I think all of us can relate in some way to feeling different pressures in life that can potentially pull us off course, pull us away from sole focus on Jesus. Whether those pressures are cultural pressures, perhaps some from our old, pre-Christ lives, or even different family values or traditions that don’t match up with the new life in Christ we are trying to live. We can constantly feel this pressure or pull to veer off in different ways.
Well, this is exactly what the Colossians were feeling. While Epaphrus, the leader of the the Colossians church, had reported to Paul in prison about the Colossians great faith, he also shared about the pressures they were under that tempted them to pull away from their faith in Christ. So Paul, in writing this letter to them, addresses those pressures to encourage them to stay the course, to stand firmly rooted in Christ, and we see this in Chapter 2.
The two pressures or influences that were surrounding them, were 1) a mystical polytheism, from their old life of worshiping many gods, this culture that was all around them, and 2) the pressure from Jewish Christians to observe the laws of the Torah, with things like circumcision and observing meat laws. So one influence, the polytheism, has the potential to pull them away from worship of Christ alone, and the other, adds additional rules and requirements onto their salvation, which also takes the focus off of Christ alone.
We see Paul addressing these pressures specifically throughout the chapter. Verse 8 says “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” In verses 9 and 10 he also points out the fullness of the Deity of Christ, and that Christ is over every power and authority. So in other words, there’s no other god but Him, speaking directly against the polytheistic influences around them.
In verse 11 he also tells them that they have already been circumcised, a sign of set-apartness, not by human hands but by Christ, so a physical circumcision is not necessary, like some of the Jewish Christians are telling them. Verse 16 on Paul keeps addressing all these other rules, traditions, and expectations that others have placed on them that have nothing to do with their faith in Christ, saying that these are merely based on human commands and verse 23 he says, “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” These added expectations or outward shows of a false humility actually did nothing for helping these new believers in Colossae refrain from sin, refrain from the sensuality that was part of their culture and linked to the polytheistic worship that they were once a part of.
The Colossians were kind of caught in between these two pulls, one trying to carry on their old ways of living, the other trying to help them be righteous but not actually being effective or helpful in any way, and both threatening to take them away from the core central Truths of their faith in Christ.
So what are the Colossians supposed to focus on? Paul reminds them exactly what their faith is about in verses 13-15: “When you were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
That, my friends, is the Gospel, the core of faith in Jesus Christ. To stay steadfast in their faith, keeping these false influences at bay, Paul was telling the Colossians to focus on that, on Christ Himself and what He accomplished on the cross. And the same is true for us today. There’s nothing added to it— that is the Gospel that He invites us to accept today and to walk fully alive with Him throughout our life. He did that for the Colossians’ sins and for our sins, taking them away and nailing them to the cross, so that we don’t have to pick those sins back up any longer and we also don’t need to go through certain traditions or regulations in order to be made righteous. We are made fully alive in Him because of His work on the cross.
I love the call that Paul gives to actually walk this out, keeping our focus on Christ alone. Verses 6-7 say, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” How do we stay the course in the midst of our own cultural pressures? By being rooted in Him - rooted in Scripture, in community, sitting under sound teaching - and by overflowing with thankfulness. The more we can continue to be thankful for what Christ has done for us on the cross, the more the rest will fall away because it so pales in comparison to what He has done and living fully alive in Him.
My hope for you today, is that you would take a moment— at the close of this video, on your way to work, while you’re brushing your teeth— to pause and reflect on His work on the cross as it relates to your own life and to pour out thankfulness to Him. If you’ve never accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior before, this is a prime opportunity to do so and to tell Jesus, “Lord I believe those things in verses 13-15 are true and it was me who was dead in my sin, but now I ask for your forgiveness, I accept your forgiveness, and from here on out I want to walk alive with you.” If that is you today, then I encourage you to get in touch with the church office, so that we can walk alongside you, and help you grow your roots in Him. And for all of us, just like the Colossians, as we face different pressures and influences in our lives, would we hang on to these Truths, onto the core of the Gospel, not being swayed right or left, but solely focusing on Him. May you live fully alive in Him, and may your roots go deep and your thankfulness abound.