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					             Rules Schmules…Visions Schmisions (Colossians 2:1-23)
                         (Chris Ekins, Coast Evangelical Church, 24th May 2009)

Colossians 2:1-23
1
  I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have
not met me personally. 2My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so
that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the
mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4I
tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5For though I am absent
from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm
your faith in Christ is.
6
  So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7rooted and built up in
him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8See to it that
no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human
tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
9
  For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in
Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
11
   In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done
by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12having been buried with him in
baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
13
   When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you
alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14having cancelled the written code, with its regulations,
that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And
having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over
them by the cross.
16
   Therefore 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. 17These are a shadow of the things that were to come;
the reality, however, is found in Christ.
18
   Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the
prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs
him up with idle notions. 19He has 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.
20
   Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to
it, do you submit to its rules: 21"Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? 22These are all destined
to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23Such regulations
indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their
harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.


                             I love fishing, and I’m learning how to fish with lures. It’s all about offering
                             the fish something that looks like the real deal, promises to be tasty - but
                             in reality it’s artificial, plastic, tastes like metal. And it results in the fish
                             becoming dinner. Fishing with lures is basically about deceiving the fish.
                             And if you’re a fish, you need to be on the lookout, so you don’t get
                             caught. Have you ever been caught out by someone deceiving you,
                             holding out something that looked tasty, but wasn’t?
On A Current Affair this week, there was a story featuring Todd Russell (one of the guys who
survived being trapped in that collapsed coal mine). He’d been deceived by a dodgy kit-home
salesman called Brian. Todd Russell paid $109K up front for his house, but only got part of his house
and he’s out of pocket $77K. Brian didn’t deliver what he promised, and Todd got deceived & ripped
off. Ever been deceived? Not good is it.
Colossians is a letter from the Apostle Paul to the Christians at Colosse. And he’s writing to them to
warn them about dodgy spir teachers who are trying to deceive them. They’re promising a ‘fuller’
spiritual experience, offering them the keys to the next level in their knowledge of God, something
tastier. And the Colossians are in danger of getting hooked and ripped off. And Paul writes to say:
Don’t be deceived.
Don’t let anyone DECEIVE you with NEW teachings (v2-4, 8-10)
2
  My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the
full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely,
Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4I tell you this so that no one
may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments….
8
  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on
human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Don’t let anyone DECEIVE you with NEW teachings. If someone’s promising you a fuller spiritual
experience & it’s not pointing you to Christ – look out.

Has this ever happened to you? Ever had someone tell you that you need more than Jesus as Lord
to have the complete spiritual package? Maybe you’re feeling spiritually flat the moment or like you’re
missing out on all that God has for you and you’re looking for ‘that something’ that’ll re-light the fire or
zing it up a bit.

Maybe you think they key to spiritual fulfillment lies just around the corner: maybe in being more
disciplined (getting up at 5am to read and pray? stricter diet - fasting? observe the Sabbath more
strictly?) or joining a new church, or seeking out more spiritual experiences (meditating, seeing
visions, getting lost in praise and worship?)

If you’re a Christian - How are you going? Do you think there’s something more to be had than
having Jesus as Lord? And if you’re not a Christian – what do you think will ‘do it for you’? What kinds
of things do you think you can do to connect with God, please Him, or experience Him more fully?
(Religion? Spiritual Experiences?)

If you’re searching for that something else, listen carefully to verse 8: See to it that no one takes you
captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic
principles of this world rather than on Christ. And that word captive is a strong word – like kidnapped.
Like what happened to Madeleine McCann. (Her parents went out for dinner and left her asleep in the
hotel room…and she was taken away). And Paul is saying here: Don’t let anyone DECEIVE you with
NEW teachings – because they will kidnap your soul.

Quick word to parents here: If you’re in the habit of leaving your kids to their own spiritual devices,
it’s like leaving them alone in the hotel room – easy targets for spiritual deceivers and kidnappers.
They need you to teach them and train them and to protect them from being spiritually kidnapped.

How? What’s the key to NOT being deceived / kidnapped?
It’s having a CLEAR picture about WHO Jesus is, and staying locked on to Him as your LORD.
That’s why Paul has just spent the first chapter hammering away at HOW BIG Jesus is and HOW
WORTHY Jesus is: He’s God in the flesh; The Creator (all things made by him and for him); He’s The
One who brings Reconciliation between people and God; The One who alone can present you holy
before God because he alone has dealt with sin by dying on the cross as a sacrifice and substitute.
And he’s the one in whom are hidden all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom.

Paul’s big central message to the Christians at Colosse is this: If you’ve got Jesus – you’ve got
fullness. So just stay right where you are – continue with Jesus as Lord. And verses 6 and 7 are key.
They’re a great summary of the whole book of Colossians. 6So then, just as you received Christ
Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as
you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness…9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in
bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and
authority.
Don’t be deceived by new teaching – just stay right where you are. You’ve been given fullness in
Jesus. He’s God – and if you’ve got God – you’re not lacking anything. Just sink your roots deep
down to Jesus. Just keep growing where you're planted. Continue with Him, and you won’t get ripped
off.
Imagine a cup full the top of water. Jesus is like the cup – and all the fullness of God dwells in Him
(like the water – to the brim). And imagine yourself like a sponge. If the sponge is in the cup – it’s
FULL of water. It can’t get fuller or more saturated. The false teachers at Colosse were offering more
‘fullness’, and suggesting various keys for it. But if the sponge moves out of the cup and looks
elsewhere – it doesn’t get fuller, it gets emptier as the water drips out. The key to fullness is staying
where you are. And sending your roots deep on to Jesus and drawing life from Him.
This morning we’re going to have a look at two of the things they were being warned against –
because not much has changed over 2000 years. The same dodgy stuff is being taught and believed.
It’s just had a slight facelift, but underneath, it’s exactly the same. And the two things to be aware of
are Religious Rules, and Spiritual Experiences.

1. RELIGIOUS RULES (v20)
20
   Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to
it, do you submit to its rules:
Paul’s basic message to them is: RULES SCHMULES – don’t let anyone burden you with Religious
Rules. And he singles out 3 of the rules that the false teachers were laying on them: circumcision,
special diets, and holy days.
a) Circumcision
This isn’t exactly taking the Australian church by storm these days is it? Not many churches saying:
“If you want to have the full deal spiritually you need to have the snip”. But it was a HUGE issue back
then. And we touched on it last week when we had a closer look at ‘the mystery’ at the end of Ch1.
And the mystery was that through Jesus, the Gentiles were now on equal footing with the Jews as
God’s people. But for centuries (ever since 2000BC) the Jews were God’s people, and if you were a
Gentile (a non-Jew / an Aussie) the only way to become a fully blown member of God’s people, was
to become Jewish (and that meant taking on their religious rules and regulations – like circumcision,
the food laws about what was clean and unclean, their feasts and fasts, and their festivals and
special days). And these were all things God had commanded in the OT.
Eg Genesis 17: God says to Abraham: 4 "…this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of
many nations….9 you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the
generations to come. 10 …Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo
circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you…13 My covenant in your
flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in
the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."
Circumcision was a sign of the covenant, a symbol of initiation and commitment. Like a wedding ring
for a married person, or a tattoo for a gang member. It was the external, physical sign saying ‘God is
my God’. And it was meant to represent and symbolise a HUGE inward spiritual change . You were
just cutting off a bit of skin, you were saying you were cutting off everything in your life that was
against God’s will. And when Paul writes to the Colossians, he basically says: you don’t have to do
that anymore – and don’t let anyone tell you that you do. Jesus has changed all that.
v11-14
11
   In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done
by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12having been buried with him in
baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
13
   When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you
alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14having cancelled the written code, with its regulations,
that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
What’s he saying? The law that God gave to his people has been cancelled. All the rules and
regulations that burdened God's people have been taken away by Jesus and nailed to the cross.
You don’t need to be circumcised physically anymore – you just need to put your faith in Jesus.
When you put your faith in J’s death and res - that’s the moment God takes the knife to your sinful
nature and circumcises your heart. And brings you to spiritual life.
We are not really in danger of bring deceived or kidnapped by this rule today are we. But beware –
because there are still people who will tell you that you need to undergo the proper symbol of
initiation to have the full deal, full membership. 2 examples are baptism and confirmation (depending
on your denomination). Both Great symbols – and can be very helpful – but they not RULES for full
membership or keys to a fuller experience of God. And if that’s what they’ve become – that’s dodgy.
2. Special Diets
The second Religious rule the false teachers were trying to impose on them was a special diet. The
false teachers were telling them: “Faith in Jesus is good – but if you want to be more pleasing to God,
you really need to get spiritual about your diet & start observing the OT Jewish food laws: some foods
are clean, but others are unclean” (eg no pork, or prawns). But Paul says:
v16, 20-22
16
  … do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink… 20Since you died with Christ to the basic
principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21"Do not
handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? 22These are all destined to perish with use, because they are
based on human commands and teachings.
Don’t let anyone judge you for eating pork, or drinking beer – because food & drink are not the big
deal. This is what Jesus said about it in Mark 7: 18…nothing that enters a man from the outside can
make him 'unclean'? 19For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body."
(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.") 20He went on: "What comes out of a man is what
makes him 'unclean.' 21For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality,
theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All
these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' "
Go is much more concerned with your heart and godliness than with any special diet.
Are we in danger of bring deceived or kidnapped by this rule today? No bacon? No – but beware –
because there are still people who will tell you that you need to observe special diets if you’re going
to please God.
Think about Typical Pagan Aussies and Religious Aussies. What are you not supposed to eat on
Good Friday? Fish. Says who? I say EAT MEAT – go for it, and don’t feel bad. 16…do not let anyone
judge you by what you eat or drink…
7th Day Adventists still follow a lot of the OT food laws. Why? Not sure really. If you’re a meat eater –
don’t feel judged by a vegetarian. If you’re a vegetarian – don’t feel judged by a meat eater. It’s a
matter of freedom. If you drink alcohol – don’t judge those who choose not to. If you’re a Tee Totaller
– don’t judge those who drink responsibly. It’s a matter of freedom

3. Holy Days
The 3rd Religious rule the false teachers were trying to impose on them was about Holy Days.
v16-17
16
   Therefore 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. 17These are a shadow of the things that were to come;
the reality, however, is found in Christ.
The false teachers were telling them they had to observe the OT festivals and holy days like the
Sabbath (sundown Friday arvo to sundown Saturday).
Are we in danger of being deceived or kidnapped by this rule today? Some of us may be.
Two years ago I picked up a hitchhiker and we got talking about church. They went to a 7th Day
Adventist church, and all of a sudden they went on a rant and rave about how church should be on a
Saturday and not a Sunday. Should xns keep the Sabbath? If so, which one? Saturday or Sunday?
There is No LAW for the xn about Sabbath keeping. But we freedom.
It’s fully wise to rest and remember. It’s foolish if you don’t – but we’re not under law.
The Sabbath is a shadow that’s designed to point us to Jesus. And it’s when we come to Jesus that
we find TRUE rest; and we can stop trying to earn God’s favour by following religious rules, and relax
in his grace – looking forward to the great Sabbath, when we rest with him forever in heaven.
You can have a day off, call it a Sabbath, and not honour God with it if your heart is far from him.
Or you can work a part time job or play sport and do it all to the glory of God.

And Paul rounds off this section by saying:

Religious Rules may sound Spiritual, but they don’t work(v23)
23
  Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false
humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual
indulgence.
Religious Rules may sound Spiritual, but they don’t work. They don’t actually help you be godly; they
don’t succeed in keeping people’s sensual desires on a leash.
1 Timothy 4:1-3 1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow
deceiving spirits and things taught by demons…3 They forbid people to marry and order them to
abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe
and who know the truth.
Catholic priests and nuns are forbidden to marry. They must remain celibate. It may sound spiritual
and wise – but it’s demonic. And it sadly hasn’t helped some of them keep their sensual desires on a
leash.
We don’t need Religious Rules – we need a circumcised heart, a changed heart – and that comes
thru being connected to Jesus, by sinking your roots deep down into him.

So Paul’s basic message to them is: RULES SCHMULES. you’ve been delivered from them; they’ve
been nailed to the cross; don’t let anyone burden you with them; don’t let anyone judge you for not
taking them on; don’t give up your Christian freedom - just keep living with Jesus as you LORD.
6
  …just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7rooted and built up in him,
strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Stay planted where
you are. Sink your roots down on Jesus, and you’ll grow.

2. SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES
The 2nd major thing to be on your guard against is people telling you that: “If you want to experience
fullness in your spiritual life, you need to have some extra spiritual experiences.
v18-19
18
  Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the
prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs
him up with idle notions. 19He has 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.
The false teachers were saying stuff like: “If you want to know God more fully or become more deeply
connected – you need some VISIONS (personal revelations, special words of knowledge); you need
some SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES (like encounters with spiritual beings – like angels) .

A few years ago, I met a Christian who went to a church in the next suburb and they asked me: “Are
you from a ‘Spirit filled’ church?” I said “Yes - we love Jesus, and we love each other”. They said|
“Our pastor has visions of angels – and he got a word about revival breaking out in our church. Do
your pastors see angels?”

Ever feel like you're not a complete Christian if you haven’t seen a vision of some kind? 18Do not let
anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a
person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle
notions. Don't think that visions of angels are more important than trusting in Jesus and continuing
with him as Lord. It mightn’t sound as exciting, but that’s where fullness is found. So don’t let anyone
tell you that you need to have some extra spiritual experiences to grow as a Christian or to be the
real deal. (By the way, that church split about three months after the ‘angelic vision’ of ‘revival’).

A few years ago - it was the Toronto blessing (The idea that laughing or even making animal noises
showed how spiritual you were). There was a girl at the local high school where I used to teach
scripture who went to a church which had ‘the blessing’. She was quite sad one day, and said: “What
I need is some carpet time…that’ll get me back up”.

More recently – it’s having the Gold dust blessing. One of my mates posted a link to a youtube vid on
his facebook page last week, and it was of a guy preaching, dancing, ranting about God’s glory
coming out of people: “hug each other! feel the glory! let’s ask for big things like basketball size
diamonds and gold the size of bricks!”. I got in a discussion with him about it, and I said I didn’t think
God was into it. He said: “That preacher is so full of the Holy Spirit that when he preaches, he gets
covered in gold dust. And at our church, when we’re singing and praising God – it rains gold dust.” I
said he better stop praying for the gold to be like bricks or someone’s gonna get hurt!
Sound impressive doesn’t it. That if you’re really spiritual, really full of the Holy Spirit – when you
worship God gold dust falls out of the air. And it’s appealing because it's spectacular, and seems
impressive. But it takes the focus off Jesus. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to have some
extra spiritual experiences to grow as a Christian or to be the real deal, or to have the full package.

Q: Ever feel like you're missing out b/c you don't have a particular spiritual experience.
When I was about 18 I met a Christian guy who asked me if I’d been baptised in the Holy Spirit. I
wasn’t sure. He asked me if I spoke in tongues, and when I said no, he said I needed to have the
second blessing. I’d made a good start by following Jesus, but I needed an extra dose of the Holy
Spirit. So he and two pastors from his church laid their hands on em and prayed for me. they said:
“praise Jesus” and so I did. And they all started praying like space monkeys. After 10 minutes I ran
out of words. “It didn’t work”. Let’s try again. I only lasted 5 minutes this time. Didn’t work. And I was
devastated. God doesn’t love me. I’m missing out. I’m only an economy class Christian. And it threw
me into a spin. I felt terrible for weeks, and started doubting if I was even a real Christian. (Thankfully
the youth pastor at my church showed me some things from the book of 1 Corinthians that make it
clear that not all believers speak in tongues - 1 Cor 12:30 – and that when you become a Christian,
that’s when you get baptised in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a Person, not a force – and you’ve either
got Him or you don’t. You don’t get half a person and then a need a ‘top up’).

Q: Have you ever been made to feel like that? as if you're missing something important in your
Christian faith, that you’re not a complete Christian? 18Do not let anyone who delights in false humility
and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about
what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.

If you’re following Jesus as Lord, and you’re being told you are missing out, or you’re feeling like you
need to have extra spiritual experiences to have all that God has on offer – listen carefully. If you
have Christ as Lord - you are already full and you have it all (like the sponge in the cup). God is not
hiding special secrets and fullness from you.
Remember verse 10… "you have been given fullness in Christ." Don’t let anyone deceive you,
kidnap you; judge you; disqualify you, take your freedom or peace. Don’t let anyone tell you - you
need something more. Don’t let someone else burden you with Religious Rules. And don’t let anyone
tell you that you need extra spiritual experiences if you want to have fullness in your spiritual life.
Because if you’ve got Jesus - you don’t need anything extra
Just stay where you are. Sinks your roots down onto Jesus.

If you’re spiritually flat or disconnected, what you really need is a bigger, more accurate picture of the
REAL Jesus. Because if you’ve got the REAL Jesus and you come to Him AS HE IS, you’ll HAVE
fullness, and the deepest possible connection WITH God, because Jesus IS God. And if you’ve got
God, you’ve got fullness – whether you know it or not, whether you feel like it or not. And it’s a fatal
mistake to add anything to Him.
2:6-7 – “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built
up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught” There's nothing secret or complicated about
it…just stay where you are: Grow where you've been planted. And keep at it.

				
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