You remember that Jesus' biggest enemies were religious people. You remember that Jesus' harshest words were reserved for religious leaders. Well, did you know that sometimes religions get bizarre, wacky? At its core, religion is mankind's attempt to reach God. But the Bible paints a picture of a God reaching down to mankind. And today on Connect with Skip Heitzig, Skip shares a powerful message about what can happen in your life when religion strays from biblical truth.
But first. Thank you for joining us today. Connect with Skip Heitzig exists to connect listeners like you to God's truth, strengthening your walk with him and bringing more people into his family.
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That's connectwithskip.com slash donate. Thank you. Now let's turn to Colossians 2 as Skip begins today's study. There was once a priest and a minister and a rabbi and they were talking about who's best at the job. So they made a little arrangement, a challenge that they would go into the forest and try to convert a bear. And then they would get back together and discuss how successful they were.
So they did. The day that they reconvened, the priest began and he said, well, I found a bear. I read to him from our catechism, sprinkled him with holy water, and he's going to take his first communion next week. And the Protestant minister said, I found a bear also by a stream. I preached the word of God to him.
He was mesmerized by my preaching and so convicted by it that he let me baptize him. And then they both looked down at the rabbi who was lying on a gurney in a body cast. And the rabbi said, yeah, when I look back on it, maybe I shouldn't have started with the circumcision. Paul the Apostle has already talked about in Colossians a little bit about the insistence of some people to tell all the other people to be circumcised.
He talks about circumcision. He talks about baptism. And now he gets into the whole idea of these rigorous religious activities that some were pushing on others. It is estimated that there are no less than 10,000 religions in the world, 10,000 different religious systems, and 85% of all the people in the world identify with one of those religious systems. The largest religions, of course, are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, and Sikhism. If you were to look up the dictionary definition of religion, it would simply say that it is an institutionalized system of faith, worship, and practice. An institutionalized system of faith, worship, and practices. That's sort of the way James, the Apostle James in a little book in the New Testament, identifies that word when he said, pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is to visit the orphans and the widows and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. He was talking about people who claimed to be religious people. But essentially, religion is mankind's attempt to reach God, whereas the Bible portrays a God who has reached down to mankind.
Very different. It's people saying, I want to get to God. I'm going to make up a system of approach, whereas the Bible presents a God who has already made himself available. Religion is an interesting word. I find people like to use that word in describing themselves more often than they like to describe something personal. They want to relate to a system rather than a person, rather than people saying, I love Jesus.
I have a relationship with him. That some people say, well, I am a religious person, and I follow this belief system. And so, I am looking at religion as portrayed here in the book of Colossians under these three categories. It's rules without reasons. It's systems without substance. It's beliefs without Bible. It's rules without reasons.
It's systems without substance. It's beliefs without Bible. You remember that Jesus' biggest enemies were religious people. You remember that Jesus' harshest words were reserved for religious leaders. Well, did you know that sometimes religions get bizarre, wacky? And I could give you so many different examples of this.
I'm just going to give you a few. There is a breakaway sect of Hinduism where the adherents of this particular religious sect live near cremation grounds, and part of their worship system is to eat in part the corpses of those who have deceased. That's wacky, right? There's a group of Hindus and Muslims in India who throw their children from one to two years of age off of a 50-foot tower. And underneath is a set of men holding a sheet to catch the children. The practice they believe will make their kids smarter, healthier, and luckier.
That kid's going to be lucky if he survives that family. There are Native American tribes in our own country who after a four-day fast go into a holy place. It's a festival for the sun. And when they go into the holy place, they will pierce their chest with little skewers and attach the skewers to a pole to be suspended to be in touch with God. And we don't really have to go far when you talk about bizarre practices. You just have to go to northern New Mexico where there's a group of people known as the penitentes who will flog themselves till they are bloody, and every year on Good Friday reenact the crucifixion, in some cases with real nails.
A.W. Tozer reminds us it was religion that put Christ on the cross. Now, 2,000 years ago when Christianity was spreading around the Roman Empire, churches were being planted. And one of those churches was in this city called Colossae.
Colossae was in the Lycus Valley on the Lycus River, and it was situated on a main route, a trade route connecting east and west. So you had people pouring in from all over the world, not only bringing goods and services, but bringing philosophies, religions, and ideologies. And those were being sort of collected into an amalgamation of what scholars called the Colossian heresy.
You've heard me refer to that just about every week in this series. It was a mixture, really, of different religious systems, including Greek philosophy, Roman polytheism, Jewish legalism, as well as various cults of different gods and goddesses. And people were just sort of taking parts of those religious systems and combining it into this Colossian heresy, and that was affecting these new believers.
Really not that much different than people do today. You know, I've noticed that a lot of folks like to make their own religious system by sort of approaching religion as a buffet. You know, you stand there and you just sort of pick and choose the parts you want to eat, the things you want to eat, and people do that with religious systems. They take various portions of beliefs and ideologies that suit themselves, their favorite parts. I'd like a large helping of eastern philosophy and a small order of Christianity, hold the guilt, I'm on a guilt-free diet this week, a side of karma, and throw in some new age spices, and that will be my religion.
So that is happening in Colossae. Paul, who writes this letter, is incarcerated. He's in jail, and he is thinking, what can I do to help prevent these young Christians who are growing in their faith?
How can I protect them from this? So, in our paragraph that we're looking at in chapter 2, beginning in verse 16 to the end of the chapter, he gives three warnings against religious practices that are taking religion to the extreme. The practice of legalism, the practice of mysticism, and the practice of asceticism.
I'm going to explain all those. Look at the verses that are in front of us. Verse 16, so let no one judge you in food or in drink or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations? Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle, which all concern things which perish with the using according to the commandments and doctrines of men. These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
Let's begin with the first. Watch out for legalism. It's pretty apparent in the first two verses of this paragraph that Paul is thinking about external practices. He mentions food, drink, festivals, new moons, sabbaths.
All of those are external activities or celebrations. Legalism is essentially the religion of human achievement. Legalism is the religion of human achievement. It is the religion that says, I will earn my way to God.
It is a works-based salvation. Now, if you think about it, there's really only two religions in the world. You could actually boil every belief system down to one of two approaches to God. Approach number one, human achievement. Approach number two, divine accomplishment.
Every religious system, every single religious system other than Christianity is in column number one. It's all about what I do. It's something I perform, I add to. Only Christianity is you approach God purely by His grace, and it's a free gift. You don't work for it, you don't add to it.
All you do is receive it. It's either by your works, human accomplishment, or by His finished work, divine accomplishment. So, this is the Jesus plus mentality. It's Jesus plus ceremony, Jesus plus circumcision or baptism, Jesus plus personal piety, Jesus plus religious activity, Jesus plus mystical spirituality. But, Jesus plus anything else equals nothing. Jesus plus nothing equals everything. That's how God sees it.
Jesus plus nothing equals everything. Now, Paul has already mentioned, as we saw, two different rituals. We covered them last time. Circumcision, which the Gnostics and these heretics demanded that people go through.
The bears aren't too happy about it, but they try to push that in Colossae. So, he has mentioned circumcision and baptism. Now, you will notice that there are two more things that these religious legalists are hung up on. Diets and days. Diets, let no one judge you in food or in drink, and then days, or regarding a festival, New Moon, or Sabbath. So, dietary regulations and specific days of worship.
Let's begin with the first, diets. Evidently, apparently, part of this system infiltrating the church is they were telling people, you have to go back and keep the laws of the Old Testament that govern dietary restrictions. And I would presume that would be the dietary restrictions mentioned in Leviticus chapter 11. All the things you can't eat. No bacon.
That knocks a lot of us out right there. No ham. No scallops. No crab.
No lobster. No bats. No badgers. No camels. No lizards. No rats. No badgers. No camels. No lizards.
No rats. Now, can I just say that when it comes to certain foods, I don't need a commandment. Thou shall not eat bats.
I'm good with that. Don't need a commandment for that. But there is nothing in the New Testament that tells Christian believers what they should and should not eat. There are no dietary regulations. Now, your doctor might tell you what to eat or not to eat for health reasons, but there's no spiritual reasons given in the New Testament for diet. In fact, Jesus said, there's nothing that enters a man from the outside that can defile him. Do you realize how earth-shattering that was to a Jewish audience who believed in kosher law? And here the Messiah comes along and says, doesn't matter what you eat. There's nothing that enters a man from the outside which can defile him because it does not enter his heart but his stomach and is eliminating, listen, thus purifying all foods. And then Paul said in Romans 14, the kingdom of God is not eating or drinking but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
So diet can't make you holy. Now, whenever I touch on this stuff, I always think back to a personal experience. I was single. I was living in California at Huntington Beach at the time. I was out in my front yard.
I think I was probably waxing my surfboard or some worthless activity like that, but I was into that. So I'm out there in the front yard, and I'm looking down. When somebody walks up and stands right in front of me, and I look up, and I notice the guys in sandals, a white robe, has long hair, and a beard. So I'm a new Christian. I'm thinking, the rapture is happening right now. This is Jesus. And then he spoke, and as soon as he spoke, I knew it wasn't Jesus, because his question to me, listen, this is how he, this is his starter. Do you eat meat? What? Not, hi, how are you?
What's your name? That's what most people do. Do I eat meat? And I said, well, I think I had a, like a McDonald's hamburger about a half an hour ago. I said something like that. He launches into a diatribe of why I'm unspiritual, because I'm a meat eater and not a vegetarian. Watch out for legalism.
Diets, which you can and cannot eat. Next are days, and he mentions them as a festival, a new moon, that's a monthly celebration, or Sabbath. Now, contrary to what some people think, Christians are nowhere in the New Testament required to keep the Sabbath day. The Saturday Sabbath that begins Friday at sundown and ends Saturday at sundown is an Old Testament paradigm, an Old Testament sign of a covenant that God made with the children of Israel. New Testament believers are never in the New Testament required to keep the Sabbath, any more than they're required to keep Yom Kippur, Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot, or the Sabbatic year. Those are Old Testament regulations.
And we're not, for a few reasons. Number one, this is the New Covenant. That was the Old Covenant.
That was the Old Covenant. God specifically stated that keeping the Sabbath day was for the Jewish nation. So New Testament believers are never told to keep that. Second reason, the early church began worshiping after a while, not on Saturdays but on the first day of the week, which is Sunday, to commemorate the resurrection.
And then third, when the Jews in Jerusalem found out the Gentiles had received Christ, they didn't know what to do, they sent them a letter and they gave them the requirements. And they said, you know, it seems good to us and to the Holy Spirit that we don't lay any heavy trip on you guys except that you refrain from eating things offered to idols, refrain from eating things strangled and filled with blood. You don't want to stumble your Jewish brethren. And avoid fornication.
If you do this, you're okay. Nothing in that little list of regulations includes keeping the Sabbath day. In fact, did you know that Paul, the apostle, said you can worship God any day you want? In Romans chapter 14, he writes, one man esteems one day over all the other days of the week.
Another man esteems all the days alike. Let each one be persuaded in his own mind. Some of you might think Sunday's the day to worship.
Great. Worship on Sunday. But don't push that on everybody else and evaluate their spirituality if they happen to worship on Saturday. Or if you worship on Saturday, great, but don't impose that on people who want to do a different day.
Or you might be like me. I believe Sunday is the day to worship, as is Monday, as is Tuesday, as is Wednesday, as is Thursday, as is Friday, as is Saturday. I happen to be the one Paul thought about when he said, one man esteems all the days alike. Let each be persuaded in his own mind.
Now, here's why. In verse 17, he says, these are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Notice the difference between shadow and substance. A shadow has no reality. It's a reality that creates the shadow. Would you ever hug the shadow of your wife? Why?
When you have a wife to hug. Would you ever pet the shadow of your dog? Why would you if there's a dog there that casts a shadow? Would you ever eat the shadow of a Blake's cheeseburger?
Well, it would be healthier if you did, but why would you when you have the burger right there? Why settle for a shadow? Legalism is living in shadow land. When you come to a personal relationship with Christ, that's as if you step out of the shadows into the sunlight, S-O-N, light.
You get a sun tan, so to speak. Now, why is legalism so dangerous that Paul comes at it this way? Don't let anybody judge you, he said. Why?
Why is it so dangerous? Because anybody can do it. You can be unsaved and check all the boxes. I did this, I did that. Anyone can conform to a regiment of external standards and not have a reality of salvation on the inside. The rich young ruler came to Jesus and said, what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life? See, that's works-based righteousness. That is the religion of human achievement.
What thing must I do? And I love that Jesus began where that young man was at. He began in Judaism. He said, well, you know what the commandments say.
And the young man said, all these I have kept from my youth up. Check, check, check, check. I've checked all the boxes.
I've kept all the regulations. And then Jesus nailed his heart to the wall, so to speak, when he said, there's one thing you lack. Sell everything you have, give it to the poor and then follow me. Because Jesus knew that man was worshiping his material possessions and that was his God. That wraps up Skip Heitzig's message from his series, Always Only Jesus. Find the full message as well as books, booklets and full teaching series at connectwithskip.com. Now, we want to tell you about a resource that'll help you better discern and follow God's will. We want to tell you about a powerful resource that will help you understand and follow God's will. It's Pastor Skip's eight message package, Discovering God's Will. You have the Spirit of God living in you and he will guide you, he says, with his eye. And do you realize God is more interested in guiding you than you are in being guided?
So as soon as you say, Lord, I want to take and be ruled by your peace and rooted in scripture and I want to honor your name, he's right there to direct your steps. Skip Heitzig's Discovering God's Will package includes message titles such as, Guardrails to Knowing God's Will and Navigating Another Year as part of eight full length teachings by Skip. We'll send you this powerful resource as thanks for your gift to expand Connect with Skip Heitzig to reach more people in major U.S. cities. So request your resource when you give and start to make your life count for God's kingdom. Just call 800-922-1888 or visit connectwithskip.com slash offer.
That's connectwithskip.com slash offer. Before we close, did you know there's a great biblical resource available right at your fingertips through your mobile device? You can access several of Skip's Bible reading plans in the YouVersion Bible app and dive deeper into several books of the Bible to gain new insights. Just search Skip Heitzig in the YouVersion Bible app. Tune in again next week as Skip encourages you to take hold of the Gospel, the story of what a holy God did for sinful man. Connect with Skip Heitzig is a presentation of Connection Communications, connecting you to God's never changing truth in ever changing times.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-02 17:39:15 / 2023-04-02 17:48:05 / 9