There is Hope for Change!

A special welcome to those of you who are worshipping with us for the first time here – and even more specifically – I’d like to welcome those of you here today who are not entirely sure God exists.  But you haven’t closed the door entirely to the idea that there is a God out there.  

And you should be commended for that.  And I hope you discover that Jesus is far more than you thought he was.  

We here at Journey believe that Jesus has come to throw open the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven, which is a right now kingdom – and anyone may enter through faith in Jesus. And it is the alternative kingdom to the dog eat dog world that we were born into by default.  Once we enter into the right now kingdom of heaven we enter into a kingdom that is governed by a good shepherd who meets all of our needs – which means we no longer have to fend for ourselves.

I am excited this morning.  We are beginning a brand new series – and it’s going to be so good…  today we are going to take a look at the book of Colossians.  And the big idea for the morning is simply this.  The message of Jesus is a message of hope.  

On May 23rd, 1939, the submarine USS Squalus sank during a test dive off of the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 243 ft. of water.

A valve failure caused the flooding of the torpedo room, both engine rooms, and the crew’s quarters, drowning 26 men. Quick action by the remaining 33 crewmen, prevented the other compartments from flooding. 

The survivors were able to send a distress signal and soon the word was out that the sub had sunk, and that 33 men had successfully sealed off their compartment and were still alive.  

Whether that was good news or not was up for debate.  Because up to that point no person was ever successfully rescued from a sunken submarine.  And about a decade earlier sailors in a sunken submarine in 100 feet of water were unable to be rescued and eventually died from carbon dioxide poisoning after four days of failed rescue attempts.

Knowing that their chances for rescue was bleak, the crew tapped on the hull of the vessel a message in morse code to their would-be rescuers:  Is there any hope?

Is there any hope?  You don’t have to be trapped in a sub to ask that question.  There are many who are asking that question today – maybe you are one of them.  Is there any hope that I can actually change?  The answer is yes, of course.  Because the message of Jesus is a message of hope.

If you have a bible turn to the book of Colossians.  And if you need a bible we have them free of charge on our information table – just take one- no strings attached.

As you turn there let me give you some background.  The book of Colossians is actually a letter.  We find it in the New Testament – which is everything that happens in the bible after the birth of Jesus.  And the way that the bible is broken down you have the Old Testament – which is Judaism – and then you have the New Testament.  

The first four books in the NT are called the Gospels – and they are the only four books in the entire Bible that detail the life of Jesus.

So if you are holding this huge book and you don’t know where to start reading?  Don’t start at the beginning – because it will take you forever to get to the life of Jesus.  And since this entire book is the story leading up to Jesus – I’d recommend starting in the book of Matthew.

The term Gospel – by the way – simply means Good News.  So the gospel of Matthew is the Good News of Jesus as recorded by Matthew.  So the writers kind of created a shorthand word to describe the entire story of Jesus – they called it the gospel.  The Good News.

Most of the books in the NT are not really books – they are letters.  Penned by the original followers of Jesus.  They are written to churches or to people – and some are longer than others.  And of course orginally they didn’t have Chapters or numbers – they weren’t added until many centuries later to make it easier to study.

So although we call it the Book of Colossians – this is actually a letter – and a short one at that – only 4 chapters long.  

Usually these books are named after the person who wrote them – so you have 1st John -letter written by John – 2nd John – second letter – etc.   The one huge exception comes with letters written by the Apostle Paul.  Paul wrote so many letters that the people who began to organize these letters in one compilation wisely thought it silly to name a cook “The 11th book of Paul”  

So if you look in the NT you will see that all of Paul’s letters are grouped together.  They are grouped together from longest letter to the shortest.  And they are named after the city or the person to whom Paul was writing.

This gets confusing because you will notice that there are books called 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy – but Timothy didn’t write them.  Paul wrote them to Timothy.  So it’s not exactly intuitive – but the longer you study them the more you begin to get the hang of it.

So the book of Colossians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church that is meeting in the city of Colossians.

Colossea was a small rather insignificant town in what is now Turkey. It was about 10 miles from the larger and more prominent city of Laodicea that we read about in the book of Revelations, and more than a hundred miles from Ephesus.

in about 60AD there was a terrific earthquake that leveled the city and rather than rebuilding it they residents fled to larger cities – and it was never rebuilt.  Here’s a picture of it today. Under that pile of rubble is the ancient city of Colossea.  There are hundreds of these kinds of tells through Turkey and surprisingly, no one has yet had the money manpower or energy to put into excavating this tell to learn more about it.

So if the city was destroyed in 60 AD, then the letter must have been written before that.  And the best estimate is that it was written about 54AD.  

So if Jesus died in 33AD, and Paul is writing this letter in 54 AD, than Christianity itself is only about 20 years old. And from what we learn about the church in Colossea it appears to be a very young church.  

Which I dig because our church is also very young.  We are six and a half years old.  We are still young enough to count half years.  We are six and a half yeas owld.

I’d say that this church in Colosse is even younger than we are – maybe only three years along.  Very young but very healthy.  

Interestingly, Paul has never visited the city.  The church was started there by a man named Epaphras.  Never the less Paul takes it upon himself to write this very young church – and it is above all else a letter of assurance.  He wants them to know – you are on the right track.  You are doing great. Jesus is everything and he is worth giving up everything to follow.  

This is why Paul starts with such an encouraging word.  I’m writing to my holy and faithful brothers in Christ.  We are brothers – God is our father.  Grace and Peace to you.

Now this letter is very typical of most of Paul’s letters, he moves immediately into a note of thanksgiving.  

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard…

So Paul is letting them know that even though he has never been to the city,- they have a reputation.  He has heard things about that church.

Did you know that churches have reputations?  I’ll tell you the truth many times when I meet people around this area and I tell them that I am a pastor here at Journey Church, many times I will hear back, – Oh Journey – I’ve heard about you guys….  

And of course, the next question is, well, what exactly have you heard?  Now I’m assuming that they wouldn’t say that unless they had some nice thing to say in response.  What have you heard?  “Sorry say what?  Did I say that, I didn’t…  You guys meet.

What would you hope to hear in response?  What kind of reputation do you want your church to have?  Your church has good donuts.  Okay.  Really?  Is that what we want to be known for?  I think that would leave all of us feeling rather empty… right?  

Isn’t there too many churches that have a reputation for the wrong thing?  That’s the church that runs it’s pastor out of town.  That’s the church that is always asking for money.  That’s the fire and brimstone church.  

If Paul were writing a letter to Journey church, how would he fill in this blank?  It’s worth thinking about because, guess what, YOU are Journey Church.  You are Journey.  Do you want a church that is known for compassion?  You want to be known as a church where people are accepted regardless of their condition?  You’ve gotta be that person.  You want a church known for love?  You gotta be love.  The church that cares for the poor and needy – you gotta be that church person.  

If Paul were writing this letter to us, how would he fill in the blank?  I’ve heard… and here is how he commends the church in Colosse…

“of your faith in Christ Jesus.”

And Paul says – you Colossians have a reputation as being people who depend on God to come through for them.

Faith is believing that God knows what he is doing.  That He is a wise governor of my life.  Faith is believing that God is trustworthy even when he says NO to us, or even when he leads us into places we don’t want to go – even if it’s the Valley of death.  

It’s one thing to say I trust God – it’s another thing to prove it by our actions.  Faith is being confident enough in God that when the ball doesn’t bounce our way – when the cookie doesn’t crumble – We don’t resort to fretting or fearing or freaking out.  

We are confident that God knows what he is doing.  And that gives us the ability to live above the frenzy of worry and anxiety.  Faith is confidence.  The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  That is faith.

Such a compliment – these Colossians were famous for their faith!  For their confidence – for their trust!  They loved the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, strength.  AND… Paul goes on to say… they are also famous for

“and of the love you have for all God’s people”

This church in Colosse – I already love it.  Famous for faith in God and love for people.  Doesn’t that say it all?  Isn’t this the reputation every church should desire?  How cool would it be if this were our reputation?  To hear someone say – I’v eheard about your church – you people depend on God and you love people.  Okay!  Thanks!  

There are many of you in this room who are just dipping your toes back into a church because when you were younger you attended a church that talked alot about faith, but when it came to loving people fell drastically short.  Right?

It’s no wonder so many of our friends and family have a negative view of christians.  

I shudder when I think of how many churches are doctrinally correct – and filled with mean people?

Why is that the case?  Because they have heard the message but haven’t allowed it to change them.  there are many people filled with knowledge in their big giant heads.  And yet their hearts are tiny little grinch hearts, having never allowed knowledge to actually affect their hearts.  

You’re not one of them, are you?  I pray not!  It can happen if you’re not careful.  You can be doctrinally sound and still be a mean person.  Unloving.  Unkind.  It can happen to you, it can happen here.  It could have happened in Colosse.  

Which is why Paul is writing this letter.  As an assurance that they are on the right track – and an encouragement to continue the good work that God has begun in them.

We have heard about your faith, and we have heard about how you love – and now Paul is going to connect these two things to a source.  From where do these things spring?  What feeds a river of faith, what feeds into a river of love?

Col 1:5 “The faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you.”

Is there any hope?  The Gospel message – the good news – the story of Jesus is a story of Hope.  Yes- there is hope.

Hope for what?  Well, let’s put hope on top of the timeline of your life.  There is hope that your yesterdays can truly be left behind you.  

There just might be some people who think that their past is so shameful – so filled with regretful, selfish, sinful deeds – they think that there is no hope for them.  You are tapping out the message from the hull of your broken soul – is there hope for me?

Yes there is!  Yes there is.  No matter what your past – it can truly be forgiven.  You are able to move forward – you do not need to be defined by the mistakes in your past.

In chapter 3 Paul is going to say that now there is no more jew or gentile or slave or free, or Scythian or barbarian.  What in the world is a Scythian?  A scythian was a term of contempt – it meant lowlifes – the dirtbags, it was like calling someone – and forgive me if this sounds too rough for Sunday – but it was akin to calling someone a scumbag.  Dirtbag.  Lowlife –

But Paul makes the point – In Christ – there is no dirtbags – no barbarians, but Christ is all – and in all.

It’s the same message Jesus preached that got him into so much trouble.  What did the moralistic religious pharisees say about Jesus?  He hangs around with dirtbags and sinners – they call him their friend.  

See Jesus came to throw open the gates of the Kingdom of heaven to all who would receive him by faith.  Scythians welcome – and when we place our faith in Jesus he removes our nametag and says – now I call you friend.  Now you are a child of God.  

Friend, there is hope for you.  Jesus has come to free you from your past.  To snap the ball and chain of your yesterdays and to free you into a new relationship today.  It’s so new you will feel like you are born again!  You will feel like a new creation.  The old has gone – the new has come!

The message of Jesus is a message of hope.  For everyone seeking to be free of their past.

The message of Jesus is also a message of hope for the future.

The day will come when God will finally and forever fix this broken world.  It’s so jacked up.  We live in a world that is so broken.  And when we place our faith in Jesus we are filled with a hope for the future.  

Which means that – one very nice feature of our faith, is that we don’t need to fear death anymore.  Because we are never going to die.  We are going to live forever.  We are primarily spiritual beings.  Our flesh might fail, but the Bible says our flesh is like a jar of clay – very fragile.  But the treasure is on the inside.  

And listen – once you have crossed that line of faith and believed Jesus?  Well your treasure is already safely in God’s hands.  You have nothing to fear.  There is hope – not only that our yesterdays are forever behind us – but that our future is assured.  The message of Jesus provides hope for yesterday and tomorrow.

But this message is also a message of hope for today.  The gospel – the good news – is that transformation is possible in my life today.  

Too many people believe, and too many church preach, that the message of Jesus is only good for yesterday and tomorrow.  Your sins are forgiven and someday you will be with Jesus in heaven.  

But what about today?  Well, good luck!  Hang in there!  There is hope for you that you can become the person you want to become – today.

The story is told of a steamship whose machinery has broken.  And the steamship is towed to port where it is tied up.  That ship is safe, but not sound.  Repairs may last a long time.  Jesus plans to make us both safe AND sound.  He intends to fix us, repair us, transform us from the inside out.

Too many people trust God to make them safe.  And too many people go through life without being sound.  Are you safe but not sound?  Are you saved but inwardly unchanged – still broken?

The message of the Gospel is a message of hope.  Hope that we can really become the people we were meant to be.  Throughly good people.  Thoroughly Godly people, purged of arrogance, pride, selfishness.  

Do you have hope that God can transform your thought life?  

Many people are rescued from sin but we bring with us a thoroughly broken thought life – filled with thoughts of lust, of taking, or selfishness.  Do you have hope today that God can repair your thought life, so that you become the kind of person who naturally thinks about things that are honorable, noble, and pure?  The message of Jesus is a message of hope for today!

Do you have hope that God can change your feelings?  

Some people have given up hope that God can change them.  Do you have hope that God can help you stop popping off at your kids in anger?  Or have you just given up hope that you will ever be able to control your rage?  

Do you have hope that God can make you a thankful person even in the midst of difficult life circumstances, or have you just given up hope of ever being able to be a joyful person in your workplacee.  You have just resigned yourself to being a miserable person in a misrable work environment?    

Do you have hope that God can make you feel joy and peace, even in the midst of suffering?  Or have you resigned yourself to this idea that you will never change.  You will always be the way you are.  

Where’s the hope in that?    

Do you have hope that your body can be free from that addiction?  Or have you given up the fight?  You are resigned to being safe but not sound.  

See I think – some people have given up tapping on the hull of their soul a long time ago.  You stopped tapping – is there hope?  You have decided there is none.  

But the message of Jesus is a message of hope for today!  It is a message that I can be so thoroughly changed on the inside by Jesus – that faith and love for others, they just spring out of my life.  It’s not from self effort – it’s just – there is it.  

See the message of Jesus is not a message of how we should act.  It is a message of who we can become.  We don’t need a laundry list of all the things we should be doing.  How is that good news?

Is it really good news – good news – you need to love people more!  Even your enemy!  How is that good news?  I gotta do what?  Do this, don’t do that.  Do this, don’t do that.

That’s torture to try to keep all the rules straight.  And how am I going supposed to love my enemy when I can barely love my own kids sometime?  Wouldn’t that be a heavy burden?

And that’s the point.  This is why the gospel is good news – because it’s a message of hope that we can change on the inside so that we are naturally, freely, more loving people without thinking about it.  

The message is one of hope that today, I can become the kind of person I’ve always wanted to become.  

This is the hope we have.

Is there hope?  That’s the question tapped by those sailors trapped inside that sunken submarine.  And thankfully for them, the answer was yes – there is hope.

Someone had planned for just such an occasion.  And soon a rescue ship arrived carrying a device never before tried – and they were able to send down this rescue device, attach it to the hatch, and rescue all of those sailors trapped.  Hope became real.

What is the message of the gospel?  Two thousand years ago God implemented a plan to rescue us from certain ruin.  To give us hope that we might be freed from our past – hope that one day we will be with him in heaven, and hope that today we can enter into the Kingdom of heaven and begin the process of becoming the kind of people from which faith and love spring forth.

Jesus didn’t just come to give us a ticket to heaven.  And in the meanwhile we are tossed and turned by every wave of life.  He came to redeem us and restore us and transform us – it’s possible through faith in Christ.

The message of this gospel – it’s a message of hope.  Our yesterdays are gone – our future is secure.  And today Jesus is in the process of making us sound.

 

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