"No More Chains"
(Delivered Sunday, March 18, 2001 at Bethany Bible Church. All scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version.)
This morning's passage is about 'liberty'. In fact, it's one of the greatest declarations of liberty in the whole Bible - perhaps the greatest. It is, in my opinion, the center-piece passage of Paul's letter to the Colossians. Everything that he has had to say so far in his letter was intended to bring us to this bold affirmation of our spiritual liberty in Christ - and to urge us to make sure we stay free!
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Paul was writing this wonderful letter to a group of people who needed to be instructed about their liberty in Christ. They were genuine believers; men and women who heard the good news of the gospel message, and had placed their faith in Jesus Christ and in His sacrifice on the cross for them. They had experienced the forgiveness of their sins; and now stood in God's complete favor through faith in His saving grace. They were genuinely made as complete and as acceptable before God in Christ as they will ever be.
But even though they had been made 100% complete in the sight of God through Jesus, a grievously false teaching was infiltrating the church. Those who advocated this false teaching were beginning to pressure the Colossians Christians into believing that, in order to be complete in the eyes of God, they still needed something more than Jesus Christ alone had already given them. Jesus had opened the spiritual prison doors of these believers and had set them free; but it was as if these false teachers were seeking to put them back in their prison cells and slam the door shut on them again.
Because Paul loved these dear Christian brothers and sisters; and because he wanted them to rejoice in all the blessings that were already theirs and enjoy the full experience of being in God's complete favor, he wasted no time combating this error. He began by stressing to them what had already been accomplished for them through Christ. He told them that, by faith, they had been united with God's own beloved Son in His sacrifice on the cross. This meant that Jesus had already died on the cross as the full payment of the penalty for their sins. It meant that they had died with Him, and had been made alive together with Him in His resurrection. And it meant that they now stood before God as men and women that God had raised up from the dead unto newness of life - completely accepted in God's eyes through Jesus. Paul said,
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it (Col. 2:13-15).
Look closely at what Paul here says was accomplished for us in Christ! He says, first, that we have been forgiven of all our sins. Second, he says that we have been released from our indebtedness to the strict letter of God's law - "the handwriting of requirements that was against us", as Paul calls it. Finally, he says that we have been given a complete victory over all the accusations and allegations that the devil and his army of demons could ever throw at us. There is no victory like the one Jesus has already won for us, and has already made available to us by faith! It is a complete victory!
Paul's readers, then, have been set completely free in Christ; and so he makes an urgent appeal to these brothers and sisters that they make very sure they keep on walking in the victory that Christ has purchased for them, and never again allow themselves to be put under bondage to the things from which they'd been set free. He writes;
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. 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 - "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using - according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh (Col. 2:16-23).
"Liberty", then, is the great theme of this passage. In fact, "liberty" is one of the grandest themes of the gospel.
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As Americans, whenever we hear the word "liberty", we immediately tend to think of our political freedom. We are an independent nation that values the freedom and rights of its individual citizens. But the "liberty" that the gospel presents to us is greater and more satisfying than any political or social liberty that even the greatest governments of men could every provide. History shows that, whenever the gospel is proclaimed in a nation, political and social liberty inevitably follows. But such temporal liberty within a nation is only brought about because of the greater spiritual liberty of the soul that the gospel message brings about in people. No political freedom can ever make people spiritually free. "Spiritual" liberty is far greater in value and power than any political liberty; and only Jesus can bring that about.
Jesus was speaking once with the Jewish leaders of His day; and He told them, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32). But they complained; "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, 'You will be made free'?"
Because these Jewish leaders believed they had political freedom, then it followed (so they thought) they were truly free and under the bondage of no one. But Jesus told them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave to sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (vv. 34-36). That's what Jesus does. He sets men and women free "spiritually" - "free indeed".
On another occasion, when He was preaching in a synagogue, Jesus took the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah and applied them to Himself. He said,
The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD (Luke 4:18-19; see also Isaiah 49:8-9 and 61:1-2).
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What does this "spiritual" liberty mean? What is it exactly that Jesus set us free "from"? The Bible tells us that the gospel brings about liberty for us in many ways. For one thing, it sets us free from captivity to the devil. Paul said, in 2 Timothy 2:26, that he hoped for some to be granted repentance from sin by God, "that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will."
Many people believe that they're absolutely free and autonomous; when in reality, they're the unwitting slaves of the devil. When such people hear the gospel and believe, Jesus sets them free from his clutches. As Colossians 1:13 says, God the Father "has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love ...".
Another thing the gospel sets us free from is the fear of death. The fear of death, and the dread of the judgment of God to follow, is a dreadfully enslaving thing. But the Bible tells us that Jesus sets us free from this oppressive fear by His own sacrifice on the cross. The Bible says, "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14-15).
The gospel of Jesus Christ also sets us free from the terrible bondage that God's law places over us. God's law, as it was given through Moses, is certainly good and holy because it comes from from a good and holy God. But it places a terrible yoke of bondage upon fallen people like you and I, because we're sinners and don't have it in us to keep God's law. We not only cannot please God through it; but we bring a dreadful curse upon ourselves because of our failure to keep it.
The Bible says, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all the things which are written in the book of the law, to do them" (Gal. 3:10). But the good news is that Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of God's law, having become "a curse" for us on the cross (Gal. 3:13). "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ has made us free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:1-2).
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Jesus has purchased our "liberty" at the cross - and, among other things, it is a liberty from the bondage to God's law. And may I share with you what this particular aspect of our "spiritual freedom" means to me?
My liberty in Christ means that I no longer have to work and labor and perform in order to be accepted by God. I've been set free from that endless, fruitless, frustrating cycle of failure upon failure before Him. It means that, because of what Jesus has done, I have already been washed clean of every sin by His blood; and I now stand completely, utterly, unconditionally, 100% totally acceptable to God in His precious Son Jesus Christ. He has made me "accepted in the Beloved" (Eph. 1:6). In Christ, I'm even delightful to God - a pleasure to Him!
And now, this means that I can be myself before God! I can freely delight in Him, and know confidently that He already delights in me. I can freely, joyfully come before His throne and have unhindered, glad-hearted fellowship with Him. I can ask Him about anything that burdens my heart; or I can bring before Him any need that concerns me. I can cast my every care upon Him, for He cares for me (1 Pet. 5:7). He already completely loves and accepts His Son Jesus; and because I have been permanently united to Jesus, He now already completely loves and accepts me too! I never again need to serve Him to be loved and accepted by Him. Instead, I now have been set free to serve Him out of love and gratitude because I'm already perfectly loved and completely accepted by Him!
That's what "spiritual liberty" means. It means that there was nothing that I could ever do to make myself acceptable to God apart from Christ; and now that I'm in Christ, there's nothing I will ever be able to do to make myself unacceptable to Him. I can now relax in His love and acceptance; and I can now love and enjoy Him freely. What a precious treasure our freedom in Christ is!
But there's a serious side to this freedom and liberty in Christ. We must be sure that we protect it, and never allow anyone to try to place us back into spiritual bondage again.
Paul once had to write a letter to the Galatian believers about "false brethren" who come in "by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage" (Gal. 2:4). When confronted by such false brethren, Paul said that he refused to give them an inch; "to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you" (v. 5). Paul was fiercely protective of our liberty in Christ; and he had the same concern in mind when he wrote to these Colossian believers.
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Let me pause for a moment and speak to you personally. And as we look at this passage together, I wonder if you might be someone who feels under bondage before God. Perhaps you feel that your condition before God is characterized by anything but "liberty" and "freedom". Perhaps you've placed your trust in Jesus at one time; but you've slipped into an old pattern before God from which the gospel was meant to set you free. Perhaps you have fallen back into a "performance-based" relationship with God. Or perhaps an erroneous religious leader or teacher has convinced you that what you have in Christ is not enough - and that you'll never be complete before God until you have experienced 'something more'. Perhaps you've been made to believe that God will not accept you unless you're very careful to observe certain religious rituals or ceremonies, or unless you abstain from certain foods, or unless you've had certain mystical "experiences". Perhaps your Christian experience has, somehow, ceased to be a vital, life-giving love relationship with God and has been reduced to a dreary list of "do's" and "don'ts" - mostly "don'ts". Perhaps your joy of salvation has turned into the dismal burden of 'keeping saved'. If so, this passage is very good news for you. It's an invitation to shake off the chains, and enter into the liberty that Jesus has made available to us through His sacrifice on the cross.
Or perhaps that has not happened to you. Perhaps - thankfully - you have entered into the full enjoyment of liberty and freedom before God through faith in the gospel. Perhaps you, now, stand strong and firm in the grace of God; and perhaps you daily rejoice in the experience of God's full love and favor through Jesus Christ. If so, this passage is for you too. It's a call to all of us who are in Christ to be sure that we stand firm in that liberty; and never, ever allow ourselves to wear those dreadful old chains of spiritual bondage again.
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How do those chains get put around our necks? In this passage, Paul describes three things that will wrap those dreadful chains of spiritual bondage around us tightly if we let them. First, he warns that we can come again under bondage ...
I. THROUGH THE INTIMIDATING POWER OF LEGALISM (vv. 16-17).
"Legalism", defined very simply, is the idea that I can be made more acceptable to God on the basis of what I do. It's the idea that my acceptability before God can be reduced to an observance of certain rituals and regulations. Paul is describing "legalism" when he says, "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ" (vv. 16-17).
The Lord Jesus encountered such legalism many times. The Pharisees and some of the religious leaders of His day were watching Him carefully; and scrutinizing the manner in which He and His disciples ate their food. The Pharisees noticed that Jesus and His disciples ate their food without first washing their hands in the ceremonial manner that had been prescribed by Jewish religious tradition. In fact, the Pharisees accused them of eating with "defiled" hands. "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders," they asked, "but eat with unwashed hands?" (Mark 7:5). Jesus rebuked them strongly for this. He quoted the Old Testament prophet Isaiah and said, "This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (vv. 6-7).
That's really the spirit behind "legalism": men and women creating traditions, rules and regulations - "religious laws" of their own invention and imposition - and insisting that it's necessary to observe them in order to be right with God. It's the lie that our relationship with God can be reduced down to a set of outward rules; while completely ignoring the inward matters that God is truly concerned about. Jesus once said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" (Matthew 23:23).
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The Colossian believers were being harmed by a teaching that was reducing "acceptance with God" down to the level of such things as Jewish "dietary laws", such as concerned "food" or "drink" - even though God, in Christ, has now declared all foods to be "clean" (Acts 10:9-15). They also focused in on the observance of Jewish religious dates and events, such as "festivals" (Lev. 23), and "new moon" or 'first-of-the-month' celebrations and sacrifices (Num. 10:10; 28:11-15), and sabbath day regulations (Ex. 31:14-16); even though God never required that any of these be observed by followers of Jesus (Acts 15:28-29).
These things all had value at one time, because they pointed the Jewish people in Old Testament times to Jesus. When He came, however, He perfectly fulfilled the intention of those laws in His own life of obedience, and sacrifice of death on the cross (Matthew 5:17; Rom. 3:27-31). As Paul puts it, those Jewish rules and regulations were merely the "shadow" for which Jesus was the "substance". Now that the "substance" has come, we're no longer to make "substance" out of the "shadows". In fact, it's wrong to do so.
Think of it this way ... Suppose that I were standing in an airport, having just returned from a long trip, waiting for my wife to come and meet me. And suppose that, as she approached, I saw her shadow pass across the ground before me. It would be foolish of me - to say nothing of being insulting to her - if I were to completely ignore her, and fall on the ground hugging and kissing the shadow. "Oh, shadow of my wife; how glad I am to see you!" That would be ridiculous; but that's what many people do to the Lord. They embrace the shadowy "rules" and "laws" - dietary laws, religious ceremonies, sabbath day observances - and yet, completely ignore a relationship with the very One those things were intended to point to!
Paul says, that we're to let no one "judge" us - that is, to examine us and condemn us with respect to our acceptance in God's eyes - on the basis of these things. Elsewhere, Paul writes, "Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives to God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God" (Rom. 14:3-6). "So then," he says, "each of us shall give an account of himself to God. Therefore, let us not judge one another anymore" (vv. 12-13).
Jesus sets us free from these things; and so we should neither judge one another in them; nor should we allow ourselves to be intimidated by the judgment of others with respect to them. To do so is to slip our necks, once again, under the yoke of spiritual bondage.
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Another way in which that yoke can be placed upon us is ...
II. THROUGH THE DECEPTIVE POWER OF MYSTICISM (vv. 18-19).
Earlier in this letter, Paul called the gospel "the mystery of God" (Col. 1:27; 2:2). But "Mysticism" as means of being made acceptable to God is something completely different from the gospel - in fact, it's something diametrically opposed to the gospel.
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 was the problem Paul was dealing with when he said, "Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God" (vv. 18-19).
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Paul warns that we're not to let anyone "cheat" us or "defraud" us or "disqualify" us through mysticism. The word that he uses is one that has been found in ancient documents to describe judges who had been bribed, and who therefore condemned someone unfairly. The idea, if put in modern terms, is that of being "ripped-off" through a "bum-call". We're not to allow anyone to declare us anything less than totally acceptable to God, simply because we didn't have some mystical experience that they claim we should have.
What are the sorts of experiences such people would boast in? Paul says that some would boast in "false humility and worship of angels". Archeologist and historians tell us that an angel-worshipping cult had eventually developed in the region near the Colossian believers. And even today, just as then, people often try to seek a relationship with God through intermediary spirit beings - "guardian angels" or "spirit guides" - instead of through a simple, reverent faith in Jesus Christ as the only true Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).
Paul also mentions "humility" (a humility that is obviously meant to be understood as a false one in this context because they "delight" in it or willfully insist on it); and it may be that the two ideas of "humility" and "angel worship" were meant to be seen together. Perhaps there were some who were claiming to be "unworthy" to approach God on their own, and thought that they must approach God only through an angelic mediator. It's amazing the extent people will go to in order to avoid confessing their sins; and coming to God through the only Savior from sins, Jesus!
Others, Paul says, boast in their subjective experiences. Some translations have Paul saying that such a person was boldly stepping into, or intruding on, "things which he has seen." Other translations have Paul saying that it was "things which he has not seen." Whichever is the correct reading of the ancient text, an argument can be made that both are true. Such people foolishly intrude into error and false spirituality based on things that they claim to have "seen" - mysterious visions or prophecies or revelations - which, in fact they haven't "seen" at all.
Paul describes other such persons as being "puffed up" in his or her "fleshly mind"; and what he refers to in saying this are those who create, through their own reasoning powers and ability, a philosophy of life for themselves, and who elevate that philosophy above the message of the gospel. And he says that they do so "vainly" or "without cause"; that is, they assume to have an ability to grasp truth apart from God that they don't really have.
Finally, Paul describes them as "not holding fast to the Head" - that is, to Jesus Christ. It's from Jesus - the only Head of "the body", which is His church (Col. 1:18) - that the rest of the body of Christ gets its nourishment, growth and functionality. It's only through a vital connection to Jesus Christ that God gives any sort of spiritual life or nourishment or growth; and anyone who seeks to be a spiritual 'maverick' - claiming to have found a better way to acceptance and fellowship with God than through Jesus than the rest of us - has effectively severed himself or herself from the head.
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. We must be particularly alert to this as we grow closer to the time of Jesus' return. In His teaching about the end times, Jesus warned us; "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many" (Matt. 24:4-5). He said, "... If anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'Look, He is there!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand" (Mark 13:21-23).
The devil seeks to bring many people - even Christians - under bondage by means of such "mystical" things. The tell-tale sign that its a deception is that it involves the idea that Jesus alone is insufficient to make us completely acceptable to God. Cling to Him - and Him only - as your all-sufficient Savior, and trust completely in the teaching of the sure word of God, and you'll never be brought under the devil's spiritual bondage again.
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A third way that Paul says a yoke of spiritual bondage can be placed upon us is ...
III. THROUGH THE ALLURING POWER OF ASCETICISM (vv. 20-23).
"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 we deny ourselves or avoid. It erroneously considers the creaturely things of this world to be "evil" in and of themselves; and glories and boasts in self-imposed suffering, and on denying ourselves the normal necessities and legitimate pleasures of life. Paul addresses this when he says, "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 - "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using - according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh" (vv. 20-23).
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Notice how Asceticism thrives through a focus on the negatives: "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle ..." It manifests itself in a phony show of "wisdom" through such things as an obsession with man-made religious restrictions and self-abusing punishments as a means of worship, and through a pretense of humility (when, in reality, such a person is proud of how much they suffer), and neglecting the normal, necessary needs of the body in a showy sort of way.
In contradiction to all this, the Bible tells us that we've been set free from the "do's" and "don'ts" of such supposedly "religious" prohibitions; and that now, in Christ, we can legitimately enjoy any of the things that God has given us - so long, of course, as we don't disobey Him or engage in sin in the process. The Bible tells us, of course, that we're never to use our "liberty" in Christ as an opportunity to gratify our fleshly passions and sinful desires (Gal. 5:13). But the Bible also tells us that we're to beware of those who would seek to restrict our liberty in Christ, and keep us bound by a bunch of prohibitions that really do nothing to benefit our souls. Paul wrote;
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer (1 Tim. 4:1-5).
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Paul reminds us that the self-inflicted punishments and prohibitions of Asceticism, in reality, accomplish nothing in terms of making us more acceptable to God. For one thing, such things focus only on what Paul calls "the basic principles of the world" - that is, the mere material things of existence on earth, the things that can be touched, or smelled, or tasted, or felt, or swallowed - things that perish as soon as we use them. Paul says that we have died in Christ, and have been raised up with Him in newness of life (2:12); and so he asks, "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 ...?" How can an abstinence from the mere rudiments of the material world do anything to make us any more acceptable to God than we've been made through our union with Christ? He later says,
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on thing on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory (3:1-4).
Another reason Asceticism accomplishes nothing is because it's based on "the commandments and doctrines of men". It's sinful man - not God - who imposes a set of rules and regulations that prohibits us from enjoying the things that God has freely given us to enjoy. It's man - not God - that considers such restrictions "wise".
But what wisdom is there in buying into a spiritual program that was developed by sinful man? - a program that God has neither commanded nor sanctioned? Concerning those who create such "do's" and "don'ts", Jesus said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch" (Matthew 15:13-14).
Yet another reason that Asceticism can't do us any good is because it doesn't solve the real problem. Such man-made restrictions "are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh." They help a person make a big show of themselves that focuses strictly on the outer man; but they don't really keep the passions and lusts of the inner man in check at all. Men and women can deny themselves all the legitimate pleasures of life, cause unrelenting pain and suffering to their bodies, and make an exhibition of personal humility and supposed self-control; and yet, the whole time, be filled in their hearts with lust and sin. Jesus called such people "whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness" (Matthew 23:27).
Such people will suffer just about any imaginable pain and discomfort on their outer person, in order to avoid turning from sin and believing on Jesus from within their heart. And yet, Jesus died to set us free from the enslaving power of lust and sin.
These three false ways of becoming more acceptable to God - Legalism, Mysticism and Asceticism - all have several things in common. They are all three attempts to "earn" God's favor. They are all three based on our own efforts instead of God's work for us. And they have all three been rendered utterly useless because of what Jesus has already done.
Those Old Testament dietary and ceremonial laws were simply the "shadow" for which Jesus is the "substance". He has already fulfilled for us all that those laws were meant to accomplish; and so, our acceptance before God will never be based on how well we keep religious ordinances and observe religious ceremonies. Legalism is rendered useless in Christ; and only puts us back in the chains of bondage if we embrace it.
Jesus alone is the Head, from whom the whole body of Christ draws nourishment and growth. If anyone seeks to take a stand on visions, or philosophies, or 'spirit-guides', they're severing themselves from the only Head of the body. In Jesus, we already have "all fullness" (1:19); and "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (2:3); and "all the fullness of the Godhead" (2:9). We've been made complete in Him; and our acceptance before God will never be based on anything else that we might find through subjective, mystical experiences and feelings. Mysticism is rendered useless in Christ. It too only puts us back into spiritual bondage if we embrace it.
And being united with Jesus, we have died to the basic, elementary principles of this world. The foods we eat, or the clothes we wear, or the basic needs of our bodies, will not make us unholy and unacceptable to God. Our legitimate, reverent enjoyment of the things of this world that God has given us will not hurt us. Our acceptance before God will never be advanced one bit through such prideful self-denial, or through brutal punishment of our bodies. Asceticism, too, is rendered useless in Christ. It, just like the others, only serves to wrap the chains of bondage around us if we embrace it.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ; be sure you keep free in Christ. Remember the words of Paul in Galatians 5:1; "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."
(copyright 2001 by Pastor Greg Allen and Bethany Bible Church. Reproduction without permission, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.)
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