Sermon for Seventh Sunday of Pentecost

Colossians 2:6-19 Don’t Get Scammed

This is not an easy passage. This is a Scripture passage that can be hard to accept.  These words may cause an emotional response. These words can convict.  I understand that these words may be out and out rejected and maybe even cause a response in which they are angrily completely rejected.  Still, these are words that fit in the context of this passage and speak to an issue that weigh on me so heavily that it made me physically sick.  What I have to say here today I say not as a legalist, not as a denominational loyalist, and the only personal agenda attached to my words is my desire to see each of us walking closer to our God.  Please be patient with me.  Please weigh these words and pray about how you will respond.

First, let us be reminded of what is happening in this passage.  Paul is writing to a church he has never met. Paul is writing this letter from his prison cell.  He has been incarcerated because of his proclaiming of the Gospel.  Even though Paul only knows of this church from reports and encounters with individuals who do know the church, Paul loves them and desires only the best for them. I know some would question how Paul could love them, but as one grows in the Lord one does come to understand and even practice such compassion.

For two Sundays the lectionary has focused on this letter to the Colossians.  This letter to the church has focused on the dangers (spiritual dangers) they face and that we face as well.  

In this passage, the purpose remains the same.  First, there is the positive.  Look again at verses 6-7.  This is what our faith is about.  This is the reason for the church.  We are here because of Jesus.  We are here because God does love us and (2 Peter 3:9) “It is a God’s desire is in not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Jesus came to this world to offer an example of the desire of God, a desire to journey with us.  In the reality of the certainty of death, Jesus came to offer life.  In John 10:28 Jesus says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” 

But Paul brings up a point about this encounter with God that we should understand well.  If we are given life by Jesus, if we are indwelt by Jesus, if we are being transformed by Jesus then we should see evidence of that life.  Our perspective should change.  Our wants and desires should be moving away from living for the world and instead living by the Word. 

If not, then either we are not children of God or else we have allowed ourselves to be so deceived, to be so totally scammed by this world that hates Jesus, despises God, and enjoys using us that we are living a lie.  This is a real danger.

Verse eight states, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (Col. 2:8 NIV) This was the real spiritual danger the Colossians faced.  We are warned of the real dangers to our spiritual lives. 

The Scripture warns us about developing, accepting, or even tolerating certain forms of philosophy.  Philosophy literally means Philo (love) of Sophia (wisdom).  It is the love of wisdom.  What is wrong with that? Why do we need to be warned about the love of wisdom? 

Everyone consciously or subconsciously develops a philosophy of life, an order of thinking that has a great determining influence on our actions and behaviors.  Your philosophy determines what you think is important.  Your philosophy determines what you think is true.  The philosophy or philosophies we are warned about are those that mix foolish deception and our own fallen reason. (Other translations might have vain deceit or empty deception). 

The word translated “foolish” (vain, empty) is a word meaning the sense of being without effect, without reaching its goal.  It is the same word used in James 2:20: You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?

The word for deception (deceit) is one that has to do with the seduction which comes from wealth.  It is the same word in Matt. 13:22 in the parable of the Sower in which Jesus says, “The one who received the seed (the Gospel) that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” 

The Scripture goes on to tell us that this philosophy comes from human tradition, influences hostile to God, and the way the world thinks rather than what Jesus has taught.

Then in verses 10 through 19 Paul reminds the Colossians and us about the true philosophy, the true wisdom upon which we should be basing our lives.  He sets out the truth revealed in Scripture and in the words and actions of Jesus as a reminder of the core principles the Colossians (and we) need to challenge the philosophies of this world.  In the time this was written, the Colossians (the world) time, the philosophy was one of magic and prosperity.  Magic in believing that we can (through actions or knowledge) control God.   The philosophy of prosperity is one in which we believe money and God are equal and with enough money, I really don’t need God.

It seems that not much changes. The predominant religious philosophy of our day is called therapeutic-moral-deism. God is only important when we need Him.   

Here is when this passage intersects with a very prominent problem in the church. Here is where we face the same danger as the Colossians.  We too are in danger of being taken captive if not captive already. How can we know? How can we avoid being deceived, mislead, and end up being enemies of God’s will instead of examples of God’s guidance and hope?

As one who has been called by God to serve the church, I operate under the authority given to me by the Scripture to equip the saints for the work of ministry.  In the 13th chapter of the book of Hebrews, I am warned that I will give an account to God for my work (Hebrews 13:17 They keep watch over you as men who must give an account).  But the question is, “How does one called by God accomplish this?” A minister has no special magical instrument, no scientific tool to tell how a person is doing spiritually.  There is no thermometer to measure the fervency of one’s faith. There are no x-rays that can be taken to indicate what may be broken in a person’s soul. All one can do is bring the Scripture to God’s people and pray they will respond. This is the faithfulness God expects from those he calls.

In other words, no pastor has the power to diagnose the situation or condition of your soul. All a pastor can do is faithful to God and transparent to those whom they shepherd. A pastor can look for evidence of God working in one’s life. You cannot be touched by our Lord and not be changed. However, our spiritual lives can grow cold. Our spiritual lives can become corrupt. We can be scammed by the enemy of God and thus become instruments of evil. Many, many people with shallow faith and deceived hearts are not living the life we are called to live.

God calls us to transcend, overcome, transform, and be salt and light to this world. If we are not living as people who are an example of light, we will be a people of darkness. We must choose. We must decide. We must have commitment. We must depend on Christ and the Holy Spirit every day, hour, and minute. It is not easy. It is hard, but it is worth it. Don’t be scammed by the enemy. God is counting on you.