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Entries in Hedonism (2)

Monday
Jun112018

Threats of Deception II

Colossians 2:11-19.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 10, 2018.

Today we will continue talking about deception, to which we are all vulnerable.  Christians are not supposed to be gullible, easily tricked people, at least in the area of doctrinal truth.  We of all people have been given a sure record of truth and warned to be on guard against the devil’s schemes.  It is sad that so many people get caught up in many different kinds of deception.  Let’s look at the next verses in Colossians 2.

Remember what you have in Jesus Christ

In verses 11-15, Paul reminds of what they had in Jesus.  Some of the deceptions that the Colossians were facing had to do with ritual observance of things in the Law of Moses.  We know that the Acts 15 council had settled the issue regarding ritual observance of the Law.  No Jew or Gentile could be saved by ritual observations.  Still, it was common for certain teachers to travel around attempting to draw Gentiles into the belief that they had to obey certain things in the Law of Moses.  It is possible that the deception was not about what was needed for salvation, but instead what would make you more spiritual.  Regardless, Paul point Christians back to Jesus and reminds us of the great spiritual advantages that we have in Him.

First of all, he brings up the issue of circumcision.  This was a powerful symbol of rejecting the world and our own sinful flesh.  It represented complete obedience to God and a change in identification.  It marked people as belonging to Him.  The people of Israel took great pride in this difference.  However, Paul reminds these mostly Gentile believers that they have a circumcision that was not made with hands (human hands).  In other words, it parallels the idea in the Bible that believers have a work that is done internally and with the help of the Holy Spirit.  This is much greater than a work done on the external by another human being. 

This is similar to how we are born into God’s Family, which is not by the will of man, but by the will of God.  Those who were born into God’s people of Israel because their parents decided to have a kid had a lesser status than those who were born into God’s people by the Holy Spirit.  Gentile believers (even Jewish believers) had a greater or higher circumcision in Christ.  They didn’t need to add a lesser circumcision.

Also notice that it is called a circumcision of Christ.  In Joshua 5 we find that the children of Israel who were being led into the Promised Land by Joshua had not been circumcising their children for 40 years.  Thus after they had crossed the Jericho river in miraculous style and were several miles from the walls of a formidable walled city-state, they stopped and Joshua had all the uncircumcised males circumcised.  This was a crazy move militarily.  But it was important for them to deal with their disobedience before moving forward.  Joshua is a type of Christ who is our great leader.  Jesus is leading us into the Promised inheritance that God has for us.  But first we must wait and be circumcised in our hearts with a spiritual circumcision.  Jesus teaches us the greater circumcision, that of the heart done by the help of the Holy Spirit.  Paul refers to it as a putting off of the body of the sins of our flesh.  Interestingly enough Paul even connects this to water baptism.

It is clear that water baptism symbolizes a spiritual death and a spiritual resurrection.  But notice that we are “dying” to our flesh and its desires.  We join Christ in putting aside the hopes of this flesh and its desires.  Instead our hopes and desires are in God alone.  Thus we are spiritually raised up to a new life by the Spirit of God.  This is a partnership of us and God.  In verse 13 Paul points out that though they used to be spiritually dead in an uncircumcised state, now through Christ they are spiritually alive and forgiven of every trespass.  Therefore those in Christ have received the higher spiritual reality that was symbolized by those lower, physical commands in the Law of Moses.  As a young Jewish boy would join the people of Israel by circumcision, so a young Christian joins the people of God by a spiritual circumcision which is symbolized by the act of water baptism.  In this ritual there is no distinction made between male or female.

Paul also reminds us in verse 14 that our record of debt has been cancelled.  He clearly envisions some kind of list of our sins or trespasses against God.  This list or record of our offenses would condemn us if it is allowed to stand.  We would be dead men.  Yet, Paul points out that Christ has moved this list from standing against us through two methods.  First he wipes out the charges (some versions say blot out).  Regardless, if Paul had written this in the 21st century, he would have probably said deleted.  Secondly, he takes this list of now blotted out or wiped out charges and nails them to the cross.  To Paul, Christ was not just dying for our sins on the cross.  In Him our sins are being nailed to the cross, where they will be left forever.  The charges themselves are dead and cannot stand against us.

This leads to a powerful statement in verse 15.  At the cross Jesus disarmed our spiritual enemy and triumphed over them.  Though Satan is still dangerous, he can no longer use our sin as a guaranteed way of slaying us.  Through Christ, the work of Satan and his minions is nullified and abolished.  The only way that Satan can destroy us now is by convincing us to not take Christ at His Word.  If he can con us into remaining in our rebellious, disobedient path then he wins by convincing us to do for him what he cannot do to us.

Reject the threats of legalism

In verses 16-19, Paul walks forward the threat of those who rely upon the observance of the Law.  Up to now he has only mentioned circumcision.  But verse 16 brings up the areas of what food and drink you consume, and what days you observe as holy.  Notice that it is introduced with the word “so.”  This point of rejecting legalism is strongly linked to the triumph that Jesus has obtained over our spiritual enemies.  The practical implication of His victory is that we cannot be judged on these ritual matters of the Law of Moses.  Neither can your past be held against you.

Now food and drink is mentioned because the Mosaic Law had much to say about foods.  There was a long list of prohibited foods that no Israelite was supposed to eat.  However, foods cannot make one more spiritual or more sinful.  In fact that was not the point of those Old Testament laws.  Similarly celebrating particular days as holy cannot make you more holy or the lack thereof make you unholy.  Just as our circumcision in Christ is spiritual, so the food that we eat is spiritual as well.  Jesus and His teachings are our spiritual food.  Instead of going back to the lesser symbol, Christians are called to press in to the thing that the lesser commands pointed towards.  Also, through Christ we have entered into the Sabbath of God (Sabbath means rest).  For the believer everyday is a day of rest because we are in Christ every day.  This does not mean that we have no decisions to make in these matters, but that the dietary and ritual commands of the Law are not binding on Christians.

Though Paul says “let no one judge you,” the point is not trying to stop their mental reasoning.  Rather, it is about not being influenced and deceived by the judgments that they do make.  In other words, let them think what they want, but don’t let it influence how you think and act.

In verse 17 Paul gives the spiritual truth that we are to use as our guide in these matters.  Christ is the substance and the Law of Moses is the shadow.  Clearly Paul is talking about the non-moral laws (dietary, ceremonial, and holy observances).  These things are not the substance of what God was concerned about, when He gave those laws.  They were a shadow that gave evidence to or pointed towards something of greater substance, which is Jesus himself.  Circumcision, feast days, Sabbaths, and food are not what are important.  It is what they are trying to tell us about Jesus that is important.  This is what we should follow.  The reality of Christ’s first and second coming is a substantial thing that caused a shadow to be cast back in time.  Because he was coming, God gave Israel commands that would prepare them and the world to receive Jesus.  Many of the laws were not moral laws inherently.  Of course once God commanded them, disobedience would be a moral issue.  But that is not my point.  My point is that the purpose for these laws that involved things that weren’t inherently sinful, was to help Israel see the shape and form of The One who was to come, Messiah.  Now it would be said to remain enamored with the shadow of a person when they have actually come into the room.

Legalism is really a form of stubbornness that refuses to enter into all that the Law was pointing towards.  Legalism honors Moses while dishonoring the God whom Moses obeyed.  Moses himself will stand up in judgment against those who use the Law as a means of righteousness because the Lord whom he followed was greater than all those laws.  However, all of this said, I must emphasize that these arguments cannot be used for the moral laws that are found in the Law of Moses.  Thus, no apostle of Jesus ever said, “Let no one judge you in sexual immorality, or in theft, or in murder…”  These actions are inherently sinful and will never be acceptable in God’s sight no matter how spiritual a person thinks they are.

In verse 18 Paul warns that to give in to this legalism would cause one to be cheated of their reward.  Deception has a cost and is a real threat to our stake in Christ.  Paul lists some of the things that the deceivers took delight in.  First, they love false humility.  The outward shows of devotion can be a cover for pride.  We should follow Christ and His leading and not the false humility of those who glory in their outward ritual observances.  Second, they loved to worship angels.  Though Paul does not go into detail, no being in heaven or on earth should be worshipped but the triune God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Thus those who develop great systems of heavenly or earthly beings to which they pray for help, may seem spiritual.  But they are not, because they resist the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Christ and His apostles.  Third, they glory in great visions of things they may or may not have seen that puff up their fleshly minds.  This is an area where charismatic Christians are very vulnerable.  We are sometimes so desperate to prove that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still in operation that we will put up with people who claim to have had visions of heaven, but are motivated by their sinful desires and puffed up pride.  We must be hungrier for Jesus and our relationship with Him, then for a spiritual gift that someone else claims to have.  The gifts of the Spirit are walked out in relationship with Jesus, who sent the Holy Spirit.  So how does this jeopardize our reward?

It does so by separating us from Christ and towards a person or system of fleshly works who cannot save us.  Thus what Paul says in the negative about these fleshly teachers, we should embrace in the positive.  We must hold fast to Jesus through whom we have true spiritual growth.  No matter what manner of persuasion or deceit comes our way, we must let nothing separate us from Jesus.  Of course deceivers often do not present themselves as a means of being separated from Christ.  However, they always promote teachings in such a way that Christ is never quite enough.  You also need this: (insert the current false teacher’s list here).  When we hold fast to Jesus and Him alone then we have the One who is the source of any true spiritual growth and any real spiritual inheritance that we may have.  He is the one who baptizes us in the Holy Spirit ad leads us forth in victory.  Let us reject all threats of deception and walk with Christ, who is the substance of all that the Law of Moses and the Prophets of the Old Testament pointed towards!

Threats of Deception II audio

Tuesday
Jun042013

Understanding the Gospel II

Last week we talked about the importance of understanding the Gospel leading up to salvation.  Today we will talk about the importance of understanding the Gospel after salvation.  The Law teaches us that we will never approach God through it.  It begs the question “Is there another way?”  The answer is yes there is only one way and His name is Jesus.  What does the life of a Christian look like?  Or, what should it look like?  Two common mistakes happen in the lives of believers.  We either see Jesus as a new and improved “Law” that we need to keep, or, we see Jesus as the reason why we don’t need to do anything.

In Colossians 3:1-11, Paul lays out the proper understanding for believers to have.  When we truly understand the horrible predicament we were in and the awesome love that Christ showed for us at the cross, our lives will be impacted in very practical ways.  Let’s look at the first 4 verses of Colossians 3.

Seek The Higher Things

You might read chapter two to get a better feel for Paul’s point here.  It is clear that some of the Colossians were caught up in a legalistic asceticism, which basically focused on what you couldn’t eat, touch, or handle.  To them Christianity was still the Law, but under new management.  Paul’s argument at first sounds like he is saying there are no more rules.  But the truth is that they are looking at all the wrong things.  They are focused upon things of this world that are consumed and then gone.  He tells them to turn their focus and aim at a higher thing.  This is very different then saying, “Do anything you want because it doesn’t matter anymore.”  Paul is turning their attention up towards Christ.

When he uses the “If” conditional, he is not implying that some of them were not saved.  Rather he is emphasizing the logic of where our focus should be.  This logic was not only taught to them but also illustrated in their water baptism.  Colossians 2:12 says, “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith by the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”  Water baptism symbolizes my death to sin and this world and my new life with Christ.  If Christ is my new life, why is my focus on everything but Him?

The present location of Christ should help to draw our heart and affections toward God.  We long to be with Him, but he is not here.  However, we can fellowship with Him by the Spirit.  The focus should be up towards Christ is now.  Think about it this way.  Jesus did not come to Earth because he wanted to enjoy the “Local Color.”  He came to Earth because of the heart of His Father.  God desired eternal fellowship with men.  Thus the earthly endeavors of Jesus were from a heavenly reason.

Now some have said, Christians are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.  This may be true of some, however the opposite can be stated.  Many people are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good.  Think of the Pharisees.  On the surface they were all about God’s business.  But, in truth, they really weren’t.  Their political machinations were very much about themselves and things on this earth, not God and his heavenly purposes.  Believer should impact this world from the directive of heaven.  Anything short of this will fail to bring lasting impact.  Now let’s look at verses 5-8.

Cut Off The Lower Things

After telling them to seek the higher things of Christ and the heart of the Father in heaven, Paul then tells them to put to death or cut off the “lower things.”  When you read his list of these “lower things,” it is clear that he is not just talking about anything that has to do with the natural world here on earth.  Rather, he is talking about motivations of this life that are not of God (the higher), but are of our flesh (the lower).  Let me give an example.  A family is not in and of itself a higher or lower thing.  It just is.  However, the motivations behind my interactions with that family are of a higher or lower quality.  Even the giving of money to a charity can be done for base, lowly (read that fleshly) reasons.

These lowly motivations are not just “on the earth.”  It literally could be read that they are “centered upon” the earth.  They are lowly because these motivations are solely focused upon earthly reasons and ends without regard for The Maker of all things.

Another reason why they should cut off these lower things is because they are the very reason that God’s wrath is going to be poured out upon all the earth.  We must not fool ourselves.  The judgment of God is coming upon the earth, and precisely because of our sin.

Abortions, homosexuality, adultery, war, destruction of the earth, pride, atheism, false pretence, theft, anger...(the list is practically infinite), not only are sins against each other but they fly in the face of God.  Why would I continue to embrace what God has pledged to destroy?  Each true believer must seriously ask themselves this question and remember Lot’s wife.  Lot’s wife did not perish because no one loved her.  She perished because even when she knew it was being destroyed, she loved the things of this world.

Now in some ways, what Paul is saying sounds like regulations again.  Seek this, kill that.  But let’s recognize that the difference is in the word Relationship.  Regulations do not care about God and His heart.  It is not about a relationship other than slave to master.  However, God has called us into the relationship of a child with a father, or a wife with her husband.  In each case we will focus on certain actions and get rid of others, but, for very different reasons: the reasons of love.  Love embraces things and gives up others for the sake of relationship.  Christ is not coming to simply destroy those who eat pork or worship on the wrong day.  He is coming to destroy those who have rejected relationship with Him and have turned towards hurting others.  In the end, sin always hurts our self and others.

Without such a relationship with Jesus, we are powerless to follow Christ.  That is why Paul said in Colossians 2:23 [following man-made regulations] have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.  Many people who are strong at controlling the outward appearance of their flesh will find that God is not pleased.  (Do you remember the instructions Jesus gave about lust in our mind and heart and how it is the same as adultery in the flesh before God?)  When you understand the impact of that statement you will realize quickly how powerless you are without Jesus.

Put Off The Old Man Put On The New Man

In Colossians 3:9-10 Paul changes the metaphor of higher and lower and uses “old man,” “new man,” and getting dressed.  Here the new man seeks the higher things of Christ, whereas, the old man lived for the lower things.  Thus if you are going to follow Christ you need to strip off that old man and its lower motivations and put on the new man which is motivated by Christ himself.  If I truly turn from my old life towards a new life in Christ it will make an impact in my life.  This “clothing” is not merely new and better rules, but rather, a new focus, attitude, and source of power.

Paul says that the new man is renewed by knowledge.  Specifically, this is the knowledge that we have been given by Christ.  It is the Word of God and our knowledge of the true Gospel and God’s real judgments.  This will enable us to be renewed into the image of Jesus who is our pattern.  This is where our focus should be; the desire to be like Jesus, not because we will then be saved, but because he has saved us, out of love.

Final Thoughts

Our flesh does not want truth in this area.  Even when we turn to Christ our “Old Man” remains hostile to the things of God.  Just try to pray every morning before you go about your day and you will see how true this is.  Our flesh will either be unbalanced towards legalistic regulations of pride or it will be unbalanced towards “sloppy agape.” 

The truth has more tension in it then either of these two extremes.  Following Christ is filled with tensions that we are tempted to relieve in all the wrong ways.  Don’t run from the tension.  Rather relieve the tension by turning to God in prayer for strength and surrendering to His grace for peace.

 

Understnding Gospel II Audio