Have you ever been duped? Deceived? Lied to? Taken advantage of? Tricked? How did it make you feel? Have you ever been convinced of something that sounded so true you would have sworn on your own life to defend it, and then found out later you were completely wrong?
In today’s culture of fake news, propaganda, and media-induced narratives, it is reassuring to me to know that we have a source of truth that will never let us down or deceive us. Our struggle to determine what is true and what is false is not new; it was going on two thousand years ago in the first-century church as well, and Paul is passionate that the believers then were not deceived. His words in Colossians 2 are so relevant for us today.
In this one chapter, he exposes four different types of deception, and tells us what is wrong about them, and reminds us of the opposing truth: Christ alone.
I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. (Colossians 2:4)
Christ (in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom) (2:3) vs. persuasive arguments.
We can be deluded and deceived by a speaker’s charisma, their ability to craft language in such a way that it draws us in and persuades us of something that is not true. How many times have you heard someone say that “you need to put your best speaker up.” Paul admits that he was not the greatest speaker, and in fact, was determined not to preach with persuasive words, but rather sought to speak only of Christ, in fear, trembling and wisdom, but in the power of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:2-5).
To delude (beguile/KJV) is to reckon wrong, miscount; to cheat by false reckoning; to deceive by false reasoning. Someone’s reasoning may be false; they may be deliberately deceiving us, but because they sound credible, knowledgeable, and can communicate effectively, we believe them.
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
Christ (fully God, authority over all) (2:9-10) vs. philosophy, traditions, worldly principles.
We can be taken captive by ideas. Someone presents a theory that sounds exciting, or helpful (for our good), but is rooted in (humanistic) man-centric ideology. These ideas appeal to us because they put us in the driver’s seat of our lives. They elevate us to the throne. They make us god. We think we are “running the show” when in reality, we’re just a player on someone else’s stage. The KJV uses the word “spoil,” as to carry off and enslave. It means to lead away from the truth and subject to one’s sway. We follow what we believe is freedom but find ourselves captive.
No one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)
Christ (who paid for our sin and canceled the law’s accusations) (2:13-15) vs. keeping the law.
The problem with religion is that it judges us; our good works supposedly earn God’s favor. In contrast, Christ was judged FOR us on the cross. All the law did was show us what perfection looks like and reveal that we could never measure up. So, Jesus did it for us, fulfilling the law. He is the substance; the law was simply His “shadow” cast on human men which we could not match. Striving to look, sound or be religious in our outward actions only leads to judging one another against each other. We are tricked into thinking we are righteous, when in reality, without Christ, we are guilty of everything we’ve ever done wrong.
Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind. (Colossians 2:18)
Christ (the source of true spiritual growth as the Head of the body) (2:19) vs. asceticism/becoming “holy” by not doing certain things or by elevating the physical mind.
To defraud is to rob. Those who teach that we must either deny the flesh completely (like a monk in a cave) or that we should seek extra-biblical spiritual experiences like visions or higher consciousness or commune with spiritual beings are literally stealing what true spiritual growth does for us. Meditating to find our “inner consciousness” only turns our attention on our fallen, human flesh. If we are not connected to the Head, Christ, we have no real spiritual life; we are defrauded by an imitation. He is the source of any and all spiritual growth.
Those who would rob us substitute physical experiences created by our physical minds, and we miss the “prize” of walking by faith as we are taught in the Bible. Paul says later these kinds of activities “are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” In other words, we can deprive ourselves of every joy that God gives in life, or focus our physical minds until we’re exhausted, and it will not subdue our fleshly desires. Only Christ changes our desires as He transforms us from the inside out, not the other way around.
Persuasive, charismatic presentations.
Benevolent deeds that make us look religious.
Self-discipline and mind games.
It all sounds good, until it’s not. Don’t let the enemy deceive you and steal the abundant life found only in Christ. What this world offers is a poor substitute for this life and will leave you lost and condemned in the next. Christ alone offers eternal life in heaven, and He went to the cross to prove it to you.