Fighting Delusion by Fighting Discouragement
Did you know that you might be deceived right now? Many places in Scripture tell us that we have to watch out for deception. For example, Revelation 3 tells us that in the church in Laodicea there were some who thought they were rich, and they did not know that they were wretched and miserable and poor. Matthew 7 tells us that at the final judgement some will think that they know the Lord because of their good works, but actually they will be cast into Hell because they had deceived themselves. At midweek Bible study this week we saw in Hosea 7 that sometimes sin has completely devoured our strength, and yet we don’t know it. We are deceived into thinking that we are fine.
As Paul writes to the Colossians, he shares this concern – that they might be deceived. He uses the word “deluded” – means the same thing as deceived. And here in the beginning of chapter 2 he tells us how to fight against delusion in the church. And this should be a warning and challenge to each of us – the next person to be deceived might be the person down the row or in front or behind you right now. Or it might be you.
Notice the core thought (and then we will look at the details):
v.1 Paul has a great struggle for them. The word is related to the word “labor” in 1:29. This form means intense conflict or strain – obviously this is internal, in Paul’s heart. The English “agonize” would be a good equivalent. His heart agonizes for them.
v.2 That their hearts might be encouraged. That’s a little bit surprising. Why would Paul’s heart agonize over their encouragement?
v.4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive arguments. Delude means to deceive the mind or judgement into believing something false. It means to trick, to mislead, to scam.
Put it together: Paul agonizes for them that they might be encouraged, so that no one can delude them. If I had to title this message, I would call it “Fighting Delusion by Fighting Discouragement.”
This comes on the heels of 1:24-29 which we saw last week. We saw that Paul labors to exhaustion to present them mature in Christ. Now he sees discouragement as a great enemy to that Christlikeness. He sees that we must fight discouragement; his heart agonizes at the threat of discouragement to the Christian. A discouraged Christian will be vulnerable to deception. So we must fight delusion by fighting discouragement.
Now let’s go back and look at the details of these verses.
“For those who are at Laodicea and for all those who have not personally seen my face.”
Laodicea was about 10 miles from Colossae. We are told in 4:16 that Paul had sent a separate letter to the Laodiceans, and that the two churches were to trade letters once they had read them.
Apparently Paul did not plant the church in either of these cities, and so he does not personally know these believers. Obviously he had many connections to this church and had a great concern for God to be glorified through their Christ-likeness. In a simple way this is a good example for any leadership. Paul was not territorial or egotistical in his leadership, as we can see from many passages. He did not say “If I didn’t start the church I don’t care.” He was concerned for the glory of God anywhere in the world, whether he could be personally involved or not.
“That their hearts may be encouraged”
While this Greek word has fairly broad meaning in the New Testament, in the context here it seems to be best represented with the English word “encourage.”
“having been knit together in love and attaining to all the wealth…”
Like last week, we reach a spot where I can’t ignore the fact that we are probably looking at quite different translations. If I ignore it there is some great possibility for confusion. I want us to take the time to look carefully at this. Not just to understand this text. But the more we understand about the process of translation, and the difficulties of translation, and how we got our English Bibles, the better off we will be in understanding them. So I think it is worth our time to see how this works.
(see powerpoint) I think it is best (with the NASB) to see this as two ways that encouragement happens. Two things that we need to guard us from discouragement.
“having been knit together in love”
We fight discouragement by being joined together in love. Love is not a warm feeling that we have for each other; it’s not some mystical blessing that tinkerbell floats down on us. It is selfless commitment to one another. It is caring, listening, providing, serving one another. The local church is supposed to be knit together by our love for one another. This is another reason why we must fight the perception that church is a show that you go to watch. We cannot file into church, enjoy the show, and then file back out, and be functioning like God tells the church to function! You have to be actively committed to these people who are sitting around you! You must be selflessly committed to their good. And that love will bring us together so that we aren’t just a group of people watching a show together, we are a church, a healthy body knit together in love.
That is one way we fight discouragement in the church – by love.
“and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Some of you are now confused, because For the second time in the same verse, we have major differences in the translations. The NASB and NIV are very similar, but if you are looking at the KJV you just read something completely different. You just read “to the full acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.” Now in the first part of this verse it was not hard to see how different translations could come out differently. But how in the world could one translation get “the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ” and another have “God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself”? Since the KJV was translated, many new manuscripts of the Greek New Testament have been found, including manuscripts that were older (and thus closer to the time of the original writings) than anything else we had. That is of course very exciting for us. Two of those recently discovered very old manuscripts included this portion of Colossians. Both of them read “the mystery of God, that is Christ.” One of those manuscripts is from the second oldest group of manuscripts in existence (about AD 200) and the other is from about AD 400. So there is some real significance to the fact that these very old manuscripts have the shorter reading. And, we usually prefer the shorter reading anyways. Because as they copied the manuscripts, they were extremely careful not to leave anything out. But sometimes they accidentally added things. And so in general, over time, things get added to manuscripts, not subtracted. So the modern copies of the Greek New Testament and modern translations have taken the shorter reading: “a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself.”
If I confused you, talk to me after and let me try to unconfuse you. Now, let’s step back and understand where we are. Two ways to fight discouragement. First, the church must be knit together in love. Second, every believer must have a full knowledge of Christ, who is our treasure. If you have Christ and know Christ you are rich. You have true wealth. In verse 3 he says that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.” You have hidden treasure. But the world has plenty of fools gold to distract us. Looks like treasure but it really isn’t. One song says “all the pretty toys shine brightly around me, all the pretty houses glisten and gleam.” It might be toys or houses or cars or sensuality or success, the world has plenty of treasure to offer. To fight discouragement we must be filled up with the full knowledge of he treasure we have in Christ. Paul uses the words “full assurance” and “understanding” and “full knowledge.” Truth about Christ is absolutely vital for Christian living. Theology is critical.
Illust: Suppose someone gives me a piece of fools gold. I set it on my shelf since it is a sort of novelty. And then one day the neighbor boy comes over for cookies, and I give it to him. And he takes it home and shows it to his dad. And his dad takes it to a jeweler. And come to find out it wasn’t fools gold after all. I was the fool, and that was real gold. I didn’t know what I had. That is how many professing Christians are with Christ. They have very little idea what they have. He sits on the shelf of their life – a nice novelty to look at and think about once in a while. They have no idea that they have the world’s greatest treasure right there.
Two ways to fight discouragement in the church: be knit together in love, and attain to the full assurance of understanding of the full knowledge of Christ! Both of these things are necessary! A discouraged Christian needs magnificent truths about Christ that show His infinite greatness and value and lift their thoughts beyond the discouragements of this world to the glories and treasures of Heaven. They need good theology about Christ! And they need Christ’s body here on earth to hug them. To babysit the kids, to listen, to weep, to rejoice, to cheer. They need great truth about Christ and great love from Christ’s body.
“I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument.”
Delusion may come through religious teaching that leads you off track. Gets you to care about Bible codes or psychological techniques or self-esteem more than Christ. It might be false teaching. There is an evangelist in our area right now who is preaching universalism in churches around here: that God will save everyone. You can find supposedly “Christian” pastors in Southern California who will tell you that homosexuality is acceptable Christian behavior.
But you also might be deluded through the allures of the world. I said earlier that many believers have real gold and they don’t know it. But many believers have fools gold and they think it is real. They love the things of the world and they think those things are treasure. They have been tricked into thinking that those things are real gold. Things that will burn at the judgement. Things that will be gone tomorrow. Things that are deadly or addictive. They’re just lies.
We can be deluded by our own sin. Hebrews 3:13 “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘today,’ lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” You can be deceived and eventually hardened by sin, and you don’t even know it is happening.
There are many ways that we can be deluded or deceived, but Paul says that discouragement makes us vulnerable. Did you notice the beginning of Hebrews 3:13? “Encourage one another daily … lest any of your be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” So he agonizes for them that they would be encouraged. By being part of a body that is knit together in love. And by being filled up with great truth about Christ, the real treasure.
What should you do?
1. Realize that you are vulnerable to deception. As soon as any of us think that we couldn’t be deceived by sin or the world or religious teaching that gets us off tracks – as soon as we think that we couldn’t be deceived, we are ripe and ready for it to happen. Admit that you are vulnerable.
2. Fill yourself up with Christ. Great truths about Christ will keep you from deception, keep you from sin. Take time to think about Christ. Take time to enjoy your treasure. If you don’t know where to start, read Colossians 1 – meditate upon all of these truths that we have already covered. If you’re thinking is not Christ-centered you are vulnerable.
3. Be a functioning part of the body. Get rid of the idea once and for all that church is something that you come and watch once a week. Pray for one another, love one another, serve one another. Come to church with your “need radar” active. Listen carefully to what people say to you. Watch for opportunities to help, to give, to rejoice, to weep, to serve. If we aren’t knit together in love we will be open for deception.