Intro: I don’t know if you are keeping track of what is happening today and in recent weeks around the world. Consider the stock market. It has gone wild. No one can predict how the market will move, up or down. One day we see people in jubilation and another day in desperation because the market is like a roller coaster. There are so many riots these past months, mostly in the Middle East and recently in cities in England. What’s going on? Has God lost control of the different situations in the world? Is God having a hard time keeping the peace and harmony and prosperity among the nations? Then there is the fear of economic meltdown. Is there anyone in control of these events? Then there are the different calamities, droughts, famines and many casualties in Afghanistan. Today we will examine who has control over those who are in Him, in the world now and in the future.
“Who has control of us and the world?”
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.” As some of your own poets have said, “We are his offspring.” Acts 17:24-28
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Col. 1:17
“Not that I have already obtained all these, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for whichChrist Jesus took hold of me.” Phil. 3:12
Last Sunday God revealed to us from His Word that all the suns and stars in the heavens are under His control and kept in their proper places. That’s held no doubt by the power of God. The difference between the heavenly bodies and human beings is we are mobile and we make choices either good or evil while heavenly bodies has no life by themselves to move. So, because we move is there anyone who controls our movements? Imagine all the cars moving in the world, the airplanes flying and the boats in the sea, how much more the seven billion people who are always on the move everywhere, making decisions and choices in what they do, is there anyone in control of them and even knows what is going to happen everyday and in the future?
This is why we need to know more of our God who created everything from nothing, how big and powerful He is, who understands everything that is going on with His creation and what will happen in the end. So, can we really comprehend and understand Him who is called the Sovereign Lord? Sovereign means, God is independent, self-governing, not ruled by anyone and can accomplish anything because He has all the power to do it. So, as far as fully understanding God, here is how the Bible says we are limited and how far we can comprehend Him.
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How un-searchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has given to God, that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” Rom. 11:33-36
When I ride an airplane and just before landing if it’s at night, I watch all the movements of cars and think, does God know every moving car, the people and accidents that could happen? If God is omniscient meaning all knowing then the answer is “yes”. Doesn’t that again blow your mind? Multiply this by the movements of seven billion people. Paul has been revealed so many truths yet not all of God’s wisdom and understanding has been given to him. One day he went to Athens, the people we know as Greeks or Gentiles and preached to them the gospel as he had the opportunity. His starting point was the idols that were at every corner but found one empty altar dedicated to an “unknown God.” And that was what he was going to tell them about. So, after presenting the God who created the heavens and the earth, he proceeded to say, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” Most of us here are Filipinos, born from different places in the Philippines. Did God know where you were to be born and grow up? Did God know you would be here worshiping Him today? There are many passages in Scripture that reveals the “Omniscience” of God and here’s one of them referring to Jeremiah.
The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jer. 1:4-5
Now using the prophet Jeremiah to speak to the nation Israel, specifically individuals God has chosen, He reveals this truth as His will for them.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jer. 29:11-14
Was this a promise only to the Jews who were exiled? I believe this is true to all that God has chosen to save for Himself. We were all captives of sin and banished from God’s presence but by the grace of God, He saved us.
So Paul preached to the Gentiles in Athens telling them to seek him and reach out to him in order for them to find him. Was there a contradiction to what Jesus said, “Unless the Father draws you to me you will never come to me”? No, because the gospel is God’s call and invitation which requires a response. Multitudes came to Jesus to seek Him, but not everyone came to Him for the right reason. Only those who are drawn to Him by the Father will respond to reach out to Christ for salvation and then find Him. This then will be true to those who receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. “For in him we live and move and have our being.” The key here is being “in Him.” Only the offspring of Christ can confidently say this, those who are already in union with Christ as God’s child.
So then, what was the result of Paul’s preaching?
“A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris and a number of others.” Acts 17:34
Our text last Sunday centered on this passage on the supremacy of Christ,
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Col. 1:17
Again there is the “in Him.” There are two implications and applications of this “in Him.” First is to everything God the Son created, He holds them together. All things were created by him and for him. God the Son who we know now as Christ Jesus our Lord, is the Creator and everything He created is for Him. All of His creation declares the glory of their creator.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being clearly understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Rom. 1:20
But not all people acknowledge that God the Son who came into the world and took on human flesh is the Creator of everything and holds the power to keep everything in place. Not everyone acknowledges Christ Jesus as God,
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God, nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claim to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” Rom. 1:21-23
But those who are “in Him” will glorify God in worship and praise Him for who He is and what He has done to have them in Him. Why? Because…
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…” Eph. 1:7
Then lastly, this is what Paul said about his being “in him” even though God had revealed the knowledge of God through a direct revelation by Jesus Christ Himself, yet with all his knowledge, the more he realizes that he has not known him enough from our text.“Not that I have already obtained all these, or have already been made perfect.” What was he referring to? The verse before this is the reason he said this and the goal of his life.
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead.” Phil 3:10
Paul never stopped seeking to know Christ, by knowledge and experience. And this is what he did as long as he lived. “But I press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Christ took hold of Paul and now Paul is taking hold of what Christ saved him for. And this brings us back to the purpose why God chose to save us. It is important that we don’t forget God’s purpose to save us out of the seven billion people in the world.
“Bring my sons and daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isa. 43:6b-7
This is the purpose God saved us, to glorify Him. Did Paul know God’s purpose that would glorify Him? Yes, for God revealed His purposes for Paul and to Paul even before God saved him.
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Acts 9:15-16
We all have an idea how Paul lived his life, what he did for Christ and for the gospel in accordance with the plan and purposes God had for him. He testified as Christ’s witness by his conversion experience. Here’s his story.
A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all Jews living there. He stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see. “Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear his words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen or heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” Acts 22:12-16
So how does the life of Paul relate to us as to God’s purpose because of being “in him”. Does God have a particular plan for my life and your life now that you and I are in him?” Yes, God will use us as He determines with the end purpose that brings glory to God. Here’s the process. After one is born again God’s will is for our spiritual life to grow. This is the basic truth that will also prove to the believer that he is really alive and in Him.
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Pet. 2:2
A spirit that has been made alive will hunger for the Word of God. I visited the baby of Darlene two days after she was born and saw her cry out for milk. Why because Jerrylyn is alive. So if one has no hunger for the Word of God or to hear the preaching of the Word of God or attend Bible study, it shows the spirit is still dead. You cannot force this to happen because it should be the most natural thing that a spirit that is alive will do. As a result of knowing Christ and being “in Him” this is the evidence and truth.
To the Jews who had believed in him, Jesus said, “If you hold on to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed.” John 8:31-32, 34-36
This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “I press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” This is taking hold of the Word of God and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Before I was saved and this is true to you too, we were holding on to the teachings of men, the teachings of religion by their different traditions. As we come to know the truth we are set free from error that made us sin against God like the sin of idolatry.
The life now of those who are in him, is a life of fellowship with Jesus our Shepherd. We follow His ways and as we follow Him we are being conformed to His likeness. Here’s what is true before one is saved.
As for you…you used to live when you followed the ways of the world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest we were by nature objects of wrath.” Eph. 2:2-3
Since we are now in Him, God’s nature is in us and we partake of this divine nature, not produced by us but by the Holy Spirit who is in us, working to accomplish God’s plan according to His way, following Christ in obedience.
“Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ.” 1 Pet. 1:2b
We cannot change ourselves until we are brought “in Him”, “by Him” and for Him.” We are now held together in Him to have control of ourselves as we yield our lives to our Lord Jesus Christ. This is our responsibility. And why shouldn’t we? What about the rest of the world? He has control over them too. He is now fulfilling what God has revealed through the prophetic Word of the One who holds everything together, even what is going to happen in the future that Jesus revealed to his disciples and to us. This will be another message the Lord will give us at His appointed time.
How is it with you today? Are you already “in Him”. You are here not by accident but by God’s set purpose.