Teaching series from Colossians

The What of the Gospel (Part 3)

Colossians 2:15

Teaching t21065

Introduction

We are in the very heart of this letter (2:10-15), as Paul explains the content of what he calls the “gospel.”  “In its (Roman) context, euangelion (good news) was normally used for the word of victory brought by a herald from the front lines.”   But Paul uses it to refer to the decisive spiritual victory that Jesus has won through his death on the cross.  This victory provides deliverance from our deepest problems: forgiveness for our guilt before God, freedom from our slavery to sin, and deliverance from demonic tyranny.

Explanation of the passage

Read 2:15.  The “powers and authorities” do not refer to human political authorities (Jesus did not overthrow Pilate or Herod)—but to demonic powers (read Eph.6:12) who are ruled by Satan.  You may a difficult time accepting that humanity is under the tyranny of demonic rulers, but the Bible teaches that apart from Jesus you are in a situation similar to the people in “The Matrix.”  They were being cruelly oppressed and exploited by computers—and the worst part about it was that they were totally unaware of their predicament.   Like them, we need a Deliverer—One who is more powerful than our tyrants and who cares enough to come into our world to defeat them and liberate us.  Jesus is that Deliverer—he came to destroy the works of the devil (1Jn.3:8).

Paul says (2:15) that Jesus’ death broke Satan’s authority in a decisive way and ensured his eventual demise.  He likens Satan and his demons to the defeated enemies who were paraded through Rome in a triumphal procession before they were executed.  As a result of Jesus’ victory, the moment you entrust yourself to him God transfers you from Satan’s domain into Jesus’ kingdom (read 1:13).  Through faith in Jesus, you can experience substantial freedom from Satan’s destructive influence.

QUALIFY: Satan and his demons are dethroned, but they are not destroyed!  Our situation is similar to the one that existed in Europe between D-Day and VE-Day.  D-Day was the decisive invasion of Europe—once it succeeded, Hitler’s back was broken and his defeat was ensured.  But until VE-Day (11 months later), the fighting was fierce as the Allies advanced.  In the same way, we live after God’s D-Day (Jesus’ death and resurrection)—but before his VE-Day (Jesus’ return).  When you receive Christ, you become a liberated enemy of Satan.  He cannot rob you of your salvation, but he will attack you to try to neutralize your impact on those he still holds prisoner.  So you can expect fierce spiritual opposition.  But remember that ultimate victory is certain, and that you have all the resources you need to overcome him and advance Jesus’ kingdom.

Applying Jesus’ victory

How do we apply Jesus’ victory so that we experience this substantial deliverance?  In order to do this, we must know how Satan normally attacks.  He can and sometimes does attack in a dramatic display of his power.  A demon manifested itself to me when I was a young Christian, and his presence threw me into violent physical convulsions.  When I prayed out loud to Jesus, I was instantly delivered.  Experiences like this are real, but rare.  Satan attacks primarily in very subtle ways—like guerilla warfare rather than conventional warfare.  This is why the New Testament tells us to be on the alert for Satan’s attacks (1 Pet.5:8) and that we should not be ignorant of his schemes (2Cor.2:11).  How can we recognize Satan’s subtle attacks and overcome them through faith in Jesus?

This is a massive subject.  I highly recommend Dennis McCallum’s new book (Satan and His Kingdom) as a biblical, sane, and comprehensive guide.  In this passage, Paul identifies counterfeit forms of Christian spirituality as a key expression of demonic attack (2:16 “therefore”).  We will study this in detail NEXT WEEK.

We can get a very useful SNAP-SHOT answer to this question by looking at another New Testament passage—Rev.12.  The apostle John had a vision of this spiritual battle—a vision which exposes “mainstream” ways Satan will attack you, and which explains how you can overcome these attacks.  Read 12:9,10.  Notice first the three specific terms used to describe Satan; they expose three of his most common ways of attacking God’s people.  He is the “dragon” who devours, the “serpent” who deceives, and the “accuser of the brethren.”  Now notice how the “brethren” (followers of Jesus) overcome these three forms of attack.  They are in reverse (chiastic) order.  They overcome the accuser by “the blood of the Lamb,” they overcome the serpent by “the word of their testimony,” and they overcome the dragon by “not loving their lives even to death.”  Let’s take a closer look at each of these, changing John’s order slightly.

Satan is the Serpent who deceives.  Just as he deceived Adam and Eve, so he will try to deceive us.  Another word for this kind of deception is “temptation.”  He will tempt you (as he did Adam and Eve) in a three-fold way.  First, he will stir your desire for some aspect of God’s good creation (its sensual pleasure, its beauty, its ability to enhance your personal significance >> SEX, MONEY, POWER).  Second, he will urge you to transgress God’s boundaries in order to satisfy this desire.  Third, when your conscience objects, he will subtly slander God’s love for you.  NOTE: You won’t hear the Serpent speaking to you—you will hear his voice as your own desires and suspicions about God.

 

If Satan gets you to listen him as the Serpent, then he will speak to you as the “accuser.”  Like a prosecuting attorney, he will point out your sin and shove it in your face: “You call yourself a Christian after what you just did—again?”  “You are so sinful that you’ll never be anything but a spiritual liability!”  And if he cannot get you to fall to his temptations, then he will pick apart your service to God: “You just pray and share your faith in order to impress your Christian friends!”  “You don’t serve as much as you should, and you are proud of how much you do serve!”  There is always some truth to these accusations, isn’t there?  The most insidious part about his accusations is that he disguises his speech as the voice of God.   If you listen to him, you will lose your confidence in God’s love—which is your greatest weapon.

How do you overcome the Accuser?  It is a mistake is to defend t Jesus did for you on the cross—not because of what you do or don’t do for God.  Stand on Rom.8:1,33 (read)—and draw near to God with confidence in his love. (LUTHER’S REPLY TO THE ACCUSER)

If Satan can’t defeat you as the Serpent or the Accuser, he will speak to you as the Dragon.  Like a dragon, he will tower over you and bellow his fiery threats to intimidate you into backing down on your commitment to Christ.  Like smoke from a dragon’s mouth, these threats temporarily obscure the sunshine of God’s love and power—and tempt you despair.  Even here, he will normally speak through your own thoughts and fears: “If I take a stand for what is right with my spouse/children, I will lose my marriage/family.”  “If I continue to tell my friends about Jesus, they will reject me and turn others against me.”  “If I continue to put Jesus first over career advancement, I will be left without a job.”  Sometimes the Dragon speaks through other people to confirm your inner fears: “If you leave me to follow God, I will destroy you and you will be left with nothing.”  Usually these threats are empty bluffs—they evaporate as you simply stay at your post and keep doing what God is calling you to do.  But sometimes there is a real cost to be paid—a broken relationship, a lost job, a smear campaign bythe media, etc.

How do you overcome the Dragon?  By “not loving our lives even to confidence in God will grow in your !

For discussion

Which of these attacks have you faced over the past several months?  If your answer is: “None of them,” this is probably not an indicator that you are a spiritual super-star!  It may mean that you are so compromised that you pose no threat.  If your answer is: “All of them,” take heart—you are almost certainly growing!

With whom are you talking and praying about this area of your spiritual life?  A critical aspect of your defense is regular and open interaction with Christian friends.  Do you have this—or are you alone and a sitting duck?

Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad  News World (Baker Books, 2009),  pp. 17,18.

“Unknown to you, his deceptions obscured your thinking while his ‘music’ inflamed your senses and influenced your will.  He thought of himself as your master, but... he made himself as unobtrusive as possible.  His greatest skill lay in giving you the feeling that you were your own master.”  John White, The Fight (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press), p.77.

“His chief tactic is to deliver his accusations as if they are an act of the Holy Spirit.  He knows a charge from God’s cannon wounds deeply; therefore, when he accuses (our conscience), he forges God’s name on the missile before he fires it.  Suppose a child were conscious of gravely displeasing his father, and some spiteful person, to harass him, wrote and sent him a counterfeit letter full of harsh and threatening accusations, copying the father’s name at the bottom.  The poor child, already painfully aware of his sins and not knowing the scheme, would be overcome with grief.  Here is real heartache stemming from a false premise—just the kind of thing Satan relishes. Satan is a clever investigator.  He closely observes the relationship between you and God.  Sooner or later he will catch you tardy in some duty or faulty in some service.  He knows that you are conscious of your shortcomings and that the Spirit of God will also show distaste for them.  So he draws up a lengthy indictment, raking up all the aggravations he can think of, then serves his warrant on you as though sent from God.”  William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour: Daily Readings in Spiritual Warfare (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), Reading for February 9.

“To be honest with ourselves, we must admit that many of his charges are true... (But) what a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge your own sinfulness, and the overriding mercy of God.  By this (response), we take the very bricks Satan is throwing at us, and use them to build a monument to the glory of our gracious Lord.”  William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour: Daily Readings in Spiritual Warfare,  Reading for February 12.