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Chris Appleby Ministries

Chris Appleby Ministries

 

Life in Christ audio (4MB)

Colossians 2:6-23

We are now half way though our teaching series on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. This is exciting because we’re about to get into the very heart of what it’s all about – but first, let’s recap on how far we’ve come …

1.1-14 – Chris introduced us to the church in Colossae which was surrounded by a culture very much like ours of pick and mix religion – and Paul opens by saying that he is constantly praying for the new believers that they may lead lives worthy of Christ

1.15-23 – We went back to basics as Paul sets out the fundamentals about who Jesus is – the Son of God, supreme in all things

1.24-2.5 – We were encouraged to persevere – as Paul tells the Colossians of his sufferings for the gospel and of the energy that Christ continually inspires in him to persist against adversity

And now, from 2.6 Paul’s going to spell out the very adversity that the church is facing that he urges the Colossians to resist.

 

Is that not a teaching we need to hear about in our time? About - the church that’s under attack? The church that’s losing its way? The church that’s selling out to popular ideas and compromising on the gospel? Aren’t we, as a church, under attack in our culture? Do we not live in times where the default position is to be sceptical about the gospel? To say, there is more than one way? There is more on offer, than what Jesus has to offer? Humanism has been on the rise for centuries, but now it’s organised. There are conventions for non-believers … if we are concerned about the future of the church, we have good reason to be. I think maybe Australia could be Colossae.

And Paul has a round about way of getting there, but his message to this church is very simple actually … it’s basically this:

Problem: Our relationship with Jesus is under attack
Solution: To maintain a relationship with Jesus
v6 – As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

What does it mean to live in Christ, to be rooted and built up in him?

- I saw a good example yesterday when I attended Maggie and Tom’s wedding (from the Cantonese congregation)
- The wedding began as all weddings do with that classic Pauline theology that marriage is a symbol of the union between Christ and the church
- Yesterday Maggie and Tom changed – they will never be the same again – they are no longer separate but have become one flesh (if you like, they are living in one another – in a married life together)
- Marriage is more than wearing a wedding ring – it is a relationship – it takes on its meaning by the daily choices we make and the ways we respond to the pressures around us … and yes, I think we live in a world where marriage is also under attack. And the answer to that problem, is staying grounded in the commitment that has been made, growing together and not apart, building a life together and not separately.

In the same way, Paul is urging us as a church to stay grounded in our relationship with Jesus; established in faith. He is writing to people who have already had their wedding day, if you like. They’ve already given their life to Christ and been reborn into his life. But now they face the challenge of going the distance with this relationship, in a world where the devil is laying out traps all around to distract us. Because he knows that with every believer who gets lost and distracted, the church loses a little more credibility and becomes a little bit less effective at its ministry.

In this war zone that we’re in, with an enemy that fights against our cause, we might start to worry that we are losing the battle. But we’re not going to do that, because Jesus has already won it. This is why Paul’s emphasis is not on fighting that which opposes the gospel. We don’t need to strategise about how to attack and discredit atheism. Jesus has already disarmed atheism, and every power and authority, on the cross – which he says at v15.
No, Paul’s message is, stick with him. Stay in relationship with the one who has already conquered every opposition. He’s saying, “Build yourselves up in him, and you will become a powerful church.”

But we are not always faithful. We all know something about the pain of infidelity in marriage (if not ourselves, then we have friends or family who have been hurt by it). And you know someone else who knows a lot about the pain of infidelity is Jesus. He has laid his life down for us, and we have received him, but his church has been unfaithful.

Once we confess Christ we become part of his church and we are bound to him as a bride is to her groom. But Jesus wants more than the wedding day – he wants what every bridegroom wants … to have a relationship with us, a relationship that is exclusive, and that deepens with every passing year.

So, Paul says in v8:
See to it that no one takes you captive … stay exclusive. Don’t be lured into traps that are set up to come between you and Jesus … they are very similar to the temptations faced within marriage.

- there are two major challenges in a marriage - I call them ‘leaving and cleaving’
-  When you get married, like it says in Genesis, you have to leave home, and be joined to your wife (You leave … and cleave …..)

It is the same when we become Christians. We leave and cleave. We leave behind the old life which was in the flesh. We cleave to Christ. We become one with him and share in his life. Paul describes this dramatically from v11-14.
He speaks of “spiritual circumcision”, of ‘putting off the flesh’ – of dying to the old life and of being joined to Christ who gives us a new life.

A question worth asking of our church community I think, is which of these we are struggling with the most .. leaving or cleaving?

Are we trying to blend worldly values or philosophies with the gospel?

And how are we going with cleaving?

How intimately do we know Jesus? Are we allowing him to change us?

The rest of today’s passage is going to give us some help in exploring that. Paul sets out four potential traps that can lead us to be unfaithful to Jesus. The first two have to do with leaving. The second two have to do with cleaving.

Slide 6 - The Leaving Traps: Human Philosophy and the Elemental Spirits

- v8 – See to it that no one take you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.

- One of the reasons I was so keen to come to work at St Thomas is because the bible has authority here – it’s not like that everywhere
- Some churches preach human philosophy and psychology above the gospel
- We must continue to be attentive, even as we interpret scripture, that we do not forget that Jesus alone is the source of all wisdom and understanding
- Human philosophy can be a trap – as can the elemental spirits
- some people in Colossae liked to worship these – the sun, moon and stars – we know that if we engaged in such spiritual practices before coming into Christ, we must leave this behind us

We have to leave and we have to cleave.

Slide 7 - The Cleaving Traps: Religious Regulations and Religious Devotion (this is stuff that gets in the way of our relationship with Jesus)

The bottom line is this: cleaving is scary. It involves trust and intimacy. It means letting another person change us, and risking that they might let us down. We are in a process of cleaving at the moment aren’t we? St Theodore's and St Michael’s have recently moved in together, and we are beginning to cleave. And if we want to cleave to Jesus, then we have to cleave to one another. As we are still working at that, it is good to recognise the potential traps – Paul sets out from v16

Religion is a comfortable distraction from having a relationship. It will lead us to:
- v16 – judge others based on religious observance (like what you eat during Lent or how you pray)
- v17 – give us limited vision only of our church life and not of the kingdom of God
- v18 – cause Christians to brag about why they are more spiritually advanced or gifted than others – become competitive
- v19 – it will cause the church to lose connection with Christ the head of the church – this will make us dysfunctional
- v20-23 - becomes legalistic – Paul speaks there of engaging in various forms of abstinence in an attempt to be holier than others

When we are afraid of intimacy with Jesus and with one another, we get religion. We get stuff. We mark out our territory and argue over what should hang on our walls. We become passive aggressive. We form sub-groups and we complain about what the other groups do or don’t do as part of their faith practice. We start to identify with our history and the traditions that set our group apart from the others.

These are dangers for us, especially during times of change and transition. We need to be aware that our relationship with Jesus is under attack – so that we always come back to the seriousness of our commitment to Christ.

There is an opening statement in the wedding ceremony that was read out yesterday. It says …
Marriage is to be honoured by all. No one should enter it lightly or selfishly, but responsibly and joyfully, with mutual respect and the promise to be faithful.

Since we the church belong to Jesus as a bride to her husband … let’s apply this statement to ourselves …
A relationship with Jesus is to be honoured by all. No one should enter it lightly or selfishly, but responsibly and joyfully, with mutual respect and the promise to be faithful.

 

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