Good morning, everyone. I loved meeting with Elijah this week and talking with him some. I’m going to try and write a little something this week about what parents can have in mind in leading their kids to the Lord. I’m going to include some of my thoughts, as well as some of Kyle and Rachel’s story of how they discussed salvation and baptism with Elijah. I’ll have that at the Grow Station in the entryway next week.
When I was a freshman in college, I remember having a discussion with a guy that was in one of the university’s jazz ensembles with me. And I remember when he found out that I believed the Bible to be God’s Word, all of it, and that it was my primary source for truth. I remember how he responded. He said, “Well, that will change over the next few years.” He said it sounding like a senior letting a freshman know that he was naïve, but, no worries, I would grow out of these thoughts that the Bible came from God. That was his attitude.
For many across the country, religious belief is childish, it’s a crutch, or it’s just a way to try and give more meaning to life, to make us feel better about our purpose on the planet, and ultimately feel better about loved ones who die. Many believe that truly intelligent people either don’t believe in God or at least keep it in its proper place, which is at home or at church and that’s it. They keep it private.
Even more than that, what’s happening right now is that there is a new spiritual belief that trumps all other spiritual beliefs, and that’s the belief in so-called “love.” If you happened to watch the Super Bowl half-time show, or at least heard about it, the climax of the show was the end when an entire half of the stadium read “Believe in LOVE” in rainbow colors.
Of course, Christians do believe in Love, but not in the way many of these fighting for love would say that we should. The idea that God has some sort of standard placed on mankind outside of the standard of simply loving and not hurting each other, it’s not only bigoted, but it’s hateful. For me to say that the girl in my dorm in college who since college has had surgery to remove her breasts and has also started hormone replacement therapy to be able to grow facial hair, for me to say that I feel for her, because she is lost and needs Christ and the fulfillment that only he can bring. For me, or anyone else to say that, even with empathy, is not love, but hate. That’s where we’re at with pop culture right now.
We know, at Raintree, because it’s one of our DNA tenets, that “Love without truth is not real love.” We know that. But before I get to Paul’s main point for us today in Colossians, I want to mention a side-note since I’m bringing up these topics.
I want to challenge us in this room with a question, since most of us, for those that believe the Bible to be our ultimate source for truth, most of us are likely on the same page when it comes to homosexuality and similar topics: But here’s my challenge: When you hear of these things, like transgenderism, are you disgusted or are you broken? If we’re honest, God is repulsed by sin, and, I think part of being a growing Christian is having the same feelings toward sin that God has, sin in us and in the world. BUT when we think about the LGBTQIA community (there’s several more designations used now), for those of us who’ve never struggled with these particular sins, are we repulsed more than we’re broken? Especially seeing how much leverage they have in politics and culture, do you complain more than you pray? Do you realize you were once just as lost? We won’t compromise truth here, and the truth is that God has assigned two sexes and has reserved marriage and intimacy to be between a man and a woman. But I would encourage you to reexamine the truth that it is only because of Christ that you are reconciled to God and not lost yourself. The passage we’re looking at today makes the strong point that we were dead before Christ. We realize that there aren’t levels of deadness, right? Each of us in this room were once just as dead as anyone else in the world. This truth should cause us to have incredible compassion, uncompromising compassion. As we move to today’s text and topic, I wanted to be sure and mention this.
My main reason for bringing these issues up is to ask the question: How much does it matter where we get truth? A lot. Our source for truth affects everything. It affects how we define love; it affects what we believe to be the ultimate purpose in the universe. It affects everything. Paul’s proposition for us today, which is on the back of your bulletins, is this:
Christians must guard the centrality of Christ and his gospel from man-centered philosophies or practices, not only when it comes to doctrine and worldview, but also when it comes to where we truly find fulfillment in life.
So far in Colossians, Paul’s been pretty warm and loving, but now he’s switching to having more imperatives, warnings. Let’s read Colossians 2:6-15.
- 6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
One question we’re going to answer with the time we have left: 1) How can we guard against a man-centered worldview? Most of our time will be spent on verse 8, because it’s the main imperative that Paul gives, and many of the verses we’re looking at around verse 8 are re-hashing what we’ve already covered in this series.
How can we guard against a man-centered worldview?
- Walk in Christ. Verses 6-7. “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” “Walk” is a very common expression for Paul, referring to our daily conduct and life. When we look at these two verses, we see that we’re to live our lives in the reality of who Jesus is. So what’s the reality about who Jesus is and what that has to do with us?
First, we’re rooted in Christ at salvation. Now we’re being built up, which means we’re becoming more and more like Christ, and being established in the faith. And because of all three of these things happening, we overflow with gratitude. This is what it means to walk in Him! Paul goes on, though, what does he say next, Paul’s main imperative or command of the text, where we’re going to spend the majority of the rest of our time, Verse 8-
- 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
So there is this clear sense in which, not only we walk in Christ, but we also must make sure that we aren’t taken captive, the word meaning to be “kidnapped” or “carried off.” We can’t let ourselves be deceived or led astray. So the second way we guard against a man-centered worldview is to…
- Think critically!
“See to it” that you’re not tricked or taken captive. This means we’re to actively avoid being led wrongly. So how can we see to it? By thinking critically! I don’t mean at all that we’re negative all the time. Thinking critically is different from thinking negatively. Thinking critically means that we actively test things according to God’s Word.
What we want here at Raintree is an atmosphere where no one feels dumb for what they don’t know, EVER, but also an atmosphere where everyone is growing in their understanding of the Bible. If we’re not doing this, we will likely be led astray. I’ve mentioned once or twice over the last few weeks that there are lots of really popular Christian books out there and Christian authors, some of whom do not use the Word of God as their source for authority. In other words, not everything they say is necessarily true according to God’s Word, and sometimes they straight-up contradict it! At times, though, we can read or hear and never really notice, and take something to be true that may not be true!
A perfect example of this, over the last ten or so years, is the book “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Belle. This book was and seems to still be a very popular book. Many Christians have read it, and maybe some of you have, and seen no problem with it. Maybe you were even encouraged by it. Without thinking critically, and by this I mean rationally thinking and weighing a book’s legitimacy, instead of just reading it assuming that everything in it is true, it’s easy to miss the problems in Rob Belle’s theology at the time. In the book, he is quite vague, and a little off on his understanding of sin, he sees the Bible more as a metaphor than God’s Word, and even his universalist views are there, meaning his views that hell doesn’t exist and even that God doesn’t know the future, they’re in his book “Velvet Elvis,” though under-the-radar and not explicit.
Now it’s widely known and explicit that Belle fully and openly embraces universalism, particularly espoused in his never book, “Love Wins,” and in 2011 was named by Time Magazine as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the World.
You may think, Ryan, why does it matter as long as these authors or speakers have the Gospel right. Can’t we differ on other things. Isn’t it really just about the Gospel? Well, as we’ve said several times in the last few months, the entire Bible is the story of the Gospel. When you begin to ignore part of it, you undermine the gospel. For Rob Belle, his beliefs no longer includes the atonement. He will say that Jesus died, but not that he bore our sin and God’s wrath on the cross, therefore reconciling believers to God. He would not agree with that, especially now. It’s seems so subtle, what is off, and yet it’s everything. If God’s Word is our source for truth, we must treat is as such.
My goal in bringing up Rob Bell is not to bash him, or bash anyone that might agree with him. My goal is to reveal to us the need to think critically, to test what we hear and read according to the Word of God.
Vs. 8, we must “see to it”, it’s an imperative, it’s something we must do, see to it that no one takes us captive. Matthew 7:15- “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Throughout the New Testament, we see this idea that we must be watchful. We must test everything according to Scripture. I’m even saying, in fact I’m especially saying, that you need to test what I say according to Scripture. Don’t just listen to me and take what I say as truth. Make sure I’m getting it from here. We test everything we hear. This doesn’t mean we’re not trusting, or that we have to be cynical, or that we’re constantly watching our back or that we’re conspiracy theorists and we trust no one- It means that we’re aware that the enemy works oftentimes in the most subtle of ways. We think critically, not negatively, but critically which involves the open evaluation of any statement or proposition, as opposed to blind trust. The beauty of thinking critically is that we have a plumbline from which to start, a foundation that CAN be fully trusted, and that’s the Word of God. So, how do we avoid a man-centered worldview? 1st, we walk in Christ. 2nd, we think critically. The third way we avoid a man-centered worldview:
- Start with God!
Verse 8- “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” So this philosophy that the Colossians were struggling with, this deceptive philosophy, started from man’s perspective, as opposed to God’s.
Modern philosophy, which the word “philosophy” basically means the study of truth or the study of reality, modern philosophy is similar to what the Colossians were struggling with, generally speaking, because its ultimate source for knowledge and understanding is human reason. Which, honestly, what would we expect from people that don’t believe God has revealed Himself? But that’s the problem. As far as the search for truth, modern philosophers start off way behind Christian philosophers or theologians. Christians have truth straight from God, revelation from God himself about the nature and purpose of life. Even just theists, not necessarily Christians, but just those that believe in some sort of deity are way ahead of secular philosophers because their starting point is far closer to the truth. They start with God, as opposed starting with man. Which is better? Starting with what we know from our senses? Or starting with what God Himself knows and has revealed to us about Himself, and about reality?
Now, there are so many logical reasons to believe that God exists. There are so many compelling arguments, including philosophical arguments, that give strong intellectual evidence for the existence of God, and one day we’ll likely get into those, either through a class we offer, or a sermon series or something. But, even with the evidence, a person cannot be argued into the Christian faith. There is a point at which the Holy Spirit moves, and a person repents, turns, and places their faith in the sacrifice of Christ. That is an act of the Holy Spirit, God Himself, not an act of logic. Though logic and apologetics can definitely help someone get closer to the point where they repent and believe, ultimately, God must move, and we must place our faith in Christ.
The reason I explain that is to make sure that we understand that Christians have a presupposed truth. We do know and assume that God exists, that Jesus is God, and that the ultimate reality in the universe is that he died for the sins of mankind. When we come to philosophical discussion, it’s ok to say, no, I can’t “leave my presuppositions at the door,” because they’re true! Everyone has assumptions, and generally the goal of secular philosophy is to completely avoid those assumptions. But it’s impossible. Because avoiding all assumptions and presuppositions is in fact presupposing that that’s the best thing to do when we approach philosophical discussion. In other words, it’s a circular argument. Now if you didn’t follow what I just said, and you’re thinking, “Ryan, you’re way up here, floating around, I don’t know what you’re talking about, you look like a pretty bird up there, you tweet-tweet-tweeting, but I don’t understand you.” That’s totally ok, my main point is that when it comes to philosophy, which again is the study of truth, for Christians, we must start with God, and not man. The fourth way to avoid a man-centered worldview.
- Don’t let Tradition trump Truth.
Don’t be taken captive, or mislead according to human tradition. There’s nothing wrong with tradition in and of itself. Lauryn and I already have a few family traditions with Jacob. Raintree as a church has a few traditions that are great. I’m sure you, yourself, have traditions you like to follow and implement. There’s nothing wrong with tradition, as long as we never let it trump truth, specifically, Christ.
So what is tradition? It’s something you do over and over, and usually pass it down, or at least in biblical context, it’s something that’s given from one to another. Here’s the thing we must keep in mind, though. Just because something is tradition, doesn’t mean it’s good. I love the example in Mark 7, where the Pharisees come to Jesus and they ask him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, and eat with defiled hands?” You can read the rest of it later, but Jesus ends up responding like this: “You’re very good at rejecting the commandment of God in order to follow your tradition!”
Tradition cannot trump truth; it can’t trump Christ. Some of us might be in danger of cherishing a tradition more than cherishing Christ Himself. Don’t let tradition trump truth. The fifth way to avoid a man-centered worldview, the last one:
- Have a Christ-Centered worldview.
I love this last part of verse 8: See to it that no one misleads you according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ! “Elemental spirits of the world” is actually referring to rudimentary thoughts and ideas, childish thoughts. Literally translated, it means “things in a row,” like the alphabet. He’s calling these false teachers at Colossae childish. Instead of basing their beliefs and their worldview on the mature teaching of Scripture, they’re basing it on childish thoughts. What is the mature worldview centered on? Christ. It’s all about Jesus. Why? Why is a mature worldview centered on Christ?
1st. We’re filled in him. Verses 9-10. “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” We’re FILLED and COMPLETE in Him. We need nothing else! If you’re here struggling with depression or loneliness, know: you are COMPLETE in Christ.
2nd. Why is a mature worldview centered on Jesus? Because we’re FREE in Him! Verse 11 talks about a major part of the Old Testament covenant, circumcision. It makes clear we’re no longer bound by external requirements for salvation. We don’t have to perform to earn God’s favor. We perform and follow Him because we have God’s favor due to Christ! We’re free from legalism!
3rd. Why is a mature worldview centered on Jesus? Because we’re ALIVE in Him! Verses 13: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him.” We were dead. Now we’re alive. This is exciting, but it’s also a wake-up call. Why? Because it reveals that we were all in the same boat! Because we were just as lost as anyone else in the world! How do we know we were just as lost? Because this says we were dead before Christ. I don’t know about you, but dead pretty much just means dead, right? There’s not different levels of deadness! “But, Ryan, I wasn’t as dead as him, or her.” Anyone want to try and claim that someone else is deader that what you were. They were more dead, or deader, or deadest, deaderesterer! We were all dead. Now we’re alive in Christ.
4th. Why is a mature worldview centered on Jesus? Because we’re forgiven in Christ. Last part of verse 13 and following: “Having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Our sin has been forgiven, and it is as assuredly forgiven as the reality of the cross.
Lastly. Why is a mature worldview centered on Jesus? Because we are victorious in Christ. Verse 15: “He disarmed the rulers and authorities (referring to Satan himself and his demons) and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Christ.”
It’s too good. We’re complete, we’re free, we’re alive, we’re forgiven, and we are victorious in Christ. If you don’t know Him today, truly. If you haven’t truly turned from your sin and trusted in Christ as our substitute on the Cross, do it today. Be complete. Be free. Become alive. Be forgiven. Gain victory over sin and death itself through Christ. These truths aren’t based on human reason or philosophy, but on the reality of God’s Word, which is God’s revelation of himself to man. Let’s pray.