"Jesus is Enough"
Years ago I knew a man who did not like to wash his work clothes. He wore the same clothes every day as he worked on the farm. When those clothes got too dirty for him to wear, he simply threw them away and bought a new set of clothes. That does not seem to make much sense to us today; however, it makes a great deal of sense when it comes to being a Christian. Here is what I mean. The Apostle Paul reminds Christians of the importance of putting off the old way of life and putting on a new way of life. When one becomes a child of God, things change. One is to get rid of the past and then embrace a brand new life. That is important for us today. We turn away from what the world offers and gladly receive what Jesus offers. In Him we find our meaning and our significance for life. We understand He is sufficient to meet all of our needs, and He is enough. Granted, there is nothing easy about saying goodbye to the tempting things of the past, and yet Jesus replaces it with something which is far greater. He provided all things necessary for our salvation when He went to the cross and died on our behalf. Today when we receive that salvation, there is no need to put our trust in anyone or anything else. In the letter of Colossians, Paul highlights these important aspects of what it means to be a child of God. For the next few minutes we will spend some time with this most important message. I hope you will stay tuned as we now study together.
One of the more challenging issues I deal with on a regular basis is understanding the difference between a need and a want. Perhaps you can relate to that as well. For example, on one hand a need is a necessity, something that is very important and we cannot do without, and yet on the other hand a want is different, that is a desire and certainly we can do without that. In the New Testament letter called Colossians the Apostle Paul also helps us to understand the difference between a need and a want, spiritually. As we will see in the next few minutes, the difference between a need and a want today is the same as it was when Paul wrote this letter in AD 60. According to what we know, the town of Colossae is located about 100 miles to the southeast of Ephesus in modern day Turkey. The ancient city has never been excavated. There is no record of Paul actually visiting that community. He also never personally met the believers who lived there. Now, Paul wrote this letter while he was in a Roman prison, some six years before he was put to death. One of his own converts named Epaphras is the one responsible for leading these people to Jesus Christ, and he is identified in chapter 1 and verse 7. When we study this letter closely, we find many similarities between it and the letter called Ephesians. They were both written about the same time and in the same place. In both letters Paul teaches about the importance of such things as the family and prayer and living a life that is pleasing in the sight of God. The world in which the apostle Paul lived offered many things the people did not need, and many people pursued those things. His world, as does our world today, revolved around people pursuing their own interest and their own desires, and yet here in this letter called Colossians Paul tries to refocus the people's attention to what they really need most, and that is Jesus Christ. Paul makes that very clear in the opening chapter. Listen to these words which are found in chapter 1 beginning with verse 15: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or powers, or rulers, or authorities, all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning of the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood shed on the cross." Isn't that a beautiful passage that highlights the supremacy of Jesus Christ! Some suggest these six verses are a poem or a hymn that was sung by the early Christians, and perhaps that is true. If that is the case, then no doubt these Christians here in Colossae were familiar with the words, so Paul highlights the words for them once again. He wants these believers to understand who Jesus is and what He has done for them. We find in these six verses, Jesus is exalted to the highest position. He has a special place of honor before God. That place rules over all creation. Even though science may be able to tell us a great deal about the physical world in which we live, we notice that Jesus is the One who upholds and sustains the universe, and this qualifies Him to bring people into a relationship with the Father. That, of course, was done by the blood that Jesus shed upon the cross, as we noticed there in verse 20. The sacrifice that He made by giving his very life allows us to enter into God's family. Once again, this is a very beautiful message about Jesus. This is at the heart of the letter called Colossians. News had come to the Apostle Paul that there were some false teachers there in Colossae who were trying to lead these believers astray. They were sharing things that added to and took away from the message of Jesus Christ. For example, some were worshiping angels, others were adding special rules or ceremonies that people were required to keep, saying that if you did these things that it would improve your relationship with the Lord, it would make you more spiritual and these are some things you needed to do. That is why Paul begins with a message about Jesus Christ. He reminds them you don't need those things because you already have everything you need in Jesus. Not far from where I live there is a sign outside of a church building with these words on it: "It's all about Jesus." That's true, isn't it? In fact that is the message that we find here in Colossians. It's all about Jesus. No doubt there were lots of things that looked attractive to the people in Colossae. They were encouraged to pursue those things and to satisfy their wants and their desires. One might even believe perhaps they were needed, and yet nothing was needed to add to the message they already had, the message that had brought them salvation and a presence in God's family. So, we notice that since Jesus is the head of the church, nothing and nobody can take His place. He is all-sufficient and nothing can be added to Him that will make one's life more complete. Once again, that was a problem facing the believers in the city of Colossae. Paul addresses that point in the 2nd chapter. Notice these words which begin with verse 8. "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ, for in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ who is the head over every power and authority." I love that phrase from Paul: "We have been given fullness in Christ." In other words, our lives are filled up with Jesus. They are abundant and overflowing with Jesus and nothing else needs to be added. Yes, once again we have everything we need. That's good to know, isn't it; that Jesus supplies our needs according to the goodness of God. As we notice the letter here in Colossians, Paul wants these believers to know that nothing needs to be added. He is the source of their salvation and He is enough. And when anything is added to the message of Jesus Christ, it begins to weaken or to dilute that message of Jesus. It takes away from the glory and the splendor and the power of that Good News. Today we might call that a watering down or a diluting of the gospel message. A number of years ago when my children were young it was time for them to move on to something more than just milk and water to drink, and so I gave them apple juice. I did not give them the apple juice that adults might drink today, because it would be too strong. I thought it might damage their bodies, or their bodies might not be ready for such a strong drink, and so I would water it down. I added even more water to that apple juice thinking they could handle that just a little bit better. And that is the idea behind what Paul is trying to communicate here. Do not water down the Gospel message. Jesus is enough. The powerful Gospel story of Jesus Christ is sufficient to provide exactly what is needed. Now, Paul makes that point even stronger later on in the 2nd chapter. Notice these words beginning with verse 20 and going through verse 22 of chapter 2: "Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belong to it, do you submit to its rules? Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch, they are all destined to perish with use because they are based on human commands and teachings." Paul seems to go back to some Old Testament teaching as he writes these words. Time and time again, God encouraged and instructed, He even commanded His people the Israelites to have nothing to do with the foreign nations around them. He did not want them to engage in any of their evil practices. He did not want them to take part in any of the things that they were doing that would take away from their relationship with Him. Basically, God told them do not touch, and do not taste, and do not handle, and so Paul states the same thing here to these Christians in Colossae. He reminds them their life belongs to Christ, their loyalty belongs to Him, therefore no longer pursue those things offered by the world. In fact, they are to identify and resist the false teaching that is being proclaimed among them. Once again he reminds them there is absolutely no value in any of these things because they take away from the supremacy of Jesus Christ. Instead, the Christians in Colossae were to pursue Jesus and find contentment in Him. They were to recognize that they didn't need anything else. He was all-sufficient and Jesus could provide exactly what they needed. The believers' allegiance was to be to Jesus alone. No doubt that is the same message that we have before us today. Our allegiance is to be to Jesus Christ, and there really is no need to add anything to Him. Now, since Jesus is the source of their life, Paul emphasizes that is exactly where they are to place their attention. They are to focus on Jesus. That is where Paul goes next in the letter of Colossians, as we turn our attention now to chapter 3, and let's begin reading with verse 1 and go through verse 4. Paul writes these words: "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above and not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." When I think about the letter of Colossians, this seems to be the primary passage. This seems to be the summary statement from Paul for his entire letter. Because you have died to the things of this world, now you have been raised up in Jesus Christ; therefore, set your minds on Jesus. Think about Him. Think about those things that are above, where Jesus is seated at God's right hand, and then envision a time when you can be there also. Yes, Paul states, because of who Jesus is, because He provides everything you need, then focus your attention upon Him. Certainly that is some Good News, encouraging words for us today. Yes, the apostle wants these believers to maintain their focus on the One who gave His life for them. We drop down later on in chapter 3 and we even find in verse 11 Paul states: "Christ is all you need." No doubt that applies for us today: Christ is all we need. So, in order to stay focused on Jesus, there are some changes that might need to be made. There might be some adjustments that are to take place in one's life if we are to set our sights and our thoughts and our focus on Jesus. We notice that in verses 5 through 14. In these verses, and we won't take time to read them all, Paul identifies two things. He has two lists. The first list are some things to put off, to put to death or do away with, and then the other list are some things to put on, to replace those things which are bad and negative. Yes, there is to be a separation from what the world pursues and a clinging to what belongs to the Lord. Let's look at these two lists. First of all, there are some 12 bad things to put away from one's life, for example, sexual immorality, and greed, and anger, slander and lying. And no doubt there are other things that can be added to the list that Paul has here in these verses. But in everything we are to put our hearts and our minds on Jesus. In other words, we are to get rid of those things that belong to our earthly nature, verse 5, and have nothing to do with them anymore; and, that's what happens when we are focused on Jesus. As I look at this list, I realize there are some things on it that are still a part of my life. I wish they weren't. I wish I could put those things to death, as Paul instructs me to do. Let me say it this way, when our old, sinful ways are put away, our desire to live in them begins to die. And that's the encouragement from Paul, begin to put away those things from your life, get rid of them, put them to death; and once you do, you no longer will have a desire to pursue them. They will no longer be something that you want to focus on. They will simply become wants, and you know that those things are unimportant. We notice next Paul highlights some 11 good things to put into a person's life, that take the place of those 12 things that are put to death. That is where he goes next. We notice that in verses 12 through 15, he mentions things like compassion, humility, patience, forgiveness, and most of all love. Those, again, are just some of the characteristics that highlight a person's life who belongs to Jesus. And once again, there are many other things that can be added to that list, a list of things that take the place of those things that take one's time and focus and attention away from the Lord. In other words, everything that represents a life that belongs to the Lord, as we read in verse 4. Now, once again there are some things on that list that are not a part of my life, and I wish they were a part of my life. Perhaps you can relate to that as well. As I think about the process of putting to death and then putting on, as I think about the lists that Paul has here in Colossians chapter 3, I realize that sometimes that's a challenge. It doesn't happen overnight. We cannot simply put to death and then make alive, in our life, these two lists the moment we become a Christian. It doesn't just happen but it takes time. Yes, living a life that has been changed by Jesus is an ongoing process. And so, with all of that in mind, Paul seems to summarize or present to us a picture of what that now looks like, and he mentions that in the 3rd chapter. Let's notice these words, beginning with verse 15 and reading through verse 17: "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you are called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." That's a great summary statement: Live a life that is filled up with peace, and unity and Jesus, and in everything that is said and done give thanks to God. We don't have any time left to pursue our wants and our desires, rather, we are focused on what we need in Jesus Christ. Like these early Christians, we are constantly presented with new ideas and philosophies. We are encouraged to add more stuff to our life in hopes that it will be more complete and better, and yet anything else that we add to Jesus is really unnecessary. Perhaps you have heard phrases like these: "Well, just a little bit more, then I will be happy;" or, "Greed is good, and I don't mind being a greedy person;" or maybe this one, "The one who dies with the most toys wins." We have heard statements like that before, haven't we? All of those simply say the same thing. The temptation to gain more, to achieve more, to add more to our life will make our life more complete. That was the temptation that was facing the Christians in Colossae, and it still faces us today. And yet, the excess of this world cannot add anything more to our life than what God has already added, through His son Jesus Christ. A number of years ago a good friend of mine shared with me this statement: "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." Perhaps we understand that. The main thing is for us to keep the main thing, Jesus Christ, the main thing in our life. Yes, the main thing in the letter of Colossians is "Jesus is enough; nothing else needs to be added to Him." One way we might summarize Colossians is to say this: Jesus satisfies everything we need and everything else is what we want. My encouragement is for you to focus on Jesus Christ in your life, and when you do, you will have everything you need.
There is a never ending stream of influences that constantly affect our lives. The culture, media, government, and a host of other things tend to move us away from our beliefs and convictions. The letter of Colossians encourages us to stay true to Jesus. No matter what others may consider to be an improvement on the way things are, or a different approach to our understanding of life, Paul wants Christians to put their trust only in the Lord. Because of our relationship with Him, we are not to get wrapped up in the things this world offers, but rather we are to keep our eyes focused on the only One who can save us. There is no better way for that to happen than when we allow God's Word to dwell within us.
Thank you for tuning in to "Key to the Kingdom." The message from Colossians is an important one and is most relevant in today's world. I hope you will spend even more time reading and studying this great letter. The ministry of "Key to the Kingdom" seeks to provide opportunities for you to know more about God's Word and especially His wonderful son, Jesus Christ and the gift of salvation. Through these messages, free Bible studies, and other teaching material, we want to work with you in walking with the Lord every day. We invite you to visit our website, keytothekingdom.com, and to find the messages and Bible studies that would be most beneficial. Everything offered requires no cost or commitment. You can even send me a message by email. I look forward to hearing from you regarding this message or our ministry. You might also consider calling the number on the screen. You can request a free Bible study sent to you by mail. Please leave your name and address, and we will send it out in a few short days. It is a 6 part correspondence course, which you can work through at your own pace. I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to study the Bible. Every week we try to share the messages that will bless you spiritually. If you would like to hear or view any of them again, they can be accessed through our website. As we close, let me say, again, thank you for spending some time with us today. Please join us again next time, as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."