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Janet's Corner

Home | 2006-2007 | 2005-2006 | 2004-2005
A Heart That Is Free

We have been studying Colossians chapter two the last couple of lessons. Paul has warned us not to be kidnapped by the false teaching about Jesus. This false teaching, which later became know as Gnosticism, is still around today. Much of it is seen in what we call the New Age movement which is not a religion, but a hodge-podge of ideas from eastern and western religious and secular traditions. There are some essentials which characterize the New Age movement. Much of it is a reaction to the institution of the church which appears to many to be present but impotent. It is also self-centered and self-serving. It’s all about “me, my feelings, my spirituality, which is the opposite of what Jesus teaches as He says to find your self, you must lose your self and follow him and serve others. (Matthew 11:224-26). In general the New Age movement believes the problem of mankind is ignorance, not sin. So the pursuit of knowledge becomes primary.


Today, any faith is good faith. What you believe is not as important as that you believe. The author of a book called “Drowning in Shallow Waters,” based on a study of Colossians, says, “Today we believe anything that makes you whole, connected, empowered is ultimately alright.”  

One of the Gnostics beliefs was that matter was evil and spirit was good. So God could not have come in the flesh in Jesus Christ, because God is spirit and is good. How did they live this out? Through two reactions – either they denied their physical needs, because their body was evil, or they indulged themselves, giving into their natural desires, because their soul was redeemed. So today we have the “deniers,” so to speak that reject all materialism and insist on simplicity as that which will bring them spiritual peace. Or we have the “indulgers” who preach a gospel of pleasure and hedonism, as the way to live.


Many are looking to become more spiritual in ways that are not centered in Christ. The creed of the early church was simply “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Paul says in Colossians 2:8, “Just as you received Christ (which is by God’s grace through faith), walk in Him.” Our lives need to be framed in the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord. And we need to fill in the picture or the reality of our life lived out based on the truth that Christ lives in us and He is the hope of glory. He is the hope of a changed or transformed life in which we find peace and fulfillment. We don’t fill the picture of our lives with something other than that which can be framed with Jesus Christ is Lord.


The three aspects of the gospel which Paul notes as being threatened in chapter two of Colossians were the uniqueness of the person of Christ as God –man, the sufficiency of the work of Christ on the cross and the spiritual freedom of all of those united with Him. We looked at the first two in verse 6-15. When we are rooted and built up in who Christ is and the sufficiency of His work on the cross, we will be protected against other teaching and philosophies that would kidnap us.


Today we will look at our hearts that are free in Christ - the truth that those who are united with Christ have spiritual freedom.

Read verses 16-23

The first two areas gave the framework of the confession “Jesus Christ is Lord.” The third area that was in danger of leading the believers into captivity was what the reality of what filled that frame. What was the picture inside the frame of “Jesus is Lord?” How were they growing spiritually and changing spiritually? This false teaching revolved around three things – legalism, mysticism, and asceticism – any of these could kidnap them.


Verse 16 begins with the word “therefore” indicating that what was said before this is critical to these warnings. Because of all that is true about Jesus and the sufficiency of the work of Christ on the cross, don’t get kidnapped by these teachings.


Verse 16 continues by saying that this heresy involved legalism. Someone was judging them according to manmade rules. Following the rules seemed to equate to the degree of spirituality. The rules included diet and days, which were spelled out in the law of Moses. Paul was teaching the believers they were free and should not get caught up in this legalistic system. This legalistic system which was instituted by God under the Old covenant, is just a mere shadow of the truth of who Christ is. When you see someone’s shadow, you can tell some general things about that person, but when you see the person themselves, you can tell much more about them. Jesus was just a shadow in the Law. But when Jesus came to earth, there was no need for the shadow, the Law, because we had the real thing. Practicing the laws did not bring about a deeper spiritual life. These practices can give an appearance of spirituality, but can’t change hearts. Followers of laws can become judgmental. Warren Weirsbe says that God calls us to a higher obedience in the direction of freedom, not toward bondage to rules. Paul warns not to hold onto a shadow when you have the real thing – Christ –who can change your life through his sanctifying word and Spirit. It’s not what you eat or drink that makes you spiritual, but what comes from your heart. (Matthew 15:1-20). Legalism, striving to keep a set of rules, is not a means of salvation or sanctification – look to Jesus! Someone trapped in legalism is held in bondage to the rules and their life reflects it – there is no freedom in their heart which is mirrored in their lives.


Verses 18-19 indicate the danger of mysticism – seeking a deeper or higher subjective religious experience. It considers experience, feelings, and intuition more important than any facts. Mystics attempt to experience the spiritual world apart from Christ. The Colossians were evidently worshipping angels. Visions gave them contact with angels. Hebrews teaches us that angels are our servants, not that which we worship. Worshipping the angels just was false humility. Look at the phrases in verse 18 – “taking stand on the vision he has seen” and  “puffed up with idle notions.” The visions have distorted their understanding. These people got big heads, not a burning heart and a submissive will toward God. Visions from God demonstrated to us in the scriptures through Paul’s writings, bring glory to God, not self! These people were putting themselves above others as ones were more spiritual. Something was wrong inside the frame of “Jesus is Lord.” True spirituality happens by being attached to the head of the body, Jesus. We need to focus on him, not visions, or experiences or angels or spiritists or mediums, to grow as believers. We can be in danger spiritually if we get caught up in the latest spiritual experience that comes across our path. In I Timothy, Paul warns that in the last days people will abandon the truth and follow false and deceiving spirits. Remember Satan can dress himself up as an angel of light.


The final dangerous philosophy that was influencing the Colossians was asceticism. This involved a life of rigid self-denial, which might have come from the belief that matter was evil. Therefore the body had to be brought into subjection to grow spiritually.  The problem as stated in 2:23 is that self-denial has no real power against the flesh or the sin nature. True devotion to Christ does not come from denying physical comforts. Just as the keeping of a certain diet or days had no sanctifying value, neither does self-discipline. It does have an effect on your health perhaps, but not on your spirituality. It is Christ’s indwelling spirit that changes us, not our own self-discipline.


Legalism, mysticism and asceticism are just means – man-made – that people use to try to become more spiritual. They can only kidnap us and put us back into bondage - enslaving us, not freeing us!


What philosophies of this day and age are dangerous for us – throwing us back into bondage or keeping us from growing in Christ?

I listened and looked these past couple of weeks. Over and over I heard or read that we can fix ourselves by staying on the right diet, exercising, using the right makeup. If we dress right, look good, diet, exercise and listen to Dr. Phil and Oprah, we find what some would call “life.” Now Dr. Phil and Oprah may give some good advice, but their advice doesn’t have the power of the gospel! “No matter how hard we try we cannot become what God meant us to be apart from growing in our relationship to Jesus. From the outside we may look better to others, but our hearts are not changed and we have no power over evil in our lives.”(quote from Kay Daigle). We like the Gnostics can try to keep a set of rules or beat our bodies, and only find ourselves beating the air, kidnapped by other philosophies filling our frame, not growing in Christ.


We, like the Gnostics, can elevate knowledge as a way to growth. Educating ourselves and others against the problems of the world like drugs, Aids, smoking, will fix us. The problems of the world are due to ignorance, not sin. NOT!!!!


We can seek spiritual experiences – there are lots around to dabble in– psychics, tarot card readers, astrology, the phenomenon of holy laughter, prosperity teaching, different forms of meditation – all that advocate spiritual experiences, yet they do not fit in our frame of “Jesus is Lord.”


What are you filling your frame with?  Does it matter to you? Are you living a life worthy of the Lord? Any of us can flirt with danger. We can listen to the voices of the world’s answers rather than sifting everything we hear or read through the truth of scripture –holding all that comes your way up to your confession that Jesus is Lord of your life. We are in danger when we take lightly Paul’s words of warning. We need to stay connected to Jesus our head through the word and prayer and time spent with other believers to keep us out of danger.


Remember Elizabeth Smart who was literally kidnapped and believed the lies that her captors told her? She lived in bondage to those people even when she could have escaped and been free!


Is your life framed with the confession that Jesus is Lord?

Are you staying connected to Jesus your head in order to grow spiritually?