Protection from Disqualification
Text: Col 2:16-19
Theme: Christ is enough, more than enough
Doctrine: sufficiency of Christ
Image: Jesus paying our fine
Message: you will not be disqualified because Christ has paid your debt
2nd CRC Fremont, MI –Oct 22, 2006
Coopersville CRC – Nov 12, 2006
Kellogsville CRC-- Feb 4, 2007
Protection from Disqualification
A couple of years ago as I was scanning through the hockey news, I came across this headline. “Hockey Player suspended for Mooning Fans”. Dan Sullivan of the Reading Royals, a junior hockey club in Wheeling, West Virginia, was suspended for 12 games and fined an undisclosed amount of money. This is not the first time this kid got into trouble, he was already suspended indefinitely for previous actions and was sitting in the stands watching the team playing. Apparently the game was pretty close and people in the crowd were heckling him. He began to argue with the other fans in the stands. Things most likely would have come to blows if the hecklers had been closer to Dan, so instead of starting a fight, he dropped his pants and let his moon shine for all to see. A spokesman for the club said that Dan would most likely not play for them again. His own actions had disqualified him from membership in the team.
Paul, writing to the Colossians, tells them not to let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify them.
Now, hold on a second. Paul tells the Colossians not to let people disqualify them? But how can that be? How could someone possibly disqualify someone else from the prize prepared for them by Christ? Can someone who is a follower of Christ be disqualified from the life of faith like Dan Sullivan was disqualified from playing hockey? What about the persistence of the saints?
Well, from what we can tell, the Colossian church was under heavy attack from outside influences. They were in danger of being disqualified because they were in danger of losing their faith. It appears as though there were people all around them telling them they needed to do something else in order to worship God. Some of this comes as no surprise. There was a strong Jewish presence in the Lycus valley, where the city of Colossae was located, and it seems the church in Colossae is predominately gentile. As we well know, the Jewish community was not that well disposed to the Christian church in the early years of its formation. Paul was chased out on many towns by the Jewish community because they felt like he was attacking their religion. Here, the tables have turned; the Jewish community is attacking the young church in Colossae and judging them for not following the traditions of the Israelites.
You can picture a member of the Colossian church early on a Sabbath day strolling down the road to gather with her fellow Christians. Passing by her Jewish neighbour she pauses for a moment to tie her sandal. As she stands up her neighbour's family is leaving their home and walking toward their synagogue. She falls in step with them and starts to talk with the wife of the family. They begin to talk about their faith and she finds out that Jesus was actually a Jew. The wife says, “Yes, he was a Jew, but he did not submit to the proper authorities of the temple. He did not follow the true faith, and rebelled against our leaders. A small band of people were convinced to follow him and have fallen away from the true faith. I mean, you Christians do not even observe the religious festivals which Jesus himself did. If you want to follow God, you have to follow his commandments. At the very least you have to eat only clean foods, and observe the Sabbath. I think you should come to the synagogue with us and find out how to really follow God.” She politely declines, but the things she heard continue to ring in her head. When she meets up with her community she raises the question to the others, “Why are we not following the religious festivals that we are supposed to?”
It seems that there were still people who thought that they should judge others by what they ate or drank, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. They were telling the Colossians that they had to do something other than believe in Christ. They had to follow the laws and traditions of the Jews if they wanted to worship God appropriately. They had been deceived and were following an imposter, a fraud, someone who had been executed for blasphemy. They claimed that they had the authority of God and the Christians did not. After all, they were receiving visions of God's glory in heaven. Surely that was proof that God was on their side, wasn't it? They were bragging about the visions that they had. They were puffing themselves up and considering themselves better than the Colossians.
Paul is telling the Colossians that they have to be careful not to be led astray by the teachings of these people, and to become disconnected from Christ. He says that they had to be careful not to be disqualified by the things these people say. They had to be careful not to chase the shadows of the things that were to come, but to follow the reality found in Christ.
We have to be careful not to chase the shadows of this world. We have to be careful to avoid things which appear to be wise, but have no value. We have to be careful not to become disconnected from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. There are people today who question our faith when we do not do the same things they do, who tell us that Jesus is not enough. It is fine to trust in God, but what really counts is what we do in this life.
This kind of stuff does not just happen in books either. Listening to contemporary Christian culture you get the feeling that you have to buy the blessed prayer shawl for your prayers to be heard. You have to place the latest prayer rug on the floor in exactly the right spot in your house. You have to have the confidence to ask for what you want, and to continue to ask for it until you get it. You have to pray the prayer of Jabez. You have to have enough faith that God will provide for you and then you will be healthy, wealthy and wise. You have to worship in a certain way. You have to say the right kinds of things to God. You have to sing out of the right songbook. You have to follow the advice of Rick Warren in the Purpose Driven Life or his new book God's Power to Change Your Life. You have to make a certain amount of money. You have to drive the right kind of vehicle. You have to look a certain way, and buy certain types of clothes. You have to listen to the right kind of music. You have to have the right kind of political views.
I am sure that you can list many other things our culture tells us we need instead of, or in addition to Christ. This kind of attitude can be very harmful to a person's faith. This summer Carol came into the unit I worked on in Pine Rest after a very serious attempt at suicide. She and her husband had been going through some financial difficulties and people were telling her that she should just have enough faith and everything would be alright. If they truly loved God, and believed in Jesus, then he would bless them with good finances. If they prayed the prayer of Jabez hard enough, or if she attended enough Bible studies, or went to church often enough, or volunteered enough, they would not have any problems. When things took a turn for the worse and they had to sell their business, it was more than she could take. She felt abandoned by God. So she tried to take her own life.
She took a lethal overdose of her medication when she knew that her husband was going to be gone for the weekend. Seven hours after she had taken the pills, her husband came home because the conference had adjourned early. He found her lying unconscious on their bed with an empty bottle of pills next to her head. He brought her quickly to the hospital and they revived her. However, she had the pills in her system for so long that the doctors thought she may have some long term mental impairment.
Talking to me she continually expressed a worry that she was not saved. The drugs had made it very difficult for her to concentrate on anything and she was often confused. She could not understand things said in devotions. She was not able to read the Bible anymore. She could no longer go to Bible study at her church. She could no longer attend to what was said in worship. She could no longer pray for any extended period of time. She could no longer do all the things her friends had told her she had to do. Could she still be saved?
We may not face a situation as dire as this, but how often do we do things because we think we should? How often do we think about being a good Christian, rather than serving God? How often do we succumb to the temptation to add something to our faith to make us feel worthy of God's grace? How often do we trade the reality of Jesus for the shadows and idle notions of our unspiritual minds? How often do we think, “If I could only have a bit more money, then I will be truly happy”?
Thankfully, Paul gives us a way to avoid being carried away by the idle notions of our unspiritual minds. A way to avoid being disqualified. He tells us that the person who goes into great detail about what he has seen has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. See, the key to avoid the things we like to add to our religion is to maintain a close connection with Christ, the head.
In v 20, Paul asks us this question, “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules?” He asks us this because we do not belong to the world any longer. We have died to the world and its rules when we were baptised into the death of Christ. God called us to be his children. He gave us the desire to return to him. He granted us the freedom from our sin because he counted Christ's payment on our behalf. At one time we were alienated from God, but he came to us. God became flesh when we were farthest from him. God took on human likeness to be sin for us.
The thing that opponents to Christians do not get is that all we need is the cross. This thing which is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. This truth, that the King of the universe, the God who created everything from absolutely nothing, that Almighty God gave his life for a bunch of rebellious sinners like you and me. It is because of Christ that we are guaranteed salvation. When God brings us close to him we stay connected to Christ. God causes us to grow and develop into the people he wants us to be.
One of my colleagues, Monica, met with a lady named Joan soon after she had been admitted to the hospital. Joan was still very psychotic, having auditory and visual hallucinations. She was living in a fairly tale created by her mind. She had even taken some clothes from another patient because she thought that everything was there to share, like they lived in some kind of commune. Joan began by talking in a rather rambling sort of way moving from one topic to another with no apparent connection between the two. Suddenly, she looks Monica right in the eye and says, “Tell me a story.” Monica starts a little, but begins telling her the story by Max Lucado of Punchinello and the Wooden Wemmicks.
“Once upon a time,” she said, “there was a community of wooden people, called Wemmicks. These people received little stickers from the other Wemmicks. If the others liked what they did, they got a star sticker. If the others did not like what they did, they got a dot sticker. There was a little wooden boy among the Wemmicks whose name was Punchinello. No matter what he did, the other Wemmicks never liked what he did. This poor boy was covered in dot stickers. One day Punchinello meets a little girl who did not have a single sticker on her. There were no dots or stars. Punchinello really wants to be like this little girl, so he asks her how she did it. She tells him about Eli the woodcarver, and tells him to go visit Eli. Punchinello goes to Eli and asks him to remove the stickers. Eli tells Punchinello, 'The stickers stick to you only because you want them to stick. I love you and the more you trust my love the less stickers will stick to you.' As Punchinello leaves the home of Eli the woodcarver he thinks about what Eli said. As he looks down at his little wooden body all covered in dots, he hears Eli's voice, 'I love you' and a dot falls off.” Just as Monica finishes telling this story, Joan leans forward, grabs both of Monica's hands and says, “I am that wooden person, right? And.. and Eli, he's God, right? Is it too late for me to be saved?” In unison they both exclaim, “No!” Joan looks down at the clothes hanging loosely from her body and says, “Did a dot just fall off?”
Joan had learned to trust in the love of her maker, and that was all she needed. In vv 13 and 14 Paul tells us, “God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” This is the true reason we need not worry about being disqualified. Our maker loves us and wants us to trust his love. After all, “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” God paid the fines we incurred through our rebellion. He cancelled the whole written code that was against us. God took all of our sins, all of our misdeeds, all of our wickedness and placed in on Christ Jesus. God's Son carried the punishment for us, and in doing so has brought us peace.
We were suspended from our communion with God, and fined for not following God's directions in the garden. God took away the whole written code that was against us. God took all the things that we had ever done against his will, and nailed them to the cross. See, Christ bore all of our sins when he died. He took upon himself the sins of the whole world and set us free from our bondage. Christ died for us, and because of this, the peace of Christ now rules in our hearts and we will never be disqualified.
Let us Pray