Monday, November 1, 2010

The Morning After: Jesus-Centered Religion

Okay, so I have done a very poor job of blogging over the past couple of weeks. I started strong and then have slipped into a bad habit of only blogging once a week or so. I promise all of you out there that care (probably only my wife) that I will do better in the coming month. I am going to try to do something every day this month. We will see if it works or not.

Well, on to what really matters. Yesterday, I continued my series that I have been teaching on the book of Colossians. The purpose of the book of Colossians is to paint the picture of Jesus Christ so beautifully and perfectly that we would understand that He is indeed sufficient for anything that we could need in life. That is why I have entitled our series: It's All About Jesus! The past two weeks have been a short mini-series in that we have been contrasting Jesus and religion. Our main focus over the past couple weeks has been that any religion that focuses on what people do versus what Jesus has done produces death!

There were false teachers in the church in Colossae who were beginning to influence the doctrine of the church and undermining the sufficiency of Jesus. They were saying that Jesus was not enough for them to be considered a part of God's people. They were saying there were other things the people needed to do in order to be accepted by God. So, in Colossians 2:8-23, Paul writes to warn the people to not be taken captive by these teachings, but instead to be taken captive by Jesus.

Talking about the greatness of Jesus Christ never gets tiring to me. Not sure about you, but I don't think I can ever talk enough about what Jesus has done for me. Paul begins in vs. 8 by warning them not to be taken captive by this false teaching, but says that it is okay to be taking captive by Christ. Then Paul launches into why it is okay to be taken captive by Jesus in vs. 9-15. Then Paul returns to his original thought in vs. 16 to warn them of the specific errors that they needed to be careful to avoid.

First, we are warned against the Legalistic Religion (vs. 16-17). This is the attempt to work in order to gain God's favor. It is a religion of human achievement. It is the religion that fails to realize the importance and centrality of God's grace. It says that if we do certain things, worship at certain times, wear certain things, then God will think of us as more holy and accept us better. Second, we are warned against the Emotional Religion (vs. 18-19). This is the religion based on experience, not objective truth. It is the religion based on visions and dreams and worship of angels as opposed to Jesus. Third, we are warned against the Self-Denial Religion (vs. 20-23). This is the religion that says if you really want to be spiritual, you need to abstain from even good gifts given by the Lord and maybe even do harmful things to yourself.

All of those produce death! But what Jesus has done is my only hope for true life! That is what Paul teaches in vs. 9-15. He lists several evidences why the work of Jesus is indeed sufficient.

  1. Jesus is the perfect God-man (vs. 9)
  2. Jesus is the completer of mankind (vs. 10a)
  3. Jesus is the ruler (vs. 10b)
  4. Jesus is the changer of hearts (vs. 11-12)
  5. Jesus is the forgiver (vs. 13-14)
  6. Jesus is the victor (vs. 15)
Let me tell you why the forgiving aspect of Jesus means so much to me. This is one aspect of motivation for me in regards to christian ministry. When I am in Christ, when I am in a relationship with Jesus, God has wiped away all of my sins. He has done it by taking care of my certificate of debt. In 1996, I spent six weeks in China teaching English. One day we heard sirens and police cars began racing up down the streets of this small village we were staying in. Our host told us that we needed to get out of the city. That was the day they were planning on doing public punishment for the criminals of the city. I will never forget one of the police trucks that passed by our hotel. It carried several criminals who were bound and displayed in the back of the truck. Around their neck hung a sign, which our guide told me was the list of offenses they had committed.

Whenever I think about a certificate of debt, that is what I think of. That is because every person wears that same sort of list around our necks before a Holy God. Around my neck hangs this list of sins that only God sees. It is a list of every sin that I have ever committed and will ever commit. This is what Jesus has done, He has taken very long list . . . all of my imperfections, all those wrong motives, all those lustful and hateful thoughts, all those moments of pride, all those times giving into temptation. He has taken those things out of the way, nailing them to the cross! He has taken those things that are offensive to God and stood between me and Him and said, "I'll take that. Put that on my account!"

Good works won't do that! Visions and dreams won't take away my sins! Self-denial of food or drink or harming myself won't take my sins away! But the cross of Jesus does. That is why I talk about the cross and the gospel all the time. It is my only hope and I hope it is yours as well! May we all live this week in light of Jesus and the cross that He died upon.

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