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Sufficient or Not

Colossians 2:16-23

Message #7

In last week’s message, we said, The Problem is Sin,” and all the religious rules, regulations, and efforts in the world cannot satisfactorily deal with the problem of sin. And so, God himself made a way to deal with our sin so we could spend eternity in his presence, and that way – that only way – is through our identification with Jesus Christ through our faith alone. By our faith in Jesus Christ, the record of our sin was canceled, and we were made complete in him.

But some people in the Church in Colossae, just like some people today, wouldn’t allow the new Christians there to be complete in Christ alone. These poor new Believers had two different groups putting additional man-made demands on them. They had the Judaizers who were saying they had to add the Jewish laws to their faith in Jesus Christ, and they had the Gnostics saying that they had to be initiated into a higher spiritual knowledge to add to their faith in Jesus Christ.

And today, God’s Word says, No, No, No!! We are made one with Christ through faith alone, and we are completely complete through our becoming one with Christ through faith because Jesus Christ is supremely sufficient. And by our faith in him, our union with him make us completely complete in him.

Colossians 2:16 (NLT)
16 So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths.


Guys, made-made religions always place people under some sort of ordinances, rules, or regulations; it’s man’s way to try to reach God. There are always some burdens on the people to get them to earn the right to be part of their religion.

It’s often said, religion is man’s attempt to reach God. Jesus Christ is God’s way to reach man.

But man can’t help it. Man will always add religious rules, regulations, and requirements to the simple gospel of genuine faith in Jesus Christ and a real, growing, transforming relationship with him because how can we prove that we are holy if we don’t have to work or earn or place with God?

And man adding requirements to faith in Christ and a real relationship with him is just as big a problem today as it was for the new Believers in the 1st Century.

So, verse 16 says, Don’t let anyone condemn you over these man-made rules and regulations. And then verse 17 says,

Colossians 2:17 (NLT)
17 For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.


This seems to be referring specifically to the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses was only a shadow of things to come, and Christ is the reality of those things because Jesus Christ fulfilled every requirement of the law. So, now that Jesus Christ has come, why should we continue to live in the shadow when we can live in the real thing?

It’s like if your spouse has been gone a long time and you’ve been staring at their picture every single day, and then they come home. And when they walk in the door, you say, “Don’t bother me. I’m looking at your picture.”

Guys, Jesus Christ is the real thing. He is the supremely sufficient source, and if you are living in the real thing, then how can the shadow things be added to the real thing?

And then verse 18 moves on to the pre-gnostic teachers that the Colossians were having to deal with. The Gnostics were saying the Believers had to add a “higher spiritual knowledge” to their faith in Jesus Christ. But, regarding the Gnostics, verse 18 says this.

Colossians 2:18(a) (NLT)
18 Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things . . .


These were the type of things the Gnostics were trying to get the new Believers to add to their faith in Christ. And don’t we see the same thing in religion today? We have some religions that have a long list of things you cannot do in the name of pious self-denial, just like the Jews took God’s Ten Commandments and added 613 of their own to the original ten.

And regarding the worship of angels, the largest religion in the world has people worshiping (at least praying) to people other than Jesus. And what about people saying they’ve had visions about these things that they’re trying to get you to add to Jesus? Man adds to what Christ has done. That’s why the question is, is Jesus Christ sufficient or not?

The Mormons have the appearance (vision) of the Angel Moroni to young Joey Smith, and the Catholics have centuries of appearances (visions) of Mary to support her elevated position in their religion. But what is interesting about these appearances (visions) is they always point people to their own religion and not necessarily to Jesus.

Because at the end of Colossians 2, verse 18 says,

Colossians 2:18 (NLT)
18 . . . Their sinful minds have made them proud,


Their sinful minds, their fleshly minds, have made them proud of their own rules, regulations, and ordinances. Their own doctrines, their own ideologies. Their own visions. Whatever is theirs, they have become proud of.

And listen, I know it sounds like I’m being hard on these religions and philosophies that add their own requirements to faith in Jesus Christ. But I’m not being near as hard on them as God is. Because in verse 19, God says,

Colossians 2:19(a) (NLT)
19 and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.


Saying these man-made religious approaches are not connected to Christ, THAT is being hard on them. What verse 19 means is they are not drawing their supreme sufficiency from Jesus Christ, and so they have to add what they say (their own rules and regulations) to faith in Jesus Christ.

I know plenty of people who live by rules and requirements that have been added to their faith in Christ, and if I were to tell them that they may not be connected to Christ, that could make some serious enemies really fast. But the Bible says you are complete in Christ. Jesus Christ is supremely sufficient for all you need.

Now, because of your faith in Jesus Christ, there are things you will choose not to do because it will damage your relationship with Jesus. And because of your faith in Jesus Christ, there are things you will choose to do because it will strengthen your relationship with Jesus.

So, please listen very carefully to what I am about to say because it may clear up some questions in your mind.

These verses are not about choosing or not choosing sinful actions. These verses are not about you being able to choose sin.

These verses are about whether you should take man-made ideas, rules, regulations, ideologies, and philosophies and add them to the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ. And the answer is a thousand times NO!

But if you’re saying because Jesus Christ is my Savior, I want to walk in the Spirit. And I want to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit, and I want to be who God made me to be, and I want to do what God’s called me to do, and I want to do it to his glory, this is a whole different gig.

One is trying to earn your position with God. One is just coming out of this relationship with Christ that just says, “Lord, I just want to glorify you and serve you. I just want to know you better and walk closer with you in all circumstances and situations.

The problem in the New Testament Church was the same problem we have today. That is people saying or implying, “Oh yeah. Jesus is the Savior and all, but you need to follow our rules and requirements if you want to be really right.” And the way you can always tell is what that person talks about most.

Are they talking more about the sufficiency of Jesus Christ? Or are they talking more about their rules and regulations, or their doctrine and interpretation of the Bible?

The Bible says everyone who believes, everyone who puts their full trust and faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, becomes born again and has eternal life. That’s what John 3:16 says. So, I’m not saying any one religion can go or can’t go. It’s all about Jesus! That’s the point.

This kills me, especially with our Reformed and Calvinist friends. Man, oh man, they talk a lot about their doctrine and their logic and about a certain flower, and they talk a lot about their Guy J.C. They talk a lot about their Guy J.C.

Years ago, I was at a Pastor’s conference at a huge reformed church pastored by one of the biggest celebrity Bible teachers in the country. And this Mega-Pastor is actually a “Reformed Baptist” (Calvinist). But the President of the Southern Baptist Convention was speaking, and as he began his keynote message, he told a story of being in Russia with this hugely famous Calvinist Pastor.

And he described a time they spent with 1500 Pastors, as these Pastors listened to this famous Bible teacher, and the President of the S.B.C. said by the end of this famous Bible teacher’s time, all 1500 of these pastors had received J.C. And then he took a breath for a dramatic pause, and he said, “When I say these men received J. C., I mean they received John Calvin,” and this super mega church packed wall-to-wall with Pastors erupted in applause. And for some reason, I suddenly started feeling a little sick to my stomach, and I had to leave the conference.

And THAT is what I’m talking about. If you are dealing with someone who is talking more about their religion, and their doctrine, and their rules than they are about the supreme sufficiency of Jesus Christ then my encouragement is: ask yourself why. Because here is how God’s Word addresses the situation.

First, Colossians 2, verse 19 says,

Colossians 2:19(b) (NLT)
19 . . . [Jesus] Christ, [is] the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.


Notice the focus on the supreme sufficiency of Christ. And then Colossians 2, verses 20-21 say,

Colossians 2:20-21 (NLT)
20 
(and) You have died with Christ, (speaking of your identification with Christ thru faith in him) and he has set you free from the spiritual (or elemental) powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as,
21 “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”?


The context here is adding the requirements of man-made religion to faith in Jesus Christ. The Judaizers were demanding that the people follow their rules and regulations, and the Gnostics were trying to get the people to follow their supposed higher spiritual knowledge.

But God’s Word says, you have been set free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world . . .

Again, this context is not talking about whether you should avoid sinful choices or actions. The context is not about you having the right to sin. These verses are speaking about man-made religious rules and the spiritual philosophies that people try to add to the sufficiency of Christ.

Colossians 2:22 (NLT)
22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them.


We have to learn to discern between a “human teaching” and the “Word of God,” and we’ve got to have the courage to choose the Word of God OVER human teaching because man-made rules of religion are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. In other words, they are NOT from God, and they are going to fade away.

But, some of these human teachings seem right – don’t they? Especially when those teaching them use scripture to reinforce them. And God agrees – they certainly seem right, and that is exactly what verse 23 says.

Colossians 2:23 (NLT)
23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil 
(fleshly) desires.

I love Eugene Peterson’s “contemporary language take” on this verse.

Eugene Peterson – on Colossians 2:23
Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious (devoted) and humble and ascetic (self-discipline). But they are just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important.

But it’s not just the loose paraphrase of Eugene Peterson that takes this approach on verse 23. The NET Bible, which is super highly regarded for its careful translation approach, translates verse 23 like this.

Colossians 2:23 (NET)
23 Even though they
(these religious rules and philosophies) have the appearance of wisdom with their self-imposed worship and false humility achieved by an unsparing treatment of the body - a wisdom with no true value - they in reality result in fleshly indulgence.

These man-made religious rules and philosophies are of NO true value – they just make you look important. They can easily be a way of showing off, and they, in reality, result in fleshly indulgence – meaning that these things feed the flesh.

These religious rules and man’s philosophies
Don’t STOP the FLESH
They FEED the FLESH

And the part of the flesh that they feed – is pride. And since pride is the root of all sin, we should definitely NOT be feeding it with man-made religious rules, regulations, and philosophies.

Let’s pray. I’m going to pray through these verses with you.

Colossians 2:16 (NLT)
16 So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths.


Heavenly Father, we pray today that you would not let us get caught up in religious rules or regulations about what we can and cannot eat, or certain days, or certain ceremonies, or sabbath days, or anything else.

Colossians 2:17 (NLT)
17 For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.


Lord, we know that even though the Law of Moses was good and necessary, it was a shadow of the reality that you, Jesus, ARE. You are the reality. You are the fulfillment of all that the Law of Moses pointed to and required. Don’t let us go back to the shadow once we have the real thing, Lord.

Colossians 2:18 (NLT)
18 Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud,


And so, Lord, we pray that you would please give us discernment and wisdom. And if anyone tries to insist that we have to add ANYTHING to who you ARE in our lives, Lord, even if it involves angels and visions and anything else, Lord, please don’t let us get trapped in that. Don’t let us get trapped into the worship of anything besides you, and you, alone, Jesus.

Colossians 2:19 (NLT)
19 and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.


Lord, Jesus, we say together today, we want to be connected to you. You, Jesus, are the Head of the Body, and Lord, we do not want to be part of a Body with a severed head. Lord, we want to be connected to you. And we want you, Lord, to bind us together as the Body. And, Lord, God, we want to grow as you nourish us, as you and you alone nourish us.

Colossians 2:20-21 (NLT)
20 You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as,
21 “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”?


Lord, we say today that our faith in you alone makes us complete and sufficient. In you, Christ, we are, and we have all that we need. And when you died to the things of this world and to sin, Lord, we died with you, and you set us free from the elemental, the spiritual powers of this world. And so, Lord, we pray that you would set us free from the bondage of man-made religion and rules and regulations and that you would make us completely sufficient in you, Lord. In our relationship, our oneness with you.

Colossians 2:22 (NLT)
22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them.


Because, Lord, these rules and these regulations and spiritual philosophies are all mere human teachings. And Lord, they’re all fading away, as temporal things all will. But you, Lord, are eternal, the Only Eternal One and our relationship with you is eternal. And so, Lord, don’t let us trade our eternal relationship with you for something temporal and man-made.

Colossians 2:23 (NLT)
23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.


Lord, all these man-made rules, regulations, and systems, and ideas, and philosophies may seem wise to us because, in our flesh, we want to work for your approval. We want to earn, and we want to deserve our position with you. But Lord, all of our self-effort and all of our own work only feeds our pride, and our pride separates us from you.

And so, Lord, we pray that we would know you completely; that we would know you better. Lord, may we know that you are supremely sufficient in all that we need.

May we know that in our union with you by faith and in our relationship with you, that we are complete. We are complete in YOU, Jesus.

May we commit to KNOW you better.
May we commit to WALK with you more closely
And Lord, may we commit to be TRANSFORMED more and more into your image through an ever-increasing intimate knowledge of you as our Savior and our Lord.

Jesus, we say, today, it’s about you. And it’s about only you. May you be glorified in our lives, in your name which is above every other name, Jesus, amen.