Text: Colossians 2:1-10
Proposition: The prosperity or well being of the soul of the church rests on it’s closeness to the will and Word and way of Christ.
Introduction: There’s a lot of opinion today as to what is really important. Is it the environment, is it the economy, is it the imbalance of power militarily, financially, even globally? Is it human slavery or the oppression of women or the abuse of children or the crushing effects of poverty and famine? It seems as we just begin to list the issues that cascade down upon us every day that the torrent of them seems unstoppable. What is really important to day is not the amount of darkness in the world but rather the way light counter acts against it. Years ago the apostle John described the world like that, light verses the darkness (1 Jn 1:5-8) . What he meant is that the church is now the lamp and Spirit of God the oil in that lamp that sheds light into the world. Despite what you may have heard about an ineffective or anaemic church it is still the main way that God brings light against the darkness. If the church were to be taken out of the way, out from the earth, then darkness would rush in to fill that void. That day will come but it is not today. Today, the prayers of the church, the actions of the church, the faith of the church God uses to proclaim truth and to counteract the darkness that originates in the father of lies, the devil. Jesus has destroyed the works of the devil, that’s one of the reasons why He came (1 Jn 3:8). He has now ordained the church to be salt and light.
When we lived up in the Yukon back in the 70’s we used kerosene or diesel for lamp fuel. The thing about those lamps is that you always needed to trim the wicks in the lamps because carbon would build up on them and the diesel wouldn’t burn completely and really quick they would start to cause the glass globe to be covered with soot on the inside. If left untrimmed they would even fill your whole house with the dark stains of soot.
I wonder if that’s how Paul felt about the church, if he was aware of how quickly their light could be darkened over. Have a look at Colossians 2: 1-10 with me.
I. For Light To Be, All the Parts Have to Work Together.
The thing about those coal oil lamps is that everything had to work together for it to effectively shed light into a dark cabin. The wick had to be long enough to reach the oil, the crank had to work and not slip, the globe had to be clean, the wick trimmed. There were many parts but just one lamp and just one purpose. Look at how Paul begins chapter two, “For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea…”. What was he so concerned about? When we started our study in Colossians we talked about two influences that were infiltrating the Colossian church: 1. Gnosticism or the pursuit of the secrets of hidden knowledge known to only a few; 2. Judaism, the pursuit of righteousness by rigorous rituals and works that meant they were more spiritual people. So in verses 1 to 10 first ten verses Paul speaks against Gnosticism (the love of knowledge) and then from verses 11 to 23 he speaks against Judaism (the love of religion). But back to our first point, the danger here is that these things could impair the church, blackening it’s globe so to speak, causing even the light to go out if care were not taken. So the first action Paul encourages them to take is to make sure their hearts are knit together in love. Perhaps the modern day statement is, “I’ve got your back”, meaning that I’ll fight for you and protect you but it means my back is exposed too. “I’ve got your back” implies a request that you have my back. The motivation is not just self preservation, it’s love and it connects me to you as though we were knit together. If the church is to shed all the light that the Lord has appointed for it to shed then the unity of the body, the working together of all the parts is crucial for light to push back the darkness.
II. For Light To Be, the Fuel Needs to Travel Up the Wick.
Faith is like the wick inside of us, up that wick travels the oil and when it meets the flame there is light. Look at what that wick of faith is described as, “the full assurance of understanding”, that means though I don’t know everything about God, I know with deep conviction that which I do know. I know that the Father has sent the Son, I know that the Son is fully equal in all respects to the Father, I know the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is unbreakable and that in Christ His unity with me is also unbreakable. That’s something that used to be a mystery, greater than whatever any Gnostic belief could imagine and now that mystery is revealed and it is absolutely bursting with the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. When the full assurance of your faith in the Word of God begins to draw up or soak in the extent of those treasures of wisdom and knowledge the Holy Spirit uses that to cause light to shine through you. It’s seen in your words, in your patience with one another, it is in the way that you recognize grace and demonstrate grace and the body is unified in the Lord in that.
III. For Light To Be, the Fuel Needs to be Uncontaminated.
If you get water in the fuel the water will also travel up the wick but when the flame comes to the water it can’t ignite it and it backs off. Sometimes it creates small explosions, a popping sound is the warning that black carbon smoke will soon begin to accumulate on the lens.
Paul’s warning is, ‘Don’t let anyone deceive you with persuasive words’ or ‘cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit.’ Typically deception begins by making self refuting statements. A self refuting statement is one that sounds good but it is self contradicting. It’s a statement like, “There is no absolute truth”, which is an absolute statement they are claiming to be true. Or, “It is wrong to judge”, which is a judgmental statement, or “Only science can give us truth”, which is not something science can tell you, what experiment can prove that? There are even churches that border on cultic activity by using manipulative control over people, making non biblical claims or justifying ungodly behaviour. Instead Paul says, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” As far as Paul was concerned if you have received Christ then walk in Him, step by step grow in the understanding of Scripture. More and more place your confidence in Him. It’s why he says, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Now that’s uncontaminated fuel which faith can draw upon. That’s what God uses for light to shine through us, a grounded understanding of who Jesus is. Did you hear what Paul said, “…you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Many things can help you, friends, training, counseling, family, but only in Christ are you absolutely filled up, satisfied, able to be used beyond your understanding and equipped not only for life but for death and life after death. That’s what complete means and it comes through knowing Jesus.
In these first ten verses of Colossians 2 Paul has been cautioning the church against the deceptive teachings of Gnosticism. This is not just a fascination with knowledge like that of technology, it is a search for the ability to become God. Here are some of the basic beliefs behind Gnosticism:
1. The physical nature of space and time are evil, only the spiritual is good.
2. For man, the universe is a vast prison. He is enslaved both by the physical laws of nature and by such moral laws as the Mosaic code.
3. Within each natural man is an "inner man," a fallen spark of the divine substance. Since this exists in each man, we have the possibility of awakening from our stupefaction.
4. What effects the awakening is not obedience, faith, or good works, but knowledge.
Paul knew Gnosticism was dangerous because it takes pieces of Biblical truth and distorts them. It’s the same method behind Mormonism and a host of other New Age beliefs that hold the premise that if we can just pierce the knowledge of the inner self then we can become just like God. It was the same deception pitched to Adam and Eve in Eden. What the common denominator is behind all of this is the hope and belief that man does not need God. It would be like believing that if I can just try hard enough I should be able to take hold of my shoe laces and lift myself off the ground. What that belief refuses to see is that there is a greater force called gravity that holds me down. What Gnosticism refuses to see is that there is a greater force called sin that holds us and that hold can only be broken by the One who has never been touched by sin. The reason Jesus Christ came was to take the consequence of our sin upon Himself, to remove the barrier between God and man, enabling us eternally to be with God. Let’s look at verses 11 to 23 next week.