Sunday, September 13, 2009

Colossians 2:6-10 - Live in Christ!

Opening thought: “I didn’t inhale.” Remember those infamous words? The New York Times reported them. Do you remember who said them? It was then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for President in March of 1992, a race that he would win big over the first George Bush.
Asked if he had ever violated international law, then Governor Clinton said, “When I was in England," he said, "I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and didn't like it. I didn't inhale and I didn't try it again.”[1] The media had a heyday. Op-eds and pundits skewered him as a hypocrite and made him a laughingstock. Did he really expect us to believe him?
Possession of marijuana is illegal in Britain; Mr. Clinton was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford from 1968 to 1970. The New York Times goes on in that 1992 article on Governor Clinton saying, “There is doubt whether the admission will further damage Mr. Clinton, whose campaign has been hobbled by questions of character.”[2] Mr. Clinton turned out to be quite a character – a two-term character. But he didn’t inhale.
In our passage today, Paul begs the Colossian Christians to live under Christ’s Lordship and don’t inhale the empty philosophies of this world.

Pray and Read: Colossians 2:6-10

Contextual Notes: Last week Paul addressed the Colossians about the importance of having a healthy church. Now we arrive at the heart of the letter. Today’s passage contains the key verses of Colossians. It is the pivot of Colossians. As Paul begins by dealing with this “philosophy” that the Colossians have inhaled.

Key Truth: Paul wrote Colossians 2:6-10 to teach the Colossian Christians that they should receive Christ as Lord, live under Christ’s Lordship, and bring their thinking under his Lordship.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about living for Christ.

Sermon Points:
  1. Receive Christ as your Lord (Colossians 2:6).
  2. Live like Christ is your Lord (Colossians 2:6b-7)
  3. Think like Christ is your Lord (Colossians 2:8-10)
Exposition: Note well,
a. Paul begins with positive instruction as a basis for a later attack on the out-of-bounds teaching going on at Colossae. His instruction summarizes much of what he has said. “Christ Jesus the Lord” draws attention to the one at the center of the mystery (1:27) and the subject of the magnificent hymn (1:15-20). “Walking” and “abounding in thanksgiving” tie in with Paul’s intercessory prayer for the Colossians (1:10, 12).
b. Paul regularly reminded believers what he had passed on to them from the Lord, but this is not a reminder of the sayings of Jesus on right conduct, but is the early Christian confession, “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 12:3; Phil 2:11). No doubt it summarizes the evangelism Epaphras did to win them to Christ.
c. ILLUSTRATION: In the early church, the phrase, Jesus Christ is Lord could get you executed. That was treason to the Empire. Caesar was Lord and to affirm anyone else was inviting a sedition charge. At one point in the early church, Christians were commanded to burn incense to Caesar and say, “Caesar is Lord” as a test of loyalty. Some did it and saved their necks. They were asked to leave the church. Others refused and paid with their lives. Was that a one-time occurrence? Hardly. In early 20th century Korea, many Korean Christians were martyred because the occupying Japanese ordered all Koreans to burn incense at a Shinto shrine and say that the Japanese emperor was a god. Many Christians refused and were executed. One of my former pastors who grew up as a Presbyterian Church (South) missionary kid in Korea said he remembered seeing a man with scars on the back of his neck where all those who refused to burn incense were executed by laying them face down and striking them with axes on the back of the neck. Somehow that Korean man was the only one to survive, but he carried those scars the rest of his life.
d. APPLICATION: Is Jesus Christ your Lord? Have you declared yourself his? Today during the invitation is a perfect time to seal your commitment to Christ. Perhaps you need to make your profession of faith public. Perhaps you need to come forward and ask for baptism. Perhaps you need to come forward and ask, “Tell me again how I can be saved?” If the Holy Spirit is drawing you, don’t be disobedient to the heavenly calling. The Lord is good, and he will not lead you toward something that will do you anything but good.

a. ἐν αὐτῷ περιπατεῖτε : Live in him or literally, walk in him. Here is a present imperative which implies continuing something which has already begun. So we get something like, “Continue to live your lives for him.”
b. From indicative to imperative, there is no stopping between believing and behaving. If you are living how you want to and calling yourself a Christian, then something is wrong with your Christology. Jesus Christ is Lord, not convenient genie in the bottle.
c. At 1:10, Paul gave the same verb, walking, in his prayer and followed it with four participles (bearing fruit, increasing, v.10, being strengthened, v.11, and giving thanks, v.12). Here at 2:7 are four participles again (rooted, built up, established, abounding in thanksgiving tell us what walking with Christ is all about. In both passages the image of a tree is involved (Psalm 1) and the theme of thanksgiving.
d. The first three participles have images of horticulture (rooted), architecture (built up), and of the law-court (established, confirmed). Similar ideas at Ephesians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 3:6-11. Perhaps the third image with “established” is a reference to Psalm 41:12; 119:28.
e. Paul is large on thankfulness in Colossians. He mentions it seven times in four chapters (1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:15, 16, 17; 4:2)
f. APPLICATION: What about your life in Christ? How healthy is it? Are you really walking with him? Or is your spiritual life a sham? Did you once walk closely with him, but somehow, somewhere along the way your heart turned cold? Are you a two-faced Christian, one way on Sunday, another the rest of the week? Do you talk religion in the daylight, smile and say the right words, and then live like the devil at night? Are you a hypocrite? Today the Lord is calling you to a glorious recommitment to your first love. Don’t leave here in shame and guilt. Come to him and let him cleanse your heart, wash you clean from the sin that has separated the two of you. Have revival!

a. Βλέπετε: watch out, beware, be on guard.
b. συλαγωγῶν: only place used in NT, probably means to carry off as war booty or as a captive. Directly pointing to spiritual warfare. Idea is of carrying someone away from truth to the slavery of error.
c. Φιλοσοφίας: Also occurring only here in the NT. Paul is not saying that philosophy is anti-Christian. Just the opposite. He is saying there is a Christian philosophy (2:6-7). Other philosophies can drag you off as prey.
d. κενῆς ἀπάτης: empty deceit. Paul calls it a hollow sham, seductive and misleading.
e. Its source is men and base spirits (some commentators say, “elemental spirits,” “elemental principles,” the principalities and powers (2:10, 15). Paul sets it in opposition to Christ.
f. Paul’s centrality is on Christ and his fullness of indwelling deity. Over and over he is writing “in Christ,” “in him.” There is no need to pay respects to the principalities and powers, for Christ is complete and Master of all such beings (2:15). Paul emphasizes Christ’s present rule of the demonic realm and final defeat (1 Cor 15:24-28).
g. ILLUSTRATION: The jokes about inhaling marijuana smoke don’t seem to end for former two-term President Bill Clinton. During the 2008 Presidential campaign when Barack Obama was competing with Mr. Clinton’s wife for the Democratic nomination, someone asked him in New Hampshire if he really did not inhale. "You know actually I didn't," he said. "I thought it was funny that I didn't inhale. I didn't say that I didn't try," he said."[3]
h. APPLICATION: In your education, are you inhaling? Are you swallowing everything the professor tells you as the truth without thinking critically about how their worldview matches up to the standard of the Bible?
i. In your work, are you inhaling? Are you listening to all the scuttlebutt about your supervisors without thinking critically about how that loud mouth’s worldview matches up to the standard of the Bible?
j. In your television viewing, are you inhaling? Are you opening your mind up to the contamination of a spirit of death by watching CSI or a spirit of lust with Desperate Housewives/Grey’s Anatomy or a spirit of snarky rebellion with The Office or witchcraft with Lost?
k. At the doctor’s office, are you inhaling? Are you listening with a heart that includes the intervention of the healing power of the Cross?
l. In your music listening? Are you discerning? Or are you inhaling all your favorite artist has to offer without critically thinking about how the lyrics measure up against the standard of Scripture?
m. In your celebration of holidays, are you inhaling? Do you go all out in celebration of a spirit of death in Halloween?
n. In your parenting, are you inhaling? Have you ever laid the teaching in some of these “bestseller” parenting books up against the standard and heart of Scripture?
o. I'm not saying that we should become 17th Century Puritans and reject the world altogether. It is important for Christians to reach out to others who don’t know the Lord by doing like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9, and becoming all things to all people in order to win some. But be careful that when you change the forms you do not change the meanings, too. You have a standard to live by. That’s called the Word of God. That puts you at an advantage. No one else really has a decent standard. You’re a Christian. Use it.
p. What I am saying is that we are all alike. We claim that things don't affect us, but they do. We may even admit that we toyed around with it, but really still hold on to our hypocrisy and pride. We claim that we didn't inhale, but we did.