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Heed this Warning and You will Grow in Christ (a sermon from Colossians 2) October 28, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Colossians, Crucifixion, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Growth.
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(This is the 4th in a seven part sermon series from Colossians, preached earlier this fall at Grace Bible Church.)

Heed This Warning and You Will Grow in Christ
Colossians 2:4-23 (with 1:28)

Last week, in looking at Colossians 1:28, I mentioned that warning was an essential part of the ministry of the gospel if we are to present one another complete, that is, perfect or mature in Christ Jesus. In the passage we are looking at today, Paul is doing just that.

Last week I used the example of finishing the game. This week, I would like us to think of growing a pear. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter picked a couple of pears off of a pear tree. One was a nice-sized pear. The other was a little bit smaller. They were both hard as rocks, so we set the on the window sill to ripen. After a while I picked up the larger one and felt that it was soft. When I bit into that pear, I found it to be perfect. It was as juicy and as sweet as any pear that I have ever eaten. About a week later, I did the same with the smaller one. It had finally become complete, ripened to perfection. It had passed the taste test which is the only test that matters when you are eating pears.

If we are to grow in Christ, to ripen spiritually, there are various things that we might do but one thing that is important is to heed the warnings of this passage.

Now there are different types of warnings but often in a warning a command is implied if not directly given. In this passage Paul gave the Colossian believers three commands that if listened to and obeyed would enable the believers to become mature in Christ.

I. We should continue to walk according to our faith in Christ (vs. 4-7). Paul began his letter by commending them for walking according to their faith in Christ. He does this again in verse 5. Then he prayed that they would continue to walk according to their faith in Christ. Last week we saw that he sacrificed himself so that they would continue to walk according to their faith in Christ. Paul obviously felt it was essential for them to walk according to their faith in Christ.

a. Such a walk is our defense against deceit (vs. 4 and 6). The main tool of the devil and his allies is deceit. From the garden of Eden until now, the devil has dealt in deceit. He uses persuasive words. They sound logical, spiritual, moral, helpful but they are damning, fleshly, rebellion against God. Our defense against Satan’s deceit is walking according to our faith in Christ. In other words, the reality of your faith is what will keep you from following Satan.

b. Our defense against deceit is built on a steadfast faith (vs. 5-7). I emphasize the word “steadfast” because it is a biblical emphasis.
I came across a wonderful example of this a few days ago. My family and I had the opportunity to meet Pastor Robert Grimwood and his wife, Judy a few days ago. We were discussing youth work. He mentioned to me how that he had grown up in a church that had sixty-five young people in its youth group. He also recounted how that the first church in which he served as youth minister had a youth group of seventeen or eighteen kids. He mentioned all the events and things that the larger youth group had and then how in this smaller youth group, although they had events typical for a youth group, he focused on discipling those kids, especially those who were serious about their faith in Christ. In both cases we are talking about people who were in their teens well over thirty years ago. At a recent reunion of the larger youth group, of those attending only six were still in church. Of the smaller youth group that had focused on building a steadfast faith, all but one was still attending church.

Paul and the other believers realized that faith in Christ is more than an instantaneous decision. There is a point at which one puts their faith in Christ but that faith is to be cultivated, built upon, and confirmed in its reality (vs. 7). It is essential for several reasons. First, it keeps true believers from becoming confused and deceived. This is the matter that Paul, I believe, is directly addressing. Secondly, it helps bring those whose faith is not real to the understanding that their faith is not true faith. I do not try to make people doubt their salvation through psychological or theological tricks but I do want every one of you to be certain of the reality of our faith. That is especially important in our children’s, youth, and young adult but it is important for every age group. It is a matter of eternity.

II. In the second command that Paul gives to the Colossians, we find the specific reason why we should walk according to our faith in Christ. There is the danger of spiritual kidnapping (verse 8). The NKJV translates the word “cheat” but the context of Colossians 1 and 2 brings to mind a much stronger image. We were once according to 1:13 “…delivered… from the power of darkness and conveyed… into the kingdom of the love of His Son,” but there is a danger. We need to take heed to that danger, the danger of spiritual kidnapping (vs. 8-15).

a. The main reason this is a danger is because we are still surrounded by our old ways, the ways of the world (vs. 8). The philosophy of this world continues to promise much. The promises are empty, they are deceitful but they are all around us. They are not lawless, humanly speaking. They seem orderly. They appeal to humankind because they derive from the brilliance of the human heart but they are empty and they are deceitful. The biggest problem with them, however, is this: they are not according to Christ. Any system of belief without Christ is empty and deceitful. Now Paul is addressing religious systems of belief in this passage but this is true of all systems of belief: political, psychological, scientific, educational, and economical belief systems, regardless of where they fall on their spectrum are all empty and deceitful if Christ is taken out of the equation.

b. We can, however, successfully resist the empty and deceitful promises of the world because we are no longer captive to our sinful body. We were captive to our sinful body (vs. 11-14).

First, we are spiritually crucified, buried, and resurrected with Christ through faith in the gospel: the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. You see, when we receive eternal life through Christ, it is not talking just about never ending life. We now have eternal life. My old spiritual deadness exists no more. It no longer has a hold on me. I do not have to live according to my former sinful flesh but now through Christ have spiritual life that enables me to fight against all the evil influences around me. That is one of the reasons that the symbol of baptism is so important. It is a powerful statement of a new reality.

I understand that there are some young people who desire to be baptized. I am thrilled to hear that and would like you to speak to me about that desire. Let me explain that one of the things that you are doing when you are baptized is making a statement about yourself. You are saying, “I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.” Now don’t misunderstand. You are not saying you are sinless in your everyday life. None of us can in reality make that statement but every believer in Christ can say, I do not have to sin because I have put my faith in Christ and I am now a new creature.

Secondly, you need to understand what it is that Jesus did on that cross that makes this new creature reality possible. He died for your sin so that you might be forgiven. The picture here is of your sins being paid for on the cross by Christ Jesus.

c. Now there is a second reason why we can resist the influence of this world. We are no longer captive to the forces of evil (compare vs. 15 to vs. 9-10). The picture in verse 15 is of a triumphal return from battle by a Caesar who is leading a parade made up of political dignitaries, sacrificial animals, soldiers in the army, and the captive generals. These generals were to be led to the center of the city and executed. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ was not only the victory of Christ over the forces of evil but also the public humiliation of them. These forces beginning with Satan himself do not have any power any more over the believer in Christ because now we are complete in Him, the ruler over every principality and power (verses 9-10).

III. If then we are free from the power of our sinful body and from any evil power, Paul commands, do not then let your old ways, the ways of the world, enslave you again to your sinful body (vs. 16-23).

a. Our old ways through religious regulations try to condemn us and again enslave us (vs. 16-17). This is what religious moralism does. The Mormons with their rules and regulations do this. The Watchtower Society, Orthodox Judaism, and traditional Islam are just a few examples who regulate food and drink and the celebration of holidays. They think that they are freeing themselves from their sinful flesh when actually they are tightening the shackles tighter. The problem is not what they forbid and what they allow. The problem is they lack substance, they lack Christ. Without Christ even the Ten Commandments simply condemn and enslave. It is only through the substance, Jesus Christ that we can be freed from sin, from its penalty, and from our sinful flesh.

b. These old ways lead to following inferior men and beings rather than our Head, Jesus Christ with the result that any professing believer is spiritually kidnapped, their reward is stolen from them (vs. 18-19). It appears that there were some who were teaching the ceremonial reverence of angels, perhaps similar to that of Roman Catholicism’s praying to and honoring of the saints or of some of the Oriental religions burning of candles to their dead ancestors. Paul warns that even in outward ceremony, regardless of how religious and sincere it might be, to depart from sole allegiance to Christ is spiritually dangerous. Why? Because only in Christ is the nourishment and unity available in which we can grow individually and as a body.

c. That is why our new life in Christ rejects religious regulations that do not come from our faith in Christ (vs. 20-23). What Paul is saying here is not, do what you want, it does not matter. No, he is saying, if you keep the rules regarding the physical and do not have spiritual life, you will remain in bondage spiritually. So why do it?

People sometimes ask me, can a believer remain in a false religion after they are saved? The question is best asked, “Why do it?” People in false religions are enslaved to their flesh. One does not release people from slavery by becoming a slave. One shows them the key to their chains, the way of escape. The true believers who stays in a false religion ends up stunted spiritually because he or she has cut themselves off from the only source of life, a steadfast faith in Jesus Christ, walking according to the new life that He provided for us through His death, burial, and resurrection.

We need to take this warning as individuals but we also need to heed this warning as a body. What is going to be our priority? Are we going to teach Christ and walk according to the new life He has given us? If we do, then our children are more likely to stay faithful to Christ and we are going to love one another and live in a Christ honoring way. It all begins with rejecting this world’s philosophy, even that of the religious world, and living dead to sin. Will you commit yourself to obeying these commands?

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