Paul: Colossians 2.
The knoweledge of God's mystery is Christ.
God is the ultimate mystery. God is the infiniate mystery.
God is the one object you will never find in the universe.
If you were to search the whole universe, the one thing that you wouldn't find, is God.
When I talk with athiests, I ask "what do you mean by atheism?
Eventually, it comes to this: it's the belief (and it is a belief. It's a faith system.) - There is no God.
Well, technically I agree with part of that.
"There" (adverb, denoting place & location)
You can't just look around the universe and say "ah, there he is."
It doesn't work that way.
There IS for example, a planet called neptune, and it's right there. There's a place called Arizona, there's a table here, with my notebook on it. And it's right here.
But God's not like that. He's not an object to simply be found at a certain place. - Like a planet, or restaurant.
No, God is the creator. And he creates from outside of the universe.
He's not an object within his own creation, he creates outside himself.
Are you with me?
Let me say it this way: On our own, we can no more find God than bilbo baggins can find JRR Tolkein.
(Read LOTR?) - The Lord of the Rings. Big book. - Big collection of books.
Bilbo Baggins is one the main characters.
Lots of different characters. Name some.
Bilbo Baggins, try as he might, the one thing he's not going to find is J.R.R Tolkein.
Bilbo Baggins is created by J.R.R. Tolkein.
As Bilbo goes through middle earth, he won't find J.R.R. Tolkein.
I don't know it Bilbo ever suspected a creator outside of middle earth, but I know that we do.
We human beings, have a sense, and it's universal, outside times and culture, we have this sense that there's something beyond ourselves.
There's a great mystery out there. Somewhere.
Throughout history, we've created theories about this great unknown.
Traditionally throughout history, these theories have been polytheostic, which means that the belief is that there's many God's.
But then from Abraham and the jewish faith comes the idea that God. Is. One.
One true & living God.
Great prayer - 'shama' - from the time of moses all the way up to today
(Jesus prayed): Found in Deuteronomy 6:4 - "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one"
Today, most of the world has a monothestic view of God.
This is the result of the Abrahamic faiths - jews, Christians, and muslims.
Wasn't always the case.
But Jesus has made the God of israel fameous.
Whether we say:
El - Elohim - Ela - Al'a' - Theos - Deos - Deu - Goot - God
those are human attempts - understand - mystery.
This idea is shaped - unconciesly, by our own culture.
Ex: Ancient greeks - talk about 'Theos' and Theos would look a whole lot like the greeks.
Ancient romans - talk about Dio, and Dio would look a whole lot like the romans.
Arabs - talk about 'Ala' and 'Ala' would look a whole lot like the Arabs.
Americans - 'God'.
My point: As Christians, agreeing that there IS A GOD, is not actually saying all that much.
When we do that, we often times create a God that looks mostly like us.
Why? B/C Bilbo Baggins has no real way of finding or understanding J.R.R. Tolkein.
Kurt Vonogurt, in one of his stories, - Slaughterhouse 5 - he actually writes himself into his own story.
One time the character is in a bar and has this chill, and he suspects that there's something else going on, and at that point Kurk Vonogut shows up and says 'Hi, I'm Kurt Vonogut, I created you."
Bilbo baggins in never gonna find J.R.R. Tolkein.
He's in a realm that the characters has no real access to.
UNLESS, J.R.R. Tolkein decides to write himself into the story.
IF he did that, then they could meet.
IF did that - we wouldn't have to guess.
He would be the word made character.
IF he did that, that character could say things like this: "I come from my father." "I do the will of my father." "I and my father are one." "He who has seen me, has seen the Tolkein."
This is something similar to how we understand the incarnation of Jesus Christ. - That which is inaccessible to us, chooses to show himself to us.
God, in order to redeem the story, bring light, and understanding, and salvation to the story of human history, God has, in Christ, written himself into the story.
Here's my point: In our search for understanding, we cannot start simply with 'God'. - If we do, we end up creating God in our own image. B/C we can't find him. So we make a God that is a 'Super-Us'. Our ideas, with super powers.
That's why it's so hard to have a 'multi-faith' conversation about God.
If I were talking to 3 hindu's, a muslim, and a buddhist, and I say 'God', well there's no common ground there.
So, as Christians, the place where our faith begins is with Jesus.
Now faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. (Nearly all new translations "Christ". 'Christos'.) (Romans 10:17)
Picture w/me: When the news comes to you, that Jesus is the son of God, and God has raised him from the dead.
And you - believe.
When you believe, you encounter the beauty, majesty of Jesus.
And THROUGH HIM, you begin to understand God.
And we begin THERE.
We don't start with God, we don't even start with the bible, Jesus is the starting point for the Christian faith.
For me - Christian life - summed up:
For me, the Christian life can be summed up as "Jesus, Etc."
The etc is quite vast. It's everything else. Family, Vocation, Talents, Wishes. But Jesus is the centering principle.
Everything else is going to radiate from that. Jesus informs everything else.
So once I make that leap of faith and believe that Jesus is the Christ, all the etc is informed by him.
Jesus - light - illuminates - 'etc'.
Jesus influences all of that.
What I think about - politics, ethics, philosophy, is influenced by Jesus.
There is to be no dark corner in my life where Christ doesn't reach.
He illuminates - ETC - our lives.
'My salvation - belong - certain church.'
Nominalism. Name only.
A lot of religous circles. - Ethnically Jewish / Catholic
We don't worship the bible. - We worship Jesus.
We use - perfect, inspired, beautiful bible :
Point us - center - faith : Jesus.
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (Luke 24:25)
Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:26)
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)
(Jesus appears - disciples) He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” (Luke 24:44)
(Religious leaders - working - sabbath) You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39)
If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. (John 5:46)
The purpose of the bible is to point you to Jesus. There's one mediator between God and man, the man, Jesus Christ. Not the bible.
Balance: Church and scripture are subordinate to Christ, but Church and scripture are essential if you're going to get Christ 'Right'.
My point: is not that other things aren't important.
My point: is that we must allow Jesus to inform the etc.
Not just spiritual part.
I want you to get to know Jesus in REAL LIFE.
But all too often we chop our lives up in small pieces
Christian Life / Work / Personal / Social / Family
One of the worst things we do is to confine Jesus to a religious/spiritual category. The moment you hear the word Jesus, we're having a conversation. 'CLICK'. OH I see, talking - spiritual things now. Marginalize him. It's one of the ways we go about making Jesus safe.
We love having Jesus involved in our spiritual life, esp when discussing post-mortem reality, but we're all little nervous about letting him loose in all of our life.
Please remember: Jesus ws crucified for involing himself in things people didn't want him involved in.
We don't want to give him the death penalty, we just want to give him life in prison, - encarcerate Jesus in the prison of 'spirituality'. And never let him go anywhere else.
But the goal as a follower of Jesus is to let EVERYTHING - All the ETC - informed by him.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6)
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, (Colossians 2:8)
By faith we recieve Jesus as Lord.
So we've made that leap of faith. And now that you've done that, Paul warnes us "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy"
In Pauls day, - LOTS -
So in Pauls day, there were lots of philosophies, stoicism, epicurianism, platonism, etc. LOTS.
"Don't get taken captive by those, and lose Christ."
So now - dominant view - world : stoicism, epicurianism, platonism, don't let that happen.
Most readers today though, read that and say "Whew!!! No danger of that happening to me! Cuz I don't study philosophy!'
"That's for those eggheads that read philosophy, they better watch out for that!"
Not the case.
Small point: he didn't say don't know them or even like them, just don't get taken captive by them.
The philosophies of today are mainly : Economic, Political, and Social.
What would Paul say about these philosophies?
First answer: I don't know. He never encountered either of them.
I'd assume there would be things he'd like, and things he wouldn't (or at least be concerned about) of both.
But MOSTLY, I think he would say this: Be careful that you're not taken captive by these philosophies instead of by Christ!
Instead I want you captivated by Christ.
B/C I don't want your life to be:
Jesus, ETC. - Everything else - informed by Christ.
You can't make Jesus a servant to any particular philosophy.
I personally, prefer :
But I recognize that none of those are The kingdom of God.
My point: We can't be taken captive by them, we have to be taken captive by Christ.
If you confuse the gospel of Jesus with any Philosophies, Paul would say 'Oh, you've been taken captive.'
Or if we think that what the world needs MOST is democracy and capitalism, Paul would say 'You've been taken captive by those philosophies instead of by Christ.'
B/C what the world REALLY needs, is the reign of Christ.
Jesus - Savior - world. - Healer of Hostilities
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, (Colossians 2:9)
Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus is God writing himself into the story.
He's done it in order to redeem and fix the story.
Think about it like this: For God so loved the story, that he wrote himself in, bled, suffered, died, and rose again. So now, whoever believes in Him, might have full, meaningfull, eternal, life.
When you use an illustration, you have to be careful b/c it always breaks down at some point.
As tolkein writes his book, his characters ultimately have no free will. They just do what he writes them to do.
But God is much greater than tolkein.
God in his omnipotence and sovereignty, wrote us into the story and gave us a measure of free-will. So that we still make authentic choices within the story.
Our free will is not limitless. We can't jump out of the book and go do something else. No we have constraints, but within those, we have choice.
Jesus writes himself into the story.
We hear and believe, and make that leap of faith.
Our response: to believe in Jesus. And not just the 'he saved us from our sins by forgiving us' part. Of course that's true and the beginning point. But also, believe what he teaches us concerning life.
We begin to take seriously the gospels, and the sermon on the mount, and everything that Christ himself taught.
B/C we believe he's God writing himself in to the story.
No one has the clout that he does. Everyone else is a character in the story, he's the author. And he's come into the story to tell us and show us a way to live right.
So we have to believe in Jesus in that sense too. That his words are more true than the rest of the words. - Doesn't matter if they're coming from Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump or Thomas Jefferson.
Don't be overcome by the philosophies of the day.
Important - comes to your relationship w/the church.
I don't mean BCA, I mean the society of followers of Jesus known as the church.
B/C if you're not careful, western philosophies that compete with the message of Christ will cause you to have a dysfunctional relationship with the church.
Here's some philosophies that would ultimately compromise the message of Christ if we become taken captive by them.
If your life becomes individualism, etc, instead of Jesus, etc.
Church catering to you. - You're likes, dislikes, musical preferences, your outreach preferences, your theological preferences. - It's all about you.
Individualism is not a bad thing. Look at me! - But you can't be taken captive by it, or you'll miss Christ.
B/C while God has made us individuals, our highest calling, ultimately, is to be followers. - Our job is not to be critics, our job is to faithfully follow.
"I don't follow nobody!" - You'll miss Christ.
Called you - submitted life.
If life becomes "Consumerism, ETC" :
You'll start to think that church is there for you to come and receieve only. It never becomes a place where you GIVE.
You're a comsumer, you consume. And once you're done, you leave. The result is overworked, underappreciated servants in the house of God.
Pastor said on Sunday that for the church, it's 'All hands on deck.' - That means you. But you might be tempted to stay away from serving B/C you've been taken captive by comsumerism.
And Paul is saying 'be careful that you're not taken captive by consumerism instead of by Christ!' B/C Christ calls you to not just be served, but to serve.
And if you end up making this hybrid of consumerism and Christianity, you'll have is something that doesn't help you, and it doesn't help others.
"Not a philosophy!" - yes it is.
Pessimism is a legitimate way of being a Christian in the world in 2015. You're Christian life becomes mostly about what you oppose.
People do it ALL THE TIME.
If life becomes "Pessimism, ETC" :
Your primary goal as a follow of Christ is to be in oppose things.
As if Jesus came to serve as a big list of all the nasty things that we should sake our fingers at as Christians. You can never see the beauty in what God's doing.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:18)
If you life your life as a pessemistic christian, you're going to miss the beautiful things that God is doing now.
If we as followers of Jesus ever become more about opposing than supporting, I believe Paul would come to us and say 'Be careful to not be taken captive by pessimism instead of by Christ.
The whole Christian experience changes when you truly believe that the light is winning.
Don't - pessimist - Christian faith - Feast - Christ. Celebration - victory.
Individualism, Consumerism, Pessimism - don't let em get ya.
We've talked about in weeks past how God is a personal savior, but also a savior on a global level.
He comes and saves us from our personal sin, and gives us new life.
ALSO, at work bringing healing to the nations.
It's not one or the other, it's both.
It's easy and it's SAFE to think of him as a personal God who comes into your heart and makes things happy, but it's much harder to think of Jesus as the savior of the world.
That's why - easy - think -
Is the Savior / world. They're important. - But Jesus - savior - world.
So if you were to ask me, 'What are your politics?' I would say to you 'Jesus. Is. Lord.'
My life is Jesus, ETC. Everything is informed by him.
As an alternative society known as the church, we should form our society according to what we see set forth by Christ in Matthew 5,6,7.
The way that we help bring the rule of Christ to pass on a global level, is not to force people to live under the reign of Christ. That would make Jesus a tyrant.
The way we help bring the rule of Christ to pass is by living as an alternative society.
"That looks better. I like that better."
'Kingdom of God' - increases.
"The worlds not gonna do that!"
Yes they are.
Paul : God - use - church - shame - principalities / powers.
It's the message of the cross.
Endured 2000 years.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Through - worlds philosophies - foolish/Weak. - Power.
If we believe in Christ, we must have the courage to let his mission become our mission.
We bring the reign of Jesus on a global level not by forcing people.
At various time, specifically the medival period, we thought this was a good idea. Come under Christs rule or we'll kill you. Convert em with the sword.
"Want - Christian don't you?"
"Funny, - just thinking."
Doesn't work like that.
Rather, we live as a society with Christ at the center. We live as 'Jesus, Etc'.
World looks - Sees - beauty/shalom of it. Become a part.
As they pass : Spend a minute thinking about:
The center of your life - Is it Jesus?
Or maybe do you need His help rearranging?
That's what his grace does. It fixes broken things. - Broken ways of thinking / acting.
When you invite him in to the center of your life, allow him full access to every part of your life, he doesn't come in and break stuff , he comes and fixes things.
Fixes Broken : Hearts / relationships / situations / Ways - thinking / acting / relating.
Jesus at the center.
I'd like us to spend a couple minutes tonight as we close - looking to Jesus, in your own way saying to him 'You're my king.' 'You're my Lord'
I've asked Jaris to come up and sing for just a minute and then I'll close us out in prayer.
You're - King - Lord.