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ROOTED IN CHRIST
Jesus is Enough!
October 22, 2017
Next week, churches all over the world will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It was on October 31, 1517, that a little-known German monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
The 95 theses were grievances that Luther had with the established Church at the time. And one of them had to do with the centrality of Jesus. Over the centuries a hierarchy had developed in the Church that reflected the hierarchy in the Roman Empire.
The most important person in the Empire was the emperor followed by noblemen, then merchants, then peasants, all the way down to slaves. And in the Empire, the higher up on the ladder you were the more access you had to the emperor.
And that thinking leaked into the Church. So, in the Church, God was at the top, he was the Emperor, and just below him were the super saints, Mary being the most holy, followed by those less holy, all the way down to the common people.
And since God, like the Emperor, was more inclined to listen to those near the top of the ladder it was easy for ordinary Christians, common people like you and me, to think that God wouldn’t listen to them so they needed super saints like Mary to be their mediators, to advocate and intercede for them. They couldn’t go directly to God without the help of those who were more spiritual, more holy. Jesus wasn’t enough.
One of the most significant achievements of the Reformation was recovering the biblical truth that Jesus is enough! There is no ladder. There is no hierarchy. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. We don’t need any human mediator other than Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and us and any one of us can go directly to God anytime, anywhere, with anything.
Paul puts it this way in 1 Timothy 2:5, For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.
This is the truth that gives us confidence to approach the Lord with humility and gratitude, to see God as our heavenly Dad who loves us and wants us to come directly to him with all our needs, no matter how big or small. There is no hierarchy. There is no ladder. The Bible calls this the priesthood of all believers.
But it didn’t take 1,500 years for that ladder mentality to leak into the church. It started right from the jump in churches planted by the Apostle Paul himself. And so, Paul goes right after it in New Testament letters like Colossians.
This morning we continue our series in Colossians called Rooted in Christ. If you have your Bible on your phone or in your lap please turn to Colossians 2.
Look at Colossians 2:16-17 (p. 822), 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. 17These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
We’ve learned over the years in Bible study that whenever you read the word “therefore” you’ve got to find out what it’s therefore! It always points back to what was just written.
And what was just written is what Matt shared last week. Christ Jesus is Lord and Savior. Christ Jesus is God come in a body. Christ Jesus is the head over every power and authority. Christ Jesus is above the angels and higher than the stars both of which these people were being told to worship. In fact, Christ Jesus made the angels and the stars! Christ Jesus took all our sins on himself and nailed them to the cross. Christ Jesus has made us all holy through his blood. And when we believe in Christ Jesus we all become saints. Jesus is enough!
Now let’s read that passage again. Colossians 2:16-17, Therefore (because Jesus is enough) 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. 17These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
The Gnostics were threatening simple faith in Jesus, by adding all kinds of rules, regulations, and rituals. Jesus is not enough they were saying. If you really want to be spiritual and close to God like us, you’ve got to eat kosher and observe all the Jewish dietary laws which, by the way, Jesus had abolished. And you’ve got to keep the annual feasts and the monthly festivals and the weekly Sabbaths.
Now, Paul’s not saying these things are wrong or bad. They’re just not necessary to be a Christ follower. They’re not the mark of spirituality in our lives. They’re part of the Old Covenant contained in the Old Testament which was a shadow of things to come, pointing to the reality of Jesus.
And now that Jesus is here, we don’t need the shadow anymore. Jesus is enough. Get to know Jesus. That’s why we’ve chosen to study Colossians this fall because our mission is Jesus. We want to get to know him. Valley View is all about Jesus, because the Scriptures are all about Jesus.
And the warnings continue in verses 18-19, Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19They have 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.
The Gnostics were claiming to have special knowledge. In fact, the Greek word gnostic comes from the word gnosis which means “to know.” They thought they were “know-it-alls” and went into great detail about things they had seen and heard in dreams and visions, parading their knowledge with a false sense of humility and creating a church culture of shame.
In other words, if you wanted to be real spiritual you had to be like these guys. You had to know what they knew and do what they did or you were less than. But don’t fall for it, Paul says, because they’ve lost connection with the head who is Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Church, this is a warning to all of us. There’s no elaborate, secret system for getting to know Christ. Each of us needs to discover what kind of prayer and Bible study, worship, serving, and spiritual disciplines work for us. But don’t make the ones that work for you universal for everybody else or we’re going to create our own hierarchy and church culture of shame.
I’m always on guard about courses or manuals, programs or teachers who say, “This is the way to approach God. This is how you hear his voice. This is how you grow in your faith. Buy my book. Watch my videos. Learn my 10 steps to knowing God. And if you act now you can get it all for $99.99 plus free shipping.” Huh!?
Over the years we’ve offered a bunch of opportunities to grow in our relationship with Christ, courses like Alpha and Becoming A Contagious Christian, Financial Peace University and Stephen Ministry training, Elijah House, Six40, marriage courses, Discovering Your Divine Design. And I’ve been through most of them. Taught many of them and a bunch more. And have they been helpful? Absolutely. But I’m not going to say, “You must take this course or go through this program to become all that God created you to be and if you don’t you’re less spiritual than those of us who have.”
No. Instead, we’ll continue to point you to Jesus and encourage you to get to know him anyway you can. And one of these courses just may be the best way for you to do that. But certainly not the only way and not for everybody.
So, Paul is saying all you need is Christ. Hold on to Christ. He is the head of the body. You don’t need to embrace some new, secret teaching. You don’t need to worship angels because God is too holy to approach. No. You can go right to him.
Ahhhhh. You can almost hear a collective sigh of relief from the Colossians. They are complete in Christ. And so are we. We don’t need anything else, just more of what we already have!
And so, Paul goes on to reinforce this truth in verses 20-23, Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21"Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? 22These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23Such 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.
Remember the Gnostics taught that the material was evil and the spiritual was good. So, they said, we need to discipline our evil bodies and enforce rules that curb our physical appetites. Don’t handle. Don’t taste. Don’t touch. Let’s add more foul lines and build higher fences to improve our morality. Today we call this legalism. And a number of us at Valley View grew up in churches like that. We’re “recovering legalists.”
And on the outside, that looks like wisdom. Morality is a good thing because it honors God and other people. But keeping more rules are not what we need to restrain our behavior. That’s just exchanging a worldly, sensual self-indulgence with a worldly, spiritual self-indulgence which only creates more false humility and self-imposed worship. “Look at me! Look how holy I am!” No. What we need is more of Christ living in us. We need a greater love for Jesus by understanding the depth of his love for us. That’s what changes our behavior.
I’m married to a wonderful woman. This week will be 32 years! We got married really, really young! And the reason I don’t behave in certain ways is not because I’m keeping a bunch of rules that Jennifer handed me at the altar on our wedding day. No. I behave a certain way because I love Jesus and I love Jen and I want the best for her and for us.
And the more we get to know who Christ is and what he’s done, the more we will live in a way that pleases him without adding more rules. Church, Jesus is enough! We don’t need anything or anyone else. We just need more of what we already have.
The Reformation was really all about Jesus. Luther said, “The cross alone is our theology.” Solus Christus. Christ alone saves us. All the practices and teachings that Luther and the Reformers challenged were problematic because they got Jesus wrong. They either added to or took away from his work on the cross. People had been told for centuries that the works of Jesus were not enough. They had to add in some way to what Jesus had already done.
For years I shared Christ and his grace with my own Dad, but he would tell me, “No, Bruce. It’s not that easy. Jesus did what he could do and now I have to do what I can do to get into heaven.” And for years he said that until finally, at the age 76, grace clicked and my Dad accepted Christ alone as his Savior.
Jesus is enough. There is no ladder. We have direct access to God because of what Jesus has done. We don’t need another mediator.
This week I was talking to a woman who was taught as a child to pray to Jesus’ Mother, Mary. She was told, “Who do you go to when you want something? You go to your mother. And then your mother goes to your father and you get what you want.” So, I gently assured her that we don’t have to go through Jesus’ mother to get God’s attention. We can go right to the Father himself because of the work Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. God sees us all as holy.
Is Jesus enough for you? Have you trusted him alone as your Savior? Are you following him alone as your Lord? You don’t need more than Jesus. Jesus is enough! In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Keep chasing after Jesus every minute of every day. We don’t need anything else. We just need more of what we already have. Let’s stand for closing prayer.