The Simple Truth
Sin, Salvation, Faith
You have all heard of the KISS principle in public speaking. It means Keep It Simple, Stupid. It is a reminder that the best way to communicate with others is to make sure that your primary message is the primary message. The more complicated we make something, the more likely the main message will be blurred.
We must remember to apply the KISS principle in our Christianity as well. What true Christianity is, can be quite confusing to people today. We talk about styles of worship, we argue about music, we erect walls called denominations, we use gimmicks to fill our sanctuaries and become much too deeply involved in the political process. All of this blurs the real message. For many people in our country, a conservative Christian and a Republican are seen as virtually the same thing. A liberal Christian and a Democrat are often seen as synonymous. Do you see the problem? Our politics will change no one! Only God can change a human heart. If our message becomes blurred with politics, we give the impression that politics is our message.
This morning in verses 21-23 of the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul uses the KISS principle and reminds us of the simple truth of the Gospel. We must be clear on these things. This is the foundation on which everything else must be built. This is the message that we must understand and embrace to be saved. This is the message we are to be passing on to others.
Our Natural State
Paul begins by reminding the Colossians of where they had been. He reminds the Colossians that they “were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” We see similar words in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians,
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (2:1-3)
The Bible tells us that we all were alienated from God. Do you understand what horrible words these are? Mankind had been created in the image of God. Man was made for fellowship with God. But, we have become God’s enemies.
He tells us that we were enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior. Notice we not only did wrong things, we desired and thought the wrong things as well. We may have talked about wanting to know God . . . but it wasn’t really true. We wanted to control God. We wanted to get from God. We had no desire to bow down before Him and submit to Him. In Romans 1:21-32 Paul relentlessly makes his point. Here is just a piece of that explanation,
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:21-23)
Sin, rebellion and wickedness are so prevalent in our lives that we don’t even notice them. Over time our conscience becomes numbed to the reality of good and evil.
- How else do you explain how a man could go to work every day and command that hundreds of Jews be sent to the gas chamber? He could only do that if his conscience had become calloused.
- How else do you explain how a person could pick up a gun and start killing innocent people?
- How else do we explain how a person can get involved in an adulterous relationship even though it will break the heart of family members and ruin their reputation?
- How else do you explain how quick we are to attack each other with our words even though we know it is wrong and that words can never be taken back?
- How do you explain how quick we are to rationalize our acts of deception?
These things are all explained by a mind that has become confused and hardened to the things of God. We are good at justifying our behavior. We sooth any latent pangs of conscience by,
- Denial – “I didn’t do anything wrong”
- Diversion – “everyone is doing it.” or “What gives you the right to call me a sinner?” If we can put the other person on the defensive then we can get them off of our “case”. Sometimes we are even successful at putting the blame for our behavior onto another.
- Repression – We avoid any value judgment at all. We believe that if we never examine or discuss the rightness or wrongness of an action it is thereby amoral.
- Rationalization – “you know it’s not like it’s stealing . . . the insurance company expects to pay this money and, after all, they can afford it.” we try to explain that the evil we did was really a good thing.
- Renaming – If we call our sin something else then it doesn’t seem so sinful anymore. So, adultery becomes a “fling”; Lying becomes “sparing another the painful truth”; Gluttony becomes “eating too well”; Greed becomes “seeking God’s abundance”. A divisive spirit becomes “sharing my concerns”.
People may feel that the Bible is cruel when it calls us enemies of God. But let me ask you: Has Paul overstated the case?
The story is told of a man who used to stop by a clock shop every morning and stare at one particular clock in the window. One morning the owner of the store came out (sensing a chance for a sale) and remarked that he had seen the man stop there every day to look at that “beautiful” clock. The stranger replied, “I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I stop here every day because my watch is not very accurate. Every morning I synchronize my watch with this clock. You see, I am the time keeper at the factory and I am the one charged to blow the whistle at 4:00 to denote quitting time.” The shopkeeper began laughing. He said, “I must admit that this clock is not very accurate either. Every day I set it by the 4:00 whistle at the factory.”
Obviously, when neither of these clocks is a dependable standard, the standard will become more and more corrupted. This is exactly what is happening in our world. People are determining their standard of right and wrong (and their view of God) by the prevailing view of public opinion. And Public Opinion is determined by the prevailing standard of right and wrong! Is it any wonder, then, that our society drifts deeper and deeper into the mire of perversity? There is no standard of truth! There is no fear of God before their eyes!
G.K. Chesterton understood things clearly. He wrote a letter In response to a question posed in The Times of London. The question was: “What’s Wrong with the World?” Chesterton replied, “I am. Yours truly, G.K. Chesterton.”
This is the starting point of the gospel. People may be offended at Paul’s words, but . . . someone has to tell us the truth. Someone has to point out to us that we are on the road to destruction, not life.
God’s Plan of Rescue
After reminding the Colossians of their past he now tells them about their current status as believers. “Now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” If you take these words a phrase at a time, it really is quite remarkable.
He has reconciled you. . . if you remember, Paul told us that we WERE alienated. Now we are reconciled. Before we had been enemies and opponents of God; now we are His friends. Notice who takes the initiative? He was the one who reached out to us.
By Christ’s physical body through death. . . Christ’s physical life is what saved us. He became man to be our substitute. We were able to come into a new relationship with God when Christ took our place on the cross. When He gave His life for our sin the doorway was opened for us to be made right with God.
To present us holy in his sight. . . . We often don’t understand the tremendous scope of our salvation. The goal of redemption is not just to “keep us out of Hell” it is to make us Holy. To be “holy” means to be seen as uniquely His. Christ came to set us apart for His service. His goal is to make us completely His.
Without blemish. Isn’t this a staggering thought? The Savior’s goal is to purge sin from our lives. His goal is not that we “give a nod to God” it is that we be completely transformed in our living.
Free from accusation. We are declared innocent and all charges against us are dropped. There will be no more trials . . . we are set free! Corrie Ten Boom used to say, “Jesus takes your sin, past, present and future, dumps it in the ocean and puts up a sign that reads “No Fishing.” The Devil will make a lot of noise. He will hurl all kinds of accusations against us but none of these will be accepted in the court of God’s justice. Romans 8 asks, “who will bring any charge against God’s elect….Nobody, it is God that justifies..” When God declares us forgiven, we are forgiven indeed.
The Nature of True Faith
Paul continues with these words, “if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” Is Paul telling us that we can only be saved if we work really really hard? We can say with confidence that this is NOT what he is saying. The Bible is consistent within itself. And the Bible is clear that there is nothing we can do to bring about our own salvation. In fact, we saw earlier in verse 21 that our pre-Christian thinking is such that we would never desire to serve God on our own. Our salvation is something that only God can produce in us.
So, what IS Paul saying? It’s very simple. Paul is saying that salvation comes to those who truly make a commitment to Christ. How does one become a believer? The answer is simple: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” But what does it mean to believe?
Let me use marriage as an illustration. How much love would be in a relationship where you got married in a fancy ceremony and then the spouses went and lived their lives apart? Marriage is much more than simply a ceremony. Marriage is an ongoing relationship. It is a commitment that endures and perseveres.
This is what Paul is saying. Saying we love Christ and want to belong to Him is not enough. We can go through the ceremony: say a prayer, shed a tear and even get baptized, but . . . a true commitment is measured by what happens following the profession. As we’ve said many times: it’s not enough to just profess faith, you must possess it. Christianity is intensely practical. Paul tells the Colossians and us that we must follow through . . . we must keep working at this relationship.
Believing in Christ is making a commitment to trust Christ with the rest of your life. It means deciding to live by His standard of right and wrong. It means continuing to follow Him even when we don’t understand what He is doing. Sure we will stumble. There will be times we will fall. But true faith keeps coming back to the Father seeking to realign their hearts with His. And over time we get closer to the goal.
Paul warns the Colossians not to let their guard down around the false teachers. They have to stay strong, they need to keep alert, they need to keep pressing forward.
I know that these are things you have probably heard before. At least I hope you have. Paul tells us that “this is the gospel you have heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” I hope this is the gospel you have heard here over and over again. But I do hope there are some new things you can learn this morning.
First, it’s possible that you have heard the gospel but have never taken the time to make a decision regarding the truth proclaimed. A Wedding ceremony is not a marriage, but it is a starting point. It’s good to be able to look back on the day you made a conscious declaration of your commitment to your mate. In a similar way, it is helpful to be able to point to a particular day when you declared your faith to Christ. It helps keep us “on track” and “focused”. So, have you declared your faith to the Lord? Have you confessed your desire to be cleansed and remade by His grace?
Maybe this is the time that you will bow in simple faith and say something like this: “Lord, Jesus, I know that my heart is rebellious. I know that I rationalize more sin than I recognize. But I also know that you love me. Today I declare my commitment to follow you. Today I cling to what Christ has done for me on the cross. Today I acknowledge Him as the risen Lord. Today I submit myself to your love and ask that you begin the process of transformation in my life.”
It’s a simple prayer and by itself it has no power. What matters is the commitment of your heart. Understand that this is not something that is to be done on a whim. It is something that will impact the rest of your life. So make the commitment wisely . . . but do make the commitment.
Second, it is important that we take time regularly to remind ourselves of where we have been. When we remember the state of our heart and our life before Christ changed us, we find that we have a greater sense of gratitude. We remember what He rescued us from.
We will also find that we have a deeper sense of worship. We will no longer rush into our time with God demanding that He do things for us. We will instead come softly, realizing that we have no right to be in His presence apart from His transforming love and grace. We will approach in humility, not arrogance. We will be more concerned with honoring Him than “enjoying” ourselves. Charles Wesley understood where He had been….we sang His rich testimony earlier.
- And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?
- Died He for me, who caused His pain?
- For me, who Him to death pursued?
- Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God shouldst die for me?
- Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and natures night.
- Thine eye diffused a quick-ning ray: I woke the dungeon flamed with light!
- My chains fell off, my heart was free,
- I rose, went forth and followed Thee.
- Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!
These are the words of one who remembered where He came from. They are filled with gratitude and worship.
Taking a regular look back is also a great motivator in our living as well. We will see by looking back that we are making progress. We will be reminded of why He saved us and it will spur us on to the goal.
Third, understand how important it is to renew your mind. In Romans 12 Paul tells us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is.” Our minds were corrupted by sin and need to be constantly renewed. This is why it is so important to read the Bible daily. We need someone to tell us the truth about ourselves. We need someone to instruct us as to what right and wrong really are. There are all kinds of forces and people who would like to control our thinking. But there is only one who will lead us aright . . . that one is God.
How long has it been since you read the Bible? How long since you read it not to get information but simply to hear the truth? Perhaps you could begin a simple study this week. Read through the Gospel of Mark. Don’t make it a race. Don’t worry about covering so many verses or chapters a day. Just listen as you read. Let God’s Word inform your thinking.
Finally, I challenge you to make it a practice to be honest with yourself. Be honest about your sin. Be attentive to when you are denying, distracting, repressing, rationalizing, redefining. Call it what it is: sin. Then confess it before the Father and ask Him to move you away from such foolishness. You see, when we become honest about our sin we will more deeply appreciate His grace.