The Book of Colossians #10

 

THE MAZE OF MYSTICISM
Colossians 2:18-19
 
The book of Colossians has as its purpose to set forth the absolute sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ. In doing this, in the first chapter he has set before us the supremacy, the sufficiency of Christ. Now, in the second chapter he takes all other substitutes for the Lord Jesus Christ and compares them to what we have in Him.
       
Do you remember going to the fair and they had house of mirrors. You would go into that house of mirrors and try to make your way through that maze of mirrors. It was a maze, a confusing intricate network of passages.
       
When you study what the Bible has to say about the cults and when you look at the cults which are currently rampant in America today, you find yourself very much as if you are in a maze. It’s very difficult to really pin it down. It’s very difficult to find just exactly what the cult is trying to teach.
       
In the early days, in the New Testament days, there were a variety of cults that were abroad and false teachers who were moving in and out of the Christian community offering substitutes or additions to the Lord Jesus Christ.  
 
Of course, you and I know that Jesus Christ is the One and Only. Jesus is not A way to God. Jesus is THE way to God. Jesus Christ is not A truth. Jesus Christ is THE truth. Jesus Christ is not A life. Jesus
Christ is THE life.
 
So, cults are always substitutes for the Lord Jesus Christ. In Chapter 2 there are really four definite elements or four sections of the cults which we are studying.
 
There is first of all the matter of intellectualism. That is the attempt to reach God by your own thought processes apart from divine revelation. 
 
Secondly, there is ritualism. That is observing ceremonies and going through particular rituals in order to gain your way and entrance to God. 
 
The third one is mysticism. We’ll study this tonight. 
 
Our next one will be legalism--the attempt to win the approval of God by a series of rules and regulations--a series of dos and don’ts.
       
We want to look now at the idea of mysticism. I mean by mysticism the attempt to perceive spiritual reality apart from objective verifiable facts. Mysticism is the belief that you can have a direct experience with the spirit world and with God apart from the Lord Jesus Christ and the revelation God has given to us in the Bible.
 
To the city of Colosse where these young believers had been wonderfully transformed and brought out of sin into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, there had come teachers. These teachers were saying that Jesus is fine. Jesus is Great as far as He goes, but there is more. There is something else. You can go to a deeper level than Jesus Christ will take you.
       
 
These false teachers were known as Gnostics. You’ve probably heard that word. A Gnostic is the opposite of agnostic. An agnostic is someone who says, “I don’t know. It may be true, but I don’t know.” By the way, the Greek word for agnostic is ignoramus. 
 
The opposite of that is a person who is a Gnostic. A Gnostic is someone who says, “I do know. In fact, I’m one of the few who does know. I have access to information and experiences that are not available to the average person.”
       
The Gnostics had come to Colosse. They were claiming to have had deeper experiences with God. They said they had gone further and knew more than other people did and that they were able to help people enter into a mystical experience whereby they would come in contact with the spirit world and ultimately would come in contact with God.
 
Old mysticism, old Gnosticism, expresses itself today in what we call the New Age Movement. The New Age Movement is a maze. It’s very difficult to define everything they teach. There are some distinctives about the New Age Movement and it reminds you
a great deal of old Hinduism and Buddhism and some of these kinds of cults. 
 
One of them is Pantheism. It is the idea that God is in everything. God is just everything. There is just a unity of all things and all persons in the whole world. It is the belief that ultimately you yourself are a God. Ultimately you can achieve a oneness and a unity with the God who permeates the entire universe. Pantheism--God is everything.
 
Another characteristic of this is this mysticism, the idea that through a series of spiritual experiences you can get closer and closer and closer to God. Mysticism, the New Age Movement is absolutely permeating the thinking and the society of American life. We have all kinds of things that are going around.
 
Sadly, even in the Christian community, there are some who are placing more emphasis upon visions and special revelations and additional messages that come from God apart from the simple saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, the truth as it is revealed in the Bible and the experience with Jesus Christ which alone brings a man into fellowship with God.
       
So you have a contrast in verse 18 and 19. In verse 18 you have human experience; the idea that whatever a person experiences becomes truth for them. You ever heard anybody say, “I know it’s true, it happened to me. It was an experience of mine. I had this way-out experience, but it is true for me.”? In America today a lot of people say, “That’s great if it happened to you, that’s true for you.”
       
On the other side of that in verse 19 is divine revelation and the revelation which comes to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “No man comes to the Father but by me.” It is only through the Lord Jesus Christ that you come to know God in reality. All other experience is spurious experience. All other attempts to reach God are futile attempts. It is only by Jesus Christ that you have fellowship with God and come to know God.
 
 
I. Mystical Exploration.
       
This is a complicated verse so I want to take it carefully and I want to show you the elements of mystical exploration. I want to show you how the New Age Movement works and how all attempts to reach God apart from Jesus really unfold.
 
Notice he says, “Let no one cheat you of your reward in false humility...”
 
In other words, the New Agers or the Gnostics would say, “Far be it from us to think that we in and of ourselves could have contact with God. You have to go through a maze. You have to go through a series of steps.”
       
Paul says it is a false humility. It is a mock humility. It is the idea that they wouldn’t dare attempt to get to God apart from a series of mystical steps.
       
I have some good news for you. You don’t have to try to get to God through a series of mystical steps. You don’t have to try to achieve some deeper knowledge that’s not available to average people.
       
God’s way of salvation is so simple that a little child can understand it. God didn’t make His salvation plan difficult to understand. God has set it forth in simple, understandable language. The way to God is direct through the Lord Jesus Christ. “There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.”
       
In Hebrews 10:19 it says, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.” 
When Jesus died on that cross and shed His blood, the veil was torn in pieces from top to the bottom. That simple means that because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ the way has been opened to God and you and I have the privilege of going directly into the presence of God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
       
You can come to Jesus Christ and as a born again child of God through Jesus you can talk directly to the God of this universe. It is not a mock or false humility that tells people they have to go through a secret initiation. 
 
Next phrase: “And worship of angels...” 
       
The whole field of angels is big now. You go into the average bookstore today and you will find whole shelves of books that are written on angels. The Bible teaches that there are angels. I believe that. The Bible says there are good angels and there are bad angels. 
 
The Bible makes it very clear that we are not to worship angels. In the book of the Revelation when John saw this magnificent revelation that closed out Scripture, in the last chapter the angel was revealing things to John. It says in Revelation 22:8, “I John saw these things, and heard them, and when I had heard and seen I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. The angel said unto me, See thou do it not, for I am thy fellow servant and thy brethren, the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book, worship God.” 
 
We are not to worship angels, even if they are good angels. 
There are also bad angels. The Bible teaches that some of the angels fell with Satan when he rebelled against God. The devil said, “I will go up, I will go up. I will exalt myself. I will climb to the heights.” The Lord God said, “You say you’re going up, you’re going down.” And the devil fell. When he fell a multitude of the angels fell with him and they are known as demons in the Bible. 
 
The spirit world is a very, very real world. The Gnostics had a whole series of teachings about this matter of a hierarchy of angels. They said that no human being could go directly to God through Jesus Christ. They said that you have to go through a whole series of these angelic beings. You make contact with one set of angelic beings and when you learn the insights there, then you move on to a higher level. You get higher and higher and finally you will find yourself in the inner shrine and you will be God yourself. The same thing is taught today.
       
The Bible makes it very clear that the devil has as his purpose to get you to worship him instead of the true God. In the garden of Eden, when Satan came to Adam and Eve and tempted them in the garden, the devil said to them, “Why God knows that if you eat of that tree of knowledge you will be as gods, knowing good and evil.” He said, “You’ll just be a god yourself.” There are folks teaching that today. That you can be your own god, and you yourself become god.
         
When people begin into the worship of angels and get into spiritual entities they find themselves getting in contact with a spiritual reality, but it is not divine reality nor God-reality, it is Satanic reality.
       
Listen to II Corinthians 11:14, “And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” The devil can give people experiences. The devil can give people visions. What do you need with a vision when you have the Lord Jesus Christ? What do you need with on-going revelation when you have the completed revelation of the canon of Scripture, the Holy Word of God.  
       
He says, “Let no man cheat you using false humility or the worship of angels,
 
Next phrase: intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” 
 
Intruding was a word used by the mystery religions, by the Gnostics to talk about secret initiation rites. Secret ceremonies that could get them into a higher level of spirituality. 
 
He says that it tends toward the puffing up the fleshly mind. The word, puff up, is a word that was used for bellows of a blacksmith. When people get to the point that they think they have superior knowledge to others, it tends to puff them up. “I’ve had this revelation, you haven’t. I’ve had this vision, you haven’t.”
       
It’s another way of saying Jesus is not enough. They are saying that the Bible is not sufficient. “Vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.”
       
There on the one hand you have what I call mystical exploration--the attempt to perceive spiritual reality apart from objective, verifiable fact. To know the Lord Jesus Christ is to be in the position to have wonderful spiritual experience. 
But you must always keep in mind that your experience must be verified by what God says in the Bible. Check out your experience in the Bible and see if the Bible will vindicate it. See if it is consistent with the teachings of Scripture.
       
I believe in a heart-felt religion.  I believe in an experience with Jesus Christ that can be felt in the heart and move the life. But I also believe those experiences, in order to be valid, must be Bible-based and supported. Lady recently told me about her after-death experience. I don’t invalidate that because I found nothing in her experience that contradicted Scripture. 
 
Let me show you how you can have genuine spiritual experience. In the book of Luke, the Lord Jesus, after He had been raised from the dead, walked along on the Emmaus road with the two disciple. As they walked along together, the Bible said their hearts began to burn. They had a good old heart-warming experience with God. 
 
Don’t you like to have your heart warmed? Don’t you like to have that closeness with God that touches and moves the hearts? Listen to what they said. After the Lord walked with them in that resurrection experience, “And they said one to another, did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures.” 
 
Get the connection? Where do you get the burning heart? You get it when the Lord opens up the Scriptures. You get that spiritual experience with God on the basis of facts, on the basis of truth in the Bible.   Truth is not just whatever happens to you. Truth is what God has revealed in His word and when you respond to that truth and act on it, then
God gives you the experiences He wants you to have.
       
Colossians 2:18--Mystical experience. On the other side against that he sets before us in verse 19 what I call-
 
II. Spiritual Transformation.
       
He shows you the real thing here, not some mysticism. Not something that’s based on tarot cards and ouijie boards and these kinds of nonsense. But something that is real and tangible and based on objective truth. 
       
“and not holding fast to the Head...” He is saying that when people get you off on this other stuff, you lose conscious connection with the head. That word, Head, is in capital letters. 
 
It is used back in the first chapter. Look at verse 18 and we’ll see what he’s talking about. 
 
“And He (the Lord Jesus Christ) is the head of the body, the church...” 
 
In chapter 2:19 when he says “the head” he’s talking about Jesus Christ. 
 
He is talking about the church. The body is a beautiful picture of the church.   Many pictures of the church. The church is compared to a building and the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation of the building. He is the foundation of the church. You
build a church on Jesus. 
Sometimes the church is compared to a beautiful bride. The church is the bride of Christ and He is the heavenly bridegroom. One of these days the bridegroom is going to step out of the portals of glory and descend down the stairway of the stars and say, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” And the bride of Christ will be caught up in the air to meet their heavenly lover, the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is like a bride.
       
The church is also like a body. The church is the body of Christ and Christ is the head. He’s talking here now about the way to spiritual transformation. “Don’t lose that vital communion with the head.” As a born again child of God, the moment you receive
Jesus as your personal Savior, you were added to the body.   You became a part of the body.
 
 I Corinthians 12 and 13, “For by one spirit (holy Spirit) we were all baptized into one body.” At the moment of your salvation, the Holy Spirit baptized you into the body. He made you a part of the body of Christ. So you are all a part of the body. Every saved individual in this plaice is connected to Jesus Christ by the new birth experience. So, you are not a part of the body, connected to the body, but you are also to maintain communion with the body.
       
Let me break it down as simply as I know how to break it. Spiritual transformation, a personal relationship with God, is on the basis of a living and a growing relationship with Jesus Christ who is the head of the body. You take your head and sever
it from your body and the body can’t live. Life comes from the body. 
 
 
And spiritual life comes from Jesus Christ.   “nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments...” 
 
We get our life from Jesus Christ. Not some esoteric experience. Not some secret initiation that brings you into contact with God. But you get spiritual life from Jesus Christ and that relationship with Jesus Christ is made alive as you stay in conscious fellowship with Him. 
       
So, spiritual transformation is on the basis of a living relationship with Jesus, but also a growing relationship. 
 
“grows with the increase that is from God.” 
 
Grows with the growth of God. At the base of your skull you have what is called a pituitary gland. The pituitary gland secretes a growth hormone. It is this growth hormone which makes it possible for your body to grow. It’s evident that some of us have a bigger pituitary gland than others because some of us grow a whole lot bigger than others grow. But all growth for the body is derived from the head. 
 
That is the same thing that is true in the spiritual life. We grow with the growth of God. By the way, the tense of the verb there where it says increases, is present tense. It means continual growth. You don’t just all of a sudden become a full-grown Christian.   You don’t just all of a sudden have a full blown spiritual transformation and walk with God.
       
 
 
 
Growth doesn’t happen all at once. You didn’t have that little baby of yours, six pounds and eight ounces, and put it in a bassinet, and go in the next morning and there he is-- six foot three, 240 pounds. It just doesn’t work that way. There has to be a process. There has to be growth. Gradual,
continual growth. It doesn’t happen all at once.  
 
I fear that’s what is behind a lot of people who get off into these mystical things. They are looking for some quick fix. They are looking for some way that can bring them into a spiritual experience and reality that just happens all at once. It doesn’t happen that way, folks. That is not God’s way.
 
God’s way of spiritual transformation is that you grow daily. If you don’t grow, if it’s not a continual growing positively, then there will be negative retrogression. It’s like a bicycle that doesn’t stand still. It has to move forward or backwards. The same thing is true in your spiritual life.
       
What can help us grow or increase with the increase of God? 
 
God’s perfect food for your spiritual life is the Word. Feed on the Word everyday. You can’t grow if you aren’t in the Word. 
 
What happens as you do that? Let me show you what will happen. As you study God’s Word you grow in knowledge. You learn more about Jesus. The more you learn about who Jesus is, then you can grow not only in knowledge, but in grace. Now that you know who Jesus is you can begin to live the way Jesus wants you to live. You will see a beautiful thing.
Every day God’s child comes to God’s book and in God’s book he sees God’s Son. As he opens up his heart to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit begins to change his life and he is transformed into the image of Christ. He becomes like the Lord Jesus. 
 
Why in the world would you want to leave spiritual transformation through Jesus Christ, for some mystical exploration that is a maze which leads to nowhere?
 
There was a dog walking across a bridge over a stream. It had a bone in its mouth. The dog stopped, looked into the stream, saw the reflection of itself and saw a much bigger bone. So, the dog dropped the bone it had in an attempt to lurch for the bigger bone and in so doing lost them both. 
 
Don’t fall for the bone of mystical experience and lose the reality there is in the Lord Jesus Christ.
       
Have you personally invited Jesus into your heart?
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