6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
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.
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In 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, 12 having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
16 Therefore 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. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 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. 19 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.
20 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: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch?” 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 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.
I want to begin today by asking you a couple of questions: Just who are you?
Are you who others say you are? When you were at school, did you become who some people said you were? Are you who society says you are? Are you who you think you are?
These are important questions. The psychiatrist Carl Jung famously wrote, “The world will ask you who you are, and if you do not know, the world will tell you.”
Nicky Gumbel tells an amusing story of a young lady from a foreign country who was caring for the children of an English family. They began misbehaving, so she walked into the room and meant to ask, “What on earth are you doing?” But because she hadn’t quite mastered English, she said instead, “What are you doing on the earth?” That’s an excellent question. Really, just who are you, and what are you doing on the earth?
I believe that many of us don’t see ourselves for who we really are. When the world spends long enough squeezing us into its pigeonholes, we begin to believe what we’re told about ourselves.
We also make the mistake of comparing ourselves to others, and when we don’t quite match up to their lofty standards, we end up with a low self-esteem problem. The harmful words spoken to us decades ago might still be going around in our heads and there are times that we believe those words. Worldly standards begin to define the people that we become, but this can be a dangerous thing. Low self-esteem can have devastating and long-term effects on some people.
The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that as Christians we are new creations, yet many believers struggle with their past, and bring baggage from their past lives with them. Jesus died for those things – we hear that often enough, yet we are all affected by our mistakes of the past to some degree.
Christians also battle with self-esteem in their faith. We’re not exempt from being influenced by the world in our faith life, and the result of this is that many Christians never quite reach their God-given potential. There always seems to be something missing when Christians suffer with low self-esteem in the spiritual lives. These are some of the symptoms: You belong to Jesus but you feel like you’ve failed Him. The world says that because you’re a Christian you are a weak person, and you begin to believe that lie. You go through some hard times, and you begin to wonder if God really does care about you. You see other Christians doing amazing things for God and His Church, but you just know you could never do what they do, so you feel that you’re some kind of second-rate Christian. You have no desire to serve or do anything because you just aren’t good at anything. You see other people’s lives dramatically changed by God, but you can’t see any difference in your own life. So you end up just going through the motions. You go to Church and you might belong to a Bible study or homegroup. You might even get involved in one of the ministry teams, but it’s really out of a sense of duty, and there’s no real joy in your heart.
Have you ever felt like that? Is that where you are now?
Well, this morning we’re going to turn to the Word of God to find out who you really are, and you might be surprised to find out just how far the real you is from the you you think you are.
The book of Colossians is actually a letter that the apostle Paul wrote to the Christian Church in Colosse. There was a lot of confusion among these early Christians, as they were hearing mixed messages about what it really meant to be Christian disciples. False doctrines threatened to derail their faith, so Paul wrote this letter to teach and encourage them to remain faithful to Christ, and the way that Paul did this was to remind them who they really were.
They were burdened with all kinds of expectations from all kinds of people, so Paul cut right to the heart of their new identity in Christ – the only thing that really mattered. We also hear mixed messages in our world. If you want to make something of your life, then this is what you should wear. This is the car you should drive. This is the suburb where you should live. We’re told all kinds of things that confuse us, with the result that we very easily lose focus on the most important thing: If you are a follower of Christ, then Colossians 2:10 tells you who you really are: “You have been given fullness in Christ.” Because of Jesus, you have everything you need, and you lack nothing. You are complete in Christ.
In Christ, you have all you need for life and godliness. You don’t need to add anything from the outside world because it’s not necessary. As Christians we lack nothing, because He and His grace is sufficient for us. Do you really want to be the person that God wants you to be? If so, the best news is that everything you need to be that person is already yours. You have everything you need to be in Christ, and you can stop looking around at other options to try and complete yourself. One of the James Bond movies is called “The world is not enough.” That is how many people live their lives – always wanting more, and never satisfied. It’s the nature of human greed, but when we bring that kind of philosophy into our Christian lives, we’re essentially saying that Christ is not enough to complete us. Yes of course we should always be striving to be the best we can be as disciples of Jesus. In the words of Max Lucado, God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus. Being more Christlike each and every day is what He wants for us, but we must remember that the foundation of a Christlike life is the completeness and wholeness we already have in Jesus. That is where we start from. Absolutely – there are different levels of spiritual maturity. As we grow in our faith God continues to draw us closer to Him, making us more Christlike each day, but a person who has been a Christian for 5 minutes has the fullness of Christ dwelling in them in exactly the same quantity and quality as someone who has been a Christian for 50 years. You can be a drug addict or a mass murderer sitting on death row, but if you are a Christian, then Christ is in you as much as He is in people like Billy Graham or the Apostle Paul. Differences in spiritual maturity? Yes. Differences in how much of Christ lives within you and them? Absolutely not.
It is crucial that we understand this. You already have everything you’ll ever need, and the reason you have it is because of your union with Christ. You are completely and totally complete in Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, that is who you really are.
You have a new life, and you are truly alive. In the words of Colossians 2:12-13, you were “buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.”
What this means is that you are not who you were before God turned your life the right way up. You are not that person people remember, and that they try to remind you that you are. You are not that person that you keep going back to. Your old, sinful self died on the cross with Jesus, and your new self – the one who is now forgiven and complete, walked out of that tomb with Jesus.
Verse 20 asks us a very good question: “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?” We are now able to live life the way that God has always intended – we are truly alive, so now we live the way that God wants us to live, not how the world tells us.
Now we live how we were meant to live, because we can be the men and women for Christ that He always intended for us to be.
We don’t have to allow the world to squeeze us into its moulds anymore, because we’re free. We’re free from trying to live up to other people’s standards. We’re free from trying to perform to earn God’s favour, because we know that the sacrifice of Jesus is what pleased Him. We’re free from being chained to our sinful pasts and all the condemnation that went with it. You have been set free by Christ.
This is what the Bible teaches us, and it teaches it consistently, and loud and clear. It is not some hidden secret that takes years to finally discover – it is there in plain view.
So then we need to ask why we see so many Christians not living this new life. If that’s who the Bible says I am, then why am I still like this – living a life of low self-esteem and struggling to believe the promises of God?
It’s because you’ve believed the lies. The world has told you you’ll never really amount to much, and you’ve bought into that lie. It’s even reached the point where you’ve convinced yourself that you’ll never quite get to where you should in life. In the words of Carl Jung again, the world asked you who you are, and because you didn’t know who you are, the world has told you instead, and you have become that person, rather than one who is complete in Christ.
You’ve let outside influences shape you instead of God. You’ve let others tell you who you are, and even worse, you’ve allowed satan to dictate to you who you are.
In the book of Colossians Paul urges his readers to not only see that Jesus is supreme in all that He is, but that His power is given to us in all its fullness, and this is what now defines who we are.
He is supreme, but sadly, we struggle to experience this truth in our own lives. In chapter 1:19-22 he writes, “God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”
We need to be reminded of this, because if this truth is not uppermost in our minds, we miss out on who we really are. A word used to describe the nature of Jesus is preeminent. This means He is over and above all things. He surpasses everything, and we need to stand on that truth, and allow it to affect our lives in practical ways, knowing who we really are in Christ. All the fullness that is His should cause us to find in Him all that is necessary and essential to life - both material and spiritual. And the reason is that because of who He is, we share in His fullness and we no longer have any need for anything outside of Him.
Jesus is not only the God of creation – the origin of life, but He is the God of everything, the very being that sustains life as well as giving it in the first place.
And when you put your faith and trust in Him, you become inseparably united to Him. You are now in Him and He is in you – not just a little piece of Him that you have to share with other Christians, but you have all of Christ. There are only 4 chapters in Colossians, but 10 times in that short letter Paul writes, “in Him, through Him and with Him.”
In Him all the fullness of deity exists. In Him we have been made complete, participating in His death and sharing in His life. In Christ there is triumph over every enemy. Each of these fundamental truths contributes to, and makes it possible to live a life of fullness in Him.
There has never been and never will be a moment when Jesus did not have the fullness of God. He is God. Christ is the essence of God, so fullness of spiritual life is possible in Christ because He is God and because He said so.
You are complete in Him. Just listen to verses 9 and 10 again: “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”
This doesn’t mean that we become gods. What it does mean is that Christians share with Jesus and receive all the benefits and blessings of His absolute supremacy over all powers and authorities. Everything necessary for spiritual life, enjoyment, and satisfaction is available and can be found in Jesus Christ. It’s yours.
There can be completeness in Him because every believer has in the most mysterious yet glorious way participated in the death and resurrection of Jesus. In a manner that only God truly understands, Christians were united to the death of Jesus. When He died, Christians died in Him. Why did He die? To deal with sin and to make forgiveness possible. And because we died with Him, so too we were raised with Him when He rose from the dead. We participate in His death, but thanks be to God, we also participate in His resurrection. That is who you are! And you are that person because God says so!
So then - how do I get back to who God says I am?
The first 4 verses of Colossians 3 is a good place to start. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
Renounce the opinions that others have of you and that you have of yourself that do not agree with what God says about you. Don’t believe the lies anymore. Say to Him, “By your power, no longer will I allow others to take away who I really am in you.”
Renounce satan and the control he has over you. 1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” satan will tell you you’re not good enough for God. Don’t believe that rubbish anymore.
They say old habits die hard, and there’s a lot of truth in those words. What are the things in your life that you know breaks God’s heart? Ask Him to break yours for those things too. Repent and seek His forgiveness. Ask Him to remind you that Jesus died for those things, and because of that you don’t need to be a slave to them any longer.
Ask Him to remind you constantly of who you really are, and that you are complete in Christ and you lack nothing.
Now go and live that complete, new, full life covered and protected by the blessings and grace of the God who gave it all to you, and who did it all for you.
Homegroup Study Notes
The psychologist Carl Jung wrote, “The world will ask you who you are, and if you do not know, the world will tell you.”
Discuss this statement in your group.
How have you allowed society to dictate to you who you are?
We tend to admire rebels – those who stick out from the crowd and are prepared to take a stand against social norms, but generally speaking we find it easier and less troublesome to conform to the social norms.
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of ‘toeing the party line.’
Read Colossians 2:9-10
The teachings we find in Scripture are radically different to how the world defines us. In the Bible we are told that we are complete in Christ, and that the fullness of God indwells every believer.
What is your understanding of being ‘complete in Christ?’
Why do you think that so many Christians struggle to live their lives the way God intends for them?
If you feel able, share with your group a period or incident in your life which you know has made it hard for you to live in such a way that you were able to reflect your completeness in Christ.
How did you experience His grace during this time?
The Bible often refers to the concepts of dying with Christ and being raised to life with Christ. What does this mean?
Close by praying that God would remind us just who we really are – a people made complete in Jesus.