Two Sundays ago I preached on Colossians 2:15-23. Due to time constraints I ended up leaving out some application that I thought may be worth while thinking about. So here it is.
I’ll start with a bit of a recap. If you’ve been following the series, you will hopefully know by now that the message of Colossians is ultimately focussed on the supremacy and hence sufficiency of Jesus. We’ve been confronted with a Jesus who is absolutely mindblowing in both his person and work.
- We’ve seen how He is supreme in His person. He is the true image of God. As the firstborn over both the old and the new creation all things belong to Him. Indeed, all things were made by Him and through Him and for Him.
- Furthermore, He is supreme in His work of reconciliation. God reconciles the entire creation through Christ. At the heart of His work is of course individuals being restored into relationship with God. But we mustn’t stop there. Reconciliation extends beyond us to encompass the entire cosmos. Every aspect of creation that was in some way affected and twisted or broken by sin will be restored because of Christ’s reconciling work on the cross. In short all the brokenness we experience, all the pain, all the suffering, disappointments etc will all be removed because of Jesus’ reconciling death on the cross.
- Lastly, Jesus is also supreme in terms of what we enjoy as Christians united to Him. He has revealed God fully to us. In Him our sinful nature has been crucified and put to death. The charge sheet with its accusations against has been wiped clean and any spiritual force that stood against us has been defeated at the cross.
Now if we grasp all this, then we will why it is so crucial that we remain in Christ and be aware of anything that robs us or takes us away from Jesus. It is in and through Jesus that we find true and lasting joy. It is in Him that we find genuine and complete approval. It is in him that we find lasting satisfaction. That is the way that God designed it. Our greatest good, our profoundest joy lies in knowing Jesus.
For this reason we are warned to not add anything to Christ. Colossians 2:8 laid down the principles:
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.
In Colossians this warning was applied specifically to what I called religious ritualism or legalism, mysticism and asceticism.
Now the danger for us is that we fail to see the far reaching implications of what is being said. One could easily conclude that we simply need to be careful of things that are ‘spiritual in nature’, that have to do with ‘religion’. But such short sightedness flows from a tendency to see the world with dualistic glasses, to divide the world into the sacred and the secular. Colossians seems to be addressing the sacred and so we fail to see the implications of its message for the rest of life.
But let us think a little more critically about the world in which we live. The reality is that in our schools and universities and in the media we are being taught a whole system of philosophy that depends ultimately on human understanding and tradition. However, because it is ‘secular’ we don’t give it much thought although perhaps we should. Consider what these philosophies and ideas attempt to tell us. They tell us about the universe and our origins. They answer questions of epistemology, i.e. how we can know – we either know through scientific and rational observation or alternatively we are told we can’t actually be sure of anything – everything is equally valid. They tell us about the nature of ultimate reality. They tell us what it right and wrong – whatever works or feels good for you. They tell us what human beings are – essentially good (or morally neutral) products of time and chance and society. They tell us that the way to create a better life is through for example education and technology and poverty alleviation. They tell us about how to achieve significance and find true joy and satisfaction – through the pursuit of pleasure, the abundance of possessions, the wielding of power and so on. Perhaps these ideas are more ‘religious’ than initially meets the eye!
Surely now we can see the relevance of Colossians and the great dangers we face if we fail to apply the message of Colossians not only to our ‘spiritual lives’ but also to our ‘daily secular lives’. Whenever we think something like “Yes, I have Christ, but I really need…… to be truly happy or significant” we fail to heed the warning of Colossians and have been taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophies. Whenever we think we can make the world a better place purely through human effort, education and technology, we depend on human understanding and not on Christ. I could go on but clearly whenever we do that we are denying the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ. The sad reality is that much of the church has bought into these ideas. It therefore should not surprise us that in many respects the church appears powerless, passionless and hardly impacts society anymore. We have indeed been taken captive!
Colossians therefore challenges us to question where in life, all of life, we are have or are tempted to add something to Jesus to secure our joy and happiness and calls us back to savour the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ in all things and to bear witness to that fact in whatever context we find ourselves in.