Colossians 2:16-23

This week we reached the end of Colossians 2, but I haven’t got the audio of the sermon to put up. So, for those with enough determination, here are my notes from the sermon.

Colossians 2:16-23

DIY seems great. But is it?

Let me give you three reasons why DIY isn’t great:

One: It’s dangerous:

1, Knives and scalpels  cause 21,300 accidents in the UK each year;

2, Saws  15,100;

3, Grinders 6,400; I remember my dad nearly chopping his finger off!

4, Hammers (5,800); I own 6 of these, I better get rid of some!
220,000 DIY fans turning up at hospital in the UK each year.

Two: It’s not fun:

I just find it boring… I’d much rather be in Starbucks reading a book.

Three: We end up doing a rubbish job!

My shed is just an example. The roof I have put on looks bad quality, and it is bad quality.

How many of you have wonky pictures and shelves?

Anyone got a half finished decoration job?

On that first Bank Holiday of the year we get excited about DIY – we think we are DIY gods…but the truth comes out quickly! No matter how you look at it…. DIY is not a great option, unless it’s in something you are skilled at:

DIY plumbing? Phyl can do that.

DIY financial management? Wyn can do that.

But if you ask me to fix your toilet and sort your pension out… you’ll get a blocked toilet and no money for toilet roll!

DIY doesn’t work. Yet, many of us try it. Why?

-Because we can’t afford tradesmen

-We, men, have delusions of skillfulness – we genuinely believe we can do it.

Ultimately this is sin.

Yes, its official – AEC teaches that the philosophy of DIY is sin.

Let me explain.

The false teachers in Colossae were into DIY salvation. They wanted the people to believe that they could save themselves. Earn it.

Up until now we have been learning:

-The cross is enough.

-Jesus is sufficient.

-The gospel is everything.

The cross not only changes our eternal lives, but transforms our present lives. As Erwin Lutzer says:

‘The church can only live and breathe at the cross; without it, there is no life and no reason to exist’.

Last week we saw how the cross affected us internally from Satan’s fiery darts. This week we are going to see how the cross affects us from external attacks – the world and false teachers. The false teachers in Colossae had a kind of Jewish mysticism, and that meant that they tried to enforce an odd selection of things to disqualify the Christians. They wanted to make them think that they could qualify themselves through DIY spirituality.

Having attacked their doctrine (the Person and Work of Christ) they moved on to attack their practice. This DIY spirituality came out in two ways:

-Legalism

-Mysticism

But both were ultimately both forms of asceticism – external attempts. So, Paul deals with them from the point of view of the Cross. That’s why Paul uses the word ‘therefore’ (v16): to show that the cross is the answer to the external pressures put on them, like:
-Do not handle

-Do not taste

-Do not touch (v21)

So, let’s look at these two challenges that are still challenges today:

  1. Legalism: Doing to qualify v16-17

The first challenge is a Jewish one. The false teachers are pointing them back to OT Jewish customs.

Eating, drinking, festivals and holy days.

They are saying – you can do it yourself – you don’t need Jesus, He isn’t enough. This is a bit like the Galatians problem. Indeed, we have already seen a hint of this with ‘circumcision’ in verse 11.

You see, all these regulations were part of the ‘written code’ in verse 14.

The written code was the OT laws. But, we know that those have all been fulfilled by Jesus:

-Jesus fulfilled the moral laws by obeying them in his active obedience

-Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial laws through his passive obedience on the cross

Jesus did it all. So, there is no longer any need to pursue those laws.

-The Passover Lamb has died.

-The Sin has been taken away.

-We have been redeemed.

We have been qualified by Another – through grace.

But the false teachers wanted to be able to earn salvation. Qualify themselves. DIY. CJ Mahaney says that ‘Legalism is seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and justification before God through obedience to God.’ Sin makes us frustrated with grace. We want to be self-sovereign, self-saving and self-atoning.

What is the answer?

The answer comes in the word ‘shadow’. Ultimately verse 14 is clear – the written law is gone. It has been fulfilled, done. William Hendrickson points out:

-Manna… the bread of life has come

-Passover…the Passover Lamb has died (indeed, he died at the exact some time as they would have been)

-Sabbath… the real rest has been achieved

Paul has a straight and simple answer – its all about the cross. The reality has come: Jesus.

How does this look today?

Legalism is alive and well in the church. We want to be able to earn our place in heaven. Many of us are dabbling in DIY spirituality.

Legalism can affect 2 camps:

Camp 1: the seeker

Some of you are seeking God – you want to know Him – you want to be sure of heaven. So, you are working to earn your salvation. You are doing religious and morals things to get to heaven.

church is an entrance to heaven

-obedience is a tool for acceptance

But you must understand that there is nothing you can do to earn God’s love. Salvation is a completely free gift. Sin is a cancer that cannot be removed by DIY surgery. Life is a gift that cannot be given by DIY gardening. Jesus is the only one qualified to qualify us. That is the great news of the gospel.

You know, all the good DIY work done in my house is done in my name – but by others.

-John Glover built my patio

-My dad fixed the downstairs shower room

-Dave put the electrics in Noah’s room

It is all done by others – for me. I had to admit that I could not do it. I had to ask them to do it in my place. Listen to this to this ancient poem about Jesus:

Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

You don’t need DIY. You need Jesus.

Camp 2: the Christian

As Christians we can fall into legalism. We understand God saved us by grace, but we start to think that we are kept by works. We have DIY Christian lives. We actually believe that we can make God love us more, than we can earn our place.

It’s like me letting Dave rip the electrics out and then say ‘I’ve got it from here!’

Bang!

What does Paul say in Philippians?

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

We need to hang onto Jesus. Never move on from the cross. We can never save ourselves. We must always trust in Jesus.

But not everyone falls for legalism. So, the false teachers had another approach.

The second way they tried to trap them was:

2. Mysticism: Experiencing to qualify v18-19

The second challenge is a spiritual one. Here it is blatant – they want to disqualify you –through being humble, spiritual and ‘deep’.

Now, when we think of humble, deep and spiritual people we think of safe and amazing men of faith. But not always so. False teachers are cunning – they don’t come in as wolves – they come in sheep’s clothing: humility. These guys were coming in, with beaming faces, quietly saying:

‘wow…. God is amazing… awesome… I can’t believe it happened to me… to me! You’ll never guess what I saw, what I experienced…. I’ll never be the same again. If you experience the same you’ll never be the same again. Gosh, I can’t believe how terrible my spiritual life was before this… you know what I mean? You do? Maybe you need what I had…?’

Get the idea?

They come in and amaze you with great details of these huge spiritual experiences. Then you feel second class… you think you need what they’ve had – that you are not complete…

Now, many of you struggle in this area – you don’t understand how to test the spirits. You understand and fear 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20:

‘Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophesies with contempt’.

So, anytime something experiential happens by a ‘deep’ person you switch your brains off, sit back, and listen to it like it is the very words of God. You are in awe of the ‘spiritual’ and spontaneous. This is very dangerous.

Paul goes on 1 Thessalonians 5:21:

‘Test everything. Hold on to the good.’

You don’t know what to do with that word ‘test’. Indeed, you look down on anyone who wants to test. It is a question of authority – which has the greater authority?

-The subjective: spontaneous, felt experience

-The objective: the word of God contained in the Bible

You see this in certain Pentecostal churches. In a week where there is a prophecy (about streams of water and revival), people come out and say:

‘God REALLY spoke this morning’

Then they go off with idle notions in a puffed up mind.

Please, I am not speaking against prophecy, spontaneity or ‘the deep things’. But, they must be tested. The subjective must come under the objective word. The mystical Christian ‘separates experience from the word of God’ (Beeke)

That is why Paul talks about the head – Jesus in verse 19. The false teachers forget the objective truth: Jesus. We cannot extract the subjective from the objective. Otherwise verse 8 will happen to you:

-You’ll be taken captive

-Kidnapped

What is the answer?

How do you know if something is of God or not? How do you know if the experience is genuine? Go back to the source. Jesus.

Are they connected to Him? Do they delight in Him?

What we want is word and experience together. Take for example meditation:

-Mystical meditation is emptying your mind – and just feeling

-Biblical meditation is filling your mind with the word – and feeling. Together.

You see, proper spirituality glorifies Jesus in your head and heart. This is the litmus test.

What does this look like today?

The obvious is the Spiritualist church.

-People thinking a ‘spiritual experience’ means it is genuine.

Then there is the New Age.

-Crystals, angels and all sorts.

Indeed, there are evil spirits that will try to infiltrate the church.

-False prophecies and evil men.

But note: we have nothing to fear – as we have studied verse 15… Jesus has beaten them!

But, they will try and con you. You must understand, that experience, on its own means nothing. It proves nothing. You cannot trust all spirits.

You must test everything according to Thessalonians.

But, what about Charismania?

I fear some of you are ‘experience junkies’. That is, when you feel something, or it is spontaneous, you just throw your brain out the door. Let this be a warning to you. Don’t believe everything that is spiritual. Don’t believe anything that trust in the subjective over the objective. If a preacher on the God channel talks about his ‘amazing spiritual’ experience more that the Bible and you start to feel like you are lacking something…. Bingo!

Now, both the legalistic and the mystical are both forms of:

3. Asceticism: Submitting to the world v20-23

Ultimately both the legalistic and mystical are forms of asceticism/ DIY. In fact, everything that is opposite to the gospel is asceticism. This is why we have the ‘since you died’ – Paul is summing up.

Why do we listen to the legalists and the mystical people?

-Why try and earn God’s love?

-Why listen to false spirits?

Do you belong to them? Have you forgotten verse 15? Jesus has won. He has beaten sin. You are free.

That is why we often say that all other religions are spelt D-O (could we say D-I-Y), and Christianity is spelt D-O-N-E.

Live in it!

Verse 22 – all these other things will perish. Only the work of Christ will go on.

Verse 23 – they look good… but they don’t work. Legalism and Mysticism only end in failure. They are DIY nightmares.

You must trust in he cross alone.

If you add to the cross, it is something completely different. Lutzer put it plainly:

‘To add to Jesus gift is to destroy it altogether.’

This is the BIG THING:

Everything outside Christianity is about changing yourself. DIY. But Christianity is about being saved and changed by Another.

Which are you living in?

Your own rubbish DIY?

Or Jesus’ amazing, finished work on the cross?

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2 thoughts on “Colossians 2:16-23

  1. Hi Jon
    This all sounds great.
    Don’t often get the chance to peruse notes of a sermon.
    Would be really interested to know: Are these the notes that you preached from, or are they a more filled-out version?
    Rich

  2. Hi Rich,

    These are my actual notes.
    Mind you, I tend to add another 30-40% from spontaneous thoughts like:
    -they didn’t understand that
    -maybe there is a better way of saying that
    -just remembered that cross reference
    -they didn’t respond to that, maybe I wasn’t clear enough

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