Summary: Paul's advice to the Colossians is still appropriate for us today: Build your faith on Jesus alone, reject any subtitutes or add-ons, and stay away from unhelful squabbles and judgments over non-essentials.
Colossians 2:6-10, 16-19
Accept No Substitutes
(Outlines in MS Word are available if needed; e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Paul lived in a time--much like today--when there was a lot of interest in spirituality. Some people were into worshipping angels. Others were coming up with creative theories about Jesus, stating he was just God and not man, or just a man and not God. Some people--called Judaizers--were saying, “Sure, become a Christian, but you need to get circumcised, and obey the Sabbath law, and observe all the feasts and festivals; basically become a super Jew who also trusts Jesus as Messiah, and then and only then you can become a Christian.
In his letter to the church in Colossae, Paul kept it simple. He advised to...
1. Build your spiritual life on Christ alone.
Listen again to verses 6 and 7: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
In other words, Paul said, “Remember how you first believed in Christ Jesus? How you made him Lord of your life, as he came into your life and forgave all your sin? Just keep doing that, day after day. Get to know Jesus better and better. Be like a tree putting down deep roots in God’s word as you get to know Jesus, and he will strengthen you in the faith. And oh yeah, keep being thankful. Let it overflow in your life!”
So, according to Paul, you can build your spiritual life on Christ alone. You don’t need horoscopes. You don’t need a thorough knowledge of all the world religions. You don’t need to meditate--unless it’s on a scripture verse; that could be helpful--but not to empty your mind. Keep cultivating that relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and everything else will work itself out. The great reformer, John Calvin, said, “Whoever is not satisfied with Christ alone, strives after something beyond absolute perfection.” To summarize all the reformers, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, unto the glory of God alone, according to the Scriptures alone.
Build your spiritual life in Christ alone. And at the same time, know what to watch out for and what to stay away from. Paul’s advice still holds true today. So our second point is,
2. Reject any other way to God.
As you focus on Christ, know that any other way to God is going to be counterfeit. You’ve heard how Treasury agents recognize counterfeit bills: they study the real so much, that the forgery stands out like a sore thumb. Paul talks about watching out for spiritual forgeries starting in verse 8, then verses 18-19:
8 ”See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ ... 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.”
Remember from last week, Jesus is head of the church. When you stay connected to him--the real deal--you’ll recognize the counterfeit. Local pastor and author Max Lucado writes, “Followers of Christ do not become sidetracked by the insights of religious cults or modern philosophies. Only one person warrants our allegiance and trust—Jesus.”
There is one word that describes all counterfeit religions, and it’s the word “legalism.” Legalism says, “It’s too good to be true, that I could have all my sins forgiven. I have to do something in addition to giving my life to Christ or instead of that. I have to do something to get God to love me.” Do you sense the pride behind legalism? Like, what Jesus did for us on the cross was not enough? In verse 14, which we did not read, Paul said that God took all the legal charges against us (for our sins against God) and nailed them to the cross. We can’t do anything to earn our salvation. Jesus has already done it! Washington, D.C. Pastor Mark Dever puts it this way: “Every other religion in the world is the religion of ‘do,’ but Christianity alone is the religion of ‘done.’”
Stay connected with Christ--spending time with him daily in prayer, scripture, and time with other believers--and you’ll spot the counterfeits a mile away. And then lastly,
3. Pay no attention to judgments over non-essentials.