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Fullness in Christ

July 2, 2017 Speaker: Mitchel Kirchmeyer Series: Colossians: "Look Nowhere Else! Christ Is Everything"

Passage: Colossians 2:6–2:15

Introduction
Imagine you were rushed to the hospital because you were experiencing chest pain. Nurses check you over and determine you have a life threatening heart issue. The doctor comes in and tells you if you don’t have surgery, you will surely die. The doctor gives you a plan of action and tells you that he can do the surgery. What do you do?

When it comes to choosing doctors for a major surgery, a lot of trust is involved. You are putting your life in their hands. Are they the person for the job? Are they capable and qualified? Will they do it right? Once you tell him he can do the surgery, you have put your trust in him. If you trust this doctor, you will have nothing to worry about.

Series Introduction
Today we are in the fifth message of our series in the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae. Paul was an early follower of Jesus and he is writing a letter to other followers of Jesus in Colossae because he has heard they are feeling pressure to add something to Jesus. People are saying to them, “If you really want to be close with God, if you really want a full and rich spiritual life, you need more than just Jesus. You need Jesus plus other stuff.” To that, Paul says, “Look Nowhere Else! Christ Is Everything.” That is the theme of this letter.

Last time, we reviewed the first half of the letter where Paul reminds the Colossians of their story as Christians. In that story, Jesus is the hero. And as the hero, the Colossians received him as their hope for the future, their peace with God, and their wisdom for living. And so do we when we trust in him as our Lord.

Sermon Introduction
This morning, we are hearing God’s words from Colossians chapter 2 verses 6 through 15. In this passage, Paul describes a spiritual heart surgery that all those who trust in Christ have gone through.

The big question this passage answers is: why should we look to Christ alone for spiritual fullness? Why should we look to Christ alone for spiritual fullness?

In this letter, Paul has already told us of our spiritual condition apart from Christ. We are alienated from God, hostile toward him, and living in the domain of darkness. Without Christ, we are disconnected from God and living with a spiritual heart disease. Like a water hose connected to a spigot, we were meant to be connected to the source of life and then like a hose to spread that life to the world. But we disconnected ourselves from the spigot and thus we are disconnected from the water of life.

Whether people recognize it or not, everyone feels this. We all have an aching hunger in our hearts and souls that we are trying to satisfy. We all feel restless and uneasy inside because we have a thirst and desire that just can’t seem to be satisfied. This morning, we are finding out why we should look to Christ alone for spiritual fullness and to cure our spiritual heart disease.

Verses 6 through 8 set up our big question and verses 9 through 15 will give us an answer.

Let’s begin by rereading Colossians chapter 2 verses 6 and 7 again.

Question setup (2:6-8)

6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (2:6-7)

The Colossians have received Christ Jesus as their Lord. They have put their full trust in him. Here, Paul says he wants them to continue doing that. He wants them to continue trusting in Christ and shaping their entire lives according to Christ. This looks like being rooted and built up in Christ and established in the faith. God roots us in the dark, nutrient rich soil of Christ. And God continues to build us up in Christ, growing and maturing us. God also continues to establish and strengthen us in the faith - the message that we have received about Christ. And when God roots and builds us up in Christ and strengthens our trust in him, we will abound with thanksgiving. We will thank God for Jesus and his work in our lives.

This is the path the Colossians started on and the one on which Paul wants them to continue. In verse 8 he warns them of what could lead them astray from walking this path. He writes:

8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (2:8)

They need to watch out so that no one takes them captive - so that no one carries them off as plunder. How would someone do this? Paul says “by philosophy and empty deceit.” “Philosophy” doesn’t mean philosophy like we think of it today but it refers to a system of thought - a way of thinking about the world, God, and spirituality. Remember, there was a group of people pressuring the Colossians with ways of getting closer to God and being made right with him. If you really want to have a full spiritual life, they say, you need more than just Jesus. Paul makes clear what he thinks of the false teachers’ system of thought: it is empty deceit. It is “empty” in that it is hollow and devoid of value. And it is also deceptive. It leads astray through lies. It is false and worthless.

Why is it empty and deceptive? First, he says, because it is according to human tradition. It is man made. It doesn’t come from God. Second, because it is according to the elemental spirits of the world. In most of the world for most of history, people have believed there is an invisible, spiritual reality that affects all of life. In the United States, we often compartmentalize religion and spirituality into a box separated from the rest of life. In the ancient world and in many cultures today, this segregation of spirituality from the rest of life is unheard of. If you want to have a good voyage over the sea, you need to make the sea god happy. If you want to have a good farm crop this year, you need to make the rain god happy. In order to make them happy, you need to follow certain rules and do certain things on the right day and make sacrifices to them. In Paul’s day, some saw the basic elements that make up the universe as things that could benefit you spiritually. Paul doesn’t deny that these spiritual realities exist. What he says is that looking to them for spiritual fullness is empty deceit. The false teachers are trying to pull the Colossians into pleasing these other spiritual forces, but Paul says that is not the path to spiritual fullness.

The major indictment he gives this system of thought and religion is that it is not according to Christ. These teachers are advocating a way of spiritual fullness that adds to Christ. Anything that adds to Christ is a false gospel because in the gospel we hear that Christ is everything. Jesus plus something equals nothing.

The major warning of these verses is to not be taken captive by anything that doesn’t have Christ at its center. If it isn’t all about Jesus, then it is something to stay away from. This warning sets up our big question: why should we look to Christ alone for spiritual fullness? Verses 9 through 15 give us three answers. Let’s reread verses 9 and 10.

Since Christ is fully God, we need no other to fill us (2:9-10, 15).
Why should we look to Christ alone for spiritual fullness?

9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (2:9-10)

Jesus Christ is fully God. In chapter 1, temple imagery was used to explain Jesus’ divinity and here it is used again. How did God become a man? In the Old Testament, God gave his people a temple where his presence dwelt in a visible and tangible way. But Jesus called himself the temple and he said that God’s presence was visible and tangible in him. Instead of God dwelling in a place, he dwelt in a person. Jesus the Son of God who became flesh. The whole fullness of God dwelt in a human body just like God’s presence dwelt in the temple.

That’s what is true about Jesus. What is true about those who trust in him? Look at verse 10:

10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (2:10)

In Christ the whole fullness of deity dwells and in Christ the Colossians have been filled. When we trust in Christ, we are united with him. The image that the New Testament uses is marriage. When two people are married, they become one. What’s his is hers and what’s hers is his. When we trust in Christ, what’s his becomes ours. The Father’s love for Jesus becomes ours. Jesus’ inheritance becomes ours. Jesus’ salvation becomes ours. Jesus’ life becomes ours. All that is true of him now becomes true of us. The one who is the head of all rule and authority - the one who is fully God - is the one who is pouring spiritual life into us.

Verse 15 further emphasizes Jesus’ supremacy above all others. Paul writes:

15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (2:9-15)

This verse is talking about Jesus’ defeat of all other spiritual powers. He is above all and is greater than all of them. Anything else that someone could look to like the elemental spirits of the world has been defeated by Jesus.

The big question we are answering is: why should we look to Christ alone for spiritual fullness? The answer we get here is: Since Christ is fully God, we need no other to fill us. Since Christ is fully God, we need no other to fill us.

Paul is telling us here that when we look to Christ and trust in him - when we surrender our lives to him as our Lord - we don’t need to look anywhere else because we have been reconnected with God. We don’t need Jesus plus something else. He is the one we long for!

Imagine again that you rushed to the hospital because you were having chest pains. You burst into the waiting room and go to the receptionist. Your goal is to see someone who is capable of handling your medical issue. You are going to be uneasy until you are able to see a doctor who can treat heart issues. You are going to keep searching and searching. You aren’t going to talk to the receptionist and be satisfied. When a nurse starts taking care of you, you aren’t going to be satisfied. You are going to be restless and uneasy until you see the doctor.

Sometimes, we can treat Jesus like the receptionist. Sure, he is a friendly face but we need to keep searching for the one who can handle our problem. We know that we have a spiritual problem. We feel the ache in our heart and the hunger in our soul. We know all is not right and we need to find the right doctor to take care of it. We see Jesus but we are still searching.

With Jesus, you can rest assured that you have found the one who can handle your spiritual issues. There is no one above him! He is the best surgeon in the world and you are under his care. You don’t need to look for anything else. Since Christ is fully God, we need no other to fill us!

But so often, we can try to resolve the restlessness and thirst for spiritual fullness by going to other things. There are four common ones. They aren’t inherently bad, but when we look to them instead of Jesus for spiritual fullness, we have been led astray. We have put them in the place of God.

First, you can look to control. Your greatest nightmare is uncertainty. When you can’t have certainty, you experience worry and fear. You want all things to be in your control and you do it through self-discipline, strict standards, and planning. You think that if you can only have control, you will be spiritually full. The good news is that God is in control so you don’t have to be! And he is the best one to be in control because he is good.

Second, you can look to comfort. Your greatest nightmare is stress, demands, and pain or loss so you avoid these at all costs. You manage your life to have the maximum amount of privacy, lack of stress, and freedom as possible. You want an easy life with few demands. You think that if you can only have comfort, you will be spiritually full. But the good news is that God is good so you can look to him alone for comfort and satisfaction!

Third, you can look to approval. Your greatest nightmare is rejection. Someone thinking less of you or not liking you would be disastrous. You often feel insecure and seek affirmation, love, and relationships to make yourself feel more secure. You think that if you can only have approval, you will be spiritually full. The good news is that God is glorious, so you don’t have to fear the opinion of others! His opinion weighs the most and if you trust in Jesus, God is your loving heavenly Father.

Lastly, you can look to power. Your greatest nightmare is humiliation and lack of respect from others. You try to gain respect and admiration through success and influence. When you don’t get respect, you become angry. You think that if you can only have power, you will be spiritually full. The good news is that God is gracious, so you don’t have to prove yourself to him or to others! You don’t need to perform in order to be someone. God has given us what we do not deserve so you don’t need to prove you deserve it.

Perhaps one of these - control, comfort, approval, or power - hit you clearly as the thing you look to besides Jesus for spiritual fullness. But they will never make you full. They are empty spiritual calories. You will keep looking to them over and over and you will never be satisfied. The good news is that Jesus is better than all of them!

The big question we are answering is: Why should we look to Christ alone for spiritual fullness? The first answer is: since Christ is fully God, we need no other to fill us. We get our second answer in verses 11 through 13. Let’s reread those.

Since Christ fully changes us, we need no other power (2:11-13a).

11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, (2:11-13)

In these verse and in verses 14 and 15, Paul is explaining how the Colossians have entered into a state of spiritual fullness. Verse 10 said that in Christ they have been filled. Now he is going to explain how that happened. We know our spiritual heart condition: alienated from God, hostile to him, living in the domain of darkness. We need to be filled by God. We’ve come into the hospital and Paul has told us who our surgeon is going to be: Jesus Christ, who is fully God. He is the best surgeon available. If anyone knows how to fill us, it is him. Now Paul is going to tell us the procedure we need to undergo.

When Paul talks about circumcision here, he is drawing on an Old Testament metaphor. In the Old Testament, God revealed himself to the Israelites and claimed them as his people by saving them from slavery in Egypt. Then he gave them instructions for how to live as his people. In our bibles, these instructions are often called “the law.” Now, something to understand about the law is that it was a good thing but it was powerless to change people’s lives. The law is like railroad tracks. Railroad tracks show the path the train needs to take, but the tracks don’t give the train any power to run on those tracks. So even when the law was given, God told the people that they would need a change in their spiritual condition if they were going to obey it. They were going to need a spiritual heart surgery. This was called a circumcision of the heart.

In these verses, Paul is saying that this circumcision of the heart - this spiritual heart surgery that would allow us to live a life pleasing to God - has been done to us by Christ. Remember how we said that when we trust in Christ we are united with Christ? What’s his is ours and what’s ours is his? This means that Jesus’ death on the cross to defeat sin becomes our death on the cross to defeat sin. His resurrection to new life becomes our resurrection to new life. Each of us is born with a sinful nature which means that we have an inner inclination and desire to sin - to go against God. Verse 13 says because of this sinful nature and because of trespassing God’s law due to it, we are dead. We are spiritually dead. We are disconnected from God.

But the good news is that when we trust in Christ as our Lord he becomes our spiritual heart surgeon. We die to sin’s power and we are raised to new life in Christ. When does this happen? Paul says it happens when we put our faith in the powerful working of God. We turn to Christ and trust in his power to make us well. Paul also mentions that it happens in baptism. This doesn’t mean that baptism is necessary for salvation. In the New Testament, as soon as someone started following Christ, they were baptized. So sometimes the moment of turning to Christ can be summarized as “when you were baptized.”

The big question we are answering is: why should we look to Christ alone for spiritual fullness? The second answer is: Since Christ fully changes us, we need no other power. Since Christ fully changes us, we need no other power.

We know we need spiritual heart surgery. We can feel the effects of our heart disease - of our sinful nature. We have an ache and a hunger and a thirst that can’t be quenched. We desire fullness. So we come to Jesus who is fully God. He is the best one to perform this surgery. The procedure is circumcision of the heart. We need to die to sin and be made alive to God. When this surgery is performed, we are fully and completely changed. We no longer live for ourselves but we live for God.

But one of the things that can create uneasiness after a surgery is wondering if it really worked. Did the issue really get fixed? Am I really healed? Or do I need to find other fixes? You don’t want to be wondering, “Did that procedure work? Do I need surgery again? Maybe I better do some other stuff." If you come out of a major surgery wondering if it really worked, that can leave you with the same worry and restlessness you had before.

We can do the same thing can’t we? We can lack trust in Christ’s power to fully change us. We wonder, “Is God really at work in me? Is he really powerful enough to change me?” So we look to other things. Most often we look to ourselves to change us. If we don’t feel like God is changing us, we think, “Well, I just need to try harder. I need to put in more effort.” We look for the power in us to bring life change. But the power comes from God. He is the provider.

The big question we are answering is: why should we look to Christ alone for spiritual fullness? The first answer is: Since Christ is fully God, we need no other to fill us. The second answer is: Since Christ fully changes us, we need no other power. Our third answer comes from verses 13 and 14. Let’s reread those again.

Since Christ fully paid our debt, we need no other payment (2:13b-14).

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

God made us, who were dead in our trespassess and sinful nature, alive together with Christ. Bound up with being made alive is the forgiveness of all our trespasses. Every sin against God. Every breaking of his law. Every time we put something else above him on our priority list. Every time we did not love him with our whole heart or our neighbor as ourselves. We were dead because of all that and God forgave us for all of it.

How did he do this? Verse 14 says by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. A “record of debt” is an IOU. Each and every person who has ever lived has an IOU that stands against them. It says, “I owe God perfect obedience. I owe him wholehearted devotion. I owe him my life.” The problem is, we can’t give it to him. All of us were born with a sinful nature. We cannot perfectly obey. The IOU legally binds us to pay it. And because we cannot, it stands against us. It is a constant record of a debt to God that we cannot get rid of.

But God became flesh. He became a human in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus did perfectly obey. He was wholeheartedly devoted to God and his whole life was lived with God at the center. Because he was born by the power of the Holy Spirit, he did not inherit the same sinful nature that we have so it was possible for him not to sin. He obeyed everything that we can’t. Jesus possessed the resources to pay our debt. So he did by suffering the penalty we deserve for our sin in our place. He substituted himself on our behalf. He paid our debt. He did this when he died on the cross on our behalf. For all those who trust in Christ, their IOU to God has been canceled and nailed to the cross. We no longer owe God! We have been forgiven!

Our big question is: why should we look to Christ alone for spiritual fullness? The third answer is: Since Christ fully paid our debt, we need no other payment. Since Christ fully paid our debt, we need no other payment.

God in Christ fully paid our debt. God was the only one who could make the payment but we were the only ones who should. So God became a human in order to represent us and and take our place in order to set us free from the penalty for our sin.

When you have a major surgery, we aren’t just uneasy about who the doctor is or whether the procedure will work. We may also become uneasy about paying for it. Sure, you know that you need this procedure or you will die. But as the doctor is talking, all you can hear is money leaving your bank account. You begin to think, “How in the world am I going to pay for this? I don’t have this kind of money?” You become uneasy and restless. You know you have a life threatening condition, but the cost is overwhelming. You start trying to figure out how you will pay for it and become uneasy.

We can do the same thing with our spiritual lives. We know something isn’t right with us. We are selfish, jealous and envious, we have ill will toward others, we covet what others have, we lust after that which isn’t ours, we get angry when things don’t go our way, we gossip and slander others. We worship control, comfort, approval, and power instead of God. We know all is not right with us. Everyone, at some level, has a sense that they owe God. We feel the weight of the IOU with its legal demands. We all know that payment is due to God. Our consciences tell us so. Some people deny the feeling and try to live as they want. Like getting a hospital bill and throwing it away and denying that you owe them. Some people try to pay it themselves. They will work hard to be a good person and pay the IOU themselves. The problem is, a bankrupt person with no resources can’t pay a bill. We are spiritually bankrupt and cannot pay the IOU.

The good news is that we don’t have to deny that we owe God or try to pay our debt with our own resources. Jesus has paid it all! All that we owe, Christ has paid for on the cross! Even after we trust in Christ, we can continue to try and work our way to God. We say, “Yes, I know Jesus died on the cross for me. But I still need to do things for God to be pleased with me. If I don’t read my bible enough or pray enough or do enough nice things for other people or don’t tell enough people about Jesus, God is going to reject me. I know I owe him, so I need to work to pay him.” But we can never do it! And the good news is, we don’t have to. Jesus has fully paid our debt. We do not have to live under a mound of debt. We are free. Because of God’s grace - his undeserved favor - we can have our IOU paid when we trust in Christ. Then we can live for him in our new freedom without worrying about paying him back.

Conclusion
Our big question is: why should we look to Christ alone for spiritual fullness? The first answer is: Since Christ is fully God, we need no other to fill us. The second answer is: Since Christ fully changes us, we need no other power. The third answer is: Since Christ fully paid our debt, we need no other payment.

We were in a desperate condition. We had a spiritual heart disease that was incurable by us. We were dead in our trespasses and sinful nature. We were empty spiritually. We were alienated from God, hostile to him, and living in darkness. We needed a surgeon. Jesus Christ is our surgeon. He is fully God so he is qualified to reconnect us to God so we can be filled with spiritual life again. The procedure he did on us was connecting us with himself. He did spiritual heart surgery on us by uniting us with him in his death and resurrection. We died to the power of sin and were resurrected to new spiritual life in him. All this is possible because God became flesh and paid our debt we owed him. He took our IOU that we could never pay and nailed it to the cross so we can live in freedom and in fullness of spiritual life.

We need to look nowhere else for spiritual fullness. Jesus Christ has done it all. If you trust in Christ, you can rest at ease. You do not need to seek to be filled by anything else. You do not need to seek another power to change you. You do not need to seek another payment to pay your debt. Jesus has done it all. When we surrender our lives to him, he fills us with spiritual life.

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