Summary: Don’t let anyone judge you by legalistic standards, disqualify you by mystical experiences, nor enslave you by ascetic practices, because Jesus is all you need. A warning of the false ideas of legalism, mysticism, & asceticism.
Back in 2004, when several hurricanes hit the state of Florida, it left thousands of people without electrical power. Like many Floridians, Don Aycock’s neighbor used a portable generator to supply power until the electrical lines could be repaired. It had been running for a while when the man went outside to put gasoline in it. That’s when he discovered that his generator was gone!
Thieves had started another gasoline engine and left it running right beside the generator. They then took off with the generator, while the owner was lulled into a false sense of security created by the sound of his own riding lawnmower. (Don Aycock, Palatka, Florida; www.PreachingToday.com)
I’m afraid that’s what’s happening to many Christians today. They are being lulled into a false sense of security by ideas that sound like the real thing, but are far from it.
In The Story of Christian Theology, theologian Roger Olson writes: “A popular misconception – perhaps a Christian urban legend – is that the United States Secret Service never shows bank tellers counterfeit money when teaching them to identify it. The agents, who do the training, so the legend goes, show bank tellers only examples of genuine money so that when the phony money appears… they will know it by its difference from the real thing.” The story is supposed to make the point that Christians should study only the truth and not concern themselves with examples of heresy or false teaching.
Well, it turns out that that story is absolutely not true. Roger Olson checked it with the Treasury Department’s Minneapolis Secret Service agent in charge of training bank tellers to identify counterfeit money, and that agent laughed when he heard the story. The agent confirmed that the Secret Service does indeed show examples of counterfeit money to bank tellers, so they can identify the fakes right away. (Roger Olson, The Story of Christian Theology, InterVarsity Press, 1999, pp. 20-21; www.PreachingToday.com)
Well, that’s what I’d like to do this morning. I want to show you some examples of some popular ideas that look like the truth, but are as fake as a counterfeit $3 bill. They look and sound like super-spiritual Christianity, but they are absolutely worthless and often downright dangerous to our spiritual growth as believers in Christ.
In fact, these ideas have been around since the beginning of the church, and the Bible addresses them in the book of Colossians. So if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Colossians 2, Colossians 2, where the Bible itself warns us of three specific false ideas masquerading as true spirituality.
Colossians 2:16-17 Therefore [because you are complete in Christ] do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (NIV)
The Bible is very clear here.
DO NOT LET ANYOND JUDGE YOU BY LEGALISTIC STANDARDS, BECAUSE CHRIST IS THE REAL DEAL.
Do not let anyone evaluate you on the basis of whether or not you abide by certain practices, because Jesus is the substance of our faith. Do not let anyone criticize you on the basis of their rules, because Jesus is all that matters. Or as the Amplified Bible puts it: Christ is “the substance, the solid fact… [literally] the body” of which the rules are just a shadow.
This is the first counterfeit idea that the Bible warns us against. It’s called legalism, and it’s the idea that we can get closer to God if we just obey certain rules. It’s a performance-based spirituality that promises a higher level of spirituality based on what we do or don’t do.
The legalists in Paul’s day taught that we had to abide by the Jewish dietary laws, observe Jewish festivals, and worship on Saturday to be acceptable to God. The reference to “a Sabbath” in verse 16 is just that. It’s the Old Testament requirement that we set aside the 7th day, Saturday, as a day of rest to worship God, but that’s not what Gentile believers in the First Century did. They worshipped God on Sunday, the 1st day of the week, in honor of Christ’s resurrection (Mark 16:1; John 20:1; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). And yet, the legalists in Colossae were telling these Gentile believers that they had to worship on Saturday in order for God to accept them.
They were stuck on the Jewish, Old Testament Law and used that as a basis by which they judged the acceptability of others. And God says here in His Word, “Don’t let people do that to you.” It’s as useless as Peter Pan chasing his shadow when you have the real deal, Jesus Christ Himself.