Colossians, Its All About Christ 1: Christ: My Hope
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This is our first message in a new series I’ve entitled, Colossians, Its All About Christ. That title gives us the theme of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, the preeminence of Jesus Christ. so let me give you a little background.
Paul’s purpose in writing the epistle was to correct some error and heresy that was beginning to creep into the church, especially the early forms of Gnosticism, which held an improper and ultimately dangerous view of the person of Christ, sin, the body, the spirit and even matter itself. Some of those same errors are still with us today in many false teachings and false prophets as a kind of pseudo-mystical based deeper knowledge philosophy that runs through Christianity and many other belief systems as well.
Charles Pfeiffer in The Wycliffe Commentary, says this about Gnosticism. “This incipient Gnosticism was more a religio-philosophical attitude and tendency than a system, and it could adapt itself to Jewish, Christian, or pagan groups as the occasion required. Nevertheless, certain ideas appear to be generally characteristic of the Gnostic mind: metaphysical dualism, mediating beings, redemption through knowledge or gnosis. All religions, Gnostics held, which are manifestations of one hidden verity, seek to bring men to a knowledge of the truth. This knowledge or gnosis is not intellectual apprehension, but the enlightenment derived from mystical experience. Because man is bound in the world of evil matter, he can approach God only through mediating angelic beings. By the aid of these powers and through allegorical and mythical interpretations of the sacred writings, spiritual enlightenment can be achieved and one’s redemption from the world of sin and matter be assured.”
Did you see the common ground that many of today’s fastest growing religions share with Gnosticism? Primarily, that salvation is based upon gaining mystical knowledge or mystical experiences rather than through knowledge based upon the truth of God’s word. The belief and even worship of angels as beings who protect, guide and instruct us to the near exclusion of Jesus. Since knowledge is gained by mystical means or revelation, God’s word is only a secondary source and subject to interpretation based up newer knowledge from the mystical sources.
So how does Paul combat with this insidious false knowledge philosophy? He does this through a portrait of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ masterfully painted with words of praise. It is done in a way so positively and so powerfully as to simply sweep away the error in a crescendo of praise for God’s blessings to us through His Son Jesus Christ, the Hope of Glory.
Origin and Date.
Colossians, like Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon, was written from prison and delivered along with the Epistle to Philemon and Ephesians by Tychicus and Onesimus. Most early traditions fix its origin in Rome during the imprisonment of Acts 28 around 61- 63 A.D. - Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett Falconer Harrison, Eds., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary: New Testament, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962).
I. Introduction. 1:1, 2.
II. The nature of Christ's lordship. 1:3-2:7.
III. Christ's lordship and the false teaching at Colosse. 2:8-3:4.
IV. Christ's lordship in the Christian life. 3:5-4:6.
V. Conclusion. 4:7-18. - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
Salutation – Colossians 1:1-2
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
After the salutation, Paul begins his epistle with a prayer. So, let me begin with a story about a different kind of prayer to contrast the difference between Paul’s prayer and the way that many Christians pray.
Joke: There was this fellow who worked for the Post Office whose job it was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses. One day a letter came to his desk, addressed in a shaky handwriting to God. He thought, "Oh boy, better open this one and see what it's all about." So he opened it and read:
“Dear God, I am an 83-year-old widow living on a very small pension. Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had $100.00 in it, which was all the money I had until my next pension check. Next week is Christmas, and I have invited two of my friends over for dinner. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with. I have no family to turn to and you are my only hope. Can you please help me?"
The postal worker was touched and went around showing the letter to all the other employees. Each of them dug into his wallet and came up with a few dollars. By the time he made the rounds, he had collected $92.00, which they put into an envelope and sent to her. The rest of the day, all the workers felt the warm glow of the kind thing they had done. Christmas came and went.
A few days later after Christmas another letter came from the old lady to God. All the workers gathered around while the letter was opened. It read, "Dear God, How can I ever thank you enough for what you did? Because of your gift, I was able to fix a wonderful Christmas dinner for my friends. We had such a nice day and I told my friends of you answering my prayer. By the way, there was $8 missing, but I think it must have been that bunch of thieves at the Post Office who probably took it."
Paul’s Prayer vs. 3-14
Power In Prayer
Paul begins his letter with a prayer for the believers at Colosse. We are going to look closely at Paul’s prayer. I am always struck by the difference in the way Paul prayed, and the things he prayed for compared to the way I usually pray.
A prayer of thanks Colossians 1:3-8
3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, 5 For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; 6 Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth: 7 As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; 8 Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.
He thanked God for their faith in Christ. For their love to the saints. For the hope they have of heaven.
The Christian Triad: Faith, Love and Hope.
He was thankful for the gospel that had come to them, bringing fruit since the day they heard it and knew the grace of truth.
A prayer of petition - Colossians 1:9-11
9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
Paul petitions God for four things on behalf of the Colossian church.
That they the church would be filled with the knowledge of his will.
In that knowledge of His will, they would have all wisdom & understanding
Wisdom is the Greek word “Sophia” knowledge of first principles
Understanding is the Greek word “sunesis” the ability to apply first principles
Paul is asking God that the church can, “know the great truths of Christianity and be able to apply them to the tasks and decisions which they meet in everyday life.” -Barclay
That they would walk worthy of the Lord
Right conduct, right living which flows from knowing God's will and having the wisdom and understanding to apply it in everything they would do. It is the action that flows from that knowledge and that would be pleasing to God.
They would be strengthened with all might according to his glorious power.
Paul used two Greek words for might and power. For might he used the world, dunamis which means "internal, inherent power"; and kratos which means "external, visible power," power that is seen in action.
Isn’t that an awesome prayer request? That they might be made strong with all might and that all that might would come from God’s glorious power.
A Prayer of Purpose.
Paul’s prayer had an objective in mind as he prayed to God and asked for these things. We see it at the end of vs. 11
That they would come to all patience, longsuffering with joyfulness.
Patience has the idea of fortitude. The ability to bear hardship and tribulation. It is the ability to deal with anything this often painful and sorrowful life throws at us.
The word longsuffering is a different kind of patience. The first patience has to do primarily with circumstances of life, while longsuffering primarily has to do with people in my life. It is being patience with difficult and often offensive.
William Barkly said in his commentary, “It is the quality of mind and heart which enables a man so to bear with people that their unpleasantness and maliciousness and cruelty will never drive him to bitterness, that their unteachableness will never drive him to despair, that their folly will never drive him to irritation, and that their unloveliness will never alter his love. It is the spirit which never lose patience with, belief in, and the hope for men. -Barclay
Nor was it enough, for Paul to just pray for patience and longsuffering, for the Colossians but they were to have those qualities tempered by joyfulness. In Paul’s manner of Christian life that he is praying for others to live, it was not enough to just be patient during the hard times of life, or longsuffering with the hard people in our life. No that wasn’t enough. The real purpose of Paul’s petition was that though it all, they would show and know joyfulness.
A Prayer of Praise - Colossians 1:12-14
12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
Listen to what that phrase is saying. Paul is giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified His children to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (We have inherited light, the truth, power and love of God!) That is ours because God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and He has transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. In Jesus we have redemption, in Jesus we have the forgiveness of sins.
This idea of being translated or transferred to kingdom of God's Son has the idea of the ancient world’s practice of the conquering nations moving the population of the conquered into the country of the victorious. That is what God has done. The Colossians and us, have been translated from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom, from condemnation to forgiveness, from the power of Satan to the power of Christ. No wonder then that Paul thanks and praises God.
Perspective In Prayer
When I think of Paul’s prayer, I can’t help but ask, “Do I prayer this way? Do I have the same perspective, the same view and understanding of prayer that Paul shows here? Do my prayers praise God? Are my prayers filled with thanks to the One who has blessed me in so many ways? Do my prayer express a desire to know the will of God or do they try to bend God’s will around my own? Do I long for patience to bear the hardships and suffering of this life? Do I really want to possess longsuffering that I can put up with the people who are responsible for making me need the patience I prayed for earlier?
(We all know someone like that and many times I know that someone is me. In that case, thank you for those who have been praying to put up with me. I’ve been praying for you too.)
When I pray, do I realize, that the wisdom, patience and longsuffering I’m seeking through God’s power is the means by which I will truly be joyful?
Do my prayers thank God for conquering death and sin and leading me out of darkness and into His kingdom of light?
Well, as I think of my own prayers, I’ll just be honest with you, no. The vast majority of the times I pray, I just don’t have this kind of heavenly, spiritual perspective. My prayers are often too earthbound to be heavenbound as Paul’s was here.
You know the saying, “He is so heavenly minded to be any earthly good.” Well with our prayers I'm afraid that sometimes, “they are too earthly minded to be any heavenly good.”
Let me tell you the story of a prayer given in 1529 by a woman named Anna.
Illustration: ANNA OF FREIBURG, A. D. 1529
Anna of Freiburg, Germany was arrested for her faith and after suffering through torture by the Catholic Church was sentenced to death. The sentence was carried out by the city officials under the authority of the priests, she was drowned in the river, and then her body was burned, so her murderers believed, to keep her from the resurrection. This is part of her prayer, written to her God but also so her family, church and friends would know her heart.
"Dear, eternal heavenly Father, I call upon Thee, from the depths of my heart; do not let me turn from Thee, but keep me in Thy truth unto my end. O God, keep my heart and mouth; guard me, that I may never separate from Thee, on account of impending sorrow and anguish, or any manner of distress; keep me cheerful and glad in my sufferings. Father, this is my sincere desire, that through Thy power I may press even unto death, through all sorrows, sufferings, anguish and pain, and in this let me persevere, O God… I lift up my soul unto Thee and trust in Thee in every adversity; do not let me be confounded, lest my enemy exalt himself over me in this earth. I commend myself to God and His church, may He be my Protector today, for His holy name's sake. O my Father, let it be done through Jesus Christ, Amen."
I think one of the reasons our prayers don’t always have the same perspective as Paul’s or someone like Anna’s, is because we don’t have a great enough adoration or knowledge of the One Paul prayed to and through. We may not know God as well as we should, and we sometimes lack the close and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ that would elevate our lives and our prayers.
Paul shows us this knowledge and relationship in the next few verses, 15-29. Now begins the real theme of the book, the person and preeminence of Jesus.
Paul’s Savior - Colossians 1:15-26
15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
Portrait of Praise
Paul now paints a portrait of praise, a portrait inspired by his God and the relationship he has with the Lord.
Not a reflection of God but the exact image, the true physical and spiritual manifestation of God on earth. To see the invisible God the Father, you must see Jesus the visible son of God, born of Mary. To see the invisible creator of the universe, you must see the visible carpenter from Nazareth.
To be able to behold the glory of the ever-living God, you must behold the glory of Jesus, who came to earth from heaven, died for our sin, was buried and rose victorious over death to return to the everlasting glory of His father in heaven.
Paul’s second brushstrokes paints, Jesus as the firstborn of all Creation. In vs 16-19 This is His title of honor. Paul does not mean that Jesus came into existence at this birth, but that he is preeminently, the firstborn, honored above all others and before all time.
This is because all things were created by him and all things were created for Him, he is preeminent over all. Not only did he create all things, but he also sustains all of creation. Without Him there would be no existence.
Jesus is the Head of the body, the church. He is the firstborn from the dead that in everything he might be preeminent. It pleased the Father that in Jesus all fulness dwells.
Next Paul portrays Jesus as our redeemer, our reconciler to God, our presenter and our perfecter. vs. 20-22
20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
Paul then paints himself not in praise but as a servant of Jesus Christ in vss. 23-26
23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; 24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: 25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
Paul says he rejoices in his suffering for Jesus’ body on earth, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. He rejoices because he has been given the task of revealing what was once a mystery, God’s love to the Gentiles.
Summary - Paul’s prayers were powerful because his knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ was powerful. Paul by acknowledging Jesus as preeminent over all things, made Jesus preeminent over his own life and prayers. Jesus being praised and honored as the creator and sustaining of all meant that the errors, hypocrisy and heresy of the false gospel of Gnosticism could find no place in Paul’s life, heart or mind. Jesus ruled preeminent over all aspects of Paul.
Do you want your prayers to be more powerful and your faith to be more potent? Then make sure Jesus is the preeminent person in your life.
Who is Jesus to you, really? How do you see Him? How do you worship Him, How do you walk with Him? How do you portray Him to others? Too often I don’t fully comprehend what Paul is saying about Jesus because I have not made him above all things in my life. I can’t portray him as Paul does in this portrait of praise because I don’t know Him like Paul knew him.
I am like a person in a museum viewing the portraits, but I am unable to pick up a brush and paint a portrait of my own because I have not experienced Jesus in my life at that level and in the same way.
The only way I will ever be able to portray and understand Him as Paul did is to know Him as Paul knew him, to experience Him as Paul did. To know Him I must live with Him. I must become aware that He indwells me and everything I see think or do is shared with Jesus Christ. To really know Him I must talk with Him. To really know Him I must fully give myself to Him. To know Him as Paul did, I must be His servant and be willing to suffer for and with Him rejoice that I was counted worthy.
That’s why Paul could paint this masterpiece of praise for Jesus Christ and if I would ever hope to praise Jesus in the same way then I do the same thing.
This is the way Paul expressed it in Philippians
7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
Illustration: Others who Knew Christ as Paul Did
Paul was not the only servant of the Lord to understand the necessity of the primacy of Christ in our lives. The Bible is filled with such men and women. People who knew their Lord and God through hardship, sacrifice and suffering. Nor did these servants cease when the Bible was finished, they are spread throughout history in every decade and century. They stand as shining examples of those who knew Christ and made him preeminent in their lives.
People like William Carey, the father of modern mission who said, “Expect great things from god; do great things for God.” And then did just that.
Or George Liele, the former slave who became the first missionary from America 10 years before Carey. George Liele, who was saved in 1773 and baptized and began preaching in the slave quarters of Savannah, Georgia. In 1775, He became the first Black Baptist preacher ordained in America. When Liele’s former master, Henry Sharp a Baptist deacon who had freed Liele, was killed in the Revolutionary war, Liele was arrested and imprisoned with the intent of making him a slave again. He was freed by producing the freedom papers given to by Sharp. In 1782, with the help of a British Colonel he traveled to Jamaica and was able to obtain freedom for his wife and four children. In Jamaica, the slave owners did not want Liele preaching to their slave and he again throw into jail. In spite of the opposition, Liele established a church and baptized over 500 people. Of those converts many became missionary and pastor who went throughout the Caribbean and Americas, establishing churches back in Georgia, South Carolina, Jamaica, Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone. In 1814 there were 8000 Baptist in Jamaica, in 1832 through George Liele’s work and influence there were over 20,000. In 1838 slavery was outlawed in Jamaica not in little part due to Liele and his work in the previous years.
One of the great heroes of Christ in the 19th century was Adonirom Judson, the missionary, who after studying his Bible while in route to the mission field and became a Baptist. As a Baptist he along with others, started the first Baptist Missionary Society. Judson and his wife Ann, who was the first woman missionary from America, landed in India but the British East India Company drove them away. They secretly left for Rangoon Burma. There, they struggled for years. Judson was arrested as a spy and spent 21 months in prison, often being brought out and beaten in public as an example. Ann, who had lost 3 children due to the hardships of their service, worked ceaselessly to free her husband. Just a few months after she succeeded in freeing her husband, she joined her children in death in 1828. Judson then married a widow of a fellow missionary, George Boardman. Sarah and Adonirom had 8 children but only 5 lived. Sarah died in 1845 and he married Emily Chubbuck in 1846, they had two children but only one survived the disease and hardship of Burma. Judson died with a lung infection on board a ship trying to regain his health, he was buried at sea. No memorial to mark his body’s resting place.
None of these pains, sacrifice or sorrows were a surprise to Judson or his family, they were willing to serv no matter the cost. Before his first marriage and missionary trip, Judson wrote Ann’s father this letter seeking his consent for the marriage of his daughter to a foreign missionary.
“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world? Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall resound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?” – Adonirom Judson’s letter to Ann’s father, Mr. Hasseltine.
Men like Peter, John, Paul, Ignatius, Carey, Liele and Judson and many more, were able to do great things because they intimately knew their great Savior and made him Lord of all, the preeminent person of their life. Whatever great things you need to do as parent, employee, pastor, church member or as a child of God, you can do it and do it well if you make Christ preeminent in your life.
Paul has one more point to make about Jesus before this portrait in the first Chapter of Colossians is finished. His final stroke of the brush is in vss. 27-20
Paul’s Hope - Colossians 1:27-29
27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
Hope of Heaven’s Glory
Paul has one more mystery to share with the Colossians. It was the revelation that had been given to him on the Damascus Road when he was made a chosen vessel for the Lord’s work.
Jesus told Ananias about Paul in Acts 9:15-16 15 …Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.
So Saul the great persecutor become Paul the little servant commissioned to tell the Gentiles that Jesus Christ was the hope of glory. Never before had the pagans of the world heard such a message, that God would forgive them, save them, and make them the children of God and that God the Holy Spirit would indwell them, that the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of creation and King of Heaven would be their Hope of Glory. In the Old Testament the Shekinah Glory of God indwelt the tabernacle, and the temple showing that they were God’s people and that God would never desert them, but now the Shekinah glory of God would be in their souls showing they belong to God and that through Jesus they had the hope and assurance of the glory of heaven.
Reveling in the Revelation
What incredible mystery Paul revealed to the Gentile, pagan world and in bringing it to them, he brought it to us. Those pagans in the ancient Roman world become Christians and missionaries and went to the “uttermost” taking the hope of the Gospel with them. One day it came to us, this same mystery. How could God love us so much that he would send his own son to save us. Why would His Son die in our place? How did He then defeat death and rise from the grave bringing eternal life to us? How could we be indwelt by the spirit of the One who made heaven and earth and all things in it. How could the immensity of the Almighty be condensed to the confines of my heart? It was a great mystery then, but it now it has been fully revealed through the Gospel and we should revel in that revelation. Paul states it so elegantly in this phrase, Christ in you the hope of glory.”
I love hearing that, over and over again. “Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” It is a joyous truth that fills me with hope and assurance. No matter how terribly I may feel out there, Christ is in here. It is of no consequence if the world is overrun by sinful men, or the country is controlled by corrupt men because my soul is being run and is under the control of Jesus Christ. When the time comes that his body and this mind fails, ravished by time and its consequences, it will not mean anything, because in my soul, deep in the part of me that is truly who I am, Christ will still dwell and He will still be my hope of eternal glory.
Say it and believe it over and over again, “Christ in you, the hope of Glory!” Make sure you put an exclamation point on it! In fact, put two, one at the end of Christ in you! And another at the end of the hope of glory! Because you should be joyful and emotionally overwhelmed by both parts of that truth. Christ in me is the hope of Glory, the hope of heaven, the hope of eternal life.
Illustration: Hymn, O That Will Be Glory For Me.
During a revival a famous preacher looked out in the audience and saw a man with a radiant glow on his face. Service after service the man was there with his beaming face. On the last night of the revival the message was about Jesus’ returning to earth and claiming his own. As the preacher preached the man with the beaming face called out, "Oh, yes. And that will be glory for me!"
After the service the preacher asked the pastor of the church, "Who is the man with the bright face and blessed testimony?"
"Well, that is brother glory face," replied his informant. "He's a Christian who always seems to be on the mountaintop."
Later Charles H. Gabriel was so impressed with this same man that he was inspired to write the gospel song, "O That Will Be Glory For Me."
The hymn joyously sings. When all my labors and trials are
And I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore,
Will through the ages be glory for me.
Refrain: Oh, that will be glory for me,
Glory for me, glory for me,
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me.
As we close this morning let me ask you one last question, Do you have Christ in you, the hope of Glory.
If you do then show it. Show the joy, show the assurance, show the strength, show the peace that comes with such a sublime all sufficient truth. Christ is in me and I have the hope of glory. Nothing can remove Him from my soul and nothing can take away my hope.
If however you cannot answer and say that Christ is in you. If you know that is not true, then you must also know that you have no hope, not in this world and not in glory one eternal day. It is very simple to have that hope, just invite Jesus to come in. Just accept His gift of love, His sacrifice for your soul and open the door. Jesus himself said, “I will come in.”