Saturday, December 08, 2007

Saturday Sermon: From Rags to Riches

Colossians 2:1-4

What we allow to be woven into the fabric of our lives determines what our spiritual wardrobe will be like. Whose “designer label” are you wearing these days? I mean this spiritually, of course. Is Christ sewing you with His thread? Are we being knit together with one another, bound and stitched together into Him, and with each other, and therefore strengthened in our walk with Christ, and strengthening others in their walk? Or are we allowing foreign fabric to be stitched into our clothes? If so then the pattern of our lives make our garments look as though we do not belong to Christ, but we look more and more like the world.

What does your covering look like, are your clothes representing Christ, or are you just claiming the name but wearing another brand? Are you cheering for one team all the while wearing the uniform of another? When we insist on wearing a certain type or brand of clothing then we show what we value and where our treasure is. Spiritually Christ demands that we find our value, our wisdom, our treasure and our worth and wealth in Him. For the Christian this is the only way to come to full assurance, and a more full understanding of God’s will and God’s ways. Because of the surpassing worth of Christ (Philippians 3:9) we have been woven into spiritual wisdom and wealth. We dare not try by ourselves and by means outside of God to patch ourselves up, but instead we must be wearing the garments of grace, adorning the gospel of God. We are all but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) but when Christ sews us together in His love we become a beautiful garment of grace, we go from rags to riches.

Vs.1-2For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ,

He has just told them of his struggles in flesh and in prayer, his sufferings and his service. He was in prison and under persecution. He wants to make sure they know the depth of his battles. He wants them to know just how much he has “sweat” for them, and not just for those places he had visited. For Paul out of sight didn’t mean out of mind. This is a lesson for all of us; we might liken this to praying for our missionary friends around the world, and those missing from our midst. Paul’s authority extended to those he never met, including us, it’s in the Bible.

Their hearts may be encouraged, reaching all the riches, full assurance, etc. This isn’t talking about material prosperity but spiritual prosperity. Spiritual well being, not physical well being. The more intimate our communion with other believers, the more spiritually rich we will be.

Look at Colossians 1:28 – warning everyone, teaching everyone, maturity for everyone. Now then you can clearly see the context here, warning and teaching for maturity in every person, struggling so that they all might be on the same page, strengthened (encouraged, confirmed) by being instructed in love (a good rendering of “knit together”), and coming to a more full understanding of just how marvelous Christ is. When we are struggling, or coming apart at the seams, it’s time to see what is being woven in, and turn to the Master tailor for alterations.

Now being instructed in love doesn’t just mean instructed as to how to love, but also instructed as to what to love or actually who to love. Of course this means Christ. Now they already had a love for Christ and for one another, but Paul knew that this must continue to be solidified, not just for individuals, but for the group as well. We need each other, and if one is struggling with their faith and doctrine, it serves to bring us down. Paul had been praying and persevering for their pressing on to maturity in the mystery of Christ. Everybody needs to grow up, and we need to help each other grow up, and we need to grow up together as a unit. In the battle against heresy, we need all the soldiers following the same battle plan.

You see, Paul is not speaking primarily of unity for the sake of peace but unity for the sake of the gospel, unity so as to ward off deception, knit together and encouraged as to the truth about Jesus. Building one another up in the truth. Division in doctrine causes division in the body. He is speaking, as he usually does, about being of one mind and in one accord. This is accomplished as to primary doctrine first, which would lead to correct practice and eventual understanding in secondary doctrines, a full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery. To have right practice without right doctrine is to love leaven, to court corruption, to suffer with sin, and this is what Paul was warning against.

The Colossians had a right practice (1:4) and a right passion (1:8), and he wanted to make sure they had a right perspective on Christ. His strong desire is that they would have strong doctrine (1:9). As we have said before, what we need is unity with verity, togetherness with truth, and fellowship in the truth, and around the truth, not just fellowship for friendship’s sake.

The result of this being knit together is to be able to reach a full, or wealthy assurance. Again, this is not a worldly wealth, but a spiritual wealth, something far more to be desired by those who know. However, to reach these riches, to reach a full assurance you must be knit together, can’t you see that? As an individual, you can have an assurance of your salvation, of course, but it reaches its fullness in the context of community. Even John the Baptist lost his assurance of who Jesus was when he was isolated (Matthew 11 / Luke 7).

Some lack an assurance of God and His character. Is He really good and loving? The answer is in knowing God as He is revealed in His Word. Some lack an assurance of their salvation. Is my Christian life for real? The answer is in knowing that the bottom line is that our salvation rests in God, not in us. Being around the Body ought to give us an assurance of God’s character and of our salvation, and frankly, this is an assurance we simply cannot give to those who would stay away from church. How can we give it to those who won’t hear it? They aren’t here at church to hear it from us!

The church that is growing in Christ, and that is the key of course, a church like that provides a measure of protection against heresy. Now you might say that you cannot find a church like that and use that as an excuse to not go to church. Well, no church is perfect, and heresy is always at the door waiting to be let in; however, consider this fact. The fact that you are ignoring parts of the Bible that are so clear (such as this being knit together) proves that you have already drifted into heresy. If you really know the riches of Christ in full assurance, in understanding and knowledge, you will want to share it with others; you will want to be knit together. It cannot be otherwise. Believe me, and more importantly, believe the Bible, to think you can avoid being knit together and still be made whole is heresy.

We have said this before regarding marriage, but it applies to church life and all relationships as well; you can’t be knit together without having to be twisted and turned and united. The scarlet thread is the blood of our Lord Jesus. That is what is binding us together with Him, and with it we must be bound together with each other. You could have an individual life that is like a beautiful quilt, but if you are not being woven together into the larger tapestry then you will just be different cloth, and eventually one cloth will be jealous of the other, and the split will happen because their was no common fabric in the first place. It will be about individuals and not about Christ, and that fabric will wear thin on others and wear out all by itself.

Part of this life is about the struggle itself, not just the victory or the supposed defeats we have, but the times when we feel the tensions of this life, the twists and turns and tests and things that weave us into Christ and with one another, or they separate us; like a loose thread, ready to be cut off. We should praise God that we are even able to struggle, as we can see Him with us in the midst of the storms of life. It was about Him being there and struggling with us, to show us He is there, not always about getting through to the other side. All who are woven into the fabric of Christ will make it though eventually, and even if you fall down He will still bring you through, but we must always remember it isn’t where we are but where we are headed. We may not get healed today, but we will be tomorrow. We may not survive today, but we will be in glory tomorrow. We may not like our brothers and sisters in Christ too much today, but we will rejoice with them as we see Christ tomorrow. Yes we want things to work out sooner than later, but if they don’t remember that Jesus was with us all the while, and He will deliver us safely home, home to heaven, where we have an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled and reserved for us who have been woven into the fabric of faith.

Vs.3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Again we see Paul talking about spiritual wealth and spiritual wisdom. In Christ is where the treasures are hidden. Paul is beating the gnostics at their own game. He is saying there is secret knowledge all right, but it is for the initiate into Christ. Christ is not a tool Christ is the truth. Only those in Christ can find all this treasure. They find it in fresh and in repeated ways. Christ keeps coming up golden. It is not wrong to seek wisdom, but seek the treasure where it may be found, the rest is only fool’s gold. Some may buy it, but God won’t. The problem was and is looking for wisdom in the wrong places or seeing Christ as only a way to get wisdom and not as the wisdom itself. Christ is not a tool Christ is the truth. Christ isn't a way to something He is the way itself. Christ doesn't simply give you a better life He is Life itself.

In considering what Paul has taught us here, I want you to read what J. Hampton Keathley of Dallas Theological Seminary has said in conclusion about these verses.

“For years as a young man and a believer, as one who had trusted in Christ at an early age, I was still without assurance of my salvation, constantly wondering if I was really saved, or if I could lose my salvation. I was ever examining my life for evidence or proof and wondering, “If I’m really saved, then why do I have these thoughts,” or “why am I tempted in this area or that one?” I was one who surely lacked the full assurance that a clear understanding in the knowledge of Christ brings to the heart. Rather than looking to Christ and the Word as the source of my assurance, I looked to my own record and myself. No wonder I was so unsettled and unsure. I went to several pastors for help, but ironically, they were of no help. It was not until I got into a Bible teaching ministry that was devoted to an in depth study of the Word that I began to truly learn about the fullness of wisdom and God’s salvation in the person and work of Christ, and about all that I had in Him as the source of my life. Suddenly the constant introspection left, I gained assurance, and I began to grow and mature in the Savior. As long as I continued to look to myself there was not only no assurance, but no growth or victory over the sinful nature and its lust patterns. But once I began to look away from myself to the matchless life of Christ and His finished work for salvation, that all changed.”

“The changes that occurred in my life not only impacted my character and patterns of behavior, but knowing Christ more intimately and deeply gave me a new mission that became the mandate for my life as well. Seeing what the Word or the message of Christ had done in and for me, caused me to want to share that with others.”

Knit together in the riches of Christ, and sharing it with others. Indeed we need to be involved in the ministry of making friends. What’s my ministry? How can I serve? How can I get plugged in at my local church? What is my spiritual gift? How can I make a difference?

Brad Williams – I have to say that church leaders are often pretty lousy at giving advice to new members, and even old ones, on how to get "plugged-in" at their local church. Usually, the advice is to seek out some area of ministry and start serving there. In my opinion, this generally leads to profound guilt in the listener because: a) They don't know where to start looking and b) they have no idea what they want to do. This problem is especially bad in smaller churches because many ministries are already running quite well, and even if they aren't, the over-worked people in them are amazingly incapable of accepting help. In the end, the pew-sitter may wind up slinking off to another church that will grant them blessed anonymity and better music.

Instead of telling people to simply serve, why don't we encourage them to simply build relationships with those in the church. That's much more fun and gratifying, and it is much more Biblical. Teaching disciples to love one another is how the world will know that we are Christ's, not if we teach them to simply 'work'. If you are new to a church, make an effort to get together with another family for lunch after church. Begin cultivating true friendships that will lead to accountability. The upshot of this is that after making such friendships, one will inevitably be drawn into the ministry network of one's friends. Even if it doesn't, trying to make friends, and even being a friend, is a very needful ministry in itself. Indeed, it may be the must needed one of all. So make friends at church. Invite people over to eat popcorn and watch football or whatever. It'll make a healthier church if you do.

Zig Ziglar – If you go looking for a friend, you're going to find they're very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you'll find them everywhere.

Vs.4I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.

Paul is teaching, warning, encouraging, and equipping them. False teachers don’t announce their false doctrine; it is often similar enough to the truth to be dangerous. He doesn’t want them cheated out of their inheritance.

Irenaeus, a second century bishop said, "Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself."

Good words, strong words, persuasive words are all fine, but they must be true words that lead to the truth, not the mixture of false words that seem to be truth. Heresies or false teaching and teachers may seem reasonable but not when using Jesus as the starting and ending point. They are interpreting Jesus through humanistic terms. He’s not the way to something higher He is the Way itself, He is the treasure, He is the Truth, and He is the Life not a way to a better life.

The wisdom is hidden in Christ; we are not supposed to look for something that Christ had or has and find out how to get them but we look to Him for Himself. The treasures are inherent in Him. He did not acquire them He is them. He doesn’t show us how to get things He is the thing. Our attention gets distracted from Christ, diverted onto something else, and deceived into thinking you are on the right path but you have been looking at the wrong thing. This type of deeper wisdom is deeper deception.

People who are ripe for deception are unstable and / or unlearned (2 Peter 3:16), and are beguiled by words that swell their fleshly pride (2 Peter 2:14, 18). They are impatient, and want more than Jesus seems to be offering. They always think they have found some new treasure, but it is really just fools gold. They think they have found some secret and can go it alone, but we need to stay knit together into Christ, together we find the treasures of Him and we share with one another. Jesus is where it’s at, and if you stay stitched you stay enriched. Apart we are tattered and torn, but together in Christ we can understand that we have gone from rags to riches.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

1 comment:

Even So... said...

This sermon was preached live on November 25, can hear it by going to our audio sermon page...just click on the link below the profile box...