Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Colossians 2:16-23

Read it here.

I think here, we've reached the beating heart of Paul's letter to the Colossians, the reason he wrote the the churches there. In 2:8, Paul appeals to his readers to not let any one take them in with deceptive philosophy, with Christ insulting, grace denying nonsense. Here's why.
Verse 17 calls such things, judgement with regard to moons and festivals and sabbaths and food and drink, a shadow of the things that are to come, the substance belonging to Christ. A shadow of the things that are to come.When the sun shines on a tree, that tree casts a shadow onto the ground. The shadow, given perfect light and a lack of any interference on the ground is a decent representation of what the tree looks like. Now, i'm wary of pushing the analogy too far, but if you want to learn what the tree looks like, or draw the tree, or even (deep breath) be the tree, then you wouldn't look at the shadow would you? You'd look at the tree. The substance. So lets look beyond the law, beyond legalism. Pauls pleads with the Colossians to dismiss out of hand the people telling the Colossians that they must eat and drink this, observe that, wear the other. NO! They must turn to Christ. And what for us today? No one has recently told me at church that i must eat a certain food to be justified, or pray at certain times. But i think it's clear that this sort of thing still exists today. You still hear people say that 'if you have enough faith you'll be healed', which is about the most offensive thing i've heard recently, or that if one doesn't read the bible enough, one is not saved, or that we must pray in a certain voice, or way or use certain words. This sort of thing is Christ denying, gospel countering nonsense and must be ignored at all costs. I think these things are the angel worship, the new moon observing of the 21st Century west. Paul goes on to talk about people being puffed up without any reason by their sensuous minds. Now this may well have been a particular problem in Colossae, it may well have been that there was an angel worshipping (v18) sect there, that Paul was desperate for his brothers to stay away from. One thing that we can be waryof directly from Paul's letter is from verse 18, when he talks about people puffed up beyond all reason by their sensuous mind. That is exactly where legalism comes from...It comes from our pride, from believing that we can justify ourself, from our self centred desire to be seen as better than the next man. It comes from our sensuous mind. Our sinful, fallen mind. It can be no good. Paul writes to the Galatains that it was for freedom that we were set free, no longer to be burdened by the yoke of slavery. No longer to have to worry about whether or not one is good enough.
So where can we look? What will tell us of our justification, or help us to live the life that Christ wants us to. Well, Paul describes the people trying to disqualify the Colossians as 'not holding fast to the Head' in verse 19. So there you have it. Hold fast to the Head, not to mans teachings. The body grows with a growth that is from God, not anywhere else. How will we grow if we don't look to our nourishment, or provider. The body grows with a growth that is from God. So hold fast to Him and let no one disqualify you, hold fast to Him, and don't get lost.
So rules and laws and regulations are dead. Finished with. The legal demands have been nailed to the cross (v14). Why then, Paul asks the Colossians, since they are dead to those things, do they still observe laws? We are dead to laws! They were nailed to the cross! So why still observe them. Why are the Colossians still not handling, not tasting, not touching? They have no need to do this, they need only walk in the way of Christ, and seek the things that are where He is. Come on, these things are but a shadow. And we're guilty of this as well, we make tules for ourself about where we go, what we do and how we do things. But all that does is have us concentrating on the rule, and consequently on the sin, and not on Christ. Not on grace. And that can be no good at all. Paul says that these things 'indeed have an appearance of promoting self made religion and severity to the body, but have no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh'. How true that is. Sin is inside us, in our hearts. It'll be there whether or not we do this or that or not. Of course, protect yourself, be wise, give the devil no oppotunity, but don't think for a minute that self made religion is any substitute for the Holy Spirit showing you more and more of the Father, and you reacting accordingly. That is the only way to conquer sin in our lives. Not by creating rules for ourselves. If we were able to observe the law perfectly, as Christ did, we would be able to justify ourselves. We can't do that. Only the grace of God can train us to renounce ungodliness. We need the cross, where Christ died, bearing the demands of the law on His shoulders, more and more. Hold fast to the Head, because there is life. Nowhere else. Never ever think that anything you 'do' will bring you closer to God, because that is an insult to Christ, and everything He fought for, and won for us. The grace of God brings you salvation.
Hold fast to the Head, and let no one disqualify you.

1 comment:

thebluefish said...

Ed, have a look at this for some further reading Spiritual Disciplines?