Summary: The menace of isms and how to stay free from them.
TITLE: Stay Free
TEXT: Colossians 2:8-10
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through empty and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,
10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.
In addition to liberating us from sin and Satan, God also empowered us to be masters over our carnal desires instead of being mastered by them.
In addition to freedom from sin and Satan, we are being set free from debilitating habits, mindsets and other controlling influences. In Romans 12, Paul tells us that we are being transformed, an ongoing process, by the renewing of our minds.
The freedom Christ has given to us is genuine and real (Jn. 8:36), and it is a treasure to be guarded.
In Galatians 5:1, Paul declared: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Recidivism is the tendency to relapse into a previous undesirable type of behavior, especially crime. About 65% of those released from prison will be rearrested within three years of their release date. They will return to prison, because they lapse back into the undesirable behavior that got them in prison in the first place.
Paul’s readers had been set free from sin, Satan and self. They had been rescued from the kingdom of darkness, but Paul issues a sobering warning to these new believers. They are in great danger.
“See to it that no one takes you captive…” (v.8)
Paul is not concerned that his readers will maliciously and deliberately turn their backs on Christ, but that they will be led astray by resident spiritual Pied Pipers. They were in great danger and the lurking abductor was not sexual immorality or greed or glory; it was deception!
Deception causes people to believe what is false and disbelieve what is true. Like seduction, deception is a subtle insidious thing. Deceivers are sly, cunning, crafty and delicate in their methods and mannerisms. They ply their trade so as not to alert their victims to the danger they are in.
Jesus warned us that deceivers would come.
“For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:5).
“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:11).
This problem wasn’t resolved in Paul’s day, but has grown worse.
“…evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (NIV, 2 Timothy 3:13).
The deceivers Paul was referring to had five candy sticks in their bag of lures: intellectualism (2:8-10), ritualism (2:11-13), legalism (2:14-17), mysticism (2:18-19), and asceticism (2:20-23). In our immediate text the issue is intellectualism and the method of deception is stated in verse 8.
“…through empty and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elementary principles of this world…” (v.8).
The means by which these hijackers deceive is philosophy or intellectualism. The wisdom or “philosophy” that Paul refers to here is empty and void of substance. It is wordy and charming and secretive and appealing, but it contains nothing useful. Paul gives us two reasons why this is so.
• First of all it is empty because it is the product of the traditions of men or generations of depraved thinking. It cannot solve man’s dilemma, because it is the invention of men in that dilemma. Those who produced it are demented. (See Col. 1:21.) Instead of solving the problem they perpetuate and enlarge it.
• Secondly, it is empty because it is elementary. Although it promotes itself as intellectually superior, it is based on silly childish thoughts. Instead of being lofty and profound, it isn’t even up to par with what is taught in the nursery Sunday School class.
The hijackers that Paul warns his readers about exalt man-sourced-ideas above the Word of God or place them on a par with the Word of God.
• This is what the Mormons do with their Doctrines and Covenants and the book of Mormon.
• It’s what Jehovah’s Witnesses do with the writings and teachings of Russell.
• It’s what Christian Science does with the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy.
• It’s what E. W. Kenyon did and then called it “revelation knowledge.”
The truth we have in the Bible is not sourced in man’s intellect. It is not a verbal tradition passed from one sinful generation to another. It is not the product of automatic writing or the record of what was uttered by mediums while in a trance like state. To the contrary, Holy men of God moved and inspired by the Spirit put their pens to paper and recorded God’s thoughts in the words given to them by God. As a result the Bible is the Word of God. It is uncontaminated by the fallenness of the human condition and the blindness of the human intellect. Unlike human wisdom, it can be trusted.