“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8 (NKJV)
As always context of scripture is critical. This passage was a warning from Paul to the church at Colosse regarding the philosophy and false religion of Gnosticism that was tearing at the heats and minds of the church. Much like Satan’s temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden, the lies of Gnosticism were directed at the intellectual and physical/emotional desires of mankind’s mind and heart. The promises of uncommon, God-like knowledge and the unconstrained permission for even the most forbidden human sin is an attractive offer for even the purest of created beings. Adam and Eve, created for communion with God and initially without sin, could not resist the temptations of these desires.
Paul’s concern for this young church was enormous and exceeded only by the gravity and truth found in his warning he gives to them. It is clear, concise, and Christ centered.
BEWARE! The temptation is present and very real, Paul declares. It is not a possibility of a future deception…it is here and it is real. The “philosophy” of Satan’s schemes are deceitful and empty but they are ever-present and have been around since the creation of the world. They were present in the garden when Satan tempted Adam and Eve with physical and emotional “fruits” of deception. Christ himself was tempted by the same deceitful, God-separating philosophies that related to Christ’s physical “desires” and spiritual untruths. Guess what…Satan is still using the same bag of tricks. Sadly, we are not immune to those same schemes and temptations. So BEWARE! We need to be vigilant in standing prepared and to cling tenaciously to the truth of who Christ is and how desperately we need Him more than anything else this world has to offer.
Second, Paul declares in Christ alone we are made complete. All spiritual knowledge we seek and need, and all satisfaction for our physical desires are met in and through our Creator. Paul writes in verses 9-10 “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” We are complete in Christ for in Him we find everything we need in this life and in the life to come.
So let us live with the a keen awareness of the dangers that are ever present, but with the confident knowledge of who Christ truly is, who we are in Him, and live our life satiated in Christ alone.
How are going to go into 2020? Do you enter a new year and new decade with confidence or trepidation? Do you make resolutions but question your ability to stick with them? Are you concerned about the country? The economy? Your future? What are you sure of?
I woke up this morning with this incredible sense of confidence and peace in some important life changing truths. I woke up feeling like Miss Vito in the movie My Cousin Vinny when she made bold statements in her testimony about tire marks and when asked is she was sure of her testimony she declared “I’m positive.”
So what are these things that I am confident in. In John’s letter to the church which we read in 1 John, he wraps up his letter in chapter 5 with these powerful reminders to the church and to us, of 5 things that we can be positive of and have confidence in.
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death. We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”
As a child of God I have confident knowledge in these five things:
I know that I have eternal life in the presence of my Lord and savior in heaven.
I know that if I pray according to His will He hears my prayers.
I know that I have victory over sin and Satan cannot touch me.
I know that I am God’s and he keeps me securely in His hands forever.
I know that Jesus Christ is God’s one, true Son.
No matter what this next year holds in store for me I know these things with certainty. I’m positive! My faith is not in something uncertain. My confidence is not in some man-made system of finance or government that is certain to disappoint me at some point. No…the things I know are a blessed assurance and let me wake up each and every day with the confident knowledge of my salvation, my security, and my savior.
I pray that you have this confidence. I pray that if you don’t know these things for certain in your heart, that you believe in Christ as your Lord and Savior, that you trust Him for the forgiveness of your sins, and that you come to know these truths and can live with confidence.
Growing up I heard the word “strenuous” used very rarely but it was almost in relationship to some form of really labor intensive work that was going to pretty much take up my whole Saturday! I expect many of us think of the words strenuous and contend in a less than positive light. Perhaps this passage will change our thinking a bit and create in us a deeper awareness and appreciation for the things we pour ourselves into.
In Colossians 1:28-29 Paul writes to the church and expresses his purpose and passion as concisely and fervently as possible.
“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.“
The Greek word for contend used here is where we get the word agonize. That is a pretty strong image of how fervently Paul engages in his efforts to teach and share the truth of Jesus Christ. Reading this passage I was personally challenged to think about the things that I strenuously contend for. Family, work, hobbies, church…what is it that I am willing to agonize for?
While we may not be called to the same teaching ministry that Paul was called to, it is an ongoing effort in our lives to make sure that we are strenuously contending for the things that God puts before us and calls us to engage in. We do this not in our own strength…but like Paul we do it with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in us.
Sometimes the valley in between mountains can be a hard place to travel. We remember the joy and peace perhaps of the time just spent on the mountaintop but when we going through those times in the valley, where we are attacked by the enemy, we sometimes lose sight of the preserving and purposeful work of Jesus in our lives.
In between the baptism of Jesus found in John 3:13-17 and the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry found in John 4:12, in just 11 short verses, Jesus experiences the full on attack and temptation of Satan. Christ was hungry and tired and coming off what we might see as a spiritual mountain top experience.
The “in between” times in our lives can sometimes be periods of struggle and discouragement. But do not lose heart. He is faithful! He is our strength! The apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:18:
“The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”
We long for the joy of seeing the Lord work in our lives in those amazing times of blessing. But we must never forget that during those “in between” times in our lives, during every attack and time of struggle, the Lord promises to deliver and preserve us for His purposes and glory.