Series: Jesus Manifesto
Message: Getting from Captivity to the Cross
Preacher: J. Murdock
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Beyond: J. Murdock
Live Purpose: Lydia Svoboda
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Colossians 2:4-15 in the New Testament for Everyone (NTE). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: What is the difference between anticipation and foresight? Are they too close together as concepts? Does one happen of them before the other or do both happen at the same time but in different ways? Imagining the future, shifting the emphasis away from the current time and place, creates a level of anticipation that may be positive or negative, based in part on your past experiences. Some future events you can see just as you imagine them to be because you have foresight; the limited data is guiding how you eventually act on shaping the future. The Apostle Paul was continually imaging the present and future of the Church. He had the foresight (wisdom) to act and was anticipating (calling for action) to prepare people for the tensions that would rise. It would be his fellow brother in Christ, the Apostle John, who addressed the gnostics who were just starting their movement but would expand over the next forty years.
Gnostics based their beliefs on the Platonic philosophy that separated a human being into a physical body and a spiritual entity. Anything that was bad was the physical body. Anything that was good was the spiritual entity. Whatever one does in one’s body, no matter how evil, does not matter since the body itself is wicked. The spirit is what counts. This led to practices that were beyond decadent. Imagine if you held to this view. I say “imagine,” but the reality is that many of us act like gnostics when no one is looking. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Let me bring this to the foundational layer that Paul was in the process of completing. How would you see Jesus in the body? Paul did not believe in the Platonic philosophy. He did not separate humanity into body and soul. They were one living being. The deeply-rooted Hebraic teachings from ancient times that Jesus shared through Moses taught that we are whole beings. Paul wanted the early Christians to be wary of growing in the harmful practice of worshiping angels. With his visionary foresight he took the action to warn them that if they diminished Jesus and ignored His divinity as part of the Godhead, they would lose the beauty and strength that could exist in their lives. There is something wonderful about knowing that Jesus came to earth and took on the human form (Colossians 2:9)—that Jesus is constantly reaching out to us.
This was and is a paradigm shift. We don’t chase Jesus. He is chasing us. When we accept Him, we are filled with a transforming power that makes all the difference. It means that we change. Not just when the earth is restored one day, but today. There is power in Jesus.
Recalibrate: What does gnosticism look like today? How do we move from inconsistency to transparency? What are the costs of transparency?
Respond: Thank Jesus for chasing you.
Research: Read Luke 15.
Remember: “Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught. And always be thankful” (Colossians 2:7, ICB).
Japhet De Oliveira is administrative director for the Center for Mission and Culture at Adventist Health in Roseville, California.
Take your little one out for a walk today. If they are walking on their own, stay within an arm’s reach ready to help and hold when they need you. Zoe, our granddaughter, and I were visiting a friend’s house that had a very steep backyard. She was at the very back of the yard at its steepest when she decided she wanted to go on the swings that were down the hill. Zoe turned around and headed downhill at breakneck speed. I have to tell you that this Nanna moved faster than she has in a long time because I could see that Zoe was unable to stop. While she was giggling and enjoying how fast she was going, I knew that this adventure would not end well if I did not get to her fast. I am so thankful that Jesus is always with us, ready to help and to hold. Yes, Nanna did get to Zoe before disaster struck. Know that Jesus walks with you ready to help and hold.
Have you learned how to ride a bike? If you have a bike, go for a ride. Think about how you learned to ride. Did you have training wheels? Were you so young you can’t remember? When we taught our kids how to ride, we would run alongside them, ready to help hold them up and catch them if they fell. Jesus runs alongside you today. Let Him show you how to ride well. Enjoy every minute. Share your bike and help someone else learn to ride too.
One of my favorite games to play with all of my friends while growing up was Capture the Flag. It brought together all the best aspects of the greatest group games. A little bit of Tag, a little bit of Hide and Seek, a little bit of Red Rover, and all topped off with good old fashioned foot racing. The goal was simple: guard your base at any cost while trying to infiltrate the enemy’s base and steal their flag. Fun right?
The best strategies included finding ways to pull people away from guarding the base so another person could sneak up behind them and take the flag while they weren’t looking. But it was risky. Get too close without a way to escape and you got tagged. And getting tagged meant going to “jail” where you had to wait for someone to come tag you and let you out. Often, if you got tagged, you were out of the game for however long it took. Because at the end of the day you were far less valuable than the truly valuable thing—the flag. And the goal was to capture the flag, not to reclaim the missing soldier.
And so there you remained in jail, a captive.
Paul warns against being led into becoming a captive in Colossians 2:8. There were people in Paul’s time who tried to lure others into thinking the goal of the game they were playing (life in pursuit of salvation) could be won by going after a different goal. These teachers would show up in the middle of the game and say that the objective was not to get the flag, but instead to get the other team to think there was no flag.
Which isn’t true! There really is a flag! And the goal is to capture it!
Paul says to be wary of people who take you away from the idea that the goal of Christianity is to get to know Jesus. If you hear that the goal is to do things the “right way” by following silly rules, or to not worry about what Jesus said and did but instead follow the laws, then you know there is something strange about these teachers. The goal is always to follow Jesus. The goal is to race as fast as you can towards the Cross. You’ll know who your teammates are when you run for as long as you can, as hard as you can, for as far as you can. Because when you reach that point, look to your left and look to your right. Whoever is standing next to you at that point, that’s your team.
Why do you think the teachers of Paul’s time wanted people to focus on something other than Jesus? What do you think their goal was then? Where can you see things that look like this in your world today? Where might someone be telling you to play a different game in the middle of the one you’re playing? What can you do to make sure you aren’t held captive in their scheme?
“He forgave us all our sins, 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” (Col. 2:13-14). God’s law represents what He stands for, which is goodness and justice. Yet, when humanity was deceived, the fruit was eaten, and God was betrayed, He saw something more important to Him—His loved one’s trust in Him was broken. And though you stand guilty, He will say yet again, “Neither do I condemn you.”
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
Lydia Svoboda is a junior theology major at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.