We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, striving with all His energy working powerfully within me. (Colossians 1:28-29 BSB)

Christ is the embodiment of our message. Just as He was the embodiment of God in the incarnation, just as “God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him” (Col. 1:19), so Christ is the embodiment of our message. If you want to know who God is, look to Christ Jesus. And if you want to know the Christian message, you should also look to Christ Jesus. And, if you want to see the goal of God in the lives of believers, what God is striving to achieve in each of our lives, look also to Christ Jesus. 

Jesus of Nazareth

Yesterday in my sermon on Acts 1-2 I stressed that the apostles made a great point of saying that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ of God. And that there was no other Christ other than Jesus of Nazareth. Peter said, “Therefore let all Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ!” (Acts 2:36). In his message he repeatedly stressed that Jesus of Nazareth, “a man certified by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22). 

Some religions talk about the “Christ principle,” making some effort to establish an overarching principle of each person being Christ himself, for himself. This is particularly a Hindu idea of an unseen principle of “Christ-ness” that anyone can claim for himself. But this is definitely a non-Christian and non-biblical idea. The only Christ we have is Jesus of Nazareth, and the biblical authors drew a very clean line that ran from the birth of Jesus, to His public ministry, to His crucifixion, to His resurrection, to His ascension, and even to His return. 

The Jesus who was crucified was resurrected. The Jesus who was resurrected ascended on high, and the Jesus who ascended is the One who is returning. The angels said: “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). And Paul in his preaching and here in his writings, he makes sure that no one misses this point, that though he writes of the pre-existence and eternity of Christ, he does not diminish the individual personhood of Christ, or reduce the eternal He to an impersonal principle or an idea.

We are not just saved from being what we once were. Christianity is not a notion or even a religion of self-actualization or of self-improvement. Rather we are reconciled to God, and in that reconciliation with Him we are also reconciled with everyone else, including our own selves. Paul wrote, “Now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy, unblemished, and blameless in His presence” (Col. 1:22).  

Christ, our Message

And we preach and present Christ. He is the Savior of all, and the Lord of all, and if anyone will come to God he must come through Christ Jesus. Just as Jesus of Nazareth perfectly presented God to the First Century world in which He came, so He also perfectly presents God to the world in which we live today. This has been true for every generation. 

Christ said that the Spirit would be a witness among men of who He is, even though He is not here to see anymore with our eyes. 

And when He comes, He will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because they do not believe in Me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world has been condemned. (John 16:8-11 BSB)

It is an amazing thing to me that wherever we preach the biblical story of Jesus Christ, wherever we tell of His life, of His miracles, of His teachings, and of His crucifixion and resurrection, there are people who respond in repentance and in faith. 

It is not just the pronouncement of His name, for it is pronounced (or mispronounced) in many different ways. I knew a young preacher in the American South some years ago who used to say with considerable emphasis, “Juh-EE-Zus.” I happened to be a voice coach of his for a while — a very short while — and he was completely uncorrectable, at least by me at that time in his life. He had in his mind that if he said it that way, rather than the normal English “Jee-zus,” that there was special power in his preaching. 

It is the story of Jesus and the preaching about His teachings, and of the apostolic preaching of His crucifixion and resurrection and His Lordship, that the Spirit uses to bring conviction and conversion to hearts.  And whether we pronounce His name in English, Spanish, German, French, or Hebrew, when we preach the biblical Christ people believe, or they do not, but if they do then they are changed for eternity.

Jesus whom We Follow

Jesus Christ is also all that we hope to become in our redemption. We do not have two Saviors – one who died for us and one who shows us how to live. We have only One, and He has accomplished both. His grace of the cross perfectly forgives us, and reconciles us to God. And His grace in His resurrection, and in its power, works within us to transform us into His image. 

Christ works in our lives today, and He does so powerfully. And He is not merely an example we aspire to be like — He definitely IS THAT, but not only that. He is also the One who is at work in us by His Spirit to change us. As Paul wrote of his ministry of proclamation and of disciple-making: “To this end I labor, striving with all His energy working powerfully within me” (Col. 1:29). 

We believe as the Bible teaches, that the same power of God that raised Christ from the dead will raise our bodies from the dead as well. Just as we identify with Him in His death, believing that He died for payment our sins as a vicarious sacrifice, so we will also be raised from the dead by the same power of God. “For if we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection” (Rom. 6:5). 

But the Spirit of God does not wait until we die to be active in our lives. He begins the moment we trust in Christ to re-shape our hearts. And it is not a lesser power at work in our hearts today than will be in the resurrection of our bodies. He is at work now in His full power, and the only thing that holds Him back is the weakness of our faith and commitment to Him — faith and commitment that He is at work also to strengthen by His Spirit. Paul perfectly blends the two by saying that he “labors” but that he does so with the help and energy or strength of God that is “working powerfully” within him. 

There can be no question but that the power of God is greater than our own power of faith or determination. What to Paul, or to you and I, seems as “labor,” when compared to what God contributes to the effort of our transformation, is negligible in its overall content. Our faith, our “labor,” no matter how hard it seems to us that we have worked to make this happen, is merely the key that unlocks the floodgates of God’s grace and power. A little faith on our part goes a long way in turning on the faucet of God’s unlimited supply of power and love. 

This is seen also in the teaching of Christ, that He has come that we might have life and have it in abundant supply (John 10:10). 

Questions:

  1. Have you stopped to consider that the life of Jesus of Nazareth is God’s best witness to you as to who He is?
  2. Have you accepted the death of Christ as God’s payment for your own sins, that God laid on Him your sin? Have you trusted in Him as your Savior?
  3. Have you let Jesus be the main ingredient in your sharing with others?
  4. Do you have the faith to turn on the faucet of God’s unlimited power? Do you believe that God can work in your life in a powerful way?
  5.  Are you experiencing the life of Christ today in its full abundance?

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