Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Colossians Week 4 - Built, Strengthened, Thankful

We’re in our fourth week of going through the book of Colossians. As we’re making our way through the book, we’ve talked about how we’re focusing on the larger ideas that are being presented through the text. Rather than the fine theological ideas that are found in every verse. 
We’re looking for what the Spirit had to say at the time of the writing, and how that should affect us today.
In the first week, we focused on chapter 1 verses 1-14. In those verses we saw how the writer of the letter, was emphasizing that the Church, this body of world-wide believers in Jesus, are connected to each other for two reasons: 1) They have accepted Jesus as their Savior, and therefore are brought into this group called the Church, and 2) We who are in the Church are connected through praying for one another. This is why prayer is so important for the Church to be active in. Without it, we severely limit our ability to connect with each other, and the world-wide Church.
Then the next week we moved to verses 15-23 of chapter 1, and talked about how the writer, wants us to get to know Jesus intimately. We shouldn’t just know facts about Jesus, but get to know him as a person. Since God is personal, meaning he has personality and can be known on a personal level, we need to get to know Jesus on that personal level. That way, we won’t approach him as just some idea, but a living being.
Then last week, we talked about how, the writer connected knowing Jesus’ intimately to serving the Church. And we found that in order to know Jesus the way he wants us to know him, we must serve the Church with our labor, our eagerness, and our energy. We do this so that we can engage each other, unite each other, and point each other back to Jesus, the head of the Church. Because in the end, it’s all about him.

That brings us to chapter 2 verse 6. So if you have your Bibles, would you open to Colossians chapter 2 verse 6. And as you do, I want to ask you a question. Last week we made the statement, that the Church is not here for us, but rather we are here for the Church. Meaning, we should be looking to give 100% of ourselves to the people of God, not expecting anything in return. If we all had this approach, then all of us would get our needs met within the Church.
But here’s the question, “How do we be the person that is here for the Church, and not make the Church here for us?
That question is what we are going to be tackling in the next few chapters, and we’ll start today.. Let’s start reading in verse 6.

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Let’s take a quick break right here. 
If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, he is now Lord of you life. If your life was a movie, then Jesus should be the director, the writer, the producer, the editor and the promoter. We are to live our lives as Jesus would desire for us to live. 
How do we do that from the writer’s point of view? He says we need to be doing three things:
In verse 7, Paul first says that we need to be rooted and built up in Jesus. What’s that mean? It means, that we need to solidify our relationship with him. In other words: we need to truly know him. This is done by, understanding that we need him to show us what it means to live our lives for him, and we need to level deep into the knowledge aspect of our relationship.
The Second thing is, we need to have our faith strengthened. How’s that done? Well, strengthening comes through challenges, a challenge that we talked about last time was service. Service challenges and strengthens our faith, because working with people is messy. They’re smelly, mean, and broken. And God loves them. So we need to love them by serving them. This builds our faith, because when the going gets tough, the cracks in our trusting of God will shine through. By serving, we see our deficiencies in loving people the way that God loves them. And it’s those cracks/deficiencies that help us to know what areas need to be worked on in our relationship with God.
Finally, we need to be thankful. There’s a lot of things that can make us think of the bad, but in all the bad that we see, there are things that are always there that we can thank God for. I remember seeing this one greeting card where it was a cartoon drawing of two disciples of Jesus, Paul and Silas. They were sitting in a cell with their arms chained above their heads. Silas says to Paul, “What should we do,” Paul responds with, “Let’s sing, I Lift My Hands Up to the Lord.” Even in our darkest moments we must thank God, because it changes our view of the situations we’re in.

So Paul, the writer of Colossians, has moved from talking about the connectedness of the Church, to knowing Jesus intimately, to the need of serving the Church, and now he moves into the individuals. We as individuals in this whole, relationship with God and his Church, need to be built in Jesus, have their faith strengthened, and be thankful.
Why? Why would he do this? Why does Paul believe that we need to know this? Let’s continue reading in verse 8.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

Paul tells us that we need to be built in Jesus, have our faith strengthened and to be thankful, because as we’re living in this world, there will be other paths to take. 
In the book of Matthew chapter 7 verses 13 and 14 Jesus said this, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

There are multiple paths in this world. One is the path to eternal life, which only goes through Jesus. After we have accepted that path though, other paths will want to side track us from Jesus’ path.
These paths want us to leave behind the God that has saved us, to return to a world that is dying.
So here in verse 8, Paul talks to us about not being captive by these other paths, these other philosophies, human traditions, or spiritual forces.

That’s why we must make sure that we are being built, strengthen, and thankful. So these other things will not divert us away from the path that goes through Jesus.
Now, we would never have anything like this happen in the Church today right? We would never have any other philosophies change the Church. We would never have human traditions shape the Church. We would never allow spiritual forces opposed to God in the Church right? No of course not.
Yeah, you and I both know that is a lie. The reality is, we have. We have allowed the things of this world to bring us as individuals off the path God has laid out for us, and onto the things that the world wants us to be bogged down by.

What do you think the form of that might take? Let’s take philosophies. What philosophies could we have in the Church? Some might say how we reach people. In the first gathering of believers I ever worked with as a Christian, I was told, to stop reaching out to people, because they need to look like us, before they can join us. I was told, just like a basketball team all wears the same uniforms, so to, do Christians need to all be the same.
Where is it in the Bible? 
What about building a building? The line from the classic baseball movie Field of Dreams, said, “If you build it, they will come.” And there have been times in the Church were the first step after a body of believers starts to meet is, we need to build a building. Why? Where in the whole of Scripture is that philosophy of Church organization found?
What about traditions? Does anyone know why we have a table with a Bible, and candles on it in the Sanctuary of most church buildings? The table is called an alter. But why do we have it? Did you know that this particular set up of the “alter” has no New Testament basis? I’ve heard some people dismiss this as an Old Testament things. But Where is the Christians alter? Wasn’t the cross? Isn’t that the alter on which God sacrificed the spotless lamb? So what’s the reality of our “alter”. Out table is actually a relic from the Roman judicial proceedings. In the Roman court, their would be a table between the judge and the people, where the accused could plead their case from. And when Christians took over judicial buildings for their gathering places, this piece of furniture stayed.
Where in the Bible is the command to use a piano found? Or a guitar? Or any other instrument? There are references to instruments being used in music to God, but no command of do or don’t when it comes to instruments. Yet, I have heard arguments put forth that only the piano or organ should be used to lead music. 
And then there are the spiritual forces. Let’s be real, if we do not believe that there is a spiritual reality, then we might as well throw out 95% of the Bible. Because the whole thing is about how the spiritual interacts with the physical. And the reality is, when it all comes down to it, we only know of one spiritual being that is for our good, and that’s God. When we follow anything else, even our own spiritual feelings, we enter into a realm that is filled with illusionists. We only see what it wants us to see.
We need to realize that there are spiritual forces at war all around us, that we cannot see, or hear. And yet, will reveal themselves to bring us into the fighting. 

This is why it is so important that we know the Jesus of the Bible. That we know what he wants from his people. Because our philosophies, our traditions, and the spiritual forces around us, don’t always line up with the path that God is calling his people towards.

Instead the Spirit is telling the Colossians, and us today, that instead of following the world’s philosophies, human traditions, and the spiritual forces, we need to be built in Jesus, strengthen in our faith, and be thankful as we move through this world.

But how? How can we combat, worldly philosophies, human traditions, and spiritual forces with being built, strengthen, and thankful?

Studying the Bible, and knowing the words of Jesus, keeps us from falling into the world’s philosophies. The word of God transcends time, culture, and language. A philosophy that is of the world, speaks only to the moment. By cultivating the words of the Bible into our lives, we can learn to distinguish between the eternal transcendent truths of God, from the momentary ideas of this world.
Having our faith tested through serving people, aligns our heart to the heart of God. Human tradition would have us focus on the what rather than the who. Serving changes our focus from the what of the way we do things, to the who that Jesus died for. As people change, so should certain aspects of our traditions. We talked last week about hymns. In the most cutting edge music leaders within the Church, I don’t see a hatred for the hymns, but rather an understanding that hymns are needed. But in order for that need to be fulfilled, hymns need to be brought into the modern day, for the modern worshiper.
Being thankful to God, keeps our eyes on him, because we realize everything comes from him. Spiritual forces that are against God want us to wallow in the bleakness of this world. They want us to desire more than what is given to us. But thankfulness of what God is doing in our lives, keeps us solid in the truth that God is good, he is in control, and we need nothing, except what he gives us.

This week I have a three fold challenge for you. First, is the philosophical aspect. I want you to challenge yourself to think of a philosophy or an idea of something that you think should be a certain way in the church. It could be how people dress, how the organization of the church should be run, what versions of the Bible should be read. I want you to scour the Bible for answers. If the philosophy is not in the Bible, then ask God to strip it away, so that you can see God’s word clearer.
Next is the human tradition aspect. I want you to challenge your thinking of what is supposed to happen in the Church, then I want you to rummage the pages of Scripture to see if the tradition you think should be in the Church, is actually found in the pages of the Bible. If it is not, ask God to strip it away from you, so that you can see God’s word clearer.
Finally, I want you to come up with 1 thing that have been worried about, or hurt over. Then I want you to find 3 things, in that 1, that you can thank God for.

Each of us needs to realize that there are things in our lives that are calling us away from the path God wants us to walk.
At the beginning of our talk today, I ask the question, “How do we be the person that is here for the Church and not make the Church here for us?

We need to become people that are built in Jesus, leaving behind worldly philosophies. We need to be people that are strengthen in our faith through serving, which will crush the human traditions that take us away from the people Jesus died for. And we need to be thankful towards God, which will keep our eyes on him, rather than on the spiritual forces that wish to stumble us.

Are you willing now, to be a person here for the Church? 

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