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Colossians 2.16-23

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"THE REALITY IS CHRIST"

(A Series in Colossians)

Westgate Chapel 8/29/93 a.m.                    Colossians 2:16-23

PROPOSITION:  The confidence that we are pleasing Christ, the hope that we will win the prize, and the freedom to live in victory over sin all comes from a vital, growing personal relationship with Christ alone.

i. introduction

-     HAVE you ever felt like in your pursuit of God;

*     That you are never quite able to please Him, no matter how hard you try?

*     That you are not growing and that you are not that sure that you will be able to be faithful to the end?

*     That sin is always popping up and defeating you, no matter how hard you try to live a holy life?

-     USE the 'alligator' machine to demonstrate that;

*     Sin, defeat, failure pops up faster than you can hammer them down.

*     Some people seem to be able to hammer them down better than you....which leads you to believe that we are not all equal spiritually. Some are naturally more adept at this business of following Christ than you are.

*     The secret 'seems' to be just being tough on yourself and staying after it. Keep banging away....and maybe some day you will be pleasing to God, and may even make it to heaven.

*     Discipline and practice 'seems' to be part of the answer.

*     In reality, you can't hammer sin down in your life fast enough to ever get ahead.

*     You end up concentrating on the wrong thing....the sin.

*     You are just making yourself tired and discouraged in the process.

*     A real temptation is to constantly be comparing yourself to others who appear to be doing better with the hammer than you...and come away defeated, ready to quit, because you become convinced that you do not have what it takes to serve the Lord.

ii.confidence that we are pleasing god

-     THE believers in Colosse had fallen into a similar trap.

-     THEY had come to believe that in order to please God, in order to have confidence that you would make it to heaven, and in order to live in victory over sin....

*     That special observances were called for, special dietary restrictions, and worshipping on the Sabbath.

*     That special knowledge was needed, special teaching.....that just an intellectual elite would make it to heaven.

*     That rigorous personal discipline and self-denial was the only way to overcome sin.

-     SO, the few in Colosse who could handle the special requirements became the 'really spiritual' ones.

-     AND the rest never quite measured up....and were judged to be inferior by the elite.

*     Who followed strict rules.

*     And made a show of how spiritual they were.

*     And made sure everybody knew that they attended every religious festival.

*     And were quite proud of the fact that they made all the appropriate sacrifices....and gave in all of the special offerings.

-     AND those who never measured up accepted the judgment of the elite and lost their confidence in the Lord.

-     AND when you lose your confidence in the Lord....

*     It gets hard to pray.

*     Getting involved in ministry becomes a drudgery.

*     You lose your joy.

*     It is hard to worship.

*     You start to lose faith.

-     SO, in Colossians 2:16, Paul writes to these believers who have lost their confidence, and says....THEREFORE!

-     WHENEVER you see that word, you have to go back a few verses and see what that word is there for.

-     SO, let's go back to verse 13-15.

      "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."

-     PAUL tells them that even when they were dead in their sins......even before they became believers through faith in Christ....he made a way for them to be

*     Made alive with Christ.

*     Forgiven of all their sins.

*     The accounting of all of their past guilt was canceled.....nailing it to the cross.

*     Victorious over the powers of darkness.

-     THEREFORE! (Verse 16)

      "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." (2:16-17)

-     WHAT was going on in Colosse was a direct attempt to undermine the confidence of the believers in Christ.

-     THESE matters were not Biblical absolutes, but matters of conscience.

*     The Passover meal was a shadow of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross....not the real thing in itself.

*     The festivals, like the Feast of Tabernacles was a shadow of the temporary nature of life.....not the real thing in itself.

*     The Sabbath was a shadow of the fact that true rest is found in Christ...it was not the real thing in itself.

-     LET me make application for us today.

*     The Sunday service is a shadow of the presence of the Lord, and worship, and the preaching of the Word....in itself it is not the real thing.

*     A prayer meeting is a shadow of the need to call on the Lord....in itself it is not the real thing.

*     Reading the Bible is a shadow of the revelation of God to man...but that black covered book you have is just a shadow. In itself it is not the real thing.

*     Fasting is a shadow.

*     Being involved in ministry is a shadow.

-     DON'T allow your confidence to be placed on those kinds of disciplines.....in themselves they are just the shadow.

-     A SHADOW has no permanent reality apart from the body that creates the shadow.

-     AND that is Christ. He is the substance of our lives.

-     WITHOUT Him, and an intimate personal relationship with Him, all of the celebrations, the disciplines, the sacrifices have no substance. They have no value.

-     YOU cannot put your confidence in those things. They are just the shadow, and they disappear completely without the substance....Christ.

-     THE confidence that we are pleasing the Lord comes from our relationship with Him alone.....that way no one can judge us on those externals.

-     OUR confidence is in Christ alone.

iii.hope that we will win the prize

-     THE next issue for the Colossians that Paul addresses is the basis of their hope.

-     THEIR confidence was not to be in the shadow but in Christ.

-     NOW look at what he says about their hope in verses 18-19.

      "Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize."

-     WHAT is the prize?

-     THIS is one of Paul's favorite subjects. He writes about it in Philippians 3:13b-14,

      "But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

-     WHAT is this prize that is ahead that has Paul moving heavenward?

-     IT is the hope of the consummation of our salvation...the hope that "He who began a good work in you and me will be faithful to complete it (carry it on to completion) until the day of Christ." (Philippians 1:6)

-     IN Corinthians 9:24-25 he writes,

      "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."

-     THIS is the hope that drives us, carries us on, motivates us, and moves us.

-     AND this hope is the product of faith in Christ and NOT the product of our hard work or disciplines or self-righteousness.

-     SO Paul says, in Colossians 2:18,

      "Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize."

-     DON'T let others pull you off the only One in whom we base our hope.....Jesus!

-     THEN he goes on to describe the kind of people who will pull you off Jesus if you aren't careful, in verse 19,

      "Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He 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." (2:18-19)

-     THESE are people who like to think that they are very spiritual....deep...mature....as they judge your spiritual walk.

-     BUT Paul says that they;

*     Have false (advertised) humility. They come across sweet, and smiling, and spiritual, and oh so humble.....and many who judge by externals are taken in....but on the inside these people are full of spiritual pride over the higher plane to which they have attained.

*     Boast of special insights into divine reality.

*     They will pull you off into a corner and impress you with what they know.

*     Paul calls them "idle notions." They have nothing better to do than go into great detail about what they know, but there is little real fruit in their lives.

*     He says they have lost connection with the Head. Self preoccupation will eventually do that.

-     THE truth, in verse 19, is that God produces growth in us by His grace....so that none of us should boast or take credit for His work in us.

-     SO our growth, and our hope for the prize is based in Christ alone.

iv.freedom to live in victory over sin

-     OUR confidence is in Christ....not in shadows.

-     OUR hope for the prize is in Christ.....not in our super-spiritual knowledge.

-     NOW, lastly, the basis of our victory over sin.

-     PAUL tells us where it is not. Verses 20-23,

      "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:   "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"?  These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence." (2:20-23)

-     YOU and I cannot overcome sin in our lives by determination, will-power, or personal discipline.

-     LIKE the 'alligator machine' I used to introduce this message, it is a futile attempt at holiness.

-     YOU hammer one down, and a dozen pop up in its place.

-     LISTEN  to what Paul says about the world's approach at sin control.

*     They perish with use.

*     They have only an appearance of wisdom.

*     They lack value in restraining sensual indulgence.

-     IF you succeed in restraining sin by these worldly measures, one translation of these verses says that you will end up with will-worship.

-     IF you fail in trying to restrain sin by these worldly measures...you end up defeated.

-     SO, either way,  this is no way to try to live in victory over sin.

v. conclusion 

-     WHAT is the answer?

-     IT is in verse 17.

      "......the reality, however, is found in Christ."

-     IT is in your pursuit of Him, using the disciplines of the faith, that the grace is poured into your life that changes you from the inside out.

-     JESUS is your confidence.....not your observance of festivals and restrictions.

-     JESUS is your hope and prize....not the puffed up pride of special spiritual  insights.

-     JESUS is your victory over sin....not your self-control or determination.

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