Colossians 2: 6-15 God, Church, and the World
Folks, you are to be commended. You have chosen to take a stand against the cultural convenience embraced by more and more people. You have chosen to spend a precious hour of your life in an ancient practice, a liturgical practice. That word, liturgical, comes from the word liturgy meaning “the work of the people”. And you thought you just came to church.
What work are we doing, pastor? You are doing the work of choosing God; the work of praying, of singing, of giving, and of listening as this sermon is preached. Wow, how is this work? And, if it is work, are we going to get paid? Well, I certainly hope you do get paid; it just will not be with that which can be swindled, counterfeited, stolen, or lost as any payment this world gives us can be. If you do the work, you will be paid with something much more valuable.
And how it this work, you ask? It does not feel like work (well maybe listening to the preacher is). Ah, but remember what Jesus said: Matthew 11:29-30 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (NIV). We are gathered here in this church not to be entertained. We are gathered not for what we can get. We are gathered to obey the command of this passage. We are here to continue (literally, to walk) to live in Him; Jesus our Lord. This is the yoke that binds us, the burden we are to carry.
You could be doing something else. You could be having a lot more fun. I am sure most of you have a lot to do. You could be spending this time getting those things done. But instead you chose to come here. You could be watching a sporting event on TV. You could be shopping. You could have slept in, or taken a trip somewhere, but instead you are here. Why? Hopefully because deep down inside you know this is what you are supposed to do.
A young boy whose family attended church regularly announced to his mother, “Mom, I’ve decided to become a minister when I grow up.”
“That’s okay with us son, but what made you decide that?”
“Well,” said the little boy, “I have to go to church on Sunday anyway, and I figure it will be more fun to stand up and yell, than to sit and listen.”
The church, the called out people of God, are instructed to gather. We are to gather and pray, gather and sing, gather to listen and learn from the Word of God. This gathering is what allows us to continue to follow God. We cannot be faithful unless we gather. We cannot be rooted, built up, and strengthened unless we do. The church is the body of Christ. It is how we continue to walk with Him. It is in the church that we are prepared for the service needed and discipline demanded if we are to someday here those words, “Well done, faithful servant,” spoken to us by Jesus himself. It is the church and our making a commitment to it that we demonstrate our thankfulness. We gather to remember. We gather to celebrate. There is nothing my hypocritical than thankless Christianity. Nothing more insulting to God than to take what he has done for us for granted. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave for the church. Grace is God’s gift to that saves us. Our salvation joins us to Jesus. We are His presence, His physical body here on the Earth. Paul writes: Colossians 1:24 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 (NIV). It is a blatant self deception; an egotist illusion to think one can overflow with thankfulness for what Jesus did and not be active and serving in a local church. It is a lie, an effective lie promoted by evil. You are not a church by yourself. By ourselves, we will become victims not victors; by ourselves we will be captives not conquerors. Folks it God’s will that we be conquerors: Romans 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (NIV).
This brings us to the next truth this passage warns us about in verse 8 (Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ). We are in a war, a spiritual war, a battle for our minds. Paul warns us to not be taken captive. Not to be taken captive by the arrogance and the ignorance of our age. What does this mean? Folks, I cannot even begin to tell you how the Western church has already given in to the world because we did not give this warning serious attention. I could talk about the loss of moral values even to the point of accepting things God says he hates. I could cite examples of rampant materialism, consumerism, secularism, practical atheism, and religious liberalism in the church all day long. The church of Jesus Christ in all its denominational forms is in serious decline. We have been taken captive by the world.
When the church does not do what Jesus told us to do, what the Scripture tells us to do, it is like a soldier that does not follow the orders he is given in combat. The result is disorganization that then enemy will use to their advantage. We are called to be disciples of Jesus. Jesus gave us our orders as he ascended into heaven. Matthew 28:18-20 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”(NIV)
Here in lies the crisis, we are failing to make disciples. We have turned our churches into markets for cheap grace. We have made church about us rather than about him. We tell people how important it is to understand that Jesus came to save us. We tell people ask Jesus to forgive you of you sin, how important it is to be born again, but we fail to help them in their new birth to understand Jesus came to rescue us from an enemy who wants to destroy us. We fail to focus on doing what Jesus did, preparing his disciple for spiritual combat. He sent his disciples out to reach out to others. He taught them how to put God first. He preached, taught, modeled, mentored, and them in commitment, courage and confidence.
After WW2, a Japanese general was asked why Japan attacked the US. His response was, “We did not think the US had the will to fight. You did not fortify you bases. You barely passed the draft, and your military forces were ill-equipped. Folks, do we have the will to fight? Do we really understand what Jesus did for us? Do we really grasp what he has called us to be and do? Do we really believe that if someone dies without Jesus they will go to Hell? Do we understand we will be called to give an account? Do we really believe this? If we do, why are we not training? Why are we not working? Why are not more serving? Where does it say in Scripture, others will do this so I don’t? Where does it say we don’t need to make disciples, we don’t need to train? Where does it say, we don’t need to gather as often? We don’t need to study the Scripture, others will do these things.
Paul tells us our focus needs to be on Jesus. He tells us Jesus has shown us God in bodily form. Jesus has given us His fullness. He prevailed over evil. He defeated the powers and principalities and we are to do so as well. Look at verse 15 (Colossians 2:15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross-NIV). He took their power away. He disarmed them. He made a spectacle of them. He conquered death. He rose from the grave and has called us to follow him. He has sent his Holy Spirit to indwell us and gives us spiritual gifts which enable us to win in the battle of life. If this is so, why are we being defeated? Why does it seem we are losing the war?
There is a children’s poem called for want of a nail. For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost, for want of a rider the battle was lost. For want of a battle the war was lost, for want of a war the kingdom was lost.
For want of the Word, a witness was lost. For want of a witness, a soul was lost. For want of a soul, a generation was lost. For want of a generation, the church was lost. For want of a church, Jesus weeps. Look at verse 13. God made us alive in Jesus. We only live by continuing in Him.
The reason the church has grown so weak, so watered down, so whipped, is because we have not continued to live in him. We have turned the church into a social club at its best and a servant of the world at its worst. But this can change.
Sometimes your biggest weakness can become your biggest strength. Take, for example, the story of one 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.
The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training the master had taught him only one move.
“Sensei,” the boy finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?”
“This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the sensei replied.
Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training. Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals. This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened.
“No,” the sensei insisted, “Let him continue.”
Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion.
On the way home, the boy and sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind.
“Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”
“You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”
The boy’s biggest weakness had become his biggest strength.
In our weakness, Jesus brings us strength. The only thing we need to bring change to our world, to be the over comers Jesus wants us to be is for us to focus on Him, make our commitment to Him, to continue to live in Him. No one can make this decision for you. What will you decide?