History holds the names of world-changers. Men and women whose efforts have left an indelible mark upon those of us who remain. They have forever affected society — some for good, others for ill. They came from different circumstances. Their lives ended in various ways. Their mark remains whether we recognize their names or not. Some inspire us. Others revile us. Moses the Deliverer. Alexander the Great, conqueror of the known world. Joan of Arc the defender of France. Mohammed, the Founder of the Islamic religion. Harriet Tubman, the engineer of the Underground Railroad. Gotama Buddha, the architect of the Noble 8 Fold Path. George Washington, the father of our country. William Wilberforce, God’s tool in England to break the shackles of slavery. Adolf Hitler, the madman destroyer. Vladimir Lenin, the organizer of the Communist Party. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose “Dream” moves us to this day. Jim Jones, just the mention of his name evokes images of death and destruction. The list goes on and on recording the names of those who have left their mark for good or ill. Throughout history there have been the notable and the notorious, but there has never been one life to bring such constant change to each new generation as the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Transcending the ages with His timeless message of forgiveness and salvation for all that would trust in Him. He was and remains…One of a kind.
The city was divided. No national army had invaded and erected walls keeping people apart. They were unseen barriers that divided the masses. The walls of ideas, thoughts, and lifestyles were enslaving and entrenching young and old alike into their respective camps.
Some camps were built around religious ideas of superiority and purity. There were many that refused to be tainted by foul foods or lack of respect for “high holy days.” They were convinced that their power rested in the recognition of the power of the angels, the power of purification, and the power of putting all of their thoughts in order. They knew better than to mingle with the masses of polluted people since they had received knowledge from on high.
There were others who had no use for religion at all. They were fast-paced businessmen who peddled their wares downtown. Since the city had a port they had the opportunity to send and receive goods via the water routes circling the globe. All of the talk of religion and theology bored and distracted them from attending to what was truly important. Alongside of these camps existed the “welcoming committee” of the city. They weren’t officially appointed, but their lifestyles reflected such attitudes as they welcomed every new idea that floated into the city with open arms. Theirs was a strange mix of various religious ideas, self-improvement, cultish commitments, and an endless search for significance amidst the maddening rush of the city.
In the middle of the division and deluge of thoughts of what makes life count was a little church of unassuming folks who received a letter of encouragement and counsel. A man penned a letter who had never visited the diverse city, but who had heard of the faith of the few and wanted to offer his support and suggestions for holding fast to the Truth.
So it was in Colossae more than 1900 years ago when the Apostle Paul sent his letter to the church. Sound familiar? It was a confusing day for folks. Just as confusing as today is for so many of us who are constantly bombarded by intriguing ideas vying for our allegiance. There were many questions about what was “right” and what was “wrong.” There was a battle raging for the minds and souls of the people of the city and Paul wanted to offer his encouragement to those who had trusted in Jesus.
As it was in Colossae so it is in Oklahoma City and around the United States today. We live in a confusing day as more and more new ideas continue to come to the forefront concerning what makes life worth living how to find peace, and how to rise above the heartache and disappointments of living day-to-day.
I have been studying Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae this past week in preparing to share with you. While studying I was constantly reminded of the war that continues to rage for the minds, hearts, and souls of people today. There are so many conflicting ideas warring against one another that many don’t know who to believe. Let me give you a sample of the salesmen that have pitched their offers to me just this week through the television, radio, magazines, and over the Internet.
I saw a moving commercial on television that struck at the heart of one of my most cherished gifts – my family. On the commercial there was a family seated in the living room, smiling and enjoying one another’s company. The announcer spoke of the importance of our families and how our families are being torn by so much in society today. He got my attention real quick! He then went on to say that there is an answer to the question of how to strengthen our family. He was so concerned about my family that he was willing to send me a book to help me out – at no cost! Think of that! The commercial began to fade with the book on the screen and I heard the announcer say, “Brought to you by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I thought, “Boy those folks must really care about my family.” If my family were in crisis I would have been even more interested in calling them and accepting their help, that is if I didn’t know more about the Mormon Church.
Because I have looked into the teachings of the Mormon Church I know what they believe about Jesus. He is not one of a kind, He is just one of many – gods that is. They believe that Jesus was the Spirit brother of Lucifer, He was not born of a virgin, and that He earned His own salvation. Hardly the unique Savior spoken of by Paul to the church in Colossae.
Next, I was on the Internet looking for some help with my sermon when I stumbled upon another interesting offer. As a parent, we are always looking for some good quality toys for our kids are we not? Let me read to you the latest offer from the Bandai Company. Bandai Co.’s latest electronic toy boasts an angel that can read your fortune and provide a tarot reading if you input your name, sex, and date of birth. Plug two of the Angel Scope machines together for a couple’s compatibility rating and a cartoon image of their baby. The Angel Scope also has a clock function and comes complete with a key chain. It will be released at the end of August. (MSNBC Technology website, 8/25/97)
Confusing? Angels who read tarot cards and are fortunetellers? Coming soon to a store near you! Get them while they last! Not a night goes by that I am not offered, by one of Hollywood’s most celebrated, an opportunity to call 1-900-something to get inside information on my future by one of America’s leading psychics.
At the same time images of and ideas from America’s most wealthy individual, Bill Gates of Microsoft fame, constantly come before me. Bill has said that he can think of better things to do with his time than go to church and be bored. What a vote of confidence for people seeking Truth through the Church.
I could take up much more of your time offering the insights and supposed benefits of such groups as the Church of Scientology where stars like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley worship. I could point you in the enlightened direction of self-help gurus like Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. I could tell you of the promises of salvation being offered by counterfeit Messiahs the world over.
In the whirlwind of ideas stands the Church. The people of God standing strong, never vacillating, never retreating from speaking up for the One who died on the Cross, and telling the world with one voice…He’s one of a kind! Or is that the case?
Today, the world is becoming even more confused as the Church tries to figure out if Jesus truly is One of a kind or if He is simply One of many. I was stunned to read the cover story of Newsweek magazine this past week and to learn of the struggle going on with many of our Catholic brothers and sisters. The articles begins by saying, This week a large box shipped from California and addressed to ‘His Holiness, John Paul II’ will arrive at the Vatican. The shipping label lists a dozen countries — from every continent but Antarctica — plus a number, 40,388, indicating the quantity of signatures inside. Each signature is attached to a petition asking the pope to exercise the power of papal infallibility to proclaim a new dogma of the Roman Catholic faith: that the Virgin Mary is ‘Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate for the People of God.’ (Newsweek, Hail, Mary. August 25, 1997, p.49.)
For those of us from Duncan, Oklahoma who don’t know what words like “Co-Redemptrix” and “Mediatrix” mean — I looked it up. What it means is that these who are sending the Pope their signature are wanting is to make Mary, the mother of Jesus, equal with Jesus as our Redeemer and Savior. This would all be good and fine if it were not clearly stated in God’s Word that, “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ.” (1 Timothy 2:5) The Bible makes it very clear that there is no other name given to people by which they might be saved except for the name of Jesus, not even the name of Mary! (Acts 4:12)
You may say, “Well, 40,000 signatures are nothing when you take into consideration the total number of Catholics.” You are right, but what you don’t know is that the Pope has received more than 4.3 million signatures from 157 countries in the last four years. Supporters of Mary include such people as Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, and nearly 500 bishops and 41 Cardinals besides John O’Connor. We all need to be in prayer for Pope John Paul II so that he will have the strength to stand against this pressure.
The waters of hope and salvation are becoming increasingly muddy in our day. Yet, there is our Savior calling us to stand up and say, “He’s One of a kind!” You can walk Buddha’s Noble Eight-Fold Path, but never find eternal life. You can bow to Mecca five times a day, but you are still going to have to bow at the feet of Jesus one day! You can look for relief in the tail of comet, but real relief comes not from a comet but from the King. You can sit in the lotus position and chant your mantras, but you are still going to have to confess one day that Jesus is Lord! You can blow it all off as nonsense and serve only yourself, but one day you will learn that your self-service was all in vain.
In a land growing increasingly muddy with mixed-up ideas of hope, salvation, right, and wrong — there is an increasing need for the people of God to know their “stuff.” We need to be able to state clearly, with no confusion, the Truths found in Jesus or we will only confuse those around us more and more.
Clear communication is a key for those who live in such a diverse society like you and me. Some of the corporate giants have found out how important it is to communicate clearly if they are going to continue to make a, profit. When Gerber first started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as here in the USA — with the picture of the cute baby on the label. Later, when sales were going poorly, they found out that in Africa companies routinely put pictures on the label of what is inside. When Pepsi started marketing its products in China, they translated their slogan, “Pepsi Brings You Back To Life” pretty literally. The Chinese characters those chose really meant, “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From The Grave.” The Chevy Nova never sold well in Spanish speaking countries because “No Va” means “It does not go.” Coors put it slogan of a few years back, “Turn it Loose,” into Spanish, where it was read, “Suffer from Diarrhea.” When Braniff translated a slogan touting its upholstery, “Fly in Leather,” it came out in Spanish as “Fly Naked.” We really need to be careful what we say and how we say it, huh!
This was Paul’s desire when he sat down to write the church in Colossae. He wanted to state as clearly and succinctly as possible the uniqueness of Jesus and the fallacy of those who were hocking their wares to the vulnerable masses. In the time remaining I want to give you an outline of what we are going to be doing for the next several weeks. I am looking forward to being able to study each week and then get together with you to share what God is teaching me as I pursue to know Him more and more. There are many outlines that are available to us, but the best outline that keeps things as simple as possible is provided by the Holman Bible Dictionary. It basically breaks the little four-chapter book down into two main segments: 1) Warning Against Heresy or False Teachings. (1:1-2:23) 2) The Supreme Rule of Christ Leads to Rules for Life with Christ (3:1-4:18).
In the first section of Paul’s letter he wants to make the believer aware of the false teachings that were leading people astray. That is a good place to start for us as well folks. I am convinced that there are many followers of Jesus today who are buying into all kinds of deception simply because they don’t know any better, they are unaware. There are pivotal, life-impacting situations that all of us have or will go through in life that make us very vulnerable and open to other’s opinions and assistance. Just last week several of our young people went away to college for the first and others went back to complete their college education. I have been praying for our college students this past week and asking the Lord to give them discernment and wisdom.
The college campus is one of the main mission fields for those who would prey on vulnerable people. College kids are trying to figure out who they are, what is important in life, and what they are going to do for the rest of their days. Cults are more aware of their vulnerability than we are and they are taking advantage of the situation. That is why it is so important for us to teach our kids that Jesus is One of a kind and to have them up here with Ray and our youth workers each week. Through our influence and our youth workers efforts we can help prepare our kids so that they won’t be vulnerable when these leaders come around.
When we are in a crisis: a failing marriage, terminal illness, extreme pressure of any kind, we are more vulnerable to accept strange teachings from those who would try to influence us with their bizarre ideas. I have known of people who were told by their doctor that there was no hope. As a result of their shock and desire to live they have turned to anyone who said they could help. Psychics, faith healers, snake oil salesmen, and New Age mystics who promised to alleviate their ailment. As a result they get sucked into strange religious ideologies that pull them deeper and deeper into their web and further and further away from Christ.
It is not enough to simply confess with your mouth what you believe about Jesus — you need to possess the knowledge from God’s Word to equip you to withstand the attacks of the Enemy! One of the greatest tools that deceivers use to move into your life and mine is friendship. They work their way into your life and mine and when trust is gained they slowly and surely begin to unveil their thoughts in order to pull you in.
The tragedy is that this is the very same tool that we as Christians should be employing to bring people to Christ and yet it is not happening. When was the last time you went out of your way to introduce yourself to someone you do not know? When was the last time you invited someone to church? While we sit back and mind our own business those who peddle lies are busy in the streets making new friends and luring them in. After Paul lays down the heresies which are running rampant in the streets he goes on to teach the believers at Colossae that allegiance to Jesus transforms an individual’s everyday life. Paul says that our relationships will be changed, our speech will be changed, our habits will be changed, our loyalties will be changed, and our character will be changed!
It was a challenging message for the folks at Colossae and it is a challenging message for you and me as well. Have your thoughts, actions, and manner of conducting your life from day-to-day been changed since you gave your life to Christ? If not, then you need to allow the Lord to examine your heart to see if you have truly committed your life to Christ.
Marshall Applewhite, the leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult, grew up the son of a preacher. When he encountered trouble and tragedy in his life he turned to a nurse who said she had the answers to all of his problems. He followed her instead of following Christ and the rest is history. You and I are in dire need of growing in our faith, of being challenged to step up our commitment to Jesus, or we, like Marsh Applewhite and a myriad of others who have lost their way, will find ourselves losing our way as well.
My friend, there is only one reason why I stopped by to talk to you this morning. I came to tell somebody who has been wondering — “He is One of a kind!” There is no other name under Heaven given to us by God by which we might be saved from our sin, our slavery, our sickness of heart, soul, and mind. Jesus is One of a Kind! Won’t you invite Him today?
A verse by verse study of The Book of Colossians