Sunday, July 13, 2008

Battling Sin with Superior Pleasure

Battling Sin with Superior Pleasure
Colossians 3:1-4
The Expulsive Power of a Higher Affection

Scripture Introduction:

Last week we talked about one of those disputable matters in Scripture. We closed by giving a list of questions to ask yourself in decision making when something is not specifically dealt with in Scripture. We gave these suggestions:

Is this expressly commanded or forbidden in Scripture?
Is my motivation to make Christ the only boast of this generation?
Is this done in faith?
Does this glorify God?
Does my conscience condemn me?
Does this promote or distract from the gospel?
Is it permissible but not beneficial?
Is it necessary?

One of the questions asked was, “Is it okay to kiss your girlfriend”. We ran through this list and came to discover that it does not follow biblical principles for you to kiss your girlfriend. But this list begs a question. This list only helps you to define what is right and wrong. We learned last week that lists have no power to change your heart and keep you from sin. This week we will, by the grace of God, address that very issue; how do we conquer sin.

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you.” In other words there must not even be a hint of those things. What will give you the power to overcome this sin when everything within you is crying out to submit to its pleasure?

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them”. How do we follow this when everything within us screams for revenge—and revenge quickly?

“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving”. How do you have a heart of praise and thanksgiving when that joke or insult is bubbling within you? When the crowd would be laughing at your crude joke what will quiet your vulgar mouth and replace it with a mouth of praise?

“Wives submit to your husbands, as to the Lord.” How, when everything cries out within you to usurp his authority and lead on your own? “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church.” How, when all of the selfish desires of the flesh creep up? How do I love my wife like Jesus did?

How do you spread Christ to the nations when silence is comfortable? What will motivate you to serve in the church when it seems so fearful? What will open up your pocketbook and cause you to be faithful in giving? What will create a holy people that love what they should love and hate what they should hate and do what they should do and not do what they should not do?

“Be holy as I am holy”. How? How can we be holy? We saw last week what is NOT the answer to these questions: we will not be holy by “just say no” campaigns, nor will we be made holy by building fences. No, I submit to you tonight, what Sam Storms does in his book Pleasures Forevermore—but more importantly what God says through the Apostle Paul in Colossians 3, the key to holiness is falling in love. Or as Paul says here in Colossians 3:1-4


Sermon Introduction:

Now before we begin really looking at this I must mention that many of these words are in the imperative. That means that these things are a command. What Paul is saying in these four verses is not a mere suggestion. It is God’s Word and it is a command. This is not something that we can just throw off and consider as a potential way of living. This is not a suggestion for a higher experience of Christianity. This is vital—if you do not heed this you will, in a spiritual sense die. Your soul will be ate up by the things of the world and shrivel up and die.

Listen to what John the beloved disciple said in his first letter. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world (or substitute Paul’s words “things that are on earth”), the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever”. This is a matter of life and death. To not heed what God is saying in these verses will lead to us not “continuing in the faith, stable and steadfast”. It will cause us to “shift from the hope of the gospel”. To put this bluntly; follow this text or die. It is to our great peril not to heed this text. Sin will eat us up if we do not.

But that is only one side of the coin. It is not only the prospect of future and even current punishment that ought to motivate us to listen to this text. It is also what you are missing out on. Paul is pointing us to the source of all joy and pleasure. Sin is not a lasting pleasure. Holiness is. C.S. Lewis said it well when he said, “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered [to] us…We are far too easily pleased.”

To not heed what Paul is saying is to miss out on the “fullness of joy” that is found in God’s presence alone. To go our own way and reject God at this point is to abandon the “pleasures forevermore” that are found at His right hand. Therefore, we must heed what Paul is saying in this text.

What then is Paul saying in Colossians 3:1-4? Earlier I used the phrasing of Sam Storms to describe it—the key to holiness if falling in love. Remember that the chapter and verse divisions are not in the original. These four verses ought to go with what we talked about last week. But they also are the foundation for the rest of the book of Colossians. In fact these verses are central to Paul’s argument in the entire letter. These verses are the nail in the coffin to the teaching of the Colossian heretics. This is Paul’s final explanation of doctrine and then he will move to spelling this out practically. But, before Paul talks about Christian living he teaches doctrine. He lets them know what will help them, in verse 5, “put to death therefore what is earthly in you”. He is explaining what it means to “put on” Christ. This is the fountain from which submission, sacrifice, obedience, love, prayer, evangelism, speech, all holy living flows. It flows from a heart that is set ablaze by the beauty, majesty, and glory of Jesus Christ. Holiness flows from a soul enthralled with God. Holiness comes from minds and hearts that are set on and seeking the things of Christ and not the things of the earth. But what does that mean specifically? How do we know what exactly we are to seek and what are we to set our minds on? Namely, it is Jesus Christ that we are to look upon. Specifically, I see two things in this text. Looking at these two things will comprise our sermon this evening.

I. Look at what He has done

Are you sensing a theme yet? Consistently in the book of Colossians their minds have to be drawn back to Christ. This is what is happening again in verse 1. “If then you have been” is another way of saying “Since”. This is not an “if” like it is a mere possibility. It is saying, since you have been “raised with Christ”. Where have we seen that phrase before? Back in verse 12-14 we saw that what has happened is that God has taken us, dead in our sin, and has given us new life—that is what it means to be “raised with Christ”. So, Paul is saying in verse 1, “since you have been given new life in Christ, seek the things that are above”.

Something that astonishes to me…and I say this about my own life…is that I sometimes get bored with God. I get accustomed to Him and can drift into a tired boredom in my relationship with Him. It is not that He is not amazing; it is because I am sinful and jaded. I am not yet fully redeemed. I say this because the truth that I just explained to you is one of the greatest and most glorious truths that have ever been spoken in the history of the world. Yet, we—I—often take them as if it is an everyday occurrence. Do we not believe the gospel? Do we not really believe what is being said here? I was dead and God made me alive.

Brought from death to life! There you lay in the tomb, but a moment away from being cast into hell. Your body already beginning to become corrupt and dilapidated. The marks of the worm of sin were upon our character and the foul stench of actual sin arose from us. Death worked in us corruption. There we laid in death. Totally, completely, irrevocably unable to raise ourselves. Ours were eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear; a heart that could not love and withered hands that could not be stretched out to give the touch of faith. We were even as they that go down into Hell, as those that have been long dead—only we in a worse plight than those actually dead, for we were daily adding to our condemnation. We were, therefore, in a state of spiritual death of the most fearful kind.

But, oh that life-changing conjunction, but, the Holy Spirit visited us and made us alive. Do you remember that first sensation of life? How it seemed to tingle in your soul’s veins with sharp and bitter pain—just as drowning person, when life is coming back to them, suffer great pain. Conviction was worked in us and confession of sin. A dread of judgment came to us and a sense of our present condemnation was present, but these were only the beginning mark of what was to come. That life imparted gradually deepened and opened up until the eyes were opened—we could see Christ! Our hands ceased to be withered and we stretched them out and touched the hem of His garment. Our feet began to move in the way of obedience and our heart felt the sweet glow of love within. Then our eyes, not content with simple seeing, fell to weeping and afterwards, when then tears were wiped away, they flashed and sparkled with delight.

And oh, my brothers and sisters, believers in Jesus, we were not spiritually dead any longer. On Christ you have believed and that grand act proves that you are no longer in death. You have been raised from the dead. You have been given new life. You have been made alive by the mighty power of God which worked in Christ when he raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand. Now, you are a new creature—the product of a second birth, given new life in Christ Jesus. Christ is your life—such as life as you never knew before, nor could have known apart from Him.[1]

This is what the first part of Colossians 3:1 means. Because of what Christ has done by His work, “canceling the record of debt and disarming the rulers and authorities”, we have new life. Feast on this, focus on this. Look to Christ and His mighty work in the gospel. We cannot exhaust this in one sermon. All of eternity will be spent relishing in the benefits that Christ has purchased. But let us look briefly at what we have seen thus far in Colossians:

Because of Christ:
· Those that should have no future but hell are given a hope laid up in heaven
· Those that are most despicable and unqualified for heavenly joys are qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light
· Those that deserved to dwell forever in the despair of the evil domain of darkness are transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son
· Those that have sold themselves into slavery and are harlot are bought back and redeemed
· Those that deserve condemnation are forgiven
· Those that should be estranged from the mighty, powerful, loving, blessed God are reconciled by His cross.
· Those that were alienated and God-haters with no hope of life are now reconciled and will be made holy, blameless, and clean before Him
· Those that are but dust are made to say, “Christ in you the hope of glory”
· Those that are empty and depraved because of sin are “filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority”
· Those that are trapped in a wretched body of flesh are freed and raised from the dead for now and eternity to enjoy pleasures forevermore
· Those with trespasses as long as the eye could see are “forgiven all our trespasses”

And this, brothers, and sisters is but a small sampling of what Christ has done. Focus on Christ and His gospel. Let me quickly add, that we learn from the last part of verse 1 that it is Christ that we are to be seeking—not simply the “things” above. So, what does this look like practically?

1) The battle is won before the war begins

This is not something that you take with you when the temptations are high and you are in the heat of battle. If Christ is not precious to you before the battle then he will not be precious to you in the midst of it. You will have already lost. Nor is this something that you use only when you are picking up the wounded after the battle. The battle is won before the war begins. Preach the gospel before temptation. Preach the gospel to yourself before you turn on the television. Be crazy in love with Jesus before you boot up the computer. Preach the gospel to yourself before you get in the ungodly relationship. Preach the gospel to yourself days before the witnessing opportunity. Preach the gospel to yourself even before you know what the day will bring. Preach the gospel to yourself constantly.

Notice how Paul does not condition this commandment. “Seek the things above” when you are tempted with financial worry. “Seek the things above” when you really are struggling with lust. “Seek the things above” when your boyfriend is pressuring you into doing something you do not want to do. “Seek the things above” when…you fill in the blank. This is a perpetual all day every day commandment. Seek the things above.

2) The battlefield is your desire

In verse 2, Paul gives a little different command when he says, “set your minds”. The word that is translated “mind” refers to “the basic orientation, bent, and thought patterns of the mind, rather than to the mind or intellect itself, and refers more to inner disposition.” Therefore, we are not simply talking about thinking about something. Nor is this simply something that you can do by a mere act of the will—as if that would be following Paul’s command here. What Paul is saying is how the KJV translates it, “set your affection” or “desire” on the things above.
But here is the “problem”—we cannot make our heart love what it ought to love. This must come from a work of grace. So, what do you do? You put yourself in places to receive grace; one way we have already mentioned—preaching the gospel to yourself. This is a stupid analogy, but it will help us to see what we need to do. Imagine that it is a really hot day, over 100 degrees. You are hot, sweaty, and in need of cooling. Up ahead you see a sprinkler system. How do you get cooled off? You stand under the water. You put yourself in the spot for refreshing. It is the same thing in the battlefield for our desires. You put yourself in the path of grace. We call them spiritual disciplines. Reading Scripture. Journaling. Prayer. Fellowship with other believers. Solitude. Fasting. Bible Memorization. Reading. That is only to name a few. Let’s make this simple. You do anything that you can to find Jesus. All of these are really ways to open up for you what Jesus has done—as well as our second point—what Jesus is going to do.

II. Look at what He is going to do

Paul’s point in verse 3-4 is the other side of verse 1-2. Verse 1-2 talks about us being raised to new life with Christ. If we have been given new life then logically we must have also died to the old one. This is Paul’s point in verse 3-4 and he includes with this truth a great promise.

Lest we misunderstand this “being hidden” is not something that he is going to do. This too is something that he has already done. What does it mean to be “hidden” with Christ? It can mean three things—and it is probably a combination of all three. First of all, it is a token of our security. It carries with it the idea that this treasure is stowed away by Christ for safekeeping. Secondly, it refers to our identity being hidden by the identity of Christ. This is kind of what Paul is saying in Galatians 2:20—“it is no longer I who live but Christ that lives within me.” So that when God sees the believer he sees the work of Christ. Lastly, and this is the dominate view is that our life is unexplainable to the unregenerate. Our source of life is hidden from the lost world. In fact it is often hidden from us.

How do Christian’s currently appear to the world? Often people wonder why we do not do some of the things that we do. Why do you not drink? Why do you not have sex until marriage? Why do you stay faithful in marriage? How do you do that? How do you still have hope in the midst of death? Why would you give 10% of your income to the church? Why will you not watch this movie? Why do you spend so much time praying? Why would you want to read the Bible instead of playing video games? We look, to the world—and sadly to some professing Christians—like sticks in the mud. They do not understand our life source.

Why is it that I do not drink? Because I have joy that is not found in a bottle. Why is it that I am faithful to my wife? Because there is more joy in holiness than in infidelity. The unbeliever does not see our life source. What I am saying now even sounds stupid and unappealing. Why is that? Because our life source—Christ—is hidden from the unbelievers view.

But notice what God is going to do in verse 4. But Christ, who is your life…again this is affirming what we just said about verse 3 that Christ is our life what about him? “When he appears”, which is a reference to the ultimate display of His glory at the climax of history when all we see Jesus clearly for who He is. Everyone will see the glory of Christ on that day. Those of you that are unbelievers will see Christ for who he really is and it will astonish you—but it will be too late. The appearance of Christ on that day will be evidence and the confirmation of your forthcoming just and being cast from His good presence for all eternity. If he is not your life source now he will not be your life source then.

For some of us when he appears, we also “will appear with him in glory”. What does that mean? Sam Storms explains it well when he says:
“When Paul says we will appear with him “in glory” he’s not referring to a place but an experience. This is the promise of sharing in the glorified life of Christ. It is the promise of the eradication of evil and every fleshly impulse. It is the promise of everlasting deliverance from greed and pride and lust and envy and unforgiveness. It is the promise that our whole being: body, soul, mind, spirit, and affections will experience and forever live in the power and purity of God himself.”

So, how does this help us in our fight against the deadly rebel of sin? It reminds us of who we really are and what we are really going to be. We are to seek and set our affection on God. Who he is, what he has done, and what he is going to do.

What happens is that when our soul is delighting in all of these things—and we are focusing on Christ the things of earth do not look so appealing. I close with a story from Greek mythology.

It is a very old story it is about a guy named Odysseus. The story starts with Odysseus traveling on his ship back to Ithaca. Odysseus has just rescued his king’s beloved wife Helen. On his way to take Helen back to Ithaca they must travel by the Sirens. The Sirens appeared to be beautiful. They were entrancing. Countless sailors would sail by the island and be enticed to come ashore. Once they got close to the shore however, their boats would crash on the hidden rocks beneath. They would be captured by the demonic cannibals that lived on the island. It was a trap and everyone knew it, but their call was so seductive that it seemed no man could resist.
Odysseus had a strategy. He told all of his crew to put wax in their ears and not look to the left or to the right. But Odysseus wanted to hear their beautiful music. He commanded his crew to tie him to the mast of the ship, and that no matter what he would say or do for them to not untie him until they were a safe distance from the island. Odysseus was completely seduced by the sirens. If it were not for the ropes tying him down, he would have succumbed. His hands were restrained but his heart was captivated by their beauty. Outwardly he had won the victory, but inwardly his heart desired the beautiful song of the sirens.
Now there was another man named Jason that would pass by the Sirens. But Jason’s solution was different. Rather than being tied to the mast or sticking wax in his ears, he hired Orpheus. Orpheus was the best musician in the land. Whenever the crew was passing close to the Sirens he ordered Orpheus to play his most beautiful, alluring, songs. Jason and his men did not even pay attention to the sirens. They were captivated by the beauty of Orpheus’ tune. They won the victory of the Sirens because they had heard something far sweeter, far more noble, far more soothing.

Now this is what we are confronted with. Whenever we stand in battle, whenever temptation is waging war on us, will we be like Odysseus; outwardly rejecting but inwardly craving the pleasures of sin. Will we struggle through life battling with sin not because our hearts have been transformed but because we are shackled by fear and shame? How will we struggle with sin, outwardly conforming all the while inwardly desiring sin? Or will we be like Jason? Will we be so captivated by the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ that sin no longer looks good to us. That is the only way to fight sin. Whenever you are so enthralled, enamored, in love with Jesus Christ will you be able to say “no” to sin, and mean it.

[1] Adapted from C.H. Spurgeon “Following the Risen Christ”

To Drink or Not to Drink, That is the Question

To Drink or Not to Drink, That is the Question
Colossians 2:16-23
How to make decisions permeated by the gospel

Scripture Introduction:

Tonight may seem a little weird at first. We are going to be discussing a very heated debate that is going on in within many Southern Baptist circles. My fear in doing this is that we will get distracted by this tree and miss the beautiful forest of Colossians 2:16-23. So, as we are discussing this particular issue I hope to help you extend it beyond the beginning discussion.

There is a network of church planters (people who start new churches) called Acts 29. Acts 29 does not agree with requiring church members to totally abstain from alcoholic beverages. In fact some have even gone so far as to have church services in bars and teaching classes on how to brew good beer. One prominent member of Acts 29 discusses that in his desire to be biblical he had to repent of total abstinence and drink a beer.

Some of that probably sounds a little strange; it does, to many traditional Baptist. This is why on December 10, 2007 a group of board members got together to defund any Missouri Baptist Church that was affiliated with the Acts 29 Network. Let me put a face on that decision. My buddy Sam loves Jesus. He is passionate about spreading the glory of God to the nations. My buddy Sam belonged to the MBC when he began planting his church. He also found the Acts 29 Network very helpful. Therefore, because of his affiliation with the Acts 29 Network he lost all of his financial support from the MBC.

Many in the Acts 29 Network personally abstain from drinking alcohol. Many that are friends of the Acts 29 Network personally abstain from drinking alcohol. However, they feel it unbiblical to require total abstinence. It is a matter of Christian liberty, they say.

There was also a motion given at the recent Southern Baptist Convention (and it was also made at the Missouri Baptist Convention) that all those that serve on boards of the SBC “agree to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages and using any other recreational drugs…” Thereby, saying that if you want to serve as a leader then you must totally abstain from alcohol use. This is not saying drunkenness; this is saying even a drop of alcohol. The reasoning is to maintain an effective witness in the community, to avoid the abuse of alcohol, and to be careful lest we make our weaker brother stumble.

Here at First Baptist Church of New London, our church covenant reads something somewhat similar. About halfway down you will see the statement, “We also engage to…abstain from the sale of, and use of, intoxicating drinks as a beverage”. This is not unique to our church. We copied a very common church covenant from the 50’s and 60’s and still have it today. The question for us as we look at Colossians 2:16-23 is this: Should a church (or network of churches such as the SBC) require its members to totally abstain from the use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage?

Read Text

Sermon Introduction:

Before we begin asking this question I need to make a few disclaimers. I personally abstain from the use of alcohol. I feel that it is the wisest choice for a believer. I have no desire for alcohol use, I saw what it has done to my father, and I want no part of it. I am not encouraging any of you to drink—even one drop. If you ever came to my office asking my opinion on drinking alcohol I am going to do my best to tell you to abstain; especially, if you are under 21 and especially, if you are a member of our church. Because, like it or not that is the law and that is what you said you would submit to when you became a member. Perhaps in the future the constitution and church covenant will be rewritten and read a little differently. But until that time your liberty does not extend to disobeying what you agreed to abide by.

The central question that was being asked at Colossae is the same central question asked of us today: what will give us the fullest expression of Christianity. Last week we mentioned Psalm 16:11. If it is true that in God’s presence is fullness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore, then how do we most experience this fullness of joy? The thing that ought to be deeply on the heart of every person—and especially on the heart of every believer—is how can we be most faithful to God and His gospel? How do we do as Paul said in Colossians 1:23, “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast not shifting from the hope of the gospel”.

In Colossae the question was whether or not all of these extra things enhanced their spiritual experience. Does asceticism (strict treatment of the body) help you to be more like Jesus? Are you more spiritual if you abstain from certain foods or drinks? If I have been enlightened and experience visions but you do not—does that mean my experience of God is full and yours is not?

Sam Storms has excellently summarized this section: “The leaders of this movement had created a long list of proscribed activities from which one must be diligent to abstain (vv. 21-22). If a person proved faithful in abiding by these extra-biblical and ascetic practices, and engaged in fervent worship of angels (v. 18a), one might expect to receive religious visions in which things inaccessible to the ordinary believer are seen and experienced (v. 18b). All this served to mark them out as spiritually superior when compared to the average individual. “

In our present case does requiring abstinence from alcohol give us the fullest expression of Christianity? Will setting up regulations safeguard against sin and give us power to overcome evil and protect our fullness of joy? Or are such things actually far too restrictive and stand opposed to our joy in God? Is it possible that it misses the point entirely and does not go far enough?

You can see how this extends beyond our question of alcohol consumption. This has an affect on the movies that we watch. Many of you ask me questions about dating/courting, etc. Hopefully this text will help you to know how to answer these questions. There are many things that are not expressly commanded or forbidden in Scripture. These are often questions of individual conscience and Christian liberty. So, how do we know what to do in such matters? Hopefully these principles will help us make these decisions in a way that honors Christ and promotes holiness.

This discussion is one that we have had before. A few months ago in our sermon series on enjoying the gospel we talked about two barriers to our enjoyment of the gospel. One was licentiousness the other was legalism. Legalism is the lethal poison being spread in Colossae. We defined legalism as “seeking to achieve forgiveness from God, justification before God, and acceptance by God through our obedience to God.” (Mahaney) It is us trying to smuggle our character into God’s work of grace. (Mahaney) In Colossae they were trying to smuggle their works of asceticism, abstaining from foods, seeking visions, worshipping the right angels, among other things.

This is why I oppose such things as the Missouri Baptist Convention banning of Acts 29 churches. I believe that the Southern Baptist Convention with such resolutions as those recently passed verge on legalism. This is why I would like to see our church covenant reworded. As it stands it is far too susceptible to the charge of legalism.

But there is another side to this coin. There are those that use their “freedom” for immorality. Even though I oppose such resolutions I also oppose the use of alcohol. It is unwise and I would encourage anyone to abstain. This is why this sermon is dangerous; in order to biblical it has to walk the fine line between legalism and using freedom as a license to sin. There is really only one solution to this—the powerful working of grace. As John Piper helps us see the root of legalism and immorality—unbelief.

Wherever happy confidence in the sovereign power of God for our own lives and the lives of others grows, weak legalism creeps in. For we inevitably try to compensate for loss of dynamic faith by increased moral resolve and the addition of man-made regulations. But wherever joyful confidence in the power of God is waning, the flesh is waxing. Which means that the very morality that we had hoped would save ourselves and the very regulations we hoped would purify our church fall victim to the massive power of the flesh, and become its instruments of self-reliance and self-sufficiency.

Tonight our text will help us see two marks of grace that will help us walk the fine line between legalism and immorality.

I. Grace delights in the substance and not the shadows

The Pharisees in Jesus’ day look quite a bit like us sometimes. Imagine the core of God’s law (draw a little circle). Now outside of that are biblical ways to follow those. These are good. These are prescribed by God and should be sought after by His power. Now, we know that God wants to follow these things. So what is the best way to do it?

Let’s take our example of alcohol use. One of these laws is drunkenness. We know that God does not want us to be drunkards, or even drunk. Drunkenness is a sin. So, how can we best fight alcohol abuse?

Let’s go back to the Pharisees. One of the things that God commands us to do is to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. What does that mean? How do you keep from breaking that? Let’s build a fence around this commandment to protect us from breaking it. So, they did this with every wall. They built a fence around the commandment. Then after time they built a fence around the fence. What would that look like practically? Pharisees rightly believed that a man ought not to lust after a woman. How do they fight that? Well, do not look at a woman…ever. That is why the Pharisees became known as the bleeders. They always walked with their head down and would always run into stuff. Does God say not to look at women? No. Is looking at a woman with your eyes wrong? No, of course it is not. Is looking at a woman with lust wrong? Of course it is. Do you fight lust by regulations or do you fight lust with the power of grace?

Let’s go back to drunkenness. Do you fight drunkenness with regulations that are not in the Bible? Do you fight drunkenness by saying that even Jesus’ could not serve on your board. Remember Jesus’ albeit diluted and not nearly as strong as ours today had a touch of alcohol. Never drunk—but he did not totally abstain. The apostle Paul commanded Timothy to drink a little win to help his stomach. Not drunkenness, but not totally abstaining. Therefore, is the best way to fight alcoholism and drunkenness to require totally abstaining?

Do you fight sin with fences or do you fight sin with grace? That is central at Colossae. A group of people are judging the spirituality of others based upon what food and drink they consume or do not consume. Therefore, Paul says stop allowing them to cast judgment on you because you refuse to adhere to their laws. Do not let people judge you because you bust down their fence.

What fences have you set up? Let’s look at our situation two different ways. First, let’s consider our own fences that we make ourselves adhere to. Secondly, let’s consider the fences that we have set up that tick us off when people do not have the same fence.

First we will consider our fences. How do you define your relationship with God? Who of us does not feel a little more holy when we are fervent about Bible reading? Who of us does not feel more accepted by God because we shared the gospel, or gave money to the church, or helped a kid, or prayed, or fasted, or read Scripture, or read a book, or wrote a book, or counseled a friend. Who of us is not daily tempted to struggle with smuggling our character into God’s work of grace. Furthermore, who of us does not attempt to atone for our mistakes by special acts of performance?

What happens then is that we define our relationship with God by external works instead of the inner work of grace done by Christ. And when this happens to protect our own standards we begin holding others to the same standard. So as to feel justified and more holy we often exalt our same standards. This, I humbly believe, is what is happening in the MBC with these alcohol resolutions. It is denying the power of grace and delighting itself in shadows instead of the substance.

But there is another side to this coin. We can hear what is being said here and give absolutely no care for food or drink and fall headlong into idolatry and love for the world. Instead of setting up fences to protect a good commandment we erect fences to protect our sin. One of these fences can be Colossians 2:16-23. We treasure alcohol and we call it a treasuring of freedom.

Listen to Paul in Romans 14. I will read the entire chapter because it is all very important to this discussion.

What then is Paul saying? In summation Paul is saying that was is important is not the things on the periphery like eating meat and drinking wine and celebrating certain days.

Colossians 2 is only dealing with the legalist. It has gone so far the other way that Paul is reminding them of their freedom. They are in danger of falling back into a type of faith that at its core denies the sufficiency of Christ. They are defining their relationship with God based on their observance of man-made regulations. This will not fly. That is why Paul deals so strongly and rebukes them for going after the shadow instead of the substance.

Romans chapter 14 charges both sides; the libertarian that is flaunting his freedom at the expense of his brother and the legalist that is trying to bind the libertarian by his own rules and regulations.

What do both of these have in common? One of my friends from college recently wrote something that I think helps here: “Jesus did not go about fixing the legalistic Pharisees by getting a big head about how much beer he could drink without it effecting his conscience, how many dirty movies he could watch without it making him feel less spiritual, or how many dirty words he could spew out of his mouth without it effecting his righteousness. Rather, he sought to show up the Pharisees by not allowing the lesser laws dealing with externals to get in the way of the more important laws of love, mercy, and justice. Do you want to teach the legalists a lesson (and they probably need one)? Obeying less rules is not going to do the trick, but love, a love which cannot be bound by rules involving externals, will.”

In other words grace is the answer. Grace is that fine line that tiptoes between legalism and immorality. Grace refuses to bow down to man made regulations. Grace has found its souls happiness in Christ and therefore sees no need in placing all of these rules. They are unnecessary and distracting. Wouldn’t it be stupid for me to try to romance my wife’s shadow when my wife is standing right there? Why would you want to follow the shadow when you have the substance?

Grace also refuses to be satisfied with sinfulness. Grace refuses to find satisfaction in the fleeting pleasures of the world. Grace leaves us free to get drunk every day and still be forgiven by God. But grace will so work in the heart that we will have no desire for such things of the world.

II. Grace clings to the Head and not religious exercise

Let me quickly try to summarize verse 18-23. Again what is happening is that a group of people have developed this strict regime that you must adhere to in order to be really spiritual. Many in Colossae where saying, “this is stupid” and refusing to do it. Therefore, the false teachers stood in judgment over them and disqualified them, saying that their benefits in heaven (if they even got there) would be really slim; this caused them to be puffed up without reason and having a sensuous mind.

Again, if you move down to verse 20 you will see Paul’s final argument. If you died with Christ then why are you still submitting to all of these stupid rules? Remember what it means to die with Christ? It means that in Christ your sinful nature has been put off. You now have the power, by grace, to follow hard after Christ. In Christ you have the ability to obey Him. In Christ you have the ability to pursue holiness. In Christ you have the power to stop the indulgence of the flesh. If all of that is true then why do you need to build fences?

Building fences looks smart but listen to verse 23. “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” It looks smart but it actually fosters sin. These fences seem like a good idea but they keep you from growing instead of helping you.

How then do you stop sin? That is the issue isn’t it? How do you live in the fullness of joy that we learn about in Psalm 16:11? We get a hint in verse 19, and will look at this more next week. How do you stop sin? Sin is stopped by “holding fast to the Head” That is what, or rather who, causes growth. Christian growth comes from clinging to Christ and not rules. But it comes from clinging to Christ.

So, let’s use this to ask a few questions about the decisions that we make? These are meant to drive both legalism and licentiousness from you:

Is this expressly commanded or forbidden in Scripture?
Is my motivation to make Christ the only boast of this generation?
Is this done in faith?
Does this glorify God?
Does my conscience condemn me?
Does this promote or distract from the gospel?
Is it permissible but not beneficial?
Is it necessary?
What do other believers say?
What is the historical answer?

Slave or Free?

Slave or Free
Colossians 2:9-15
4 Questions to Determine If You are a Captive

Read Text

Sermon Introduction:

In the 1740’s the slave industry was thriving. A slave trader, sea captain, or ship owner could amass a fortune in his business. This attracted a young man by the name of John Newton, who at the time was a crewman on a naval ship. In 1745 a slave trader paid off a naval captain to let young Newton work for him. As Newton’s biographer says at this point, “Newton was brimming with so much confidence in his new employer that he had not doubts about his good faith. In that spirit of hope mingled with greed Newton traveled with [his new employer] to the Plantane Islands just off the coast of Sierra Leone. His career as a slave trader had begun.

However, through a miserable turn of events by his 21st birthday in 1746 Newton who had hoped to become a wealthy slave trader had now himself become a slave. He was enslaved by the very employer that promised him wealth and luxury. He was promised splendor and the freedoms of financial security but in reality he wound up a slave.

I share that story because it is often our story. We may not have physical chains but we often are taken captive. This is Paul’s warning to the church at Colossae in Colossians 2:8. See to it that “no one takes you captive”; his words echo what happened to a young John Newton. This is exactly what the false teachers in Colossae where doing. Promising fullness and in reality enslaving the people. Look at what Paul calls it; “empty deceit”.

Their teaching is according to “human tradition and elemental spirits” and not “according to Christ”. We could go into quite a bit of detail about what this teaching is and we could get really specific and try to draw some similarities with our own day. Some of the superstitions, the weird belief systems, the continual preaching of tolerance as the greatest virtue, and on and on we could go. Yet, it is summed up the best by seeing what it is not in accordance with—Christ. Therefore, it is any teaching that does not line up with Christ and what Scripture says about who Christ is. As one commentator put it, “the basic principles of the world” cover all the things in which humans place trust apart from the living God revealed in Christ; they become gods, and humans become their slaves.

The truth is that anything but Christ is going to lead you enslaved. Sin enslaves. Jesus sets free. There are four evidences, or reasons, that Paul gives to encourage the Colossians not to be tricked into slavery. These are four things that Christ has done in the lives of believers. Therefore, what Paul is saying here extends far beyond the Colossian church.

The question for us tonight is whether or not we are enslaved or if the benefits of Christ have been purchased for us. You are either free tonight or you are enslaved. I pray that these four questions may help you to determine the truth.

Question 1: Are you enslaved to deceit or are you made complete?

Paul begins by reminding the Colossians of who Christ is. Contrast verse 9 with the heresy that was running wild in Colossae. We really have a difficult time discerning precisely what this heresy is; but one thing that many believe is that the false teachers were throwing around the word “fullness” quite a bit. In ancient Greece (where Colossae was) they believed in, and often feared, the pleroma. The pleroma was the totality of divine powers. It was all the spirit beings that the Colossians would have probably feared—or at least had a great deal of respect for. This was, more than likely, part of their philosophy that was according to the elementary spirits of the world. But remember what Paul used in verse 8 to describe this teaching? Empty--the exact opposite of fullness. Now notice what word Paul uses in verse 9. In Him, that is Christ, the whole “fullness” (the Greek word pleroo, which is where pleroma came from) abides permanently. And so that we can see the beautiful picture of who the unique Jesus Christ is, 100% God and 100% man, Paul adds the word bodily. He is fully God in the flesh.

What then is Paul saying? He is looking at all of the false gods and angels that are controlling the Colossians lives and the false teachers are teaching whole doctrines based on this pleroma. Then Paul says, in Christ the entire pleroma of deity dwells. Meaning Jesus Christ is fully God. Why then are you worshipping all of these inferior things? Why give your life to something that is not the ultimate. This is a similar argument to what Paul was giving in Colossians 1:27 and 2:2-4. If Christ is the storehouse of all treasures and pleasure then why bother going somewhere else?

Now, Paul extends this thought even further. He says that in Christ we have been made complete. The Colossians were being tempted to look in other places for their Christian growth and even for their salvation. Paul is saying that because of their union with Christ (the fullness) they are made full. In other words you do not need to do all of these things that the false teachers are telling you to do. It will add nothing to your Christian growth and it will add nothing to your salvation.

Why go through other mediators? Why would you pray to an angel or a departed saint when you have direct access to the Father through Jesus? Why would you trust in anything but Jesus for salvation? Why would you trust in your baptism? Why would you trust in your church for your salvation?

“A Christian, therefore, knows that if he were to die tonight and stand before God, and if God were to say, ‘Why should I let you into my presence?’ the Christian would say, ‘You shouldn’t let me in. I have sinned and owe you a debt that I cannot pay back.’ But he wouldn’t stop there. He would continue, ‘Yet, because of your great promises and mercy, I depend on the blood of Jesus Christ shed as a substitute for me, paying my moral debt, satisfying your holy and righteous requirements, and removing your wrath against sin”.

Trusting in anything other than Christ for your growth or salvation is nothing more than empty deceit, and it will leave you enslaved to that.

Question 2: Are you enslaved to depravity or has your sin nature been stripped?

Verse 11 and 12 are very difficult verses to understand. It talks about a few things that are very foreign to our culture. There are words and concepts that have very little meaning to us today. We probably know what the word circumcision means at least biologically? But what significance does the word circumcision have? What is this body of flesh that is referred to? I will try to do this in as non-graphic as I can.

Circumcision literally means to cut off around something. Typically circumcision is a removal of the foreskin of the penis. In the Old Testament God commanded that every Israelite male be circumcised as a sign of His covenant [agreement] with them. It was to serve as a graphic symbol to the Israelite of sin. As pastor John MacArthur suggests: "God selected the reproductive organ as the location of the symbol for man’s need of cleansing for sin, because it is the instrument most indicative of his depravity, since by it he reproduces generations of sinners.”

Circumcision then was to symbolize a putting off of sin. It is a physical way of showing what is to take place inwardly. As God said to the Israelites in Dt. 30:6, “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live”.
Now lets take that understanding into Colossians 2. “In him (that is Jesus) also you were circumcised (so we know that somehow in Jesus our sinfulness has been dealt with)…and now notice this, “with a circumcision made without hands”. What does that mean? It means that God fulfilled his promise in Dt. 30:6. Circumcision is something that is done with physical hands. It is something that we can do. The type of circumcision here is something that God does. It is not man-made or done by man, it is done by God.

Now we are ready for the how he does it; as it says in verse 11, “by putting off the body of the flesh”. Remember what circumcision means in the physical sense? A cutting off of the flesh. Now what does it mean in a spiritual sense—“done without hands”? A putting off of the flesh. What does “flesh” mean in the spiritual sense? When you see the word flesh in Scripture most often it refers to self-righteous humanity apart from God. It refers to the drive that man has that is opposed to God. Romans chapter 3 is an accurate description of the flesh; read Romans 3:10-20.

But what has Christ done? Whatever this “circumcision of Christ” is a reference to we know that the effect is that it has stripped away this sinful nature. So, that as a believer that is united to Jesus Christ we do not still have the same wicked heart. We do seek God. We are given understanding. We have not turned aside. Our throat is not an open grave. We know the way of peace. We do fear God. All of these negative statements are turned upside down. Our nature is completely and totally changed.

This is what we see in Paul’s next phrase in verse 12, that we have been buried with him in baptism. More than likely this is not talking about the actual act of baptism. This is—like the circumcision—that which is done without hands. It is speaking symbolically here; saying that somehow when we are linked to Christ we are also linked to his death. So that when Christ died it did something to our fleshly nature and it too died.

How then do you know the answer to our question? Or another way to ask that is to say is Romans 3 still true in your life? Are you enslaved to the depravity of Romans 3 or has your sinful nature been stripped?

Well what are your desires like? Do you desire and seek after God? Do you want to be pleasing to Him no matter the cost? Do you long for Christ? Is your worship passionate or is it dead and formal? A good question here is not, “do you sin”; it is what happens when you sin? Are you broken by it? Is your heart pained because of the potential for broken fellowship with Jesus? Is your love for Christ so great that it hurts you when you fall into sin? Or do you treat sin lightly? Is it, “really no big deal everybody does it”? Do you try to fix it yourself? Or do you run to Christ with it? What happens when you mess up? Do you even consider that you have messed up? Is there even a conviction for sin?

In the life of a believer sin will be foreign. It will go against your new nature. It is incompatible with your new life. It will burden you, and it will pain you. If you are enslaved to depravity then you will not think about sin. It will come to you as second nature. Even if you try to “be a better person” you will have very few victories. And even if you do have “victory” it will not be done in thankfulness to Christ and in dependence upon Christ.

Oh, do not hear this and “try harder”. Do not hear this plea and run to yourself. Run to Christ in the midst of your sin and depravity. If he does not change your heart it will not be changed. You cannot change it. This must be a work of Christ.

Question 3: Are you enslaved to death or have you been given new life?

It would be one thing for Christ to strip our old nature from us. It is quite another for him to raise us to new life. Imagine with me for a moment that a soldier is gravely wounded in battle. His clothes are filthy with his own blood. The site of him at this moment would be deplorable for his family members to see. It would be a deep grace for someone to remove his filthy clothes. Yet it would be an even bigger grace for someone to put new clothes on him. This is similar to what we see God doing here in this text.

He is removing the filth of our sin—but not only filth but the source from which it flowed. He is changing our very heart. This is where our metaphor breaks down. Because what God has done is so much more significant than simply changing a dead mans clothes. This is taking a dead man and bringing him to life; a God hating dead man that God Himself rises to life.

This is the second half of what we see in verse 12. Not only were you buried with Christ but you were also raised with him. Baptism is a symbol of that. Baptism has no saving power of its own. Baptism is a symbol—a very special, gospel preaching—symbol, but it is a symbol nonetheless. Baptism is a wonderful picture of what God has done. First of all we died to our old selves. He put off our sinful nature by the circumcision of Christ, and by grace through faith we are given a new life.

I am not sure—actually I am certain—that we do not fully know what it means for us to be new creatures. Do you really believe that you have been brought from death to life? This is not almost dead. This is totally dead. And this is not even comparable to a man that has died and gets a new lease on life because someone administered CPR. I say it is not comparable because that man was raised from death to life only to die again. This that we are talking about is eternal life.

This is being introduced to Psalm 16:11. “You make know to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Now, what if this verse is true? Of course I believe it is. But lets set our hope on this and do a little dreaming. “Fullness of joy”, that to me is mind-blowing, pee-your pants, I can hardly contain this I am so overflowing with joy right now times infinity type of joy. It is holding your wife’s hand for the first time multiplied by a million. It is the exuberance of seeing someone come to Christ multiplied to the tenth power. The greatest joy that you could fathom right now, pails in comparison to this joy expressed here. Now “pleasures forevermore” that means that they are forevermore. Unending. Never going to stop. Now, lets match this up to John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” So, what is eternal life? What is this life that we are raised to? It is knowing the God in whose presence is fullness of joy. It is being at his right hand where there are pleasures forevermore.

This thought is not original with me, but imagine with me for a moment the most mind blowing joy that you possibly can imagine. Let me give you a picture of heaven. If what you are imagining right now is something other than God then you are way off. Now, lets pretend that there are days in heaven. Day one you drink from the fountain of this fullness of joy. Your mind is blown with how much joy there is. It is stretched to its capacity. You cannot contain the joy it is so full. Wow, this is amazing. The next day God increases your capacity for enjoyment. And then fills it up. You have more joy today than you had yesterday. Yet, somehow both days were full. Every day is like this. Stretching and filling with more of God Himself. He is inexhaustible in His glory and our enjoyment of Him. This is life. And when does this begin? This begins once we know Jesus Christ. This is what is being referenced here in verse 13, that God made alive together with him”. What does that mean? It means that you have been given new life—eternal life.

And you tell me that believers are missing out on life? I love what the Puritan John Flavel said, “All of the delights in the sensual life are but as the putrid waters of a corrupt pond where toads lie croaking and spawning, compared to the crystal streams of the most pure and pleasant fountain”. Life is found in Jesus. As Flavel would later point out Scripture says that those not in Christ are dead. “Some think it a rare life to live in sensual pleasures, while Scripture will not allow so much as the name of life to them, but tells us they are dead while they live.”

What about you? Do you have life?

Question #4: Are you enslaved to debt or has your debt been conquered?

Verses 13-15 are some of my favorite verses in Scripture. It shows what stands in between us and God and how that is conquered. First let’s look at what stands between us and God. We can lump all of the first three points into one—you are enslaved to deceit, depravity, and death. That can really all be summed up by saying that you are dead spiritually. You do not desire Christ, your heart is deceitful above all things, and you will never come to treasure Christ. Because of our wicked heart we are sinful. We sin against a holy God. And sinning against a holy God is never wise. He created us. He created us to be holy. We have rebelled. He has every right to wipe us out the second that we sin. Because we stand guilty before him, and because of this two other things stand against us and Paul discusses them in verse 14 and 15. First the “record of debt” stands against us.

What is that record of debt? It is the Law of God. It is Law that is revealed by God in the Old Testament. We could tone it down by going through the 10 Commandments or we could even simplify it the way Jesus did. “Love God perfectly and love others completely”. We can see clearly by going through the 10 Commandments that we do not have righteousness. We have failed. We have transgressed against the Law. And every sin is written down. God knows everything that you have ever done and he has written it in heaven. And each sin is enough to throw you into hell apart from the goodness of God for all of eternity.

As Galatians 3:10 says, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them, now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law…” Let’s take just a moment to focus on this. Think of something that you have done wrong. It can be the biggest thing and it can be the smallest thing. It would probably be better for your sake if you can think of the biggest thing…that big ugly stinky sin; the one that if God can forgive, then He can forgive anything. If you cannot come up with one then put your pride or your offensiveness to God for not even being concerned enough about holiness to think about your sin. That sin is enough to separate you from God and all that is good forever; that mind-blowing joy and life that we spoke of earlier, forget about that. Joy and Pleasure is found in God. You will not know the joy and pleasure of God separated from His goodness. You will only know His wrath and His anger and this too for all eternity. This because of that sin. This because of your entire list of sin and because of your offensiveness to a holy God.

Now, that is not the only thing that stands between you and God. It is also these rulers and authorities that are mentioned. More than likely this is talking about demonic forces. Probably the ones that the Colossians were afraid of and trying to please to get to go away. But the chief is Satan. Satan as it says in 2 Corinthians 4 is in the business of blinding the mind of unbelievers so that they cannot see the beauty of Christ. That means that if you do not treasure Christ one of the reasons is because Satan is blinding you. He is using your depravity and death to spiritual things and blinding you from seeing the beauty of Christ. Therefore, you continue in sin and continue to not treasure Christ. You are cool with your depravity. You believe not a word I am saying and continue on in sin. This you will take lightly and perhaps forget.

Now how will they be conquered? How are any of us saved? By the work of Jesus Christ. Look at what he has done here in this text. He has “forgiven us all our trespasses”, he has “cancelled the record of debt”, he “set it aside nailing it to the cross”, and he disarmed the rulers and authorities, and shamed them.

It seems like I have quoted Martin Luther numerous times in the last few months, but here is yet another story that helps illuminate the beauty of the gospel. Luther often envisioned himself battling with Satan. In one particular battle, Satan was reminding Luther of all his sins. Luther asked Satan to bring out the scrolls and show him all of his sins. Satan brings out a scroll, very long. After laboring for a long time, they finally completed the scroll, sin after sin after sin. You can imagine some of the sins on there: lust, anger, pride, rebellion, gluttony, murderous thoughts, not treasuring God and many of these multiple times over. Certainly, Luther could have been replaying in his mind those sins. Some may have even caught him off guard. As they came to the last sin on the scroll, Luther looked at Satan and said, “Is that all?” Satan, surprised by this, goes in the back room and brings out another very long scroll. They go through the same process; Sin upon sin, upon sin. Treacherous sins. Vile sins. Secret sins that nobody even knew but Luther. All are exposed before him. He certainly would have felt the pain of many of them. But he stood and took every one of them. Finally, again after a long time had passed they arrive at the bottom. Again, Luther asks, “Is that all”? Satan, quite shocked by this question again, goes into the back room and brings out another very long scroll. They continue the labor, sin after sin. Each an offense. Each requiring the death penalty. Each enough to separate Martin from God for eternity. Even the smallest offense enough to bring about the full wrath of God. Finally, after a long time passes, they get to the last one on the scroll. Luther, to Satan’s frustration, but perhaps with exhausted glee, asks “Is that all?” This time, Satan trying to hide the wry smile from his face, says, “Yes, Martin, that is everything”. Now, Luther tells Satan to grab ink and a pen. Now, Satan, write upon every one of those, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son covers all sin”.

Can you claim what Luther did?

Are you united to Christ or are you not. I close again with Mark Dever’s quote.

“A Christian, therefore, knows that if he were to die tonight and stand before God, and if God were to say, ‘Why should I let you into my presence?’ the Christian would say, ‘You shouldn’t let me in. I have sinned and owe you a debt that I cannot pay back.’ But he wouldn’t stop there. He would continue, ‘Yet, because of your great promises and mercy, I depend on the blood of Jesus Christ shed as a substitute for me, paying my moral debt, satisfying your holy and righteous requirements, and removing your wrath against sin”.

Are you united to Christ, do you trust the promises?

Walk Like You Talk

Walk Like You Talk
Colossians 2:6-7
How to Live the “Full” Life

Scripture Introduction:

The great Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, once was robbed as he walked along a highway Afterwards he told his friends there were four things for which he gave thanks. First, he was grateful that he had never been robbed before. After many years of life this was the first time he had been robbed and for that he was grateful. Secondly, he said, "Though they took all my money, I am glad they did not get very much." That was something to be thankful for. Thirdly, he said, "Though they took my money, they did not take my life, and I am grateful for that." And finally, he suggested, "I am thankful that it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed." There was a man who had learned how to be "overflowing with thankfulness!"[1]

Now you may be sitting there thinking, “my, what an idiot”. However, before you through off Matthew Henry as a pansy I want you to look at what is taking place here in Henry’s heart. What type of contentment must this man have to be able to overflow with thanksgiving even after being robbed? What type of soul peace must this man have? What does he know that we do not? Do you not desire such soul peace that you can get robbed and come out of it rejoicing?

What is it that drives a Hudson Taylor, at the end of a life full of suffering and trial, to say, “I never made a sacrifice”? What causes Amy Carmichael to sacrifice her dream of marriage and having a family, only to settle in a difficult area of India to work with prostitutes? What is it that drives an apostle Paul to joyously stay in prison for the sake of preaching the gospel? These people are not idiots. These people are not looking for trouble. These people have a superior pleasure that causes them to suffer. Our text tonight gives us a clue as to what it is that drives such men and women.

Read Text

Sermon Introduction:

These men and women, and the millions that have gone before them, are abounding in thanksgiving because of what Jesus Christ has done and is continuing to do. These men and women are so enthralled and enamored with Jesus that they are able to say with Hudson Taylor, “what sacrifice”. What does it take to have hearts the beat for Jesus like that? What do you have to do? Read a lot of books? Pray a ton? What are the steps? How do you have a more full Christianity that these men and women had?

I am sure that similar questions where being asked in the first century in Colossae. How do we have a more full Christianity? How do we have continual mountaintop experiences? We want the fullness of life. How do we have it? Is it through what we eat or drink and do not eat or drink? Will it come through abstaining from certain things? Will it come from having special meetings? What if we start up another church service? Will that do it? We know that dealing with sin is part of it. How do we do that? Do we put ourselves on a strict regimen? Do we punish our bodies so that it no longer desires sin? Do we deprive ourselves of all pleasures? What about visions and encounters with holy things? Will that help? What do we do to have a more full spiritual experience?

The false teachers in Colossae had a decent list of what to do to experience a more full Christianity. They had all of these loops and hoops to jump through in order to have a full experience. And there are a large number of seminars, books, conferences, movies, curriculum, sermons, etc. that promote very similar loops and hoops for believers to go through; but not the apostle Paul. Look at, and enjoy the simplicity of this text. You know what Paul is saying here? How do you live in the fullness of Christianity? What is the vibrant Christian life that Christ died for—and how do you have it? Get saved and live like it. Simple as that. And that is what we will look at tonight.

I. To live fulfilled, receive Christ Jesus the Lord

Notice what Paul says in verse 6, “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord”. This is a scandalous statement. It is filled with grace, and grace if it is rightly understood is always scandalous and shocking. In our text, there is an assumption in this word received. If Christ must be received then he must not be naturally ours. We have learned this much already in 1:21. The same thing is affirmed in Ephesians 2:1-3. “And you were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

I am sharing this with you because it is absolutely necessary to understand why grace is so scandalous and shocking. In our day and age the word grace has come under assault. Many--Christians even--echo the sentiment of the Heinrich Heine on his deathbed: “God will forgive me that is His job.” We feel that God owes us grace. But grace that is owed or grace that is earned is not grace at all. Look briefly at our condition.

Look quickly at the last part of Ephesians 2:3, it says that we were by nature children of wrath. That means that before one receives Christ Jesus the Lord, that person is an object of wrath. Wrath means God’s fierce anger. It is God’s settled disposition towards sin. God’s wrath poured out upon a person is the very essence of hell. That is what we by nature deserve. But that is not our only problem. It is not that we simply need God to offer us a pardon from hell. It is not that we simply need some information and a gospel invitation.

There are four reasons tonight why I could preach until I am blue in the face to those of you that are not saved and it would not result in your salvation. 1) Your blindness and hardness of heart. Perhaps, you are revolting at this moment at everything I am saying. Maybe the weight of it is not penetrating your heart. It is bouncing off as we speak—and every second you remain in this state your heart gets harder and harder. Jeremiah 17:9 2) You have disordered affections and desires. As it says in Jeremiah 2:13, you treasure what you should hate and hate what you should treasure; your affections are disordered. Therefore, you do not see the beauty of Christ. Christ to you is not a treasure to behold. Your view of Christ is not such that you see him as he truly is. Therefore, when given a gospel invitation you will not truly respond in repentance. 3) As 1 Timothy 4:2 says your conscience is also corrupt. That means that you do not feel that you have really done much of anything wrong. You consider yourself a basically good person. Even if you admit that you have messed up a few times you do not feel the weight of your sin. It is a trivial thing to you. Your conscience is corrupted. You consider bad things permissible and good things seem to be a burden. 4) Your will is disabled. This is the climax of the condition of your heart. That is why a simple gospel invitation will not do. Only preaching the Word will not change your heart. Your will is in such a spot that you will not choose Christ if given the opportunity. Your affections are disordered. You will not choose that which you do not treasure. Therefore, a thorough work must be done.

This is why in Ephesians 2, Paul says that we are dead in our sin. He is saying that to believers of their former life. That means that what I just said either describes you or it formerly described you. Let all of that sink in for a moment. What that is saying is this. You desperately need to repent and believe in Jesus Christ for your salvation; to not do so means that you will spend eternity separated from all that is good—separated from God Himself. Now, there is nothing within your ability to do so. You cannot change your heart. There is not a magical button that you can push inside your heart to make you want Christ. Even if there was a magical button you would not desire to push it. No, something must happen from the outside.

Enter grace. This is what has happened in the lives of the Colossians that are saved and it is what has happened in your life if you are saved. God by his grace has made you alive. Look at Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…(2:8) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Grace. As one believer defines it, “Ascribed to God, grace is his voluntary, unrestrained, unmerited favor toward guilty sinners, granting them justification and life instead of the penalty of death, which they deserved”.

God, for no reason but his good pleasure chose to save. He saw me in my sin. Dead. Hating Christ, dishonoring him, without hope. And for no reason other than his own good pleasure he decided to offer me grace. He, as it says in Ephesians, “made me alive with Christ”. Now, do not misunderstand what is being said here. This is not some random grace that is poured out upon every single person and it is up to us to decide whether or not we accept it. Some will not accept the grace—some will accept the grace. No this is effectual. It is grace that works. It is grace that takes my heart that does not treasure Christ and it changes my heart to treasure Christ. It is grace that causes my conscience to be convicted. It is grace that breaks my heart for my sin and causes me hungry and thirsty for forgiveness. And it is grace that offers that. It is grace that prompts faith.

Which is the other thing that is included in receiving Christ. You do so by faith alone. It is not works that causes you to receive grace or to be accepted by Jesus Christ. It is not you doing the right thing. Praying the right prayer. Getting baptized. Trying to do good. Stop doing the bad. Those things are indeed a part of living a holy life…but they do not cause you to receive Christ. Receiving Christ is based upon you receiving the gospel of Christ. You trust in the promises. You trust that you are without hope. You believe God in what he says about you. And you believe God in what he says about Christ. You cast yourself wholly upon his mercy.

And it is Christ alone that you believe upon. It is not Christ and something. It is Jesus and just Jesus. He is sufficient. What he did is enough. And this governs your life. God so grips your heart and your soul. This is no mere profession. This is no mere acceptance of a few facts. This is your soul being gripped by the truth of the gospel and who Jesus Christ is. You rest wholly upon His grace—you trust in Christ alone.

And it is not only that you trust in him as your savior. You also trust in Him as Your Lord. That is what this text in Colossians is really pointing at. You received Christ Jesus the Lord. Remember what we talked about in Colossians 1:15-20. That is the Christ Jesus that you received. The Lord of the universe. The one that made everything. All things were made by Him, through Him, and for Him. That means you belong to Him.

What we have seen then is that the “as you received” means that you have received Christ Jesus the Lord and you have done so by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Now look at verse 7. There are four words there that are important. They are four words that explain what Paul is talking about. They are “rooted”, “built up”, “established”, and “abounding in thanksgiving”. The first three words are passive. Meaning it is something that God does. The last one is active; something that you do. Let’s look at the first one and then later look at the last three.

The word rooted is the only one of the four that is in the perfect tense. That means that it is a completed action with a continuing result. It means that, whatever this “being rooted in Him” is, it is something that took place by God in a time that is past; perhaps before the foundation of the world, perhaps at your moment of believing the gospel. Regardless it is something that has already taken place. Now, what does it mean?

It means that God has planted you deeply in Christ. Your roots go deep. If a tree has big roots that go deep then they will not fall away. Paul is assuring the Colossians that God has planted them deeply. They are rooted in Christ. This is secure. What God has done in bringing you to salvation is secure. He has rooted you in Christ.

So, what then do you do in response?

II. To live fulfilled live your profession

This is Paul’s exhortation. As he looks at what God has done in their life he urges them—now live like that. Live like you have been saved by grace alone. Live like you have been saved by faith alone. Live like you have been saved by Christ alone. Live like you have been rooted.

Well what does that mean? I will give you ten brief implications of this. We will look more at this when we get to chapter 3. These will only be quick summary points.

1) Built up

Again this is something that God is doing through you. But it is a fruit that you ought to be bearing. It comes through your dependence upon Jesus Christ. As you yield to him. What it means in this text to be built up means to grow. You ought to be growing. Your life ought to be reflecting the Lord that has redeemed you. What God has done in you is living and active. Therefore you ought to grow.

2) Established

Again this is something that God is doing through you. Like the above it is in the present tense, meaning that it is something that is an ongoing process. To be established in the faith means to be firm and fixed. You ought not be constantly wavering in your beliefs and in your relationship with Christ. It should be a solid and steady relationship. The Colossian church is a decent example of what not to do—they were slowly beginning to embrace heresy. Do not flirt with it. Remain firm and established.

3) No Room for Pride

If you have been saved by grace alone, through faith, in Christ alone then there is no room for pride. How can you look down your nose at a struggling believer? How can you mock and deride unbelievers for their sin. Is it because you made some really good decision that you are saved? No, it is because of the mighty grace of God. If it were not for the grace of God then you would be the most vile sinner known to mankind. Until you believe that you will live a life tainted by spiritual pride. Instead pursue humility. To live like you have been saved is to live a life of humility.

4) No Room for Legalism

If you have been saved by grace alone, through faith, in Christ alone then there is no room for legalism. Remember legalism is trying to slip our character into God’s work of grace. If you have been saved by grace then you are not called to earn it or make yourself worthy (as in a deserving recipient) of it. Neither before it nor after it. Legalism is the very opposite of the gospel. In Colossae they were succumbing to the temptation to adhere to a bunch of rules to make them more holy. It is Jesus that makes you holy. Cling to Jesus and do not cling to a set of do’s and don’ts.

5) No Room for Sinning

If you have truly been saved by God then you have been saved by a holy God. If you have been saved by Jesus Christ the Lord of all creation then you have been saved by the Holy One and transferred into His Kingdom. A life of habitual sinning is totally incompatible with such a profession. Sin should be battled. Mortified. Fought against. It should repulse you and drive you to the Cross in repentance and for forgiveness. If you are comfortable in sin then you are not living like one that has been saved. Sin should not be second nature.

6) No Room for Self-Centered Living

If you have been bought by the Lord of Creation then you are not your own. You do not get to dictate your schedule. To receive Jesus Christ the Lord is to surrender to his Lordship. It is to become a doulos; a slave of God. Your desires must not be swallowed up by his desires. If you have a desire that opposes his desire then it must be surrendered to His. There is no room for self-centered living for those that have been bought. To live like you have been saved is to live like one that is owned by another.

7) No Room for Adultery

If it is Christ alone which saves and God alone that you belong to then you ought not go after other lovers. There is no room for spiritual adultery. There is no room to have great affections for others. If your life is to match your profession then it will mean that you are passionately in love with your God and King. It will mean that your heart is not drawn for another. It will mean brokenness and repentance when you fall. And it will mean running back to your love for healing and forgiveness. There is no room to look to another for joy, security, acceptance, love. Run to Christ alone.

8) No Room for Despair

If you have been truly saved then there is no room for despair. Despair, no matter how hard things get is never an appropriate response to the amazing grace that God has bestowed upon you. I know things are tough sometimes. Things can get really tricky. But a miserable Christian is not being faithful to his profession. You ought to be joyous and never in despair. Despair is to forget the sovereignty of God and the love of Christ.

9) No Room for Complacency

How can you be complacent with such truths? If God has truly done this work in your heart then how can it be that it does not utterly consume you? How can you sit on this treasure as if it is just an every day occurrence. The church at Colossae is being called to action in this book. They are being called to set their minds on things above and stop being comfortable in this world. We cannot afford to be complacent with such eternal truths.

10) Abounding in Thanksgiving

Lastly, and this one is directly from our text. This is in the present tense (ongoing action) and in the active voice. This is not something that is done to you. This is something you do in response to what God has done. It means live a life like Matthew Henry; abounding in thanksgiving. You are so awestruck by what Christ has done that you live a life of perpetual thank you. To abound in thanksgiving is to constantly focus on the gospel. It is to be giddy with the gospel. To abound in thanksgiving is to reflect the grace that was given to you. It is to be overflowing with love towards others because of the love given to you. Abound in Thanksgiving.


This verse in Colossians is the central verse because it is the foundational problem with the Colossians and it is often the foundational problem with believers today. Our lives do not match our profession. Therefore, we urge you to respond to God in two ways tonight.

1) Maybe God has done a work in your heart and you realize that you have never received Him in faith. You need to do that tonight. You need to repent and believe what God says about you and what he says about Jesus. You need to turn away from your self-centered living and embrace God-centered living. You need to receive Christ.

2) Maybe you need to live like it. I guarantee that everyone in here needs to respond to this. Nobody fully matches their profession or what they ought to be. There is a reason those things are in the present tense. You have been rooted that is the past action that governs the present actions—but these things are not completed. Those 10 things you will struggle with. Where do you need to repent and come to Christ for forgiveness and be renewed? Where do you need to trust in the promises more? Oh, run to the Cross this night!
[1] taken from precept