Col. 2:8 is a necessary nod toward the negative, recognizing there are evil forces trying to knock you off the path towards maturity in Christ. READ. I will spend a few moments on verse 8, but more time on 6-7 because the positive is much more meaningful.
I decided to adopt instead, an inspiring truth from a recent class I’d taken on 2 Corinthians. The professor, Roberta Hestenes, told us that in her opinion 2 Cor. 5 could stand on it’s own as a summary chapter of the N.T. In 2 Cor. 5:10 it says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ…” I agree fully that some are saved and others are not ~ we, who embrace Christ, are called to be ambassadors for Christ as we urge those in our world to be reconciled to God.
My life verse for ministry, my motivation for going out into the community, my joy in spending time with people, is found in 2 Cor. 5:14: READ. Jesus Christ died for all people. Not a select few. Not only those that are worthy. We are all sinners. Nobody is worthy, but for all. The motivation is the LOVE of Christ. The Love of Christ extends to all.
That does not discount the wisdom of Col. 2:8. READ. This verse covers a wide variety of non-Christian teaching. Any world view apart from Christ is hollow/deceptive ~ they go nowhere and are inconsistent. When a person adopts ideas that are contrary to the Christian world view, seldom do I get opportunities to engage them in fleshing out the details of what they believe, and I will listen, but most of the time their ideas break down quick. We are wrong to totally dismiss people that adopt other religions ~ I do not endorse the idea of many paths to salvation nor do I believe for a nano-second that all religions are basically the same. But I have observed that sincere followers of other religions are striving for meaning. It’s just hollow. Deceptive. E.g. Atheism is literally a dead end, it is hollow by design ~ from the atheists perspective the end results in nothingness.
Hollowness is like a plague in our society, people searching desperately for meaning. Dean Koontz said, “a hollow man…believes anything. Hollow men are vulnerable to anyone who offers them something that might fill the void and make them feel less empty.” people are trying to fill the emptiness. Even trying to live as a Christian part way provides no confidence. Father Mulcahy of MASH observed, “A faith of convenience is a hollow faith.” If nothing else from this scripture today understand this: Paul is saying GO ALL IN.
READ Col. 2:8. Nobody knows exactly what Paul means by “elemental spiritual forces” but it seems to be a catch all for spirituality without the person of Christ ~ today it might take the form of the worship of nature, or peace through enlightenment, meaning through positive thoughts and thinking everyone is basically good. These are all dead end ways of thinking, hollow and deceptive, because they are not true.
I choose to focus on what we do believe, For the Love of Christ compels me…
Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:7). Without Jesus-His life, His teaching, His character, His sacrifice, there is no salvation, no means of coming to the judgment seat of God and hearing “well done, my good and faithful servant”. Without Jesus there is no redemptive suffering, no sacrifice for our sins, no healing of our soul’s diseases, no hope for an eternity with God, no gift of the Holy Spirit, no means of peaceful relationship with the Creator of the universe. Good-sounding arguments trying to prove any other religion or any contrary way of thinking all fall flat at the feet of Jesus.
I choose to emphasize what is right about following Jesus Christ and being committed to live for him. Continue, Rooted, Built Up, Strengthened, Overflowing, Thankfulness ~ tremendous truth from Col. 2:6-7. Faith in Jesus gives roots. He gives us strength. He gives us reason to rejoice and be grateful every day of our lives. When we know Him, and experience Him in our daily lives, our actions, and our relationships, we begin to see here on earth the life that is a reflection of that eternal glory that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Brennan Manning is the author of The Ragamuffin Gospel… Manning has an amazing story about how he got his first name, Brennan. While growing up, his best friend was Ray. The two of them did everything together: bought a car together as teenagers, double-dated together, went to school together ~ everything. They even enlisted in the Army together, went to boot camp together and fought on the frontlines together. One night, while sitting in a foxhole, Manning was reminiscing about the old days in Brooklyn while Ray listened and ate a chocolate bar. Suddenly a live grenade came into the foxhole. Ray looked at his friend, smiled, dropped his chocolate bar and threw himself on the live grenade. It exploded, killing Ray, but Manning’s life was spared.
When Manning became a priest he was instructed to take on the name of a saint. He thought of his friend, Ray Brennan. So he took on the name "Brennan." Years later he went to visit Ray's mother in Brooklyn. They sat up late one night having tea when Brennan asked her, "Do you think Ray loved me?" Mrs. Brennan got up off the couch, shook her finger in front of Brennan's face and shouted, "What more could he have done for you?" Brennan said at that moment he experienced an epiphany. He imagined himself standing before the cross of Jesus wondering, “Does God really love me?” And Jesus' mother Mary pointing to her son, saying, "What more could Jesus have done for you?"
Sometimes we question God, we wonder if he has abandoned us because of pain, or plans that have not materialized, injustices, deep wounds. We blame God and lament that we followed him at all for allowing death, divorce, alienation, brokenness. What more could Jesus do for you than to give his life by dying on the cross? What more…? Right now my most awesome hero is my daughter Esther. She’s having twins! Can you believe it… Many have gone down that path, but not Sally and me, not Esther… and she’s learning. She’s tired. I did not know that with twins it means more risk. The babies are too small to know much, but the doctors are telling her and Wesley all the possibilities of what could go wrong. Esther can only take so much in, and then she has to go to the bottom line: “No matter what, I’ll love them.” Thank God for that same message to us ~~ no matter what happens, what decisions we make, he’ll love us; we can always go to Him. Check this out: Christianity is the only religion, only philosophy rooted in love. Most other religions are based in obedience, or an impersonal force like those that choose to make preservation of the environment their religion. The Love of Christ is the reason that there is no hollowness in Christianity, because Love is our greatest need and the Christian faith points to the one that loved us all the way to the cross.
The most important thing for each of us to know, and understand, and claim in this life is the love that Jesus Christ has for us. Christ loves us so much that he gave all of himself for us. This is why Paul says…
- continue living in Him, never give up, never give up, a persistence, a commitment…when you get overwhelmed by brokenness just go the bottom line: God’s love for us, what more could he do?
- be rooted in him. When Sally and I first moved into our house it had been an old field ~ no landscaping. We splurged on a golden chain tree as a central decorative tree in our back yard. The first year it looked good. 2nd year it looked good. By the time we got to the 3rd season I noticed the tree looked good but didn’t appear to be growing… I watered it, fertilized it, nurtured it… finally, after about ten years I gave up. As I dug it up, the roots had barely grown beyond the orginal root ball… , You either put down roots or you are a wandering soul. We need stability… deep roots… You can fool others/yourself with shallow roots for a time, like the golden chain tree, you can talk spiritually with best of intentions, but only deep roots will keep you stable when the wind hits the tree or the drought withholds the life giving water.
- Be Built up. Enlarge your faith. Never be content with the little you know about God, but always look to grow and mature, pointed in the direction of Christ. Like we talked about last week… you go forward or backward and no matter where you are you can start going forward..
- Be strengthened, at the Coffee Hour this week I brought a stack of books to give away from Myrna… I spotted a book “Growing old is not for Wimps.” Naturally, I had Marcy give it to Oscar! He laughed and said, “That’s true!” You know what! Being a Christian isn’t for wimps either. You will be challenged, you won’t always understand, you will be asked to endure your cross (I define cross as that which you would rather not do)… We ought to thank God for adversity because that is when we grow strong. Without the wind the tree would be weak. God will strengthen you as you continue in Him, grow deep roots in Him, and are built up in Him…
- The result is overflowing, Sorrow may come in the evening, but JOY comes in the morning. Abundance is the promise. Whatever God promises may not always be the present reality, but you can be assured that the promise is coming, and that brings JOY today. An overflowing life with the Spirit of God is a meaningful life, a joy filled life, a life with purpose and meaning. The opposite of hollow is solid. “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
- The Response is thankfulness. The best kind of thankfulness is that which comes naturally. There is a time to make it a discipline, like when the parent forces the child to write a thank you note to grandma for the new socks, but when thankfulness becomes a way of life, then you have discovered a depth of satisfaction in Christ.
Can you truly say, “Thank you Lord for the problems of life.” Crazy thought I know. Col. 2:8 is necessary because Satan is real, tempting us to stray away from Christ with ideas sound good but lead to hollowness. You can count on a time of drought and seasons of storms. Make it your aim to mature in your faith. Jesus Christ is the only answer for completeness, meaning. Life is hard at times, but in the toughest of times, Christ offers to us all that we need to “make it through,” and experience abundant life. When you begin to doubt or question the love of Christ, ask yourself, “What more could Jesus do than to die on the cross for me.”
Continue in your faith, let your roots grow deep, be built up, be strengthened and you will overflow with thankfulness. Amen.