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Sun, Nov 27, 2011

38 - Is Sufficient Enough? [b]

Colossians 2:10-11 by Robert Dean
As we continue learning more and more about walking in Christ, we must examine how the meaning of life is defined. Is it determined by what gives us our own personal sense of pleasure? When we suffer, do we get the feeling that God is perhaps withholding from us something good we would otherwise experience? And do we think we know what it takes to solve our own problems?

As we grapple with today's worldviews of self-sufficiency, we learn more in this lesson what God's Word means by the word "sufficient."
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:56 mins 6 secs

Is Sufficient Enough? Colossians 2:10-11

 

This section of Colossians that we are in is one of the most significant sections of all of Scripture for there are things the apostle Paul says in these verses that he doesn't say anywhere else. Part of that must be because of the context of the Colossian Christians and the specific problems that they are facing. But another point is that as we look at the mosaic of Scripture what God says and what He reveals to us in one book He complements and develops in another book so that the only way we get the full picture is by comparing Scripture with Scripture and by coming to understand the totality of God's revelation. One of the words that we use when we talk about God's revelation, when we talk about what we have in Christ, is the word "sufficient." It is one of those words that sometimes seems we are too familiar with and we use it too frequently so that somehow we miss the boat when we look at what it means when we say that the Word of God is sufficient, that Christ is sufficient, that God's grace is sufficient. So the question to be asked is, is sufficient enough?   

What Paul teaches and is emphasizing here is that there are really only two options in life. One is a narrow option. To borrow from Jesus' analogy, narrow is the way to life. The other is the broad path comprised of many different options but they all basically share the same characteristics. Those core characteristics are what the Bible calls worldly thinking—cosmic thinking. This is characterized by two fundamental principles. The first is autonomy or independence from God. We demand our independence; man thinks that he can do it without God. The second, which is bred by the first, is a hostility or antagonism top God. We want to be independent and whenever anything challenges that independence, to whatever degree, and the need to be dependent upon God is exposed, then that results in antagonism and resentment toward God.

In Colossians Paul continues to develop these two ideas, that there are only two options and there is only one way for a truly rich, full and happy life; and that is God's way. The only problem is that man's way in our day-to-day experience often seems more rich, more robust, more immediate. The feelings and the experiences that are generated through various human viewpoint techniques for finding meaning in life seem so much more real and full at times than what Scripture offers. But it always turns out that the human viewpoint solution is just a cotton-candy happiness; it gives a little pleasure for a short time and just sort of disappears. 

Unfortunately many of us are willingly deceived. This is the idea that we see in Colossians 2:8, the idea of philosophy and empty deceit. Many of us are deceived into thinking that real life is defined by the immediate feelings and perceptions. Our experience becomes more real to us than what the Word of God says. For many people life is dessert. It is not that which promotes health, it is that which gives immediate gratification, and immediate sense of pleasure and enjoyment so that we think that this is where real meaning in life can be found. We live in a generation which is defined by the fact that meaning in life, real happiness, is defined by what stimulates us. And this is only one of the various empty, deceptive philosophies of our day. This would be more the licentious philosophy: anything goes, there are no moral boundaries.   

But on the other side we know there are those who seek to find meaning and happiness in life by following rigid rules and strict religious regiments. Much of this, especially as it relates to our pop culture, comes out of a history. It is not something that just happened in the 90s or early part of the 21st century. What we are seeing today is really the fruit in our culture of a plant whose roots went into the soil of western civilization over 150 years ago. There were four names that came along during that time: Darwin, Freud, Marx, and Blavatsky. We have a culture that, due to the influence of some of these thinkers, has significantly changed and it is a result of the fruit of their philosophy. What they said wasn't that new; they put a new face on it. The Colossians believers faced these same problems.

This is what Paul is addressing in the verses we have been looking at. These five verses set the context of where Paul is going in this next section. The command is at the end of verse 6: "Walk in Him." That is the thrust. Everything that is said from now through chapters two and three defines what he means by this mandate: "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, {so} walk in Him, having been firmly rooted {and now} being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, {and} overflowing with gratitude." Then the warning in verse 8 NASB "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." We are to be living according to Christ, not according to those basic principles of the world and traditions of men. That is human viewpoint versus divine viewpoint. Notice it is a complete break between the two.

We must admit, unless we are sold out to the philosophies that have dominated the last 150 years which have promoted all manner of problems and heartache in our modern world, that it offered an empty deceit. That is, empty of all intellectual, moral and spiritual value, because it rejected anything and everything outside of a literal, physical, observable world. The word translated "deception" is a word that is also translated as "pleasure," and so we see a connection between our world and the world of the Colossians in the first century; that there is a deceptiveness through the pleasures of the world that are promoted through the philosophies of human viewpoint. And this philosophy is built on certain standards. "According to the tradition of men" is a tradition that extends all the way back to the garden of Eden. In Genesis 3:1 we learn of the first question that is asked of man. It is a question that was designed to cause Eve to begin to think down the wrong path, to think according to the wrong standards. "Has God really said?" Satan is rasing the doubt in the mind of Eve that somehow God is withholding something good from her, and the thought that she could add to God's provision and everything is still going to be okay. By the way that Satan asked the question he was implying that God's provision was not sufficient. He is also implying that one can add to God's sufficient provision and there won't be a penalty. Eve began to put herself in the position to judge and evaluate God but she lacked the necessary skill set to be able to valuate everything around her; she lacked omniscience. Only creature who has the same level of knowledge as God can judge God, and no creature by definition has omniscience. The problem with fallen creatures is that we think we know more than God. We think we know what we need to solve the problems because we think we know enough, based on our experience or our reason.

Our senses can give us a lot of knowledge; our reason can take us a lot of places in terms of intellectual development; but there are certain things that God reveals to us that are known only by revelation that are the critical factors that define everything that we learn through experience or thinking. We think we know enough but all of a sudden God tells us that here is something we didn't consider. Once we understand that it changes how we view everything else.

There are four basic for coming to learn anything. The first three are man's attempt to define what is in the darkness without listening to God. If you are in darkness and you don't know what is there you know you are just making it up, because you are missing critical elements, that which can be seen. Then there is the divine viewpoint, i.e. what God tells us in His Word.

The first two follow logic. Man tries to rigorously, in a disciplined manner come to right conclusions. But because he starts wrong, he is going to end wrong. These two systems are called rationalism and empiricism. Rationalism isn't what is meant by the common use of the term to rationalize something, which means to somehow self-justify. It develops a theory of thought that we can come to truth just on the basis of what we have in our mind and the use of logic—that man is really capable of finding truth on his own through his own intellectual abilities. Empiricism recognizes that there is always a problem: if you start inside the mind you never really get outside the mind. So you have to start with sense data, experience. Then there is a combination of these two, but in strict empiricism you start with sense perception, external experience, and again it is based on logic. The problem with both of these is that ultimately you are believing that human ability can give you truth with a capital T—not lower case truth, 1 + 1 = 2 or that the external skin of a Red Delicious apple is red but that you can come to ultimate truth in terms of the ultimate realities of life. Those two always fail in history and they are always followed by a third, which is mysticism and the kind of culture we live in today. If logic can't get you to truth then you just take an existential leap in the darkness to believe in something so that it gives you some value and meaning and direction in life. It is based on some inner private experience, of intuition or faith in human ability. But it is not based on logic; it is not based on reason; it is just based on hope and a leap.

In contrast to those we have revelation—revelation alone, not revelation plus, because the Word of God is sufficient; it should be enough in and of itself. Revelation is based on a belief that God has spoken, that what He has said is true. And we use logic, we use reason as we understand the word, but the starting point is always what God says.

So we are warned to beware of this kind of thinking based on these basic principles.         

We have seen that there are three different ways this word  stiocheia [stoixeia] is used in the Scripture, but the one that is used here is the idea is that it is the basic elements of the universe. But it is not in a scientific objective way, they are not just dealing with earth as earth, air as air, water as water, or fire as fire, but it has something to do with lies behind those things. These elements, as Paul indicates as well in Galatians 4:9 have become deified because if the creature rejects the creator he is going to substitute something to worship. So he worships the creation itself, the elements within creation. And what lies behind this is something that takes us into a different realm beyond the physical. It takes us into the realm of the spiritual, specifically the demonic.

Western civilization, as a result of the thinking of our intellectual forbearers in the 19th century, has rejected the existence of a world that we can't see or taste or touch. They have rejected the idea that there is a supernatural world, they just believe that there is a physical world. But what Paul is bringing out here in these passages is that religion isn't something that just sits there as something neutral: the idea that whatever the false religion might be it is just some sort of neutral, isolated wrong belief system. What we find in Scripture is that both Old and New Testaments teach that what lies behind this is something that is much more dangerous, and that is it is connected to another realm of reality, the angelic realm, and as we have studied in the past, the realm of the angelic conflict. These other beliefs are empowered and energized by the demons. Deuteronomy 4:19 NASB "And {beware} not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven." But then in Deuteronomy 32:17 NASB "They sacrificed to demons who were not God, To gods whom they have not known, New {gods} who came lately, Whom your fathers did not dread." Moses was saying that what really energizes these idols are demons. 1 Corinthians 10:20 NASB "{No,} but {I say} that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons." So behind this is a spiritual reality that is genuine evil. There is no neutrality out there. Whatever the philosophy may be—existentialism, nihilism, idealism, empiricism—these are all energized ultimately by Satan and there is a spiritual darkness that comes as a result of that.

In our culture when we transfer what Paul is saying here to the accepted philosophies of our day, we have to go back to four people—probably we could add one or two others—who are the real benchmarks, the foundation stones of our current problems. Charles Darwin and his Origin of the Species—that God is not necessary to define the origin of the human race or the origin of the solar system, everything just happened by time plus chance and so the only real meaning is just the immediate. There is nothing supernatural, everything is simply natural and is explainable on the basis of natural causes. Then we have Sigmund Freud who said you don't need God in order to solve the problems of life that you are facing emotionally or psychologically because God is just something that has been made up as a sort of crutch. Karl Marx said the same thing, that religion is just the opiate of the masses, even though when he was a bout 16 or 17 years of age he as a Christian wrote a paper that was a brilliant exposition of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Then the last is Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. She was the finder of something known as theosophy. She is sort of the great grandmother of the modern New Age movement. She and others with her combined ideas of eastern mysticism from Hinduism, Buddhism, with various other self-help techniques—spiritism and things of that nature—and gave birth to the modern mystical religious mindset that has given birth to the New Age movement. In the 1980s the New Age movement was new; now it is main-stream.

So there are the rationalists and the empiricists represented by Darwin in the field of science, Marx in the field of economics, and Freud in the field of psychology. And when that fails to bring real meaning there was the need to turn to drugs and have mystical experiences, and find meaning that way. That opened the door to the development or main-streaming of the whole New Age movement. That comes from the mystic.

What these human viewpoint solutions all have in common is the fact that God isn't enough, the Bible isn't enough, Jesus isn't enough, the cross isn't enough; those are just myths, legends, things that man generated on his own like everything else. At the very core there is a rejection of the sufficiency of God, of the existence of God in many cases, but the idea that religion really can't solve your problems. If we think about all of these men, what they were attempting to do was to come up with a framework so that man could be happy, so that man could bring in a utopian society, so that we could solve the problems of health, of poverty, of personal misery and unhappiness, so that we could find real solutions to life's problems. But at the core it is a rejection of what God says: God is okay, but if you really want help, if you really want the key to life, then you have to do X, whatever X may be. That is what is going to supply the ultimate answer. So it is a rejection of the sufficiency of God and it is focused on adding something to God—God plus something else, the Bible plus something else, Jesus plus something else, the cross plus something else, grace plus something else. And that is the very problem that they had in Colosse. 

Paul says in verse 8, NASB "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." The first time we see him start to deal with this is in verse 11 NASB "and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands…" Where did this concept of circumcision come from? What is interesting is that in 3:11 where he talks about "there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all," does that sound familiar. Other passages talking about the baptism of the Holy Spirit talk about whether bond or slave, male or female, Jew or Greek; but they don't mention circumcision or uncircumcision. In fact, aside from Paul's discourse in Romans 2 and 3 which specifically dealt with the wrong Jewish belief that circumcision was necessary for salvation this is the only other place where we get a heavy dose of focus on circumcision. It was mentioned several times in thiks section because this is what was being taught in this Colossian heresy. 

We see more of it mentioned in verse 16, "Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink…" Apparently there was an imposition of certain dietary laws—you don't need Jesus, you need Jesus and the right diet! "…or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—" In other words, observing certain days—ritual. You had to do certain things, eat the right diet (couched within a religious context), observe certain ritual events and efforts, and if you didn't do that and all of the other things, following the check list, Jesus isn't enough.

Colossians 2:18 NASB "Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels…" That is mysticism. So there was legalism, mysticism, emphasis on ideas that came from Judaism. These ideas are borrowed from Greek philosophy, religions, from Judaism, all mixed up together. So we see that it has the characteristics of every other false religion, and that is adding something to these things. 

We need to learn that the divine viewpoint solution is God plus nothing else, the Bible plus nothing else, Jesus plus nothing else, and the cross plus nothing else. The problem is we don't even recognize how frequently we are adding to the Scriptures, to God, to Jesus and the cross because of the influence of our culture around us. This is the contrast that Paul brings out here in the last two verses of this opening section where he says, Colossians 2:9 NASB "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, [10] and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority." It is these two verses that are going to be unpacked and opened up for us in the following verses.

What makes God God dwells fully in Jesus Christ. The word translated "dwells" is the Greek word katoikeo [katoikew], meaning to dwell or to reside somewhere. Paul is saying here in a profound way not just that Jesus is fully God but that if we want access to everything that God is then we have that access in Christ, because Christ has all the attributes of God. He is omniscient; He is omnipotent; He is omnipresent. Paul says that in Him is all the fullness. This concept of fullness, pleroma [plhrwma], was a sort of key word within this mystical hash that was being promoted as religion in Colosse—that the only way you could be complete was to jump through all these hoops, to follow all these rules and regulations because Jesus just isn't enough, you have to add all this other stuff to it. That way you have the fullness, the pleroma. But Paul says no, we are complete in Him who is the head of all principality and power (Colossians 1:16).

What does this mean? Passages from Ephesians clarify this. Eph 3:10, 11 NASB "so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly {places.} {This was} in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord." What we learn here is that these rulers and authorities (principalities and powers) are not earthly, they are heavenly. Then in Ephesians 6:11-13 NASB "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual {forces} of wickedness in the heavenly {places.} Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm." He locates this now within the context of the spiritual warfare against Satan and his fallen angels.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers…" This explains the hierarchy, the order of organization within the Satanic hordes. They are called the rulers of the darkness of this age, and this is our enemy. So "put on the full armor of God." What is the solution? Take up the whole armor of God and get a good degree in counselling! Many in Dallas Seminary after getting a ThM and understanding the Scriptures said, "Well I really can't help people, let me go some place and get a degree in psychology so I can help people." That was almost forty years ago; it is worse today. Now they don't have to go somewhere else, they get it in the seminary classroom. And not just there but many other places. It is, we add to Scripture; Scripture is not enough. And what is the source of this? The source is the same source that was found in Genesis 3—Satan: "God is not enough."

Colossians 1:16 and 2:10 both use this terminology. Christ created all of the principalities and powers, all the angelic host, fallen and elect. We are complete in Him because He is the head over those things. So when we have these false religions their energizing power is Satan and he is under Christ's authority. So why pay any attention to that? Let's go with Christ, He is the one who is sufficient. Satan can't do anything without Christ's permission and ultimately his defeat was secured at the cross where principalities and powers were disarmed and made a public spectacle.

What is the point of all of this? The point is that as Christians who are in Christ—which is the trust of this whole section—we have been given everything. When we add anything to it we destroy what we have been given. It is grace plus nothing; it is God plus nothing; it is Christ plus nothing; it is the cross plus nothing; it is everything that God has given us. How in the world did any Christian ever get to the point where they could live a happy life and be successful in their spiritual life is they had to wait for that Gnostic insight from Charlie, from Karl, from Sigmund? It is absurd. We have Christians today who say they just couldn't live if they didn't have psychology! But they would probably be able to discover real life if they hadn't been infected by that psychology bug, because modern psychology that derives from Freud is nothing more than a human viewpoint lie: that Jesus isn't enough, the Scripture isn't enough; you just have to learn some psychology and learn the techniques of all the different systems—there are over 400 different systems of psychology, so which one is right? But the Scripture says there is only one way, and that way is Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I came to give life, and to give it abundantly."