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The Last Piece of the Puzzle

puzzle.jpgBeware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. [i]   9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. [ii] Colossians 2:8-10 (KJV)

Have you ever been the lucky one to have the honor of it all by yourself?  Maybe the whole family has been staring at the 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle scattered out on the card table for weeks.  People would go by, pick up a piece, try to make it fit four or five different places, then toss the piece back on the pile and usually grumble some comment about the idiot who invented the whole thing in the first place.  (Hint: that’s why they call it a puzzle.) Four, five, eight or ten pieces at a time, and it starts coming together.

Then, one happy day, you get on a roll and put the last piece into place. You shriek, you shout, you dance a jig (is that why they call it a jigsaw puzzle?)  Alas, no one is there to see it happen and your moment goes unappreciated except for the inner satisfaction that you have within you.

The Puzzle

Cambered and bulged, Interlocking pieces
Find their mates and Secure unique relationships.
The puzzle is still incomplete.

Smudges of blue sky and wisps of magnolias Hanging on sticks of wood,
Or perhaps brick sills and trim boards painted white, Decorate their fragmented existence.
Tentatively, they ask, “Are you…?”
A chaotic universe of lost friends and lovers Orbits around them.

Oddities of configuration Anxiously awaiting discovery,
Overlooked and pushed away.
Turned, eyed, measured and examined Time and again, success evaporates.
Hopes rise; bitter disappointment follows. No fit, no niche, no welcoming arms
Enfold them into their bosom.

Impatiently forced pieces Create false illusions. Matching
Colors lie on incongruous elements. Promising partnerships, all-but-certain fits are misfits,
Momentarily quickening the pulse, ending in misery.

The tedium continues for pieces and puzzle. Maddening trials, frustrating perceptions,
Sure that no place exists to be interlocked and secure. But, there will be a last piece, and
It will find its home. He promised.

-J. Mark Jordan, February 27, 2002

Colossians 2:8-10 is one of the most instructive passages in the Bible.  It alerts believers to the dangers that exist in the world, dangers that can threaten their faith.  We can be spoiled. That doesn’t mean turning rotten or gangrenous.  It means spoiled in the ancient sense of the word: stripped of all value and left with nothing. (As in the spoils of war; or “to the victor goes the spoil.”)

We can be stripped of value by philosophy.  We can be stripped of value by vain deceit.  We can be stripped of value by the tradition of men.  We can be stripped of value by the rudiments of the world.  (Rudiments of the world refers to evil spirits, astrology.)  The Bible answer to this threat is found in our understanding about God. 

For in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”  Too many times we think of the doctrine of the oneness of God a mere theological position.  We even have big-sounding names for these doctrines:  Theology, Christology, Pneumatology, the Prolegomena, Hypostatic Union, Soteriology, Eschatology, Hagiology…  Actually, the plenary indwelling of God in Christ Jesus, the revelation that all of God—-his height, his depth, his length, his breadth—-is somehow located in the man Christ Jesus, is a powerful concept.

And then, “And ye are complete in him…”  This is what makes it even more intriguing to me: I am complete in him!  The two words—-fulness and complete—-both come from the same root word.  In fact, the version you have may use the same word in both verses. 

Here’s the way we should understand this:  Because God dwells fully in Christ, I am full by living in Christ.  Or, because Christ has access to every attribute of God, so I have access to every attribute of God by dwelling in Christ.  Or, because Jesus Christ is utterly complete and full of deity, I am also complete as I live in Him.

But that word—-INCOMPLETE…

Not complete; not filled up; not finished; not having all its parts, or not having them all adjusted; imperfect; defective…It is the bane of our existence.  It carries the baggage of failure; it sags with disappointment; it weighs heavily with depression.  Incomplete grade; incomplete test; incomplete treatment.  There’s nothing good about an…Incomplete pass to a quarterback; an incomplete game to a pitcher; An imcomplete three-point play to a point guard. Incomplete manuscript, Incomplete call, Incomplete contract, Incomplete portrait.

1. We are incomplete in who we are.

The introduction of sin into the human race separated us from God.

Isaiah 59:1-2 (KJV)

1 Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid a his face from you, that he will not hear. [1]

Rick Thompson writes, “Incompleteness”, in other words, is directly associated with “aloneness”. We are incomplete in our isolation. To be alone is to be unhealthy. The worst punishment for a prisoner is to be put in solitary confinement because it has the most torturous and debilitating effect on the emotions. God created us emotionally and spiritually to live life together. There is, in fact, a direct correlation between physical and emotional disease and isolation.”

But, something happened inside of me when I knelt at an altar. When the Holy Ghost came in, the part of me that felt so incomplete suddenly changed. Now, I am complete in Christ.

2. We are incomplete in what we can know.

Do you ever get the feeling that everyone around you is speaking a foreign language? Did you ever seriously consider buying “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Life?”   We are finite in our knowledge.  Many things we cannot know.  Many things we “know” are not really true anyway.  Many things we know today will be irrelevant tomorrow.  The wisdom of this world does not solve the incomplete feeling we have.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (KJV)

20 hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. …25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. …

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea , and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

But, I am complete in him.  The one who knows all things lives in me. I don’t have a need to know anymore. I have only a need to abide in Christ.

3. We are incomplete in what we can do.

Anybody tried to work a miracle lately?

Matthew 6:25-27 (KJV) 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? …

Have you tried to cure cancer?  Have you tried to stop arthritis from creeping into your joints?  Have you tried to slow down or stop the aging process?  We can replace hair, but not the head on which it grows.  We can replace joints, but not the whole skeleton.  We can get new glasses, new teeth, new ears, new voice boxes, a whole list of parts that make the hospital sound like a human AutoZone…But, we can’t create life, and we can’t create eternal life.  We can make death run a little longer and faster to catch up to us.  But we can’t out run him altogether.  We can brag about the things we can do all we want.  But we don’t have much room to talk about the many things we can’t do.  Like, abortion, crime, divorce, depression, suicide, poverty, disease…But, I am complete in him.

4. We are incomplete in what we can have.

“I don’t need much…I just need one more thing to make me happy.
Actually, I just need a bicycle. That’s all. If I had a bicycle I could ride it to the store.
Of course, if I had a basket on the bike, I could carry more stuff.
The truth is, if I had a car, I could put a lot more stuff in the trunk.
And, I could drive a lot farther to get better bargains and sales.
I don’t ask for much, really.
In order to drive the car, though, I would need a license and plates.
And, I would have to put gas in the tank, and get some minimal maintenance done.
And, of course, if I had a car, I would need insurance.
You realize that if I have a car, gas and insurance, I need a job to pay for all of this.
I just need an application, and a couple of references, and maybe a string or two pulled for me. I’ll do anything—-flip hamburgers, run a cash register…I don’t need much.
But, in order to get a good job, I need to get my degree. I just need one more class.
If I get the class I need, I just need tuition…oh, and book money, and lunch money, and a few new clothes.
And a laptop. And a cell phone. And an iPod. And a high-speed internet connection.
But, if I moved closer to the campus, I wouldn’t have to get a car.
That would save me a lot of money.
I could get an apartment and walk to class.
If I walk a lot, though, I’m going to have to get some new shoes.
Come to think about it, if I got a place to live, though, I would need some furniture.
I wouldn’t need much—-just a sofa, a bed, a table and some chairs, that’s all.
Of course, I will need a few extra things, like curtains, linens, pots and pans.
And a few pictures to hang on the walls.
And a refrigerator. And a microwave. And a can opener. And a coffee pot.
A washer and dryer would be nice. All I need would be one of those stackable kind.
Oh yest, and some dishes.
And if I had dishes, I would need a dishwasher too.
But, before I start all of this, I need some time off to get myself mentally prepared. You know what I’m talking about…
Just a little vacation, like to Florida or California.
Really, I just need one more thing to make me happy.
I need a credit card…okay, maybe just one more credit card.
Now, I just need interest rate to be lowered. And, if I could just get a lower minimum payment, I would be happy.
Really, if I just could move into a smaller apartment,
If I could sell my bike, that’s all it would take to make me happy.
Now, if they would just raise the minimum wage
No, really, and this is it—-if you know of a better job.
Actually, if I could just move back home with Mom and Dad…”
I just need one more thing to make me happy!

Guess what? You’ll never get that one more thing!

But, you can be complete in Christ who is the head of all principality and power!

Psalm 50:10-12

10 For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. 11 I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine a . 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. [2]

Matthew 6:31-34

“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

5. We are incomplete in what we can be.

(The man to whom Jesus said, “One thing you lack…”)  He was fortunate. He just lacked one thing.  If I had been there, Jesus would have said, “Get out a notebook, sharpen your pencil and sit down…”  Did you ever look around in the church and say to yourself, “I don’t deserve to be here?”  Where did any of us ever get the idea that we could enter into fellowship with God?  How can we approach his holiness?  How can the highest walk hand in hand with the lowest?  Everything about us offends him.  We are not just less than God, a difference of degrees;  We are the antithesis of God, a difference of essence.  We are as different as day and night, black and white, hot and cold, wet and dry, good and evil, up and down, in and out, guilty and innocent, turmoil and tranquility,

Romans 5:6-8 (KJV)

6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time a Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. [3]

Is your life a fast array of disjointed experiences, forced relationships, misspent moments?  Are you continually looking for the last piece of the puzzle?  Are you tired of one more failure, one more “go-round”, one more stupid move?

Let me turn your wandering eyes to the ultimate one. He will not disappoint you.

He’s my doctor, my lawyer, my counselor.  He’s my need supplier, my burden bearer, my friend in need.  He’s my mother, my father, my sister, my brother.  He wakes me up in the morning and sets me on my way.  The Josh Groban song, You Raise Me Up was recorded in 2003 and has been acclaimed as the most inspirational song of our decade.

When I am down, and oh my soul, so weary,
when troubles come and my heart burdened be.
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
until You come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains.
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong, when I am on Your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be.

There is no life, no life without its hunger,
each restless heart beats so imperfectly.
But when You come and I am filled with wonder,
sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains.
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong, when I am on Your shoulders.
You raise me up to more than I can be.

You raise me up, to more than I can be.

I’m not sure who the original composer had in mind when he wrote these lyrics.  To me, there is only one who deserves this kind of praise.  He hung on a tree for me.  He poured his Spirit into me.  He raised me from the ruins, from nothingness, from a lost condition.  I am complete in him.

a in due time: or, according to the time

[3] The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[i] The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[ii] The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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