In Paul’s day, some people thought the body was bad.
And physical things were bad.
Which meant if you were going to free your soul to really worship God you had to punish your body and stay away from certain stuff, which is why they came up with this whole intricate system of do’s and don’ts to help them do that.
Which maybe seems a little strange to us.
It’s kind of how a lot of people work, actually.
People are legalists. So they want to be their own Saviors. They know something is wrong, and they want to fix it, but they can’t deal with the actual sin that is going on in their hearts, because that’s way too deep and to extensive so they focus on what they can do.
To make themselves feel better, and look holy.
To other people.
Which is always going to be.
Focusing on the externals.
Which is essentially Paul’s concern for the Colossians in Colossians 2. He was concerned they would be fooled into thinking about holiness as something that happens mostly on the outside of them.
What’s really important. Which is what’s going on in the heart.
In fact we can see the contrast, I think, if we look for a minute at the way Paul talks about how Christians should pursue spiritual growth in chapter 3.
“Set your minds on things above.”
“If then you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above.”
Which is how Paul approaches the pursuit of holiness.
If this is true. Then.
If you have died with Christ and if you have been risen with Christ, then focus on Christ, and die to the earthly passions that are in you.
Where, wrong approaches basically start with.
You are a mess. You are so far from God. And you have to find a way to get yourself to God through your own efforts.
In other words, you need to somehow be your own Savior through all these obvious acts of self-denial, where Paul’s approach instead is more about loving the Savior God’s already provided and recognizing what God’s already done and then living your life out in light of that.
Which, I guess, all of this is sobering to me. As you look at this. I mean. It’s a serious thing, when you start to look at what’s going on here in Colossians, because you realize, it’s not enough for us just to say we want to grow or that we want to be spiritually mature.
That’s good. But there’s a danger. There’s a danger even with religious activity.
Obviously, if I am talking to someone who is like I just want to do everything I want to do, I don’t care about being holy, I have to be like man, come on, if you say you are a Christian, let’s go back. But, you know, even if I am talking to someone who is saying, I want to grow, I want to be holy, I still have to be like, that’s great.
But. Let’s first. Check on this. Because it’s not just being busy, spiritually, that we are hoping for, there’s something bigger that we are seeking.
And if we are not careful it’s very possible for us to be missing Jesus in our pursuit of holiness.
Which ultimately is what Paul’s talking about in Colossians 2, verse 8.
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
It seems impossible, to think of trying to live the Christian life, without Jesus, but as we look at what’s happening here in Colossae, we see it’s totally possible to have the shell of Christianity, but not the heart. To get so focused on what we do, that we are not enjoying and being motivated by what Jesus has done. To get so focused on our own experiences, that we are not diving into and delighting in what He’s said in His Word. And to become so focused on the externals, how we look, trying to be our own Savior through our performance that we stop seeing the beauty of Jesus and growing deeper and deeper in our relationship with Him.
Which is why if you are going to grow and mature spiritually one place you absolutely have to start is by identifying and rejecting wrong approaches to growing spiritually.
Any approach that substitutes our works for Christ’s.
Any approach that substitutes our experience for God’s Word.
Any approach that focuses us so much on the externals, that we miss, what’s going on in the heart.