HEALTHY LIVING IN CHRIST
15 MAR 2020
“What good would it be if you got everything in this world but you don’t have your health?” We know that our physical and mental health is important, but what about our spiritual health?
In the previous weeks that we’ve studied, Paul established the theological foundation of who we are in Christ. We have been forgiven and released from the bondages of the world and given complete victory through Jesus Christ. In today’s scripture portion, Paul addresses a few religious issues that have been entered into the church of Colossae by the religious leaders and false teachers. Though on the offset it may sound good as it promotes healthy living that is acceptable to God, but their focus of God’s acceptance is based on what they do rather than what Jesus has done. Therefore, if you want to have a healthy faith in Christ, we must avoid ourselves from falling into the traps of the world that isn’t from God.
1. Evaluate: Faith over Traditions (verse 16)
- “Therefore let no one judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a feast, a New Moon, or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the body that casts it belongs to Christ.” - Colossians 2:16
- Paul begins by addressing the issue of legalism that is beginning to enter the church. Legalism in its most basic definition, says that I can be made more acceptable to God based on what I do. That is because it concerns itself by merely keeping the law as an end in itself and it puts the focus on self rather than on the Son. These things all had value at one time because they pointed the Jewish people in Old Testament times to Jesus. But Jesus perfectly fulfilled the intention of those laws in His own life of obedience, and sacrifice of death on the cross. Now that the substance (which is Christ Himself) has come, we’re no longer to make “substances” out of “shadows” anymore. Your name is registered in heaven because of what Jesus did for you on the cross! But legalism tricks us into thinking that our relationship with God can be reduced to a set of outward rules, while completely ignoring the inward matters that God is truly concerned about. It confines our relationship with God to a checklist that we follow and judges us based on our merits. That is because legalism prioritises human traditions rather than faith in God. However, if you really think about it, it is easier for us to have traditions than to have faith. For example, It’s easier to follow a recipe than to cook from memory. The self help industry is becoming more popular and more of us are subscribing to it. The danger with the shadow is that it causes us to make up our own rules to justify what we want rather than what God wants for us. Have you been making up your own rules to justify yourself? Do you make up your own rules when something doesn't go your way just to make yourself feel better? I once met a believer who told me that he will never pay his road fines even if he’s in the wrong because he knows the money will go into the wrong hands. Are you being your own judge for your own life? Who determines what is wrong and right for you? As believers, we live our lives based on everything God says. God determines what is right and wrong for us. But we also believe that God is not a power hungry tyrant God who can’t wait to punish us for our mistakes. He is kind, slow to anger, abounding in love, full of grace and mercy. You and I are justified by grace through faith. It’s not how much faith I have that saves me, it’s how much grace He has for me. Therefore, It’s not about human traditions anymore, but it’s about the amazing grace of God. We are justified with Christ by grace through faith, not on human traditions. Let us never fall into this trap believing we need to perform and fulfill a checklist to earn God’s love. God loves you regardless of what you do or don’t do. He loves you not on the basis of your works, but on the basis of the finished work of His Son. Put your faith in Christ that saved you.
2. Evaluate: Faith over Feeling (verse 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.” Colossians 2:18
- The next thing Paul was addressing was the deception of mysticism. The deceitful idea behind mysticism as a way to be holy is that you or I can somehow be made more acceptable to God on the basis of what we know, or feel, or experience in a subjective way. This is because the false teachers were trying to put the Colossian believers into bondage by boasting in “false humility and worship of angels.” And even today, just as then, people often try to seek a relationship with God through intermediary spirit beings—“guardian angels” or “spirit guides” or “saints”—instead of through a simple, reverent faith in Jesus Christ as the only true Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). Paul’s reference to “false humility” may be because some claimed to be “unworthy” to approach God, and that they must approach God through a ‘spiritual mediator’ rather than through Christ—who is the true Mediator. Because of that, we get so worked up and start chasing the feelings rather than chasing faith. Mysticism emphasises on a pseudo experience rather than a personal encounter. Paul warns that we’re not to let anyone “cheat” us or “defraud” us or “disqualify” us through that. The Colossae was that the young believers were being looked down upon and even judged because they had not had certain subjective experiences. So Paul tells them, "Don't let them act like an umpire for the way you conduct your spiritual lives; belittling you, condemning you, and trying to rob you of your own joy in Christ!" Because mysticism prioritizes feelings rather than faith. Just because you didn’t feel “goosebumps” on your arms and legs does not necessarily mean you did not encounter God. Just because you didn’t cry during worship, or feel a sensation on your neck or palm, does not mean that God did not touch you. It is by faith that we receive, not by feeling. This is dangerous because your feelings are not reliable. Your feeling does not determine who you are but it is our faith in what God says about you that determines who we are. We must never allow ourselves to be deceived by the supposed spiritual experiences, or mystical insights, or even miraculous signs, of those who claim to have found “a better way” to God’s favor than through Jesus. Now I am not saying we should ignore our feelings. God creates us with emotions therefore He has given us feelings. Feeling is what makes us human. Even Jesus has feelings while on earth. Jesus felt sad when Lazarus died, Jesus felt anger when He saw them doing business in the temple. So feelings are important and good. But don’t allow your feelings to control you. Do we follow our feelings or do we follow our faith? We don’t live by feelings, we live by faith. We don’t walk by feelings, we walk by faith. Faith tells me even though I feel defeated, I know God is still my victory. Faith tells me even though I feel tired, I know God is my strength. We live not by feeling but by faith. Faith in God what keeps us going. It is through faith that we are saved. It is through faith that we are justified in Christ. So acknowledge your feelings, but don’t allow your feelings determine who you are in Christ. Let’s be a people that act upon our faith that is based on the Word of God.
3. Evaluate: Faith over Fear (verse 20)
- Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle.”
- The last thing that Paul addressed is the issue of asceticism. Asceticism is the practice of extreme self-denial and self-imposed suffering for supposedly religious reasons. It’s similar to the idea of “legalism” in that its focus is on outward, external things. But in the case of asceticism, the lie being sold to us is that you or I can be made more acceptable to God on the basis of what I ‘punish’ or ‘discipline’ myself by denying or avoiding those things. It causes us to deny yourself physical pleasures and conveniences even when you don’t need to and that becomes enslaving. While the church desperately needs self-discipline for the purpose of godliness, we must avoid asceticism, which invariably lies behind relying on Self rather than relying on Son. Asceticism is not to be mistaken for self-control. Self- Control is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). Jesus said that self-denial is an essential requirement for following Him (Matt. 16:24). Followers of Christ are told to deny self, but asceticism takes this command to an extreme:
- Asceticism sees the body as evil; self-discipline sees the body as good with control.
- Asceticism is submitting my body to my will; self-discipline is submitting my whole life to God’s will.
- Asceticism labels all material things as evil; self-discipline properly uses and enjoys the things of the world as it was made by God.
- Asceticism views joy and pleasure as wrong; self-discipline allows for the fullness of joy and pleasure in God.
- When our salvation is tied to our behavior, attitude, appearance and following a set of rules, it causes us to live in fear. We become very watchful of what we do to avoid making mistakes. The danger with this shadow is that it causes us to fear the world rather than to fear God. One of it is that we fear what others might think of us. And so we come to church putting on a mask, putting on a good face, a proper smile, and not really sharing serious issues in our lives and pretend that we are okay. But Paul said “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world.” That includes sin. Since you too died to sin, sin doesn’t own you anymore. Fear doesn’t hold you anymore. Now it is not that we will never sin anymore. But it no longer bounds you anymore. You are justified with Christ because of what Christ did, not because you abstain from certain things. Doesn’t that make you free to know that you don’t have to abstain from things to determine your identity in God? “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” - John 8:36 Jesus was not setting us free not to fear the world; He was setting us free to fear Him. The fear of God allows me to stand confidently before God knowing that I am fully justified through Christ. This spiritual freedom is a freedom on the inside that gives us the ability to obey and fear God. Jesus Christ died on the cross not for us to go back and live in bondage and fear.
- Don’t fear the world, fear God and you will find your freedom in Him.
Now what’s interesting is that believe it or not, these false teachers were actually part of this Christian community. “They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its and sin ligaments ews, grows as God causes it to grow.” verse 19. Now you don’t need to be a doctor to know that if a body that has lost its head tells me that the whole body isn’t healthy. A head that is disconnected with the body is a problem. For us to have a healthy faith in Christ, we must remain connected to the head which is Christ. Jesus Christ is our head. He is the master of our lives. He is the ruler over our lives. The moment we disconnect ourselves from Christ is the moment we expose ourselves to the harms and lies of the world. We must ensure that our faith in God is rooted in His Son and not on any external substitutes or alternatives.
Where have you been putting your faith today?
- Faith in God or in human traditions?
- Faith in God or in our feelings?
- Faith in God to fear Him or the world?