The Supremacy Defended: Don't Get Scammed from His Sufficiency! (Col. 2:8-10)
I think I am going to have to resign from EFCC. I have just been told of the deal of the century. I want to read an email to you:
Beloved in Christ,
It is a priviledge to hear from God and it gives me joy to relate my testimony to you… I was a Moslem and a retired military top officer in the Nigerian Army that served under the past military regime…With my position as a financial secretary, I was able to divert up to $45,000,000.00 (Forty Five million U.S Dollars, into my personal Bank Account, hoping to invest the money when I’m retired. Immediately I got retired, I was converted from Moslem to Christian when I was preached the words of God through my cousin Pastor Paul Osakwe. I then gave my life to Christ and became a born again Christain.
Since I gave my life to Christ, I had no rest of mind. Some times I think of the souls I killed when I was a soldier and the dubious ways I diverted my country’s money into my Personal Bank Account. I then decided to seek the face of God for forgiveness and after fasting and prayer through Divine Revelation, the Almighty God revealed to me that the only way I could have rest of mind is when I used all my money to do the work of God. I immediately disclosed my revelation to my Pastor and he was happy with me…
My Pastor has adviced me to sneak out of the country with the money to sow it into a ministries abroad. I have decided to invest this money into Gods ministry with you. I am making arrangement to come over to your country but you need to receive this money from the finance and security company in which i deposited the money in cash before I come over.
The cash has been packaged by the security company in consignments and ready for shipment but the security company requires the address of the receiver. Please kindly send to me your names, address where you wish to receive the consignments that contains the funds, your telephone and fax numbers for easy communication.
I will be coming over to your ministry with my family for thanksgiving as soon as I sent out this money to you. Please act fast because I dont want the panel to know that I want to leave the country, they might suspect my intention to leave now that the probe is going on.
I look forward to your response.
God bless you.
Hopefully it should have taken you about two seconds for you to realize that this email and many like these from overseas are scams! Total rip offs! I got this from a website helping people recognize scams. There are people out there probably sitting in some internet café just prowling around the web looking for the right prey to come around so that they can take them for all that their worth. If we are not careful, we can get duped and have our money and sometimes even our identities stolen. From experience, perhaps we are quick to recognize any fast money making schemes. We may have seen the elderly man or woman trusting the friendly, persuasive salesman at the door selling an all-too-good-to-be-true-product. We may have heard of the divorced, lonely single mom lured by an online Romeo with promises of love, romance and security if loaned some money; or the person struggling for years with cancer or some disease or paralysis spending thousands on bogus medicine. I hate scammers and con artists. When I hear of these, I want so badly to scream, “Watch out! It’s a scam! Don’t sign that paper! Don’t withdraw that money!” Don’t you?
However, did you know that so many believers are getting ripped off and scammed spiritually? The devil is a liar and the master scammer. He has his workers out there taking something more than our money, but our very own soul, by twisting the Word of God, alienating us from the Lord, luring us with ways of thinking that causes us to lose our identity, our minds, our hearts, our hope, our joy and everything we have! I don’t want to get scammed. Do you? Just as we are vigilant with email fraud, we ought to be just as vigilant at these “sufficiency scammers” of our soul, who seek to kidnap us from finding all that we need in Jesus Christ. This is what we are going to look at this morning from Colossians 2:8-10. How do we keep our souls from getting scammed by false teaching?
One of the joys and challenges of studying Scripture verse by verse is that you will have the opportunity to study the whole counsel of God. I don’t think I would ever pick this portion of Scripture out of the blue to preach on, but I committed myself to the book of Colossians and now here we are!
Notice, the first way:
I. Be vigilant against soul scams (Col. 2:8a).
Paul is on the defensive in chapter 2 of Colossians. Anytime you get up and come forward declaring Jesus Christ is totally supreme, you can be sure you will get opponents, especially the devil, ready to see if that is really true. True in Paul’s day and true in our day.
In verse 8, Paul says “see to it,” which is literally, “Beware!” or “Watch out!” It is an imperative, meaning a command, not a suggestion. He is sounding the trumpet. The fire alarm is going off. All flood lights are working in full strength. Turn on the monitoring radar. Pull up the antennae. It is a call to vigilant watchfulness of every believer. What is the call for? Spiritual scammers have intruded in the camp! They do not invade with flashing colors or big bright lights. They move in very subtly, creeping in the darkness like roaches under the refrigerator and termites beneath the floorboard. And it does not come natural for us to notice them, hence why Paul uses the urgent command here.
He says, “see to it that no one takes you captive!” The word, “captive” is only found here in the New Testament.
RSV: “makes a prey of you”
KJV: “spoil you”
NLT: “capture you”
The Message: “drag you off”
Paul continues to use military imagery here (not surprising as he is defending the Supremacy like a solider fighting in an army.) He uses the word “captive” which means literally, “to carry off as spoil or as a prisoner of war.” So he is saying there are thieves coming in to kidnap you if you are sleeping spiritually and not alert to what is going on around you. They are not out just take your money or your property, but they want to take you! He had just told us that Jesus Christ, our great Commander-in-Chief and liberator, delivered us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into His Kingdom and sets us free (Col. 1:13). Now he says do not get captured again and be carried off. The gullible will be about to be enslaved again and back in the domain of darkness. How does this happen?
Paul says it is through “philosophy and empty deceit.” Now be careful here. Paul, a philosopher in his own right, is not anti-philosophy, which means “lover of wisdom.” The Bible is all about pursuing wisdom and knowledge. Actually the way he has phrased it here is “the philosophy, which is empty deceit.” Paul has in mind the specific teaching of the false teachers. So he is not addressing the academic discipline of philosophy, like perhaps the classes that some of us probably slept through in college. It is much broader than that. Actually, any school of thought or understanding of God, the world and/or life was put under the umbrella of philosophy.
Here he probably has in mind the so-called “wisdom” that these people were teaching. Have you ever heard little kids in the playground say, “I know something you don’t know!” or “I have something you don’t have!” Well, that was what these people were doing. They boasted of a secret, superior knowledge of getting to God. Remember in doing so, they shrunk the identity of the Lord Jesus and made him into something like a created being, perhaps an angel. They called their knowledge the epitome of wisdom, but Paul debunks it as empty, hollow, deceit, a word meaning a fraud, trickery or a scam! It is like chasing bubbles or trying to fill up a pitcher with water that has serious cracks in it or blowing up a balloon that has a hole in it. IT WILL LEAVE YOU HOLLOW AND EMPTY.
When you kidnap someone, you are taking someone who was free to a state of being a slave again, gaining complete control over them. The way these scammers kidnap you is by taking you away from the truth and by diluting your thinking and diverting you from God and all that He has for you in Christ.
The problem is not that we hear secular wisdom or we try to understand worldly ways of thinking or that we should not attend liberal arts colleges, but it is when we fail to recognize where the ways of thinking contradict the Word of God and the gospel. This is how we get kidnapped and taken away. This is how perhaps seemingly solid young people at church go off to college, not prepared for the bombardment of the world, its system and its worldviews and the next thing you know are lost in the world and have no interest in the things of the Lord anymore. It’s a scam! It’s kidnapping. Did you ever notice that most people in a cult are the ones who were going to mainline Christian churches prior? They are not going out and winning the lost, they are about kidnapping converts!
Let me give you some, not all, examples of spiritual schools of thought scams in our day. Some of these overlap and it is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will be helpful for us to identify them:
A) Astrology—study of the stars and planetary movements to predict the future. I hope you are not the kind of Christian who says, “Today is a good day. I read my Bible this morning and my horoscope is looking good too!” You are getting scammed. You need to follow the stars, but the One who made the stars (Col. 1:16). We trust the Lord and live by faith and walk by His Spirit, not some pagan occultic way of thinking to put our faith and trust to live our lives.
B) The Occult—Ouija boards, tarot cards, physic readers, contacting the dead, etc. I do not think anyone is dabbling with that stuff, but if you are, stop now. You are getting scammed! There are demonic influences at work there.
C) The New Age Movement—I hate how book stores put New Age sections right next to Christianity. 20% of Americans are falling into this now. It is a man-centered religion where he sets himself up as God. Did you know this is exactly what caused Satan to fall as an angel? (Is. 14:13-14). This is also the problem with the Anti-Christ, who will set himself up as God (2 Thess. 2:3-4). But you may say, Oprah says Eckhart Tolle changed her life! I am not saying don’t watch Oprah or read Eckhart Tolle. I personally don’t care for it. I do not need to put my head in a sewer to know that it stinks. But we need to watch out for these ways of thinking we might think are harmless, but are actually slowly scamming us from Christ’s sufficiency.
D) The Emerging Church Movement—a little bit closer to home, this is “the popular name for an informal affiliation of Christian communities worldwide who want to revamp the church, change the way Christians interact with their culture, and remodel the way we think about truth itself.” Names associated with this group: Rob and Kristen Bell, founders of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Brian Mclaren. It is a postmodern attempt to reach the culture, but compromising the authority of Scripture to get there. It’s a scam! We might get duped because their churches may be growing and it may seem as if they are doing something right, but watch out! Upon closer examination, we know not having the authority of Scripture as our foundation will leave us on sinking sand.
Here is the second way to protect ourselves from the scam of false teaching:
II. Identify and Filter the sources through the standard of God’s Word (Col. 2:8b, c).
In the latter part of verse 8, Paul identifies the sources of the empty philosophy. There are two. But he says both ways are not “according to Christ.” The first source:
a) It comes from a false authority: human tradition (v.8b).
The key word is human, as opposed to divine. The word tradition means “that which is passed down from one to another.” Traditions are not bad and especially those which remind us of our godly heritage are great. However, when traditions made by men, passed on by men perpetuate error and contradict God’s Word, Houston, we have a problem.
The false teachers boasted of their secret teaching saying that, “we have received this from our ancestors, so it must be divine in origin and true!” Just because it has been handed down generation after generation does not make it true.
Illus: it’s like playing telephone. That is definitely a game where error is passed on! This is much different than the Word of God which has been preserved over time.
Tradition says things like, “That’s how we have always done it!” Like evolutionists say, “that’s what scientists have always believed!” Remember the Pharisees and scribes in the New Testament? They added so many rituals, customs and ceremonies to what God had given the Jewish people, that by Jesus’ time, they could not distinguish what was from man and what was from God, to which Jesus strongly rebuked them (Mark 7:8-9).
Sometimes we hear of old traditional sayings like, “God helps those who help themselves.” I would like to know who started that tradition? So many people think that’s in the Bible. What a scam! Basically they’re saying if you are working on something and you are 3/4ths of the way done, then God steps in and says, “ok, now I’m going to help you finish.” Is that how it works? Maybe it is “God helps those who come to Him for help?” How do we know? Scripture is the yardstick. Look at Ps. 50:15: “Call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you and you will glorify me!”
Maybe your grandma taught you, “If you wanna go to Heaven, just be good. Follow the golden rule---do unto others as you would have them do unto you---and that will lead you to the golden streets.” Well, grandma, is that in the Bible? Grandma not only got run over by a reindeer, but got scammed too spiritually! Why did Jesus suffer on the cross like that then? That seems like a waste! The Bible teaches that we need to turn from our sin and believe on the Lord Jesus for our forgiveness to get to Heaven. Traditions can scam us! They need to be identified and filtered through the standard of God’s Word. Here is the second source:
b) It comes from a false security: the world (v.8c).
Paul says the second source of empty philosophy is, “the elemental spirits of the world.” The word, “elemental” literally means, “things in a row,” like the ABC’s, for example. This is a tricky phrase and can mean possibly two things:
1. It could mean the immature, infantile, childish ways of the world. So Paul is saying, the source of empty philosophy comes from a worldly way of thinking, to which if you abandon biblical truth for, you are like someone enrolling in kindergarten class after earning a Master’s degree from graduate school.
2. It could also mean “the basic, typical influence of demons of the world.” Thus, some translations use “spirits.”
I think the best understanding for me is with the first explanation. The same word is used in Galatians 4:3 where the context is clearly immaturity in the faith. What an attack to the false teachers who claimed their secret superior knowledge was advanced and profound. Paul says, “no, it is more little league in its content.” It’s a scam!
What are the ways of the world? Pleasure, possessions, power, media, movies, money, American dream, etc.
The world says things like:
a) If it feels good, do it.
b) If I think its ok, then it’s ok.
c) Your identity is in your face.
d) Your identity is in your career.
e) Your identity is in your friends.
f) Your identity is in your stuff.
Have you fallen into these scams? Filter it by God’s Word. 1 John 2:15-16. What will happen to the world? Rev. 19:11-17…it will be gone in a moment! What a scam! The world promised much, but delivered nothing. Everything vanishes like the morning fog.
Paul writes that these scams are “not according to Christ.” Christ is the final standard. Everything that you read, hear, think, believe, see on TV, papers, movies, internet, needs to be sifted through the grid of the question -- is it according to Christ? Is it according to God’ Word? Learn to sift all your mental input through the grid of is it "according to Christ" and you will not be deluded, scammed, led astray or taken captive by wrong doctrine or wrong thinking!
Some practical steps:
1. Discernment is always something to pray.
2. Do not be driven by personalities. We must evaluate what people say on the value of what is said, not by who said it. Just because Max Lucado or Chuck Swindoll or whoever said something does not mean it should be taken as truth.
3. Double check all information. Sometimes we hear of “new teachings” by people, but they don’t have all the facts and might embellish the truth. Acts 17:11.
4. Dig in the Word. Does Scripture support this? God’s truth must be our reference point.
5. Discuss in community. Sometimes a brother or sister has more insight on something than we do.
6. Deception must be denounced.
7. Deliver others from its clutches!
III. The sufficiency of Jesus Christ protects us from soul scams (Col. 2:9-10).
Paul says once again that Jesus Christ is enough. From now until we get to verse 16, which is Lord willing, next week, I want you to underline, highlight or circle any reference made of Christ. This includes any prepositional phrases like “in him or with him” or any word that points to Christ.
Look at verse 9. It says, for, which means “because,” “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” By putting the phrase “in him” at front, he is emphasizing it. Fullness is in Christ! Emptiness is from man-made, worldly, foolish ways of thinking. Remember in verse 3 of this chapter, in Christ is “in whom all the treasures of wisdom and understanding.” All the treasure, pleasure and the full measure of our lives is in Christ! Every cult and way of thinking, ultimately attacks the person of Christ or work of Christ or both. Once again, Paul in one quick swoop, he clears the table and makes his allegiance known. Jesus alone! Why is Jesus Christ sufficient?
a) We have a true security: He is fully God and fully man (v.9)
No, he’s not an angel or a prophet or a nice man, He is fully God. All of deity—a phrase which is referring to God’s essence and everything God is---so it is not that Christ was god-like, but God himself. All of God “dwells,” in the body of Christ—the word “dwells” means “to settle down in a place for permanent residence.” It is in the present tense meaning, Jesus Christ was, is now and will always be God. Jesus Christ today has a glorified body in Heaven and is God!
So why is He sufficient? As God, we knows all about me. He is all powerful and everywhere. As man, he understands me for he has been tempted in every way as we have, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). He carried my sorrows and was bruised for my iniquities (Is. 53:4-5). He is sufficient! I can come to Him with anything. Nothing escapes His all-seeing eye.
b) We have a true authority: He is Lord (v.10b)
Look at the latter part of verse 10. He is the “head of all rule and authority.” Notice “is,” present tense! Right now Christ is ruling the world with His feet up! All things are under His feet. He has conquered and will come to take everything that belongs to Him.
He is first in rank and position. All angels, rulers, kings and presidents and celebrities will have to bow at the name of Jesus one day. Everything is moving toward that goal!
So Paul is in verse 10, “we have been filled in him.” Literally, “we are complete in Him.” Notice again, “in Him” in the original is put near the front of the sentence to show emphasis.
I like what John Macarthur says here:
“As a result of the Fall, man is in a sad state of incompleteness. He is spiritually incomplete because He is totally out of fellowship with God. He is morally incomplete because he lives outside of God’s will. He is mentally incomplete because he does not know ultimate truth.
At salvation, believers …are made complete. Believers are spiritually complete because they have fellowship with God. They are morally complete in that they recognize the authority of God’s will. They are mentally complete because they know the truth about ultimate reality.”
This does not mean we are perfect or that we are little “gods,” but we have now access to all the resources we would ever need for life and godliness, because we know the One in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge! (Col. 2:3).
As Spurgeon says, “You are like vessels filled up to the brim. You are like warriors thoroughly furnished, fully armed for the fight: Ye are complete in him.” Why fall for the scams of this world? Why be kidnapped by empty, shallow, hollow trickery and deception made by men to satisfy you? When you have a buffet prepared for you at the Lord’s house, why keep scouring like rats in the dumpster for crumbs?
He is sufficient for my needs, whether emotional or financial or whatever we are dealing with. In trials, either he removes the problems or gets us through them. He is enough. Imagine him walking into church this morning and coming up to you and showing you His nail-scarred hands saying, “is there anything you are going through that I am not sufficient for you?
Abbie is growing up really fast, now crawling and almost standing up on her own. The best part of this season now is that she knows who her parents are and she extends out her arms to get picked up or even crawling up to our feet to play with us or if she needs something. She is no longer this immobile often stoic piece of flesh laying in the crib. I love it now when she comes to me either for food, for milk, for play or to put her down. I will always drop what I am doing when she comes to me.
Because of her new found abilities, she is exploring more and also finding herself in tough predicaments where she needs a rescue. The other day she was climbing onto something and then suddenly losing her balance, she fell backward. She always takes a slight moment to think about what just happened and absorbing the shock of it all before bursting into tears. We are watching her the whole time and run quickly to lift her up and comfort her.
The other day I decided to do something. Don’t think I’m an evil parent for doing this, but I decided that the next time she falls, I was going to leave her there for a couple of seconds to see if she will crawl to me for comfort or if she will be wait to be picked up. Jenny was at work (I only do my experiments then). Well she fell on this particular day and started crying. I didn’t move. She was on her back. Then I watched her turn her head and look at me, with tears streaming down her face, mouth full open. She shifted her weight and got on her tummy, put both hands down and lifted herself up and started crawling toward me. This seemed like a lifetime to me and I couldn’t help watching this anymore that I ran and picked her up.
I think children know a secret. They know where their sufficiency is from. Whatever they need, they know to go to their provider, who is also their comforter and the lover of their souls. How often we avoid the Lord and get cheated by the world’s ways! But even still, when slow are the steps of repentance; quick are the feet of forgiveness. Amen! May we find our sufficiency in Jesus today!
MacArthur, J. (2007). The Truth War : Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception (ix). Nashville, Tennessee.: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
MacArthur, J. (1996, c1992). Colossians (103). Chicago: Moody Press.