My grandfather on my Mother’s side was named Leland Grams. He was the pastor of our sister congregation in Faulkton, SD, for many years. He had a strong dedication to Gospel of Christ, a strong personality, and a good sense of humor.
Grandpa Grams liked to tease people. When someone was putting a puzzle together on the dining room table of the Faulkton parsonage, he would casually walk by and snag one of the pieces. Hours later when the search was on for that ONE LAST MISSING PIECE, Leland would waltz in with a sly smile on his face, and complete the puzzle.
There’s something sad about a puzzle with one blank spot. One hole where something should be. Puzzles are meant to be put together - they’re meant to be complete.
The idea of completion, or wholeness, runs throughout our reading today. Just as a puzzle is not complete without that last piece, Mankind is not complete without God. Mankind is Made Whole by Christ.
Colossians 1:24-29 (NIV)
24Now 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. 25I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—26the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27To 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.
28We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Paul first speaks of completion by saying 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.
Paul is not saying that what Christ suffered on the cross was insufficient. Just a few verses earlier (Colossians 1:14) Paul declared that in Christ Jesus we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Paul says that the Colossian Christians have been qualified to share in the inheritance that comes from God, heaven, because of Christ (Colossians 1:12). He calls the Colossian Christians “saints”, which means “holy ones” because of what Jesus suffered in their place. In no way is Paul saying that Christ’s sacrifice was “not enough” to pay the price for our redemption.
When Paul says that he is completing what Christ didn’t suffer, he’s talking about the suffering and struggle that come along with battling Christ’s message into the world. And that was a battle for Paul.
Paul had Pharisees following him and inciting riots as he preached from town to town. At one point there was a group of people who took an oath not to eat until Paul was dead. But instead of being discouraged by the beating that his opposition dished out, Paul rejoiced. He viewed his own suffering as a great honor given him by Christ. Christ had suffered on the cross to redeem the church, now Paul would suffer on the mission road to deliver that message of redemption.
Christ has honored us with part of His work too. Not the work of the cross through which our sins stand forgiven, but the work of carrying that message with us as we live. The work of distributing peace and forgiveness to people who are missing that part of life’s puzzle.
Paul talks about his own life’s work by saying I have become the church’s servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.
Paul’s message completed the mystery of salvation. That mystery had been hanging unanswered for thousands of years. Ever since mankind stepped willingly away from friendship with God. How was God going to keep His promise to save them? How could God bring sinners who hated him back to Him? In Christ that question is answered.
God would take all that separated mankind from Him, all their evil ideas and words and thoughts and deeds, and lay the guilt of them on His Son. Then the Son of God would absorb all the just punishment that sinful mankind deserved. And with that sentence suffered, mankind would be set free. Forgiven. Reconciled to God.
The message of the Gospel is like the answer to a multilayered riddle. Riddles are confusing and frustrating without the key. But when the answer comes, you see how it all makes sense.
For example, here’s confusing riddle:
I build up castles.Sand. Sand is used to built castles. It’s erosive effects tear down mountains. A sandstorm can easily blind a person for good, but if sand is melted down to make glass it can actually help people see.
I tear down mountains.
I make some men blind,
I help others to see.
What am I?
Or how about this one:
Greater than God and more evil than the devil. The poor have it, the rich need it and if you eat it you'll die. What is it?
The answer is: Nothing.
A riddle is confusing, but when the missing piece is supplied, you can see how it all fits together.
The soul of mankind has been asking deep questions for ages. Riddle me this…
Why do we suffer pain if God is really good?The Gospel of Christ gives answer to these questions. It fills them up. Supplies the missing piece. Pulls them together and makes sense of them. Completes them.
What comes after this life?
What came before?
Why am I me? Why am I here?
What is my future?
Paul says 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.
Through the Gospel, God comes to mankind to complete him. Not just to answer his questions, but to complete HIM. Sin left a hole in man, one that can only be filled by God. When faith in Christ comes to a heart, that hole is filled.
People try to fill their empty place with things, with other people, with meaningful experiences, with work, with play, with all sorts of things. But it doesn’t work. Whatever we put in that empty place in our lives may fill us up for a moment, but soon we feel the emptiness again. Something is missing. Something is not right.
It’s a bit like a little child with an electronic toy. The child knows that to get this thing to work mom and dad put something right there where it says plus and minus. So they stick something there that fits. But it has no power. No lights. No sounds. It’s not the right thing.
A remote control car doesn’t run without the right battery, and the human soul isn’t complete without God.
Paul says, We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Without Christ, we are dead in sin. But through Christ, we are made alive. Our sin is removed and replaced with faith in the Savior. That makes us ready for living with God. Then God begins to complete us in another way. He dresses us in a new US. A new person that is 100% us, but better. More like Him.
Paul explains it like a change of clothes. First Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross covers our sin with a perfectly white, holy, sinless robe (Galatians 3:26-27). Then the Holy Spirit adds the accessories. Maybe a belt of humility. Sandals of compassion. A bag of patience. A hat of peace (Colossians 3:12-17).
We ARE perfect now in Christ, fully forgiven. We are being made perfect in Christ, completed to look like Him.
All that we lack, Christ provides. And Paul says that this even includes the energy to do whatever work God has for us to do.
Each of us has a different role to play in the kingdom of Christ, but each one of those jobs brings glory to God. And each one of our jobs has this in it’s description – helping to make others whole by the message of Christ’s love.
My grandfather Leland Grams left this world many years ago. It was both a sad, and a happy time. If you’ve had loved one died in Christ, you know what I’m talking about.
Grandpa Leland knew that it was coming. And when he realized that it was, he said something that has stuck with me. I don’t remember his exact words, but he said, “If only I had done more. If only I had reached more people for Him.”
He was fully confident in his own salvation in Christ. He said what he did because he simply wished he had made more people whole by bringing them Christ.
A person who is WHOLE, can leave this world with confidence. In Christ we stand fully forgiven. In Christ we are complete.
Prayer: Father in heaven, thank you for making us complete in your Son, Jesus. Thank you for patiently loving us through our sinning, patiently turning our hearts back to you. Give us peace, and confidence in all that we do because we know that when it comes to salvation and forgiveness, we are whole. Give us strength and wisdom to put on the good character traits that your Holy Spirit offers us. Fulfill us with your fullness.