Colossians 2:16-23 (Week 10 – Jesus Plus Nothing Series)
Jason White



In Colossians 2:16-23, Paul warns us of 3 different ways we need not try to measure how we are doing in the Christian life: Old Testament laws, spiritual experiences/highs, and asceticism.




Sermon Audio Transcript
So I don't know if this has happened to you or not. But throughout most of my life, people have been trying to tell me how to measure how I've been doing in life, or at least they've been measuring my life. For me in certain ways that started pretty early on as a kid. I mean, my mom and dad measured how it was that I was doing. And based on their measurements, I either got punished and spanking in some way or a time out or was grounded or I got praised. And I was rewarded for how I was measuring up to their rules or their standards. Of course, it wasn't just at home, though. I mean, pretty early on, as I entered into kindergarten, people started telling me how I could measure up they began measuring me in a number of ways, primarily through grades, right, I would fill out certain sheets of paper and do assignments, and I would turn them into a teacher and I would get them back. And they told me how I measured up, they would have an A or a B, or a C and or sometimes in F right to let me know that I really wasn't measuring up. As a matter of fact, there was a time in kindergarten pretty early on where I didn't measure up. And I wasn't sure that I was probably going to after what it was that happened, we were working on an assignment, it was a pretty simple assignment, it was just the letters of the alphabet that we were writing. And we were going to turn them in, but I got to a certain letter of the alphabet. And I was really struggling. I mean, I could not figure out how to write this letter. And so finally, I just gave up and I went up to the teacher's desk, and I said, I cannot figure out for the life of me how to write the letter LMNOP.True story. After she fell out of her desk on the floor, laughing andfinally recovered herself. She said, Jason, that's five different letters, L, M, N, O and P. went, Oh, that's why I was having such a hard time figuring out how to write it, right, because they're five different letters. And so that's what you guys are dealing with up here early on. So probably shouldn't have told that story. But again, I'm pretty sure I didn't measure up on that assignment, right. And so those were the kinds of things that were going on. Later on. There were standardized tests that told me how it was that I was measuring up and whether I was smart enough to go to college or not. But it didn't stop there wasn't just in school. I mean, I was told how I measured up in sports, because we keep score in those things. And so you know, whether you measured up or not, you either had more points than the other guy, or less than the other team. And you were told how you measured up based on how you did there, as I got older and got a job, people told me how I measured up in my job and what I could do better to perform and measure up to their standards. And of course, the same thing has happened to all of you and all of those different scenarios and situations as well. People have been measuring how well you had been doing in all kinds of areas throughout your life. And maybe you've even learned to measure your own life by certain things in your own standards to kind of gauge how it is that you're doing and what you need to do to get better and to get where you want to be. For a lot of us that includes the Christian life or life in church, many of us have been told how to measure how we're doing in the Christian life. Or if we haven't been told, we kind of figure out how to measure the Christian life ourselves how it is that we're doing. When it comes to the Christian life, we do this a number of different ways. For example, a lot of us try to measure how it is that we're doing in the Christian life. Through the Old Testament laws, we look to things like the 10 commandments, and we use them as our measuring stick. Well, I haven't taken the Lord's name in vain this week, check right haven't stolen anything this week, check, haven't lost it in the last hour check pride, I haven't. Or I've been honoring my father and mother check. And we just looked through all of these things. And we kind of put checkmarks biome to see how we're doing we look for rules. We look for how disciplined we're being we're looking at how we're avoiding sin in our lives to see if we are measuring up. For some of us. It's not necessarily the rules or the discipline or those kinds of things, but we measure how it is that we're doing in the Christian life through experiences, spiritual experiences. For some of us, we remember a spiritual high for example that we had at a church camp when we were 15 years old or that time on Easter whenever we had such a spiritual High at that moment or when we were on vacation in Colorado and in the Rocky Mountains, and we took a hike to the top of one of the peaks, and we sat there, and we were spending time with God. And I just had never felt so close to God in that moment. And for a lot of us, we're trying to get that feeling back, we're trying to get back to that high from that certain experience. That's how we're measuring where we're at, in the Christian life. If I feel kind of emotionally low, and I'm in the spiritual low, then I'm not really feeling close to God, I must not be measuring up right. Or if I'm feeling spiritually high, then I'm feeling close to him that I'm measuring up pretty well. And so for some of us, it's the rules and the discipline, the avoidance of sin. For others of us, it's the spiritual highs and the experiences that we're chasing after. So I don't know what it is for you. I don't know if it's the rules or the self discipline or experiences or something else. But chances are you are or have been, at some point in time measuring how you are doing or have done in the Christian life.But there's a real danger in trying to measure our Christian life buy these kinds of things. As a matter of fact, the passage that we're going to look at this morning, the apostle Paul warns us and warns the Colossians and us about this very thing. And so let's dive in and see what Paul says here, the very first thing that Paul says is there for so we've got to stop all ready, because we know that whatever it is that he's about to say throughout the rest of this verse and beyond, is tied closely to something that he said before. And so last week, we looked at this verse here in the section all the way down to 14. And here's what Paul said, See to it, that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy. He says that these hollow and deceptive philosophies depend on human tradition, and the elemental spiritual forces of this world, rather than on Christ, this was kind of a key verse in this section that we looked at where the apostle Paul was saying, watch out, be on guard with these kinds of hollow and deceptive philosophies that Satan uses to deceive us of real life. There are things that depend on human tradition and the ways of this world and the philosophies that we try to live by that get kind of a stamp of Christian approval in the church, they find their ways into the church, and we try to live the Christian life by those things. Now, Paul introduces these things. And then at the very end, he says, rather than on Christ, and so instead of continuing in this section, in focusing on the hollow and deceptive philosophies, and talking more about what those are, he goes right into Christ. He goes into the fullness of Christ, the completeness that we have in Christ. Remember, he says, For in Christ, all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been brought to fullness you a lot of times, that's translated complete, he's saying you are complete in Christ, you have everything that you'll need in him, you don't need to chase after these hollow and deceptive philosophies that don't depend on him, because it's in him that you have everything it is that you need. And then throughout the rest of the section, he just gets into all of these other examples explaining how complete you really are in Christ. So this is what he said last week. So then when Paul goes back to the the there for that we looked at here, then that's based on because you're so complete in Christ, right? Because you've been brought to fullness and you have everything that you need in him. Now, do not let and he's going to talk about the philosophies and the hollow and deception for deceptive philosophies that we talked about a second ago, and now begin to develop those more, because those now we know what we are full in Christ as far as philosophy goes, and we can recognize these hollow and deceptive things, especially as he kind of gives us more details about what those are now. So he goes on and says, Therefore do not let anyone judge you. This word here means create a size or find fault with Don't let anyone criticize you or find fault with you by telling you what it is to eat or drink or with regard to a religious festival, or a new moon celebration or a Sabbath day. In other words, if he's saying Don't let anyone criticize you or find fault with you based on these things, what's he saying? You Do not measure the Christian life and how well it is that you're doing by those things. What are those things? Well, it's Old Testament law. It's Old Testament rules. These are things that were outlined all throughout the Old Covenant. And so Paul says that these are things that are part of the Old Testament law, and do not let other people talk you into measuring how well it is that you're doing in the Christian life based on Old Testament law. Why? Why would Paul tell them that? Well, he tells them why and the very next verse, he says, These are a shadow of the things that were to come. The reality, however, is found in Christ. These, the Old Testament law that he was just referring to in there are just a shadow of the things that were to come. They were never meant to be the real thing. They were never meant to be what you base the Christian life on. So why would you try to measure how your well you're doing in the Christian life through those things. He says, The reality, however, is found in Christ, not in those particular things. So Paul, is saying that the law was a shadow of the things that were to come the law wasn't the reality, it was to point us to our sin and show us the sin in our lives to show us our need for Christ. It was to point us to what or who was to come, which, of course, was Jesus. And Paul talks about this all over the place. He talks about it a lot in his letter to the Galatians. He mentions it in the church to Rome and this letter, Romans, you may even remember in chapter seven, where Paul says, Man, I'm thankful for the law, the law is good, right? Because it showed me what sin actually was, if it hadn't been for that I wouldn't even know that I was a sinner. And I would know that I needed Jesus in my life. But as he went on, and let me just show you what he said there. So we're really understand what he's talking about here in some ways. This is Romans chapter seven, verses four through six. He says, My brothers and sisters, you also died to the law. Did you know that when you put your faith and trust in Jesus for salvation, Paul says that you died to the Old Testament law, you died through the body of Christ. Why Paul, so that you might belong to another you don't belong to the law. Now you belong to Christ to him, who was raised from the dead. Why, in order that here's why I, you killed you off to the law, and put you in union with Christ, so that you might bear fruit for God not produce fruit, but bear fruit. In other words, you couldn't do that when you were enslaved to the law. You can't bear fruit through living Old Testament law. Paul clearly says that's why I had to join you to Christ apart from the law, to be able to now bear fruit in that. Paul goes on as he continues in Romans seven for when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions, aroused by the law, the laws good, but when we try to follow the law, and live the law, we're going to end up being aroused to sin. We're at work in us, he says, so that we bore fruit for death. Notice the kind of fruit it's born whenever we're trying to follow the law says, But now by dying to what wants bound us watch this. We have been past tense, released from the law, you have been released from the Old Testament law, so that we serve in the new way, there's a new way of doing things now through the Spirit, and not not in the old way of the written code, which is the law. And so this is one of the places that Paul talks about those kinds of things, and really spells it out for us and what happened to us and why he had to do these things. And so when we come back to Colossians, and we see him now saying that these are a shadow of the things that were to come, right, the law was never meant to be the thing that you live the Christian life by a godly life by and to measure it. And so therefore, that's why these things had to happen. They were a shadow of the things to come. So the first warning that Paul gives the church at Colossae. And us Don't let anyone judge you don't let them criticize you don't let them find fault with you. In this way, do not try to measure your Christian life by how well you are following the rules. Paul's not done though, he goes on gives us another warning here, do not let anyone who delights in the false humility in 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 on spiritual mind. The second warning, I'll just put it up here, and we'll talk about it a little bit more in detail is this. Paul says Do not try to measure your Christian life by spiritual experiences, or chasing after spiritual highs.The church at Colossae. And in this community, we talked about how this was a very pluralistic society that was influenced by the false teachers and a lot of different world views and things that were going on. And apparently, during this time, and in this particular area, there were those that would say that you could have this kind of mystical experience this spiritual high, if you will, where you could kind of have the supernatural visions and and feel like you were being transported and ushered into this spiritual heavenly realm of things to where you could worship the angels or join in worshiping with the angels. And then you would kind of come back out of that vision and that a spiritual experience that spiritual high, and then you can begin to share all of these different things with people about what it is that you had seen in that. So the Colossians, apparently, we're being taught to measure how well they were doing in the Christian life by whether they were entering into these kind of mystical experiences? Have you been ushered up into the heavenly realms yet? Have you been able to feel like you were there and they experienced that spiritual high, and then come back and be able to talk about those things in this way? If not, then you need to really try to enter into those kinds of experiences in order to have everything and so they're trying to measure up and get closer to God in that way. But Paul says, Remember, do not let them disqualify you. In other words, do not let them rob you of the real experience that you can find only in Christ, Christ is your life. Christ is the abundant life. It's not found in experiences, it's found in a person in Jesus. And so Paul is not saying that experiences in and of themselves are bad, that they're evil. But when we try to measure our own lives or other people's Christian life, based on the experiences that we're having, then Paul says that we're being puffed up, really, that we're being arrogant. puffed up, arrogant for being unspiritual, not being as spiritual as we think it is that we are. And here's why. Paul says in the next verse. They, those that try to measure their lives through spiritual experiences, have lost connection with the head, who's the head, Jesus, right? We have the body of Christ, and Jesus is the head. Those people who are chasing after spiritual experiences and measuring their lives based on spiritual highs have lost connection from Jesus from the head, from whom the whole body supported and held together by its ligaments and send us grows, as God causes it to grow. They're chasing after things outside of Jesus, they're connected to Jesus. He is their source, he is their life, but instead of looking to Him, they're connecting themselves to things outside in the world or in these other places in these experiences, rather than in Christ who is the ultimate reality. So Paul says, Don't get fooled into measuring the spiritual your Christian life, through experiences, and through spiritual highs. Paul's not done there's one more warning that he has for the Colossians and us. He says, Since you died with Christ, to the elemental spiritual forces of this world why as though you still belong to this world, do you submit to its rules do not hand or do not taste Do not touch, what pot? What is Paul getting at with those things? Well in verse 23, as we'll see in just a moment, he also talks about harsh treatment of the body. And so what we find that Paul is actually dealing with here and the warning that he is giving his this, do not try to measure your Christian life through asceticism. asceticism is kind of the denial like you're the self discipline of denying your physical body of indulgences, to try to become more spiritual. ascetics would consider certain foods and practices unholy. And and, and try to avoid those things through self discipline and through self denial. And so when we see Paul talking about, you know, not handling and tasting and touching certain foods, and especially with the harsh treatment of the body that we'll see in verse 23, that asceticism is this other area that the false teachers are trying to influence and promote among the church here, they were hoping to have a more spiritual experience, measure how it was that they were doing by denying themselves through the application of certain rules. And really the thing about asceticism about denying ourselves in times like that, that really arises out of guilt. I mean, when when we're guilty, and we feel like we've we've sinned, and we're, we're standing guilty before the Lord. And then sometimes maybe we try to deny ourselves from certain things in order to prove to God that we really do love him, and that we really do measure up, right. And so we're gonna prove how disciplined we can be to avoid certain things in order to prove ourselves before God and feel like we measured up but what we got to keep in mind is what Paul said last week, really, especially when it comes to guilt, and the reason that you're trying to deny certain things. Remember, he said, when you were dead, in your sins, and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which did stand against us and condemned US. But now he's taking it away, nailing it to the cross. In other words, he's saying you are not guilty anymore. That's what he said, when we looked at this passage last week. So therefore, you don't have to try to deny yourself to make up for your sins, or to prove yourself to God, because he's already forgiven you of all of your sins, He's canceled the charge of your legal indebtedness. There's nothing you need to begin to deny yourself have to prove yourself before God to make up for the sins that you feel guilty of in the first place. So quit trying to measure up and how you're doing through denial of certain things and through asceticism. Paul finishes up these last two verses and say that these, these rules, which have to do, by the way, Paul says, with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings, and then finishes up and says Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self imposed worship, and their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value and restraining sensual indulgence or the flesh or evil desires. Right, so, so these regulations, the ways that you're trying to measure the Christian life, through laws through spiritual experiences through asceticism and denying yourself, they they appear to be wise. I mean, they they sound good, right? And they sound spiritual, and they sound holy, and it even sounds like they come from God. These are the right things to measure our lives by. But Paul says their self imposed worship. It's a man centered Christianity, not a Christ centered Christianity. It's a man centered it's self imposed worship. Look at me, God, I'm following the rules. Look at how big of a spiritual experience I am having and how close I feel to you in this moment. Look how much I am denying all this stuff around me God, therefore I met You're up, right? We're justifying ourselves before Him. We're trying to do all of these things. And it's basically just bringing ourselves the glory and helping us to feel better in our own minds about all the things that we're doing rather than who Christ is, and what it is that he's already done. So it's self imposed worship, it's a false humility. Oh, look at me, I'm denying myself or I'm having this. It's sometimes it even appears humble, but it's a false hue. Melody, right. And the ironic thing Paul says is you're doing all of these kinds of things, sometimes to restrain yourself from sin and make up from those kinds of things. And Paul's basically saying that they don't even work, they lack value in keeping you from sinning, trying to follow the rules to not sin, as we read earlier in Romans seven, just kind of put something within us that makes us want to do that even more.So these things don't even work. And so why would we try to measure our lives by them? Basically, the bottom line, Paul is saying, Do not be deceived into measuring your Christian life, and how well you're doing in the Christian life, based on rules and how well you're following them, experiences spiritual highs, discipline, denying yourself to try to prove your self. Maybe you find yourself in one of these particular areas, maybe that's how you've been trying to measure your own Christian life, right? Am I following all of the rules? How am I doing with the 10 commandments, and all of these things that I'm supposed to either be doing or not doing kinds of things? Well, Paul says, if that's the case, he's already fulfilled the law for you, they were just a shadow of the things to come, Jesus is here, he's the real substance, so clean to him. Instead, maybe you've been measuring your Christian walk, and you're trying to chase a spiritual high, or get a certain feeling that you had at one point in time to get closer to that. And Paul says, Listen, you've already entered into a spiritual union with Him, you were dead, but now you're alive in Christ, you can't get any closer to that renew your mind to that truth, when you don't feel a certain way, and feel like you're close to God, that you're as close to God as you'll ever get. You're always in that particular state. And if you've been trying to measure the Christian life, and how you're doing through denying yourself to help make up for guilt, and those kinds of things, that's kind of been your pattern to feel like you're measuring up in the Christian life, you don't have to prove anything to him. Jesus has taken all of those things to the cross and you have complete forgiveness in him. So how do I measure them? how I'm doing in the Christian life? If I'm not supposed to measure it through how well I'm doing and following the laws, if I'm not supposed to measure it through how I feel, if I'm close to God or not, not supposed to measure it through discipline or denying myself, how do I measure how am I doing? Jesus? Jesus, what is that he's done, who you are in him. We've seen this all throughout Colossians, so far, in Christ is the fullness of God dwells the fullness of God, and in him, you've been brought to fullness, you are complete. You remember chapter one, when we looked at that, and we said that in Christ, you have been qualified, you're already qualified. Guess what that language means you already measure up in Christ. He says, You've been rescued past tense from the dominion of darkness already, and you've already been brought into the Kingdom of the Sun he loves sounds like you already measure up to me. If you begin to recognize that you already measure up, then you're going to quit trying to do all of these things to feel like you measure up and now you're free from the bondage of having to try to prove yourself and measure up and all these different ways, which now because you're so free guests that what you're able to do then just make yourself available to him as his instrument to work in and through to serve others around you because you're not so busy trying to focus on you and all the things that you've got to do to measure up.Jesus said that He came to set us free. So why don't we put ourselves back in bondage and all of these different ways that he set us free from let's live in the freedom that Jesus purchased for us and that we have in him so So that now he can express His life and His love and His grace and His mercy through us as we're just available to what he's now doing instead of focusing on all of these other ways we're trying to measure up in our own minds was pray