Summary: The focus of a true faith is centered in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
THE FOCUS OF A TRUE FAITH—Colossians 2:16-23
Proposition: The focus of a true faith is centered in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Objective: My purpose is to challenge God’s people to put all their focus on Jesus Christ and to turn aside to other false teachings.
Here’s a list of laws that are still on the books that relate to churches:
Young girls are never allowed to walk a tightrope in Wheeler, MS, unless it’s in a church.
In Blackwater, Kentucky, tickling a woman under her chin with a feather duster while she’s in church service carries a penalty of $10.00 and one day in jail.
No one can eat unshelled, roasted peanuts while attending church in Idanha, OR.
In Honey Creek, IA,, no one is permitted to carry a slingshot to church except a policeman.
No citizen in Leecreek, AR, is allowed to attend church in any red-colored garment.
Swinging a yo-yo in church or anywhere in public on the Sabbath is prohibited in Studley, VA.
Turtle races are not permitted within 100 yards of a local church at any time in Slaughter, LA.
There’s got to be a story behind some of those rules.
Paul says, “Christ is the supreme Savior. He is the sole-mediator of His people. And because He is supreme—because He is the supreme Savior—He is everything you need spiritually. So don’t look anywhere else but Him.” So in the Col. 1, Paul focuses on Christ. In this chapter, Paul begins to warn Christians against types of teaching like legalism (the Law), Gnosticism and asceticism which contradict the sufficiency of Christ as our sole-mediator. For instance, in v. 4, we learned that Paul told us not to be deluded by persuasive arguments. And then in v. 8, we learned that he tells us not to be taken captive by false teaching, false philosophy & speculations. Paul is concerned that the Colossians not adopt such teachings that contradict the Gospel. In v. 18, he warns them against false worship—in fact, against the worship of angels. And then in v. 20, he warns them against asceticism, which is the practice of self-denial as a means of religious discipline. Our focus must be on Jesus Christ rather than false teachings.
I. FOCUS ON CHRIST RATHER THAN EXTERNAL RITUALISM: “Don’t Let Anyone Condemn You” (vvs. 16-17) “Let no one judge you…which are a shadow of things to come”— What he’s talking about here is external religion. What he’s talking here about is ceremony, ritual. Ritual, did they bow down? Did they go through whatever ritual they needed to go through? Did they have fastings? Did they go through ceremonial washings? Did they participate in rites and duties and behaviors that are intended somehow mechanically to convey some kind of divine connection? Paul says, “Don’t get led astray by that. Don’t think for a minute that some external activity in which you participate is necessary.”
1. Rituals that are meaningless (v. 16) “Let no one judge you in food or in drink…”-- Apparently these Colossian teachers, these new teachers in Colossae, were teaching two things. They were saying, on the one hand, that these Gentile Christians had to obey the OT ritual, ceremonial law with regard to festivals, feast days, new moons, and the seventh-day Sabbath. Though they were Christians, they were not only to gather on the Lord’s Day, but they were to observe the Sabbath & the festivals & the feasts & the new moons. Furthermore, they were giving instruction about food and drink. The Jews were even saying that, “Well, God’s not going to accept you unless you’ve been circumcised.” He says, “All that God gave you had a place of protecting, preserving you and depicting the reality to come but the reality is here, Christ is here, set the shadow aside, the substance is here, you don’t need the ritual.” The problem was that people were performing these rituals mechanically, simply going through the motions. That, Paul says, can destroy the true vitality of faith.
2. The reality that is meaningful (v. 17) “which are a shadow of things to come”-- A “shadow” is only an image cast by an object which represents its form. Once one finds Christ, he no longer needs to follow the old shadow. The people who lived under those rules were content to live in the shadow side of religion where fear lurks and inhibitions abound. Paul says, "Get out of the shadow, the reality is here." Paul says, "Look, spirituality is not a matter of external ritual, but a matter of an internal relationship with Jesus Christ. Don’t let anybody intimidate you based on what you do or don’t do in order to determine if you are spiritual or not." If you still place primary value on a shadow after the reality has come you destroy your participation in the value of that reality. Now the reality, here, is Jesus! He is the center of all life and the source of excitement in a Christian’s experience. He is the One who accompanies us through life, to comfort in times of need and strengthen when we are being tempted. He is a place of refuge to run to when we are troubled or uncertain about life. To lose him is to lose all source of excitement and vitality in life. That is the danger in observing shadows. That is why this paragraph begins with the word "therefore." The previous section pointed out all that Christ is to us now. Thus Paul is saying, "Having him, therefore, do not let anyone spoil you by involving you in a mechanical performance that will cancel out the reality." Remember that: It’s Christ...it’s Christ and only Christ.