Where Do You Live?

Sufficiency of Christ, Faith

This morning we begin a brand new study. I wish I could tell you that my original reason for considering preaching through the Book of Colossians was because I believed this was a book for our times. However, since I believe preaching the Word of God (wherever in the Word you are) is always profitable, I admit I had less noble reasons for coming to this book. I came here because it was short (four chapters), and largely unfamiliar to me. But as I started my study of the book I realized that this is a book especially suited for our day. I now begin our study with a great passion for the message that Paul delivers in this tremendous letter.

The Background

The church in Colosse was not founded by the Apostle Paul. It was probably started through the ministry of a man named Epaphras. At the time this letter was written Paul was in jail. We aren’t really sure which imprisonment this was. Some suggest Paul was in jail in Ephesus. Others that he was in jail in Caesarea (north of Israel). A large group suggests that the letter was written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome. I’m not sure it really matters. It is thought that Epaphras was one of those who came to visit Paul while he was imprisoned. During the visit Epaphras shared some of the problems that were developing in the Colossian congregation. Paul’s letter was meant to address those problems.

To understand the problem, you need some background on Colosse. Colosse was located on the west side of what we call Turkey today. Ephesus was to the East, Laodicea was to the North. Colosse was considered a small town at this time but was near a major trade route which meant that many travelers passed through their area. I think the best way to understand what Colosse was like is to liken it to a small town just off the Interstate. People from all over the world stop in that town to get gas or lodging. With these visitors come an exposure to the thinking and values of the world. Different people would stop and visit and share their ideas and philosophies. It was only natural for the people of the town to be intrigued by some of the things they had heard. It is similar to what takes place when someone goes to college . . . they are exposed to ways of thinking that are different from their own and often have radical swings in belief.

Some of these ideas were embraced by the people. Soon, these ideas were finding their way into the church. And though the change was subtle (at this point), the gospel was being distorted. The church was beginning to be molded by the world in which it lived. This is called Syncretism. It is a blending of various philosophies. However, any change in the pure gospel message diminishes the Gospel. Anything we try to add pollutes God’s great plan.

Maybe you can already see why this is a message for our time. No matter where we live, we are constantly exposed to the philosophies of the world. We may feel like we are isolated and secure. But we are not. Today with CNN, network television, the radio, mass marketed literature, the daily newspaper, and the Internet, we are constantly being bombarded with non-Christian thinking. Unfortunately, even much of the “Christian” broadcasting is now carrying secular overtones.

It is not unusual to find people who call themselves Christians who

  • go to a psychic
  • check their horoscope daily
  • are preoccupied with angels
  • teach that there is secret truth we must discover to be true believers (this was called Gnosticism in Bible days)
  • believe in reincarnation (Eastern Religion)
  • believe that Jesus was man “at his fullest potential” (Mormonism)
  • believe there are equal competing powers of good and evil in a life and death battle for the souls of men. (Dualism)
  • believe God sponsors the American dream and is primarily concerned for our material prosperity and enjoyment of life.
  • are preoccupied with developing positive self-esteem to the point that talk about sin and judgment is considered Puritanical or Victorian.

The New Age movement we hear about today is the height of blended religion. Christian sounding words are used to promote a faith that mixes Hinduism, the Human Potential Movement, and Psychology into one neat package. The problem is that the package is not Christian at all. There are many today who would call themselves Christians who are not going to Heaven because they are trusting their goodness, their consciousness, or their system – not Christ. The motto of Syncretism is simple and very very popular . . . . so popular that you probably have said it at one time: “Every Religion Has Some Good in it”. Or perhaps you have said the corollary statements, “We are all climbing the same mountain”, or “After all, we are all serving the same God.” Friends, those statements “originate in the pit of Hell and they smell like smoke!” (To quote Radio Pastor Steve Brown).  They lead to compromise.  And compromise leads us away from the truth.

The Message of Colossians – Christ is Sufficient

The book of Colossians has a simple message: “Christ is Sufficient”. Listen to these samples,

[1:15-22]He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

[2:6-9] So then, 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. 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. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,

[2:16-19] 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. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 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.

[3:1,2 ] 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.

How different is the world we live in, it calls us to be loyal to all kinds of things INSTEAD of Christ, we are admonished to:

  • Let your heart be your guide
  • Look out for Number 1 (and they don’t mean Christ)
  • Trust your Counselor or “Spirit-guide”
  • Develop positive self esteem . . . low self esteem is the reason for so many problems in the world.
  • Call your psychic
  • Submit to your Pastor
  • Trust what your Professors say

But do you see that each of these things is a move away from Christ? Anything we trust instead of Christ not only diminishes His position in our lives . . . it is idolatry!

A Key to Undefiled Faith

With this background let’s look at the first two verses because already in these words we see a clue as to how to keep from being seduced by the world. Listen to what Paul says, “To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse:” Did you miss it? Paul says he is writing to those, “in Christ at Colosse.”

R.C. Sproul has some fun occasionally at a lecture in his studio at Orlando. He will go up to someone in the audience and ask, “Where do you live?” The person will answer, “Chicago” or “St. Louis” or “Burlington”. Then R.C. asks, “are you alive now?” The person answers, “Yes”. Are you in Chicago now? The answer is no. “But,” you said you “live” in Chicago? What is it that you are doing now? His point is simple: Our home is in a specific location. We “live” wherever we ARE.

Paul identifies the Colossians as those who live in Christ but reside in Colosse. But that’s not the way it is for most people. Most people live and draw their life from Colosse. Listen to how Paul describes this experience in Ephesians 2:1-3,

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.

Living in the World

Before we were followers of Christ, we lived in the world. The world controlled us. We drew our values from the world. In fact, we had really no independence. We were moved in our thinking by the advertisers and sound bytes that surround us. We desired a certain lifestyle because we were told it was the lifestyle that brought satisfaction. We wore certain clothes because they were “in fashion”. We liked certain music because it was the “in thing”. Before we met Christ, our joy was determined by our circumstances. We considered ourselves happy if we had the things we wanted. We felt “blessed” if our life was free from pain or discomfort. Our relationships were good if we were “in love”.

Now I know some of you are thinking . . . Hey, that sounds like me. What’s wrong with these things? This attitude shows that Christians have misunderstood a vital principle of Christian life: A relationship with Christ makes us a “new creation . . . the old has passed away- all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17)

Living “in Christ”

The people at Colosse were reminded that even though they made their home AT Colosse they were living in Christ. When we trust Christ fully as our Redeemer we are changed. The Gospel does several things,

The Gospel Helps Us See the World for What it Is

When we come to Christ our eyes are opened to the fact that the world and it’s ways are empty and futile. We see that all the promotion about our inherent goodness is really just an attempt to avoid a truth that we all know in our experience . . . we are sinners and need help.

The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the temporary nature of Colosse. The values that the world advances are transitory. They change all the time. There is nothing solid to build your life on. We see that the mad rush for experience is really no different than the passion of the drug addict who is always trying to get a “high” to numb them to reality. The Gospel helps us deal with reality.

The Gospel Gives us a New Outlook on Life

Because of the indwelling of God’s Spirit we now look at things in light of Christ.

  • We see our troubles as tools in the hands of a loving God.
  • We are more concerned about our soul than about our physical enjoyment.
  • We draw our self-image not from the applause of men but from the whispers of love from the Savior.
  • In difficult times we put our confidence in God’s Word rather than in the schemes or stuff of men.
  • We see past this world to the next world. Listen to these pointed words of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones,

What right has this world to think that anybody will put an end to war when men covet their neighbors’ wives and while they still go on cheating and robbing and giving rein to passions and lusts? A nation is nothing more than a man enlarged and while individuals are like that, the nations will be like that. They always have been, and always will be until Christ comes back to this final judgment. But when he has come, there shall be no more war and then, and only then, there will be the glory everlasting in his wonderful kingdom. {Lloyd Jones, LOVE SO AMAZING p. 138)

The Christian knows that Christ is sufficient for EVERY need. We don’t have to lie about who we are . . . we are sinners. WE are the problem. We can stop blaming and start trusting. Our confidence then is not in our ability to make ourselves better . . . we are confident in His ability to finish the transformation He has started inside of us.

Conclusion

This is only an introduction to this great letter. But I hope you already can sense that the message is timeless and relevant. We are going to be challenged, sharpened, and re-focused as a result of our study. But for today we are left with a simple question. Where do you live – in Christ or in Colosse? Are you drawing your life, values, hope, and self image, from the Savior or from the world around you? Do you solve problems by running to the Savior or to the world?

We need a mental adjustment.  We need to remind ourselves daily of where we live and who we belong to.  In these next weeks I urge you to do a couple of things.  First, read the book of Colossians.  Read it several times.  Read it slowly.  Read it carefully.  Listen to what Paul is saying.

Second, make a conscious effort to constantly evaluate where your allegiance lies. Every time you feel restless, ask: “Am I resting in Christ or am I trying to produce peace on my own?” The next time you feel bitter or are filled with resentment, ask yourself: “Am I trying to bring justice on my own . . or am I content to let God judge?  The next time you feel confident and content ask yourself, “Is this feeling anchored in my standing in Christ, or is it based in some temporary achievement?” And when you wonder whether or not you are going to Heaven ask yourself: “Am I not doubting because I am looking at my experience rather than the one who has saved me from my experience?”

During the months ahead we are going to learn to think differently. We are going to work at becoming Christ-centered. And if do allow God to transform us through His Word . . . we will begin living our lives in this world with a constant eye toward Heaven. And when that happens we will discover that life is better than we ever dreamt it could be.

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Scripture:

Colossians 1:1-2