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Real Rest is Found in Christ

Jun 03, 2018

Passage: Colossians 2:13-17

Preacher: Pastor Degner


The year was 1864. The US was in the fourth year of the Civil War, what would become the bloodiest conflict in its history. People all across the nation were weary of the steady stream of losses being suffered on both sides. Abraham Lincoln was up for re-election, and the odds weren’t in his favor. His opponent, George McClellan, ran on the democratic platform of “Compromise with the South.” Negotiate terms with the South, sue for peace – an appealing option for a nation tired of war.
It was then that a political artist named Thomas Nast drew up a poster that helped rally the north behind Lincoln’s cause. In big, bold letters the poster proclaimed, “Peace through Victory.” In other words: A compromise wouldn’t bring real rest to a war-weary country. Slaves would remain in their chains. Soldiers would have died in vain. North and South would remain at odds. The only way to bring real peace was with a decisive victory.
Paul tells the Colossians that the same is true in our relationship with God. Peace – or, as Paul describes it, Sabbath-rest – only comes through Christ’s decisive victory on our behalf. But there’s a reason why he needed to say it: False teachers had made their way to Colosse with a different message. That Jesus’ victory wasn’t all-sufficient. That salvation involved a sort of compromise – between what Jesus did and they had to do.
The lie is still around, even lurking in these hearts, and it robs us of real rest as we go looking for it where it can’t be found. So listen as Paul reminds you this morning: Real Rest is Found in Christ. 1) in his one-time victory, 2) it’s his ongoing invitation.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
I. In his one-time victory
In order to win us peace, Jesus was going to have to beat the enemies that plagued us. And the first enemy Paul mentions here might surprise you: The law of God. That’s what Paul is getting after when he says that the written code, with its regulations…was against us and…stood opposed to us. That might seem strange – especially when today’s worship theme is that God’s commands are good, for our benefit! And it’s true – they are. There’s nothing wrong with the law. It is good. It’s your best friend, as long as you’re keeping it. You’re at peace with God, if you keep it perfectly. It promises you eternal life, if you perfectly keep its every command every moment of your entire life.
And that’s an impossible “if,” isn’t it? Not because the law’s bad – because we’re bad. We haven’t kept the law. By nature, we aren’t able to and don’t even want to – born dead in sins, like Paul says. Even in our best efforts to do so as Christians, we’re not attaining the perfection the law demands. And since that’s the case, the law is no longer our friend. The law stands against us, opposed to us – condemns us as guilty. Our sins turn the list of God’s commandments into our criminal record, so to speak, a list of all our failures to keep them that declares us guilty and sentences us to hell.
Ah! But…did you notice what Paul says God did with that list? He took it away from you and nail(ed) it to the cross of Christ. In Paul’s day, when someone was crucified, a sign was usually nailed above their head, listing the charges against them. That’s why Pilate nailed that sign above Jesus’ head: “King of the Jews.” Even though it was true, that was the “crime” that got Jesus the death penalty, claiming to be a king. Paul says God the Father nailed another sign to the cross. This one was the long, long list of your sins and my sins and this world’s sins. God took your criminal record away from you and charged Jesus for your crimes. Condemned him as guilty, gave him the sentence of hell you deserved in your place. In doing so, he cancelled the charges against you, expunged your record, wiped your sins away.
And, in doing so, he disarmed another enemy of yours. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Do you know whom Paul is referring to with “powers” and “authorities?” The devil and his fellow-demons. The bible calls the devil our accuser. One of the things he loves to do is to use our sins against us as a weapon – bringing sins past and present to mind, accusing us of them, so we live in guilt and fear of God’s punishment. Ultimately, our sins are the one weapon he’s hoping to use against us before God the Judge – if he can accuse us of even one, he has an airtight case for us landing in hell with him forever.
But Jesus, Paul says, triumphed over him on the cross! He completely disarmed him. In taking away our sins, he took away once and for all the one weapon the devil can use against us. Jesus even made a public spectacle of him – that’s what his descent into hell after coming alive on day three was all about. It was a victory parade down hell’s main street that proved the devil disarmed and utterly defeated.
It’s a one-time victory that brings you rest. Rest from your futile attempts to get right with God by your works, because Jesus’ work has made us right with God. Rest from the guilt the law’s unmet demands leave us carrying, because Jesus fully met those demands when he carried our guilt to the cross and took it away. Rest from the devil’s endless accusations, because Jesus has silenced them. Rest from fear of punishment, because Jesus has removed it and won us perfect peace and rest for all eternity.
II. It’s his ongoing invitation