As you read the book of Colossians, Paul repeatedly holds up the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus in all things and over all things. This would be true for any of the churches he sent a letter (Epistle), but it was especially necessary at Colossae. There were those at Colossae undermining Christ’s sufficiency. They did this–as far as we know–not by rejecting Jesus, denying his humanity or divinity, or denying the claims of Jesus. Instead, it was more subtle. This false teaching conveyed the idea that Jesus is a great start, but to really arrive, grow, be happy, or experience the highest levels of knowledge and religious experience, other things needed added to Jesus or sought alongside of Jesus. It’s a “Jesus plus” or “Jesus and” theology rather than a “Jesus alone” theology.
I’ve recently had the chance to contribute to a few other websites or had articles picked up by them. For anyone interested in reading things that might not always get posted here, check out the following links.
2020 has given us plenty of challenges: the pandemic, quarantine and isolation, church closures and re-openings, racial tensions, riots, debates over masks and pretty much everything else tied to COVID-19, politics in an election year, and questions about government intrusion on the Church. Mix in that trying to figure out what families should do for school, and how that affects our jobs and income, as well as churches scrambling to do their best to gather together and care for those struggling with all that’s going on, and there’s plenty to leave us discouraged.
One temptation is to immerse ourself in the news–on TV, online, or through social-media–to stay up to speed and feel informed. The intense debates only fuel this as so many people read articles to defend their cause. It’s no wonder people feel stressed, anxious, and angry. To make matters worse, some statistics indicate Christians are spending even less time in the Bible than they did before the pandemic. We’re filling our minds with bad news and stressful news, meanwhile we’re neglecting to fill our minds and hearts with The Good News.
One of the things biblical scholars love to debate is what the “heresy” at Colossae actually was. Was it a heresy? What was taught? Was it from inside or outside the church? Paul warns the church at Colossae, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:8).” So who were the false teachers at Colossae, and what was the nature of their teaching?
“Much in cultural engagement hangs on wisdom and virtue rather than a list of rules or universal plan that we might extract from the Bible.” Joshua D. Chatraw & Karen Swallow Prior, Cultural Engagement
“Of all its benefits, one of the drawbacks of the digital age is how easily we mistake information for knowledge….The goal of discernment is not to simply avoid evil in this life, it is to learn what is good so that we might embrace and enjoy it.” Hannah Anderson, All That’s Good
We have more information than ever, and yet it seems we’re less discerning than ever. Maybe those two go hand-in-hand, as the amount of information and the mediums we receive that information from (primarily online and through social-media) don’t prioritize wisdom.
In an age of fake news, alternative opinions, echo chambers, tribalism, information overload, cancel culture, and hot takes, taking the time to diligently study issues, consider various views, compare it with biblical teaching, and reflect on the nuances and complexities of those issues before arriving at an opinion–and sharing it–seems to rarely happen. It’s much easier to simply read one article that says what I like (or even just read the headline) and quickly share it with everyone. It feels good. But does it cultivate discernment and diligence? Does it over-simply issues or honestly reflect nuance? Wisdom is in short supply, but let’s do what we can to try and reclaim it.
There are things we take for granted until we really need them. Like windshield wipers. I vividly remember driving down the interstate in a downpour. Rain pounded my car. As I flipped my wipers into high-speed, they suddenly caught on one another. Not good. I pulled over to the shoulder, jumped out of the safety of my dry car, and got soaked as I separated the wipers like two fighting children. After a quick rendition of “Jesus Take the Wheel,” I returned to the road, exhaling a deep, grateful breath.
Colossians is full of great theology. Not just informative, but the kind of theology that warms our hearts with the knowledge of who Jesus is or that provides solid ground to stand on when our faith is shaky. The deeper we dive into Paul’s theology in this book the stronger our faith becomes.
Each week at Pennington Park Church, we provide a Sermon Discussion Guide for Small Groups to use in their time together. Below are some additional questions to study in advance to help you dive deeper in Colossians 1:9-14. Since this week will focus on prayer, we’ve also provided a five day prayer guide.
Paul’s prayers—like his letters in general—so overflow with richness that you feel like you’re working to catch every drop as it pours out. There’s always more to be seen and acted on than what you find in the moment. This makes studying the Bible exciting, knowing there’s always more to be found later when we return. We never run out of “fresh grass” to feed on. Continue reading Learning to Pray from Paul
Each week at Pennington Park Church, we provide a Sermon Discussion Guide for Small Groups to use in their time together. Below are some additional questions to study in advance to help you dive deeper in Colossians 1:3-8.