Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan
Sermon Title: The Maturing Disciple lives for Christ and is vigilant against false spirituality
Scripture Text: Colossians 2:6-23
Living for Jesus (v6-7)
Vigilant against false spirituality (v8-23)
Warning 1 (v8)
Warning 2 (v16)
Warning 3 (v18)
Warning 4 (v20)
1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 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, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
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. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
16 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. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 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, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
A blessed Sunday morning to everyone.
As you may already know, we have increased our seating capacity here in Jerusalem Sanctuary to 100 – 50 persons in 2 Zones. So do register and come back to attend Sunday Services.
For parents with young children and who need the cry-room. You can use them, but because of safe distancing, only 3 pairs of parent and child can be in the room. So the maximum in each cry-room is 3 adults and 3 children.
Singapore is gearing up for Phase 3 and as a faith community so should we. With safety measures in mind, let’s begin to move back towards greater normalcy. Let’s look forward every Sunday to come together physically, to celebrate God’s goodness towards us.
Last Sunday, Ps Luwin began the sermon with the example of our national airline. He tempted us with the wonderful exclusive inflight service of Restaurant A380.
And then he deflated our spiritual balloon by reminding us, the church is not to be an exclusive club.
Instead the church is to strive through much challenges, to be as inclusive as possible. For we are to make known, how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory found in Christ Jesus.
I would like today to attempt to continue using the airline industry as an illustration.
These days, we have cruise ships have offered voyages of cruise to nowhere and they have all been snaped up. The airlines were contemplating it but have not proceeded yet, due to vocal protest from environmentalist.
These ideas are not new. Air New Zealand did them already in 1977. That year, they began operating scenic flights over Antarctica to great success.
What they offered was an 11-hour non-stop round trip from Auckland, down the length of the country and on to the great southern continent.
The flights offered first class luxury and a stunning view over the endless ice at the edge of the world.
One highlight was the sight of Mt Erebus.
On 28 November 1979, a tragic accident happened. The Air New Zealand flight carrying 257 people crashed head-on into the side of Mt Erebus, a volcano in Antarctica.
Two main reasons have been determined as the cause of the crash.
The pilots had been briefed with a flight path which was different from the one put into the plane’s computer.
The team thought their route was the same as previous flights, going over ice and water in the McMurdo Sound, when in fact the path was going over Ross Island – and the 3,794m volcano Mt Erebus.
The second cause was a weather phenomenon known as whiteout.
The whiteout meant the light between the white snow or ice underneath and the clouds overhead created an illusion of clear visibility.
The pilot trusted the automatic flight path, assuming the white he was seeing through the cockpit window was simply the ice and snow on the water below, not the face of a mountain.
By the crash of this flight into the side of Mt Erebus, 227 passengers and 30 crew members lost their lives.
Flying a plane based on an inaccurate flight path and assuming the land, for the side of the mountain proved to be deadly.
I’m sure the lessons learnt have helped the aviation industry to become safer. I’m sure the experiences of the past are the warnings for the present.
I submit, the bible does the same for us as well.
Noah warned the people of his time. Moses warned the Israelites before they entered Canaan. The whole Old Testament is filled with God’s prophets sounding out warning after warning.
Even John the Baptist warn his listeners – repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
And so last week, Paul prepares us for today’s passage by saying Col 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
To bring maturing in believers, warnings are always necessary and today’s passage is one such situation.
Living for Jesus (v6-7)
Before we get into Paul’s warnings, let’s look at v6 to 7 first.
Col 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
As I’ve mentioned in the first sermon, these two verses are the pivotal point in which the letter of Colossians turns.
They summarize and take everything that has been said before into consideration. And then all that follows, is an implication of the point of these verses.
V6 begins with “Therefore” linking what has gone before with what is about to be said.
And what Colossians just recorded, was Paul sharing about his labour of proclaiming Christ and his desire to warn and teach everyone so that believers may become mature in Christ – Col 1:28.
And even earlier, we were given this great picture of who Christ Jesus is (Col 1:15-20).
That Christ is image of the invisible God, the creator of the universe, the head of the church and the perfect sacrifice on the Cross.
So to receive Christ is to receive all that has been said about Christ from v1 of chapter 1 to v5 of chapter 2. In the light of all this, Scripture says, we are to walk in him, we are to live for Jesus.
What does it mean to live for Christ? These 2 verses give us three implications. And we will see in the rest of Colossians specific applications.
First implication above living for Jesus is Understanding.
Scripture says, believers have received Christ Jesus the Lord.
The word receive here is not simply asking Jesus into our hearts. The word receive means to inherit, to accept a body of teaching about Jesus Christ.
So for the Colossian believers, they have received Christ Jesus through the teachings of the Gospel by Epaphras.
Paul uses 2 descriptions – ‘Christ’ and ‘Lord’. So firstly this teaching is about Christ who is Messiah. This refers to all that the Old Testament says about the Promised One.
And secondly ‘Lord’ which means he is Master & Ruler. And that especially includes Christ Supremacy as mentioned in v15 to 20 in chapter 1.
Thus this implies that to live for Jesus means to understand who Jesus is – Christ and Lord. From this point alone, it means, to fully understand ‘Christ Jesus the Lord’, we need to understand the bible.
The second implication about living for Jesus is that of growing.
3 different metaphors are used. We are to be rooted in Christ. That is an agriculture image. Secondly, we are to be build up in Christ. That’s a construction image. Finally, we are to be established in the faith. That’s a legal word.
A commonality among all these 3 words are that they are in the passive voice. This means that the rooting, the building and the establishing is not done by us, but instead it is done by God.
Our Triune God is the one who is enabling us to take root, the be built up and to be established in the faith.
Also for all these 3 verbs, they are in the present tense, which means that it is a continuous activity, there is no completion of this activity. We cannot stop till the Lord calls us home.
Remember Paul said in Philippians:
Phil 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
What a gracious God we worship. God is the one who will creates the desire in us to be rooted, built up and established in Him. And significantly, it is God also who will enable us to have the power to keep doing it.
Thus this implies that to live for Jesus means dying to self and letting God take control of all of our life.
And the evidence that this is happening is when in parched and dry seasons, we are still thriving because we are rooted in streams of living water.
It is when crisis happens but we still keep the faith, because our foundations are built on Christ the solid rock.
It is when through challenging situations, we are still consistent in our belief and our actions because our faith is established and we have the inner conviction to live with integrity.
Finally, living for Jesus means overflowing with thanksgiving.
One pastor puts it this way. He says, Paul wants us to be “abounding in thanksgiving.” because we humans don’t often and always feel thankful.
In fact, oftentimes, we feel ungrateful, angry, frustrated and even proud.
So to abound in thanksgiving is to live out the lyrics of the song Count your blessings – Count your blessings, Name them one by one, Count your many blessings, See what God has done.
And this can only be sung in the spirit of humility.
Already from Colossians, what are the blessings we have received in Christ? Ps Luwin mentioned one significant blessing last Sunday. V27 Christ in you, the hope of glory.
The Christ who is God himself, who is the Author of creation, the Head of the church and the Lamb of God on the Cross, dwells in each one of us.
Even earlier in 1:13 & 14, Scripture says, In Christ we have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into God’s Kingdom. In Christ we have been redeemed from the curse of sin.
And so 10,000 Reasons reminds us – (even) on that day, When my strength is failing, The end draws near, And my time has come, Still my soul will sing Your praise unending, Ten thousand years, And then forevermore.
Are we walking and living for Jesus as Colossians has described?
We know we are, when we see that there is understanding, there is growth and there is thanksgiving in our lives.
And remember such living is possible, when we yield our lives over to Jesus more and more.
Vigilant against false spirituality (v8-23)
The tragic flight of Air New Zealand in 1979 left the whole country in shock.
New Zealand’s population was then only around three million people. And people said at that time, almost everyone was somehow connected to the Erebus disaster.
Whether through knowing a victim, a member of the many recovery operations, or those involved in the lengthy legal battle that followed.
That flight warns us that if you are following the wrong flight path, if you are not sensing what you see in front of you correctly, disaster awaits.
As a maturing disciple seeks to live for Christ, Paul says, one hallmark of maturity is to be vigilant against false spirituality.
And so Paul gives 4 warnings of false spirituality. Frist warning is in v8, second in v16, the third in v18 and the final one in v20. And we will notice that explanatory solutions are found in the immediate verses following the specific warning.
I’ve said in previous sermons that it is unlikely that there was a specific heresy that the Colossians have fallen into.
And the reason is that the warnings are broad and no individuals mentioned.
Secondly, in leading up to this portion, Paul affirms that they have been steadfast:
Col 2:5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
But we know that warnings must always be repeated because we are complacent and forgetful.
And so Paul begins with the command in v8, ‘see to it’. It’s a command to be vigilant, to be watchful and not let our guard down.
Col 2:8 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.
(1) Do not be taken captive – to be taken captive is to be kidnapped. To become a slave of someone.
Examples abound of how such things happen in cults and through radical teachings. Though reading and listening to twisted human wisdom, peoples minds and their very lives are taken captive.
Many lose everything even their lives for what Paul describes as empty deceit.
Significantly Paul tells us, all these twisted human wisdom is according to the elemental spirits of the world.
If we cross reference to Ephesians, I submit these spirits of the world are linked to the prince of the power of the air.
Eph 2:2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.
And so, behind empty deceit and twisted human tradition lies Satan.
And so Paul says, they are not according to Christ and so do not be taken captive by them.
Paul then gives us the reasons why the alternative, which is to be rooted in Christ, is so much better. We see that from v9 to 15.
Col 2:9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority…. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Let’s stick with Christ because firstly we see that God is in Christ – the whole fullness of the deity dwells bodily in Jesus Christ.
Know that human wisdom and human tradition for what they are – human. In contrast, in Christ, what we have is divine.
Secondly Christ has filled us – this filling by Christ is a present reality meaning it has already been done. And so remember 1:27, Christ in you the hope of glory.
Believers, what we have already is a glorious reality.
Thirdly, Christ is supreme – Christ is the head of all rule and authority. V15 says, God has disarmed the rulers and the authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them in him.
So since Christ is supreme over Satan and his influences in the world, let’s be taken captive by Christ.
Anticipating the current situation of the Colossian believers – where Jewish rites were there to negatively influence the infant church. Paul, brings together 2 symbols of Salvation and puts the cross in between them.
Circumcision of the Old Testament is on one side and Baptism of the New Testament are on the other side. In the middle Paul puts the Cross of Christ.
Circumcision and Baptism are wonderful symbols of salvation but they both point to the reality that is found in the Cross of Christ.
The Cross of Christ unites both Circumcision and Baptism.
Believers are given the circumcision of Christ which is spiritual for it is not made with hands. Believers are buried with Christ and raised with him through faith in the power of God.
When sin entered the world in Genesis 3, an insurmountable divide between God and man happened. The legal demands of sin is death for all mankind.
Through the cross of Christ, our sinless Saviour met the legal demands of sin. The spotless lamb of God sacrifice Himself and paid the price of redemption with His life.
At the cross, death has been conquered and so sin was defeated.
At the cross, Satan thought it was his finest hour, but instead it was his final hour.
And so through the cross, God disarmed the rulers and authorities, triumphing over them in Christ.
Cults and radical teachings have the great possibility to take us captive. But I pray that meditating upon the truths as set out in v9 to v15 would root, build and establish us in our faith.
(2) Do not allow anyone to pass judgement ….
Col 2:16 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. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
Realistically we can’t prevent someone from passing judgement. But I submit, what Paul is trying to say is that we should not give any legitimacy to the judgement of such persons.
Do not let this person’s opinions affect you.
Question of food and drinks seem to refer to that of the dietary requirements of the Old Testament. These we can find in Leviticus 11.
With regards to a festival, new moon or Sabbath, it seems to refer to that of the Old Testament calendar. The yearly festivals, the monthly moon cycles, and the weekly Sabbath.
Paul gives us then the explanatory solution. The Old Testament observations are but the shadow and the substance instead belong to Christ.
Now, if we think this is not a warning, we need to take heed of, may I give some examples.
We just commemorated Reformation Sunday. A key issue of the reformation was the stand against indulgences. I submit indulgences could fit this category.
Even in the Protestant faith, we sometime come close to this with our desire for holy places, where we take ‘pilgrimages to the Holy Land of Israel’.
Some even treat the efficacy of the anointing of the sick, based on whether it was done with the oil from the olive trees in Jerusalem.
As Hebrews tells us, look towards the real thing, look to Jesus. He is the founder and perfecter of our faith.
(3) Do not accept disqualification ….
Col 2:18 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, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
Remember in 1:12, Paul has already prepared us for this warning.
Col 1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
Believers are already qualified to share in the heavenly inheritance because of our faith in Christ Jesus.
So Paul is warning here, don’t let anyone suggest that you don’t measure up, that you are inadequate or a failure.
If the earlier warning was focus more on the Old Testament, here in v18, I submit it is more focus on the influence of paganism.
False spirituality is seen in the false humility though asceticism. Depriving oneself of the joys and pleasures that are God given, is not genuine spirituality.
The worship of angels and that of visions, seem to be that of the influence of sensuality. It speaks of elitism. It’s about so called higher spirituality which Paul says is all puffed up without reason.
In our days, we have churches who speak excitedly about discovering the feathers of angels and of gold dust in the church sanctuary.
Again the warning is followed by the explanatory solution, all this is false spirituality because the important thing is to hold fast to Christ who is the Head of the church.
Everything described in v18 is all fluff, don’t let these people who believe in them, say you are less spiritual or less of a believer because you have not experienced it as well.
For Christ is the sole person we should cling on to. And v19 give us 4 reasons.
Firstly Christ is the source of command in the body because he is the authoritative head.
Christ is the source of life in the body because he nourishes it.
Christ is the source of unity of the body because he knits it together.
Christ is the source of energy for the body because in Christ, the body grows.
You want to grow spiritually, don’t look at v18, look at v19 instead.
And v19 tells us there is only one person you need to know, one person you need to follow and one person you need to abide in.
That person is our Lord Jesus Christ.
We now come to our final warning in v21.
(4) Do not submit to man-made regulations ….
Col 2:20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
I see v20 as sort of a mini-summary point for all the warnings.
Since we have died with Christ, meaning we should now be dead to the things of the world. That implies, believers should not act as if we are alive to the world.
It should be absurd that we can be influenced by the elemental spirits of the world. Why, because we are now in Christ, thus Satan and his devils do not have ultimate hold on us.
I do not think that ‘do not handle, do not tase, do not touch’ are the specific issues at hand. I sense that Paul is giving a breadth of examples with regards to man-made regulations.
It may be that people start with good intentions to put in regulations so as to increase one’s spirituality. But Paul says, all this is useless as it will all perish.
And they all perish because it is man-made, it is based on fleshly understanding.
Why it will all doom to failure is because the indulgences of the flesh is based on our sinful nature. Man-made regulations will fail because what rules man makes, will always be broken.
We live in a society that tries to regular behaviour by setting rules and regulations. All we can do is make people conform through either the stick or the carrot. But no real transformation has occurred.
At the end of my studies at TTC, the graduating class went for a retreat in Desaru. One night after dinner at the resort, a few of my classmates decided to go for karaoke. I did not join them as I had headed back to my room.
I later heard from one of them that they were wondering whether as a BP Elder then, I was not allowed to go sing karaoke with them.
For those of you, not in the know, such is the reputation of the BPs in the past. We don’t sing, we don’t dance and we also don’t watch movies.
I had to explain to them at breakfast the next day, I left them not because I disapproved of it, but I had a stomach ache. And after moving my bowels, I just could not find the karaoke room, so went back to watch TV.
In society and sometimes in church, rules are made only to have us conform. But what is needed instead is transformation.
The only antidote to our sinful nature is Christ. Remember in Christ we have moved from been dead in our trespasses and are now alive with all our debt of sin forgiven.
Since the power of the cross has made us alive. It is also only the power of the Cross that is able, to achieve true and lasting transformation as Eph 3:20-21 reminds us.
Many believe that the tragic flight of Air New Zealand to Antarctica on 28 November 1979 could have been avoided.
If only the pilots had known where they were actually flying over. If only they have rechecked the onboard computers. If only they had been more aware of the whiteout phenomena.
Due to wrong assumptions, precious lives were lost. Up till 2011, memorial services like the one shown are still held. The hurts never go away.
What is at stake Paul says, is the spiritual lives of church members that will last for eternity.
As maturing disciples, let us live for Jesus by being willing to heed the timely warnings from God’s word.
Let us pray – Heavenly Father, thank you for preserving your word for us. May we take heed to your truth and may your truth transform us so that we may persevere by being rooted, built up and established in the faith. Amen.
Reflect on this past year. In what ways has your living been shaped by Jesus who is the Christ and the Lord? In what ways has it failed to be so shaped?
Can you think of particular experiences where the judgement of others have mattered to you more than they should? Are there other circumstances in which the judgements of others should be taken seriously? Where might the difference lie?
In what ways has the church taken these warnings seriously and how has that matured your faith?