Approaching Sunday

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No Second-Class Citizens

Have you ever been made to feel like you were a part of something, but you didn’t really belong there? Think about punters in the NFL. They’re on the team, but are they really football players? They come on the field 6 times a game to kick the ball and it’s a 15-yard penalty if anyone touches them. Sure, punters are on the team, but seriously? Can we really call them football players?

The Colossian believers were facing pressure from false teachers that was similar to this. These false teachers were “passing judgment” and “disqualifying” them (Col. 2:16-18). They were making the believers feel like they weren’t really spiritual if they weren’t following the Jewish ceremonial law (Col. 2:16-17) or doing the same mystical (and even pagan) practices that they were encouraging (Col. 2:18). Sure, the Colossians were Christians, but in order to be really spiritual, in order to be more than just punters on the team, they needed to do more.

The problem with this picture is that the Colossians were being told that they needed something other than Christ in order to grow spiritually. They were disqualifying believers that the Father has already qualified on the basis of the finished work of Christ (Col. 1:12-14). Paul’s response to this pressure from the false teachers is to turn the tables on them. They said that the spiritual lives of the Colossians were deficient, but Paul says that they are the ones with the deficiency because they are “not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God” (Col. 2:19). True spiritual growth is from God, through Christ, and it is for the whole body.

I think that believers in our context are prone to the same type of temptation. American Christianity is quite tribal. We like to pick a side that conforms to our theological and political views and look down on others that aren’t in our tribe. We would confess that other theological tribes are probably Christians, but we treat them and speak of them as if they aren’t really as spiritual as us because they don’t wear the badges that my tribe recognizes. Now, to clarify, this is a tension that we need to manage. There are a core set of essential beliefs that are “of first importance” (1st Corinthians 15:1-4), and if anyone rejects any of these beliefs, they really are not Christians. What I’m talking about, however, is the tendency of Christians within an orthodox framework looking down on each other over secondary doctrinal matters like eschatology, baptism, tongues, Calvinism, etc. We often treat others that aren’t just like us in these secondary matters as if they are beneath us and think of them as second-class Christians.

Paul tells us here in Colossians 2:19 that, in contrast to the spiritual elitism of the false teachers, the whole body grows with a growth that is from God. Not just an elite group of really enlightened ones. We are “all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). There are no second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God. And this is precisely the lesson that we need to learn. Sure, there are different levels of spiritual maturity, and believing the truth about these secondary doctrinal matters can be a sign of genuine spiritual maturity. But the ground is level at the foot of the cross. In Christ Jesus, the bruised reed is just as loved by God as the most mature saint.

So don’t disqualify other believers on the basis of secondary matters. Have open and honest discussions about those things, but always remember that the person with whom you are talking is an adopted child of the King, regardless of whether they are in your tribe. This kind of love and humility is what will bring about genuine unity in the body and will be a shining example to an unbelieving world that we are Christ’s disciples.

 

Posted by Nate Weis with

Canceled Debts

This past week in my small group, one of our group members mentioned that they hit a major milestone the week previous; they made the last payment on their house. I haven’t done that yet, but I briefly mulled over what it will feel like when that day comes for me. What a relief. What a sense of freedom. There must almost be a sense of joy to drive by the bank that held the note on their home for so long, knowing that they now actually own their house!

If you have had debt…a car loan, or another consumer account, you know the exhilaration of sending the final payment and knowing that you won’t need to send them anything more; your debt has been satisfied.

As we continue to study through Colossians this summer, we now come to one of the most compelling pictures in all of Scripture of what Jesus did for us through his death, burial, and resurrection. It’s found in Colossians 2:13-14. “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us…”

If you’ve trusted Christ as your only hope of salvation, you know this experience in spiritual terms. You had a debt of sin standing between you and God that had to be paid if you ever had any hope of being in Heaven someday in a right relationship with God. What’s worse; there was nothing you could do about it. The just payment for your sin (the wages) would be death…separation from God for all of eternity (Romans 6:23). You were a debtor with no way to pay your debt. End of discussion. End of hope…except for Jesus…

In Matthew 18, Jesus uses this very picture to illustrate the significance of the forgiveness we have received. He talked about two men who had a debt. One owed the king millions of dollars in today's terms. When the king threatened to throw him in prison, he begged forgiveness and the King granted it. He went out and found another servant who owed him about 3 months wages. He refused to forgive his fellow servant the debt. For our purposes here, I want to point out that the first servant had been forgiven a debt he could never have repaid. That is the point regarding this servant and it brings us back to the picture in Colossians 2:14. God canceled the debt that we had against us; a debt we could never have repaid under any circumstance. As one writer has said: “Jesus paid a debt he didn’t owe because we owed a debt we could never pay.”

Take a little time as you approach the message this week to remember the incredible debt that was against you…the weighty debt of your sin. Then focus on how that debt got paid. Jesus took it upon himself to pay your debt. God didn’t just randomly cancel your debt without satisfaction for His wrath against sin; He poured out His wrath on Jesus. He nailed Jesus to the cross and all the debt of your sin with Him. I suspect that will put a little extra shot of gratitude in your heart as you think about it.

Posted by David Wilson with

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