Fine Sounding Arguments

I love movies about con men. Two of my favorites are Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Matchstick Men. There’s something fascinating about watching a character try to pull off an ever-increasing ruse on his unsuspecting victim. More often than not, in the movies the con man reaps what he sows, and himself becomes the victim of a con, often with hilarious results. But there is nothing hilarious about being deceived in the real world.

In Colossians 2:4, Paul tells the believers that the reason he works so hard in the ministry is “so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” There are con men at work, he warns, and what they say might sound very reasonable, but it isn’t true. Paul is focused on pouring wisdom and understanding into the believers so that they won’t be taken in by these charlatans.

Fine Sounding ArgumentsWhat about you? Are you able to discern between “fine sounding arguments” and orthodox belief? Have you tapped into the riches of complete understanding in Christ, so that you are able to judge between truth and error?

The devil’s cons always have the ring of truth. The best liars know how to make their lies sound true, and the devil is the world’s greatest liar. You need to be wise to his game, which means that you must be grounded in Christ. The truth is always centered around Christ.

Is what you believe about God centered on Christ?

Is what you believe about yourself centered on Christ?

Is what you believe about history centered on Christ?

Is what you believe about politics centered on Christ?

Satan’s long con is to move Christ, inch by inch, away from the center of your belief and actions. He wants nothing more than to make you Christ-askew. It’s okay by him if Jesus is a part of your life, so long as he’s not the center, the source and driving force, of your life. So beware of his fine sounding arguments and anything that removes Jesus from the center of your faith.

Money is useful, if you have it. You’ve probably noticed how quickly it disappears, though. Riches don’t last because the more money you have, the more expensive life seems to get. But what if there was a wealth that never ran out? What if there were riches that only increased the more you used them? This is the kind of money that truly matters.

Paul never set out to make people financially rich. Instead, he worked hard every day to help his churches become rich with understanding. Paul had discovered the wealth of knowledge in Christ, who he calls the “mystery of God.” He knew that nobody could steal this money, and that the more he gave it away, the more he received in return.

MoneyDo you treasure wisdom?

Is knowledge as valuable to you as money?

Or are you broke when it comes to the riches of understanding?

Too many Christians are settling for an elementary level understanding of God. Whether it’s because we’re distracted, lazy, or simply don’t know how to think well, we are impoverished in wisdom and knowledge. We don’t have the capital to purchase discernment on the difficult issues of life and faith. We stagger through life, wrought with inconsistency, burdened with foolishness, yet all the while the full riches of complete understanding are available to us.

God never asks his children to check their brains at the door. Jesus has not come so that we will close our minds, but so that they will be opened wide to the wonders of wisdom and understanding. In Christ, Paul says, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. There is no excuse for a Christian to be ignorant, foolish, or stupid.

It’s time for you to get to work making money, and I’m not talking about fat stacks. It’s time for you to engage your mind in the person of Christ. It’s time for you to make massive withdrawals from the Bank of the Church, which is rich beyond measure with the wisdom of books and the beauty of art. It’s time for you to discover the treasures of Christ, to unleash the power of your mind, and to bring your wisdom and discernment to bear in a world rife with idiocy. We cannot afford to raise another impoverished Christian. Instead, be rich. And in your wealth, make the world rich.

Struggling for the Saints – 2:1-5


1 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

Paul continues his use of the athletic metaphor from the end of chapter one by using the word “contending” to describe his work for the churches. He is not simply putting in his hours; he is actively engaged in a competition, of sorts, on behalf of the Gentile churches. As he says in Ephesians 6, Paul recognizes that he is not contending against other human beings (as tempting as it may be, at times, to think of it that way), but against the cosmic forces of darkness that are manifest in temptation to sin and heretical teaching.

As Paul uses the metaphor of athletic competition, it is important to ask what winning looks like for him. When Paul envisions a victorious church, he sees three elements, each building upon the previous:

  1. Unity in agape love and encouragement in heart;
  2. Possession of the full riches of complete understanding;
  3. Knowledge of the mystery of God, who is Christ.

A unified and encouraged church is a victorious church that is capable of possessing, together, the vast wealth of complete understanding and knowing, in a full and radical way, the mystery of God, who is Christ our Lord. In contrast, a divided and discouraged church cannot access the glorious storehouses of knowledge available in Christ Jesus. Paul’s hope for the church in Colossae (and the church in Laodicea, and elsewhere), was that the congregation would be united in the self-giving love of Jesus, and through this love, mutually enacted every day by and to each member, to come to the full, lived knowledge of Christ. This is a high calling, and not one that can be accomplished by any single member. “Christ’s love for them provided a basis for unity and formed a common bond between them. Christian growth is a group task! The individuals of the church needed each other.”[i]

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Energy of Christ

The old joke tells of a gentle, elderly man approaching his pastor after church one Sunday. “That was a fine sermon, pastor,” he offered, kindly. “Tell me, what do you do for work the rest of the week?”

Many pastors find this amusing because they’ve heard the accusation leveled in one way or another that they only have to work one day a week. This, of course, is a sometimes comical, other times tragic, misunderstanding of the work of ministry.

In fact, pastoral ministry can be exhausting. Whether you are a staff member of a large church, the part-time pastor of a small church, or somewhere in between, shepherding God’s people will tax your heart and soul. There is an emotional and spiritual pressure in ministry that can’t be found in any other profession. Burnout is inevitable. Pastors often find themselves in need of an alternative, renewable energy source to which they can have access.

Paul, the archetypal pastor, felt the same way your pastor feels. He was working hard to “present everyone fully mature in Christ,” and he discovered that he did not have enough energy within himself to accomplish the task. Rather than growing despondent, Paul turned to the infinite well of kingdom energy, his Lord Jesus Christ. He tells the church in Colossae that his goal is to make mature disciples out of them, and to that end “I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”

For those called to minister to God’s people, Jesus has an infinite resource of energy available, without which the task would be impossible. But it’s not enough to simply ask God to do what we cannot. Paul didn’t passively sit by while Jesus did everything himself. No, Paul fought hard – he strenuously contended – with all the energy Christ was so powerfully, and graciously, working within him.

Pastor, are you fighting for the discipleship of your people as hard as God is working within you? Can you describe your ministry as a strenuous contention? Are you taking full advantage of the energy that Christ is working inside of you? Jesus is working hard, and he wants to work hard with you.

Divine Murder Mystery

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? Storytellers have known of the allure of mystery for millennia. The building anticipation, the frustration of the red herring, and the thrill of discovery draw us into these stories. As a kid, I loved to play Clue, the famous murder mystery board game. There was nothing more exciting than discovering whodunit and calling out, “Colonel Mustard, with the wrench, in the billiard room!”

Paul calls God’s story a mystery. It’s not like the mysteries that we’re used to, of course. In fact, in God’s mystery, the murder comes at the end – when we crucified Jesus Christ. The murder of Jesus actually reveals the mysterious plan of God to pay for the sins of mankind with his own death, and then unite all the peoples of the earth together in the resurrection of Christ. Of course, nobody really knew about this ahead of time. Sure, Isaiah pointed toward it in his prophecy about the suffering servant. But who could have guessed it would have happened like this?

Divine-Murder-Mystery-WebThat’s part of the appeal of the Gospel. Not only does it demonstrate the infinite love of God, but it’s also completely unexpected!

God is going to die?

Yes. The Son of God is going to die.

On a Roman cross, like a rebel of the empire?

That’s correct.

And in this death he’s going to forgive all the sins of the whole world?

You got it.

And then he’s going to rise again from the dead, thereby conquering death and disarming the powers of evil once and for all?

Nailed it.

God writes the best mysteries. He is full of surprises. And how fortunate are we who get to live after the great mystery has been revealed? In fact, we are the beneficiaries of the mystery, because as Paul said, “God has made known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you [plural], the hope of glory.” The mystery isn’t over. It’s still being told in and through the communities of saints we call churches. Jesus is among us, living his life through us, telling his never-ending story through the lives of generations upon generations of believers. And his presence gives us hope – hope that we, too, will experience the glory of resurrection into perfect communion with God forever.

What will that be like? Well, it’s a mystery.

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