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 resturant.
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 polytheistic, 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 monotheistic 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 famous.
Whether we say:
El - Elohim - Ela - Ala - Theos - Deos - Deu - Goot - God
Those are human attempts - understand - mystery.
This idea is shaped - unconsciously, 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.
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 it.
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.
Some of the etc includes things like bible and the church.
That's some very significant ETC. But it's ALL subordinate to Christ.
You can't replace Jesus with the church. - Nominalism. - The idea is 'My salvation belongs to the fact that I belong to a certain church. - Nominalism. Name only.
Fundamentalism is where Jesus can become subordinate to the bible.
Here's where you'd get the idea that John 3:16 saves you. It doesn't. You're not saved b/c there's an ancient text that we call the gospel of John.
No, you're saved by Jesus. And John witness TO that. That's part of how that faith comes to you, but don't mistake them. The bible doesn't save you, Jesus saves you.
Jesus to pharisees
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, (John 5:39)
yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:40)
There's one mediator between God and man, the man, Jesus Christ. Not the bible.
Balance: Church and scripture are subordinate to Christ, but you're not gonna get Christ right without scripture and the church.
If we don't allow Christ to inform all of the etc, then we take Jesus into a small corner and say 'Jesus, be the savior of my soul.' And here is all the religious parts of my life and I'll come visit you on sundays. So stay right here. And keep me relgiously saved, and I'll come visit you on Sunday.' We'll have an hour and a half on Sunday. And I'll bring you a little offering.
Like Jesus is stuck away in a nursing home. And you go see him. On your terms. - Doesn't work that way.
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"
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.
So with that said: The philosophies of our day, are primarily political and economic philosophies.
If I walked around this room and said 'Tell me what you think about politics.' 'Tell me what you think about economics.' - Everyone of you would be a full-on philosopher.
Ex: democracy / autocracy (where one person has absolute power), well those are two different philosophies.
Egypt - unrest there. - They've had autocracy, now they want democracy. - Seems like that's happening.
In our particular context here in america, we're dominated by the philosophies of democracy and capitalism.
I want you to understand: those are philosophies. One political and another economic.
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, perfer domocracy as a political philosophy and I prefer capitalism as an economic system, but I recognize that neither one is the kingdom of God. And there are problems with both.
Ex: In democracy, if you're not careful, there's an incredible overemphasis on 'self'.
Ex: And there is a brutal side to capitalism. - Where the weak can be thrown under the bus.
BUT : I don't KNOW of a better system than either. It's like Winston churchhill who said 'Democracy is the worst system of government except for any other.'
In other words, it's the best of these terrible systems that we have.
My point: We can't be taken captive by political and economic philosophies. we have to be taken captive by Christ.
If we think of the gospel of Jesus is essentially democracy or capitalism, 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.
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.
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 it's so easy to instead think of democracy as the savior of the world. It's not. Jesus is.
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.
I could go a little more specific and say 'The Sermon on the Mount'. - It's the most political and economic that Jesus ever got.
If you were to go read Matthew 5,6,7 and vote for the candiate who's message looks the most like that, I think you'd be doing alright.
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.
You "The world isn't going to do that." - "Not unless they confess Jesus as Lord." But if they did, then they should live that way. - Since we HAVE, we should live that way.
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 on a global level is by living together as a society under Christ's reign and rule here and now and attract people.
"That looks better. I like that better."
In fact, Paul say in Eph (and a little in Col) - That that's God's plan.
He wants to shame the principalities and powers of this age through the church.
The church produces a dimension of unity, and peace, and harmony that the world cannot produce.
The plan is that the world would look at us and say 'Man, that's so much better than what we have.'
You can see this is democracy. People see democracy and say 'Hey, that looks better than living under a tyrant. We want that!'
And there's something even better than democracy, and that's the kingdom of God.
Friends - 'Feasability'
Me and some friends were talking a few weeks ago about let's say the 'Feasability' of being a society living under the reign of Christ.
It's hard. / Seems impossible.
But we can't read the words of Jesus and say 'Hmmm… We'll get back to you Jesus, we need to run a feasibility test.'
Ultimately, His vision is as feasible as he is. Seems low. But the message of Jesus has endured.
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 presently under the reign of Christ and people look at us and see the beauty of it. They see the 'shalom' of it. The peace of it. - And want to become a part of it.
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo - Canadian orthodox arch bishop - invited do a talk at an islamic conference in Istanbul.
Attended - Islamic scholars / 20,000 young muslims.
Invited to give a Christian perspective. - Attended by islamic students and scholars.
Invited to talk on the theme of the conference which was: Faith, Morality, and the future of human-kind.
So you have these muslims and they're thinking about how faith influences morality and how that influences our future.
My mind, and many peoples minds go to here is - Sharia Law - human society should be governed by Islamic law. - So from a western perspective, let's just say you wouldn't like it.
They FORCE you to do the 'moral' thing. They asked him to bring a Christian perspective.
He's informed by Christ, all the Etc in his life is shaped by Christ, and his talk is summed up in this one beautiful/brilliant statement: True morality consists in how well we care for one another, not in what behavior we impose on one another.
People get freaked out "We've got to have a moral society!" I agree. Archbishop Lazar says that from a Christian perspective, that is life informed by Christ, morality is not what behavior we impose on people, but in how well we care for one another.
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.
Is Jesus the center?
It's so easy to say that "Jesus is Lord" and yet so easy to wander off and make something/someone else Lord.
Tonight: as you take communion, I want you, in your own way, to say to Jesus "You're my king. You're my Lord."
And let tonight serve at a starting point for you viewing everything through the lens of Christ.
"Jesus, you're my king. And you're my Lord."