Summary: Learning to accept God's love for us.
"Christ is All You Need"
Have you ever wondered if God really loves you?
Author and speaker Brennan Manning has a pretty cool story about how he got the name "Brennan."
While growing up, his best friend was a guy named Ray.
The two of them did everything together: bought a car together as teenagers, double-dated, went to school together.
They even enlisted in the Army together, went to boot camp together and fought on the frontlines together.
One night while sitting in a foxhole, Brennan was talking about the old days in Brooklyn while Ray listening and ate a candy bar.
Suddenly a live grenade came into the foxhole.
Ray looked at Brennan, smiled, dropped his candy bar and threw himself on the live grenade.
It exploded, killing Ray, but Brennan's life was spared.
When Brennan became a priest he had to take on the name of a saint.
So, he thought of his friend, Ray Brennan.
So he took the name "Brennan."
Years later Brennan went to visit Ray's mother in Brooklyn.
They sat up one night talking when Brennan asked her, "Do you think Ray loved me?"
Mrs. Brennan got up off the couch, shook her finger in front of Brennan's face and shouted, "What more could he have done for you?"
Brennan said that at that moment he experienced an epiphany.
He imagined himself standing in front of the Cross of Jesus wondering, "Does God really love me?"
And Jesus' mother Mary pointing to her Son, saying, "What more could He have done for you?"
In our Scripture Lesson for this morning, Paul is writing to a young Christian Church in Colossae.
At the time of Paul's writing Colossae was a leading city in Asia Minor which is now present-day Turkey.
Most of the people who were part of this church were Gentiles.
That means that they were non-Jews.
They had never been Jews.
They had been pagans, and they were surrounded by pagans who believed in many gods and the worship of angels, and so forth.
Also, there were some folks who were Jews who had become Christ-followers who believed that a person had to become a Jew before they could become a Christian.
In other words, just accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior wasn't enough.
You also had to follow the Jewish laws, holiness codes, traditions, festivals, Sabbath days, and it goes on and on...
...in order for God to accept and love you.
That is why Paul talks here about circumcision.
These Jewish Christians, or Judaizers, as they were called, said that Christians needed to be circumcised, which of course, was the initiation rite for males into Judaism.
And all this was causing this young church to go into a tailspin.
When they had accepted Christ, they had believed that Christ was all they needed.
They had believed that they were being saved by grace through faith--that there was nothing else they could do to add to their salvation, or to make God love and accept them more.
But these false teachers, these Judaizers were telling them differently.
It was causing them to doubt their salvation and God's love for them in Jesus Christ.
Again, have you ever wondered, "Does God really love me?"
"Am I saved?"
"I don't feel good enough"?!!!
"There must be more that I must do to measure up."?
A number of years ago I came upon an older woman who attended the same Bible study I did, and we got into a pretty heavy conversation about God and heaven and so forth.
I was quite surprised when this woman said to me, "Heaven is going to be a wonderful place, but I won't be there."
"What?," I said.
"Jesus died for you. Jesus loves you. You believe that Jesus is Lord do you not?"
She admitted that she did, but this wonderful human being had been so "beat up" by the world, her self-esteem had been so shattered...
...that she just couldn't believe that anyone could really love her...including God.
She had been molested by her father when she was a child, and then she had been abused in her relationships as an adult.
She had been told by words and actions so many times that she just didn't measure up...that she just wasn't good enough to be loved.
So she could not imagine herself in heaven, only hell.
Would not Paul say to her what he writes to the Christians in Colossae: "See to it that nobody enslaves you with...foolish deception, which conform to...the way the world thinks.
All the fullness of deity lives in Christ's body.
And you have been filled by him, who is the head of every ruler and authority."?
The word for "enslaves" used here can also be translated as "takes you captive."