How to change, part twelve

If we are going to grow spiritually we have to reject wrong ideas about growing spiritually.

Which, sounds tough, I know, but it’s real. There are very wrong ideas about spirituality that will do us serious damage, and we’ve begun looking at Colossians 2:16ff where Paul takes the time to identify three specific characteristics of the kind of teaching we need to be on guard against.

First, we’ve seen it is legalistic.

Second, it tends to be mystical.

We start by looking at the motivation.  Is it about me trying to earn approval with God, or is it about me trying to live in light of what God’s done for me through Jesus?

And then we look at the foundation. Where is their authority coming from?

A great deal of false teaching is basing its fundamental ideas about God and what He’s like and how you should live on what some particular person thinks and what he’s experienced and how he feels and maybe even what he’s dreamed or seen in some vision he claims to have had instead of basing it on a clear and accurate explanation of what God Himself has revealed in His Word.

Which is basically.


Legalism makes a bigger deal out of what I do than what Jesus did. Mysticism makes a bigger deal out of special spiritual experiences I’ve had than on what God has said. It substitutes a person’s experiences for God’s Word, which is, actually pretty much what these false teachers in Colossae were doing.

Paul writes,

“Let no one disqualify you”



“Insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head.”

Now watch this.

Because the false teachers were telling the Colossians something that was just like obviously wrong. They were insisting on asceticism and the worship of angels. And this seems to have been a big deal to them.

The worship of angels.

Which is why Paul has to go to such great lengths to demonstrate how much better Jesus is than angels, throughout the book of Colossians.


I guess.

They could have been saying lots of things. I don’t know. It could be that they were even pretending to be humble and saying they were not good enough to go directly to God Himself and worship Him through Jesus Christ.


Instead they had to first begin with the angels instead.

But however, they were going about it, the point, this is something, that’s like, obviously wrong.

Worshiping angels.

This is one heresy that is not complicated.  If you look at it. The Bible’s very straight about the fact we are not supposed to worship angels. Or anyone other than God. In fact, you know, in light of how clear the Bible is, you might wonder how the Colossian would ever fall this, and if you look at the middle of verse 18, I think, you’ll see the strategy they were using.

They were insisting “on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions…” or things he has seen.

In other words.

They were taking their stand on visions that they claimed to have had.  

That was the basis of their authority. Not God’s Word. It’s what I’ve seen that’s the main thing.

To the point.


Even though the Bible says this, you ought to do this, which I know is the direct opposite of what God’s said in His Word, but you ought to do it anyway, because of a subjective experience I’ve had. 

Which is.

If you think about it.

What’s happening all around us.

It might feel a little harder to spot legalism. But, this is everywhere. And, it might look a little different. I mean. I don’t know if you have ever met someone who has pleaded with you specifically to worship angels on the basis of visions he’s had, but I am sure most of you have met people who have spoken to you about God and the Christian life and what you are supposed to do based on their own experiences and thoughts and feelings and dreams and visions over what God’s said.


In His Word.

Which is the same thing, essentially.

And so if you listen to them and the way they talk it’s not God’s Word that is driving them. It’s some spiritual experience someone had, which, unfortunately, appeals to a lot of us.

We like hearing about dreams and visions and prophecies and all of that.

In fact, there are some people who seem to almost have a bias against the disciplined study of God’s Word. It’s like they would actually prefer coming to church and listening to someone saying they have had a dream or a vision to someone helping them know and understand what God says in His Word. For some, if I come to church and stand up here and said I had a dream about this or that, in their minds, that would be more authoritative, more compelling, and more exciting, than if I asked them to open up their Bible and started talking to them about what it meant.

You say.

Who should I marry? And I say I had a dream.

There are a lots of people who would take that way more seriously, than if I said, let’s open up the Bible and look at biblical principles regarding marriage, which is why we better pay attention to the warning Paul gives in verse 18.

Because he says, “Let no one disqualify you by insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions…” And the term “disqualify” means to rob someone of their prize.  It’s like here these believers have something huge and yet if they started following what the false teachers were teaching, they’d end up completely empty instead.

They’d be disqualified.

Which is intense.


But as someone else has put it, when someone is asking you to replace “the external authority of God’s Word” with visions they claim to have had instead they are asking you to discard Christianity.

In the end.

Because, and listen to me now, once you reject the external authority of God’s Word, once you say, you know what, God’s Word isn’t my final authority, you basically reject God.


My visions and my dreams and my experiences are the ultimate and final authority, for this church, then it’s only a matter of time, hear this, until we are not going be Christian.

We are going to be some weird cult, instead. That maybe calls ourselves Christians, but is essentially, something completely different.


I know.

It doesn’t always look that fancy.

But God has revealed what we need to know to have a relationship with Him and to be saved and to grow in this book, this is where we know we have God’s Word.

Which means.

It’s has authority over us.

Even over visions and prophecies people are saying they’ve had.

And so, if someone comes and says I saw this and this is what is true and this is what God wants and you have to obey me because this is the vision I had.

We can’t just be like.


A vision.

That’s amazing.

I guess.

I have to obey.

We have to go back to God’s Word and ask. Is what they are saying what God says there?Because that’s our authority.

It’s pretty simple.

If we want to know what God wants, we need to read the Bible and make sure we properly understand it.

I had someone recently tell me, God told me, I am supposed to use you, and basically he meant, I was supposed to support him somehow financially to go into the ministry, and he was really strong about, it, he was like you better take this seriously, because God told me, and you know, what, I had to go back to God’s Word, and say, let me think this through, in light of I know what God says about the responsibilities I have, which is how we have to be judging any ideas people are giving us about how we ought to grow.

Which, of course, I am saying, doesn’t always sound as exciting to people.

And, I know, sometimes people are even like but what about the Spirit?

You are always talking about the Bible. I have the Spirit. And we are like, yes the Spirit. We love the Spirit. That’s why we are talking about the Bible.


The Spirit of God speaks to us through the Word of God.  

God didn’t give us His Spirit to tell all this weird stuff that would lead us away from what He’s already said in His Word.


He gave us the Spirit to help us understand what the Bible teaches and to affirm and press home into our minds the truths we find there and to help us understand how to apply it to our everyday lives.

I kind of like the way Martin Luther once put it.  Because actually what we are talking about is nothing new, really. There were men in Luther’s day who claimed to have certain experiences and who were making those experiences more authoritative and important than God’s Word.

And he was very firm with them.

In fact, one time when they were arguing with Luther, apparently, they said. But the “Spirit, the Spirit!” Which was kind of their argument. Don’t take us back to God’s Word, because we have the Spirit, the Spirit.

To which Martin Luther, thundered, “I slap your Spirit on the snout.”

And he spoke like that, he spoke, so strongly like that, because he knew when a person substitutes his own personal experience for what the Word of God says, when he makes his own experience more important than the Word of God, he’s not being spiritual, he’s not being religious, he’s being proud.

Because, he’s really saying. “My word is more important than God’s Word.” 

Which is what Paul says is at the root of the heresy their in Colossae. If we go back to verse 18. The reason these false teachers were going on in detail about visions they had was because they were “puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind…”

It’s pride.

Puffed up is proud and sensuous is fleshly. It’s a word we associate with lust, actually. And Paul’s saying it’s totally possible for a person to look very religious and very spiritual and always be talking about God while at the same time be puffed up and motivated by a sensuous, fleshly mind. 

We are a little naïve sometimes.

As to why some people are so passionate about religion. Sometimes the reason people are passionate about religion is because it actually feeds their flesh, which is kind of obvious with a lot of the false teachers, we know.

They are getting something from this.

Respect. Money. Whatever.

But it’s not about Jesus and honoring Him.

It’s about them.

Which is why they are not all that concerned about taking you back to what Jesus says. And they feel fine with just going on and on and on and on and on about their own experiences instead.

Which is spiritual suicide.

This is a big deal, obviously.

If I am basing my relationship with God on my works, instead of Jesus’ or if I am basing my relationship with God on my ideas and dreams, instead of what God’s says.

I’ve lost touch with real Christianity.

Or as Paul says in verse 19, they “…are not holding fast to the Head…” which is a problem because it is from Christ that “the whole body, nourished and king together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” 

Which means, in other words, while they might be going through all these motions of spirituality, they are actually making it impossible to grow spiritually, and as a result all their discipline and all their religious activities and all the stuff they are doing is just for show.

It accomplishes nothing.

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