1I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. 6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, 7rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. 9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,12having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.
We live in a world which is constantly changing. For the large part, nothing ever seems to stay the same, especially in the areas of technology and the way that we communicate. Hardly a day seems to go by without some new invention being announced. Many of the gadgets that we are so familiar with today were the stuff of science fiction just a few years ago.
For many people, change can be quite intimidating, while others embrace change. After all, why not make life as easy as we can? It really does make sense if you think about it.
But there are some areas where change is not a good thing. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
As far as possible, the Church should be relevant to its surroundings and the community in which each congregation is situated. No-one is saying that the Church should not move with the times. If that were the case, we’d be speaking and worshipping in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, rather than English!
So some of the changes in the Church are good, but others are not.
One change in the Christian faith which has always been a challenge to the Church is the movement to change from the basics of Christianity to that of a religion.
Christianity and religion are not the same. Christianity is built upon the principle of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone.
Christianity is focused on a relationship with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Religion is an entirely different concept. Religion is more about what you know, instead of who you know. Jesus rules in Christianity, while people rule in religion, and it is so important for us to understand the difference, because many Churches, denominations and congregations are making decisions about the direction of what they do, according to the dictates of society.
The great danger is that if society says it’s okay for the 21stcentury, then many Churches and denominations are saying it’s okay too.
What God has said and what God wants has been relegated below what the people want. How often have we heard people outside of the Church accusing us of being archaic and of no relevance to the world? But God’s truth does not change. The problem in Adam’s day is the exact same problem we have today: Sin. And the answer to our sin problem has never changed: Jesus Christ.
The mandate of the Church is to first and foremost proclaim the Gospel of Christ. Lost sinners need to hear that there is a solution to their greatest problem, but instead, many Churches and Christians are bowing to the weight of popular opinion, and this is stripping these Churches and Christians of any power they might have to change the world for Christ.
Winning the acceptance and approval of the world has taken priority over obedience to God’s Word, but this is actually nothing new.
The true Church has experienced this opposition from without and within for 2000 years. Christians have always battled with teachings that oppose the truth of God.
Paul wrote many of his epistles to Churches struggling with the exact same problems.
The Churches that Paul cared so much about existed in a world much like ours today. They too felt the pressures of society to water down the Gospel in order to make it more appealing to the world. The thing is though, that the Gospel, when presented accurately and correctly, is offensive to the world. The truth is that sin offends God, and we all stand condemned as a result of our sin. But people don’t like hearing this truth. And so instead of focussing on the Gospel, and our desperate need for a Saviour, there are those in the Church who have tried and continue to change the Christian faith into a religion – a system of do’s and don’ts which they falsely believe will make us acceptable to God.
And so the Apostle Paul wrote to the true believers in the Churches and told them to stand firm. One of the letters Paul wrote was to the Church in the city of Colossae. Epaphras was a man who heard Paul preach the Gospel, and he accepted Christ and went to Colossae. When he arrived there he told everyone he met about Jesus, and as the word spread and others believed, a Church was planted there.
Unfortunately though, it wasn’t long before some people tried to move this new Church from Christianity to religion. They weren’t happy with the Church just being about Jesus, so they tried to pressure the people to change, in order to better suit their society, and in this sense, the Colossian Church is a good example for the Christian Church today.
We live in a world which is constantly changing, and the Church is being pressurised to change with it.
We live in a world that insists that Christians catch up with society, so in the coming weeks, we’re going to take a detailed look at the book of Colossians, as there are many lessons we can learn from this epistle of Paul’s.
We will let the Word of God in the book of Colossians guide us through a society insisting on change. Just as the people of Colossae were taught by Paul, we too must learn how to resist the false teachings and heresies that threaten us today. We need to learn how to avoid allowing religion to take the place of Christianity in our Church and in our homes.
And today, as a means of introduction we will take a quick overview of what the Colossian Church was facing.
Biblical scholars call this the Colossian heresy. Heresy is defined as an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards.
Paul wrote his letter to the Colossian Church to help them deal with these false teachings that were trying to creep into the Church.
Chapter 2:16-17 mentions just some of the heresies that were threatening them. “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
Some at Colossae were teaching do’s and don’ts. Don’t eat this. Don’t do that. Keep these holidays. Do this. Do that.
The point is that rules and regulations are the foundation of religion, and once you have rules, you need to have someone to police the rules and regulations. This is what happened in the Colossian Church. Paul wrote in chapter 2:20-23, “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch?’ These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
All these people were doing was bringing more rules and regulations into the Church, and Paul said that they may have the appearance of looking wise and humble, but they really had no value in stopping people from sinning.
Paul warned them against such people. “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.” (Colossians 2:18-19)
There were people who thought they knew more than others, as they believed they had a secret knowledge, and because of this they felt superior to those who they thought didn’t know what they knew. This is called “Gnosticism.” Whenever someone says they have some secret knowledge that God has revealed to them and nobody else has it, that’s gnosticism. This is what Paul warned the Church about in 2:8. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”
In the coming weeks, we’re going to see what the Word of God says to a Church that finds itself in circumstances like this. How do we respond in truth? How do we respond to a world pressuring us to change? How do we respond to a world that says we’re no longer doing it right, and how do we respond to religion?
In Colossians 2:6-7 Paul writes, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
The answer is Jesus. The answer is to continue following and trusting Jesus. As Paul says, we must continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him.
The answer is not to get into arguments and try to win over people with your brilliance. The answer is simply Jesus, and Jesus alone. Continue to live in Him, because the same Jesus you trusted for salvation is the same Jesus who will guide you through life. We simply have to learn to live for Him and to trust in Him.
Christianity is not a religion – a system of rules and regulations, but rather it is living in a relationship with the Living God in and through Jesus Christ. It is about seeking His will and living our lives for Him, rather than ourselves. When we learn to do that, we will find ourselves conforming to His will, not because we have to and that’s what the rules say, but rather out of our love for Him and our obedience to Him.
And that can only come about through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Become rooted and built up in Him. Root yourself in His words, and in the example of His life. Again, I’d like to encourage you to do the Core Christianity course. It will help you to focus once more on the really important points of the Christian faith, and can answer many of the questions you may have.
We hear over and over again that Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship, by its very definition is based on knowing the person you have the relationship with.
If we are going, with God’s help, to protect ourselves against the lies of the world and the many heresies which continue to pollute the Church, we have to know Christ and stand firm in Him. He is the answer.
Your maturity as a Christian is not based on what you know. Your maturity as a Christian is based on who you know, so pursue Christ, and allow Him through His Word and His Spirit to grow your faith and trust in Him.
Let your faith be strengthened by your relationship with Him. The more determined we are to stand on His truth, the more our faith in Him and understanding of Him will grow.
There is one thing has never changed in the 2000 years of the Christian faith. It is still all about Jesus. It’s about His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection and His call on your life. It’s all about Jesus.
One Christian author wrote, “Authority makes doctrine true. No doctrine is the truth unless it has the right authority, and no authority is valid unless it is based squarely on truth. Jesus Christ passes this test.”
John MacArthur, in his introductory notes to Colossians in his study Bible writes of the sufficiency of Christ, “One of the great tenets of Scripture is the claim that Jesus Christ is completely sufficient for all matters of life and godliness! He is sufficient for creation, salvation, sanctification, and glorification. So pure is He that there is no blemish, stain, spot of sin, defilement, lying, deception, corruption, error, or imperfection.
So complete is He that there is no other God besides Him; He is the only begotten Son; all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him; the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Him; He is heir of all things; He created all things and all things were made by Him, through Him, and for Him; He upholds all things by the word of His power; He is the firstborn of all creation; He is the exact representation of God.
He is the only Mediator between God and man; He is the Sun that enlightens; the Physician that heals; the Wall of Fire that defends; the Friend that comforts; the Pearl of great price that enriches; the Ark that supports; and the Rock to sustain under the heaviest of pressures; He is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high; He is better than the angels; better than Moses; better than Aaron; better than Joshua; better than Melchizedek; better than all the prophets; greater than Satan; and stronger than death.
He has no beginning and no end; He is the spotless Lamb of God; He is our Peace; He is our Hope; He is our Life; He is the living and true Way; He is the Strength of Israel; He is the Root and Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star; He is Faithful and True; He is the Author and Finisher of our faith; He is the Captain of our Salvation; He is the Champion; He is the Elect One; He is the Apostle and High-Priest of our confession; He is the Righteous Servant.
He is the Lord of Hosts, the Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of the whole earth; He is the Man of Sorrows; He is the Light; He is the Son of Man; He is the Vine; He is the Bread of Life; He is the Door; He is Lord; He is Prophet, Priest and King; He is our Sabbath rest; He is our Righteousness; He is the Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace; He is the Chief Shepherd; He is Lord God of hosts; He is Lord of the nations; He is the Lion of Judah; the Living Word; the Rock of Salvation; the Eternal Spirit; He is the Ancient of Days; Creator and Comforter; Messiah; and He is the great I AM!”
Now, as comprehensive as this list may sound, it only scratches the surface of who Christ is and what He means to us. The truth is, the whole Bible is written so that we can know God, to know who Jesus is. From beginning to end, it’s all about Him! And yet, even if we were able to memorise the whole Bible, there would still be more for us to learn. God is infinite. John 21:25 tells us that if everything that Jesus said or did were written down, there wouldn’t be room enough in the world for all the books. We need to treasure God’s Word, because it tells us who He is. Treasure the gift God has given us and worship Him. It’s not about what Christ has done for us, but who He is.
2 Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”
Pure Christianity needs no embellishment, improvement or tweaking whatsoever. We find complete sufficiency in Christ and His provision for our needs. But too many Christians have bought in to the notion that all the spiritual resources we gain at the moment of salvation are not adequate to meet the real needs in today’s complex world, so they look for something more - an emotionally exciting and self-edifying experience not found in God’s Word.
That failure to understand the sufficiency of Christ has opened the door to all kinds of worldly influences, causing many modern believers to mix Biblical truths with seemingly helpful man-made methods such as mysticism and psychology. As a result, many are caught up in an empty, useless, man-made religion - a watered-down, pseudo-Christianity that has been drained of its vitality, effectiveness, security and power.
It is all and only about Jesus Christ.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Colossians 1:15-20
Discuss some of the key points in this passage.
What is your understanding of “the sufficiency of Christ?”
How do these verses oppose the idea that so many have that Jesus was really nothing more than a good moral teacher?
One of the criticisms aimed at the Church today is that what we teach and believe is no longer relevant in the modern world.
How would you respond to this?
In which ways is change in the Church a) a good thing, and b), a bad thing?
Most Christians would agree that the Church does have a role to play in addressing social issues such as oppression of the poor, sexual abuse of children, etc, but there is a danger of becoming so involved in these issues that we miss the most important thing: Preaching the Gospel, by pointing lost sinners to salvation in Christ.
How do we guard against promoting the social gospel (sometimes called liberation theology) above proclaiming the true Gospel of Christ?