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“Thankful for Riches, Reasoning, & Reality in Christ”

Oct.9/16 Thanksgiving Sunday - Col.2:1-10


It’s Thanksgiving Weekend – notorious for people stuffing themselves with a big turkey dinner, which has all the dynamic effect of making you want to curl up on a couch for a nap. But is there more to Thanksgiving than getting stuffed?

      “Stuff – and nonsense.” The church at Colosse was in danger of being waylaid by scammers posing as religious teachers. Persuasive speakers they were, too. We can sort of reconstruct the scam they were trying to sell by what the Apostle Paul says in contradiction. Some were promoting hyper-Jewishness, ritualistic legalism and ceremonialism, with a strain of asceticism thrown in (don’t eat this, don’t touch that). Some super-spiritual types were promoting worship of angels. Then there were those of more Gnostic flavour who held there were certain mysteries you had to get to know to really be “in the know”. They held that matter was basically evil and only spiritual entities truly good, so God would never do such a low thing as to become a mortal like us.

      Paul warns the church about such nonsense indirectly in vv4&8 of chapter 2: “I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments...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.” The language behind “takes you captive” is that of being dragged off as booty by a conquering horde. Persuasive arguments can be spiritually dangerous, however entertaining or impressive. “Human tradition” could refer to teachings of rabbis that had been passed on through the decades. “Basic principles of this world” – ESV “elemental spirits” – could refer to the inventive imaginations of respected philosophers. It was deceptive, deluding, fine-sounding but noxious nonsense.

      What “nonsense” is floating around today and ensnaring people, taking them captive? What are the heresies of OUR age? Consider how people might complete this sentence: “If I really want to be happy, I will...” (And fill in the blank) Finish the sentence and discern the gods of our age. There’s the ecological heresy: “If I really want to be happy, I will move out to the country and homestead off the grid on an acre self-sufficiently.” The technological god: “If I really want to be happy, I will get the latest virtual reality game and i-whatever.” The economic god, which drills in the mantra, “Go to school; get a job; work hard; retire rich; be a success!” The hedonistic (pleasure-focused) heresy: “If I really want to be happy, I will get high as a kite this weekend, and even higher next.” The athletic heresy: “To really be happy, I need to go to the gym, work out, lose 20 pounds, and be the envy of all who see me.” There is even a religious heresy, which can run something like this: “To be really happy and blessed, I must go to church every Sunday (twice is best), give my tithe, teach Sunday School or be on the church board, make sure I exceed the dress code, ensure my children are perfectly behaved at all times, etc etc etc.”

      All these attitudes are common, persuasive – and dangerously deceptive. Those who pursue them come up empty, hollow, they miss out on being truly satisfied; for they are depending on human conjecture rather than on Christ.

      To discover the path to true fulfilment, we need to repent, allow God to overturn our thought-patterns and show us His way.

      Yes, you still need to beware of religious scammers today. Here are some examples of misleading messages.

      Noah’s message from the steps going up to the Ark was not, “Something good is going to happen to you!” Amos was not confronted by the high priest of Israel for proclaiming, “Confession is possession!” Jeremiah was not put into the pit for preaching, “I’m OK, you’re OK!” Daniel was not put into the lion’s den for telling people, “Possibility thinking will move mountains!” John the Baptist was not forced to preach in the wilderness and eventually beheaded because he preached, “Smile, God loves you!” The two prophets of the tribulation will not be killed for preaching, “God’s in His heaven and all’s right with the world!”

      Instead, what was the message of all these men of God? Simple – one word: “Repent!” To repent is to turn from our sins and adopt a whole new approach, God's way.


True satisfaction and fulfilment, as Paul understood it, could only be found in one place: receiving Jesus Christ by faith. Not stuffing our bodies with turkey or addictive substances or religious rituals or a hundred other ways the deceiver might trick us into chasing after. Look closely at Colossians 2:9-10: “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.” Chew on THAT for a while!

             “All the fullness of the Deity lives IN CHRIST in bodily form.” All of God’s essential “godness” and attributes are found in Christ. As Paul wrote earlier in 1:15&19, “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God...God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him...” Jesus said in John 14:10, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”

             When you repent and receive Jesus as Lord of your life, you have ALL of God. The sense of the Greek here is, “You are in Him FILLED FULL.” Jesus is the only One who can truly satisfy and complete you, plug that God-shaped hole or vacuum at the centre of your soul. Accept no substitutes!! All other competitors are cheap frauds, that will only leave you disappointed, hungry, and empty – a chasing after the wind.

             After v10, Paul goes on to describe how God through Christ’s work on the cross has provided our forgiveness when we were dead in our sins. Yet religious types are quick to judge us by all kinds of ceremonial rules and dietary restrictions. The apostle concludes in v17: “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” ESV “the SUBSTANCE belongs to Christ.” Shadow vs substance.

             Suppose you’re walking along the sidewalk at night and you see a dark crooked wide line across your path. You look a little closer. If it’s a fallen branch, you’d better pick up your feet lest you trip; but if it’s just a shadow, you can walk right through it. Paul’s saying those religious calendar / dietary details were just shadows pointing to Jesus; the “substance” is found in Him. Similar to Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit...”

             Jesus is the Real Deal, trusting in Him you receive the whole shebang, ALL of God. No more of these heresies about needing to do “X” to attain communion with the divine. Robertson comments, “Paul here disposes of the Docetic theory that Jesus had no human body as well as the Cerinthian separation between the man Jesus and the aeon Christ.” Jesus in eternity, being in very nature God, made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness – put Himself at our disposal, in-flesh; humbled Himself and became obedient to death on a cross – to save us, and that our tongues might confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:6-11).


At our EMCC Pastors & Spouses retreat Tuesday, James Park introduced us to a circle with 4 quadrants, each with the letters A-S-I-A. These stand for a sequence in what he called the Performance-Driven Mindset: Achievement, Significance, Identity, Acceptance. The world tells us if we work hard and perform well in our business, that will give us significance. From that we derive a sense of identity - who we are, respectable in the business world; and acceptance. However this cycle is driven by fear. Will I achieve my production goals next month? Will the market flop? That person over there is getting ahead of me. Will others view me as a failure? And so on.

             However, for someone who trusts in Christ and honours Him as Lord of your life, the cycle works in reverse. We could call this the “Grace-Fuelled Outflow”. We believe Jesus died for my sins and through Him God the Father has reconciled me to Himself. Col 2:13f “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” That means I’m ACCEPTED by the most important being in or beyond the whole universe!

             By faith in Jesus, I am “in Christ”, I have a new IDENTITY. I know now God loves me and values me, so I have worth and SIGNIFICANCE. I no longer have to perform to try and earn that! That frees me from fear of failure or inadequacy. God’s grace now empowers me to live for Him and others. So now out of Acceptance, Identity, and Signficance springs Achievement. God’s grace has reversed the direction and anxiety of the Performance-Driven Mindset.

             In vv2-3 and 6-7 Paul describes how this being rooted or grounded in Christ as the source of our identity has a positive transforming effect on our lives and relationships, and creates a grace-based outflow. Vv2-3 talk about Paul’s goal for our knowing Jesus in His fullness. Col 2:2-3 “My purpose is that they [believers at Laodicea and elsewhere] may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Having a relationship with Jesus leads to unpacking God’s mysteries. We enjoy “full riches” of understanding in Christ. This connects with being united or “knit together” in love, and encouraged – paracleted: same term as Jesus used to refer to the Holy Spirit.

             Thus grounded, we WALK – moving forward, step by step. Vv6-7 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” This living-out is based on something firm, Christ who gives us rooting and foundation and strengthening. Far from being fear-driven or guilt-based, such grace moves us to OVERFLOW WITH THANKFULNESS. ESV “abounding in thankfulness”. As Paul put it elsewhere to the Ephesians (5:20), “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

             So today, this weekend, what’s “Thanksgiving” really about? Not about being stuffed with turkey. Or even a good harvest, a home, a healthy bank account. Not the material “stuff” – instead, the REAL SUBSTANCE, Jesus Christ in whom we are FILLED FULL. We are complete, we are “enough”, we are fundamentally satisfied and fulfilled knowing Him through whom and for whom all things were made. Thankfulness for that overflows in loving response to the situations in which we find ourselves – opportunities to bless others.


In the early days of Wycliffe Bible Translators in Mexico, Cameron Townsend, the founder, tried to get permission from the Mexican government to translate the Scriptures into the languages of the In-than tribes. But the government was adamantly opposed to it. The official to whom he had to appeal told him, "As long as I am in this office the Bible will never be translated into the Indian languages – it would only upset them." Townsend did everything he could think of, went to every official he could find, and had all his Christian friends praying that God would open this door. But it seemed to remain totally closed.

             Finally, Townsend decided to give up pressing the issue. He and his wife went to live in a little, obscure Indian village, learned the language, ministered to the people as best they could, and waited for God to move. It was not very long before Townsend noticed that the fountain in the centre of the village plaza produced beautiful, clear spring water, but that it ran off down the hill and was wasted. He suggested that the Indians plant crops in an area to which the water could easily be diverted and thus make use of it. Soon they were growing twice as much food as before, and their economy blossomed as a result. The Indians were grateful. Townsend wrote this up in a little article and sent it to a Mexican paper he thought might be interested.

             Unknown to him, that article found its way into the hands of the President of Mexico, Lazaro Cardenas. The President was amazed that a gringo would come to live in and help a poor Indian village where he couldn't even get many of his own people to live. The President wanted to meet Townsend, so he, his limousine, and his attendants drove to that little Indian village and parked in the plaza.

             Cameron Townsend is not one to miss an opportunity. He went up to the car and introduced himself and, to his amazement, heard the President say, "You're the man I've come here to see! Tell me more about your work." When he heard what it was, the President said, "Of course you can translate the Scriptures into the Indian languages!" That began a friendship that continued throughout the lifetime of President Cardenas. His power and authority were used of God all those years to open doors to Wycliffe Translators throughout Mexico.

             Col 2:10, “You have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” Even presidents of nations! Be encouraged, keep quietly overflowing in His love with thankfulness. Let’s pray.