4 Conflicts and 4 Decisions – The strategy of False Doctrine

Sermon Series: Complete in Christ                      Scripture Colossians 2:6-23

It’s been a week of many reflections. My friend called me again that they got attacked by a cultic group in their church, the same group that attacked us last year. On a different meeting, someone mentioned that Kanyari was still at it in Njiiru this week, with a multitude of followers with his range rover and truck. False hood is here with us, that is the reality.

Exegesis

In this passage, Paul having laid the foundation on the supremacy of Christ in the earlier chapters, he now attends directly to the issue of false doctrine that had faced the church.

Although Paul had not been there physically, Epaphras brought the report of Christians who were practicing a mixed up religious life. This was because, there were those who arose and taught that in order to know God and have full salvation, Christians must also worship certain ‘spiritual rulers and authorities; and they insisted that they had to submit to religious festivals and rules of Jewish laws and also Greek mythology which focused on worshipping God’s of the elements like rain, land, sea e.t.c.

The base of this was to confuse, deny and discredit the Lordship of Christ, by discrediting his deity and sufficiency for Salvation. What we talked about last week as Christ Plus or Minus Christ.

It is important to note that, His call is not to none believers but believers. In verse 6-7, he is warning the believers that their faith is not to remain passive, but as they live in Christ, rooted and built up in him, they will be strengthened in their faith; this then will guard them from falling away into deception. We emphasized this last week that as Christians, our faith cannot remain passive but must be exercised in Christ.

For many years, the Christian faith has faced the challenge of false teachers. The attack on doctrine, is an attack on faith and thus the confusion of lives in the society.

Jesus Himself taught that doctrine is indeed important. In Matthew 7:15 He said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” He further condemned the false teaching of the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees in Matthew 16:6-12 and Matthew 23:15. He warned in Matthew 24:4-5, 24, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” (See also Mark 13:21-22 and Luke 11:52.)

These false teachers are found outside the church: e.g., non-Christian cults, world religions, etc. and those inside the church to whom Paul is referring. Paul was especially concerned about the wolves from “within the church” In another place he warns the Ephesian church in tears.

So destructive were these false teachers that the Holy Spirit warns and prophesizes of their coming in virtually every New Testament epistle. Hence, it should be paramount that we as Christians (esp. leaders) be biblically equipped to (a) accurately affirm the gospel and (b) detect false teachings so we can warn others and “refute those who contradict” sound doctrine (Titus 1:9).

It was important for Paul to confirm his authority as an apostle to establish credibility as we saw in his opening of this passage. Indeed church history shows the gravity of the need to establish credibility and authority of the apostle’s teachings. Paul and other apostles lived in a time that was also full of philosophers and religious teachers, who equally claimed some form of authority in their teachings.

Some misinformed, some were just traditionalists, and some were out for ill intentions including discrediting the work of the gospel altogether, some to make money and some to cause Confusion. In these early stages of the establishment of the Christian faith, many arose to say all sorts of things to win some influence of the believers.

This struggle for doctrine has continued to this very day. The result is numerous denominations and religious groupings and practices even from within the Christian faith.  Today, it is almost as though you have to qualify which Christ you follow.

Paul here identifies 2 main strategies that have been used to propagate these falsehoods for years are what have now been called Sophistry and Piety. I share this concern with Paul to us as the Church today.

Sophistry: the use of an elegant vocabulary in fine-sounding arguments to deceive an unsuspecting audience (2:4). According to Paul, certain Christian teachers at Colosse promote a philosophy of religion that consists of human traditions and centers on the basic principles of this world (2:8).  The false teacher in Colosse is a con artist who uses Christian clichés and slogans to deceive immature believers. It involved characterizing arguments that seem persuasive but upon closer analysis are actually facile, lacking in both christ content and spiritual effect.

In our day, as in the ancient world, people often measure the value of what others say by how well they say it. The result is that we learn to value elegant systems of doctrine that are held together by sophisticated, spiritually puffed, learned or passionate arguments.

I must warn here that sophistry is dangerous and shallow in building your faith. There are many good and nice sounding Christian statements and Cliches, they are declared, pronounced every other day by many televangelists often in loud and out of context bible verses. (alipitia katikati yao) They are appealing to hear but too often they build a weak faith.

‘It is your time’

The results are believers who live by portions or scarcity scripture but a mouth-fulls of quotes, principles and declarations that are not grounded. If faith comes by hearing and by hearing the word of God, it is important to give full attention to scripture, listen understand and then practice it. Good bible study and depth is lacking. Open declarations without understanding are equally shallow.

Knowing what to believe has replaced knowing whom to believe. When faith consists only of ideas, without practical experience of their truthfulness and usefulness, it is easily shattered when it comes up against competing ideas.

Biblical faith is very concrete, rooted in the teachings and work of a person, Jesus who is God. This faith is experiential through Christ in us, not just principles, knowledge and steps said on the pulpit or those we gather from inspirational books of great authors. Thus, when one’s understanding of Christian faith centers on a collection of elegant, even powerful ideas at the expense of an experience of God’s himself, it quickly becomes an idolatry: the idea of God replaces a life-transforming relationship with the Lord.

So in 1 Corinthians Paul warns his readers that the reign of God is not a matter of eloquent, educated talk but of Spirit-empowered walk (1 Cor 4:18-21). Paul is not against education; rather, he opposes a Christianity that elevates academic ideas about God above our spiritual relationship with God in Christ.

Read Vs 18-23

The second strategy is What Paul warns here verses 23- Piety- or false humility and harsh treatment of the body.  This ascetic piety: the denial of physical comforts as the mark of true devotion to the Lord.

While I warn that the practice of holiness and devotion to God in things like fasting and prayer are important, False teachings also use such means and even to exaggerations.

Certain experiences and places like prayers at Katoloni, or midnight prayers, or extended dry fasts, cutting off hair, change dress code, growing hair or nails-  have been over glorified and also used out of contexts. The slow fade is to exclude you from your community in spiritual pride. We have seen this.

Main stream churches have been accused of being unspiritual because they lack these experiences and the search for a more spiritual, more serious place is falsely highlighted by false humility.

Sadly, as Paul mentions, they have an appearance of wisdom but lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. I have met people who have gone through these experiences but their community lives are horrible.

Real Faith is lived in community. Christianity that is built on these Spiritual puffing ups is ineffective. Spiritual people with broken marriages because your spouse is operating in the carnal. Too many fasts, weakening the family’s health. Too many spiritual adventures leading to absenteeism from work and key areas in community.

It is important to note that Jesus fulfilled his mission by living among people. He could have chosen to operate as an angel or spiritual being in the spiritual realm, and speak to people through dreams, and cause things to happen- But scripture emphasizes he took a bodily form. In his becoming human, He made it possible that God is accessible to us, where we are as we are. Our faith is not just a puff up, but actual Christ living through me, and I am his bodily representation. The church is his bodily representation.

This person’s code of conduct is based on what people eat and drink and whether they observe the holy days of the Jewish calendar (2:16, 21). Paul claims these regulations, like the human tradition that informs the deceptive philosophy (2:8), are nothing more than “human commands and teachings,” and their effectiveness is based on an “appearance of wisdom” rather than the truth of the gospel (2:22-23).

According to Paul, wisdom, whether true or false, is measured by its results. Wisdom is true if it produces a community that worships and bears witness to God in its shared life. Christianity is practical; decisions believers make about their spiritual well-being must be aimed toward getting into the proper place (“in Christ”), where God’s grace empowers growth and worship (see 2:7). Relying on carefully thought-out ideas or rules of abstinence rather than on what God has already accomplished for us in Christ is at least imprudent, because it taints the present results of Christ’s work in us.

A philosophy that is Christ less is also hopeless, since without Christ a new humanity is impossible.

The deity of Christ is a nonnegotiable article of Christian Truth/Doctrine; to deny it is to reject what stands at the core of our faith. But to confess this article of faith without then providing an explanation of what it means or why it is essential for Christian nurture is also empty and results to sophistry- something nice to hear.

To confess the full humanity of Jesus without really believing it is simply dishonest. We must never suppose that the mere verbal confession of truth is what counts; our confessions of faith must be fleshed out consistently and responsibly in our lives. An attempt to flesh out Christianity without the LIFE of Christ himself also amounts to false piety and is equally dangerous leading to a mixed up religious life that is empty of LIFE.

So the 4 Conflicts we face concerning our Christian Faith

  • Who is at the center of your faith– Christ as revealed in the Scriptures or People – religious, inspirational and influential leaders… (Even spiritual leaders). Do I follow Paul or the God of Paul? As a believer you must decide that: “Christ is the Christian’s center; Christ is the Christian’s circumference; Christ is all in between”(Paxson 1928, p.220).
  • By which perspective do we live – by God-centered revelation or human-centered world views and interpretations?- Do you live by sola scripture, Jesus as revealed in the scriptures or by human traditions and interpretations or basic principles of this world. We must live by Christ the wisdom of God not by fine sounding arguments. Revelation is How God has revealed himself, Human centered world views is how man tries to figure out God.
  • How do we respond to the center – in faith or religious ways?

God never intended that laws would complete the life of humanity that he created; he always offered his own LIFE for that purpose (2:15).

Faith results to Jesus living in the community, Religion results in numerous spiritual activities and regulations. False humility, distorted worship, proud spiritual credentials and idle religious notions – evidence that religious life loses touch with LIFE’s head and has nothing to offer LIFE’s body, the Church (2:18-19).

  • Life-centered religious commands and teachings ultimately reveal their lack of LIFE-centeredness when they lead to unrestrained sensual indulgence (2:21-23).

What do we become – a people defined by God’s kingdom plan or a people defined by human cultural plans?

We cannot put on a new coat, until we remove the old coat. We cannot live an effective Christian. LIFE if we still have our human cultures and traditions coats still on. Our position now is in Christ- We live by His Truths and His alone, We do not have a second pair, it’s only Him. Christ’s Truth Is sufficient. Our goal is to please God and Live for Him, not please man and die for it. Lets Pray.

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