Dear Colossae Week 5: It Doesn't Have To Be So Hard
The book of Colossians. It was a letter written during one of Paul the Apostle’s many trips to prison for declaring Jesus as Lord. And not just any Lord. A Lord who has died and risen again. The letter’s addressed to a community of people that Paul had never met, who made up a church community that he did not start. So, here’s some insight. Paul spends much of the letter addressing heresy in the way the Colossians were living out their religion. Some possible influences at the time were asceticism, which was all about severe punishment, Jewish influence of observing the law of the Torah, and mystical polytheism, the recognition of multiple gods.
But the Bible says that Jesus came and changed everything. So, why were the Colossians still stuck in their old ways? Does culture affect every generation in its walk with the Lord?
Dear Colossae, dear Church of Christ, these letters were written to encourage you. Please read them well.
Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re in a series called “Dear Colossae.” We’re going through the entire epistle to the Colossians. Several years ago, I made a commitment that at least once a year we’ll go through an entire book of the Bible, line by line. And, of course, my goal is to get through all 66 at some point in the ministry here of Grace so that we’ve catalogued all those books. I hope that that will happen. But we’ve sort of been looking at this book, going through it and trying to study it as a whole book so that we can understand context and all of those great things. So, that’s where we’re at and that’s what we’re doing. But I want to ask you a question here. Hopefully, you’ll remember this.
Does anybody remember this dude? This dude came out — what was it? Satan’s Cube? Oh, Rubik’s Cube. That’s what it was. It came out in the late 70s, early 80s. I was a Type A personality back then. It was just, “Give Him Ritalin.” I got this thing and I wanted to solve it. I don’t know about you all, but it drove me nuts. I would just sit there and do it. And then I realized that it had stickers, so I could just peel them off and put them where I needed to go and be like, “Hah. Look there, mom and dad. I’m smart.”
Anyway, this thing would drive me nuts because it was so complicated. I mean, everything about this thing was complicated. I would get frustrated. I’d want to throw it. It really drove me nuts because I just wanted to solve it and I couldn’t solve it. Finally, somebody came along and said, “Dude, it’s not as hard as you’re making it out to be,” and it really changed the whole experience with this cube. I’ll come back to that at the end.
The reason I say that is because we’re going to get right into a section here in the epistle that’s written to the Colossians where Paul is having to deal with some false teaching that’s going on in the Church because all of these epistles, everything that you read in the New Testament, all of these little letters that we have that are in Scripture are written to the Church. They’re written to believers that are having some sort of struggle or some sort of deficiency or they need something cleared up, usually in regards to the Gospel.
What’s happened is someone or a group of people have told these new Colossians believers that it’s got to be more difficult than it was. There’s more to it. Because what happened is Epaphras, who was a friend of Paul, who’s visited Paul in prison now to tell him about what’s going on at the church at Colossae, because Paul never had visited there. He didn’t found this church. Epaphras has gone to visit Paul and he says, “Hey, listen, there’s a problem in the church. When I went to Colossae, I told them about Jesus. I told them, ‘Hey, Jesus died on the cross and He rose again on the third day. Do you guys want to be in?’ They’re all like, ‘We’re in.’ Well, some people have come in that were there in the church. Some of them are believers, too, but they sort of came out of Judaism and other stuff. What they’re telling everybody is it can’t be that easy. It’s got to be more difficult. They’re making it more complicated than it needs to be.”
So, Paul has to address this. We’re getting right into the meat of this epistle where Paul is trying to now correct a deficiency where everybody’s trying to make it more hard than it needs to be. And I think, as we go through this today, we’re going to realize not in the same exact ways, because we don’t live in the first century, but I think we’re going to realize by the time we get done that it’s so easy to make this thing more complicated than it actually needs to be. I think it’s going to be good for all of us to do this.
So, if you were here last week, you’ll remember this. If you weren’t, I’m going to bring you back up to speed. We ended out — because we’ve gone through Colossians 2:15 at this point. We ended with the very, very last parts of Colossians 2:15. Two things that Paul said that were major, major, major points. He said, “Jesus nailed to the cross all of the things, everything that would be against us, all of the debt that we would need to pay, all the guilt that maybe we would’ve felt for the things that we’ve done, for the bad decisions, the bad mistakes, the bad choices we’ve made — all that was nailed to the cross. All of it.”
So, we don’t have to walk around in guilt. We don’t have to walk around in performance. All of that was nailed to the cross and, in Colossians 2:15, He conquered death, hell and the grave. He conquered all the rulers and all the principalities. So, He not only nailed everything to the cross that would stand against us, but He conquered everything that could accuse us and everybody that could come against us. He’s done all of those things. And then Paul says, in Colossians 2:16, “Therefore...” — because of those things. Because Jesus has nailed everything to the cross and because He’s conquered all of death, hell and the grave.
“Therefore let no one...”
He doesn’t call them out by name. It might’ve been a person. It might’ve been a group. We don’t know.
“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.”
See, what happened is you had some probably Jewish believers that had believed in Jesus, and then you had these gentile converts from Colossae that had believed in Jesus. So, as they sat there and they all go, “Okay, we’re in,” the Jewish people started going, “Yeah, but man, we’ve been doing all these things. This is sort of who we are. We keep festivals and we don’t eat with the wrong people. We eat with the right people. We eat the right foods. We keep the Sabbath. Man, all these people, they just sort of believed in Jesus and that was it. I mean, there’s got to be more to it than that, doesn’t there? You’ve got to live right. I mean, you’ve got to do the right things. You’ve got to jump through some hoops, obviously. There’s got to be more than that.”
Paul says, “Hey, listen. Jesus died, nailed everything that could be against you to the cross, conquered death, hell and the grave, all the rulers and principalities. So, therefore, don’t let anybody pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.”
You can imagine Epaphras goes to Paul and says, “Hey, we’ve got a problem, man. How do we do this thing? We’re sort of like Jesus was Jewish, we’ve got the Old Testament and now there’s Jesus. We’ve got these two groups of people. These people are trying to do the Jewish thing and the Jesus thing. And then we’ve got the Gentiles who have no idea about the Jewish thing, and now these people are telling them they need to do the Jewish thing. Do they need to do the Jewish thing? Do they not need to do it? What do they need to do?”
Paul says, “Hey, listen. Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.”
Because, “These are a shadow of things to come, but the substance [the reality] belongs to Christ.”
In other words, what Paul is saying is, “Hey, listen. All those things back here that you did, the things you did and the sacrifices, the festival, and you didn’t eat and drink with these people, and didn’t eat these foods in Leviticus and all that stuff, and you didn’t eat Jimmy Dead pork and sausage and all that good stuff. Bacon, I know, is pretty good now, but it wasn’t good back then. All of this stuff. Yeah, all of those things, what they were is they were a shadow.”
He’s drawing on Plato here in Plato’s Republic, which was written about 385 years before Paul ever came on the scene. In book seven of the Republic, he has what’s called “The Allegory of the Cave” where people are sitting chained, looking at a cave wall, and they don’t know there’s a fire behind them. They don’t know that there’s puppets behind them. They’re casting this shadow on the wall and they think that the shadow is the reality of life. Like many people. It’s a great story because many of us — and we don’t want to think this because we always want to think it’s somebody else. Maybe the things that we believe are really shadows. Maybe they’re not really the truth.
Of course, we would never think that that would be us. It would be somebody else that’s the one that doesn’t believe the truth. But it could be us. And Paul says, “Hey, listen. The reality is these things are like shadows.” Plato says if these people could be unshackled from looking at the shadows and could be drug out of the cave, they would go, “Whoa. There’s a whole other world here than what we thought.”
He says, “Listen, this is the deal: Jesus has come. This food and drink, and festivals which used to define you and used to make you who you were, don’t let anybody pass judgment on you because everything’s sort of been done in Christ. There’s no need to get all bent out of shape.”
So, let’s take a moment here. We call these the textual interactions where we’re sort of just working with the texts in the moment. We’re going to have to do some cultural explanation to understand food, drink and Sabbath. Like, what does that mean? So, let me try to explain what that means back in the first century, how that would work. It will also make sense of the Gospels. When you read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you’ll go, “Aha! That’s why those things happened.”
So, let’s look at Judaism here so we can understand how this worked. This was your life. You had a life. You were just living, doing your thing. You were Jewish and you were in Judaism or you had converted to Judaism. So, here’s the way it would work. You would say, “Hey, I’m going to give my life and my allegiance to Yahweh. Yahweh’s God. He’s the one that I give allegiance to. He’s the one that I’m going to serve. He’s the one that I’m going to follow. And so, now that I’m going to do that, now that I’m going to follow Yahweh, I need to know what Yahweh wants me to do.”
In the Torah, it comes from a Hebrew root word to “point.” So, it’s like the pointer. It’s showing you how to go. So, you believed in Yahweh. Well, you would read the Torah. Well, the Torah was pretty expansive. It had a lot of rules and regulations. It had a lot of commandments. So, they did what we do today. They didn’t have it at a bookstore, but they would have Torah for Dummies. You know? They would sort of condense it down to make it where you could understand what all those rules and regulations were really about.
So, what happened was if you would’ve lived in the first century and you would’ve been a Jewish person or you would’ve been around Judaism, you’d have known that you serve Yahweh, you’d have known that you need to keep the Torah, but what you would’ve done is you would’ve scrunched those things down to some really minimal things so that you knew what you needed to do. These were called boundary markers. What they did is they sort of put the boundaries out here so that you could know, by keeping those things, that you were, in fact, covenant people. Those things happened to be you don’t eat certain things and you don’t drink certain things. You don’t eat with certain people and you don’t drink with certain people. You know? You don’t cuss and chew and don’t run with people who do. Right? And all that.
So, you did that stuff and then you kept the Sabbath. I mean, you’ve got to keep the Sabbath. So, you can imagine when you’re reading in the Gospels and Jesus comes on the scene and He’s like, “Hey, I’m going to eat with tax collectors and sinners.” They’re like, “Whoa, dude. If Your allegiance is to Yahweh, I mean, You’ve got to do the Torah, man. The boundary markers are we don’t eat with these people. Because, by not eating with these people, we’re showing everybody we’re really the covenant people of God.”
Jesus is like, “Well, I’m going to eat with tax collectors and sinners.” They’re like, “Whoa, man. Hold on. This guy probably isn’t even really a covenant person. I mean, what’s going on?”
Then He says, “Hey, you know what? Whatever you eat, don’t worry about it. It’s not what makes you unclean. It’s what comes out that makes you unclean.” They’re like, “What? We can eat anything now? What are you talking about? This is crazy talk.”
And then, on the Sabbath, He’s like healing people, going through the grain fields and plucking grain. They’re like, “Man, hold on, dude. Listen, it’s real simple here. You don’t have to do a lot of things, but the things that You need to do, these things here, You’re breaking all of them. Every one of them. So, we’ve got a problem because this is the way it works. This is the way we’ve always done it.”
And that is the words of a dying church, by the way. “It’s the way we’ve always done it.” Let me say that again. That might be prophetic. The words of a dying church are “we’ve always done it this way.” Anyway, “We’ve always done it this way.” So, Paul is saying, “Hey, listen. I know that there are people that have come out of this, and I know some of you are realizing that Jesus was Jewish and the only Scriptures that you have are the Old Testament, and you’re trying to figure out how do I do this thing, how do I live this thing out? And there’s going to be people that are going to come along and they’re going to tell you you’ve got to do this, do this, do this, and you can’t do this and you can’t do this and you can’t do this. This is what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to do it this way so that you know that you’re in.”
Paul says, “Listen, how’d you get in?”
“Well, Epaphras told us that Jesus died on a cross and He rose on the third day. We wanted to be in.”
He says, “That’s how you got in. Don’t complicate it. Don’t let somebody come along and tell you there’s all these hoops, then, that you have to do, or all this stuff.”
Here’s the reality: When we think about us today, what are the food, drinks and festivals, and new moons and Sabbaths of our day? What do we put on people? What do we put on ourselves? What do we do? I mean, what are things this society, religion, ourselves or other things — what are those things that people have put on us or we think that need to be put on us or we put on other people to say, “Well, yeah. I know that you — yeah, I know that you believe Jesus rose from the dead, but you’ve got to do these things. You can’t this and that and the other.”
What are those things? What are those things that we complicate things with? And see, here’s where it’s at. This is startling to me as a pastor because I realize, then, there’s people here that feel the same way. Eighty percent of the Church, when they’re sampled — eighty percent say, “I really am not sure that God loves me. I’m really not sure that I’m doing enough to really know that I’m a Christian.”
Eighty percent. It’s like, wow. I mean, we have so complicated this thing. And did you know there’s 40,000 denominations in the United States? It’s like, man, no wonder nobody knows what to believe. Because here’s the way it works. Let’s just go back and work here. Every single one of us has a personal experience. You grew up somewhere. You experienced certain things in life. Some of you grew up in nice houses. Some of you grew up in bad houses. Some of you grew up in situations where your parents were educated. Some of you had parents that weren’t educated.
You had an experience. I grew up in Kentucky where God’s basketball team is, and everybody said, “Amen,” and all that good stuff. I mean, goodness gracious. If you’re a Christian, you know that. Right? See? There you go. It’s “Jesus plus.” But the point being is this: We all grew up somewhere. Maybe not even in America. Maybe somewhere in another country. We had a personal experience. Your personal experience is your personal experience. It’s not mine. Mine’s different than yours. Not only that, but we also had parental experience. Some of us had great parents. Some of us had bad parents. Some of us had no parents. Some of us had one parent. Some of us had step parents. But everybody had some sort of parental involvement at some degree, even in the orphanage was your parental involvement. Everybody had it and you learned something from that experience.
So, not only do you have your personal experience, you also have things that parents said to you and family said to you. Not only that, but many of us grew up in denominations. Depending upon which denomination you were in, they had it a little different because there’s 40,000 of these things in the United States. Some people are like, “No, no, no. When you have a young kid, you’ve got to sprinkle.” “No. You’ve got to dedicate.” “No. You’ve got to dunk.” “No. You’ve got to do this.”
Everybody’s got their little different deal. People are like, “When’s Jesus going to return?” “Well, it’s pre, mid, post and everything else.” The only one right is “pan.” It’ll all pan out in the end. So, you grew up in all these denominations and all this stuff and you’ve got all these beliefs that you have. You grew up in the Church of Christ, maybe. You’ve got to get baptized to be saved, not just believe in Jesus. You’ve got to also be baptized. You can’t really have instruments. You’ve got to do this.
And I’m not being negative on any of these. I’m just saying you grew up Catholic, maybe, and you’re like, “Do I pray to Mary? Do I not pray to Mary? How do I do this thing?”
And everybody’s got their different stuff and everybody’s got a different experience. Not only that, but cultural. You grew up in different cultures. I mean, there’s even different cultures in the United States. I mean, if you grew up in Texas or you grew up in Alabama, you know you’re going to fight over football. Come on. I mean, you just know you’re going to do that. And if you grew up in New York, it’d be different than California. And then, of course, there’s Florida. Nobody grew up here. You know?
But we grew up and we had cultural things and political things. We don’t need to talk about that because we’ve got that solved in this country. And then doctrinal issue. You know? Everybody’s arguing about little different things and doctrinal things, and you’ve got to do this and women can’t do this, and men should do this and here’s the way this should go. And everybody fights about all those things. And then we’ve got the traditional stuff, like, “Well, I grew up in a traditional church. Bless God. We had those hymn books and we sang hymns. We knew those songs.”
Did you ever stop for a moment — I’m not trying to be snarky here. Did you ever stop for a moment and think, if you’re older in here, that when you went to church you didn’t know any of those songs when you got there? You learned them. People are like, “I don’t like these new songs. I don’t know them.”
Well, you had to learn the other ones. I mean, I’m not trying to be mean. And somebody will go, “Well, he doesn’t like old people.” I love old people. I want there to — let me just, so that nobody misunderstands Pastor Chip, I want young, old. I want black, white. I want rich, poor. I want Republican, Democrat. I want them all in church. Every one of you. If you can’t even make fun of anything or have fun or even make a joke, everybody’s like, “Oh, you’re getting onto me.” You know?
But we do. We grew up that way. Twenty years from now, you’re going to have the younger people arguing in their church, “Oh, man. It was so good when we sang Hillsong and Bethel. Now we’re singing...”
You know? Trust me. It’s going to happen. I promise. I give you my word it’s going to happen. Just remember: Nostalgia is not spirituality. So, anyway, we have all this stuff going on and this is what we are. So, what we do is then we hear the Gospel. Somebody comes along and says, “Man, Jesus died for you and He rose again on the third day. Are you in?”
You’re like, “Man, I am in.”
And then it begins because you take all that stuff, and I take all that stuff and they take all that stuff and put it in there and they go, “Yeah, but you have to also do all these other, and you can’t do this, that and the other.” We complicate it. We make it so difficult. And then nobody knows. Like, “What?” And now we’ve got Christians excommunicating good Christians that love God just as much as the other person. “You’re not a Christian.” And we do it publicly now. I mean, it’s like — it’s just bad. You know?
“You can’t be — you can’t.” You just see everybody fighting and mad and spitting all of this stuff. It’s like, man, how does it get so complicated? That’s why Paul and these epistles are there for you and me to say, “Hey, it’s different for you than it was then, but the reality is that it gets complicated.”
Not only did these people have all the hoops that you had to jump through, but then they had the way you had to worship. Nobody ever does that either, right, in the church? “You’ve got to worship this way. Well, if you don’t tap your foot, you know? You have to raise your hands, right? Because if you put your hands in your pocket, there’s no way that you could ever be communicating with God,” — which is crazy, but you can. So, for all of you all who put your hands in your pocket and you really love God, you’ve got a friend in Pastor Chip. Okay? And if you want to raise your hands — and it’s like, “If you can’t raise your hands this way, you have to do the touchdown Jesus. You know?”
I mean, we’ve got all these things that we do. “You’ve got to do this and do that. And if you don’t know the lyrics, you’re obviously not a Christian. You didn’t get saved because you would know.” It’s just crazy. But they had their own way, too, and their way was a little different than the way we would maybe think about it, but they thought, “Here’s what you’re going to do: You have to sort of deny yourself. You just sort of have to really push yourself down, fast, go without, lay on your face and do all these things. And when you do that, after you’ve gotten through all the hoops and do all that stuff, then what’ll happen is if you can do that you’ll start to rise like you’re climbing a ladder. You’ll be with the angels and be around that. Then you can have these mystical experiences.”
So, here’s these new Christians that went, “I’m in,” and then somebody comes along and says, “Yeah. You didn’t get the full version.”
“Yeah. You didn’t get the full version. The full version is this: I mean, you’ve got to do some things, man. I mean, you’ve got to. You’ve got to jump through some hoops. You can’t eat with those people because, those people, they’re bad. Those people here. Don’t eat that food. Don’t do that. Let me tell you how to worship. You’ve got to sort of do this. You’ve got to fast. You’ve got to deny yourself. You’ve got to poor some ash on your head and do all this stuff. You can start to climb a ladder. Before long, you’ll be there in glory, man. I mean, it’ll be all around.”
Paul says, “Don’t let anybody pass judgment on you with food, drink and all that stuff.”
And he says, “Do not let anybody disqualify you, insisting on asceticism...” — like denying yourself and all kinds of stuff — “...and worship of angels,” — or worship with the angels — “going on in detail about visions,”
They’re like, “Hey, man. You just got the half version of Christianity, man. It ain’t just Jesus. There’s more to it, man. You’ve got to do this and do that and do this and don’t do that and don’t do this. And if you really understand what worship’s like, man, you’re going to be in glory, man. You’re going to have visions. It’s going to be awesome. It’s going to be fantastic.”
And Paul says, “These people are puffed up without reason by their carnal minds.”
That’s tough. I mean, he says, “That’s where this is.” He says, “And they’re not holding fast to the Head.”
See, what they’ve done is rather than focus on Jesus, they got distracted. They’re focused on everything else but Jesus. And we know the stories. I mean, if you’ve been in church long enough, somebody at some point has preached a message: “It was the big storm. The disciples are out there in the boat and they’re rowing. All of a sudden, they think Casper’s out on the water. It’s a ghost.” And then it’s like, “Oh, it’s Jesus.”
They’re there and they’re all wondering what’s going on. “We’re going to drown.” And Peter’s like, “Yo, man. Can I hop out of the boat and walk on the water?”
And Jesus is like, “Sure.”
And he’s like, “Man, this is awesome,” while he’s looking at Jesus. And then he gets distracted, right? He looks at the storm and he starts to sink. And then some preacher says, “We’ve got to keep our eyes on Jesus. You’ve got to stay focused on Jesus. We’ve got to stay focused.”
And everybody’s like, “Amen. Amen.” But we don’t. We don’t. He says, “They’re not holding fast to the Head.”
“From whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joins and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.”
Well, what he’s saying here is this: By not holding onto Christ alone, it invariably becomes “Jesus plus,” and/or a distraction. When we’re not focused on Jesus, laser focused on He is our life, He is the one that gives us truth, He is the one that gives us salvation, He is the one that gives us peace, what we do is as soon as we distract from that and look somewhere else, what we do is we either get a distraction going on or we add something to the Gospel.
Let me show you how that works. And you think, “Well, what’s wrong with baptism, prayer or spiritual gifts?”
No. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things. But what happens is if these things are not leading you and me to stay focused here, then what happens is they become the focus. And then it becomes, “Well, if you don’t have this gift or you don’t do this, or you don’t have that, then you haven’t arrived.”
And then that becomes the focus. Or whatever we can do. Whatever we want. Ethics, baptism or doctrine. Whatever it is, that becomes the focus. And then we preach that rather than Jesus. And that becomes the issue, and that becomes the thing rather than Jesus. And Paul’s like, “Man, don’t do that. Hold fast to the head.”
He says, “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, are you submitting to all these regulations?”
“Why are you making it so difficult?”
“‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used) — according to human precepts and teachings?”
“Why would you do that? You died. Like, you died.”
Anybody ever seen somebody go dig up a dead person and take them to a festival? “Yeah. He’s really enjoying it.” Dead people don’t go to festivals. Dead people don’t do Sabbaths. He said, “You’ve died. You’re dead and you’re no longer part of this world’s system. So, why in the world are you bogging yourself down with this?”
Because here’s the reality: All the rules and regulations of the world are not going to make you and me right with God. And every time that we start to think that every little thing and rule and regulation that we do is getting us right and getting God to love us, we start to get into that performance hamster wheel, and all it does is create a lot of problems for us. And then listen to what he says.
He says, “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom...”
Somebody comes along and says, “No. You can’t be a Christian if you don’t...”
And you go, “Man, yeah. That sounds right.”
It has an appearance of wisdom. It looks that way, but it’s a self-made religion. It’s not Christ. It’s self-made. So you can check off your boxes and you got your thing right. And it’s ascetic because, you know, “I don’t do those things. I’m not like you. I don’t do that. I’m holy. I’ve arrived.”
Nobody in here’s arrived. Let me just tell you. Severity to the body. “I’m going to deny myself, man. I’m going to do all these things so I can...”
He says, “Man, listen, I get it. I know why you’re sort of getting confused, because it sounds good. But it doesn’t do anything.” He says it’s of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. It ain’t going to get you anywhere in your life at all. It ain’t going to cure anything. It ain’t going to make anything better. In fact, it’s actually going to make it worse because the harder you try, the worse it is.
And then he gives us these four verses that all of Colossians hinges on. He says, “So if...” — he’s like, “Just lean in here, church. Lean in here,” is what Paul says. He says, “Come in here.”
“If then you have been raised with Christ,”
If that’s happened, you didn’t climb a ladder — raised with Christ. If you’re raised with Christ, “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
Get your focus on Him. Not on all the other stuff that distracts us and gets us all confused and mad and irritated at everybody. Keep your eyes there.
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.”
He cancelled all your debt and He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Nobody’s in control of the world other than Jesus. Whether you think He is or not doesn’t make a difference. He is. And He knows what He’s doing and He knows what He’s accomplishing.
And He says, “For you have died,”
It’s like, “How many times do we need to talk about this. You’ve died.”
“And your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
You’re not going to find some hidden treasures by doing all these things and jumping through all these hoops and then getting into some mysterious vision, no matter if the guy on TV tells you he’ll give you $50, come in and you can have all these things. The bottom line is that’s just simply not the way it works. It doesn’t work that way. We want to make it work that way. Paul says if that’s the way you want to do it, you’re puffed up with a carnal mind. It’s not the way it works.
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears,” — when He comes back for the second time — “then you will appear with him in glory.”
You’re not going to arrive. You’re not going to get there here. One day, you’ll have everything, but here we’ve not arrived. And I’ll tell you what, God gave us Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher, to remind us all that we haven’t arrive. Here’s a great quote. You’ll all laugh with me when I say this.
He says, “If any man thinks ill of you, don’t be angry with him, for you’re far worse than he thinks you to be.”
Right? There you go. None of us. So, let’s look at some practical application here and let’s do some take-homes. First, Christianity, at its essence, is not bottom up. It’s not climbing the ladder. It’s not jumping through the hoops. It’s top down. Paul says, “If you’ve been raised with Christ.” The word “raised” in the original language is passive. It means you’ve been raised by Christ. He reached down from the top and pulled you up. You didn’t do anything to get there.
And here’s the truth: As hard as it is for us to sometimes believe or accept — and it’s hard for us to do this — there’s no other way to a relationship with God except through Christ. He’s your way and He’s your life. Did He raise from the dead? Yeah. Did He die on the cross? Yeah. Okay. And we go, “Yeah, but there’s just got to be more.” I mean, there’s so many people that get that religious thing going and they’ll hear a sermon like this and they’ll go, “Yeah, but — yeah, but, but, but, but...”
And it’s like, “No. That’s just religion and garbage and filters.”
It’s either this: For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him and this, this, this, this, this, this, this — it doesn’t say that. Whoever believes in Him will never perish, but have everlasting life. We go, “Oh, it can’t be that easy. It just can’t be that easy because, well, if you did, then you would do and then you would this and you would that.”
We complicate. We make it so incredibly hard because every one of your “you got to do, you got to do, you got to do,” there’s somebody else that had a different experience and different background that’s going to say, “No. You’ve got to do this.” It’s either Jesus died on the cross and He rose from the grave and that’s the power of the Gospel that saves people, or it’s something else.
Second, if what we practice isn’t Christ-centered, if it’s not focused on Jesus, it invariably leads to bad practice. It always will. It’ll lead to some distraction or it’ll lead to some sort of confusion or it’ll lead to some sort of you’ve got to add something else on top of Jesus. He says, “If you’ve died, why are you submitting to these regulations?”
But we do. And here’s what we do. I’m going to show you how a majority of people, unfortunately — and I’m doing my best to unwind this and to help teach and to free people up. Jesus didn’t say, “Hey, I came to put you in bondage, man. I came to give you a bunch of hoops that you can’t get through.” He said, “No. I came to give you life and life more abundantly.”
Here’s the way it works in most of the church. This is PBR. This is not Pabst Blue Ribbon. I know that’s what y’all are thinking. You’re thinking, “Alright, man. I’m going to have me a Pabst Blue Ribbon.” Some of you all are like, “I can’t even believe you said ‘Pabst Blue Ribbon’ in church. You must not be a Christian.”
Anyway, this is performance based religion. This is the hamster wheel. I’ve got to perform, I’ve got to perform, I’ve got to perform so God will love me. Well, if you buy into that system, there’s the hoops you’ve got to go through, well, you’ve got to have rules, then. Because, see, you don’t know how well your performance is if you don’t know what you’re trying to keep. You’ve got to have rules. Everybody’s rules are different. There’s 40,000 different ones and we all think ours is the right one. There’s got to be rules.
And then, because there’s rules, you get into legalism because you’ve got to keep all those rules and you’ve got to fight for those rules because those rules are the rules that show you how you do the things. And then, along the way, you realize that you really aren’t keeping all the rules, so you sort of change the rules to fit your system that you can work within. Like, you know, when Jesus says to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. He says, “You tithe of cumin and dill and all those little things. But you forgot the weightier matters of the law.”
What they were doing is they were taking these little herbs, planting it in their gardens with their corn and other stuff, and those things would come up first. So, they would tithe off of their firstfruits. They learned how to grow things quicker than their more expensive stuff so they could give off that rather than the more expensive stuff. They learned how to use the law for themselves. They learned how to use the rules for themselves. And then you get real legalistic because you’ve got to keep all that stuff. And, before long, you’re in bondage.
And then what happens — and this is what happens to everybody who gets in the system. You get a critical spirit. You look at everybody else as “they’re wrong,” because what you don’t want to have to deal with is that you’re wrong. That there’s stuff in here that isn’t right. And everybody’s got it. There’s nobody in here that doesn’t. And so, the question is do I get God’s favor and acceptance, and do I get in by all the things that I do, which ultimately leads me to pointing fingers at everybody else and to a house of cards religion? Because when somebody comes along and says, “No, no, no. This thing here that you believe, it’s not biblical at all,” you have to fight for it because if you’re wrong on this, then maybe you’re wrong on other things. And if you’re wrong on other things, then your performance can’t be evaluated, which means you may not even be in. So, you have to fight for all of those things.
And what’s happened, rather than looking to Christ, now we’re fighting a system and we’ve made an idol. And what we’ve done is we’ve splintered off into 40,000 different groups and now we’re yelling and screaming to everybody because what we’ve done is we’ve created a system that simply doesn’t work, because the only thing that works is Jesus. And He didn’t come to give you a life of this. He came to set you free.
And last, it just simply doesn’t have to be as difficult as we make it. It just doesn’t. Let no one pass judgment on you and questions of food, drink, festival or whatever that may be today. We go, “But, but, but.” See, what we do is we all have this. Our “but, but, but” is all from these things. So, we go, “Oh, but you’ve got to — but, but, but.”
Yeah, but here’s the question: How did you get in? How did you get in? Did you get in because you got your doctrine right? Did you get in because you got your soteriology right? Did you get in because you voted right? Did you get in because — no. You got in because you believed that Jesus died on a cross for you and He rose again on the third day, He’s going to come back and He was God in the flesh and He was the King of kings and the Lord of lords. So, you believe that and you’re in. And then what we do is we add to it and we just want to do all this stuff because what we do is we’ve got all of these things.
I am not saying that there’s not ethics. I’m not saying that doctrine isn’t important. It’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is once we start pushing all of that stuff on top of everything else, we confuse the Gospel. Because what happens is this: Whenever we get in it — like, I mean in it — and we do. We get in it on the political things, the doctrinal things, this stuff, that stuff. I mean, we get in it and we’re like a tick on the back of a Billy goat. We just dig in there and get into these things.
Whenever we get in it on any of these, not only do we lose, but so does the church. Because the more we try to put all this junk in a blender, the more of a confused mess that we look like. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. So, this thing that was so complicated and frustrated me, and I couldn’t solve and I couldn’t make sense of, and it just, “Ugh.” Somebody said, “Here’s a book on how to solve the Rubik’s cube. Well, I was so “ugh” that the book was even more complicated than this complicated mess. And I wanted something to uncomplicated my complication, but my complication was so great that it made even the book more complicated. And sometimes that happens when we have a complicated mess, and the book just makes it even more complicated.
Well, what happened was is my mom said, “Chip, you get your Rubik’s cube and I’m going to read the book. We’ll solve this thing together.”
So, she would read me the book at that moment because I was so complicated, I couldn’t make sense of anything, she would tell me, “These are the moves that you need to make, and do this.” And, all of a sudden, this thing that was so complicated wasn’t. It wasn’t as hard as I had made it. It was actually easy. All I had to do was learn the things that I needed to do and learn the patterns and I solved it. And never again did I want to throw it. Never again did I get mad at it. Never again did I look at it or any of that stuff because, all of a sudden, it wasn’t as difficult as it was.
And I just want to say to you that your Christianity does not need to be as difficult as we make it. It’s real simple. Jesus looked at the disciples and He said, “Who do you say I am?”
He could’ve said so many different questions there, but He didn’t. He said, “Who do you say I am?”
Simon says, “I believe you’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus says, “Blessed are you, Simon. Flesh and blood didn’t reveal that to you, but my Father which is in heaven. And do you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to build something great with this statement of who I am. I’m going to build something great. The profession, the rock of ‘I’m the Christ,’ I’m going to build a church on that and you’re going to be a part of that with me.”
He could’ve said so many other things, but that was it. “Who do you say that I am?” Don’t let somebody come along and kick out your Christianity from underneath you by making it a performance based thing. Next week, we’ll talk about ethics. Paul’s going to talk about ethics. Ethics don’t go away, but they are not what makes us a Christian and they’re not what makes us right with God. Jesus alone does that. Let that be freeing. Let that set you free. Don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be. Because, as a church, doing all the great things that we’re doing, we want to make sure that when we reflect Christ to the world that’s out there, that it’s not a convoluted mess, that it’s very simple.
God loved you so much, with a love that you’ll never even imagine, that He sent His Son to die on a cross for your sins, and He rose again on the third day. Which means if you and I believe in Him, not only are our sins forgiven, but we have eternal life. That is the Gospel that saves. Not “Jesus plus” and not the distraction. Let’s don’t make it harder than it needs to be.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for the truth of Your Word. I thank You for the simplicity of the Gospel, even though, Father, I’ve done it, we’ve all done it, we’ve all made it difficult at different times. I just pray, Lord, that as we listen to these words that are thousands of years old, and written to a different group of people at a different time, I pray, Lord, that as we struggle through them and read them together, and look at them together, that there’s a freedom that comes within our church and we realize that the answer is not all the other ancillary things. The answer is Christ, and Him alone.
Lord, let us remain focused upon Your Son. Let us lift up Jesus in everything that we do, for His glory and for His honor. So, Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here that You would watch over us and protect us, I pray that You would lead and guide us, I pray that You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again, and I pray, Lord, that You would continue to help us to stay true to what You’ve called us to be, which is a place that’s going to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.
Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.