I am not sure where I developed the habit, but I can be a bit of a contrarian. A “contrarian” is one of those annoying individuals who start every third sentence with “yea, but…” and proceed to point out the opposite side of every argument.
In my most self-charitable moments, I suspect that I act that way because that’s the way I learn. If I want to understand something, I learn not only what that thing is, but also what it is not. I’m always looking for the boundaries—how far this way, or that way, can I waver and still be “in the right?” And, so it is with my faith—if I want to understand something, learning about the opposite helps me a lot. When studying about, for instance, the resurrection of Jesus, it helps me to read others’ thoughts who would reject that teaching. Learning about their wrong-thinking, helps to solidify my own thinking. Few folks have been more helpful in this than a particular pastor who often blogs thoughts that defy description.
In one such blog, this pastor described how it is appropriate to describe himself as a Christian even though he doesn’t believe God exists. “What??" you ask. “A pastor who doesn’t think God exists?” Yes, he thinks “God” is a useful metaphor and thinks that acting morally qualifies him as a Christian pastor. Reading his thinking helps me see what is wrong with a faith that loses sight of Jesus. Now, I grant you, he is an extreme case. But still, there is a lot of Christ-less Christianity going around… and perhaps there is some in our lives as well.
The thought of a Christ-less Christianity should strike us as an impossibility. After all, what could be more central than Christ to Christianity? But, Christ-less-ness doesn’t just mean that one denies Jesus. It just means that Jesus is no longer the center of one’s faith. Something else—often something good—takes the place of Jesus in our universe. There are a lot of wonderful things in this world. There are a lot of good ideas in this world. There are a lot of good deeds to do in this world. But all that good-ness can actually distract us from what is truly central in our lives—Jesus Christ.
As we have been working our way through Paul’s letter to the Colossians, the centrality of Jesus (His supremacy and sufficiency) should be clear to us all. Paul is writing this way because the Colossians are struggling with the same temptations that we have—temptations to get distracted from Christ and toward something else, anything else. How do we fight this temptation? How do we keep from getting off-course in our lives and our faith? Paul’s answer to the Colossians at the beginning of chapter 2 is to share the struggles and the goals of his ministry. By doing so, his readers might reach the full knowledge of Christ, and not be deluded by any other good-sounding thing.
If you too find yourself often in “Christ-less” situations, tempted toward Christ-less goals in life, dig in! For in the Word of God you will find Jesus, the incomparable Christ.
See you at worship this Sunday as we study together Colossians 2:1-5.
1. Why would Paul want to share with others how much he struggles in ministry? Why would that be a good thing?
2. Paul says that he struggles even for those who he has never met. Why is that important? What does that say to you and your ministry?
3. Why do our hearts need to be encouraged? Why do we need to be knit together? Is this a message only for those who are down-hearted and feeling separated from others?
4. In verse 4, Paul is concerned about “plausible arguments”. Where do you think those are coming from? What do you think makes them “plausible”?
5. What brings Paul joy in verse 5? Why does “good order” bring him joy? What might “good order” look like?
6. How do you know if you have a “firmness of faith in Christ”? (vs. 5) How does Paul expect you to get it?