Summary: Everything about real religion is found complete in Jesus. Anything beyond or without Jesus is just a shadow.
May 18, 2003 Colossians 2:13-19
“Shadow or substance”
The month of May is known for at least three things. It is known for flowers – “April showers bring May flowers” and what do Mayflowers bring? Pilgrims. It is known for Mother’s Day which we celebrated last week. And finally, it is known for graduations. In the weeks ahead, countless high school and college graduations will be held, and countless numbers of students will be put to sleep by boring graduation speeches. In preparation for this message, I read several graduation speeches given by prominent people of the past and the present. There was a recurring theme that ran through many of the speeches. It was the idea that these students were getting ready to enter into real life. Something was getting ready to change. Apparently, the life that they had been living up to this point was in some way a dream, not reality, a shadow of things to come.
I have experienced what these speakers are talking about. While I was in school, life was a dream. Yes, I had to work to get the things done that were required of me by my teachers, but I didn’t have to work to survive. That was taken care of by my mother. She was the one who was living real life. She was the one who had to wonder about how she was going to pay all those bills and still have enough to provide food and clothing for me and the rest of the family. I didn’t have to make a lot of decisions for myself. She determined when I would go to bed and when I would get up. She decided what I was going to eat for my meals, and by being the one who bought all my clothes, she even decided what I was going to wear. I might have chafed under the level of control that she had over my life, but that control made life easy, even simple. Once I graduated from school and even more so, when I got married, life became real. I had to start making my own decisions and dealing with the consequences of those decisions. Sometimes I think that it would be easier to just go back to the old school days when teachers told me what I would need to know for the test, when the paper was due and success was judged by what grade I made on my report card.
When it comes to our Christianity, many of us are still living in school rather than enjoying real life. In Galatians 3:24 (KJV), Paul describes the Old Testament Law as a schoolmaster – a principal. The Colossian Christians were facing the temptation to throw away the freedom that spiritual graduation had given them and put themselves back under the authority of the law. False teachers had come in among them and were telling them that what they had in Christ was not enough for salvation or for real life. Along with Christ, they needed to follow all the requirements of the Jewish law. Faith in Christ alone, according to them, was not enough to receive forgiveness, attain victory, enjoy freedom or experience real spirituality. They needed something else.
But according to the Bible, everything that we need to make us right with God and to give us a full life is found complete in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) Jesus can give us real life and will give full life to all those who ask Him for it.
In the passage that we are going to look at today, Paul lets the Colossians and us know that those who put their confidence in Christ Jesus aren’t missing out on anything. He gives us four qualities of real life that are found complete and alone in Christ.
1. Real forgiveness is found only in Christ Jesus. (vs. 13-14)
It gives us life –"The Romans sometimes compelled a captive to be joined face-to-face with a dead body, and to bear it about until the horrible effluvia [vapors] destroyed the life of the living victim. Virgil describes this cruel punishment: ’The living and the dead at his command were coupled face to face, and hand to hand; Till choked with stench, in loathed embraces tied, The lingering wretches pined away and died.’ – Paul Lee Tan Because of our sin, we were all tied to death. From the time that Adam sinned until today, sin brings death into the life of a person. In Rom. 6:23, it says, “For the wages of sin is death…” In sin, we die, but in Christ, we have been made alive.
It is complete – You don’t have to add anything to the work of Christ in order to gain forgiveness. You couldn’t add anything to it if you wanted to. Jesus said, “It is finished!” The work is complete, and all that we contribute to the process is our faith and acceptance. We can’t earn it through our good works or by keeping the law. (Titus 3:5) Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us…”