Today, from Chuck Swindoll. Do you really believe that you were free? Which means that you really live to please God and not people. You may say you are, but it's been my observation that most Christians are not. Most of us are more sensitive to what other people think and say than what God thinks and says. One of the common missteps for those who follow Jesus Christ is an attempt to earn God's favor. By following man-made rules, by avoiding simple pleasures, we mistakenly believe that we've advanced our status with God.
I'm your host, Bill Meyer. Today, on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll reminds us that sometimes our false piety, our attempts at self-denial, do little more than frustrate. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, however, provides a way to escape our performance-driven faith. Chuck is teaching from Colossians chapter 2, and he titled today's message, Living Forgiven, Living Free. In your worship folder today, you will find an outline which will guide us through our time in God's Word. Colossians chapter 2, we were in the first part of the second chapter last time. Today, we continue on in this letter as we cover the last half of the chapter. I'll be reading for you verses 13 through 23 of this little letter, Colossians. I hope you are traveling with me from one week to the next, reading the letter through each week. You may wish to spread that through four days of the week. There are four chapters.
You may wish to read it all in one evening or one setting, whatever. You will find that so much of God's Word will just become clear to you as a result of repetitive reading. It's such a treasure to have this God's Word with us, and we always want to treat it with respect, knowing that there were those whose lives were given that it might be preserved.
I'll be reading Colossians 2, 13 through 23 from the New Living Translation. Chapter 2 verse 13 begins, You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, He disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities.
He shamed them publicly by His victory over them on the cross. So, don't let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come, and Christ Himself is that reality. Don't let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things, their sinful minds have made them proud, and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For He holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.
You have died with Christ, and He has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world such as don't handle, don't taste, don't touch? Such rules are mere human teachings about the things that deteriorate as we use them.
These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline, but they provide no help in conquering a person's evil desires. You're listening to Insight for Living. To search the scriptures with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to insightworld.org slash studies. And now the message from Chuck called Living Forgiven, Living Free. I pulled a book off my shelf this week that made me smile, and the deeper I read into it and came across some rather unpredictable questions, the more it made me think.
I was pushed away from the safe and the predictable into the realm of, well, the unexpected. Here are a few of those questions. Where would we be today if Abraham had carefully weighed the pros and cons of God's invitation and decided that he would rather hang on to his medical benefits, three weeks paid vacation, and retirement plan in the city of Ur?
Here's a second. What would have happened if Moses had listened to his mother's advice to never play with matches and lived a careful, cautious life, steering clear of all burning bushes? And another, what if Paul had concluded that the life of a Pharisee, while not everything a man dreams for, was at least predictable and certainly more stable than following a voice he heard on the Damascus Road? After all, people hear voices all the time, and who really knows whether it's God's voice or just one's imagination?
And while I met it, I came up with a couple on my own. What if Jesus had considered all the sacrifice and the pain and the mistreatment he would have to endure in coming to this planet to die for us and had stayed where he was safe and adored by multiple billions of angels and not come and died for us? And while we're at it, what if Mary had responded to Mary did you know with yeah, I do know, and it's not worth it. What would that be like if she had done so rather than responded with I am the Lord's servant, whatever the Lord has planned for me, I am willing to do?
Now that I have you thinking outside the box, I have a couple of three questions for you personally. Question number one, speaking to you who are Christians, do you really believe that all your sins are forgiven, past, present, and all of them yet future? Which means you operate your life without humiliation or guilt or shame. Do you really believe you are fully forgiven?
Here's a second. Do you really believe that you are free? Which means that you do not live up to someone else's expectations of you. That you really live to please God and not people. You really believe that you are that free?
Here's the clincher. Are you willing to risk living like that? I mean living forgiven?
Living free? You may say you are, but it's been my observation that most Christians are not. Theoretically, we think of ourselves as forgiven, but practically speaking, a number of God's people live under a cloud of guilt. Theoretically, we say we are free, certainly free to please the Lord God and not others, yet I've observed that most of us are more sensitive to what other people think and say than what God thinks and says. Steve Brown put it this way, you've heard that Christ has made you free. You may have told others of your freedom, and you probably use the concept of freedom in your own witness to those who don't yet know Christ. Sometimes, however, I fear that we define freedom in a way that restricts and binds more than it frees.
I think that's a great comment. He continues, a lot of what we call freedom isn't real freedom at all. Furthermore, the similarity between real freedom and the freedom experienced by many Christians is the difference between a taxidermist and a veterinarian. Think about it. In both cases, you get your dog back.
While you do get your dog back, one collects dust while the other jumps and slobbers and barks. Picture the difference. The kind of freedom most Christians talk about has the feel of a stuffed dog, one that winds up as a hood ornament on your car, not a living animated real dog that slobbers in the backseat of your car. When Jesus said, you are free because the truth has made you free, he used a term that means liberation from bondage.
The idea of exemption, liberation from the control of other persons or some arbitrary power over you. The reason I bring all of that up is because the last half of the second chapter of the letter Paul wrote to the Colossians has to do with both subjects. Verses 13-15 have to do with being fully forgiven. Verses 16-23 have to do with being truly free. The first one, if you'll notice from my outline, has to do with a vertical rescue that God has done for us. The other has to do with a horizontal relief that God has provided for us.
Let's think about both of them. He begins in this 13th verse by talking about those days when we were lost. His first three words tell us this, you were dead, meaning spiritually dead.
You were dead because of your sins and because of your sinful nature that had not yet been cut away. He had mentioned earlier this idea of being spiritually circumcised. And he carries that same thought into verse 13 when he says, in our lost condition, we were under the domination of our spiritual nature.
It was not yet controlled by the Spirit of God. And then he continues on by talking about our conversion. Then he adds, God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. I want you to note those words in your Bible or whatever your version may read. It comes close to those words. He forgave all our sins.
We need to believe that. He goes further as he explains it. He, that's Christ, canceled the record of the charges against us and he took it away, meaning the record, he took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he adds, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. That's why we frequently refer to the cross. Before we were saved, we had no ability to restrain the sin nature within us. We were driven by it. We were addicted to those actions. We couldn't stop ourselves. We were, by nature, narcissistic. Everything was about us. We did what pleased us.
We cared little about what pleased God. Then the Lord reached into our heart and forgave us as we trusted in him, the Lord Jesus, for eternal life. When he forgave us, he canceled the record of charges against us. He took it all away, nailing it to his cross. He disarmed the spiritual rulers, that would be the demonic forces in the heavenlies, and he announced that victory over them on the cross. Paul would say, all you Christians in Colossae have been fully forgiven. When you have come to Christ, you are fully and completely forgiven. Now the question is, do you really believe that? Are you really willing to live forgiven?
And all that goes with it. Stopping all the man-made guilt and shame that you bring on yourself. All the pleading for forgiveness.
If you're a Roman Catholic, are you willing to give up going through your beads, regularly reminding yourselves of the things you do not do and the things you are not? Are you willing to trust God for what he says and no longer plead with him to forgive you of your sins? You do not have to earn his favor. You do not have to keep hoping that he will forgive you. It says he forgave all our sins. Now admittedly, you and I are still alive. We still have an old nature, which means we sometimes bark and jump around and slobber.
None of that will ever change as long as we have this old nature. And because of God's grace, he continues to forgive us. Living forgiven opens the door for us to live our lives free. What the Colossians faced was a group of legalistic cultists named Gnostics, and they did not teach them forgiveness.
They did not teach them freedom. And so Paul wrote to them so they would understand the difference between what they were hearing from the others around them and what God has said and written ultimately in his word. So we move from the subject of forgiveness to the subject of claiming our freedom. Look at what he says in the warnings. First, don't let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. So he starts by saying don't let anybody act as your judge.
That would be addressed to people who are legalists. I'll say more about that in a few minutes. And the next warning is in verse 18. Don't let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels. This would be the subject of mysticism. Don't let anyone disqualify you because you do not have the visions that they say you should be having. You're not engaged in the kind of pious self-denial that they are urging you to be engaged in. That's mysticism.
And the third is down in verse 20. Why do you keep on following the rules of the world such as don't handle, don't taste, and don't touch? That would be the teaching of asceticism. And he says don't keep on following their rules that will enslave you. So the first warning is a warning against being judged by legalists.
Verse 16. The second warning is against being disqualified or letting those who would do so condemn you and disqualify you as they teach their mysticism. And the third would be don't keep on following the rules of those who would enslave you by urging asceticism. This is a great time for me to warn all of us that there are those who still live today in hopes of bringing us under this kind of living. There are those who do not want us to be free.
I love the way Eugene Peterson writes of this in his book A Traveling Light. There are people who do not want us to be free. They don't want us to be free before God, accepted just as we are by His grace.
That's forgiveness. They don't want us to be free to express our faith originally and creatively in the world. They want to control us.
They want to use us for their own purposes. They themselves refuse to live arduously and openly in faith but huddle together with a few others and try to get a sense of approval by insisting that all look alike and talk alike and act alike, thus validating one another's worth. And he goes on and on in that same subject. Paul is teaching against that kind of living and that kind of teaching. And I realize when I get on the subject that some of you have come out of a background like this. I find that many, I dare say, most Christians were reared in a legalistic kind of setting. Quite likely from your own parents or from some church that you once attended that if not actually handing out a list, at least you learned the list because of the frequent mentioning of those things that you're not to do.
And those things are not to take place in your life. And if they do, you're not as spiritual as you otherwise could be and should be. Much of that results in what I often call toxic religion. And I'll speak very candidly here and say that one of the reasons that I was so determined years ago to begin a church was to be able to set a foundation that would be based on grace and not based on the rules and regulations of people.
It is almost impossible to find a church that really teaches and really believes in grace and encourages that kind of living because it's risky. Won't some take advantage of it? Yes, it's true. Some will. Some do. Is it worth it?
It's still worth it. The apostle teaches grace in virtually every one of the letters he writes and he knows that there's risk in it. But the risk is greater than for me to try to control everyone with my list or expecting that kind of lifestyle based on man-made rules. Doesn't mean there are no lists, lists found in the Bible or lists that were to follow, of course, but lists that we hand out to one another or not.
And so we need to guard against that kind of thinking and that kind of teaching. That's why the apostle writes what he does to these people who are sort of in limbo wondering what they should believe. They've heard one thing from their teacher, Epiphras, whom we've mentioned earlier and now they're hearing the same thing from Paul, but they begin to hear much more from those around them who were promoting legalism and mysticism and asceticism. So Paul writes these words in the latter half of the second chapter of Colossians to help them know that they're truly free.
So let's go back and look at them. Verse 16, don't let anyone condemn you or the word suggests the idea of judging you for what you eat or what you drink or for not celebrating certain days, new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. In ancient days, the rules had to do with diet and had to do with days. Both are mentioned in that 16th verse.
Paul nullifies that kind of teaching. In the ancient days, the Jews lived their lives according to a certain diet and in keeping with the responsibility of observing certain days. But when Christ came and as Christ died, he set us free from that law which he fulfilled. And in light of that, we no longer concern ourselves with what is being eaten or drunk or what is being celebrated by way of days. He says in verse 17, these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is the reality.
So living under the leadership of Christ and the influence of the Lord's death, burial and resurrection, we are freed from the restriction on diet and the restriction of certain days. We're just getting started in this study of Paul's counsel to the Colossians. So please keep listening because Chuck Swindoll has much more to say about what he calls living forgiven and living free. You're listening to Insight for Living.
And to learn more about this ministry, visit us online at insightworld.org. Well, while your learning begins by listening to these daily programs, it doesn't need to end here. As we continue this study in Colossians, I'll point you to two collateral resources. Insight for Living has developed an interactive study tool that Chuck calls Searching the Scriptures. And there's a sequence of study notes prepared for every sermon you'll hear in this Colossian series, including the one you heard today. It's interactive because you can actually take notes online or print out the PDF for safekeeping. We invite you to point your friends to this free resource as well.
Take a look and discover what's available to you by going to insight.org slash studies. If it's a book you're looking for, then I'm pleased to remind you that Chuck wrote a living insights commentary on Colossians. This book, which also includes his commentary on Philippians and Philemon, is laid out in a format that's clear and easy to understand. And Chuck provides historical background so that you understand the context of Paul's letter.
Plus, it's written in the engaging style that's become a hallmark of Chuck's teaching. To purchase a copy of the commentary on Colossians, go to insight.org slash offer or call us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. We rely on your support to make these daily Bible studies with Chuck possible. And if it's been a while since you've responded to the need or you've never stepped forward with the contribution, we invite you to give a donation today by giving us a call. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888 or give a donation online at insight.org slash donate. I'm Bill Meyer, your new program host, inviting you to join us again tomorrow when Chuck Swindoll continues our study in Colossians, right here on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Living Forgiven, Living Free, was copyrighted in 2014 and 2022, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2022 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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