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Overcoming Spiritual Intimidation, Part 1 (Colossians Sermon 6 of 21)

Overcoming Spiritual Intimidation, Part 1 (Colossians Sermon 6 of 21)

September 30, 2007 | Andrew Davis
Fullness in Christ, False Teaching & False Teachers

Facing the Bully

Colossians 2:8-23 is a powerful passage in which the Apostle Paul is seeking to warn and protect the Colossian church against the heresies that are facing the church at that time. He is very specific in these verses regarding what it was that was facing the church, what was threatening the church.  As I look at this section of Scripture I begin to get the image of a bully on a playground, or in a school yard, or in other walks of life seeking to intimidate you, to move you, to throw you back, getting what he wants without even a fight through sheer intimidation. You've met these kinds of people.  And there are different kinds of bullies, everything from a young five or six-year-old, who happens to be a little bit bigger than a three or four-year-old, taking toys and there's nothing the three-year-old can do.  All the way up to something far more serious. I think about Adolf Hitler and how he basically bullied the world in the 1930s, taking over land that didn't belong to him, one country after another, just through sheer intimidation. Because Britain, France, and other countries didn't want to fight anymore after World War I, he just took over Czechoslovakia by bullying and intimidating the British Prime Minister. That’s the way they did all their business, jackboots on the cobblestones, middle of the night terror, intimidating people. Nobody wanted to say anything, it was just sheer intimidation. 

I read about organized crime back in the heyday of the Mafia, when they sent henchmen to offer the owner of a neighborhood restaurant $100,000 to buy his business, when it was worth five times that amount. The owner laughed and said “No way.” A week later the Mafia leader himself came and quietly offered the owner $50,000 for it and he took it, because behind it is intimidation, the bullying techniques. It could be a boss who sits across the table and tells you you're not up to the job and you're fired.  At that moment, you're intimidated. Or it could even be in school, in high school or college, where there is a group of people that are just cooler and better than you, smarter in every way, and you just can't measure up. You don't have the cool clothes, you don't fit in, and so they are the “in” group and you're out.  They intimidate you. You're afraid of what they're saying, what they're doing. But more than anything, in all those cases, you feel inside yourself this one feeling that's quite common, "I feel inadequate;” “I can't face it;” "I have to back down;” "I have to give way."  Well, I’ll tell you, all of these forms of bullying come from the same source. They come from the ultimate bully that there ever was and that's Satan. He is the intimidator. He is the bully, and he is seeking to take Christians and intimidate them away from pure, solid doctrine, making them unstable so that they are at his mercy.  He seeks to do it through false doctrine, through lying to us about who and what we are, telling us what we can be if we'll do it his way, through intimidation.

Now, I've heard people use the illustration of the Secret Service whose job, surprisingly, other than protecting important people like the president or vice president, is to fight counterfeiting in our country.  They are trained in fighting counterfeiting by knowing both the real thing and the common counterfeits.  I've heard that they are expertly trained in how the actual dollar or $100 is made; the feel of the cloth, the smell of the ink, every curved line on the engraving plates, the size, the thickness, the sound, every single aspect studied in detail so that immediately, they can spot the counterfeit. They know it so well that they can uncover the counterfeit.  But I talked to someone in Washington, DC, and they said, "Actually, no. We study what the counterfeiters are doing all the time. Yes, we study the real thing and we bank ourselves in knowing, better than anyone, how a real dollar is made; but we also spend lots of time on what the counterfeiters are doing to defeat our measures to make it difficult for them to counterfeit. It's both offense and defense. We're working on it." We see the Apostle Paul doing the very same thing here in Colossians 2:8-23. He tells us what the truth is, who we are in Christ, how full and how complete we are in Christ. Then he uncovers the Colossian heretics who are using four bullies, four intimidators, to get them off of that solid doctrine.  He uncovers them. He exposes them so that the Colossian Christians will be immune to their attacks and their intimidation.  He does both.  So, for me as a pastor, I have to do both too. I can't just tell you what the truth is in Christ. I also have to tell you what falsehoods are out there that you need to be aware of so that you can protect yourself.

There are four intimidators in this text. We're going to look at one of them today and the other three next week. We're going to spend the first part of this message saturating our minds with the truth, just as the Apostle Paul did. We're going to find out, again, who we are in Christ, just how fully, how completely God has met all of our needs in Christ, and then we're going to go face the intimidators with that strong base under us. So, what are these four intimidators? You will see in the text that the first one is philosophy. We'll deal with that one today. Next week we’ll look at: Jewish legalism, asceticism, and mysticism. Now, I do not say that these are the only threats that come from Satan against the church, there are many more than these. But these are the four that were facing the Colossian Christians in their day and they face us still today, so we're going to look at them over the next two weeks.

I. Complete in Christ

But first, I want to establish you, to found you on the truth. I basically want to make you happy in Jesus and in right doctrine today. I want to tell you just how happy you should be. And it doesn't matter, at one level, what kind of trials you're going through. It does matter. It should matter to each one of us. We should care about each other, bear each other's burdens. But fundamentally, we are rock solid in Jesus. We are established and firm and not able to be moved from the truths that we're about to talk about. We are complete in Christ. 

The Supremacy of Christ

Let's review a bit for those of you that weren't here over the last few weeks, or just to refresh our memories on right doctrine.  The centerpiece of Colossians 1 is the supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things. Colossians 1:15 and following says, speaking of Jesus Christ, "He is the image of the invisible God. The firstborn over all creation.  For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or powers, or rulers, or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy." The supremacy of Jesus Christ, the creator of all things, the sustainer of all things, the head of the church. "For God was pleased," it says in Colossians 1, "to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."  The supremacy of Christ in all things, that's the rock solid foundation of my faith and yours, of my life and yours if you're a Christian. The idea then, here in Colossians 2, is that "Christ is complete, so you're complete in Him." That's it. Christ is a complete Savior. He is completely God in the flesh. So, because He is complete, and because we are in Him, we are complete in Him. Paul repeats this teaching and then links our completeness to Christ's completeness.

Look at Chapter 2, verses 8-10. It says, "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. 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." If you have Christ, you have everything you need for life and godliness. You have everything you need for a rock solid joy that's impervious, that cannot be shaken by earthly circumstances. This is the solid foundation we have. Christ is fully God, and “in Christ, all the fullness of God dwells in bodily form.” This is a clear statement of what we call the Doctrine of the Incarnation, that God became man. He took on a human body and he has it still, because he's been raised from the dead. He is still human, and he will forever be both God and man. That’s the Doctrine of the Incarnation.

 Christ is Complete, We Are Complete in Him

This is also going to be the doctrinal foundation, the solid ground under Paul's feet, from which he's going to fight some of the philosophies of the Colossian heretics. They said that the body was evil. Coming from Greek philosophy, coming from that whole philosophical background, they said that the body was evil and that salvation came from denying the body and all of its drives, all of its tastes, denying it, getting away from it, and that salvation would, ultimately, be away from anything physical, but a pure spiritual existence. But Paul says, "No, in Christ, all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form." He's got a body, and therefore, the body cannot be evil itself.  Paul then says, "Our fullness is in Christ and it has been given to us." Oh, that is so vital. You have been given fullness in Christ. We spend most of our lives trying to give ourselves fullness, to fill that emptiness inside us. We can't do it. It was made for God, and only God can fill it.  We must be filled by Him, we can't fill ourselves. And here the verse says, "you have been given fullness in Christ." It's already yours. In Christ, we are full. In Christ, we are perfect. In Christ, we are as righteous as we can be. In Christ, we are accepted by God, the Father. And in Christ, we have a full inheritance in the New Heaven and the New Earth. In Christ, we cannot be more secure than we are; we cannot be more full than we are now. And why is this? Well, because "Christ," verse 10, "is the head over every power and authority."

Christ is Head Over All Things

The Colossian heretics were teaching that there were spirit beings in the world, emanations from the creator God, who did whatever they wanted to do.  One of the things they apparently wanted to do was make a physical world, something the purely spiritual God didn't want, so these emanations made this evil world. Christ, as a good emanation, is trying to save us out of the evil, physical world. They were saying that Christ is one of those spirit being emanations. "No," Paul says, "Christ is ruler over all rulers, and authorities, and powers, and dominions. He created them, He sustains them, every moment of their existence. He will bring them to judgment. He is the King over all things." Christ is the head over every power and authority. Remember in Chapter 1 verse 16 it says "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him."  Christ actually rules over Satan and his evil kingdom. Glory, Hallelujah! Praise God for that. Christ and Satan are nowhere close to being equals. He is the infinite God who rules over all things. Satan trembles before Jesus. He's filled with rage because he knows his time is short. Who makes his time short? Jesus does, because he'll come back and overthrow Satan by the breath of His mouth, and he'll be finished. This is the authority of Jesus, the power of Jesus over those evil spirit beings. He is the King over all things.

So, this is the doctrinal basis of our fullness in Christ. Now, what good truths flow from this to us? How can we be filled by it? You may have come this morning feeling empty. Well, my desire is that you would walk out of here feeling full. Full, and rich, and complete with doctrine, with teaching that you could read right in the text of Colossians. And you can have this for yourself. You can go home and say, "Just give me a Bible. I want to see what He said.” And there it is, it's right there. That's my desire, to fill you up with the text and with Christ, so you know all the river of healing, flowing clear as crystal from the throne of God, with the tree of life on both sides, and the leaves of the trees for the healing of the nations.

Fully Circumcised

You can find healing for yourself, and fullness for yourself.  You don't need to take that emptiness and fill it through some sensual pleasure. That's not going to do it for you. Find it in Christ, right here in the passage that we're looking at. He says in verses 11-15, “we are fully circumcised spiritually." Look at verse 11, "In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with a circumcision done by Christ." Now, you might think that's an odd place to begin. We are full. How are we full in Christ? Well first, we are fully circumcised. I'm taking the text in the order I find it and so we are fully circumcised (spiritually) in Christ. Why does He mention it? Well, because next week we're going to look at Jewish legalism, and the entry door into legalism for these Colossian Gentiles was circumcision. It was an entry way into a whole different kind of life, a life they couldn't even begin to know would be so burdensome. The Jews had borne that burden for generations and they couldn't carry it, the burden of legalism, and circumcision was a symbol of that. Physical circumcision was a religious ceremony ushering someone into a life of ongoing submission to the rules and regulations of the Old Covenant.

The dirty doctrine of legalism is this: "By keeping rules and regulations, you can earn forgiveness from God, a good standing with Him, and a rich, warm welcome from Him. By keeping the rules and regulations, God will forgive you and accept you." That is the false teaching of legalism that we'll get to next week.  Circumcision was a symbol of that. However, the true circumcision is not something done by the hands of men to the body, but rather, it's something done by the Spirit of God to the soul, in which that old person we were in Adam is cut away from us forever, and we will never be that person again. We are a new creation in Christ. How sweet is that? We have a new existence and the old has been cut away and thrown away forever. It's a circumcision not done by the hands of men, but a circumcision done by the Spirit of God.

The Old Covenant symbol was circumcision. The New Covenant symbol is baptism. Paul mentions it here in verse 12, "having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead."  But please, friends, don't make a mistake. It is from this verse that our friends in the Gospel who believe in infant baptism take a strong connection between circumcision and baptism. He's not saying that, believe me. The Apostle Paul is not trading one religious ritual for another. In both cases, the spiritual circumcision and the true Baptism, both of them are done by the Spirit of God. And water baptism doesn't save anybody.  You can get water baptized and still go to hell. I hope you know that. Don't be banking on the fact that you were baptized. What he's saying now is that the true baptism is a union with Christ, in which you have been united with Jesus on the cross spiritually, buried with Him, and then raised to new life spiritually. You have been united with Christ and He is your fullness; He's your completeness. We are now fully circumcised in Christ. We don't need the religious ritual anymore.

 Fully Alive

Secondly, we are fully alive. I feel it today. I can't tell you how grateful I am to be a Christian today, just to be here, the privilege of being alive, being forgiven, knowing that all my best things are yet to come. There's a joy there, isn't there? Fully alive.  Are you fully alive? Are you fully alive in Christ? Well, if you're a Christian you are fully alive. That's what it says in verse 13, "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ." In Ephesians Chapter 2, Paul basically says, "Before you were Christians, you were spiritually dead while you lived." It's a horror story of the worst degree, "Night of the Living Dead." And not just "Night of the Living Dead, it's night and day of the living dead. It's a whole life of being a living dead. Physically alive? Yes. Biologically alive? Yes. But spiritually dead.” "Dead in your transgressions and sins while you lived," it says in Ephesians. And here it says, "you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature." Therefore, friends, every single Christian is a miracle of God's grace, a resurrection. It's a resurrection.

I love it when skeptics, the big, strong, macho types say, "Christianity is just a crutch for the weak." Have you ever heard that? "Christianity is just a crutch for the weak." I say, "Well, you overestimate us. Christianity's not a crutch for the weak, it's a resurrection for the dead. You give us too much credit, as though we can limp along. We can't even limp along when we're dead. It's no crutch, it's a resurrection." And what does it teach of what it was like for us spiritually, before we were saved, before we were converted, before the Spirit of God called us from the grave spiritually? If you went to a morgue and pulled out a slab, pulled back the cloth and wanted to stimulate that corpse, what would you do? Take a flashlight and shine it in its eyes. Will it respond? Will the pupils dilate? What will happen? Get a pin and poke it in the foot. Will it jump? Will it jerk? Get some loud music, a boom box or something like that, crank it up. You can choose any music you want. It will not respond, it's a corpse. The essence of being dead is inability, okay? The greatest picture of inability you'll ever see is a dead man lying on a slab. It doesn’t matter what you say, it doesn't matter what you do. You cannot motivate, you cannot move that person if God doesn't move first. But let me tell you something. When Jesus stands before Lazarus' tomb and He calls forth and gives Lazarus a command, "Lazarus, come forth," He doesn't just speak the words, friends, He gives a power, a supernatural power of life to Lazarus, and then Lazarus chooses to get up and come forth and love Jesus, and come out in the sunshine and eat a celebratory meal with Him. He chooses to do all of that. "I choose to follow Jesus, but His choice came first and His powerful working in me came first. He gave me life when I was dead.”  Amen! He gave me life and He gave life to you too. And therefore, if you're a Christian today, you are a miracle of God's grace. In Him, we are fully alive.

Fully Forgiven

Thirdly, we are fully forgiven. Isn't that sweet? Not partially forgiven. How many of us would like to be partially forgiven before God? That's not going to do you any good on Judgment Day, friends, if He doesn't give it. It's all or nothing on this one. But look what it says, "He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled 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." Oh, how sweet is this meditation? Full and complete forgiveness of all of our sins. Meditate on that. God was keeping a perfect record of every single transgression of His law. Every angry moment, every careless word spoken, every lustful thought, every covetous desire, every selfish action, a complete and perfect record for Judgment Day. And it says in Romans Chapter 2, "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will give to each person according to what he has done," and His records are perfect. 

But now, in Christ, we are completely forgiven. I can't say it richly enough, we are completely forgiven. He forgave us all our sins. The record of our sins has been removed and our sins have been hurled into the depths of the sea to be remembered no more. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. He has put a barrier between His perfect vision and our sins, and that barrier is the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross. That's what He put there; that's what He sees, not our sins.  Oh, the happy blessedness of this situation. "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit." We don't need to be deceptive about this before God, He knows. We say, "Lord, forgive me." We're just open and confessing because we are forgiven. We are completely forgiven and this verse says so, "He forgave us all our sins." How would you like to stand before God and receive from Him 90% forgiveness? All you’ve got left now is 10% and you’ve got to deal with that on your own. How about 99% forgiveness from God? Will that be of any use to you on Judgment Day? As I said to you before, "It's all or nothing." This verse says it’s ALL. Praise be to God.

 I prayed that God would bring someone here today who is not a Christian to hear this. Are your sins forgiven? Because it's not true that He forgave all people all their sins. He forgives those who come to the cross and ask. He forgives those who trust in Jesus. Have you done that? Have you repented and turned away from your sin and received from Him the free gift of forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ? Are your sins forgiven? And if they're not, can I urge you, right now, to look in your heart to Christ and trust in Him and His promises, and believe that His death is your death; His resurrection, your resurrection; His righteousness, your righteousness. Believe in it. Trust in Him. He forgave us ALL our sins. And if you are a Christian, I'd tell you that I don't meditate on this enough. I still feel the weight of guilt far more than I ever should.  Hebrews says that, "He can cleanse a guilty conscience.” Let Him do it. He forgave us all our sins so we are fully free.

Fully Free from the Law

We're also fully free from the Law. Look what it says, "He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with it's regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross."  Now, I’ll discuss the Jewish legalists next week, but they were trying to slip a yoke of slavery back on the necks of the Colossian Christians. It was a legal bondage from the requirements of the Law: "Do this and you will live; Do it perfectly and you will live eternally." It was a yoke of bondage that no one could undo except one person, Jesus. Jesus removed the yoke on our behalf, and in so doing, He freed us from needing to do it ourselves. He has freed me from the yoke and the burden of the Law. It says in Romans 6:14, "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." Romans 7:6, "But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code."  You can live under grace or you can live under the Law; you can live by the power of the Spirit or by the power of the flesh. Those are your two options. One way leads to death, because you cannot perfectly obey the commands of God.

I've thought a lot about this.  What does it mean? Does it mean that I don't have to follow any laws, that I can do whatever I want because the Law doesn't matter to me anymore? Of course not, that's not what it's saying. Do I still need to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength? Do I still need to love my neighbor as myself? Of course I do. I'm just at a level now that I don't need to be commanded to do that; or at least ultimately, in the end, I will not. There will be no need for laws in Heaven.

Let me ask you a question: You're a Christian, a spirit-filled man or woman, walking with the Lord all these many years. You want to fly so you go to the airport and they make you take your shoes off. Why? Why are they going through your luggage? Why are they confiscating your three ounces of shampoo because you didn't have it down to two ounces? Why did they take my daughter's knitting needles in Paris? I'm trying to picture my daughter hijacking a plane with knitting needles.   It's quite a picture, isn't it? "If she can do that," I've said before, "she doesn't need the knitting needles, she can just do it." I can’t remember if they were plastic or metal, but they're gone, and I’m thinking why? 1 John says, "The reason the world does not know us is that they did not know him." They don't know who we are. I am no threat, zero threat to the airplane in terms of hijacking. There is no chance I will hijack that plane that day, zero. But I know that they can't tell the difference between me and somebody who would, and so I take off my shoes, I understand what's going on, etc. But there'll come a day when we won't need that.  I won't need to be told in Heaven to love God with all my heart. I will love Him with all my heart because I'll have a new heart. And I won't need to be commanded to love my neighbor as myself, I just will, and so will you. We're not under the Law now, but we read the Law to find out what kind of life God requires, what a righteous life looks like. And someday we'll be free from even that; we will all be taught by God and we'll be free from it forever.

Fully Triumphant Over Satan

We're not under the Law and we are fully triumphant over Satan. Satan is a loser. He is filled with rage because he knows his time is short. You should be filled with joy because you know your time is eternal. He's the loser. We're not going to get thrown in the lake of fire, he is.nColossians 2 verse 15 tells us, "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." The image is of a Roman general who wins a battle and then takes his captives and walks down the center of Rome parading those captives, perhaps some Germanic tribal chieftains whose warlike prowess has been harassing the borders of the empire, and finally, these men have been captured and put in chains and are being paraded around to display their powerlessness before Rome. Jesus did that to the powers and the authorities; he disarmed them and made a public spectacle of them. How did He do it? By dying, of all things. It was by His death that He disarmed them. It says in Hebrews, "Since the children," that's you and I, "have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in bondage by their fear of death." Jesus destroyed Satan by dying. He disarmed Satan, took the weapons out of his hand and made him powerless. Powerless to do what? Well, a lot of things, but powerless to bring you with him to hell. He can't do that. He cannot accuse you on Judgment Day and have it make a single bit of difference to the Judge. Jesus disarmed him by dying on the cross; there is our fullness. And by the way, think much on this promise in Romans 16:20, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." Oh, I long for that day. We are full and complete, friends, in Christ, fully circumcised spiritually. We are fully alive, we are fully forgiven, we are fully free from the law, and fully triumphant over Satan.

 II. Satan’s Intimidating Voice: “You Are Incomplete!”

So, we've stared at the good doctrine; we've looked at the “good dollar bill,” we know what it is. Now, what about the falsehood? Well, four of them are going to come to our attention, one this week and three next week. The first one is human philosophy. Let's go back to verse 8, “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.”  By the way, this is what Satan does. Satan comes along and he hears all this doctrine, you know what I mean? I've said all these true things and you have every right, with me, in Christ, to be very happy right now. But Satan, he comes to steal, and kill, and destroy. So what's he going to do? He's going to start telling you things, "Yeah, but if only the pastor knew this about me," or, "If only that," or, "If only the other." He starts to intimidate like a bully. He starts to tell you, "You're not full, you're not complete. You need to add some other things." He was saying that to the Colossian Christians, "You need to add human philosophy. You need to add the Jewish rituals, all that Jewish religion. You need to add asceticism, a harsh treatment of the body. You need to add the mysticism, the worship of angels, and all the special stuff that we can do. You add these things, then you'll be full and complete in Christ." Well, that's what he's doing, he's telling us we're incomplete; but I tell you that we are complete and we're going to face these bullies.

 III. The Intimidation of Philosophy

Now, what is philosophy? Well, it's literally a love of wisdom. Generally speaking, what I mean by philosophy, what this text means, it's the human effort to craft meaning from the universe. Ultimate questions of being: Who am I? Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? What happens when I die? What is right and wrong, and why should I do the right and not the wrong? These are the questions that philosophy seeks to answer. Generally, philosophy is organized in three main headings: What is ultimate reality? That's called metaphysics. How can I know anything? That's called epistemology. Why does it matter or how should I act? That's ethics. These are the three main branches of philosophy.

 Obviously, you know from the Bible, there's nothing wrong with loving wisdom. The real issue here is where do you get it from? What is your source of wisdom? That's the issue. Paul does not refute all philosophy. He refutes a kind of philosophy, look again at verse 8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of the world rather than on Christ." This would be Christ-less philosophy, a philosophy that's not Christ-centered, Word-centered, that is what he's talking about here. I think some Christians are called upon to be Christian philosophers and to do battle on that front on behalf of the church, and to do good work. C.S. Lewis once said, "Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason than bad philosophy needs to be countered." We need good philosophers to fight the bad philosophers, so that's fine. 

But philosophy has a long and sordid history of attacking the body of Christ, and it's gotten worse as time has gone on. In Romans Chapter 1 it says, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." Philosophy's gotten darker and darker as time has gone on, and some of it's downright depressing. David Hume, a 17th century British philosopher, said this about his own philosophical system, "I am at first affrighted and confounded with that forlorn solitude [loneliness], in which I am placed in my philosophy." Well, give it up then. If it's depressing, then give it up. If it's making you downright depressed, and forlorn, and suicidal, then give it up. But there's David Hume, "I'm frightened by it and it makes me lonely." Or René Descartes, who's not even sure whether he exists, until he comes up with, "I think, therefore I am." "Oh, at last, I know whether I exist. I'm thinking, so I must exist." This man has issues.

The 19th century German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, posited a German Superman from which the Nazis got their model. It doesn't need God, doesn't need anything, totally independent. He was the first to proclaim that, "God is dead," but he couldn't live out his empty philosophies. He spent the last 11 years of his life insane and then committed suicide. 20th century French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was an atheist, he hated humanity. One of his characters in his play called "Nausea”... [A play called "Nausea." Why would you go to see it? Why would you want to read it?] said, "Hell is other people." Hell is other people? How can you live like that? Isn't that going to affect the way you look at other people? Certainly it is. Well, this is what Sartre said, "We were a heap of existences, uncomfortable, embarrassed at ourselves, we hadn't the slightest reason to be there, none of us, each one confused, vaguely alarmed, felt superfluous in relation to the others . . . And I myself, I too was superfluous . . . I dream vaguely of killing myself to wipe out at least one of these superfluous existences.  But even my death would have been superfluous." Now, that's a depressed individual, a dark philosophy. Why would we drink at these fountains? 

Philosophy is a great danger.  Paul warns, "See to it." He's using strong language, "See to it. Be diligent. Be vigilant. Get the watchman up on the walls to watch out for this stuff because it's so invasive. It starts to creep in and affect the way you think. You need vigilance in that no one takes you captive." That's wartime language, like we are booty, being dragged off like slaves to be in their village and cut their wood and carry their water for them. We're going to live on the philosopher's plantation and suffer there. Why would we want to be taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophy? Clearly Paul sees this as a great danger. But many philosophers have affected the church badly. Plato taught the church that the body is evil and some believed him, like we see here. Aristotle laid out a foundation for transubstantiation which the Roman Catholics bought into, teaching that the bread and the juice literally become the body and the blood of Jesus, and that by eating it you are saved. It's false doctrine, but it comes from Aristotle. Immanuel Kant said, "Basically, you can’t know anything."  Really? You're not really sure about anything, and therefore, he's questioning revelation, questioning the Word of God. He's basically doing the serpent's role, saying, "Did God really say?" He destroyed most of the philosophical basis for the proof of the existence of God. Evolution, Darwinism has crept in, existentialism, psychology, inclusivism, post-modernism, it's just there. It's like a seeping fog wanting to creep in and pollute the pure mind of the people of God.

Philosophy is defeated in Christ.  "See to it that no one takes you captive." Paul warns about this also in 1 Corinthians when he says, "Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believed." God is so wise here. He said, "You'll not think your way to me. You'll not think your way to salvation. You'll not think your way by studying the world and coming up with an organized system. You must passively receive truth, and believe it, and then I will save you." Christ will be for you. Wisdom from God and righteousness from God, He will give it to you as a gift if you'd just be a humble beggar and ask Him for it.  Paul says again in 1 Corinthians 1, "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God." Let Christ be your philosophy. You don't need these empty human philosophies.

 IV. Application

What application can we take from this? Well, first of all, praise God for your fullness in Christ. We're about to go to the Lord's Supper. As you are waiting and the elements are being passed, can you simply spend some time thanking God for your fullness in Christ? And if you came here empty, because you're not a Christian, perhaps, at the moment when I preached the Gospel to you, then you believed. You're already full in Christ, but if you haven't yielded your life to Christ yet, don't take the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is for baptized believers. Don't take the Lord's Supper, but take this occasion to repent of your sins and trust in Christ, so that the next time we do the Lord's Supper, you'll be a baptized believer and then you can partake. And if you are a Christian, don't just give thanks for the good truths you've heard, but be on your guard against philosophy. Don't think you're immune. Take captive every thought. You may be a college student at Duke, or UNC, or another college. Take what the professors say and ask, "Is it true? Is it Christ-centered? Is it right?" Find out if it's true. I want to close in prayer, and then we'll go to our time of celebration of the Lord's Supper.

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