Faith in the True Gospel
In this week's scripture lesson, the Apostle Paul is refuting a number of false teachings and practices that had infiltrated the church at Colossae. Promoting sound doctrine and protecting God's people from erroneous and dangerous teaching is one of the most important jobs of those who are called to pastoral ministry. At the same time, it can be one of the most difficult things to do, because it puts you in direct opposition with the proponents of whatever belief or practice you are refuting. Experience has proven that people don't often like being told they are wrong.
Much like in Paul's day, the Church today is being assaulted from all sides. As our society becomes more and more dominated by subjectivity, the absolute truth claims of God's word grow increasingly more offensive to those who are outside of Christ. This means it is growing more and more difficult to evangelize the lost. Christian principles are often viewed as intolerant or narrow-minded. At the same time, worldly influences are invading the Church. In many ways those inside the Church are beginning to look less and less distinct from those outside of the Church. I think one of the big reasons for this is a lack of conviction and leadership from pastors. Many are more concerned with being popular and lauded by men, over and above proclaiming the truth of God's word to a fallen world and suffering for the sake of the gospel. Many are choosing comfort over calling.
In many churches, the gospel has become about acceptance, being a better person, personal happiness, and prosperity. It's a message that elevates man, and not Christ. This is a complete 180 degrees from the gospel that Paul is declaring to the Colossians. After pointing them to the supremacy of Christ in the previous chapter (verses 15-23), he again draws their attention to Jesus, their Lord and Savior, who is both the author and perfecter of their faith.
So often, we believe the lie that we need to add something to our faith. Just trust in the finished work of Jesus...it can't really be that easy can it? In verse 6, we are reminded to walk in Christ in the same manner that we received him. And how did we receive him? Through faith of course! In other words, we are called to live in light of the faith that we have professed. We live faithfully. We are called to trust what is true. So, when "philosophy and empty deceit" threatened to take the Colossians captive, Paul didn't try to come up with some new or novel methods, he simply reminded them to trust in what they had claimed to believe. What a simple approach to ministry. It's tried and true.
In the same way, when legalism, and all of the trappings that come with it, crept into the church, Paul again went back to what is simple and true. There was a great deal of noise that was telling the Colossians that they needed to add a work (circumcision) to the gospel. It was the common "faith plus something" lie that we so often encounter. Paul's response is again to remind them of their standing, not based on any work of the Law (a circumcision of the flesh), but rather based on the work of Christ (a circumcision of the heart...made without hands).
The true gospel message, the gospel of the free gift of salvation through the person and work of Christ, always stands in opposition to any number of false teachings and false gospels. To those pursuing worldly knowledge and wisdom, it offers the better wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). To those pursuing prosperity, comfort, and happiness; it offers the promises that accompany a call to daily take up your cross and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24-28). To those seeking to earn salvation through moral works in a vain attempt to tip the scales of justice in their favor, it offers the peace of knowing salvation through the one who has lived a life of perfect moral obedience (Romans 8:1-11). In all cases, the gospel offers more than what we could ever hope to find elsewhere. Therefore, when the temptation to follow after the empty promises of the false gospels rears its ugly head, I pray that we will be reminded of what is true, and that we would pursue that instead.
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Part 5 - Walk in Him
Questions discussed in this sermon:
1. How do we mature in our faith?
2. What is wisdom according to the Bible?
3. How is Jesus our treasure?