Who has the answers?
(Buck) Intro: The kinds of questions we’re talking about are . . .
(video of adds and things) That video was one Michelle ran accross in one of her classes. And the reason we showed it here is that we’re talking tonight about our culture, and where we turn for answers in our culture. Answers to the questions of life, like:
What is the meaning to my life?
What does God want from me?
Who is God and what is he like?
What about life after death?
How do I fix the problems of my life?
Why are things so screwed up?
I believe that most of us turn to popular opinion for these kinds of answers. Opinions reflected in our music, our television, and various other forms of communication. These opinions have tremendous sway with us.
And since our culture is so diverse, you can find an answer that feels right to you just about anywhere. Which is another point of this video: a very popular notion today is that however you answer these questions, whatever you believe is OK. We are a multi-cutural, diverse society. And so, part of adapting to that reality is to hold that whatever your answers are, they’re good as long as they work for you. You look within yourself. You look to the popular culture. And whatever answer you come up with is OK, as long as it works for you. This approach has always been popular. It was something the Colossians were getting into, which Paul addresses in Col. 2. We’re going to have Michelle explain the passage for us.
Contrast the source(s) of answers
(Michelle) Explain the passage
Paul is worried (vv. 1)
Because they are being tempted to turn elsewhere for answers (vv. 4, 8)
Christ is the source of all our answers (vv. 6-8)
(Buck) We do the same as the Colossians
Like I said, there is a lot of similarity between ourselves and the Colossians here. Paul is saying that God alone has the answer to life’s questions; we say they can be found elsewhere.
Let’s consider how we answer some of these questions.
Like morality. How do we answer a question like the morality of homosexuality?
Like meaning in life: majority opinion.
Like spiritual questions about God and the afterlife: What feels right to you.
These are the same sources the Colossians were turning to . . . Essentially human sources, whether ourselves or the culture around us. Now Michelle’s going to talk about this controversial position that God alone has the answers.
(Mich.) God says, “Only I have answers”
God says humans have insight, creativity, no shortage of brilliant answers (v. 4).
The problem is all our answers are tainted by sin . . .
Contrast types of answers
Now we’ll consider how this works out practically by considering some of the answers the Colossians were getting, and some that we are arriving at. We need to look at how sin affects our perspective.
(Mich.) What is the meaning of life
Emphasize here how the answer we arrive at have the appearance of wisdom. They’re very persuasive.
(Buck) How to get right with God
I just want to conclude with some thoughts about relating to God. Because of all the areas that we should look to God for guidance, how to relate to him would be the most important.
Let’s just think for a moment about how any one of us would relate to God if we were going to figure it out by ourselves. And as I think about that, the first feeling I get is one of fear, or inadequacy, or guilt. Because we’re talking about God. Who knows what he’s like? Because one of the main reasons we conceive of God is because we are compelled to look for a source of things. And any thing or anybody who could be the source of the universe would just be incomprehensible! Who knows if he would even pay attention to me? And if he did pay attention, would it be good?
Example: I remember liking being a student here at OSU because you could be anonymous in classes of 200 other people . . .
Try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s never heard anything about how to relate to God. What would you do? Here are some of my thoughts. See if they are similar to your own.
1) Try to get his attention. I think the first thing I’d do is try to get his attention. Since I’m not sure how to do this, I’ll make something up. And I think it would be a ritual. Some kind of ritual that would show I’m really sincere, like saying the same thing over and over again. Or maybe I would go to some special place where he’d be more likely to hear me. But somehow I’ve got to get his attention because I’m not sure he would even hear me.
2) Try to appease him. The second thing that comes to my mind is I’ve got to appease him somehow. I know I’m guilty. I know I feel guilty. So I’ve got to somehow show that I’m really, really sorry.
3) Make a vow of things I’ll do for him. Then, finally, when I think of relating to God, I think I should make a vow of some kind. “God, I’ll try and do better. Show me what you want, and I’ll try and do it.”
These are the things that come to my mind. Are they the things you think about? I’m not sure. I also thought about asking him to show me some kind of trick or something to affirm that he heard me.
All these tendencies can be seen in the practices of all religion, which shows me I’m not all that unusual. We see people doing rituals to get God’s attention. We see people doing penetence of some kind to show God that they are truly sorry. We see people coming up with rules for a godly lifestyle that will ensure God’s favor.
And yet, the amazing thing is, in every area, as we see God reveal himself in the Bible, he tells us exactly the opposite!
When it comes to hearing us, God assures us that he hears and is interested in every single thing we think, do, or say (Psa. 139:7ff.; Luke 12:6, 7; I Peter 5:7). He already has his ear attentive to us. He already knows more about you than you know about yourself. He is already eager to hear from you!
When it comes to doing something to appease him, he tells us there is nothing we can do. Jesus communicated this in his unique way by absurdity. He said, “I’ll tell you how to handle your guilt problem with God . . .” In Matt. 5:29, 30 . . . In my mind it’s great to picture him explaining this to people in all seriousness. And the reason is that he was talking to people were were intensely religious. When it comes to appeasing God and doing things to show you’re sorry, the audience Jesus was addressing was the model. But Jesus is trying to drive home the point that you can’t. You can’t appease God by some ritual, or some observance, or some vow.
The whole reason Jesus came was to make peace with God for us. Because we can’t do it ourselves, he came to make peace with God for us. He did this by dying on the cross for us, paying the price for sin with his death. As it says in Rom. 5:1 . . .
The same is true about vows, rules, trying to live a righteous lifestyle. Paul says in Gal. 2:21 . . .
Now, what I have described, God’s plan for how we relate to him, is exactly the opposite of what any one of us would have come up with if left to ourselves.
Instead of having to get the attention of the distant, uncaring God, we have his attention all the time.
Instead of having to dance a jig and make promises that we’ll never be bad again, God says, “I just want to forgive you, plain and simple.” The way we come into a relationship with God is by simply asking, “God, I would like your forgiveness. And yes, I want a relationship with you.”
Now to me, this particular aspect of the Bible’s teaching has the ring of truth to it. Because I feel very strongly that no human would have made this up. If it were up to us, we would like to show God that we are worthy somehow. We would like to earn our way into his favor. And we would make up some way to be good enough for God. What makes the message of the Bible so unique is that God says there is no way to come to him on our own. We need to simply receive the forgiveness he has already purchased for us.