Thursday, July 7, 2022

Do Not Be Deceived

 Read Colossians 2

Who remembers the twenty-second chapter of Matthew’s gospel?  Among other things, three groups that were not truly allies formed an ad hoc alliance in an attempt to trick Jesus.

They were the Pharisees—they get plenty of print in some of the gospels, the Sadducees—not so much attention as the Pharisees, and in this chapter, we see the Herodians.  They were more of a political group than a religious one but politics makes strange bedfellows.

Each group wanted to trick Jesus and diminish his standing with the people.  If the Pharisees could get Jesus to say that the people didn’t need to pay taxes to Caesar, then the Herodians would surely have him arrested and imprisoned for telling the people not to pay taxes.

If Jesus said, pay the tax, then his popularity with the people—his poll numbers—would drop.

Jesus wouldn’t play their gameRender unto Caesar that which is Caesars and unto God that which is God’s.

The Sadducees took their shot.  Of course, their question dealt with the resurrection.  The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection.  That’s why they are Sad You See.  I’m required to throw that in once each year.  I can check off 2022.

Jesus silenced the Sadducees.

The Pharisees wanted another shot so they sent in their Top Gun asking Jesus about the greatest commandment in the law.  Top Gun went down in flames.

We know the top command to be two commands.  Love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.  Later, Jesus would raise the bar on the second part and tells us to love one another with everything we have.

If we want to understand God the Father and Jesus the Son and the Spirit of God then we have to know and understand and live love.

Now to the Colossians.  Like Jesus whom they now called Lord, they too were under attack from many directions for their faith.  The Judaizers wanted the Law of Moses to be essential to salvation.  The pagans wanted their followers back.  This Christianity stuff was bad for business in the idol market.

You remember when you signed up for the Colossian House Idol of the Month Club.  You got 11 idols for only 99 cents and just had to buy 8 idols of the next 3 years at regular price.  You can go do this Jesus stuff, but you still have 4 more idols to buy before you have met your obligation.

It seems that even the Gnostics were trying to get a piece of the action. They believed that matter—the physical world—was all evil and that God would not come in the flesh.  Jesus was an emissary of the Divine being, but surely did not exist in the flesh.  Sub-divine beings—we might call them angels—were as close as humankind got to interacting with God.

OBTW—According to the Gnostics, Jesus brought a very esoteric message—a message with a very select audience.  This whole Jesus died for all business wouldn’t sit well with this group.

Imagine having heard this fantastic news about salvation in Christ Jesus, being made right with God, and having life everlasting and then being surrounded by those who didn’t just disagree with your faith, they wanted their piece of the action in your life. You had to see things their way.

They did not offer you another opinion.  They insisted that you adopt their thinking.  We see that today.  If you don’t agree with someone, then you are labeled a hater. If someone doesn’t agree with you, it’s still you who are the hater.

For those who have taken the time to understand thinking and logic, that’s a logical fallacy called ad hominem. If you don’t agree with us, we will not argue with your thinking.  We will simply attack you for being different.  This is not a modern phenomenon.  It’s been around for a while but is currently enjoying a resurgence in use.

Paul began this letter by saying, I am with you guys in spirit.  I can’t be there right now because of this prison thing, but let me equip you to fight those who would take what you have.

What did they have?  A revelation of the mystery of God.  We call him Christ Jesus who came in the flesh, taught us to love God and each other, fulfilled the law, and went to the cross as an unblemished sacrifice for our sins and made us right with God.

The ultimate manifestation of God’s love was and is Jesus Christ.  The entire creation had been moving to this point—a point of reconciliation with God.

The physical world will get worse before that reconciliation is manifest for us, but the work is done.  We will know it and live within it.

But we are surrounded by those who would discount Christ and everything he did for us.

One of the arguments of the modern-day Judaizers is to say that Christians believe the Law of Moses was nailed to the cross—that the law was done away with, discarded if you will.

What was nailed to the cross was the record of our indebtedness.  It was our invoice for our sin. Our sin, not the Law of Moses was not done away with.  Our debt was paid in full in the blood of Jesus.

A few Christians take the view that the Law of Moses was nailed to the cross.  Let’s look at the original language.

The Greek word for the Law of Moses is νόμος, ου, ὁ (nom'-os).  When Jesus talked of the Law of Moses, this was the word recorded in the gospels. This was the word that Jesus used.

The Greek word for law in general, to include ordinances and records and written documentation is χειρόγραφον, ου, τό (khi-rog'-raf-on). This is the word in Colossians.

We should read in this chapter that the invoice for our sin was nailed to the cross. The handwritten document, the bond, the legal note for our sin is what was nailed to the cross.

But what about Galatians 3:13?  That uses the Greek word for the Law of Moses.  It does, but it does not say that the law of Moses was nailed to the cross.  Jesus was nailed to the cross with all of our sins—the curse of the law.  We were condemned in our transgressions of the law.

The Law of Moses brought condemnation to those who tried to abide by the impossible.  Atonement was an annual event for those trying to overcome their condemnation that came through.

The sacrifice was made and then you checked out with the temple clerk made next year’s appointment.  That was sort of tongue-in-cheek.

The law—that was given for our own good--was not set aside. Our condemnation was.  Jesus paid the price for our sins.  He took the invoice for all of our sins and paid it in his sacrifice on the cross.

If, as some would contend, Paul was arguing that Jesus did away with the Law of Moses, why would he say that love fulfills the law?

If there was no law to fulfill, why say that love fulfills the law? Remember, that Paul wrote these words five years before he wrote the believers in Colossae.

There are very few Christians who actually subscribe to the thinking that the Law of Moses was done away with by Jesus.  Jesus said he came to fulfill the law.  Does anyone doubt that he did just that?  Do you doubt that in the words, It is finished, the fulfillment of the law was included?

Jesus was the only person to ever fulfill the Law.  His glory surpasses the law. Not even the Patriarchs crossed every t and dotted every i. Only Christ did this and in him we have right standing with God.  He fulfilled the law and we are his beneficiaries.

In our profession of faith, he has imputed his own righteousness to us

Most Christians get this part.  Christ fulfilled the law and was qualified to take the sin of the world to the cross with him.  He truly was the unblemished lamb.

What ended was our righteousness coming from the Law of Moses.  Our right standing with God is by grace through faith. The power of the law to determine our right standing with God was set aside.

The one who has rejected Jesus as Lord is the one who is condemned.  The Law of Moses might get us to open our eyes that we can’t be right with God by our own doing, but it is by grace through faith that we are saved.

Jesus was the culmination of the law.  He surpassed the law.

Some will take the stance of a few and make it appear that the belief of most Christians is contradictory to what is found elsewhere in the Bible.  The presentation of the premise is framed in such a way as to lead you to their prescribed answer. Why?  To present a false argument.

Listen to Paul’s counsel.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Don’t be persuaded by fancy arguments that sound official or are only an emotional appeal.  Think to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God told Adam (before Eve was his companion) that he could eat of any tree in the garden except this one.

The serpent did not say to Eve that God didn’t say that.  He proffered, did God really say that, did he?

Eve replied that God did say it.  She and Adam had even added a little to it, saying that they couldn’t even touch the tree.

The serpent did not state that Eve would not die.  He said, surely you won’t die. The tools of the Father of Lies are just deceptive enough to engage our sinful human minds and let them take over the argument.

C’mon, if you eat from the tree, God knows that you will be like him, knowing good and evil.

OK, that part is true. What the serpent said was mostly true, but it ignored the thinking that God said not to do this and that God has provided everything this young couple needed.  It ignored the fact that God knows what is best.

I’m thinking if there was ever a Broadway production of Genesis, Eve would have an aside when she spoke only to the audience saying, “If God truly gives us all that we need, he should tell us, direct us, command us not to covet that which is not ours.  He could at least make a Top Ten List with Do not Covet on it.”

But the fruit of the one tree that was off-limits appealed to our sinful human nature—our inclination to gratify our desires of the flesh.

You know what happened.  Eve ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband and he ate it. There’s a little bit in between that we should consider.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

The woman convinced herself to eat the fruit of his forbidden tree.  She took the bait and let her carnal mind take her the rest of the way.

Before we return to Paul’s admonition to be on the lookout for false arguments, I will ask what happened the next day in the garden?

Eve went looking for new leaves.  She couldn’t wear the same outfit two days in a row.  Adam was thinking, I’m good.  This should last until it’s dry and crumbles off on its own.

This is 2022, so I am required to post a disclaimer that this last part was tongue-in-cheek.

Watch out for deception.  Even in 2022, perhaps especially in 2022, there are those out there to deceive you.  Don’t let anyone or any argument take away from the supremacy of Christ.  There is no Jesus Plus gospel.

Your salvation lies in Christ alone.  Let no one deceive you.

Your response to that salvation should bring glory to God.  That response will require you to engage your sound mind.

But how do I reconcile that those who believe in Christ will obey his commands (remember that the fulness of God is within Christ Jesus so his commands and those of the Father are the same) and those commands won’t be a burden with love fulfills the law?

The first thing you must do is understand that these biblical statements do not need to be reconciled.  The Spirit of God already reconciled the word of God with itself before pen touched parchment.

The first thing we must do is accept and embrace that God’s word—the full biblical witness—is in accord with itself.  Some translations might seem easier to understand than others or may be at opposite ends of the word-for-word and dynamic spectrum, but there are no dissenting opinions in God’s word.

If you find one, it’s likely a soliloquy by Satan and followed by a rebuke in word or deed.

If there is reconciliation required, it is in our minds with what we already believe and what we just learned.  If both came from God’s holy word and not from a worldly argument attached to God’s word, your thoughts will be in accord with each other.

You will need to use your sound mind.  You will need to think--an ugly word in this modern age of red herrings, non-sequiturs, and emotional appeals—but you will need to think.

If you want to bring glory to God in your response to your salvation, you need to do one more thing.  You need to be circumcised.

Whoa, there preacher!  Hold your holy horses.  I thought we covered this already.  I thought circumcision didn’t matter as far as our relationship with God goes.  What’s up with this?

Paul said that you must be circumcised.  He is not talking about one little piece of flesh removed from the male of the species.  He is talking about all of our flesh.

The carnal desires which truly reside in our hearts and minds but are represented in our flesh, need to be surgically removed. We need a full-body circumcision.

If you want to worship God in spirit and in truth, you have to divorce yourself from the flesh.  The gratification of the flesh must give way to your life given to Christ and taking his yoke. You will need a helper.  Fortunately, you have one. We call it the Holy Spirit.

But, do I live in lockstep obedience to 613 laws or do I live by love?  I know that I am saved by grace through faith, but how do I respond?

First of all, not every command applied to every person.  There were some for priests and some for farmers and ranchers and plenty for everybody, but to the question of formal written directives and love fulfills the law.

The short answer is use your sound mind, but I will offer some analogy. 

It’s not football season yet, but two-a-days are not that far off.  Consider the football play.  I’m talking chalkboard—ok, dry erase board—with Xs and Os.

The Os are the offense.  On any given play there are 11 lines telling each player what to do.  Some direct a block.  Some call a player to pull in hopes of influencing a defender.  Some players are told exactly what to do and where to do it.  There is usually a flat perpendicular line at the end of line from the play to the defender.

Others have an arrow on the end of the line that began with the offensive player.  That player, often a running back but today it could be a lineman as well, has an arrow on the end of the line.  That arrow means take this as far as you can.

The running back is hoping for some open-field running.  The receiver goes until he finds he is open.  The lineman goes until he finds someone to put on the ground, especially a safety.  You can knock down one of those suckers and go find someone else to run into.

Your arrow will never cause you to line up offsides, jump the snap count, hold, block someone in the back, or practice unsportsmanlike conduct, but it just may get you or a teammate into the endzone.

How does this analogy fit living by the law and living by love? Your response to grace might be a line with a blunt perpendicular line on the end.  Block this guy.  Block whoever is in this area.  Live by this law and that law.  Just follow your line to the end.

You might be someone who responds to God’s grace by doing some open field running or blocking for a runner knowing where the play goes and finding who is in the way and taking them to the ground.

Your response to God’s grace might be fulfilling the law by living a life of love. You might find the model of Jesus more compelling that the specificity of individual commands.

That’s an analogy, an illustration if your will.  It is not scripture.  I hope it helps your understand scripture, but you are not excused from the thinking that I challenged you to do earlier.  Don’t just buy into my analogy.  Dig into the scriptures themselves.

OBTW—We will get into some of our response to mercy and grace in the next chapter.

Your response to the mercy, grace, and favor of God that you know in Christ Jesus will bring fulness to your life and glory to God.

Don’t be deceived.  Salvation comes from Christ alone .  There is no other foundation and we should not listen to those who would have us build one.

We have a whole bunch to talk about, think about, and live out when it comes to our response to this incredible love of God. I call this our discipleship and it’s a long walk full of opportunities, challenges, and growth.

For now, be on the lookout for those who would deceive you with fancy arguments and logical fallacies.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

Jesus is Lord.

Salvation is found in him alone.

Our response to that salvation should prompt us to live fully and bring glory to God.


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