Colossians 2:8, 16 – 23
“Where did it all go wrong?”
The book of Colossians is a cautionary tale of what happens when the church looses sight of Jesus. The temptation is to begin to substitute things that sound and look very right for absolute dependence on Christ.
So where did it all go wrong? I have the bad feeling that what was happening in Colosse is very similar to what I have witnessed in my life time.
I. Truth has been hijacked
A. Truth has been reduced to philosophy. [v 8]
1. “Modernism” was the predominate philosophy of the last 150 years. It’s core is self-reliance and the belief that humans control their own affairs.
a. Truth must be “observable.” (“Only what I experience/feel is true.”)
b. Truth must be “measurable.” (“Buildings, bodies, and budgets.”)
c. Truth must be “reproducible.” (“If it works, it’s true”)
“If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere, and must.”
RESULTS: a.) Shiny and dazzling high energy is true. That which is not is “dead.” b.) “Theology of the harvest” as opposed to waiting for the Lord of the harvest. c.) Cloning others rather than seeking God’s will.
2. “Postmodernism” suggests that truth is what a person makes it.
a. Truth is “personal.” (Not the same for everyone)
b. Truth is “equal.” (Everyone’s truth is the equally valid… nobody is wrong.)
c. Truth is “powerful.” (Based on what the group thinks, or who has the power.)
RESULTS: a.) Willingness to accept what the Bible specifically describes as sin. b.) Absorption of non-biblical ideas and even anti-Christian concepts. c.) Christianity has become a democracy… everyone votes on what is sin or not.
B. Truth has been reduced to religious regulations. [v 16]
1. Emphasis on flavors of ceremony.
a. Matters of food, drink, and observances become definitive in judging.
b. Vegetarian debate… personal choice NOT religious issue.
c. “Drink” refers back to the ceremonial manner of what cups to use and how the beverage was consumed.
d. Sabbath observed, on what day? (Sunday is “the Lord’s day” marking Jesus resurrection and habitual showing Himself after the resurrection.)
2. Today’s versions:
a. Worship styles.
b. Church growth strategies.
c. Leadership styles.
***** We have to understand, that anything based on the world’s philosophies is empty and deceptive. *****
II. Religion has been twisted.
A. Disqualifying tactics. (lit. “rob you of the prize” image of one who acts as an umpire/judge against.) [v 18]
1. “False humility” particularly in pushing their flavor of the month.
a. Wesley – “pretend humility.”
b. Barns – “In this way, they would become really more dangerous - for no false teachers are so dangerous as those who assume the aspect of great humility, and who manifest great reverence for divine things.
c. In other words, every appearance of being right character and right biblically.
2. “Worship of angels”
a. Ancient church: angels were used as mediators between God and people. [Angels delivering messages in visions.]
b. The word “angel” is technically someone who is a messenger… in other words, people. [Leaders building on themselves, not Christ.]
3. “what he has seen” (“visions”)
a. A “vision” was a prophetic event often accompanied by some sort of sign.
b. “Prophetic movement.” (“sign of the blood” etc…)
B. THE PROBLEM: “appearance of wisdom.” (They look right…. Produce desired/valued results.) [v 23]
1. “Self-imposed worship” (lit. “will-worship”)
a. The idea here is that what is imposed is based on some pretense. (Such as faithfulness, results, etc…)
b. Notice this is not God’s version, its people’s
2. “False humility” (different word than in verse 18… )
a. Barns – “There is a great show of reverence for divine things.”
b. Another way to understand this: “asceticism.”
3. “Harsh treatment of the body”
a. Outward behavior gives the impression of superior wisdom.
b. Wesley – “They indulge our corrupt nature, our self - will, pride, and desire of being distinguished from others.”
***** Notice it is all about what looks right and sounds right from the HUMAN perspective. (“not according to Christ”) *****
“These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” [v 17]
OBSERVATIONS: These things are generally imposed… in other words, if someone suggests they are in error, that person is “judged” and “disqualified.” [see v 16, 18] They always look right (or they would not be deceptive) but in the end turn up empty. We are distracted from being empty by desperately running to the next philosophy or sin.
III. What is the solution?
A. Jesus Christ must be the focus.
1. The point of reference is not ourselves.
a. Who is the ultimate (only, real) judge of success or failure?
b. Who is the only one who has the right to establish what is true?
“He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.”[v 19]
2. Jesus is the “Head” while the rest is the body.
a. “Supported” is also translated “nourished” and is a continuous action. (What happens when someone stops eating?)
b. “Held together” (also continuous action). If the nerves to the brain are cut or damaged… the body is paralyzed.
c. “As God causes it to grow” (no commentary needed)
B. Become COMPLETE in Jesus.
“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules.” [v 20]
1. If we have become free from this world, why would we want to go back to it?
a. Fact: escape is not as easy as it looks… because there are so many things that look right.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” [Proverbs 26:25]
b. Fact: escape is much easier than it looks if we fully rely on God.
2. Begs the question: Have you died with Christ or are you living like you are still alive to the flesh, this world, and its philosophies?