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Tuesday
Jun052018

Threats of Deception

Colossians 2:1-10.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 3, 2018.

The internet is filled with fascinating illusions and brain benders that demonstrate the ability of our mind to be tricked.  Of course this is one thing when you are looking at a picture and swear that two lines cannot be the same length, when they actually are the same length.  However, in life there are far greater odds at stake, and the deceptions that we face are just as easy to be accepted as truth.

God warns us about deception because truth is an essential part of His nature.  He is truth.  Thus as followers of The Truth and being aware that we can be deceived by those who have honed the art of deception, believers should be leery of those who come along offering something other than what God’s Word says. 

This is the heart of what the devil did with Eve in the Garden of Eden, and what he does with the world every day.  We live in a world drowning in deceptions that have been created and spun over the millennia.  In our passage today the Apostle Paul shows his concern for believers and churches that may perchance listen to those who would try and sway people from the truth that we have received in Jesus Christ.

Paul’s concern for the churches

In verse 1 Paul expresses his concern for the Christians in Colosse and the neighboring city of Laodicea.  Here is a link to a map that will help you see where these two cities are in what we call Turkey today.  It is believed that Paul did not travel through these cities, but that churches were started there by locals who had heard Paul’s preaching and were saved in neighboring cities like Ephesus. 

Chapter two picks up right where chapter one left off.  Paul tells them that he has been laboring and striving for them by the mighty working of Christ within him.  In verse 1 he calls it a “great conflict.”  Though this word could be used for contests of sports and gladiators, it is clear that Paul means it metaphorically (not to diminish the physical exertion he gave in ministry).   His concern for them internally causes him to fight for their faith and spiritual well-being.  In fact this letter is part of that fight.

It is important to have people in your life who are concerned for your faith enough to wrestle over how to help you.  It is also important, as we grow in Christ, to have that kind of concern for others.  Historically it has been called “carrying a burden” for someone else.  It can be from those who are responsible, like church leaders or even parents for their children.  But it can also be from those who are our friends and fellow believers in the Lord who are not directly responsible for us.

In verse 2 Paul lists concerns that he has for things they need to have.  First he wants their hearts to be encouraged.  The word translated “encourage” in this passage is more than emotional strengthening.  It includes exhortation and ultimately means to enable someone to face a challenging situation.  It is important for our hearts to be encouraged, comforted, and instructed, so that we may continue following Christ.

Paul also desires that Christians be “knit together in love.”  What is it that should hold believers together in a local body?  Paul does not lean upon coercion and domineering leadership.  Specifically it is the love of Christ within us that teaches us how to love each other, which results in a bond of Christ’s love between us.  This is what should hold us together.  Anything else will fall short.

Lastly, Paul desires that Christians attain to the understanding of the mystery revealed in the Gospel.  Back in chapter one he has already explained that the mystery he is talking about is no longer a mystery.  He continues to use such words because it was common in those days for traveling teachers to promise to reveal secret mysteries to those who would listen and pay them.  Paul is saying that there is no mystery to be found anymore.  We just need to understand the mystery that Christ and His apostles have revealed once and for all.  In fact, Paul wants Christians to have a full assurance or confidence that the Gospel we have received is itself the “riches” and “hidden treasure” (vs. 3) of wisdom and knowledge.

People do not need to search for or listen to groups or individuals that have a system of attaining hidden or occulted truth.  If you have ever been in a group like this then you know this is much more than learning as you grow, which is a natural form.   God has not called the Church to be a system of working your way to the top so that you can learn the secret.  It is important for believers to know and be confident in the fact that though we are bound together in the love of Christ, our walk is affected by our understanding of what we have in Christ, just as much.  In fact, without a true understanding of Christ we will fail at loving each other as we should.

His concern about deception

Having written about the things that he wants them to embrace, at verse 4 he speaks to things that he wants them to reject, mainly deception.  He is concerned that they resist deception and persuasive words.  Here the concerns are put forth in general terms. 

The problem with deception is that it always comes pretending to be the truth.  In 2 Corinthians 11:14 it says that, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”  Also, in verse 13, right before that, we are told that some people “disguise themselves as apostles of Christ.”  Not everyone who claims to be an apostle of Christ truly is, and not every angel that comes with a message of truth is actually from God and actually giving truth.  Paul recognizes that deception relies upon persuading people.  That is why he emphasized that they already had the understanding of the mystery that had been hidden in ages past, but now in Christ has been revealed. 

When Christians are persuaded that they have received the truth of the ages, then they aren’t open to the salesmen who come plying their wares.  A skilled deceiver has learned how to use people’s eyes and hearts against them.  The closer our relationship is with Christ the less likely we will fall to deception.

In verses 6-7, Paul gives us the key to not being deceived.  Ultimately he tells them to walk or live in the ways that they had been taught and received when they were first saved.  Of course, Paul knew that these specific believers had initially received the truth.  But what about the person who has grown up under deception or has fallen in with a person or group who has deceived them?  We can know the truth because it has been written down as the New Testament.  In spite of the conspiracy theories, the text of the Bible is the most accurate ancient book, which has been substantiated by thousands of manuscripts and millions of researchers.  Put your roots down into God’s Word and take time to search it out prayerfully, rather than looking all over creation for an answer. 

Yet, even the Bible can be used to deceive a person who is unskilled in its contents.  Thus it is important who we are receiving our understanding from.  In this regard you may feel that you are hopeless, but you are not.  If you truly believe in Jesus Christ then His Holy Spirit resides within you.  That same Holy Spirit will work to bring you to a proper understanding of the truth and to the right people to help you in that walk.  So trust Him and seek His leading.

In verses 8-10 Paul gets even more specific.  There were many “Philosophies” that were floating around in those days.  Asceticism focused on denying physical pleasures in order to become more spiritual.  Gnosticism focused on discovering hidden truths that were revealed only to the special initiates.  Dualism saw all physical material as evil and spirit things as good.  As the truth of Christ came into the Gentiles lands, it encountered strongholds of philosophies that would try and bring Christianity under their systems of thinking.  Even today we are in jeopardy of allowing the teachings of Christ to be subsumed into the philosophies of our age, whether that be a material-humanism, or a New Age “all roads lead to God” philosophy.  We even have a modern form of the ancient skepticism, which believes that truth is unobtainable.

Christians are to be watching and on guard.  Otherwise, we run the risk of being cheated out of the truth that we already have.  Deceit is always empty-handed in the end.  It promises the moon, but delivers gravel in your mouth (btw, if you check for your wallet it will be missing too).  Paul lists some of the tools that deceivers use in order to manipulate others.

First, there are the traditions of men.  Cultures and traditions are masterful ways of manipulating the feelings and desires of a person.  Secondly there are the elementary principles of this world.  It is possible that Paul means the elementary spirits of this world.  Regardless, you do not need those things.  What you really need is Jesus.  In Him is everything you could ever need.  If he is in you, then you have all you need.  What are you looking for?  If you are feeling dissatisfied with Christ, it has nothing to do with Him, and everything to do with your own heart.  Look deep within and ask God to help you see your heart and whether you are being played into deception.  It is only by His help and His Word that we are able to see and avoid the threats of deception in this life.

Threats of Deception audio