Intro: One of the things that I find really uncomfortable and awkward is learning how to dance. Now to be fair, there are only two times when I feel that awkwardness while dancing and those two times are when I have to lead and when I have to follow. That makes dancing kind of tough for me because, when you dance, unless you are dancing by yourself, you are always leading or following someone.
And the same thing happens in real life. We live life within a web of relationships with all kinds of people. Some live close and others are far away, some are older and others younger. We have several different kinds of relationships, we have friends, family, classmates or workmates. We may have teaching, mentoring or caregiving relationships. And in all of these relationships, the question of who is going to lead and who is going to follow is something that needs to be sorted out. Sometimes, the answer is that we are doing both at the same time.
But to lead and follow well, we need to take things another step deeper. Because it is the things that are going on at the core of our being that determine who we are as we function with the world around us. So the question that I am asking you to think about today is this: Deep down, at the very center of your soul, who are you going to trust to lead you well? It’s a question that all of us need to answer and the way that we answer it will have huge implications for our life.
Our Need to Transfer Trust
To guide us as we reflect on this question, we are going to continue our series called The Body where we are looking at passages in the Bible that refer to The Body of Christ and we are reflecting on what The Body of Christ means for us in our lives. The passage that we are going to look at today is Colossians 1:15-23, so if you have a Bible or a Bible app, I invite you to turn there now.
Last week, we began the series by how many form one in the Body of Christ. Everyone who believes in Jesus is part of his Body. We represent Jesus to the world. And everyone who is in the Body of Christ is important and needed, for the Holy Spirit has gifted each of us to carry out a certain role within the Body so that it can help accomplish Jesus’ mission of redeeming and restoring all things.
As we look at the passage before us this week, what we see is that the focus is clearly on Jesus. Almost the entire passage talks exclusively about him. Here is why that is important. God has given each one of us the freedom to choose who we are going to follow. Our natural inclination is to follow our own lead. We think that we know ourselves and our situation better than anyone else and we all tend to be a little self-centered and stubborn. So we assume that the best person for us to trust to lead us out of the past, through the present and into the future is ourselves.
It is only when we find ourselves in an absolute mess that we realize that following ourselves is not a very good option. I don’t know about you, but my strong preference is for all of life to be completely smooth sailing. But a) life isn’t like that, and b) smooth sailing doesn’t help me to grow and mature as a person. As much as I hate to admit it, I need the train wrecks that happen from time to time in my life to force me to stop and take a look at my life to see where I need to refocus and recalibrate before I start moving forward again. (S140 Kairos circle) Those train wrecks are Kairos moments for me that Jesus uses to draw me closer into following him. However, for those Kairos moments to be positive experiences, I have to move from trusting in myself to trusting in Jesus. And that shift of trust is not going to happen unless I believe that trusting in Jesus is actually a better option than trusting in myself. What I want to show you today is that Jesus really is the best person to lead us, both as individuals and as a Body, because of what he has done, what he is doing and what he will do in the future. So let’s dig into our passage.
Jesus is the best person to lead us because of what he has done in the past
What we see right off the bat is something that perhaps we did not expect: Jesus was involved in creation. In verse 16, we read, “for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see–such as throned, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. (Col. 1:16)
This means that whenever we look at the beauty of snow-capped mountains or delicate crocuses peeking out of the ground, we are looking at the handiwork of Jesus. He was there when God the Father looked at all that had been created and said that it was very good. Jesus was there when you were knit together in your mother’s womb by the creative hand of God. It is because of Jesus that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Yes, there is brokenness out in the world, yes, there is brokenness inside each and every one of us. But Jesus has already started the process of healing all things by creating things anew from the inside out.
We human beings tend to live compartmentalized lives. It is like we divide our life up into various boxes which we tend to keep separate from one another. So we might have a life box, which includes all the aspects of our real life—what do with our body, our possessions, our work or school life, how we think and feel—and then we have a much smaller Jesus box where we put things forgiveness for our sins and what happens to us when we die. We chose to trust Jesus with those things, but we retain control over everything else. We are living what is called a self-directed life. And then we wonder why we have worry, stress and frustration in our lives. It’s because we are trusting in ourselves to do something that God never intended for us to do, that is, live life almost all on our own.
But Jesus is inviting you to let him lead you in all aspects of your life. Creation is his jam. He made it. He knows the ins and outs of all aspects of your life better than anyone else, even better than you. Let’s trust that Jesus in all aspects of our lives. He is the best person to lead us because of what he has done in the past.
Jesus is the best person to lead us because of what he is doing in the present
A little further on in the passage, we see that Jesus did something in the past which has an impact in the present. In verse 22, we read, Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. (Col. 1:22) Try to picture this in your mind. God the Father knows every dark and shameful thing that you have ever done or ever will do: every thought, word and deed are before God like an open book.
We try to minimize or suppress the memory of the bad things that we have done. We say that they really aren’t that bad, and we sing, “Chief of sinners though I be, that other person is worse than me.” And when something we did was so wrong that we cannot even pretend to try to make it right, we try to push it out of our mind, but we can’t. So we live with an overwhelming burden of guilt and shame, a burden that sometimes pushes people to commit suicide.
But Jesus came into this world and became one of us so that he could take our place on the cross and pay the penalty that we deserve to set us free. Because Jesus is the one perfect human being, his payment for sin went all on our account because his account was clean. Because Jesus is the divine Son of God, his suffering and death was of infinite worth.
This means as God the Father looks at us and then looks at Jesus, he knows that the cost of our forgiveness has more than been completely paid for in full and the only just thing to do is forgive us, bring us into his holy presence as his beloved children and redefine our lives from now to eternity as being pure and holy. Can you imagine the peace that would flow through your heart, mind and soul if you could simply see yourself as having the purity and holiness that you already have through Jesus? That is the kind of peace that Jesus wants you to have right now in the present. So let’s trust that Jesus has completely reconciled us to God and let’s receive and live in the peace that he gives us.
Jesus is the best person to lead us because of what he will do in the future
The reconciled life that Jesus gives us is a totally new life. As Jesus tells us in John 5:24, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” (John 5:24) This new life is already ours and we are already living it, but it is hidden in a body that still gets tripped up by sin as it grows old, deteriorates and dies. But that new creation life is still there and, like a seed that is planted in the ground, it will burst forth and bloom in all of its glorious fullness when Jesus comes back to this world to make us and all things right. As we read in 1 Thessalonians 4, For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thess. 4:16-17) And Revelation 21:4 describes the end result of life with Jesus in the new heaven and earth to come when it says, He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Rev. 21:4)
Now maybe I am the only one who does this, but here is what happens in my life. I hear those words about what Jesus is going to do in the future, and I have one of two reactions. When I was younger, I was afraid of the day when Jesus will come back because what I would hear when it was talked about was judgment, and I was afraid of being judged by Jesus. But here is the thing, for everyone who believes in Jesus, there is not going to be any judgment because Jesus was judged in our place on the cross. Therefore, we can rejoice over the future news that Jesus is going to judge the world because that means that he will overturn every injustice, banish all evil and make all things right as he originally intended them to be.
The second reaction that I have, now that I have overcome my fear of the day of his coming, is that I hear those words of what Jesus is going to do in the future and they have no impact on my life and what I am doing in the present. I still carry all the burdens of my everyday life as if I was living it all by myself, and I still worry about whether the things that I think need to get done will get done, and I am still anxious about whether or not the things will happen in the way that I think they need to. In other words, I am still living a self-directed life.
And the challenge that I need to wrap my head and heart around is to trust that the same Jesus who is going to make all things work out for good in the end is also going to make all things work out for good in my life now. If Jesus can create all things, reconcile all things and restore all things, then surely he can make the little things in my life work out in the way that he knows is best. And what I am realizing is that Trust in Jesus’ future action results in present joy. So I am an actor in the movie of my life, but Jesus is the script writer, producer, director and editor. He is the One is going to make all things—including the times when great challenges, suffering or sorrow happens—he is going to make all those things work out for good. And I can have joy through it all because of the life that I have with Jesus. So let’s trust Jesus now for what he will do in the future.
Conclusion: Hannah Lee is an actor, a singer-songwriter, a wife and a mother. In her testimony, which you can find here, she talks about the sorrow she experienced when her career did not turn out like she hoped, when her husband didn’t love her like she thought he would, and when one of her children was stillborn. She said, ‘Marriage, motherhood and a career are all good things, but they are not great things. God has allowed all of those things to fail to show me that he is the only thing that is not going to leave me wanting. I can delight in the great things he has given and I can have peace in knowing that he is the greatest of those things.’
So the challenge that I am setting before you today is to think back to your most recent crisis. Then, as you reflect on that crisis, ask Jesus to show you how to trust him more. Trusting Jesus does not mean that we will not have any more crises because you will. But trusting in Jesus to lead us will help us to navigate those challenges with more life, more hope, more love, more peace and more joy. Jesus is the best person to lead us, both as individuals and as a Body, because of what he has done, what he is doing and what he will do in the future. He is the Head of the Body. Amen.
(This sermon, or something like it, was shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church on April 18, 2021. For more info, please go to wglc.org.)