Four Steps to Life
Text: Colossians 2: 15 – 3:5
Proposition: For every person there are four steps to life: we overcome death through forgiveness of sin and justification ; we overcome defeat through our enemy being made powerless; we overcome despair through not living for the flesh; we overcome destitution through rejecting idolatry.
Introduction: Jesus once said this about the life that He saw being there for every person because of the cross, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) Other translations say that they would have life abundantly. This is not only a reference to eternal life but to our lives here and now as believers in Christ. The obvious paradox is that many who are Christians today feel like they are miles away from having life to the full, of living an abundant life. So was this abundant life that Christ spoke of a promise for only a select few or it was a very real possibility for everyone in Christ? This morning I’d like to look at what Paul describes as the four steps to this abundant life for all, let’s read Col. 2:13to 3:5.
I. We Overcome Death Through Forgiveness of Sin and Justification.
Last week we looked at what the word ‘fulfilled’ meant, to measure up, to be complete. We wrestled with the premise that what fills Christ is the very thing He uses to fulfill us. Primarily what that came to was the reality of being included in the covenant relationship that binds the very Trinity together as we are now considered to be in Christ. In short what that meant was that we overcame death through our sin being forgiven and through being justified before the demands of the Law because Christ absolutely fulfilled all the demands of righteousness before the Law and we are now ‘imported’ into Him through faith. That creates for us a condition of being justified, of being now found just. Have a look at verses 13 and 14. It says we have been made alive together with Him… “having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, having nailed it to the cross.” That was the first step to life, overcoming death through forgiveness of sin and then being found just before the eyes of the Judge of Eternity. It’s a step that Christ performs for us, it’s He who nails the list of our transgressions to the cross, it’s He who satisfies its demands with His own life’s blood. Then it is He who invites us to receive that full pardon, that gift of faith and that gift of life in Him. That’s the first step to the abundant life He offers.
II. We Overcome Defeat Through Our Enemy Being Made Powerless.
First we overcome death and then we overcome defeat, both are the actions of Christ on our behalf. Look again at verse 14, there’s that same past tense action being described, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” When Christ incorporated us into Him, that is under His authority and in His name the capability of the spiritual weapons of Satan were rendered spoiled, disarmed. For the Christian, Satan does not have the great destructive power that he exerts over the non Christian. Jesus used the very instrument of the cross to bring atonement, to bring the imputing of sin to Himself and the placing of His righteousness upon us. Satan didn’t see that one coming and if he had he wouldn’t have pushed the Gentiles and the Jews to crucify Christ. This is what Paul was referring to in 1 Corinthians 2:8, “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” Paul tells us that we fight a spiritual war in 2 Corinthians 10, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” The Christian has great defenses in Christ, that’s what Ephesians 6 describes but what is more important to see is that the second step to abundant life is realizing that your enemy has been made powerless in Christ as you put on the armor of Christ. His weapon is deception, his bullets are made up of doubt and fear, his canons are composed of unbelief. Our weapons are mighty in God for the pulling down of strongholds… do you believe that? The second step to life is not only knowing that your enemy has been made powerless but that in Christ and with the armor of Christ you can overcome defeat.
III. We Overcome Despair Through Not Living For The Flesh.
Look at how Paul beginsthis next thought, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths”. The thought is essentially if you have been made to overcome both death and defeat by Christ’s actions for you, two very great battles, don’t allow yourself to be cheated by a much lesser foe, the legalism that proclaims, “It’s what you do that determines who you are.” The Colossians were being told to observe feasts, circumcision, fasting, the pursuit of angels, the pursuit of such things would supposedly demonstrate their superior spiritual condition. Such a chasing after the righteousness of men will lead to an exhaustion. Look at Paul’s conclusion in verse 23, “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, falsehumility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” All that these will bring is a spiritual pride, an emptiness and a further need to run as hard as you can. Despair comes when we try to overcome the flesh with the flesh. It is possible for us to be cheated by self efforts to attain right standing with God. Instead verse 19 encourages us to hold fast to Christ, the Head of all… “from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments grows with the increase that is from God.” So what this is saying is that it takes connection to the whole body to overcome the deceptions of the flesh. The whole body of Christ, the church, is what I’m meant to be nourished through as the increase from Christ flows through that body. The third step to the abundant life that Christ promised is to overcome despair by not trying to use the flesh to overcome the flesh, not allowing yourself to become isolated, to going it alone and just trying harder. That creates despair because it misses what only the whole body in Christ can supply. Connection to Christ through the people who are His church brings health and life. The first two steps, overcoming death and defeat Christ did for us, this third step, overcoming despair, we with the church are meant to do in Christ.
IV. We Overcome Destitution Through Rejecting Idolatry. The other three steps to life may be in place but if this fourth step, a step which I alone must take, is missed then spiritual destitution can begin to set in. Chapter 3 begins with, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.” The thing about destitution is that it creates an inner poverty, it rips down the soul and spirit of a person, evaporating any sense of hope and worth and faith. This passage begins with the reminder that despite our present circumstances, despite our present struggles, we are… “raised with Christ”. That reality is what the abundant life is moored to, bound to, locked onto. The things above seek, where the Christ is, sitting with God, at His right hand. To further emphasize that he says, “Set your minds on things above,” meaning YOU set your minds. Let that catch your attention, make you overwhelmed with wonder. What overwhelms you now? Let that be overwhelmed with the things above. Why? It is how you begin to overcome destitution, the ripping poverty that destroys and seeks to identify you as being destroyed. The clear truth is that I can’t be destroyed because I’m already dead, you can’t take away what has already been given away. “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” The deadness of sin which I formerly lived in and which marked me in identity has been taken and put on the person of Christ. Now my life is hidden, unable to be pried apart from Christ. So “When Christ who is our life appears then you also will appear with Him in glory”. Glory is about as far away as you can get from destitution. Knowing this to be an absolute guaranteed reality do the following, “put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Your sexuality and the sensuality that is involved with that are prone to distorting your understanding of who you are and even more importantly who God then is. To covet people, things or power is to seek to get from them what God alone intends to give. In that sense they become replacements for God. That is idolatry and it will lead to destitution, becoming so poverty stricken spiritually that we don’t even see how we are replacing God with these. The abundant life that Christ promised means that we overcome death through the forgiveness and justification of the cross; we overcome defeat through our enemy being made powerless; we overcome despair but no longer fighting the flesh with the flesh and we over destitution by seeing and turning away from idolatry. ..to abundant life!