See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception
Colossians 2:8-23 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
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. 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; 11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
16 Therefore 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— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 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, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.
20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
There are many self-help philosophies espoused today. Many books are written, videos made and conferences held to encourage people how to be successful, happy or overcome problems. Today’s text begins saying: 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. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority. The problem with the philosophies of the world is that they focus primarily on how people think, as if by our own will we can change who we are. The empty deception of world philosophies focuses on standing and status in the world. It measures who we are in comparison to others. As believers we also are to change the way we think, but it is in Christ that we are made complete. We are changed not by our own will, but according to God’s will. Romans 12:2 says: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. The change, the transformation happens not only because of the way we think, but because of what we think about. We focus not on self, but rather on God. Psalm 37:4 says: Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.In Christ we are made complete. We are truly changed, transformed; no longer conformed to the standards of the world, but perfected in the image of Christ. World philosophies teach us to practice better habits, trying to do what is good. Christ changes us so that in Him we are good. World philosophies will leave us empty, because we will always come to the end of ourselves, whether in this life, or at its end. In Mark 8:36 Jesus says: What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? In John 3:16 He says: God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. And in John 10:10 He says: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. In Christ we have both eternal life at the end of this life and abundant life, here on earth.
The text says: If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. Even the self-help philosophies of the world which focus on overcoming addictions; attempt to change who a person is by self-denial. An addict once told me something that helps us to understand why denial alone will never overcome addiction. He said, “I am addicted to more.” It isn’t the drug or alcohol, it isn’t sex or gambling, it isn’t food or any other desire that is at the root of addiction, it is the emptiness of seeking fulfillment from the world. In truth, an addiction is putting something before God, it is sin that people are addicted to. An addiction is not dependence on any one thing, so to overcome by denial becomes a never ending cycle of substitution rather than transformation. Again, as the psalmist says: Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. In Christ, we are changed so that our desires are aligned with God’s desires. We no longer want the thing we were addicted to, but rather we want what God wants for us. In Jeremiah 29:11 God says: I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. In Matthew 16:24-26 Jesus says: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” The denial of things leads to emptiness. The denial of self, to follow Christ leads to a life of abundance, a life filled with and focused on the plans of God for our life and eternal life with Him.
Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit, that You do not only change the way we think, but You change the way we are. We are transformed, renewed and restored into Your image and likeness through the cross. Holy Spirit, day by day lead me and guide me to walk in the way God has planned for me, to follow Christ; to delight in Him and gain life. Amen.