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Paul has been dealing with our amazing Savior, Jesus the Christ, and what He did by His death and resurrection. It’s one of those themes that when Paul starts, he often has a hard time ending the descriptions of just how great and glorious our Savior is!
His concluding thought (Colossians 2:15, that we noticed last lesson) is to compare Jesus to the ultimate Roman general or emperor’s victory celebration. When we think of our Savior are we consumed with the real greatness of all that He has done for us? And, even more important, do we appreciate our proper response to this great victory of Jesus.
Colossians 2:16 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 —  things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.  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,  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.
Paul is aware of the wide-ranging false teachings and ways we can be led astray. He begins with those that would seduce us with the Old Law. Much like the theme of the writer of Hebrews, Paul realizes that the Old Testament was giving us partial images of the greatness of reality in Christ.
One of the great themes that Paul returns to in so many of his lessons is the old mystery. God could have plainly spelled out everything that was to come with Jesus and the New Covenant, but how would they have ever understood it?
In numerous fields of study you introduce beginning students to a very simplified version of what they will eventually learn. Why? Because if they dive right into the advanced things it would be so overwhelming that they give up rather than learn. Step by step you learn until eventually you are ready for the details and can appreciate what it all means.
Next in false ways is worship of anyone or anything other than the Lord God. Check out how many so-called Christian religions of today offer a new authority that surpasses the New Testament. Is it any wonder that one of the early sermons of Peter came with the reminder: And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12)? Or that Paul would boldly exclaim to the Philippians that the name above all names was Jesus and that one day every knee will bow before Him (cf. Philippians 2:9-11).
Just as Paul had told the Galatians years earlier, anyone, man or angel that preaches any other Gospel is to be accursed (cf. Galatians 1:6-9). Our ONLY hope of salvation is in holding fast to Jesus as our one and only Savior. All else is false hope for we cannot grow and mature any other way than God’s way.
Colossians 2:20 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,  “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.
Let’s face it, there are many popular definitions of piety. Both Jew and Gentile have ideas on what makes for purity and oneness with God. After all, Christians live in a world where we are daily subjected to the ideas and opinions of non-Christians about what Christians should be doing.
Paul describes all such concepts from outsiders as nonsense. We do not follow the wisdom and teachings of humans but rather that of God. Religion that looks good to the world and yet contradicts what God says is as dangerous as drinking poison because someone else thought it looked tasty.
Note, too, that nothing in what Paul says suggests that we should also ignore what God says. It is only the opinion of humans that is of no value. Yes, it may sound good and look good but if it’s manmade by yourself or any other human being and not “God says,” then it is of no value.
Finally, Paul specifically returns to the showoff attitude of fake humility. Jesus had commented on those that made a show of their fasting by fancy makeup to be noticed (cf. Matthew 6:16-18). If you are trying to look impressive in your religion to get noticed by people, then when they notice you, you have your reward in full.
One religious group admits to teaching their people to try and get others to treat them rudely so they can fulfil the Scriptures about God’s people being ill-treated. The problem is, if you intentionally are obnoxious then you are actually getting what you deserve when others are rude to you.
Peter also comments on this lesson when he reminds us that if we suffer because we are doing wrong then we get what we deserve and should be ashamed. Only when we suffer for faithfulness to Christ do we attain honor from God (cf. 1 Peter 4:14-16).
If fake religion is useless and it doesn’t fool God, then why do people so often resort to it? To be honest, isn’t that exactly what Satan has done from the beginning? Deception, making it LOOK like something good is his specialty and the thing we humans are most likely to fall for. Eve ate from the tree that looked good (cf. Genesis 3:6) and was desirable. Sin is nearly always going to look good and it certainly seems desirable. Only after we’ve failed to obey God do we wake up to the fact that it really was of no value. Like any good parent, our Heavenly Father is really not trying to spoil all our fun. Instead, He is trying to help us do what it right and best for us.
It doesn’t matter who tells you that it’s good. If God says it’s not, then don’t listen to anyone else. Being a faithful Christian is all about doing God’s will, God’s way. Anything else is failure. Lord help us to succeed by listening to you!
—Lester P. Bagley