Summary: Don’t be taken in by the world’s philosophy
Imagine you are comfortably asleep in your bed. You are awakened by a crash as a window is broken. Your heart begins pounding as adrenaline pumps through your veins, preparing your body for fight or flight. You pick up the phone. The line is dead. The door bursts open. Four heavily armed men in dark clothing and masks grab you and your spouse, handcuff you, blindfold you and hustle you in the back of a van. After hours of travel, you are taken out of the vehicle, brought into a remote cabin. Listening to your abductors phone conversations, you realize they are holding you for ransom. You have just been kidnapped. How does it feel?
In our passage this morning, we’re warned about kidnappers. Not the kind I just described, but a more insidious variety. These kidnappers don’t break into your home. They don’t use violence. They use logic, persuasion and stories of their own experiences to convince you that you really want to go with them. But like all kidnappers, once they have you, your life is pretty much in their control.
Paul writes to the Colossian church because they are in danger of being taken hostage, and he wants to warn them. They were at the point where they wanted something more than what they had learned. They probably had lots of opportunities to learn about different religions and philosophies.
Colossae was a Greek city which had been taken over by the Roman government and also had a large number of Jews who had lived there for centuries. So if they had a hunger for different ideas, there was no shortage of them. Now understand, we’re not talking about people outside the church, but even the Christians in the church were seeking more spiritually. Some of the ideas seemed compatible with their faith. After all, weren’t they just trying other ways to seek God?
3) Go back to the beginning; Press on until the end
Paul tells these Colossian Christians, “just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,” keep walking the same path that they started on. He describes how they were “rooted” in him. This was a one time event – experienced when they first committed their lives to him. This is what we call justification, when Christ took our sins away on the cross. But God didn’t plant us just to sit there. There is an ongoing work that God wants to do in us. We are to be continually built up, and strengthened in the faith. God wants to shape our characters and make us like Christ, to draw us into an ever deeper relationship with him. This, too, is a work that comes from God. The $10 word for it is sanctification – the process of becoming spiritually mature. By continuing to walk with Christ, we cooperate with the process that God is accomplishing in us.
It wasn’t that the Colossians didn’t want to move on to spiritual maturity. It was just that thought they could reach that goal by walking on another path, but Paul tells them that they need to go back to the beginning, and to press on to the end.
Many of you are as big fans of the Princess Bride as I am. Inigo, the Spanish swordsman who has vowed to avenge his father’s death, finds himself separated from his friend Fessick, Vizzini, his leader and benefactor (in the loosest possible sense) has been killed. He doesn’t know what to do or where to turn. So he goes back to where he first was hired by Vizzini to wait. When they try to remove him, he cries out,
"I know you Vizzini…when the job went wrong you went back to the beginning… And this is where we got the job, so it’s the beginning. And I am staying ‘till Vizzini comes."
He went back to the beginning, and he was determined to stick it out until the end. Paul was exhorting his readers in a similar way. To go back to the beginning, to what they had learned, to the path on which they had begun, and to stay on that path to the very end.
4) Be Thankful
And then, with an almost “throw away line” Paul adds that as we continue our walk with Christ that we are to be “overflowing with thanksgiving.” There are only two active verbs in these verses, two things that we are responsible for. The first is walking, that is to continue following Christ. The second is that we are to be overflowing with thanksgiving. A life that is rooted in Christ, and being continually built up in him will naturally be filled and overflowing with thankfulness.
It will come as no surprise to you that our culture does not encourage thankfulness. In fact, corporations spend billions of dollars every year to help you to be discontent. And with all that we have to be thankful for, how often are we content. How often is our focus on what we have, rather than on what we don’t have?