Pastor Walther/July 24, 2016/Pentecost 10/Colossians 2:6-15(Emphasis on Verses 6-10)/Wisdom from God
Throughout history, philosophers have devoted a lot of attention to the matter of learning. After all, the word philosophy means “the love of wisdom.” And with that desire to learn more and become wiser, every passing age and culture has had different ideas of what wisdom is and where to attain it. For the ancient Greeks, someone could consider themselves wise if they could handle themselves in public discussion, debate, and oratory. And so they trained the young men in how to build logical arguments and taught the art of persuasion. However, there would be philosophers, like Aristotle, who believed that the aim of philosophy would be to make people good citizens. Jump in history to John Locke, who believed that wisdom was attained through experience and reason. In time, the religious questioning in philosophy had been replaced with a scientific philosophy. In my own little world, I see philosophy in those sweet Instagram and Facebook photos that have a positive thought from a song overlaying a tranquil mountain picture. So awesome. Each philosophy of its age focuses on the world around them and also that which they can’t see. From religion to education to positive thoughts, philosophy moves in different directions with every passing age. Yet, every philosophy is the same: that humankind is the center of the universe.
We look at philosophy and think that those philosophers are so witty. Look how they come up with some amazing thoughts. But don’t be caught up in the illusion. Look how depressingly empty those philosophies are. Look at how they are searching for the same answers that we have always looked for. Look at how they have the same desires and dreams. Look at how much time they sat in the corner of a room trying to come up with witty sayings. As philosopher Jean Paul Sartre put it, “Life is an empty bubble on the sea of nothingness.”
The apostle Paul is trying to help us see the emptiness of the world around us and the ideas and philosophies that it comes up with. The apostle Paul was fighting against the human traditions that were creeping into the early church. Both Jews and Gentiles were trying to bring rules and regulations into the gospel of Christ, because, in their minds, the gospel was too easy. They liked the idea of doing something, and seeing their progress. They liked the idea of achieving salvation or at least gaining some additional brownie points in God’s eyes. The philosophy of these Colossians was sort of a Chex Mix bag, that it was ok to mix and match. The Colossians wanted to be the center of their universe and push the gospel out. It’s not that they didn’t like the gospel, but they felt it couldn’t hurt to try some other ideas with it.
Modern philosophy is really nothing new. In fact, it would agree with the words of Nietzsche: “Truths are illusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions; worn-out metaphors which have become powerless to affect the senses.” In other words, he is saying that what we view as truth is really an illusion. That's so depressing. But, this underlying principle of the world often pushes into our thinking. We begin to think that one truth is no better than another and that it’s ok to mix and match, that you can take what you want from this religion and put it with this. You can take part of the Bible, but not believe another part. Or, just simply we become fence sitters thinking that it’s ok that we can be Christians but do the things that society pushes as the correct philosophy to follow.
Or maybe for the long time Christians, we begin to take on the philosophy of apathy: that we’ve heard the Bible before and that only certain parts apply to us, especially like this section from Colossians. “Yeah, I don’t have to worry about circumcision. Yeah, I’ve heard the Bible talk about the fact that I can’t contribute to my salvation, and I often think, yeah I know! I've known that for a long time.” Do you see how the mainline philosophy becomes ingrained in our minds? It’s all about me. I’m a pretty good Christian and I’ll be good today. In that process, I disregard the nurture of God’s Word and daily devotion and consistent prayer, and I decide to take on life and all of its problems myself. It’s like God offers this bridge that can bring me safely to the other side of a canyon, but I decide it would be more fun to try and jump it Evil Knievel style. Yeah, that’s not going to work. We can’t mix and match our philosophies because we will only end up mismatched with God and lost in the mix.
If you want a reality to wrap your head around, not a philosophy or idea, the apostle Paul gives to us truth that rattles our cages. God gives to us something that we can actually benefit from and grow from and something that gives to us a sense of actual meaning in our lives. Look at verse 9, God says, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Paul describes to us that the fullness of God, in other words, everything that God is and who he is, is in Christ in human form. All of the attributes of God, like the fact that he is omnipotent, all powerful, and omniscient, all knowing, and omnipresent, present everywhere, all of those attributes Jesus has. That is difficult for us to understand that God could have a human body. And yet, that’s what God did for us.
Imagine taking all the water from every ocean and every lake and stream and containing it into one cool-aid pitcher. You would laugh at me as I stood at the Fox River lock system with my pitcher trying to put all the water from the river into one pitcher, because that can’t happen. But that’s what we see with Christ. God himself, the one who fills the universe, all power and authority, came to this earth as a human. The earth’s water supply into a pitcher. God in his infinite wisdom saw us and loved us and came to this earth to be one of us.
That fact is not contained within a vacuum, as if it has no value for us. God revealed this truth to us to show his love for us. Jesus wasn’t some Joe Schmo, but he was God. So, when he lived his life. God was among us. When he was being crucified, God was being crucified. When he shed his blood, that was God’s blood. When he died, God died. But this was not like the philosopher Nietzsche who said, “God is dead.” No, the blood and death of Jesus, the fullness of the deity in human form, was the only one who could satisfy the wrath of God because of our sin. God, who is eternal and cannot die, accepted that offering. Our little peanut brains cannot understand how that works and our attempt at rationalizing that only fails.
However, our little peanut brains can’t help but see the result of the divine attributes dwelling within our Savior. God’s blood was shed for me. In that instant, God put eternal value on me. When Jesus said he would be with us forever, he wasn’t lying. He is with us now! That’s why when Jesus says to us in the Lord’s supper, “This is my body, this is my blood,” we understand that he didn’t mean that it represents him, because there is only so much of him to go around. No, he is actually there in, with, and under the bread and wine.
God has revealed this truth to us, not to exercise us intellectually, because we’ll never comprehend it, but because it has important practical significance for us. The fullness of the deity in bodily form fills you up. Jesus makes you a complete person. The false teachers told the Colossians, “You need Jesus…plus this and plus that.” Paul reminded the Colossians, “You only need Jesus!” God living in human form fulfilled all righteousness for me. I can’t beat God at being perfect! God living in human form cleansed me from all sin! I can’t beat God at that either! God living in human form sent his Spirit to sanctify me. I can’t make myself better. I only make myself more rotten and selfish. I can’t beat God at sanctifying me either! So why try to mix and match our philosophies? Why leave God out of the picture?
The truth that Paul spits for us today helps us distinguish between truth and emptiness. It’s like the bank being able to the difference between a real and fake dollar bill. The truth about Jesus is that line of truth. Paul is working against the kind of philosophy that amounts to nothing. It is empty. It is deceptive. It promises big things to those who obey it, but it cannot redeem its promises. The “philosophy” which threatened the Colossians is really no philosophy at all, just like those who say that Jesus was only a good teacher, or to those who try to convince you that being a better christian means a more financially successful life, or to those who teach that Jesus’ body and blood can’t be in the sacrament. Those are empty promises. Philosophy is the love of wisdom, but if you love wisdom that is not Christ, you love emptiness and ironically will always search to fill that emptiness. Wisdom without Christ is based on the world’s basic principles of me and my rational thinking.
There is the story told of a man who set up a booth at a state fair and offered 1000 dollar gold nuggets. They just sat in front of his booth in a little basket with a sign that read: “Free, take one.” All day long people passed by with a smile on their face that said, “I don’t buy it. Why would he do that? That can’t be real.” And so, these free gold pieces remained untouched. Just before the fair was closing a child saw the sign, reached out and took a nugget! Our human nature looks at God’s wisdom and thinks, it’s too good to be true. However, God’s wisdom isn’t based on human wisdom but on love. It is gracious. It is God’s precious gift in Christ.
By God’s grace, the Holy spirit worked in your heart. It kicked all conventional and worldly wisdom to the curb. You have been, you are, and you always will be made full in Christ. The One who is the fullness of the deity, Jesus, fills you with what you need most. The more Christians use God’s word and the sacraments, the deeper they sink their roots of faith into Christ. Dear brothers and sisters, rooted in Christ, don’t be misled by the ideologies and philosophies of this world. Let your life be in harmony with the fact that Christ is in you, and that you are different from the wisdom of this world, and continue to search God’s Word for these amazing treasures of wisdom. Take philosophy as its real meaning: the search for wisdom. God’s Word gives to us that wisdom for every day and for eternity. Amen.