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Beware of Imitations Colossians 2c

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Colossians 2:18-23

Stephen Caswell© 1999

Going Out of Business

This notice appeared in the window of a store in New York City: "Don't be fooled by imitators who claim to be going out of business. We have been going out of business longer than anyone on this block." This add is quite funny! But the warning is true. We need to be careful lest we are fooled by an imitation of genuine Christianity!


Last time we looked at Colossians we saw Paul's warning about substitutes that take the place of Christ. Firstly, Paul warned them to not be spoiled by Gnosticism. The Gnostics paraded their philosophy and wisdom for all to see. They claimed to be the elite. But Paul's answer was simple. In Jesus Christ all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden. All the Godhead dwells in Christ and you are complete in Him. Secondly, Paul warned them not be judged by Legalism. Which was only a passing shadow, the substance of experience with God is found in Jesus Christ. You don't need to look any further. Tonight Paul warns them to beware of imitations again. He warns them to

I.  Beware Of Mysticism

II. Beware Of Asceticism

I.  Beware Of Mysticism

The Command

Colossians 2:18 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, Paul commanded the Colossians not to be cheated of their reward. In this verse, Paul describes a judge ruling that an athlete is disqualified. During the Greek games when an athlete broke the rules he was declared unworthy of the prize. He wasn't punished and didn't lose his citizenship. But he lost the opportunity to win the prize. Paul warned the Colossians to be on the lookout for the Mystics who would rob them of  their prize. He says they display three things. A False Worship, A False Humility, And They Forsake Christ.


a. A False Worship

The Mystics teaching appeared to very humble. They said that they weren't worthy to approach God directly in worship or prayer. So they worshipped Him indirectly through angels. They claimed that after being initiated into the inner circle they saw visions of angels. They then offered worship to such angels. Through these angels they worshipped before God's throne. But we walk by faith not sight. We don't see the angelic realm. Do people claim to have visions of angles or heaven today? Yes they do! Some churches always boast about visions and dreams.

To Heaven And back  Quote From " Charismatic Chaos " by John F MacArthur pgs 30-31

This experience was also idolatry. God is the only one we should worship. We are not to worship any other creature including angels. Revelation 22:8-9 Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” We should not worship angels or pray to them. Jesus Christ gives us perfect access before the throne of God in worship and in prayer. 1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,  We are to worship God through Jesus Christ. We also pray to Him through Christ. How does Paul respond to such claims?  He calls it false worship and  


b. A False Humility

The experience the Mystics had made them proud. They weren't humble but rather puffed up in their fleshly mind. In reality they looked down on those who hadn't shared this experience. They weren't humble but in fact very proud. They had replaced experience through the Spirit of God and the word of God with man made doctrine. Their experience deceived them. Satan is always ready to give people an experience if it will lead them away from God and His word. Jesus said “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” They also


c. Were Forsaking Christ


Colossians 2:19 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.

Not only did the Mystics have a false worship and false humility, they also forsook Christ. True humility submits to Jesus Christ, God's Son. But these Mystics were not holding fast to Him. They were doing their own thing. They wouldn't submit to His head ship. As a result they didn't receive nourishment from Him. They thought their experience made them spiritual giants. When in reality they were under nourished babes. It is only as believers, members of the body remain under Christ's head ship that they are nourished by the Spirit and other believers. Only Christ can nourish the body. Only He can knit it together in unity. Jesus Christ is the only one who can cause the body to grow.  He causes it to grow into maturity.


We don't have people that pray to angels today do we? The catholic church has encouraged people to pray to angels and saints for centuries. They teach people that we don't have direct access to God. They teach that we must pray to angels, Mary, or the saints.

People don't have visions of angels or Christ today, do they? Yes they do! The Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches place great value on visions and dreams. They are constantly seeking spiritual experiences. Some claim to have seen Christ. Some claim to have seen angels and heaven itself. But they do not base their experience on the truth of God's word. This is why they are deceived by such false experiences. 1 Peter 1:8 says this about Christ: whom [Jesus] having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

How can we avoid being disqualified of our prize? What steps can we take to avoid deception?


1. By worshipping only God in Spirit and in truth. By rejecting any other type of experience.

2. By holding fast to Jesus Christ our head in true humility. He's the one we voluntarily worship.

3. By receiving nourishment and growth from only Him. All other teaching is to be rejected.

God's Word determines what is truth. Our Christian experience must be measured by this. We don't need a mystical experience with angels. We have reality in Jesus Christ the head of all principality and power. He's our head who gives us direct access to God! Why look elsewhere?

II. Beware Of Asceticism

The next warning Paul gives deals with asceticism. An Ascetic practiced rigorous self denial and even self-mortification in order to become more spiritual. They were very careful about their diet and lifestyle. They avoided contact with people they considered unclean. There is a close tie between asceticism and legalism.

Colossians 2:20-23 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.


The black shadow of asceticism spread over the sky of the Puritan Fathers. Given two coats, they chose the ugliest one. Given two colors for the woman's garb, they chose the saddest and somberest. Given two roads, they chose the one that held the most thorns and cutting rocks. Given two forms of fear and self-denial, they took both. The favorite text of asceticism is "deny yourself." The favorite color of asceticism is black; its favorite music, a dirge; its favorite hour is midnight; its favorite theme is a tombstone. The mistake of asceticism is in thinking that it has a moral value. The Ascetic sought such hardship to acquire holiness and favor from God.


a. The Doctrine

The ascetic lifestyle was founded upon the commandments and doctrines of men. Doctrine refers to the what the ascetics believed. Commandments refers to the regulations they applied to everyday life. Paul describes this in verse 21, do not touch, do not taste, do not handle. The Ascetics taught that if you followed a strict diet, if you avoided owning worldly goods and refrained from contact with the physical world. You became holy. Some wouldn't marry to become more spiritual. During the middle ages monks lived this way in monasteries. They separated themselves from the world to avoid being defiled. Paul said that such doctrines were from man, not God. God did not teach us this! How did Paul respond to this? He said it was a


b. Deception

Although we need to exercise self control in diet and other areas, it is a deception to think these things make us more spiritual. Paul said that these are mere doctrines of men. Whether we do or don't eat meat makes no difference to our spirituality. 1 Timothy 4:1-4  Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; While we should show discipline in how much we eat. Abstaining from certain foods will not increase our spirituality. As Paul points out food and drink disappears after we eat it. How can something that comes and goes so quickly determine our spirituality? It makes no difference to our relationship with God!

What about worldly possessions? Can we touch them or own them? We can have possessions, but let us realize that it all belongs to God. We are simply stewards entrusted with them for a time. We are to use them wisely and for the benefit of others. Paul also addressed this in his first letter to Timothy. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. Paul says that such practices have an appearance of wisdom through voluntary religious practice. But such neglect of the body and false humility can't prevent the indulgence of the flesh. The sinful nature can't be reformed. Why can't these regulations reform him? Because sin is not just our wicked works; it involves our thoughts and desires too. Our sinful nature goes to the core of our being, right to our heart. This is why the sinful nature needs more than denial to control it, it requires crucifixion. This leads us to the Paul's third point...

c. Death

Colossians 2:20 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

I have left this verse till last because it is Paul's answer to both asceticism and the sinful nature. Since we can't  reform the sinful nature we have to put it to death. And this is just what happened when Jesus died on the cross. We died with Him. Our sinful nature was put to death so that it would no longer dominate us. The cross has removed sin's power over our lives. When Christ rose from the dead we were raised too. The new life we lead is not to attain a right standing with God through laws and regulations. Rather we live to serve Christ who saved us. We now live under the law of love. This law requires us to minister to those around us in Christ's stead. We don't need man's laws to attain righteousness since we have been given perfect righteousness in Jesus Christ. Peter learnt this lesson when God gave him a vision of unclean animals. He was told to kill and eat. The things once unclean were now clean. Regulations concerning diet and lifestyle have been replaced by a new life in Christ. God has replaced the old covenant with a superior new covenant. The righteousness we have in Christ allows us to live in God's blessing. Why then go back to something that didn't work? Why neglect the body and practice an ascetic lifestyle when we can live in the fullness of Jesus Christ?



Paul warned the Colossians not to be enslaved by asceticism. Do people practice ascetic lifestyles today? Yes they do. Hindus, Buddhists and Hare Krishna's to name a few. Today, in Australia Tibetan Buddhism is the fastest growing religion. Even some Christians think that diet and strict rules will increase their spirituality. How should the Christian Church respond to claims for regulations on diet and possessions?  


Self reformation can never control the sinful flesh. This can be seen by the fact that we had to die with Jesus Christ to destroy sin's control over us! We don't need to appease God by neglecting our body or following a self imposed religion. These things make no difference to our standing with God. We should show discipline in our diets and lifestyles, but not to gain righteousness or victory over sin. These we have been given through Christ. Therefore let us live in freedom from laws and every attempt at self reformation. Live victoriously in Christ. 


In Colossians 2:8-23, Paul warn Christians about 4 dangers. Gnosticism that will rob us of our riches. Legalism that will rob us of our righteousness. Mysticism that will rob us of our reward. And Asceticism that will rob us of their freedom.

I.   Beware Of Gnosticism - Jesus Christ has all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He possesses God's fullness and you are complete in Him. Don't be robbed of your riches!

II.  Beware Of Legalism - The law is only a shadow. Christ is the substance. We have perfect righteousness in Him. Why seek a shadow? Don't be robbed of your righteousness!

III. Beware Of Mysticism -  We don't need to go through angels to worship God. Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man. We have perfect access to God through Him. Don't be deceived by false worship. Don't forsake Christ. Don't be robbed of you reward.


IV. Beware Of Asceticism - We don't have to reform our old nature by neglecting the body. Our old nature died with Christ. It no longer has dominion over us. We have perfect liberty in Him. Don't be robbed of your freedom.


2 Peter 3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

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