Faithlife Sermons

Part 13 - The Finality of the Messiah and the Futility of Religion

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Scripture Introduction

An entire village in the Philippines gave chase to a thief who stole some good from a department store. With no escape in sight, he climbed up a coconut tree. The people who where chasing him looked up at this man in utter dismay: really? First, they waited on the thief to just climb down out of exhaustion but he had some stamina. He stayed up there a while. After a long wait, a few guys left the scene only to come back to the sounds of a chain saw. They sawed off the tree at the bottom and sadly the thief fell to his death.
This thief over looked a fundamental feature with reference to trees. Unless a tall tree stays connected to the earth, it cannot provide security. The earth is immovable but the tree is saw-able. The thief’s zeal was doomed for failure in the end.
In our text Rabbi Paul is concerned that there are some believers who have chosen the futile tree of religion instead of the solid ground of the Messiah as their final source for all things.
D. Read with Me…

Scripture Reading

Colossians 2:16–23 TLV
Therefore, do not let anyone pass judgment on you in matters of food or drink, or in respect to a festival or new moon or Shabbat. These are a foreshadowing of things to come, but the reality is Messiah. Let no one disqualify you by insisting on false humility and worship of angels—going into detail about what he has seen, puffed up without cause by his fleshly mind. He is not holding fast to the Head. It is from Him that the whole body, nourished and held together by its joints and tendons, grows with a godly increase. If you died with Messiah to the basic principles of the world, why—as though living in the world—do you subject yourselves to their rules? “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!” These all lead to decay with use, based as they are on man-made commands and teachings. Indeed, these are matters that have an appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and humility and self-denial of the body—yet none are of any value for stopping indulgence of the flesh.

Sermon Introduction

Here is one of the most practical tid-bits I believe I have ever given in a sermon: you can learn everything you need to know about the problem of religion from one Taylor Swift Song. I know I am not going to surprise any of the “Swifites” out there. - Okay, all you “dead-heads” for the millennials that is a reference to Grateful dead fans who are mostly boomers. And Swifites are loyal fans of Taylor Swift. – The One Song where Taylor Swift nails the problem of religion is “Blank Space.”
Remember how she sung about the seduction of religion:
Nice to meet you Where you been?I could show you incredible things: Magic, madness, heaven, sin. Saw you there and I thought oh my gosh, Look at that face, you look like my next mistake. Love's a game, wanna play.
New money, suit and tie. I can read you like a magazine. Ain't it funny rumors fly, And I know you heard about me, So hey, let's be friends, I'm dying to see how this one ends, Grab your passport and my hand,
I could make the bad guys good for a weekend.
Remember how she sung about the deception of religion: darling I am nightmare dressed like a daydream.
Remember how she sung about the acceptance of religion: I got a blank space baby, and I’ll write your name.
Remember how she sung about the outcome of religion: So it's gonna be forever, Or it's gonna go down in flames, You can tell me when it's over, If the high was worth the pain
Okay, so maybe T-swizzle was not singing about religion but the song nails how dangerously seductive futile a false relationship vs a real relationship actually is.
I think Rabbi Paul, if here today, would also quote T-Swizzle just like he quoted the Greek poets on Mar’s Hill to warn believers about the seductive pull of religion and its futile end. We know we need to be in this relationship with Yeshua because by Him we are filled with the Spirit, in him every is now different, and with Him we triumph through God’s landmark decision at the cross. We know this in our minds and in our hearts but for some reason, the seduction of religion and all it promises has a way of pulling us back in.
What is powerful enough to pull you away from a real relationship with the Messiah? Answer: religion. If you are not careful, the default mode of the human heart is to always go back toward religion, always go back toward, “I obey; therefore, I’m accepted.” When we do this, we make religion beautiful and the Messiah hideous.
If the Messiah alone, not futile religion, fills the banks of the Torah, forms the motivational structure of the heart and fosters real spiritual growth we should be the most zealous people in the world about our relationship with God.

I. He Fills the Torah’s Banks (not religion) - Col 2:16-17

A. Explain the Text:
He fills the Torah Banks because He is it’s Source.
Col 2:16-17
Colossians 2:16–17 TLV
Therefore, do not let anyone pass judgment on you in matters of food or drink, or in respect to a festival or new moon or Shabbat. These are a foreshadowing of things to come, but the reality is Messiah.
What do we know about the Text and Its Audience?
We know Rabbi Paul is teasing out the implications of 1:9-2:15.
Because the God of Israel wrapped himself in human flesh and died on a cross so you could be fully accepted by God…
ii. Therefore
Don’t let anyone pass judgment 2:16
Seek What is Above with Messiah 3:1
iPut to Death What is Earthly 3:5
One another, one another 3:12
We know the audience is being judged by insiders. The Colossian congregation had people on the inside who were judging others. They were being judged for why and who motivated their Torah obedience. They were not being judged for not keeping the Torah.
Why should believers not be not fear their judgmental attitude? Yeshua is the source that fills up the Torah and everything gets its life from the Messiah.
He said He was the Source – John 5:39
The most important people recognized Him as the Source - Matthew 17:5
He knew those who made their source religion and those who made Him their source and was willing to confront them.
Two men went up to pray Luke 18:10
The Rich Young Ruler Luke 18:20
Illustrate the Text:
The carrot-farmer and the horse farmer
Are you giving yourself
the gift of being recognized for feeding the poor?
the gift of being acknowledged for keeping the Torah?
As the king could discern the heart, our King also discerns the heart. He knows when someone is acting out of a “I obey therefore you must accept me source (religion)” versus a “I am grateful for what you have done for me therefore I want to serve you mentality (Messiah filling up your obedience).
Apply the Text: What is the application of this?
I realize that there are more than a few of you in this room today that are here because you want more religion, more rules and more regulations.
I realize that there are many of you in this room today tired of being judged for matters of food and drink, festival, new moon or Shabbat.
Please don’t confuse the Streams for the Source; also, allow Him, and Him alone, to fill the banks of your obedience. Start with this one powerful concept: Because I am accepted based on what the God of Israel wrapped in human flesh did for me; therefore, I serve the Lord with joy and gladness.
If this is your heart you will find yourself right in the midst of the restoration and salvation of Jewish people wherever you are.
Transition: I wish it was just as easy as saying, “Okay, since the Messiah fills the banks of the Torah - My acceptance through Him fuels my obedience to God and not religion – that this would put the nail in the coffin. But religion has such a strong motivational tug on the heart Rabbi Paul says Yeshua alone has got to form the motivational structure your heart.

II. He Forms the Motivational Structure of the Heart (not religion) - Col 2:18-19

Explain the Text
He Forms the Motivational Structure of the Heart.
Col 2:18-19
Colossians 2:18–19 TLV
Let no one disqualify you by insisting on false humility and worship of angels—going into detail about what he has seen, puffed up without cause by his fleshly mind. He is not holding fast to the Head. It is from Him that the whole body, nourished and held together by its joints and tendons, grows with a godly increase.
Why would anyone be motivated by religion and not the Messiah?
Religious people are good at playing umpire.
Disqualify - from the sporting arena.
Religious people always have a defeating belief
Religious people are good at playing up their visions.
by insisting on false humility and worship of angels—going into detail about what he has seen, puffed up without cause by his fleshly mind.
Religious people are good at playing like believers.
He is not holding fast to the Head. It is from Him that the whole body…
Don’t let religious players get control of the motivational structure of your heart. What does it mean that “Yeshua forms the motivational structure of the heart?”
Motivates the will as my Head.
Satisfies my desire as my Head.
Stimulate my growth as my Head.
Illustrate the Text
The woman with the false word of prophecy.
Only the Messiah, not someone’s inflated vision or prophecy should control the motivational structure of the heart.
Apply the Text
Today, if there was angel that we are being asked to submit the motivational structure of our heart to its name would be: The Angel of Tolerance.
Wait a minutes that is a far leap from the text? No, not really. Angels are always functionaries “the do stuff, specific stuff” and when angels are turned into idols their function becomes the motivational structure of the heart.
The angel today that is being advocated by some in our own camp and by most without our camp is the angel of tolerance.
Our definition of tolerance has changed in the last 40 years or so.
The Old definition was – to acknowledge the existence of other views as opinions to which I disagree.
The New definition is – to accept that all opinions are equally valid.
The worshipers of the Angel of the New Tolerance disqualify followers of the Messiah with one word: intolerance.
Disqualified because of religious intolerance.
if you claim belief in Messiah is the only way.
ii. Quick illustration of Nathan the Wise
Disqualified because of thought intolerance.
In 2001, former CBS newsman Bernard Goldberg published a book with the title Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News.25 His thesis is not that the media are controlled by a liberal versus conservative bias per se, nor by a Democrat versus Republican bias. Rather, their bias is generated by a kind of social, cultural, intellectual, and professional inbreeding. They think of themselves as wonderfully diverse and broadly representative of the nation because they make sure they hire a representative mix of gender and race. What is lacking, however, is a representative mix of intellectual and cultural positions; there is little diversity of thought.
Disqualified because of sexual intolerance.
In 2008, the Supreme Court of California ruled that two physicians could not legally refuse artificial insemination to a woman because she is a lesbian. The doctors had not withheld the service because they disagreed with her: they argued that they happily provide medical care to all kinds of people with whom they disagree. They would not withhold cancer treatment from a rapist, for example. But where they felt they had to draw a line was in their own participation in an act that they judged to be immoral. It was not as if the patient, Guadalupe Benitez, could not obtain the services elsewhere; the lawsuit was not about being unable to obtain the medical services she desired, but about making a point. In its decision, the Court stated, “Do the rights of religious freedom and free speech, as guaranteed in both the federal and the California Constitutions, exempt a medical clinic’s physicians from complying with the California Unruh Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation? Our answer is no.
The so-called angel of tolerance has lured and forced many to worship at its feet and form the motivational structure of the heart but we must resist this new false religion passionately and compassionately.
Transition: If Messiah is your source of obedience, if he forms the motivational structure of your heart (and not religion for both of these) then wherever you go you should be causing either a riot or a revival. Your faith should be white hot because you have the Truth that people must hear, must come to grips with. How do you grow spiritually and overcome sin , the flesh and the devil?

III. He Fosters real Spiritual Growth not religion’s rules - Col 2:20-23

Explain the Text
He fosters real spiritual growth not religion’s rules.
Col 2:20-23
Colossians 2:20–23 TLV
If you died with Messiah to the basic principles of the world, why—as though living in the world—do you subject yourselves to their rules? “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!” These all lead to decay with use, based as they are on man-made commands and teachings. Indeed, these are matters that have an appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and humility and self-denial of the body—yet none are of any value for stopping indulgence of the flesh.
Religion confuses the order of the imperative and the indicative.
It puts the “do” before the “who.”
It believes deeply that, “I did something for you God and now you owe me.”
The Gospel stars with the indicative and moves to the imperative.
The gospel puts the “who” before the “do.”
It believes deeply that, “He did something for me and now I want to live differently because I delight in You.
Illustrate the Text
It is hard to tell the difference between someone who bases their spiritual growth on the rules of religion or the acceptance of God through Messiah.
You can have two people attending CBM right now and both of them fast, both of them pray, both of them read the Bible but one of them is doing it because the Messiah’ fosters the growth and the other because of the rules of religion.
Apply the Text
How do you know if your spiritual growth is based on the rules of religion or fostered by your new identity in the Messiah?
Maybe here is a paradigm to discern what is fostering your spiritual growth: rules of religion.
Your spiritual life is characterized by fear and anxiety.
Fear: if I don’t do it then consequences
Anxiety: I don’t know if I did it the right way.
Your response to sin and obedience.
Sin: I don’t want to sin get God’s favor.
Obedience: If I do x, God owes me Y.
Fostered by the Messiah
Your spiritual life is fostered by gratitude and shalom.
Gratitude: My heart is gripped by the grace of God in Messiah. – I wake early in the morning and always the very first thing. I poke out my head and I sit up in bad and I sing and I sing and I sing
Shalom –He alone does everything perfect.
b. Your response to sin and obedience.
Sin – Grace has taught me to say “No” (Titus 2:11-12).
Obedience – I do x because He did a-z for me.
Transition Re-Cap: Because the Messiah – not anything else, including religion - fills the banks of the Torah, forms the motivational structure of the heart and fosters real spiritual growth we should be the most zealous people in the world about our God.

Conclude

Jacques Ellul Quote
The subversion of real faith, the great contradiction is that futile tree of religion replaced the solid grounding of a relationship with the Messiah.
This is what cooled the white hot embers of the early growth of the body of Messiah. This is what let to programs, pageantry and performances rather than evangelism, explosive gospel preaching and missions to the end of the world.
Re-Cap: Because the Messiah – not anything else, including religion - fills the banks of the Torah, forms the motivational structure of the heart and fosters real spiritual growth we should be the most zealous people in the world about our God.
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