All That We Need (Colossians 2:6-15)
All That We Need (Colossians 2:6-15)
Police in Houston are looking for a couple in their seventies who have been shopping for diamonds. After the couple came in three times to look at diamond earrings, one clerk became suspicious. She examined the diamonds and discovered that this couple had switched to cubic zirconias. The couple took diamonds worth $11,000 and left the zirconias behind, worth about $10.
Hemal Pathare is with Plaza Jewelry in Sharpstown. He says unless you’re an expert telling the difference is not always easy. “Especially when you’re in the middle of a good sale and you’re excited about making that sale and all of a sudden,” says Pathare. “And sometimes it’s your best customers that might do that to you and you just have to watch yourself and be careful.”
The moral of the story is that you should watch out for suspicious-looking elderly couples. Or maybe the moral is that if you’ve just bought expensive jewelry, you could have saved yourself a lot of money and got something that looks just as nice for about ten dollars. Think of the money you could have saved.
Or maybe the real moral of the story is about substitutes. It is hard for even a trained jeweler to tell a real diamond from a good fake.
The same is perhaps true about our lives in general. It is very difficult for even the smartest person to know when we’re encountering a cheap substitute for the real thing, in relationships, spirituality, philosophy, and in almost every area of life. It’s a sad thing to realize that we thought we had the real thing, when all along we had a $10 substitute that’s not even close in value.
The problem with us is not that we like nice things. The problem with us is that we are too quick to settle for substitutes for the real thing. Whoever said that good is the enemy of best was right. We settle for good and the good ends up being nothing like what we should have enjoyed. C.S. Lewis said this:
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (C.S. Lewis)
Let me float a theory. My theory is that one of our greatest spiritual temptations is that we tend to mistake counterfeit spirituality for the real thing. It could be argued that one of our greatest spiritual problems is that we often accept the counterfeit instead of pursuing the real thing.
Obviously it’s important to be able to identify the real thing then. I want to spend some time today looking at what the real thing is, spiritually speaking. The thing is, once you’ve experienced the real things, the fake things look pretty…well, fake. Christian spirituality is all about experiencing the genuine so that we won’t need or even be interested in anything less than the real thing.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time discussing the substitutes for the real thing, except to say they’re out there. There is a huge market for spirituality these days. It’s tempting to take it all in because we are so spiritually hungry. We live in a situation that is very similar to the one that the people of Colosse faced a couple of thousand years ago. There are so many options for spirituality out there that the problem isn’t finding one that looks good. The problem is that there are too many options, and so many of them look good.
I heard of a woman who went up to her pastor and said, “According to my horoscope, this would be a good week to preach on false teaching.” This lady was mixing and matching from different spiritual options out there.
I find that I’m often tempted to look for substitutes for the real thing, not so much in other belief systems. I don’t mix and match. I’m more tempted to think that there is some hidden piece of knowledge that I am missing. I think that if I just read one more book or master some important fact that I’ll be there.
This was the same situation in Colosse. Paul says in Colossians 2:8, “Don’t let anyone lead you astray with empty philosophy and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the evil powers of this world, and not from Christ.”
We don’t know the details, but somehow the church back then was tempted to accept some teaching as a substitute from Christ. Chances are that they weren’t even aware they were doing this. It’s usually subtle. We don’t set out to accept cheap substitutes. It just happens. Paul writes this letter to them and says, “Don’t settle for anything but the real thing. Don’t settle for anyone other than Jesus.”
This is important, because I don’t want to risk my spiritual life on something that ends up being a $10 substitute for the real thing. Why should I settle for substitutes? Paul gives us two reasons in this passage:
1. Jesus is everything you need
That’s the first reason. Don’t accept any substitutes for Jesus, because you have everything that you need in Jesus. When you have Jesus, you don’t need anything else. He is everything that you need.
It’s all who you know. In April 2001, in the midst of Israeli/Arab conflict, a motorcade carrying the Security Service Chief of Gaza came under bullet fire from Israeli troops. The frightened security official called Yasser Arafat from his car for help. Arafat, in turn called the U.S. Ambassador, who then called the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Colin Powell then phoned Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, who ordered the shooting to stop immediately. And it did. The Security Chief’s connections eventually saved his life.
It’s all who you know. Paul says, “You know Jesus, and that is all that you need. You don’t need to know anyone else.” You are connected to Jesus, and when you understand that connection, you don’t need anyone else. Substitutes are out of the question because there is no substitute for who Jesus is.
Paul says in verses 9 and 10: “For in Christ the fullness of God lives in a human body, and you are complete through your union with Christ. He is the Lord over every ruler and authority in the universe.”
Paul says that Jesus possesses two qualities that make him all that you need. First is that God’s fullness dwells in him. “In Christ the fullness of God lives in a human body.” When you follow Jesus, you are connected to Jesus. “You are complete through your union with Christ.” You are connected to the one who is God himself. He has a human body, yet he is God. Everything that it means to be God, Jesus has. We are not looking about someone who is like God. We are talking about someone who is God, and you are connected to him.
Here’s how it works: You are connected to Jesus. You are in him. The fullness of God is in Jesus. Get this? The fullness of God is in Jesus, and you are in Jesus. You are connected to God himself. In Jesus, you have everything that you need. “You are complete.”
God’s fullness is in Jesus, and his fullness is in you. You don’t need anything or anyone else, because you are connected to the one who is above everything. “He is Lord over every ruler and authority in the universe.”
The funny thing about this is that it is far from obvious. When Jesus walked around, nobody looked at him and said, “There goes all the fullness of God in a human body.” He looked like everyone else. He spoke with an accent and did everything a normal person does. Yet he was different; he was and is God.
It didn’t look like the Colossian Christians were any different than anyone else. Well, maybe they were a little different in their religious beliefs. They met together with other believers and people weren’t quite sure what to make of them. But nobody looked at them and said, “Look, they are connected to the one who has the fullness of God in his body. They are connected to the one who is above all things.” Yet they were. Nobody could tell the difference, but it was true.
Today, you and I don’t particularly look any different. People look at us and see that we have mortgages and jobs and kids and issues like everyone else. But we are different. We are in so close a relationship with Jesus that we get what he has. We find our completeness not in what we have, but what he gives to us. That completeness is more than enough because, well, he is God. There is nobody above him. Nobody pulls rank. He doesn’t need anyone to give him anything. Everything that we need, we have, because we are connected to the one who is above all things. He is everything that we need.
2. Jesus has done everything that you need
There are nights that there is nothing on TV. I hate to admit it, but on those nights I have sometimes stopped a little too long at the worst channel on the dial – the shopping channel. It is so bad that it is good. I can relate to the people who go to see the really bad movies because they are so entertaining. The shopping channel is like that. They act so surprised by what the products can do. They deserve Oscars for how they react with excitement to junk sometimes. It’s designed to make you think, “I have to have that!”
There is a huge market out there for pushing stuff. It’s no different spiritually. It’s tempting to buy books and attend conferences and go looking for products that are going to help us spiritually. We think we need to add something more, do something more.
Paul has already said that Jesus is all that we need. In this section, he goes further and explains that Jesus has also done everything that we need. Back then, the missing step that was being sold was circumcision. That’s a pretty tough sell. The Gentiles back then were being told that they needed to take the extra step of getting circumcised if they wanted to be Christians. “Jesus might be all that you need, but you still need to get circumcised,” they said. It’s the same as today, when you’re told you have to have Jesus plus read this book or follow these three steps or attend this seminar or whatever. Paul says no. Not only is Jesus all that you need, he has also done everything that you need.
According to Paul, you don’t need any extra steps, because it’s all been done for you already: “When you came to Christ, you were ‘circumcised,’ but not by a physical procedure. It was a spiritual procedure – the cutting away of your sinful nature” (Colossians 2:11). Paul told them that they didn’t need to be circumcised, because Jesus had already circumcised them – not physically, but spiritually. To which all the men said, “Whew!” They didn’t need to take any additional steps. They didn’t need Jesus plus something else. He is everything that they needed, and he had done everything that they needed done.
We don’t need to be circumcised or to do anything extra, because Jesus has already done everything necessary. It’s interesting where Paul goes with this thought. He says that God has given us a sign that we already have everything we need in Christ. That sign, according to Paul, is baptism: “For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to a new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).
There are probably quite a few here who haven’t been baptized yet. This wasn’t the case for the Colossian followers of Christ. Baptism marked the beginning of someone’s journey as a follower of Christ. Coincidentally, this should probably be the case for us as well. If you haven’t yet been baptized, we’d love to baptize you. Paul says, once you take the first step as a follower of Jesus Christ, everything that you need has been given to you. You are a full participant in everything that Jesus has done for you. Extra books or steps might be nice, but you don’t need them. You already have everything that you need.
Paul mentions two actions that Jesus has taken that give us everything that we need.
First, he has forgiven sins. Verses 13 and 14 say:
You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.
I just finished a project for my school. I sent it off by courier and felt great about it. A couple days later, another student asked, “Did you get this part done?” I said, “What part?” I went to the assignment and realized that I had forgotten to do something!
Paul talks about the list that contains what we were supposed to do, that makes it clear that we have not met all the requirements. Jesus has taken that list of our sins and shortcomings and nailed it to the cross. He has dealt with it permanently. We have been completely forgiven because of what Jesus has done for us.
Then, he’s also defeated evil: “In this way, God disarmed the evil rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross of Christ” (Colossians 2:15). Paul’s already talked about the powers of evil in this universe. There is evil in this world. Jesus has dealt with them all, though. The Message puts it this way: “He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.”
You don’t need anything more than what you’ve been given. If you are in relationship with Christ, you have already been given everything that you need. Don’t ever settle for substitutes, because in Jesus, you have everything that you need.
The Message provides a fitting conclusion in its paraphrase of verses 6 and 7:
My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.
School’s out. You don’t need anything more. Jesus is and has done everything that you need. Just go and live like you have everything that you need in Jesus.