The Book of Colossians #9

 

GETTING OUT OF THE SHADOWS
Colossians 2:11-17
      
Notice the contrast which these verses make for us (16, 17). “Let no man therefore judge you (condemn you or look down on you) in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” A shadow of things of things to come, but the body, the reality, the substance is of Christ.
      
I want to talk to you this morning about getting out of the shadows. A shadow is a very interesting thing. A shadow is a dim outline of some object or some reality. Really a shadow is a promise and also a preview. A shadow is a promise that something or someone is coming. It is also a preview because the shadow gives you some idea of the shape or form of that something or someone who is coming.
 
The tragedy is that when there are people who are holding on to shadows in stead of grabbing hold of that which is real and lasting. Let me locate you where we are in these verses of Scripture and explain to you why I’m talking about getting out of the shadows.
In the book of Colossians the first thing God does in the book is to set before us the sufficiency of Christ. It shows us that Jesus Christ is the totally sufficient one. He is sufficient for our salvation. He is sufficient for the daily life experiences we have. Jesus Christ is totally, absolutely sufficient. 
      
In contrast to that, in chapter 2, he sets before us the deficiency of cults. He shows us that every attempt to earn or merit the favor of God or achieve heaven apart from Jesus Christ is totally deficient. 
      
There are four isms that we study in this second chapter. Last week we looked at the first one. We’ll look at the second one today and then the next two. Here are the four ingredients of all cults. Intellectualism--trying to think your way to God. Ritualism--trying to achieve or observe your way to God. 
Mysticism--trying to make contact with God in mystical ways. 
And legalism--trying to do enough good deeds to make you acceptable and proving to God.
      
We’ve looked at intellectualism. That is the idea that you can think yourself to God. 
 
We aren’t saved on the basis of our intellectualism. We are saved on the basis of what God revealed in His Son the Lord Jesus as He died on the cross of Calvary. Intellectualism.
      
The second one we will look at tonight --ritualism. The idea that you can observe your way to God. That is, you can go through certain forms and ceremonies and these will make you acceptable to God. 
 
Let me give you an example. In Hinduism they offer prayer, rituals, to various gods and goddesses. They go through ritual bathings in the holy Ganges River. They believe these rituals will somehow make it possible for them to go to heaven when they die. 
 
Ritualism is excessive attention to some form or ceremony as a way to get you to heaven. 
      
In and of itself there is nothing wrong with rituals. A ritual is just a form or ceremony of going through a certain matter. We have marriage rituals, for instance. You may recall you got married you stood there and there was a ritual you went through. The preacher said, “Do you?” You said, “I do.” 
 
 
And you’ve been doing it ever since because whatever the mate tells you to do that’s what you’ve been doing. But you went through a ritual ceremony.
      
We have baptismal services. For the most part, they are done the same way every time. We say basically the same words, and perform the same actions. In a sense, that is a ritual. We have a form that is followed. 
 
In and of itself, ritual is not wrong. But the problem comes when people think that observing that ritual will get them to heaven. Somehow this ritual is the pathway to heaven. It is a characteristic of the cults and it is also something that confuses people who think that they are going to heaven on the basis of what they do in the church. 
 
People voice that quite often. You talk to someone and ask, “Do you know the Lord? Are you going to heaven when you die?” They answer, “Oh, yes, I belong to such and such church.” or, “Yes, I’ve been baptized.” Or, “Yes, I go to Sunday services on a regular basis.” You would be shocked at how many people think that just because they are baptized or have gone through the ceremony of joining a church this means they are going to heaven when they die.
I believe that there are many people who are depending upon what they do in terms of church membership, in terms of reading their bibles, praying, and all these kinds of things will earn or merit their way to heaven.
      
He says in these verse that all of these kinds of things are shadows of things to come, but the reality is Jesus Christ.
      
I’m going to try to help you if you are in the shadows to get out of the shadows and come to Jesus Christ.   I want to do a contrast and talk about –
 
I. The SHADOWS.
      
These verses are talking primarily about Old Testament ritual. Ritual that was actually given of God, but was intended by God to point people to a reality in Jesus Christ. 
 
Your Old Testament has all kinds of rituals and ceremonies in it. It’s confusing to us when we read it because that’s not where we are today. In the Old Testament they made all kinds of animal sacrifices. We don’t do that today. In the Old Testament they observed all kinds of religious holidays. We don’t do that today. 
 
They had a variety of Old Testament dietary laws and special days they were to set aside. We don’t do that today.
      
Let’s talk about these shadows, these rituals that some people latch on to in order to earn their way to heaven.
 
Back in verse 11 is one of the Old Testament rituals. It was the number one ritual in terms of the Jewish people. 
 
In the Old Testament every Jewish man was to have the rite or the ritual of circumcision. A medical procedure in the body. That was given by God as a ritual to point to something that was coming in the future. 
 
God was using this operation procedure in the flesh to say to them that there had to be a spiritual operation in the heart. So, the ritual in and of itself was good. It pointed to what Jesus was going to do in the future. 
 
But the problem was that some people latched on to the shadow, the ritual, and said, “This is what is necessary in order to be saved.” You come into the New Testament time and read Acts 15:1 and there were some who were saying, “Except you be circumcised you cannot be saved.”
So, Paul says here there is a new circumcision. He is saying that the ritual now has been fulfilled in the reality of Jesus. He says it is a circumcision made without hands. It is not physical in nature. It is spiritual in nature and it is what he calls the circumcision of Christ in that Christ now has cut away the dominating influence of sin in the life of a person. They were holding on to that Old Testament ritual.
      
Today, people hold onto other things that are ritualistic in nature. 
 
Verse 12
 
The word to latch on to is in verse 12 --baptism. Just like some people in the Old
Testament and New Testament times used circumcision as a ritual to say you had to have it to be saved. Now there are people who do the same thing with baptism.
 
Baptism is a beautiful, meaningful ceremony or a ritual. When a person is baptized they are lowered into the water and then they come back out of the water. That’s a picture. Baptism is a picture, really two pictures. It is a picture of the death and the burial and the resurrection of Jesus. 
 
Every time a person is baptized the gospel is proclaimed in a picture.   But it is also a picture of what happened to you when you turn from your sins and receive Jesus as your personal Savior. It’s a picture of your death to an old way of life and your resurrection to a new life in the Lord Jesus Christ. 
 
Baptism is a wonderful thing. I enjoy seeing people baptized. It’s fun to see the excitement and thrill of people who are baptized. Sometimes they come up rejoicing and many come up with tears of joy. But that baptism, that ceremony means nothing whatsoever if it is not a true representative of what has happened in your heart.
 
You are only truly baptized when you have received Christ as your Savior and you are being baptized, not as a means to your salvation, but as a testimony to your salvation. Being baptized not in order to obtain salvation, but because you have been saved. 
 
Baptism is an outward picture of an inward reality. Don’t hold on to the shadow. Don’t hold on to something that just gives the picture of the reality. 
 
 
In verse 16 he talks about the Christian life and says, “Don’t let people judge you (or condemn you) because of meat or drink.” 
 
The first thing he is talking about is the Old
Testament dietary laws. You go back into the Old Testament and I remember when I first started out trying to read through the whole Bible.   I did pretty good in Genesis and Exodus. But boy did I ever get messed up when I got to the book of Leviticus. 
 
It had all of these ceremonies and rituals. Then to make matters worse it went to a section about foods that were acceptable to eat and foods that were not acceptable to eat. The Old Testament had very strict guidelines concerning dietary matters. But the problem is that people started thinking that because they abstained from certain foods this made them more acceptable to God. 
 
They got the idea, “If I don’t eat this like the Old Testament commands that means I’m more pleasing to God.” 
 
If you are hung up on dietary matters and if you think that what you do or do not eat makes you more acceptable to God, then you are living in the shadows. 
Now, certain foods and abstaining from some kinds of foods, may make you healthier, but it’s not going to make you holier. There are some people who do not eat meat. I would caution you that you would do well to eat some meat along. Jesus ate meat. 
 
One of the characteristics of cults sometimes is vegetarianism. One of the traits of the cults mentioned in the Bible is forbidden to eat meats. Whether you eat meat or do not eat meat doesn’t make you acceptable or unacceptable to God. 
 
The Bible says in Mark 7 that Jesus on the cross cleansed all meats. So, nothing is holy or unholy on that basis.
      
Turn back to I Corinthians 8:8. 
 
Don’t walk around thinking you’re better and closer to God because of what you eat or do not eat.
      
Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” 
 
He is saying that the Christian life is not lived on the basis of diet. It is on spiritual bases. 
 
It is on a relationship to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. So, he says don’t let anybody judge you about meat or drink. Get out of the shadows.
      
Back to Colossians 2. Not only don’t let them judge you about meat or drink, but “in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days.” 
 
Don’t worry about what all that means. It’s just Old Testament terminology for special days, special religious holidays or ceremonies. I am going to focus in on Sabbath days because that’s more current. 
 
People do get in these shadows. He is saying you are not a bit closer to God on the basis of what particular day you choose to worship God. Sunday is not the Sabbath. Saturday is the Sabbath day. What’s it all about? 
 
God created the universe in six days, the Scriptures teach. 
God.” And then it says on the seventh day He rested. It was the Sabbath Day. The word, Sabbath means seventh. The Sabbath day, the seventh day, commemorated God’s work of creation. It’s always been Saturday. It has never changed. The 7th day is Saturday. 
It commends God’s work of creation.
      
Now, though the Sabbath day has never changed he says, “Don’t let anybody condemn you about these matters because something has happened to you if you are saved.” The Sabbath day hasn’t changed, but I’ve changed. 
 
I came to Jesus Christ and I experienced a new creation. I am a new creature in Christ. I am risen with Christ. I was dead in sin, now in Jesus I have been made alive. That’s what we just read. 
 
Look at verse 12, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him...” 
 
Verse 13, “Being dead in your sins has he quickened (made alive) together with him...” 
 
When Jesus was resurrected what day did Jesus come forth from the grave? He came forth on the first day of the week. That’s the 8th day. Somebody asks, “Are you a 7th day?” No I’m an 8th dayer. The 8th day commemorates resurrection. A new creation. What’s the point of all of this? 
 
 
The point is that I am not a bit better before God because I’m in church on Sunday morning than somebody else who met on Saturday. 
 
I think the Bible teaches the Lord’s Day. I do Sunday is the Lord’s Day. But it’s not going to get me to heaven because I’m in church on Sunday rather than Saturday or vice-versa.
 
Why? Because observing a day of worship doesn’t get you to heaven. Jesus gets you to heaven. If you are depending on certain days to get you to heaven it won’t work. You have to come to the reality. You are living in the shadows.   You need to get into the reality which is in Jesus Christ. Don’t let anybody condemn you. Get out of the shadows.
 
II. The SUBSTANCE.
      
He says in verse 17 “which are a shadow of things to come.” All of the Old
Testament pointed to Jesus. 
 
Now he says, “but the body, the substance, the reality, the essence is of Christ.” He is saying you need to get out of those shadows and get to Jesus. 
Look at what he says about Jesus. This is so wonderful to me. 
 
In verse 14 he shows us the focus. “Nailing it to his cross.” He just keeps coming back to the cross. 
 
Look at the 1st chapter of Colossians. He’s talking about the creation of the universe and how Christ is the creator. He starts with the creation. But in verse 20 he comes to, “Having made peace through the blood of his cross.” His cross. It all comes to the cross. All creation converges on the cross. Reality is at the cross. Salvation is at the cross. 
 
You don’t find reality in some ordinance of the church. You find reality solely in Jesus Christ.   His cross.
      
See what Jesus did at his cross. This is why reality is in Him. 
 
Verse 13
 
He is saying that at the cross he took away the grief of your sins. He has forgiven you through his cross. All trespasses. That word, forgiven, means to forgive on the basis of grace. It’s hard for people to accept that they have been forgiven. 
The older a person gets and the more reality and awesomeness of their sins becomes to them, the more difficult it is for them to understand they have been forgiven.
      
Jesus did away with that grief of sin at the cross. He paid for your sins on the cross. He died for all of your sins on the cross. God simply says, “I’ll forgive you of all your sins if you will meet me at the cross.” It’s hard for people to accept that, isn’t it?
 
God says, “Every sin you have ever committed I’ll forgive you. I paid for that sin on the cross, I forgive you.” It’s all at the cross--the forgiveness of sin.
      
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross.” (verse 14)  
 
When Jesus was nailed on that cross, right up above His head was a sign that said, “This is Jesus, king of the Jews.” But according to this verse of Scripture when God looked at that cross God didn’t see that inscription, God saw the handwriting of ordinances that was against us.” 
 
 
In other words the record of all of our sins that proves our guilt. The words used here are used to describe somebody who was in debt and they signed their own debt list. It was put in a public place for everybody to see. There it was. The guilt of sin. Guilty. 
 
It says that the Lord took all of our guilt of sin and nailed it to His cross. There it is. All of our guilt.
      
Guilt is a terrible thing. Some guilt is self-imposed. Some people put guilt on themselves. That’s not the kind of guilt we’re talking about here. Other people have guilt that others impose on them. That’s not the kind of guilt I’m talking about. 
 
I’m talking about genuine guilt. That is, guilt which comes on the basis of sins committed. Do you feel guilty for what you’ve done? Guilt is just eating your lunch. Guilt is just chewing you up on the inside. You feel so guilty. When you look at the cross you see the sin debt there. You see the guilt of your sin there. 
 
But I have some good news for you. It says in this 14th verse that He blotted out that sin debt.
      
In those days the ink didn’t have acid in it so it didn’t bite into the writing surface. It just lay on the top. They could take a wet sponge and wipe away whatever was written. 
 
That’s what Jesus did on the cross. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, with His precious blood, wiped away all of our sin debt. The guilt has been removed. The penalty is gone.
      
That’s the good news of what Christ does for our sins. He blotted them out. He deleted them. Praise God they are gone! You don’t have to be guilty for your sins any more. Jesus Christ’s blood has washed them away. That’s good news.
      
verse 15, “And having spoiled principalities and the powers (devil and his demons).” The word, spoil, means he disarmed them. He took away the armor, He took away the weapons, He disarmed them, made a show of them openly. That means publicly disgraced them and “triumphed over them in it (that is the cross). 
 
The devil thought he had won at the cross. There was Jesus after six hours naked and disgraced before men and dead. He thought he had won. 
But three days later Jesus Christ rose again from the dead and He won. The Bible says He is in a triumph march. 
 
In those days the Romans would have a Roman victory march. A Roman general who had won a battle would march down the streets of Rome. To his chariot they would tie the generals of the nations he had conquered. 
 
This verse is saying that Jesus Christ won the victory over sin and Satan on the cross. The devil is in the victory train of the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s dragging him by his chariot. That means now only that Jesus won, but we won on the cross of Calvary. We are in that victory parade with the Lord Jesus Christ. 
 
That’s why you don’t need to live in the shadows. You need to get into the reality.
      
Have you gone beyond the shadow? Have you come to Christ? Do you know that you’ve come to Christ. I invite you to make the most important decision you’ll ever make. Come to Christ.
 
 
 
 
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