July 14, 2011

Prisoner For Christ XV: Here Come The Christians! Run Away! Run Away!

I have read the entirety of Colossians two times through and I noticed there is a unique outburst from Paul in Colossians 1:21-23 right after the beloved portion about the Supremacy of Jesus Christ.

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation - if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. Colossians 1:21-23”

It tells us that we had once been alienated from God which is a terrifying place to be because we are told this is what Hell will be like for those doomed to it. Unfortunately, this alienation or separation will be permanent and eternal. No second chances. We are told why we were separated from God also: We were enemies in your minds because of our evil behavior. Things within our actions affected what was in our minds. Instead of the proverbial “attitude determines action”, we see the mirror or “action determines attitude” I will take this farther to encompass another adage. “You are the company you keep”. Paul is making an interesting statement right after one of the highest “high prose” praises of Christ in the Bible. I believe He does this for sharp and distinct contrast to show the exalted and lofty nature of Christ and to show the lowered inverse for humans. In my mind he does this to show the absolute and utter need for Christ in our life. Paul then goes on a tear through the rest of the letter in a continual juxtaposing of these two facts. Alive in Christ- Dead in sin, alive in Christ-dead to the world (flesh/sarx), alive in Christ/dead to the old self…and on it goes. Paul shows that if we are truly of Christ we have uncoupled ourselves from the perversions of this fallen world and coupled ourselves to Christ. In doing so we have died in Christ or died to this world and have become alive spiritually and if we are truly in Christ…we are alive eternally too. All of this is later rounded out with imperatives in the latter part of chapter 3 and the whole of chapter 4.

"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ." Colossians 2:6-8

I obviously see a unity of purpose in this letter that is extremely evident between chapters 2 and 3 (which makes sense as this would’ve been one contiguous whole as a letter anyway). After Paul speaks to the fact that the Colossians church are potentially being led astray by deceptions that affect their hearts and their minds (thinking), Colossians 2:6-8 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Paul then immediately follows with, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” Paul appears to be categorically stating that a believer should not be lead astray because (1) we have the power and authority to avoid doing so through Christ and (2) because we are “in Christ” or He is in us we can surmount issues that would take us captive like the one(s) that are named later in the chapter. We see at the end of Colossians the reasons for Paul saying this. A form of asceticism or a lifestyle that requires abstinence of forms of works, appears to have infiltrated the church at Colossae. If they adhere or continue to adhere to deceptive or philosophies that could potentially lead them into a form of works-based religion or syncretism they are endangering themselves and Paul seeks to avoid this by writing this letter.

We see this in many modern-day Christian denominations. The most visible being the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). Although I believe there are many in the RCC clearly saved and not as caught up in the rituals and works-based actions in the RCC, there are probably equally as many worshipping (or venerating) the “saints”. What is even more troubling to me is the worship of Mary or the idea that Mary can work as an intercessor to the Father. The Bible is clear on intercession to the Father, Jesus is the only way to the Father.

John 14:6 "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

To say that there is any other way to Him is to say that the Crucifixion and Resurrection may not have been necessary and this demeans the entire purpose of Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection and even the purposes of the Bible. To me this is unacceptable. In Colossians Paul writes strong emphatic commands or imperatives relating to this asceticism and other dependencies to worldly things in a spiritual way – or dependencies to anything other than Christ. Paul is essentially saying, “Enough with these human rules and regulations nonsense!”

"Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Paul explains very clearly and logically why we should not be prisoners mentally or psychologically to these deceptive philosophies. It is because we have died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world or things of the flesh [sarx], why continue to be a prisoner of these things of the world and submit to their demands. They are demands that drag (or drug) us closer to damnation rather than salvation.

Paul then launches directly into a countermeasure for avoiding the pitfalls of hollow and deceptive philosophies in Colossians 3:1-17. Paul says that if you truly have been raised with/in Christ, seek the things that are above. The Colossians (and us) are to not set our minds on things that are on earth or things of the flesh. Why not? These things should be dead to us having been “hidden” in Christ / God. We need to avoid or as Paul strongly states: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness [which is idolatry], anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk, etc. These things of the world build up God’s wrath against us and must be judged by a holy and just God. No matter from what walk of life we come, If we are Christians we are literally, to “put off the old man and put on the new” forsaking the things we formally did. In their place we need to have what amounts to fruits or or manifestationsof the Spirit. We are to be holy and have compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience and so on...

Here is the catch with this in my opinion. If we do not see any of these or we see very few of these manifestations from those that call themselves Christians we really need to check to assure they are truly what they say or think they are. Just because it walks like a Christian and quacks like Christian, does not a Christian make. Besides, if we are manifesting the worldly traits of impurity or sexual immorality, what is there in that lifestyle that is any different from the world? What is in that lifestyle that would encourage others to leave the world system and come to the Christian side? Cookies?

I’ll tell you what encourages it – NOTHING, absolutely nothing. If I were the world I would run the other way. Come to think of it, I was the world at one time just as Paul mentioned in Colossians and because of the type of Christians I was exposed to early on (i.e.: jerks), I did exactly that…I ran away.

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