One of the sad aspects of humanity is our jadedness,
basically making something extraordinary to be boring, mundane, and stripping our ability to be excited or curious, coupled with a refusal to suspend disbelief. This is just as true of Christians as non-believers. Why is this a weakness? We lose sight of the depths of not only who God is, but how (and why) we are in a position to be in God’s presence, to know God–and continue to grow in our knowledge of him. We are invited to live in a world larger than our own tiny, illusory graspable fiction–the real world of God and his glory. But first we have to acknowledge there is a mystery, and then be willing to ask God to open our minds and hearts to the depths of him, and the breadth of his spiritual riches for us. We should see God’s mystery as shining a light into our darkness. “God and his operations cannot be reduced to what we are capable of explaining and then reproducing.” The greatest mystery, that we only begin to unravel and understand, is Christ–the life of Christ, the sacrifice of Christ, the resurrection of Christ.
1. Colossians 1: 24-25 I want you to know how glad I am that it’s me sitting here in this jail and not you. There’s a lot of suffering to be entered into in this world—the kind of suffering Christ takes on. I welcome the chance to take my share in the church’s part of that suffering. When I became a servant in this church, I experienced this suffering as a sheer gift, God’s way of helping me serve you, laying out the whole truth. 26-29 This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less.
2. Colossians 2: 2-4 I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we’ve been shown the mystery! I’m telling you this because I don’t want anyone leading you off on some wild-goose chase, after other so-called mysteries, or “the Secret.”
3. Romans 11: 33-36 Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out. Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do? Anyone who has done him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice? Everything comes from him; Everything happens through him; Everything ends up in him. Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes.
a. What is Paul talking about–how is God generous? Do we recognize God’s generosity, more than a once-in-a-blue moon?
4. Isaiah 40: (The Creator of All You Can See or Imagine) 12-17 Who has scooped up the ocean in his two hands, or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger, Who has put all the earth’s dirt in one of his baskets, weighed each mountain and hill? Who could ever have told God what to do or taught him his business? What expert would he have gone to for advice, what school would he attend to learn justice? What god do you suppose might have taught him what he knows, showed him how things work?
a. Do we recognize God as God–as the keeper of wisdom?
5. Ephesians 3: 14-19 My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. 20-21 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!
a. How can I allow God to be Who He Is in my life, and not who I think I need him to be or believe I want him to be?
6. 1 Corinthians 2: 6-10 We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross.
7. 1 Corinthians 2: 9 That’s why we have this Scripture text: No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—What God has arranged for those who love him. But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you. 10-13 The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. Who ever knows what you’re thinking and planning except you yourself? The same with God—except that he not only knows what he’s thinking, but he lets us in on it. God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us. We don’t have to rely on the world’s guesses and opinions. We didn’t learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way.
8. Romans 16: 25-26 All of our praise rises to the One who is strong enough to make you strong, exactly as preached in Jesus Christ, precisely as revealed in the mystery kept secret for so long but now an open book through the prophetic Scriptures. All the nations of the world can now know the truth and be brought into obedient belief, carrying out the orders of God, who got all this started, down to the final detail.
9. Ephesians 3: 8-10 And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels! 11-13 All this is proceeding along lines planned all along by God and then executed in Christ Jesus. When we trust in him, we’re free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go. So don’t let my present trouble on your behalf get you down. Be proud!