Colossians 2:8-15 (Week 9 – Jesus Plus Nothing Series)
Jason White



We are often tempted to follow a “Jesus plus” gospel rather than trust in the sufficiency of Christ. In this section of Colossians, Paul teaches us that are complete in Christ and not lacking in any way. We need not depend on hollow and deceptive philosophies that depend on human traditions and the elemental spiritual forces of this world.

Colossians 2:8-10… 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.




Sermon Audio Transcript
When I was in middle school, I'm guessing maybe it was early high school age. My dad who's actually here today was listening. I overheard him listening to the Kennedys self help these personal growth speeches and seminars, people like Zig Ziglar. And, and you know, help you set goals and learn to achieve those goals. And it was at a time in my life where I was just really getting into tennis, I wanted to be the best that I could be. And I thought, well, maybe that could help me be the best that I could be. And so I started borrowing them, I started listening to them myself. And basically what I got out of those was that I needed to be the one who took the initiative for my life in the things that I was going to accomplish, I needed to set really high, big goals that were tough to achieve, and work extremely hard to achieve those goals and be the best that I could be. And so I began to apply those things to my life in that particular area. But at the same time that was going on, I was also really beginning to get involved in church, I was getting involved in my youth group, I was learning to actually read the Bible myself for the first time. And I started to come across verses like Philippians 413, which says, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And I was like, Yes, man, that sounds like the language that I'm hearing in those personal growth messages. And so I began taking those things that I was learning through those personal growth lessons and combining it with Jesus to help me achieve all the goals that I was setting for my life. Now, as I was doing this, I remembered someone using the phrase, God helps those who help themselves. And as soon as I heard it, I was like, that is it like that makes sense to me. God helps those who set really high goals and who set out to achieve those goals. Those people who want to help themselves accomplish big things God steps in, it begins to really help them accomplish those things in life. And so that was the philosophy that I began to live by thinking that God was going to help me because I was working so hard to try and help myself. There's only one problem with that new philosophy of life that I was trying to live by. Some of you know what it is. It's not in the Bible. What we think sometimes is in the Bible isn't always fear. People use that phrase, and they talk about how God helps those who helps themselves. But if you start in Genesis one, and read all the way to the end, you'll never see those words written in the Bible, it does not say that God helps those who helps themselves. Also, my interpretation of Philippians 413 was way off. My thought was that God was going to strengthen me to accomplish whatever it was that I set out to accomplish. That was not an accurate interpretation of that passage that is written in the context of Paul's saying that he was learning to be contingent, in whatever situation he was in, in life, whether he had a lot, or whether he had a little Christ was going to give him the strength to be content in the situations that he was in. My point is, is that I had built up a philosophy of life that did not come from Jesus. It was a hollow philosophy, I was being deceived, and I was building my life on a lie. And I wonder how many of us this morning in the church are also being deceived, and living a lie, living by a false philosophy of life. It's easy to do. That's why Paul had to write this letter to the church at Colossae, even 2000 years ago, because they were being deceived by what we've been saying and tempted by a Jesus plus gospel, adding to the work of just Jesus in His sufficiency and supremacy to accomplish all things. And they were being tempted with the Jesus plus gospel. It's easy for us today to still be tempted by a Jesus plus gospel, which is why we have to pay really close attention to what Paul says in the opening verse of this section that we're looking at today. Paul says See to it, that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. There's so much in In just this one verse, so let's highlight some of the things here. The first thing I want you to notice is this language. When Paul says to see to it, it comes across kind of casual, just kind of see to it right. But that's not what the term in the original Greek really means there's much more force to it. It's a stronger term in Greek, it actually means look out, beware, watch out people. I mean, it's a strong term there. He's saying, beware and watch out for those people who are trying to take you captive. That's another really strong word there. To take someone captive is strong language, it means to take complete control of a person, as one would take control of a captive or a slave, someone took control of a slave in their lives, they were taking ownership of that particular person, the slave had no rights, they were forced to be controlled by the person who owned them as a piece of property. And so while we may not think of our own little philosophies about life being that big of a deal, Paul is trying to say, and just these opening few words and phrases to make sure that they and us see that when we fall for these kinds of philosophies, they can completely take over our lives and rob us of the freedom and the life in the joy that we already have, and can experience in Christ and in Christ alone. So Paul says to beware to watch out that we are not taken captive by these philosophies, and he tells us why he tells us a little bit more about the philosophies. He says, first of all, that they're hollow philosophies, sometimes this is translated, empty. That seems like there's some substance to these philosophies that we are introduced to at times. But in the end, they're hollow, they're empty, there really no substance at all. To them, you may think that they're going to bring you something that you've been missing in life, but at some point, you're going to find out that you're still just feeling empty again, needing more of that thing, or you need a new philosophy now, because it never fully satisfies. Not only are they hollow philosophies, though, Paul says that they're deceptive philosophies. Satan is a master deceiver. Paul, even use the terminology, fine sounding arguments and chapter two, verse four, just a few verses earlier, sometimes these philosophies of life that are hollow in the end and empty on the inside, on the outside, they can look really shiny, they can look like they're the thing that we need in our life, can grab our attention, and they may sound like they're true. And we must recognize that Satan is the one behind them that this is happening in this unseen spiritual realm in which Satan is working. As a matter of fact, some of you may have even read close to 80 years ago, or more now, CS Lewis, his book that he wrote Screwtape Letters in the book, if you're familiar with it, there's a character that he introduced. It's a demon named Screwtape. And there's another demon who is his protege. And his name is wormwood and Screwtape is training his protege wormwood and satanic strategies to use against Christians. And one of the things that Screwtape teaches Wormwood is how to keep Christians in the state of mind that he calls Christianity. And that's it, just keep them in the state of Christianity. And he says, If you want to distract Christians, if you want to debilitate them, if you want to keep them off course, if you want to keep them powerless and ineffective than simply make sure that they never, ever come to a place of believing that Mere Christianity is enough.In other words, make sure that they never believe that Jesus plus nothing equals everything. Gospel, be sure to always deceive them into a Jesus plus philosophy of life of Jesus, and philosophy of life against Satan is labeled a deceiver. It's one of the titles that he carries. And he's just so good at convincing us that these hollow philosophies are true. They're what we need. They're what you've been missing in life. Paul says, Don't be deceived. you'd buy them, they're empty in the end. And he tells us to reasons that they are empty and they never promise and fulfill. He says these empty and deceptive philosophies first of all, depend on human tradition. It's a good thing. None of that ever really gets into the church these days. Right? But my grandpa said, my mom and dad taught that's not the way we used to do it in church. We've always done it this way. My Sunday School teacher taught me, right, there's these things that come up, that are honestly, sometimes traditions, God helps those who helps themselves. My grandma said, well, Grandma, that's not really in the Bible. But we believe because my grandma said it at one time that That's truth to live by. And we're operating under this empty and hollow and deceptive philosophy that is based on a human tradition, what human tradition are you basing your life on right now? We're praying that God would make us aware of these kinds of things in our lives. And we need to compare those things in those traditions to what Scripture says and the truth that is found there. Paul also says that it's not just philosophy based on human tradition, but it's also based on the elemental spiritual forces of this world. What in the world does that mean? Well, besides being the deceiver, Satan is also talked about as the ruler of this world. And scripture paints the picture for us that he's at work in this world, he's at work in our culture, and kind of creating this whole worldly system, if you will have different ideas and different values and morals and practices and social norms that are counter to Christ, in integrating them into society, and then when they become normal, they get integrated into the church and become a Jesus plus gospel. Jesus plus philosophy we've been talking about, where does that come from? I think it comes from what we're talking about here, this elemental spiritual forces of this world, this worldly system that we live in, and we become so accustomed to as a part of our culture, that sometimes we don't even recognize it. Satan has been a master of integrating this philosophy of like secular humanism into our world and into our culture, it's the idea that humans are fully capable of solving the world's problems, and fulfilling happiness from within ourselves, and just ourselves, if we just get smart enough, if we just set the right goals, if we work hard enough, we're gonna get there one day, we're gonna get all figured out, the world's gonna be out our place, I'm finally going to be happy, we're going to get there. Sometimes I think this is also the same thing as the American dream. It's where that kind of thing comes from, right? If we pull ourselves up from our bootstraps, with our own beliefs, and our own choices, and our work ethic, we can achieve whatever it is that we want to achieve. And when we get there, whatever that place is, that we're dreaming of, that we're missing out on here. But when we get there, we're going to be fulfilled, we're going to be happy, we're gonna have everything that is that we need. And we celebrate the American dream and all the people who were nothing and built their lives up into something mutually meaning they got a big house and they got a lot of money now and they're super successful in this world. And all along Satan in his worldly system is going if you'll get there, you'll you'll finally have everything it is that you need. I wonder how many of those people are truly happy, finally satisfied and fulfilled, or are they continuing to chase now? For more, I finally got the dream and the American dream. But you know what, I need a bigger American dream now. And we just replaced it and keep this cycle going over and over and over again. It's hollow. Indeed, it's deceiving. It's deceptive. Right? It's based on this worldly system that sometimes even gets integrated into the church. These philosophies are dependent on human tradition and elemental spiritual forces rather than on Christ. Jesus is the philosophy of life. It's just Jesus. Right? Paul says that the philosophy that is not based on elemental spiritual forces of this world is Christ in what he gifts to you what he brings you by grace. That is everything opposite of the philosophies found in our world. The world says you got to earn forgiveness, by the way that you treat others, you got to get what you deserve. You get rewarded for proving yourself and setting high goals and getting somewhere. But Jesus says, no, no, no, I give you mercy, I give you forgiveness, you get blessings as a gift. They're not something that you have to earn by achieving or showing me how much it is that you love me, I just pass those out freely because of me, being a really good God and full of love. And I love to give good gifts to my kids. It's just who he is what he does, you don't earn the abundant life, you receive it through Jesus that is counter cultural, we're supposed to earn things. Jesus plus nothing though. It's just Jesus. Want to know why? Paul tells us, For in Christ, all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ, you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. Pastors Do you want to know why these philosophies are empty? Why Jesus is enough. Because Jesus is full of God, the totality of God existed in him in bodily form. And because you're in Christ, you to have been brought to fullness, you are complete. You are not lacking anything. If you've been brought to fullness, then you are complete. You are not lacking anything. We've talked about this before. But this is all written in the perfect tense and in the passive voice, which once again just quickly means that this happened at a point in time. And it has ongoing results that last all the way through eternity. At one point in time, you were made complete, passively. Not anything you've done on anything you've earned, it was in Christ, something that he did, he's the one who made you complete, and you will forever be complete all the way through eternity, your feelings will tell you differently. You'll feel like you're lacking something, you'll think that you're lacking something at different times. But that's why we renew our minds to the truth and say no, no, in Christ, I am complete. My feelings are lying to me in this moment. My thoughts are lying to me in this moment, we're not going to fall for those lies because I'm complete. And Christ, not lacking anything. So don't fall for the lies don't fall for the deception of a Jesus plus philosophy. Because you're already complete in Him. But Paul has said this now and he wants us to know how complete we are and why we're so complete. So he elaborates on these things. He says in him that union with Christ, you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised with cry or by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. Paul says you want to know how complete you are. Take the pictures of circumcision in the picture of baptism. Now, the circumcision that Paul's talking about here is not a physical circumcision, but a spiritual circumcision. It's a spiritual operation that Jesus does, it means to cut away our old hard hearts. Our hearts were infected with sin. We were spiritually dead, there was something about this nature within us because of sin that was black and rotten to thecore. Right. But that nature has been dealt with at the moment of salvation when we were spiritually baptized into him. When he says here that you were buried with him in baptism. He's not talking about water baptism. He's talking about a spiritual baptism and immersion to be immersed into Jesus, Jesus died, you died with Jesus that happened to you, the old Jew is dead, buried and gone. We talk about this every time we have a water baptism, right? It means that you've been fully cleansed of your sins. But when we see someone go under the water, it's the picture of burial that the old you died with Christ but then you've been raised up to someone new, which is exactly what he mentioned. And then summarizes here in the next verse, he says, when you were dead in your sins, that's what had happened, you were dead, you didn't need to become a better you. You didn't need to learn how to have better behavior and just figure out those kinds of things. And to achieve ghosts, you were dead, you needed a resurrection. So when you were dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God, not you, God made you alive with Christ. The old you is dead, the new you is alive. You've been brought to fullness because you are alive. Paul says you want me to show you how complete you really are. Look no further than the fact that you were dead, and you had a sinful nature. And Jesus killed that part of you off, and now you've been raised up and made alive. He's telling this to the church at Colossae. But he's saying it to you today. If you've put your faith and trust in Jesus, you've been made complete in Him, the old Jew, the one with a sinful nature is dead, buried and gone in your innermost being where your spirit is united to Jesus, where your real identity is found. Do you know what you don't ever want to sin? Jesus doesn't ever want to sin, right? And you're in union with Him. And you've been transformed and changed the old sin nature is dead, buried and gone, he can't exist in that anymore, you've been brought to someone new. So in the very core of your being, which is the real you who you are in union with Jesus, you never, ever want to sin. Now, you may feel like you want to sin in your body. And you may think that you want to sin, but you don't want to sin at the very core of your being you can recognize when those things come and go, that's a lie. I don't really want that because the real me who's the new creation and alive in this spiritual union with Christ doesn't want that. I can't ever want that. Why? Because I'm completing Christ and not lacking anything. I don't need anything. This is how complete you really are. Paul says, This is why you can't put your philosophies of life in the human traditions and elemental spiritual forces of this world. Because do you know how alive and complete you really are in Christ, he goes on and says, You're so complete that he forgave you of some of your sins.He forgave past tense. All of your sense. That's how complete you are. You've been forgiving from your past, present and future sins haven't canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness which stood against us and condemned us. He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. You are so complete in Christ because the full forgiveness. You have full forgiveness in Christ, you are charged with a certificate of indebtedness to God because of your sin. He's a perfect God. He's a holy God, He demands righteousness. And because you were a senator, you were forever indebted to him. And it was a debt that you could never be able to pay. But because Jesus paid it for you through his finished work on the cross, God has written on that certificate paid in full. Paid in full. When you get a certificate that says you're paid in full You don't owe the bank anything you're celebrating and throwing a party. You don't owe them anything else. You're not second guessing it, you know it. Jesus said it's been paid in full, how many of us are living as if it's really been paid in full. Most of us live as if it's not been paid in full. And we're trying to make up for the things that we know that we've done instead of trusting in Jesus has already taken care of those things. You are forgiven. You are made clean. You don't have to earn anything else. It's just a gift that you've received and will always have but human traditions, hollow and deceptive philosophy of Jesus plus will tell you and try to captivate you with the deception of the Jesus plus gospel going no, no, no, no, you don't have everything it is that you need in Christ. If you aren't fully forgiven, right, you do need to be able to do these things in order to be forgiven. And then we're captive. We're held and slave to those things. Oh my gosh, I gotta do this to make up for it. I gotta confess, I gotta keep an account, I got all of these things that we've got to do. And we're right back into the religion and elemental spiritual forces of the world and the human traditions just enslaved to each and every one of those hollow and deceptive philosophies. We don't live in the fullness and the completeness of Christ, we live in the lack. We're constantly chasing things to fill it up ourselves, even in good with good religious activity. Things that people talk about in church, verse 15, he finishes up and says, Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made them a public, or made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Sin was Satan's trump card, if you feel right, I mean, Jesus, yeah. But I've got the trump card, it's sin, right? They can't do anything about that. But Jesus took all of our sins, He nailed them all to the cross, He was buried, and He was raised, defeating the power of sin and death forever. And so Satan has been ultimately defeated. He's been defeated, right. And so he's ending this section by pointing the clash unbelievers back to the fact that Satan there because he's triumphed over all of these things at the cross, then Satan has no power, ultimate power over them. He can try to deceive them, try to lie to them, make them feel things, they can feel that they're lacking, but he's can't take it away, they're always going to be complete. Satan was using the clock and opponents to try and disillusion them into thinking that the fullness that they yearn for inside their lives was unattainable through Jesus alone. You can't get there. They're just eases alone. That's why you need these plus things to go with it. And Paul counters those arguments by reminding them that they have all the completeness they would ever need in Christ through his victory on the cross, final full victory. So what are the hollow and deceptive philosophies that you're living by? What are the human traditions that you're basing your life off of, that are not ultimately grounded in Scripture? I gotta admit that when I was younger, and even a good part of my adult life, I would have skipped these first two chapters of Colossians. Why? Because all the stuff I was supposed to do is found in chapters three and four. I just want to know I supposed to do I want to set goals, I want to get bigger, I want to get better Jesus plus me doing all this stuff is what equaled everything. How did you skip them? missing out on all the abundant life, all that I had in Jesus, because I never knew how complete I already was in him. Notice that Paul counters this stuff. It says when you understand how complete you really are, the Jesus plus gospel will start popping up everywhere, you'll start to see the hollow and deceptive philosophies that are based on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of the world everywhere when you finally know how complete you are. That's why Paul's hammering at home, the sufficiency and the superiority of Christ, and then all that you have in him because of all that he is. So that you learn to live in that fullness, and aren't deceived by all of these things that are really just that we're trying to chase. My hope and my prayer for you is that the Spirit will illuminate the lies, those human traditions, the philosophies that you've been living by, and help you see the fullness of Christ, and how complete you are in Him, to learn to live out of who you've already been made into, rather than trying to get to somebody that you're trying to make yourself into. Huge difference. Only one way to live the Christian life and it's in the fullness of Christ in his life being expressed through you, not your lack