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Weekly Word

Entries in Philosophy (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
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