[Note: Mondays in chapel at the International Center we work through a Biblical book in small sections. Right now we are in Colossians. Yesterday, I had the privilege of preaching on Colossians 2:16-23. Blessings! + Herbert Mueller]

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. 20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

 

Dear People Redeemed by Christ: I have a confession to make…

There was a time when I was enamored with the charismatic movement. This may date me a bit, but as a student at Concordia, Ann Arbor in the early 70’s I regularly attended a charismatic prayer meeting.

I desperately wanted one of the impressive charismatic gifts that others seemed to have. The one I really wanted was the gift of prophecy – knowing the future. I thought that’d be really COOL.

One of those who seemed to be a leader of the group gave suggestions for spiritual exercises I might do to make way for the Spirit, to invite the Spirit, to make myself ready for the Spirit, etc.

Then when it didn’t seem to work, the intimation was that there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t doing it right. I had some unrepented sin I had to find that was blocking the Spirit…

Well, we grew past that, eventually, and I came to see that I was falling into the same spiritual trap that the people in Colossae were tempted with.

That’s the trap of thinking that somehow having Jesus, trusting Jesus, well, it isn’t quite enough. There’s got to be Jesus – AND. Jesus AND these spiritual exercises designed to pull in the Holy Spirit. Or, in Colossae, Jesus AND – making sure you follow the Old Testament regulations concerning food and drink. Jesus AND making sure you observe the proper festivals.

Jesus AND – some kind of asceticism or worship of angels – whatever!

All these, Paul tells us,

“Have indeed the appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value…”

What about now?

How might WE be saying – Jesus AND… something else?

Think of the things you hear. What is the next latest and greatest plan for saving the church?

What is the next thing the church just HAS TO do or it will fade and become irrelevant?  What’s the thing people are saying is the thing you must do, or you are not missional? Or you are not doing it right?

Now I’m all for excellence, and for being faithful to the mission of the church, and faithful to the Scriptures and our confessions. That’s our calling!

But if we think the future of the church depends on US getting it right, we’ve got things all turned upside down. The Church has a future because Jesus promised –

“On this rock I WILL BUILD my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

The New Moon and Sabbath festivals and all that Paul mentioned, they are a shadow of things to come, but the substance, literally, the body, belongs to Christ.

When you are reading a mystery novel, you may not catch all the clues along the way. But after you read the ending and know how it all turns out, you go back and re-read earlier chapters to find all the clues that were there all along.

That’s how Paul reads the Old Testament. Everything points to Christ, but it’s often only in Christ, and knowing Christ crucified and raised from the dead that we look back and see everything that was revealed in the Old Testament, we look back and see it was ALL about Christ.

So, for us, WE are called, in everything,

“to hold fast to the Head, to Christ, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.”

In Christ, by our Baptism, we have died to the elemental spirits of the world… have died to everything that pulls us away from God, including our own sinful flesh.

Just BEFORE this section, Paul wrote that all our sins are nailed to the cross with Christ, to be buried in His grave forever. He took the indictment that was against us with its legal demands and REMOVED it forever. And just AFTER this, Paul will assure us that our REAL LIFE is hid with Christ in God.

So there is no such thing as Jesus AND – something else.

But our life, the forgiveness of our sins and our resurrection depend on JESUS ONLY.

Jesus ONLY – in His Word.

Jesus ONLY – in whom we are baptized into His death and resurrection.

Jesus ONLY – who feeds us with His body and blood.

Jesus ONLY – who fills us with His Spirit that we might grow into Him who is our Head.

Jesus ONLY – who will call us to Himself and raise us to life everlasting.

In the name of Jesus – Only.

Amen