Nailed to the Cross (10/2/2016)

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Basically my father and I have a close relationship. After I graduated from high school, I worked in our family business for almost two decades where dad was my boss. I made a conscious decision to respect him even when I thought differently than he did. Occasionally we would disagree. On rare occasions we would argue. When an argument did take place, we would keep the argument focused on the issues at hand. We never allowed them to morph into personal attacks.

I remember one time during the winter months when dad and I were at odds over a couple of issues and I was frustrated with him. It just so happened that it snowed during this time. Normally, dad took his golf cart with the snow blade attached and plowed my driveway right after he plowed his. This time, for whatever reason, he didn’t plow my driveway. I knew I was more than welcome to get the golf cart and do it myself. It took roughly 3 minutes to plow our driveway. Did I do this? No I didn’t. Since I was already frustrated with dad, I chose to clear the snow by hand with a shovel.

So, after we got home from church and while my wife and children were snug inside our warm house, I went out into the cold and started clearing our driveway. When I was about halfway done, I heard dad yell at me from his open breezeway door, “Son, you can get the golf cart and plow your driveway.” My pride wouldn’t let me do this now so I responded, “That’s OK. I need the exercise.” Technically this wasn’t a lie since I did want to get some exercise. But it wasn’t the main reason. Dad just looked at me, gently shook his head from side to side and closed the door.

After working about 45 minutes, I finished clearing the driveway and went back inside my house. I was cold, sweaty and tired.

Dad had provided everything I needed to do this job in a way that quick and easy. However, I chose to go the difficult route and do it myself. It’s one thing to do something like this when it comes to clearing a short driveway. What happens when we act like this with God?

The book of Colossians is a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colosse, which is located in present-day Turkey. The purpose of his letter is to refute false teachings that were taking root in the congregation.

Paul begins by commending the Colossians for their faith in Jesus which gives them forgiveness for their sins. It also means they are no longer alienated from God the Father. Paul then states he works diligently in the church to teach sound doctrine. This is so they won’t be deceived by false beliefs which Paul calls “fine sounding arguments (1:4). Once Paul gets to this point, he starts addressing the problems in the Colossian congregation –

Colossians 2:6-15 – “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

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.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him 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 by Christ, 12 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.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

In this passage of Scripture, Paul tells the Colossians to let go of the human traditions and rules which were leading them astray from the gospel. The reason they are to let these things go is because Jesus has overcome them by “nailing it to the cross,” which, of course, refers to Jesus’ death on the cross.

While we our best to follow Jesus, we too have to guard our hearts and our faith because we live in a society that promotes “hollow and deceptive philosophies” which are based on human traditions.

One human tradition which our nation worships, especially during the presidential election cycle, is greed. The world teaches that greed is good. Accumulate all you can even if it means others will suffer. When it comes to voting, the number one question in the collective mind of our nation is, “Which candidate do I believe will strengthen the economy so I can either make more money or keep what I already have?” Many Christians will vote for a politician with poor values as long as he or she promise jobs.

It’s amazing how many people, including Christians, who find their happiness and self-worth in the amount of money and possessions they own. Unfortunately, some of these people never have enough and they’re always looking for more.

Jesus says in Luke 16:13 – “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” We know this is true. The closer we come to Jesus – the less we worry about money. The more we want money – the less we want Jesus.

Another human tradition that enslaves many people is anger. There are a lot of angry people in the world. I’m not talking about someone getting angry about injustice in the world because other people are being marginalized. I’m talking about the deep-seated anger many people carry around because of past hurts. The sources of this type of anger are virtually limitless. They might be angry at their spouse, boss, children, loss of a job or career, government, neighbor or extended family. People can be angry at anyone or anything which they perceived to have wronged them in the past. The world says that not only should we hang onto this anger, we should use it to harbor hatred and to seek revenge.

Years ago a man back in West Virginia shot and killed his wife after they got into an argument about biscuits. I can’t help but think he was angry about bigger problems and the biscuits were the thing that caused him to lash out.

Some people are angry at God for letting bad things happen. They do this even though there isn’t one passage in the Bible where God promises us an easy life.

James 1:19-20 says, 19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” The simple truth is that when our hearts are full of anger, there isn’t much room in there for Jesus.

We could spend the next several hours looking at more examples of man-made traditions which take us captive through hollow and deceptive philosophies. The world tells us these things are natural and it’s OK if they’re part of our life. God tells us something different. He tells us they are a barrier to having a closer relationship with him and to having a closer relationship with each other.

These things, these sins, don’t have to be part of our lives. We don’t have to carry them around inside of us. Psalm 103:1-5 says,Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

How does God do this? Paul tells us in Colossians 2 that he came to earth in the bodily form of Jesus Christ and freed us from the bondage of these broken human traditions by nailing them to the cross.

My dad had provided all that I needed to make clearing my driveway a quick and easy task. I chose to ignore what he had provided and do things the hard way. God has provided all that we need to deal with these issues quickly and with ease. Are we going to take advantage of this? If we choose to be stubborn and hang onto them, God will let us. Hanging onto them will, of course, make us cold, sweaty and tired. It will most likely cause us to be separated from God and our families in some areas.

What’s holding you captive this morning? Perhaps it’s greed, anger, selfishness, revenge, sexual immorality, gossip, stealing, envy, pride, coveting our neighbor’s possessions, laziness, lust, marriage problems, an addiction or …. the list goes on and on. Perhaps it isn’t a man-made tradition that’s weighing you down. It could be poor health, loneliness, uncertainty or worry.

Through the cross of Jesus Christ, we can be free from the burdens of these man-made traditions and from the emotional burdens that darken our souls. We just have to take advantage of what God has provided for us on the cross.

Do you want to be free from whatever it is that’s weighing you down? If you do, then nail it to the cross of Jesus. Give it over to him. Trust him to bring deliverance, healing and peace.

As you give it over to Jesus, please remember one important thing. Nailing these things to the cross doesn’t mean everything will be fixed immediately. It does mean, however, that you no long have to carry this burden. God is doing it for you. You’re free from that worry.