“How can you be sure you are going to heaven?” That’s an important question we all must face. None of us know what tomorrow may bring. So what answer would you give if somebody asked you, “How can you be sure you are going to heaven?”
I have good news for us all this morning. Nobody need leave the church today without knowing for certain that they are going to heaven. If at the end of the service you can’t say, “I am sure I am a Christian, I am certain I am going to heaven,” then come and see me and we can fix a time to have a chat until you are certain.
The apostle Paul answers this question in our passage today in Colossians 1:25-27.
25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
God has a mystery. By that Paul does not mean some kind of puzzle to be solved. God’s mystery is God’s secret masterplan for the universe. That cosmic masterplan, God’s will and purpose, has been kept secret for centuries, but it has now been revealed in Jesus Christ. What a wonderful and glorious mystery it is. And the secret is simply this. “Christ in you – the hope of glory.”
GOD’S MYSTERY: CHRIST IN YOU – THE HOPE OF GLORY (vv 25-27)
JB Phillips translation says, “Christ is in you, bringing with Him the hope of all the glorious things to come.”
We have the happy certainty that one day we will share God’s glory. And our guarantee of heaven is in God’s masterplan – “Christ in you!
What is a Christian? In Colossians 1:27 Paul makes this very clear. “Christ in you.” A Christian is somebody in whom Jesus Christ is alive and at work.
We learned this last year in our series of evening sermons in Galatians 2:20.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
A Christian is somebody in whom Christ is alive. “Christ in you!” Just think for a moment of what that amazing statement implies. Last week we saw that Christ is supreme. The outline of that message is on our service sheets today together with the outline for this morning. In Colossians 1:15-19 Paul reveals Jesus Christ the Son of God to be the image of God, the firstborn of God and the fullness of God. Now here in verse 27 he says “Christ in you!” Everything Jesus Christ is, is IN US!
Jesus Christ is the image of God, the exact likeness of God, the perfect human representation of the Almighty, All-knowing, Ever-present, Eternal, Holy, Ever- Loving, Transcendent God. Christ is the image of God – and Christ is IN US!
Jesus Christ is the firstborn of God, the Creator and Sustainer of everything that exists, standing first in line in this present age. And Jesus Christ is the firstborn of the age to come, the first to rise from the dead in God’ new creation, the church. Christ is the firstborn of God – and Christ is IN US!
And Jesus Christ is the fullness of God, full to bursting with God, overflowing with God. Christ is the fullness of God – and Christ is IN US!
Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and then He was raised from the dead to rescue us and redeem us and reconcile us to God. But Christ then goes on working in our lives. And he doesn’t just work from the outside but from the inside. Jesus is not on the outside of our lives, like a sculptor chipping away at our sinful thoughts and our bad habits. Christ is IN US! God is on the inside of our lives, living and working within us, filling our lives with the resurrection life of Christ Himself and transforming us into the image of Christ from inside us! “Christ in you – the hope of glory!!”
Christ in us – that is our starting point. From there we press on to Christian maturity. That is Paul’s goal for every Christian.
EVERYONE MATURE IN CHRIST (vv 28-29)
28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
We have Christ inside already – transforming us into His image until we reach perfection, or the word could equally be translated maturity, in Christ. Mature in Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:18 puts it like this.
18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
The Spirit of God is at work in us, transforming us into the likeness of Christ. This isn’t about having more of Christ in us. We already have ALL of Christ in us. We already have all the resources we could ever need to live the Christian life. What we need is “Christ in more of us” or put another way, “more of us in Christ”.
For this we need teaching. We also need admonishing, challenging, correcting. Here at NSBC we have a course in discipleship to help us become more like Christ called Fan The Flame. There are leaflets about Fan the Flame on the side if anybody is interested.
28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29 To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
The way Paul describes his Christian ministry is no different to the process we each follow as we strive towards Christian maturity.
I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
We work, and at the same time God works within us. A balance of cooperation between us and God.
Philippians 2:12 … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
We work out our salvation as God works within us. Christ in you. There is a slogan popular in some circles, “Let go, let God.” But that is not what the Bible teaches. It might be better to say, “Do your best, God does the rest.” Christian maturity is something God develops within us. But we have to play our part so that the life of Christ is expressed in us. And what a wonderful goal that is to aim at.
Colossians 2:2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
This is what God promises us as we grow in Christian maturity. The full riches of complete understanding. Knowing the mystery of God, namely Christ. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In Ephesians 3:8 Paul uses a wonderful phrase to sum up all the blessings God has for us in his cosmic masterplan: “the unsearchable riches of Christ”. God has so much to give us as we become mature in Christ!
Christ is in us – but that is only the half of it. Because Colossians 1:27 actually says this.
CHRIST IS IN YOU – THE HOPE OF GLORY!
We may not reach Christian maturity in this life. None of us become perfect this side of heaven. But what Paul is saying here is this. Christ is in us NOW – and this is our guarantee that one day we will share in the glory of God.
“Christ is in you, bringing with Him the hope of all the glorious things to come.”
We sometimes devalue the word “hope.” In English we can use “hope” to refer to some vague optimistic wish. In the Bible the word “hope” is much more definite. We should probably translate it as “happy certainty.” When Paul talks of “the hope of glory” he is actually saying “the happy certainty” of sharing God’s glory.
Now hope is a combination of expectation and desire. I would love one day to walk on the moon. But since I have no expectation of that ever happening I can’t say “I hope to walk on the moon.” On the other hand one day I am sure I will have to visit the dentist. But since I have no desire ever to visit the dentist again it would be wrong to say, “I hope to visit the dentist.”
But my greatest desire is to spend eternity with Christ. And the promises of God make it absolutely certain that I will spend eternity with Christ. So it is correct to say, I hope to spend eternity with Christ. I hope to share in His glory. This is not wishful thinking. This is expectation plus desire. This is the happy certainty of our Christian hope.
We were looking at Paul’s letter to the Romans in our evening services before Easter. Hope is a major theme in Romans.
Romans 5:2 And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
We rejoice in the hope of sharing the glory of God. It has been said that man can live for 40 days without food, for three days without water, for several minutes without air but for only a few seconds without hope. Dostoevski said, “Hell is hopelessness.” The inscription above the entrance to Dante’s inferno read, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”
When you look at the pessimism and gloom of some Christians you would think that they were destined for hell and even at its door. In fact the opposite is true. True believers have every reason to be filled with hope. We have a hope which is steadfast and certain! “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” “Christ in you – the hope of glory!” Not some wishy washy optimism but a confident expectation. The happy certainty that one day God will take us to be with him and we will share His glory for eternity. THIS is our destiny as Christians. THIS is God’s wonderful plan and purpose for us – yes even for you and even for me!
But as he told the Roman Christians, and as Paul himself experienced, the pathway to glory often includes suffering.
24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
Romans 5:3 …. we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
The road to heaven will not always be easy. The sufferings or tribulations we face are the pressures of a godless hostile world on those who follow Christ. These teach us perseverance and build up our character. And instead of undermining our confidence in God, in fact these experiences of adversity and opposition strengthen our faith and build up our hope. Our hope comes through the resurrection life of Christ in us. Jesus has died – but Christ has also risen! And He has shown us the path we must follow, through suffering to glory, through cross to resurrection. And in the end, all our suffering will be worth it. And Paul says in Romans 8:18,
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
The founder of the Protestant Reformation Martin Luther wrote this. “If we consider the greatness and the glory of the life we shall have when we have risen from the dead, it would not be difficult at all for us to bear the concerns of this world. If I believe the Word, I shall on the Last Day, after the sentence has been pronounced, not only gladly have suffered ordinary temptations, insults, and imprisonment, but I shall also say: “O, that I did not throw myself under the feet of all the godless for the sake of the great glory which I now see revealed and which has come to me through the merit of Christ!”
The sufferings of this life are not worth comparing with the glory which is to be revealed in us! The best is yet to come! “Earth has no sorrow which heaven cannot heal.” (Thomas Moore)
Some folk here this morning may be suffering at the moment. Illnesses, trials, all kind of griefs, defeats and discouragements. Be reassured, however tough life gets, God will not let go of us. We WILL share in His glory! But how can we be certain? It’s simple, says Paul. “Christ is in you – that’s the hope of glory!”
How can you be sure you are going to heaven? Because Christ is already in you! “Christ in you – the hope of glory!”