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Ben Fleming: Hidden in Christ, Colossians 2:6-3:4

August 14, 2023

Audio Recording

Paul teaches us there are two cultural pressures tempting us to compromise our faith: the worship of many gods (that Jesus conquered on the cross) and the observance of the Jewish laws (that He fulfilled). As believers hidden in Christ, we take off the pressures of our culture and rest in the easy yoke of our Savior.

Jesus Above All
Jesus Above All
Ben Fleming: Hidden in Christ, Colossians 2:6-3:4
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us. Part four of our Colossians series is gonna play take place in Colossians chapter two. So to catch you up on the last few weeks, Colossi is the city that the apostle Paul is writing to. It's really the, there's a church in Colossae, the apostle Paul is writing too, and he's using his friend Eres, who has probably started this church, or at least helped start this church. He's using him to deliver a message while Paul himself is in prison at Ephesus, Eres and Ephesus. I did a good job, and I'm not saying those things anymore. , he sends this message to him, not because Paul has planted the church himself, and not because he's even met all these people, but he's heard about what the gospel has done among these people.

00:52 And he wants to encourage them because he believes that there is some cultural pressures that have already been happening and will continue to happen, maybe even at a greater degree that will push them potentially away from the gospel that they have been given and into something that looks a bit more like a mishmash of cultural things and different religions and Judaism and all of these things wrapped into one. And so Paul finishes chapter one where Dave left us off this last week with this incredible declaration that Christ in us is the hope of glory, or all of these things that have been revealed in Christ and his death and his resurrection are now existing inside of those who believe. And that doesn't matter if they're Jew or if they're Gentile, or if they would be known as an APOs, an apostle, or they're a brand new believer.

01:45 And he's saying everybody is included in this message. And this is radical, especially for those who are Gentiles, which by the way, all of us in this room are Gentiles who aren't coming from Judaism. That is a massive revelation, and it is really edgy and pushy for this particular culture who are saying there's a chosen group of people. There's a specific group that get to engage in this salvation that comes from God. But now Jesus has come and he's torn the valley. He's changed the entire game and everything. And now everybody gets to receive from this great salvation. Now, this is important because Paul believes that this message might get tarnished or removed from this beautiful young church at Colossae if they're not careful. And so he writes a few things in order to give them instruction as well as encouragement. And this is what they sound like.

02:36 Colossians chapter two, and in verse six he says, and now just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him and let your lives be built on him. And then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught and you will overflow with thankfulness. Paul is trying to tap in to this feeling that the church at Colossae got the very first time they heard the incredible message and beauty of the gospel. Do you remember that feeling that you get from something that you experienced for the first time? Maybe it was that first date that you went on with that special someone and the excitement, maybe you couldn't sleep, maybe you ordered something that you wouldn't normally order with them now because you were, you know, the garlic was a little too much on a first date, and so you were trying to hold back from that.

03:26 You, you experienced that whole thing differently because it was this first time and this first experience and this first excitement. And Paul is saying that feeling that you got that same excitement and simplicity and purity right on that first date. I mean, unless you wanted that date to go really poorly, you probably weren't talking about the kids that you were gonna have someday. , my wife and I have noticed that sometimes when we go out on a date now, and it's just the two of us, it can pretty quickly get into scheduling and figuring out what camps the kids are gonna go to. Because Lord knows I cannot have them in my house anymore. School come back, .

04:05 And we sit there, we had our anniversary dinner the other night, and pretty quickly about 10 minutes in, we were like, okay, so what do you think is going on with Joel and how can we figure this out? And I'm just like, I just don't want to care about the kids for a little while, , I just don't. And I think about to the first date that we were on. We weren't talking about the children that had not been born yet and a lot of these stressful elements of our lives. We weren't talking about these things. What if you would've asked me, what do you wanna do right now, Ben? I would've been like, I just wanna be with her, just be around her. And now I'm like, look, being around you is fine. I just want anywhere that's quiet. That's all I got some work to do. And Paul is saying, remember this simple gospel, this simple thing, people wanna take that away from you, this beautiful, pure, simple faith. And he says, and when that faith grows strong in the truth that you were taught, that simple faith, you'll overflow in thankfulness. Now, this is the second time Paul mentions that this maturity of faith actually results in thankfulness.

05:12 I don't know about you, but often I think of, well, if I mature in faith, then I'll see more miracles. Or if I mature in faith, then I'll reap more success. Or if I mature in faith, I'll experience more peace. And maybe some of those things can and do exist. But Paul's contention is that you'll know that your faith has grown and is strong if you find yourself to be a thankful person. If you find yourself functioning regularly in thankfulness, then he goes on to verse eight where he begins to give some more practical tips on how to keep this faith beautiful and simple. He says, don't let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world rather than from Christ, for in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.

06:04 So you are, you also are complete through your union with Christ who is head over every ruler in authority. Verse 11, when you came to Christ, you were circumcised, but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision. The cutting away of your sinful nature for you were buried with Christ when you were baptized and with him, you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God who raised Christ from the dead. So one of these particular cultural things that Paul is confident is going to come into the picture for the church at Colossae if it hasn't already, is this idea that many of them need to be circumcised in order to receive this gospel in all of its fullness. Essentially, there are some Jewish Christians, so some that that grew up Jewish, that now have received the salvation of Christ that are often encouraging these new believers, these Gentiles, well, Jesus is great, but now you have to go back into Jewish tradition and custom.

07:01 You have to get circumcised and then you can come all the way forward through the Christian faith. And Paul is saying, this is not the case. Now, how this letter would've been communicated to the church at Colossae is that it would've been delivered by probably res in this specific, I said it again in this specific case, and then it would've been given to a leader and they would've read it in front of the entire church out loud. And this is, I mean, there's not exactly like you can go to the movies. It is entertainment and inspiration and a view into what God is doing all at the same time. And I imagine as I read this scripture, the sound of the relief of many of the men who are sitting beneath the teaching of this letter where it says, you don't have to go back and get circumcised. And there's all these guys going, oh my gosh,

07:51 Woo,

07:53 Stop reading. We just need a praise break right here. You know what I'm saying? Let's cheer and clap and scream and shout. And it was a real area of concern for people, not just because of the physicality of it, but because of what does this mean for us culturally? We thought that this was a new salvation, but now many of us are encouraged to go backward into this other tradition, take on all these other things. And so Paul is warning them against the synagogue. The synagogue is going to wanna have influence over your faith, but it doesn't have that kind of power.

08:25 And now he continues on, he almost repeats himself, but he expands on this in verse 13 where he says, you were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away, but then God made you alive with Christ. For he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. I love the idea that while Jesus dying on the cross was intended to be this public shaming of a false messiah, but his resurrection, in fact shames those who thought that that would happen. Everything is turned on its head through. The salvation of Christ is in verse 16. So don't let anyone condemn you for what you eat or what you drink or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or sabbaths for these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come.

09:20 Christ Jesus himself is that reality. Don't let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels saying that they have had visions about these things. There's sinful minds have made them proud. They're not connected to Christ, the head of the body, for he holds the whole body together with its joints and its ligaments and it grows as God nourishes it. He gets back to this centerpiece, which is what our entire series is about, is that Jesus Christ is the focal point of this faith. Everything that we do revolves around the person of Jesus Christ for in him resides all salvation and the power therein. Now what's happening reminds me a little bit of, of, of fashion Now I own like five shirts and two pairs of pants, okay? And 17 gym shorts and many, many, many shoes of which I wear four pairs.

10:20 But I have gotten to the point I realized where I'm old enough to watch fashion rotator round a few times. And, and it's, it's exhausting already at this stage. Now, like I said, I don't know a whole lot about fashion, but one of the things I do know is that pants just kind of expand and contract over the years, and they expand and they contract. And I don't know who's making the rules on when it happens, but there's been a few times where I've been like, well, I'll buy those. Oh, okay, it's a new fashion. I'll buy those. And now I'm just like, no, Speaker 3

10:51 You can't make me move. This is what I wanna wear now and it'll come back in

10:57 Fashion eventually. You know, we made fun of the glasses that our dads were wearing back in the day and now all the high schoolers wear those exact frames. And I'm going, I i, I don't know how this works. It's fascinating to me. But I remember one of the big fashion, we'll call it rivalries when I was a kid, was the, the puca shells. Yeah, I'm preaching to you now. And hemp and people had hemp necklaces and some had pukka shell necklaces. And I don't know that they ever put puca shells on a hemp, but that's just for the sake of this illustration. And I wanted a puca shell necklace, all right? Never got one because I was really afraid that my brother and sister would make fun of me. So I didn't get one. But what I did end up with, because all of my friends had them, was a hemp necklace.

11:49 Now I didn't like how they looked, but my friends had them. I didn't like putting it on 'cause it was really, really hard to get on. But I put it on because my friends had them. It gave me a small rash, , but I put it on because my friends had them. And it got to the point where I was just like, who? Why am I doing this? I didn't ask for this. This isn't helping me. I don't like how I do in this, but it's this, this thing. And for some reason it sounds so ridiculous at this age, but when you're in sixth grade, it's like they're making me wear this.

12:27 It's their fault, not mine. Let me take on these things that we don't even want anymore. And the church and all of us individually, whether it's from the culture outside the church, quote unquote, or their culture inside the church have this tendency to take on weight and clothing and responsibility and shame that has never belonged to us. And we fight over and worry about things that don't mean anything in the grand scheme when it comes to salvation with Jesus. Remember when my son was four years old, he was still sucking his thumb and we only went to the pediatrician and I was stressed and she was like, well, what's, what's wrong? I said, he's still sucking his thumb. , we're gonna have to get his jaw replaced. . And she's like, look, this happens. He's gonna be fine. You don't understand. I can't deal with the stress of this anymore .

13:31 And what happened? I had a come to Jesus meeting with Joel where I said, if he continues to suck his thumb, we will do some really terrible things to his bedroom. You know? No, I didn't have that conversation. You know what happened? The pediatrician was right. It stopped. Is this a big deal? No. But in that moment it's like the game speeds up on us. And so often in our culture, in our lives, we can make believe that so many things matter when they just don't. Some of you are giving into this pressure of what kind of life to live based on the lives that your friends live on Instagram. It is not their real lives, first of all. And secondly, that life doesn't belong to you. You are not them. Again, my kids, well my friends have a smart watch. They are not my kid. It doesn't matter to me that so many of these pressures that we experience in the church, we have so often fought over little things. There was a huge war wage in the Evangelical church for decades about whether or not drums should be on the stage about whether we could wear jeans or we could not. And I gotta believe that God is looking at the church and going, this is silly. Speaker 4

14:41 We

14:42 Lost the plot way back here. And this happens in a specific story with Jesus in John chapter five. Jesus performs this incredible healing and well, I'll just read it to you. It's in the message translation in verse one. It says, soon after the feast came around and Jesus was back in Jerusalem near the sheep gate in Jerusalem, there was a pool and in Hebrew called Bethesda with five alcoves, hundreds of sick people, blind, crippled, paralyzed, were in these alcoves. And one man had been an invalid there for 38 years. And Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he'd been there. And he said, do you want to get well? The sick man said, sir, when the water is stirred, I don't have anybody to help put me in the pool by the time I get there. Somebody else's already in.

15:26 And Jesus said, get up, take your bed, roll, start walking. And the man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bed roll and he walked off. And that day happened to be the Sabbath. The Jews stopped the healed man and said, it's the Sabbath. You can't carry your bed. Roll around. It's against the rules. And he told them, the man who made me well told me to, he said, take your bed. Roll and start walking. And they asked, who gave you the order to take up and start walking? But the healed man didn't know if Jesus had slipped away into the crowd. And a little later Jesus found him in the temple and said, you look wonderful. Oh man, what if Jesus is saying that to you today? Huh?

16:04 Oh Jesus, I'm broken. I'm hurt, I'm messed up. And I just see, and Jesus walks in the room and goes, you look fantastic. That's a good sermon. You're well, don't return to his sinning life or something worse might happen. And the man went back and he told the Jews that it was Jesus who made him well. And that's why the Jews were out to get Jesus because he did this kind of thing on the Sabbath. But Jesus defended himself. My father, look at this is working straight through even on the Sabbath and so am I that really set them off. The Jews were now not only out to expose him and they were out to kill him. And not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was calling God his own father, putting himself on a level with God. So there's this man who's been there for 38 years and they know it's been 38 years, be probably, 'cause a lot of people knew this guy, maybe he would even become well known or in the area because he had waited so long for this healing. And Jesus shows up, performs this miraculous fe. He says something really simple like, go ahead and pick up your bed and walk. And what do the religious people begin to heap on this man who has just experienced this miraculous healing shame?

17:13 Well, I just got healed. How amazing is this? Excuse me. You know it's Saturday, what are you doing? It's a day off. Sit down, quit walking around with your bed roll. And you guys, there are so many things that we miss out in this beautiful gospel and Christian faith because we're so caught up in receiving the shame that comes from some people around us. So we're so caught up in heaping shame on those who haven't exactly experienced or worshiped Jesus exactly as we have. Paul is saying, quit getting caught up in the specific worship practices all the time. Quit getting caught up in this specific prayer practice all the time in this way, that you dress in this way and you're so worried about all these things that have nothing to do with the beauty and the majesty of Jesus Christ and him crucified. And it's no longer we that live. All that stuff is dead, but it's Christ who lives in us a brand new day.

18:11 I don't want us to miss what Jesus is doing because we're so caught up in our own little customs. We're so caught up in the way we vote and the way that we worship. There have been things that every single tradition of Christianity has eventually gotten ensnared in. And Paul at the very beginning is warning against them just as you first received all of this. So walk in him. Are spiritual practices important? Yes. Why are they important? Because that's how we receive love from God. No, God loves us as much as he will ever love us right in this moment. And we practice certain things so that we are reminded of that love with us at all times.

18:59 We're not abandoning every practice for the sake of quote unquote simplicity, but we are remembering that the basis of this faith simply comes from Jesus, not our practices or our clothing or our customs. And Paul wraps it all up with this. So he spends a lot of time in chapter two saying, so avoid all of this. Beware of all this, back off of all of this. And then he says in Colossians three verse one, since you've been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven where Christ sits in the place of honor, at God's right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth for you died to this life in your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ who is your life is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all of his glory.

19:52 Paul does this as a juxtaposition to the story of the Garden of Eden. Paul is a Jewish scripture scholar and he remembers that at the end of that story in the garden of eating and that Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden fruit and then they go out and they hide themselves. It's one of the most interesting peeks into the character of God because they go off and they hide themselves and then they clothe themselves. And I love that God shows up on the scene and he asks where they are, like God doesn't know, you know, shows up and going, where are you guys? Oh good hider, Adam, very nice, can't find you.

20:35 And they come out and they say, we hid because of our shame. And in this, Paul is saying, yes, hide, but not because of your shame, hide because there is safety and shelter in the one that is. Jesus reminds me of, my daughter was four years old. My, my son and my daughter are very different human beings. I don't know if you've experienced this before. My son is very outgoing, wants to play all the time, 24 7. He, I don't if you can make him sit still in a bed for 10 seconds, he's out. But until then, he just goes and goes, and my daughter wakes up a little angry with the world. . Yeah, I can identify . She wakes up and you're like, you want breakfast? She's like, no waffles. Excuse me. And you kinda get her going through the day. But there was this particular day where she was with in childcare with a bunch of other kids that I'm sure were perfectly fine.

21:43 I went to pick her up and she was like, it's just been such a long day. My four year old knew how to say that. She would say, it's been such a long day. And she would say, this is the worst day ever, all the time, . And she was like, because so and so did this to me. And then this happened with me. And then I tried to go over here and I, and she was just looked at me and she said, I'm so tired, daddy . And I'm like, it's, it's 1:00 PM but okay, .

22:13 And I remember, and it was, it was here, she's at childcare here. And I picked her up and I started walking around the building, trying to get a few last things done. And before I knew it, she was asleep just, and it was that full on like, you know, I've stuck her in the car. She didn't wake up, I drove home, I got her outta the car. She didn't wake up, she was just out. And it was definitely this feeling of like, there's just so much going on around me with a realer imagined for my four year old. But you get the idea. There's so much and I'm so tired. And all of a sudden she's held by dad and it's just, Speaker 5

22:54 She's out.

22:59 Jesus talks about this in Matthew in chapter 11 in a famous scripture.

23:05 And Jesus is trying to get out because he's experienced, he's experiencing some of what's Paul, what Paul is talking about in Matthew chapter 11 actually, where the Pharisees and the Sadducees are, gather around all these religious leaders. And Jesus is going on kinda this long monologue about who he is and, and he says, and you know what's wrong with you guys? When I go out to parties and I hang out with people and I have a drink, you guys call me a drunk. And then when me and my disciples fast, you guys say, we're possessed by demons. You make up these rules. They don't mean anything and you have no idea. And so he is talking to these religious people about religious things, and he's setting 'em up and he's knocking 'em down and, and you think this, but really what you need is this, and you think this. And then he comes around in Matthew chapter 11 verses 28, and he says, and then Jesus said, so come to me. If you're weary and you carry heavy burdens, Eugene Peterson says in the message translation, if you're burnt out on religion, come to me and I'll give you rest. Take my yolk on you. Let me teach you because I'm humble and gentle at heart. And you will find rest for your souls, for my yolks, easy to bear. And the burden that I give you is light.

24:24 When we come to Jesus, we put on something that we're hidden in that fits us like it was tailor made for us. And that doesn't change. It's not even like a tailored suit that just fits so perfectly, but then life changes and your body changes, and all of a sudden you go, this is ill-fitting. It's not like the yolk that is put on when even when we engage in some kind of a relationship, right? I think about the movie Jerry McGuire and how he looks at the girl and he says, you complete Speaker 5

24:59 Me.

25:00 And at the time I think that's so romantic. And now as a grownup, I'm like, that's not fair to her. How dare you? Because who could possibly complete another person? Those of you who have had long-term romantic relationships, you know what I'm talking about? At the beginning it was like, I can be there for you. I can be your all and your everything. I can be your rock. And then some days you're just like, I'm just so tired. Don't talk to me Speaker 5

25:29 Anymore,

25:34 Honey. I love you. Leave me alone . Or after having kids, I just felt like I was getting touched all the time, you know? And then my wife would come up and just put her arm around me and be like, Hey, I love you. I'm like, oh, please don't do that. Speaker 5

25:47 .

25:48 It's like a hot fire.

25:53 Who could complete another person? We can't. You've screwed it up constantly. And then the best we can do is get enough energy to go back to the person and say, but I'll try again. I can complete you. You can't do it. Who can be perfect in a religious setting? Who can do this Christianity thing? Exactly right? Dial down the center every time. You can't. I can't. There's this whole bit where Jesus says he's teaching this group of people and he says, you have heard it said that if you kill your brother, you are sitting. But I'm telling you, if you just say bad words about him, it's the same thing. Then he says, you've heard it said that if you commit adultery and you sleep with someone else's wife, then that is a sin. But I'm telling you, if you even look at someone that's not your wife, then you're in huge trouble. And everybody's like, this guy said it would be better and it's worse. Speaker 5

26:41 ,

26:43 We're all gonna die. And Jesus sets up all that standard. He sets up all that stuff. Why? Why? Well, because it's important to him and it makes sense to him, and he is trying to teach him something. But the biggest thing that he is trying to teach them is that you will fall short every time. So what's the solution? Try harder, more pushups, get fitter, read more, pray harder. The solution is Speaker 5

27:13 Come to me.

27:14 That's it. And just as simply as Paul said as you received him, so also walk forward in him. Let's be hidden in Christ. It's not about all these things that we can put on, but instead it's about where we can hide. We, this yoke is easy and this burden is light. We're gonna take communion here in just a moment, and I just wanna encourage you, as you take the sacraments again, this is a good example. Does communion make our relationship with Jesus? Absolutely not. Is it a practice that as time honored and historic and meaningful, because it again reminds us of all that Jesus has done? Yes. But as we take this sacrament together, I want to encourage you to be reminded of that I am hidden.