As believers we are interested in changing. We are interested in growing. In fact, if we say we are Christians, and we are not concerned about overcoming sin and becoming more and more like Jesus, then something is going wrong.
Because being a Christian means something.
It is not just a word, Christian, for someone who goes to church.
Which is kind of what we’ve actually been stressing over the past couple of posts. This is where we began in our discussion of how to change, and we began here, because it is difficult to talk about living as a Christian, without thinking first, about what it means to be a Christian.
A Christian is a person who has been.
He’s seen his biggest problem is sin and he’s agreed with God about what that sin deserves, and yet, at the same time, he knows he’s been forgiven and declared righteous because he’s trusting in what Jesus has done on his behalf.
He’s been justified.
And he’s been born again.
A Christian is someone who has been literally given new spiritual life as a result of the Spirit’s work in Him.
And he’s been set free from the ruling power of sin.
We, as believers, are people who have died with Christ, quoting Paul, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life, which is why of course, spiritual growth, changing, overcoming sin, pursuing holiness, is a subject, we as believers, are all vitally interested in.
Unfortunately, however, while this is one of those subjects that every true believer is interested in, it’s also one of those subjects, that many believers, are really confused about, as well.
How do I grow?
How do I become holy?
When it comes to fighting sin, there are many believers who don’t really have a good idea, and you know, what’s even worse, there are also believers who have the wrong idea of what it means to become more and more spiritually mature.
There are some very wrong ideas about how to grow.
Which I think that has to be one of the greatest hindrances to growing.
It is obviously going to be hard to move forward in the right direction if you are constantly listening to someone who is pointing you in the wrong direction.
As he writes the Colossians.
He knows, some good things have happened to them spiritually.
If you look back at Colossians 1, verse 3.
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints.”
And he himself, has been really, working hard for their spiritual good.
“For this I toil.”
In chapter 1.
“Struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
That they might be mature in Christ.
And he wants the Colossians to know how hard he’s worked.
Verse 1 and 2.
“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for all those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
And the reason, he’s telling them all this, is because he’s concerned. He’s concerned that in spite of all the good that’s gone on so far and in spite of all his efforts on their behalf.
They might still be fooled.
To quote him in verse 4.
“I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.”
Which I think actually tells us, something, really important about growing and changing and moving forward spiritually.
One of the threats to becoming spiritually mature, to changing, to growing, are wrong ideas about how to grow and change and become spiritually mature.
Or to say it another way.
One important step you can take towards growing spiritually.
Identifying and rejecting wrong ways of growing spiritually.
Not maybe where we would normally start as we talk to someone about living out the Christian life.
How do I grow?
First you need to know how not to grow.
But I think actually if we take a step back, in the real world, we can see why this is important, because, the thing is, we all know people who are frustrated in their Christian lives.
They are stuck in what they know to be a pattern of sin.
And they say they want to get out of it, and yet, as you talk to them, and try to counsel them, you find it is difficult to get anywhere, really, because they are convinced.
About certain ways of thinking about the Christian life.
That just aren’t true.
Like, for example, the person who is just waiting for deliverance.
If you ask him he says he is a Christian and yet, he’s stuck in this ongoing sin. And he knows it is a sin. And he says he want to change. But, he feels like he can’t and, so his idea of how he’s going to change, is he needs to go to church, and get delivered. The pastor is supposed to put his hand on his head or something and say certain words, and if that happens, then the demon or whatever is keeping him stuck in that sin, is going to be cast out, and he’s going to be freed.
And he’s never going to struggle again.
How he thinks change works and is obviously going to impact him, and you are going to have a hard time helping him change until he gets rid of those wrong ideas about how to change, first.
Take another person. Who thinks the way you change is just letting go and letting God. Which is pretty common. In fact, I was reading where one of my favorite authors, who is a man named J.I. Packer and he’s written many great things on the Christian life, and yet he says when he first became a Christian, he was part of a particular group, that was teaching the way to become holy was basically just to let go, and let God.
He thought he had to somehow surrender himself over and over to Jesus, and if he got it just right, and he got rid of self enough, then Jesus would sort of take over and the live out the Christian life for him.
This was his idea of how he was supposed to grow spiritually, and it certainly sounds spiritual.
Jesus living through you.
And they made it sound like you could get to this point where it isn’t really you thinking or choosing or doing anymore, it is Jesus doing all that for you, which is why, when it came to temptation, he thought, I am not supposed to fight temptation, I am supposed to wait for Jesus to fight temptation for me and, he got very discouraged, because it wasn’t working, and it actually almost ruined his life as a result, he got to the point, where he was just about to give up, which you can understand I think.
If we want to grow but we are believing things that are not true about how the Christian life works it can do us a lot of long term spiritual damage, which is why, Paul says here in Colossians 2, verse 8.
“See to it that no one takes you captive.
He’s going to get into the specifics of how we grow and what we need to do in chapter 3, but before he goes there, he begins.
“See to it that no one takes you captive.”
And the image there is of a kidnapping.
It’s like in a war.
Where one soldier is walking along, when suddenly an enemy soldier, springs out from behind a bush and drags him away.
Taking him captive.
And Paul’s saying.
Spiritually, we have to see it to that doesn’t happen to us. We have to watch out. We have to take care. We have to pay attention. We have to beware.
When we think about being taken captive.
We usually think of a person falling into some temptation to sin, specifically. Like lust takes them captive. Or greed or something. But, that is not what Paul is telling us to watch out for.
Who is it that’s doing the kidnapping?
It is a person teaching error.
“See to it that no one take you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
And this threat.
So significant to the apostle Paul.
That he comes back to it.
Over and over.
Throughout chapter 2.
I say this so that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.
Is a command.
To watch out.
Then verse 16, as well.
“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.”
Which actually you have to make sure you hear.
Let no one pass judgment on you.
Because you might think Paul was going to say, don’t pass judgment on others, but if you look again, you see he says don’t let anyone pass judgment on you.
And he’s talking about these particular areas, that he’s about to mention, which maybe sounds strange, that we can’t allow someone to pass judgment on us, but he has to say that, because he realizes there are certain attitudes and certain teachings, about the Christian life.
That we absolutely cannot accept.
It’s like we have a responsibility to not allow them to pass judgment on us, when it comes to this way of thinking, spiritually.
And Paul doesn’t stop there, either.
He says in verse 18.
“Let no one disqualify you.”
Which obviously is a pretty strong statement. To disqualify. I mean, he’s moving past someone passing judgment on you, toward them literally robbing you of at the very least the intimacy of your relationship with Jesus.
And it’s possible he’s speaking even more strongly.
Which is why I am saying.
If we are going to grow spiritually.
We have to watch out.
This is like step number one.
That we haven’t fallen for wrong ideas about how we are supposed to grow spiritually.
Which unfortunately, isn’t always easy.
That’s the thing.
Because, as I mentioned earlier, Paul calls them.
And a plausible argument is obviously one that sounds good. The kind of false teaching about the Christian life that does the most damage is sometimes the hardest to spot, because it sounds good, at first.
And we can see why it sounds good as we work our way through how Paul describes it.
For one thing.
It usually is connected to a long worked out system that is based on ancient traditions.
In other words.
It’s in line with the way people in a culture normally think.
That’s the warning you see in verse 8.
“See to it that no one takes you captive by (what?) philosophy and empty deceit, according to human traditions, according to the elemental spirits of the world…”
It’s not just obviously worldly either.
This is another characteristic of the false teaching in Colossae at least.
It sounded pretty spiritual as well.
While it was based on worldly principles and connected to this way of thinking that was very, very common, it was dressed up in religious language.
If you look down at verse 16.
It uses biblical language at points, as they talked about food and drink, and even the Sabbath.
That’s Old Testament stuff.
And then verse 18.
It looked religious.
They were even claiming to have visions.
“…going on in detail about visions.”
They were disciplined in the way they treated their body.
They insisted on asceticism.
Which means, they had kinds of really hard rules to follow, and they probably doing all kinds of things, like fasting, and they were pretty serious about it.
This was at the heart of their teaching.
“Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch.”
Which is, I guess, why Paul says, in verse 23, that, it had the appearance of wisdom. “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom.”
Which is where we find ourselves today, as well, in Sunnyside, Pretoria, Africa, as we think about living the Christian life.
If you are living your life and wanting to live it for Jesus and to help others live for Jesus you are going to have to become a kind of expert in at least the basics of spotting false teaching, because, there’s just so much of it around us, right now, and it’s actually an awful lot like the kind of false teaching Paul’s talking about here.
It sometimes sounds good.
It consists of these ideas that have been around a long time in our cultures that are now dressed up in religious language and connected to Bible verses.
It is promoted by these people who look somewhat religious, and are claiming to have all this authority, because of certain experiences they say, they’ve had with God.
Even though Paul is writing to these Colossians about false teachers a couple thousand years ago, it’s like he’s talking to us today, and in this passage, he identifies the characteristics of the false teaching, we must reject, if we are going to move forward spiritually, which we will begin to look at in the next post on changing.