Welcome back my friends. Today a warning about deception. We’re in Colossians 2, and verse four says,
“I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.”
I hate being lied to. Yet there are deceptions – false teachers or misguided teachers – and their arguments can sound right. But don’t be deceived. Because deception can send you in the wrong direction. Ever get on a bus going the wrong way? Or worse yet, back in school I took a wrong turn in a 5k race and ran away from finish line for the home stretch. At that point speed doesn’t matter – I’m going the wrong way! And the same thing can happen spiritually.
As we follow Jesus, we have to stay on the path – going the right way. And the right way to follow Jesus – is to follow Jesus. He is the way. Now that may sound obvious, but sometimes we get distracted. Or worse – deceived. So to keep us on track, let’s start in the Word. Colossians 2, verse 6:
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him.”
I like that. Start with Jesus – and stay with Jesus. The false teachers push believers away from the simplicity of just following Jesus. So continue in him, in verse 7,
“…rooted and built up in him.”
Think about this. When you plant a tree, you tie a guidestick to a baby tree to get it started. Some people treat Jesus as if he were that little guidestick. They grow up and leave him behind. Don’t do it. Jesus is our very roots. He is the vine, we are the branches. Roots provide nutrients for growth and keep us grounded in a storm. We are “rooted and built up” in Jesus. So again Paul warns us: don’t be taken captive by “hollow and deceptive philosophy” that isn’t rooted in Jesus. Verse 9:
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,”
Wow. The fullness of God in a body. That’s Jesus. Fullness – not just a little bit, one hundred percent. And verse 10:
“…in Christ you have been brought to fullness.”
In other words, Jesus is fully God, and when you are rooted in Him, you become fully you – the person you were meant to be.
So the false teachers were pushing Christians off track by teaching that Jesus was only partly God. And instead of following Jesus, they focused on following rules. They said you have to do these things to go to Heaven. Things from the Old Testament, like circumcision.
Alright, stop giggling. Circumcision was meant as a physical picture with spiritual meaning. Cutting away the flesh pictured how our flesh – our sinful nature – is cut away by the Lord. But physical circumcision was for the Jews, it was never commanded for Christians. Yet the false teachers insisted that Christian men get circumcised, and they turned following Jesus into a bunch of do’s and do-not’s, working to be good. Yet Paul says that Jesus did the work – He cut away our flesh – spiritually, not physically.
And verse 12 brings up baptism. If you belong to Jesus, he calls you to get baptized. Baptism is not a work to get you saved, it’s something you do becauseJesus saved you. In baptism, we identify with Jesus: my old life died with Jesus on the cross, and his resurrection brought me new life. So baptizing pictures burial – down into the water, and resurrection – up out of the water.
And that new life is how we follow Jesus now. The old is gone. We’re not working to pay off all our sins. Verse 13 says that Jesus
“…forgave us allour sins.”
He canceled our entire debt – there’s nothing more to pay. Your sin has nothing on you.
And that’s why following Jesus is not just a set of rules. In verse 16, it’s not about “what you eat or drink,” or about “religious festivals” or the Sabbath day. Those things were in the Old Covenant, and they were important, but verse 17 explains that they were all…
“…a shadow of the things that were to come.”
Shadows are useful – they give you a an outline of what’s coming. But Paul says that the reality – the substance “is found in Christ.”
Jesus is the real thing. The rules and traditions were only a shadow.
When we get caught up in have-to’s – like “You have to worship, you have to pray” – we turn worship into a guilt trip. Then we add more rules like verse 21,
“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”
Paul says those rules have “an appearance of wisdom,” but they don’t work. You can’t make yourself good with strict rules and forced worship. And life is not a box of do-nots.
Listen. When we follow Jesus, there are a lot of things that we used to do that we don’t do anymore. But not because of rules. We change because we are made new. We are rooted in Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit, who helps us leave sin and live righteous. That’s not a shadow – that’s reality.
Following rules is a guilt trip. Following Jesus is a grace trip. Read Colossians 2, and make sure your bus is going in the right direction.
For Reflection & Discussion
- Paul tells us to continue in Jesus, just as we started. What dangers and deceptions do you see that can distract you from following Jesus?
- How is following Jesus different from following rules? (Read 2:16-17)
- Does your experience following Jesus feel more like a guilt trip or a grace trip? Share your story.