that I sing quite a bit too. I'm not into church. Have you seen the state of it? I'm into Jesus. So I like his people. And he puts in, in parentheses, they're a little weird, but so am I . The vision is Jesus. Not Christianity, not rules and religion, not prayer, mission and justice, not church planning miracles or mission, just Jesus. If you love Jesus, I guess you'll do all that stuff. You'll pray and worship to church, preach the gospel. But in doing this stuff, we can so easily forget why in all the clutter of Christianity, we can bury Christ.

15:55 And so we are in a moment in the book of Colossians, and I think in a, a culture that is constantly changing, where we must decide what our faith will be founded on, I love all the good things we do in the community. I love that we're a church for the city. I love all the programs we run, and we just sit at summer camp, this past week out past Prime Valley at oco and, seeing kids worship together and, and run around the camp and boat and, and just pure joy. I love that. I love seeing the ways that, over years and even generations, Westside has existed in this community as a place of stability and strength and comfort when the city has mourned. West Side has been there when the city has had good times. We've been there too. I love all this. I'm in this, I'm here. And yet I'm only here because of Jesus.

17:05 And I hope you are too. And maybe because I know many of us are, we're all in a different moment of our journey and our faith. And and some of you have come here, maybe you're even here today or watching online and, and you have found the way or the teachings of Jesus compelling or beautiful until you've leaned in, but you're, you're really not sure beyond that. I'm so glad you're here. Some of you maybe are very , very skeptical. You think we're crazy? Oh man, I'm so glad you're here. I I'm impressed that you're here, , you're here. That's crazy. Thank you for being here. And many of you have, have gone beyond just being compelled by the teachings of Jesus. And you've come to believe in a Jesus who, wasn't just buried but also resurrected and through his Holy Spirit as present and active and alive here today, and in your prayers, you're speaking to him and you're hearing from him, and you experience his sustaining grace in your life day after day.

18:09 But whatever point of the journey you're on, I want to let you know, in this church, we have to be about Jesus. First and foremost. Jesus is the center of all the goodness that, that we, we try to exemplify for our community. Jesus is the center of how we read our Bibles. You can point out any, any funky thing you find in the Bible, you might say, well, you know, in, in Deuteronomy 19, it says this thing. And I'll say, well, let's contextualize that by looking at Jesus because he's the lens by which we understand God. There's no other place that we look when we wanna know what God is like than looking at the person of Jesus. Because Paul said that, that, that all the fullness of God was wrapped up and poured into Jesus. Jesus at the center, Jesus at the highest place. And I love how Pastor Ben last week talked about Jesus as the focal point that gets all of our attention, not Jesus as a well and slick brand that, that we've marketed, you know, better than anybody else. No, Jesus that is alive and well. And at the heart of our worship and the heart of our gathering, the vision is Jesus. And in Hebrews 12, verse two, actually, I'm gonna read the, the couple verses around that as well.

19:42 Hebrews 12, one says, therefore, since we were surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us trip off every weight that slows us down, especially that sin that so easily trips us up. And let's run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this how, by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith because of the joy awaiting him. He endured the cross disregarding its shame and is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne. I think sometimes we think of, of coming to faith, coming to Jesus, finding religion as this idea of when life gets so bad because of the bad decisions we make, and we have no other options, we come to Jesus and, and if we feel bad enough, he'll take pity on us.

20:40 But can I tell you, I think what we find is as we look deeper in Paul's writings and we look deeper into the gospels, is we find Jesus running the race in front of us, saying, come on along with me. And you know, you see these horror stories in the news about these racers that like run, you know, 250 miles, these ultra marathoners, and they take the wrong turn at the last minute. Have you like, your heart breaks for that, right? And they, they miss out on the, on the goal. They, they, they get behind because they take the wrong turn. Here's how I see repentance in coming to Jesus. I see him as the one who goes in front of us. And we, when we were, we're tempted to take the wrong turn. We just, we, we get our bearings. How? Not by looking at culture, not by seeing what other churches are doing, not by, by, by seeing what's acceptable and and palatable to the world around us. We do it by fixing our eyes on Jesus saying, where is he going? Which direction did he take? I don't wanna get too far behind where he's at because he is the way I will get to the destination in front of me. We fix our eyes on Jesus, the author

21:48 And the finisher of our faith. I think when we come to Jesus, there is this wide open acceptance that Jesus extends to all of us. I think it's modeled in the gospels where there wasn't a lot of, qualifications to get to Jesus. The bar wasn't very high. He would sit down with sinners and prostitutes and tax collectors. He would speak to Romans and Samaritans. He would even go to the house of Pharisees and debate eight. Really, the, the, the, the bar to getting to Jesus was just open for everybody. But then what we find is that once people hurting people, normal people entered into a relationship with Jesus where they became disciples. Jesus said, if you're along for the ride, it will cost something to follow me. He said, it's gonna lead us down to a narrow path and not many are gonna find this way. And I think sometimes we, we reverse that where, where we make the, the path to finding Jesus at all so narrow. And the bar is so high that only the best, happiest, most wonderful qualified people can find him. And then once we're in, it's like, eh, anything goes . Just do whatever you want. We're you're on our team.

23:34 And the apostle Paul and Jesus are saying, can we flip that? Can we just open our arms wide open and make the bar so low? That is Zacchaeus who's so short, he has to be up in a tree, can find Jesus and a Roman centurion who's, who's, who's feeling pain because his servant is sick and also find Jesus. And, and, and this rich young ruler gets an audience with Jesus, but also this woman who's, who's not even allowed to be out in pub public because of her sickness. She can also get, can we just, can we make it open to everybody?

24:09 Whoa,

24:09 Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Pastor Evan, and once we follow him, we allow him to shape us and mold us into his image. I think when we get it backwards and, and we, we qualify those who can even find Jesus. And then, and then anything goes. I think what what happens is that we actually make Jesus into our image instead of being formed into his. And this church. We have to be about opening our arms wide that everyone might hear of the acceptance of God expressed through Jesus Christ. And then from there, a commitment from each of us to a person

24:59 That

25:00 Will be shaped and formed into His image. If that is our, ethos, our ethic, our our mission, our purpose, I'll tell you what, it'll be more than a slogan. It'll be more than an orange banner hanging above the road. It will be it the message that is preached by every single one of us in workplaces and parks, in restaurants and homes across the city and beyond that Jesus is alive and well. He's the perfect picture of who God is and he's filling each of us. We're going to, take communion in just a moment together. And, I dunno about you, but I'm always reminded of Jesus the last supper, of course where Jesus instituted this great tradition of the church to take communion where we take the bread and the cup representing his body, broken for us and his blood spillt for us. And today, as, as we're talking about following Jesus, making him the cornerstone and the bedrock of our faith and the center of our community, the center of our, our church, I'm reminded that it was in that supper that for the disciples, they started to realize the great cost that was involved in following Jesus.

26:25 But this was the supper where Jesus began to say some things that, that made them think the good times are maybe over. He's talking about not being with us anymore. He's talking about being handed over and betrayed. He's, what, what is Jesus saying? This sounds like a lot of cost involved in being one of, of Jesus' disciples, one of his friends. And it's true. But paired with this talk of the cost of following Jesus as he was about to be betrayed, he also said these wonderful words of comfort where he said, I hope be with you always. Where He said, in this life you're gonna have trouble, but take comfort 'cause I have overcome the world. And so as we take communion today and as we focus on Jesus and as we recenter on the person of Jesus beyond the brand, but the actual person of Jesus alive and well, and here present through the Holy Spirit that may be as you take communion, you would say yes to Jesus, yes to the cost of following him to the cost of being shaped and molded into his image, but also yes to the comfort and the grace and the mercy that is poured out

27:37 When we become close

27:40 To him.

27:46 Would you bow your heads with me? Jesus, we, we want to acknowledge in this moment as a church, that you, Jesus, our Lord, and God, and that we are not almighty God for the moments that we have shaped you into our image, to accomplish our goals and ends, God we repent. Would you forgive us? And Jesus, would you shape us into your image.