The weather in Oklahoma has been dramatic this past week.
Severe weather warnings have been normal for most of us, I suppose.
- Phone apps
- Television stations
- Word of mouth
How seriously do you take weather warnings?
- It depends on whether I heard it or not
- It depends on who is giving the warning
- It depends on if I think I am immune to the danger
Paul was serious about warning people
28We proclaim Him, admonishing (and warning) every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.
29For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.
- Paul was in the business of ‘warning’ people
- He worked hard at warning people
- His warning was positive in nature. He was warning them so that they might be complete, perfect, in Christ Jesus
Paul has just given these young followers of Christ a simple, summary statement of how to live the Christian life.
Our passage for this morning
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit,
After (according to) the tradition of men,
after (according to) the rudiments of the world,
and not after (according to) Christ.
Paul understood the intellectual and cultural atmosphere in central Asia minor.
There were some dangerous elements in it.
If these young Christians
- Weren’t aware of the danger
- “I didn’t know”
- This would be like the person new to Norman. “where I’m from we had earthquakes, but I’ve never seen a tornado before.”
- “I didn’t know”
- Weren’t careful
- “I’ll take my chances”
- This might be like the person who knows that there is a high probability of storms in the next hour but who decides to go OKC for supper.
- “Norman has never been hit by a tornado . . . until this one.”
- “I’ll take my chances”
- Have a streak of pride about them
- “I’m smart enough that I can out whit a tornado”
- Is there a bit of this in all of us?
- If so, wouldn’t warning be helpful – perhaps critical- if there is danger at hand?
- “I’m smart enough that I can out whit a tornado”
You are going to be KIDNAPPED!
Paul knows that if this church doesn’t watch out, they are in danger of taken “spoil”
- or ‘taken captive’
- or ‘kidnapped’
- or ‘human trafficked’
By what? What’s so dangerous for these people? What’s so dangerous for us?
- vain or empty deceptions,
- traditions that have their source in human thinking rather than the word of God,
- ‘elementary principles of the world’ rather than the high wisdom and knowledge of Christ and His will.
These ideas drift around every human society and they
- Naïve Christians are often taken captive by these ideas
- This is all new to them
- Disconnected, isolated, ‘loner’ Christians can easily be led away by these sorts ideas . . . because,
- They avoid the warning!
- Stubborn, arrogant Christians are easily kidnapped by these idea
- They have the foolish idea that they are smarter than God!
The beguiling quality of these ideas is that they are very persuasive, especially to the ‘unwarned’ individual
4I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.
- Just because someone gives a TED Talk does not make them right
- Just because someone is interviewed on NPR does not make their opinion worth adopting
- Just because your friend at work is excited about an idea that she just read in a best-selling book does not mean you should buy into it also.
- Perhaps this is the most dangerous sort of persuasive argument
The Colossians and their friends down the Lychus Valley in Laodocea dealt with a ‘mixture’ of ‘persuasive arguments’
- Some of it had to do with worship or appeasement of angels and heavenly beings.
- Some of it had to do with pagan religions or Greco-Roman polytheism
- Some of it had to do with Jewish laws and traditions
These ideas may not have been as organizes or intense as they were for the Galatians or the Colossians.
That may also be part of what makes them so subtle and seductive!
What about us? Do we need to be warned?
Researchers are telling us that American Christians are becoming more and more like the culture in our belief system.
They are also telling us that the younger our church members are the more they are blending non-biblical ideas into their Biblical beliefs.
Todd Engstrom, a staff member with the Austin Stone church in Austin, Texas argues that there are three worldviews that are at the heart of the Austin city culture and worldview.
- When I read his doctoral paper I found myself thinking, “he’s writing about Norman!”
- See what you think.
- Individualistic autonomy is the basic idea that life should be viewed through the lens of ‘what is most important to me?’
- ‘I have final say’, not Christ.
- And in my social connections – family, job, church – are all subject to ‘my goals, my interests, my preferences, and my needs. My concerns come before theirs do’.
- I define who I am by ‘my’ aspirations, priorities, values, ‘my actualization’.
- Materialism is “the pervasive idolatry of allowing possessions to define identity.”
- Acquiring more and more and more things becomes our unquestioned rite. And, we are insistent on getting them.
- American culture is kidnapped by this sort of thinking, and the American church is increasingly captive to it as well.
- Thumma and Bird doing advanced research on The Austin Stone found that 68 percent of the church gives less than 5 percent of their income to the church.
- The Austin Stone, like River Church, is made up of university students who are not yet producing income as well as young adults who are well into their professional life.
- However, Austin Stone is honest about the obvious disconnect between generosity toward the church and the relative earning capacity of its members.
- The assumption here is that I come to God for what I can get.
- I come to the church for what it can give me.
- So long as I am getting what I want, I keep coming back. But, if I feel like my needs aren’t being met or if I’m not kept happy then I move on to somewhere else or something else where I can consume from them.
- The unquestioned belief is that my needs come first and that the church exists to meet my needs.
Skye Jethani, in his recent work, says it like this
“In a consumer worldview (God) has no intrinsic value apart from his usefulness to us. He is a tool we employ, a force we control, and a resource we plunder. We ascribe value to him (the literal meaning of the word “worship”) based not on who he is, but on what he can do for us.”
Are any or all of these at the heart of Norman city culture and worldview?
If not, what is?
Do we need to be warned so we are not kidnapped by them?
Let’s be clear about what Paul is not saying.
- He is not saying that Christians should not be able to think philosophically.
- Philosophy is an extremely helpful discipline designed to help us think through ultimate issues such as the existence of God, the meaning of life, the nature of good and evil, how we use language, and a variety of other tough topics.
- Philosophical reasoning, therefore, that is subject to the final authority of Scripture can shed great light on our search for and understanding of truth.
- Christians need to excel in this.
- Paul isn’t saying that there is nothing we can learn from the world or benefit from.
- Nor is Paul saying that we shouldn’t understand the ideas that make up the intellectual and popular thinking of our culture.
- We are not to be a “Christian ghetto” oblivious to the times we are called to minister in.
We need to be able to discern between Biblical truths and earthly ideas.
We need to beware not to be “kidnapped” so that we can pursue Christ as fully as possible!!!
The ‘heart purpose’ of warning is an ‘overflowing heart’!
“Dave, if you are going to win a marathon, you can’t eat two bowls of ice cream every night!”
“Oh, River, I don’t know where to begin in this letter unpacking this idea! There is so much here!”
I will limit myself to the verse that precedes and the few following.
6Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,
7having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
River, God has not given another book of Leviticus to us!
He has given us a living, loving, Lord and Savior, and He has poured out the Holy Spirit into our hearts.
We walk IN Him!
And our hearts are new and alive because of the gospel!
Psalm 40:8 is the normal pulse of our hearts
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart.”
We OVERFLOW with gratitude, joy and love
The point of this warning is very simple. DON’T ALLOW ANYTHING TO DISTRACT YOU OR ‘KIDNAP’ YOU FROM A SIMPLE DEVOTION TO CHRIST
- That the appetite and pursuit of our hearts would be “after Christ”
- That the choices of our daily lives would be “after Christ”
- That our academic and intellectual pursuits would be “after Christ”
- That our professional ambitions would be “after Christ”
- That our emotional orbit would be “after Christ”
- That our financial choices would be “after Christ”
- That our hope for the future would be “after Christ”
Oh, how beautiful and sweet it is to be warned!
 Todd Engstrom, p. 25
 Engstrom, p. 26
 Skye Jethani, The Divine Commodity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 27