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Discerning or Deceived July 24, 2016

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Colossians 2:6-15
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
July 24th, 2016

Focus: God makes alive in the blood of Christ.
Function: That the hearers discern against all forms of deception.
Structure: Walking through the text.

Discerning or Deceived

As you well know, I had the opportunity to spend the past week with fourteen of our high school youth, along with our DCE Dave Erickson, Gary Betcher, and Myrna Welter, in the southern city of New Orleans.  We gathered together for the National Youth Gathering with 25,000 other people from around the globe to deepen our faith and to worship our Savior.

Next week, during the service, our youth will be sharing their trip with you.  They’ll talk about the themes, the things they learned, the ways they served, the highs and lows of their trip.  I don’t want to spoil that tonight, but I do want to give a few examples since it’s so fresh in my mind.

One of our youth mentioned on the bus ride back to the airport that their favorite part of the trip was listening to me discerning things.  They noticed as we sat at some of the mass events in the Super Dome, they noticed that I was sitting there saying, “That’s not what the Bible says,” “that’s not quite what we believe.”  This particular youth appreciated hearing and learning what the Bible really says.

And I want to begin by encouraging you.  I want to encourage by telling you that our youth are discerning.  They are listening, they’re watching, and they’re asking questions.  At one point the mass event welcomed Christian teens from around the world, announcing the various countries these young kids are coming from.  And just a section away from us at the dome, a large group busted out at into chants of “U! S! A!  U! S! A!”  Tanner and Amelia immediately knew this was out of place.  They recognized that these chanters cared more about their nationality than their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Tucker knew there was something strange about the theme on one of the nights.  They were stressing that in Christ, we are good enough.  He noticed that the New Testament never speaks that way.  Nate noticed that some of the contemporary music Christians sing today has no substance.  It was stuck in his head, he was singing it.  But in his own words, “we’d sing a line or two, and then we’d sing ‘nothing but the blood of Jesus’ for like five minutes.’”  And Autumn and Morgan, and probably many others were more than thrown off by interpretive dancers in the worship service.

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  We’re not being ungrateful for your support as we went on this trip.  It’s like any other.  There are highs and lows.  There were some great things this week, and we will hear them unpack that next weekend.  But I also encourage you to know that your youth are beginning to discern.  And I’d gladly pay oodles of money to give my daughters the gift of discernment.  It’s a good thing.  They have a ways to go, we all do, like when I wanted to play whack a mole on their heads during communion when several of them were playing on their cell phones.

But I bring all this up because that’s a key component of our text.  And it makes for a very difficult sermon.  “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.”  Discern what you’re hearing, seeing, and learning.  Don’t be deceived, but follow Christ.

On the flight to and back from New Orleans, I was reading this book, unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters.  The author is the president of Barna Research group, so he knows his stuff.  I’m only a few chapters in, but it’s an intriguing book so far.  But what I want to share with you from it tonight is this graph.  Slide.

 

Just at this moment, we’re not really looking at the age differences, although the author is, and it does matter.  But we’re looking at the graph as a whole.  The top two bars are people in this nation who claim to be Christian.  The middle group are those who are more committed to their faith, almost a churchgoing level.

But it’s the last two bars that are disturbing.  These represent the percentage of people in America who hold to a Biblical worldview.  Simply put, that means Scripture alone, that they allow the Bible to be the source and guide of their life rather than other things.

They aren’t being deceived.  Held captive by philosophy.  By human tradition.  Here’s a challenge for you to think about.  Your pastors in the pulpit are shackled by the government.  Our tongues are tied.  There are certain things I can’t tell you from the pulpit, or the government will revoke our tax exempt status.

Let me give you an example.  Here’s a quote from one of the two major parties’ candidates for President this fall: “Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will.  And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”  Did you catch that?  One of the presidential candidates is on record saying that politics, government, must forcibly coerce the church to change her doctrine.  You should want to know who said that.  But I can’t tell you as it might sway your vote.  How do you feel knowing that your pastors are limited in what they can teach by the government?

But we’re deceived in so many ways.  Take evolution as an example.  You’re paying for it to be force fed to your children and grandchildren, and neighbors in their classrooms.  Some of you enjoy watching a certain TV show that attacks your faith, that seeks to undermine your worldview, in the very opening theme song.  You’re willing to give in for a few laughs.

And here is where I say this sermon gets difficult.  Where do you draw the line?  The moment we look for pure entertainment, the moment we say we can’t watch anything with sin in it, we have to pluck out our eyes, block off ears, and pretty much cease to live.  Because sin surrounds us.  We live in a broken world.  We’re broken.

But does that mean we never have a line?  What about pornography?  Now is there a line?  Discern or deceive.  That’s our challenge.  Can you watch a sinful TV show and discern what is good and evil?  Can you enjoy an R-rated movie and see the struggle, the tension, the battle between the Savior-figure and the enemy?  I would say you can answer yes to those questions.  I’m not sure there’s any saying grace to porn.  So, even with no line, there’s still a line.  That’s why this is difficult to preach.

Or cultural movements.  We’ve been deceived by what’s called third wave feminism.  It has literally stripped away all value from manhood in our society.  And it’s roots go back to earlier forms of feminism, too.  Again, how far back do you have to go to see a TV sitcom where the husband and dad isn’t a complete doofus and mom runs the house?  Andy Griffith?  Men my age see no point or purpose to marriage anymore.  Even young Christian men.  They’ve been deceived.

Let me show you how the author David Kinnaman defined a biblical worldview.  From page 75:

A person with a biblical worldview experiences, interprets, and responds to reality in light of the Bible’s principles.  What Scripture teaches is the primary grid for making decisions and interacting with the world.  For the purposes of our research, we investigate a biblical worldview based on eight elements.  A person with a biblical worldview believes that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life, God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and he still rules it today, salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned, Satan is real, a Christian has a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people, the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches, unchanging moral truth exists, and such moral truth is defined by the Bible.

 

And then we look at that number.  It’s no wonder church attendance in America is rapidly declining.  These people have no root.  They have no Christian foundation whatsoever.  And that’s why I began this sermon with that encouragement.  That our youth are learning discernment.  There’s a ways to go, always is, but they’re learning.  And we need to keep teaching them.

So let’s return to the text

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

 

 

 

This is the root.  This is thrust of the text.  Remain in Christ.  Be rooted in Jesus, be built up in the Lord.  Be established in the faith.  As you were taught, and abound in thanksgiving.  He’s going to explain more of this foundation later, but Christ is your root.  He’s your rock, your foundation.

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.

 

We’ve talked about this one at length.  We have to be rooted in Christ, to be able to discern what is from God and what is from men.

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

 

How amazing is it to stop and think about what that means.  God fit Himself into human flesh.  Wow!  And now you are filled in Him.  He is the head, the rule, the authority.  Not the government, not entertainment, not our culture, not our schools.  But Christ alone.  And here it gets good!

11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,

 

This isn’t foreskins circumcision like in the Old Testament.  This is done without hands.  As Paul would describe it to the Galatians, it is the circumcision of our hearts.  That we are renewed in Christ.  That the old sinful self, the sinful desires of a sinful flesh would be cast off.  And how does this happen?  I’d ask my daughter, but I don’t think Eliana’s ready to answer just yet!  So let’s listen to Paul:

12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

 

Buried with Christ in your baptism.  Just as Eliana is this weekend.  God proclaims you to be His child.  He drowns the sinful flesh.  He raises you from the dead by connecting you, by burying you with His Son Jesus Christ.

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

 

You were dead.  You were uncircumcised.  But God raised you to life.  God made you alive.  God forgives you of all your sins.  Not just the little ones.  All of them.

14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

 

If we took your life and wrote all your sins of thought, word, and deed, in a book, it would be bigger than this room.  A record of debt.  In no court room could you stand.  The law demands death.  And God gives death.  By nailing His Son to the cross.  The book, the record of debt, the porn, the lies, the deception, the false trust, the times you give in to the whims of our culture, gone.  Nailed to the cross.

15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

 

The Greek text supports changing that last word from “him” to “it.”  That Christ triumphed over them in it, that is in the cross.  The might of Rome.  The power of Satan.  The deception of America.  These things cannot stand before the throne of God.  On that cross, He’s victorious.  He has disarmed them.  He has taken away all their bite, all their sting.  And He has done that for you.

The gift of discernment is crucial for Christians, that we can be above deceit.  You learn discernment here at St. John’s.  You learn discernment when you open the precious Word of God and read it, and inwardly digest it.  But even in these things, the home, the family cannot be downplayed.  God has given it to parents to teach their children to discern.

Discerning or being deceived is a difficult thing.  But every time you walk through these doors into this worship service confessing your sins before the Almighty Father, your sins are forgiven.  Your roots in Christ are strengthened.  Every time you partake of the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of your sins, your roots in Christ alone dig just a little bit deeper.  Every time you hear His Word preached in its purity, Christ builds up your roots in Him.  Dear brothers and sisters, be rooted in Christ alone.