Rust Proofing the Church
Text: Colossians 2:1-10
Proposition: We need to guard against a spiritual kind of rust that can corrode our faith, corrupt our understanding and compromise the identity of Christ in us.
Introduction: Way back in the early1960’s the American Motor Corporation developed a car called the Rambler. One of the advertising campaigns of that day showed the body of the car being dipped into a galvanizing solution seven times to prevent it from rusting. Rust is the natural result of a process called entropy, it decays, literally electrons are transferred from the iron to oxygen taking away the strength and integrity of the metal. In music, literature, and art, rust is associated with images of faded glory, neglect, decay, and ruin. James 5:3 written in about 60AD says, “Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!” It’s why Jesus said, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.”(Matt. 6:20) The point is that as Christians as can become rusty when it comes to the exercise of our faith, rusty in what we hold to be true and the way we stand or depend on that truth. The letter to the Colossians was written to a church that was starting to erode in its faith, fading in what it stood for. Neglecting who it was in Christ it was starting to crumble. Have a look at Colossians 2:1-10.
I. Rust Occurs With Neglect, Reduce Its Spread With An Active Concern.
Paul writes to the tri-city area of Colossae, Heirapolis and Laodicea. You’ll remember that last name as the one mentioned in the book of Revelation as the city that was neither hot nor cold in terms of their faith. They had just slowly faded into an irrelevance that ended up costing them dearly. Take a moment and look at how Paul speaks to these folks at Colossae, “For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the fleshthat their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love…”. We were at Tim’s the other night and had a conversation with a guy named Bill, a smart man, a man who knew many things and yet was determined not to believe in the existence of God. As we talked with Bill it became really clear that he had heard the various arguments for faith in Christ. What occurred to me afterwards was that we would never outsmart Bill, I could never talk to the facts of logic in a strong enough way that he would be convinced. We had been to talking to Bill’s mind, perhaps what we should have done was talk to his heart. That’s where the Holy Spirit really gains access, even with hard hearts. This is what Paul is saying, that he has this great angst and conflict in his soul for these people that he has never met face to face. His active concern is that hearts would be encouraged, would hear truth, would recognize their soul thirst. When you speak to the heart of a person it reverses the slow decay process of rust and creates a binding, galvanizing effect. It knits together with love that which is falling away. The way it knits or binds is by inviting people to a deeper understanding of who Jesus is. It invites them to take a second look, to agree to the possibility that they may have missed something, they may have been influenced by other things and may have made assumptions about Christ that really need to be looked at more closely. So Paul invited them “to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” The active concern that he took was pointing them to the greatness of God, to move from the faith it takes to sustain unbelief to the absolute assurance of really understanding the fact that a God of such magnitude that goes beyond the borders of our comprehension has initiated a way for us to know Him and to know what He looks like, values, loves by encapsulating all that into humanity, into the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. But why would God ever even want to do that? The answer is simple and yet shocking, it’s because we would never discover Him in the depths of our imaginations, He had to come to us as an expression of His active concern for a people trapped not only in mortality but also in depravity.
II. Rust Can Be Accelerated , Beware of Being Cheated By Deception.
One of the forms of logic that we all use everyday is a form of syllogism, it was first defined by Aristotle 350 years before the birth of Christ. It takes a general statement, adds to it a specific statement and from those two draws a conclusion. A general statement would be all humans are mortal, the specific statement would then add I am a human, the conclusion then is I am mortal. Perhaps a more current syllogism would be there is no god, only god could create, I am not created, or the church has failed miserably, the church cannot be trusted, I don’t trust the church. It takes a broad general statement adds to it a secondary one that also seems to be universally true and then makes a personal conclusion. People use this kind of logic and it seems to be water tight in their minds and they hold out all kinds of justifications for abandoning the church and turning away from God. So Paul writes to the church, “And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.” That word ‘beguile’ is the term ‘paralogizomai’ which means ‘to reckon wrong, to miscount’. That’s exactly what was happening in Colossae, people were being drawn by false logic, wrong assumptions into wrong conclusions about who Jesus Christ is. So Paul tells them to avoid the accelerated decay that this can bring by being on guard against it. At one of our Bible studies the question came up, ‘How can you guard your heart against deception?’ The answer to that is exactly what Paul drives at in verses 6,7, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” It’s a walk, a daily exercise of trust and action together. As you walk you will gain not only experience in walking but also confidence that you can walk, you become rooted in that belief and that will make you stronger, building you up and establishing you as one who knows how to walk in the way of Christ. It will be using the right syllogisms, true general assumptions like Jesus Christ died for sinners, specific assumptions, I am a sinner, and right conclusions, Jesus Christ died for me. That ought to evoke in you not only faith but awe, wonder, gratitude and worship. That is the way to guard your heart against deception. Apply the truth of Christ to your life and it will reduce the rust infections of anxiety, fear and despair.
III. Rust Seeks to Alter the Integrity and Identity, Your Identity Is In Christ.
In verse 8 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.” He says that the philosophy and empty deceit the Colossians were experiencing came from the traditions of men which in turn were built upon the basic principles of the world. That really is a common complaint against the church even today, that it is just the beliefs and traditions of men. However what escapes us is that the ‘traditions of men’ is something that infuses all thinking and practice. The difference here is what those traditions themselves are built upon. If they are built upon the basic principles of the world then the traditions are going to embrace godlessness, the license to sin, the belief in an unaccountable life and self determination. If the traditions are built upon Christ, upon the basic principles of who we are in Him that changes everything. Now the Word of God becomes more than just the writing of a bunch of ancient Jews, it becomes the document that is attached to the living Christ. The principles of the world will establish traditions that will pit one person against another obscuring the truth of who they really are, compromising their integrity like rust on steel. Look what Paul says about who you really are, “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.” It’s a syllogism, God is perfectly complete, holy. To that is added, Jesus is in the Godhead and now unites me to that perfection. The conclusion, in Christ I am complete, holy, guarded under His principality and power. Beware of the things that would rip down the integrity and identity that has been established in you in Christ, recognize again the identity your God has given you in Christ, elaborated upon by the traditions of those who belong to Him, built upon the principles of a spiritual realm that overrules the physical realm. So remember and be aware of this spiritual rust we’ve talked about, remember:
Rust Occurs With Neglect, Reduce Its Spread With An Active Concern.
Rust Can Be Accelerated , Beware of Being Cheated By Deception.
Rust Seeks to Alter the Integrity and Identity, Your Identity Is In Christ.