Shadows or Substance

ChristinYou5When many consider what we call faith, our minds immediately go to how our beliefs, rituals, and traditions bring us closer to God. Yet was Christianity intended to be some obscure maze of ideas we sift through to find some 'divine formula' to get to God? Or could it be even circumcision and baptism were meant to illustrate what it means to have a greater consciousness of God? Notions that lend to God being some remote deity we conjure up through theological precision is an insult to the God of the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul (a former Pharisee) wanted to help these Colossians distinguish between shadows and substance; between man-made ideas even concerning Biblical rituals and the pure substance of Christianity.

COLOSSIANS 2:7-9

7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

The desire to finally be "Rooted... built up... and stablished in the faith" is what leads us out from under the shadow of a bully pulpit. We must be "taught" to identify Christ within. "Beware lest any man" stand over God's people to cast an impressive shadow of "philosophy and vain deceit", even going so far as to make up things in place of what they do not know. While the Apostle Paul's description is clear, that "in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily"- CHRIST IN YOU IS ALL YOU NEED.

Paul offers this stern warning concerning "any man" who attempts to captivate you. These men can become so desparate they will intimidate the weak through crafted ideas which only concern "the rudiments" or elements of the physical realm of the senses, disregarding the hidden, eternal things of God. When you know you have Christ, you'll no longer swallow what amounts to "vain deceit". God allows these supposed 'great ones' in, so we can see who will follow through for Him. Occassionally there comes a 'Pharoah', a 'King Saul', or even a 'King Ahab and Jezebel'... who we must overcome to prove we've been "Rooted and built up... in the faith". Paul helps us here to be able to recognize them by their character. When you get down to it, they follow after the ways of the flesh "and not after Christ". THEY CANNOT TAKE OTHERS WHERE THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN, NO MATTER HOW HARD THEY TRY.

Since Paul has established the main substance of Christianity as "Christ in you, the hope of glory", he doesn't waste any time before he highlights their approach and methods of their carnal opposition. Even then, there were those who worked hard to subvert people's faith by trying to explain away the need for spiritual understanding. If you want to "be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" which Paul introduced in chapter 1, you must avoid such men as this. You must be willing to take a stand, to be a follower of Christ, no longer falling short of the glory of God. DON'T LET THOSE WHO ARE AFRAID OF THEIR OWN SHADOW, HOLD YOU UP.

This word "spoil" is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #4112 which simply means moulded. We all know what happens when anything sits around too long. Just sitting around listening to teachers will "spoil" you. For if what you've learned doesn't motivate you to do anything but want to fuss and argue for instance, it may be the result of having been spoiled by one of these teachers. FOR WHEN A TEACHER STOPS GROWING HIMSELF, HIS FOLLOWERS WILL EVENTUALLY OUTGROW HIM, AND IF THEY DO NOT MOVE ON, THEY WILL SPOIL. Paul says watch out for such teachers who cause such ruin. The affect they end up having is nothing short of shameful. How could any teacher get to a place where they are holding God's people back from their fullest potential and His greatest blessings?! Because they have become blinded by their own "vain deceit".

With Christ in you, pursue God's glory in your life by accessing "the fulness" of Him! You'll no longer see the need for mere "philosophy" or "the tradition of men"- which are nothing more than empty shadows. Once you discover the substance of Christ by faith, there's nothing else but learning how to get out of the way so His "fulness" can shine through. ALL MAN-MADE IDEAS WHICH FOCUS ON THE EXTERNAL WILL FALL BY THE WAYSIDE.

COLOSSIANS 2:10-11

10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

Every Israelite is "complete in him" which is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #4137, simply full. GOD NEVER INTENDED FOR ANYTHING EXTERNAL, INCLUDING CIRCUMCISION, TO SOMEHOW MAKE ISRAELITES COMPLETE. With Christ, in Whom "dwelleth all the fulness", all of us "are complete in him" as our "head". The search is over once we are aware He is in us and is our all. Neither is anyone else's approval needed since Christ "is the head of all principality and power". He accomplished something for us which no one else could, conquering death, hell, and the grave. Even our repentance is letting go by "putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ". So you either accept Christ and what He's done for you, or continue looking outside yourself, following shadows into more and more confusion.

Circumcision is an ancient practice God instituted for Abraham and his descendants alone to perform (Genesis 17). This practice continued throughout the history of the kingdom of Israel, thru its division, even during the days of Christ and the Apostles. Circumcision is still practiced today. But it never saved anybody, and it never will. Circumcision was a sign of God's covenant with Abraham. These Colossians, who were descendants of the dispersed Israelites were never circumcised, yet Christ died for them anyway. Anyone can be circumcised in the foreskin of their flesh- even edomites, or what we call jews today. But only the actual Semites (white people) can have "the circumcision of Christ" within of the heart.

ONLY WITH CHRIST AS YOUR HEAD THEN DOES HIS FULNESS MAKE YOU COMPLETE. After knowing Christ died for you, that He was God, and that He is in you- what else do you need?! You "are complete in him", He is your "head", "In whom also ye are circumcised" since He fulfilled and kept God's law perfectly on your behalf. Therefore what should remove the hardness of your heart is that He did all this for you- "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ". Circumcision is a painful, external shadow, an emblem of what accepting Christ's redemption alone does to your heart, realizing such incredible mercy.

In a family, as an assembly, and even as a race, without Christ as the Head we are hard-hearted and powerless. He is to be our "head" which is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #2776, (in the sense of seizing); the head- TAKE HOLD OF YOUR HEAD. Let God's Spirit take over your mind and follow Christ's direction in your life. Taking hold of Christ is receiving His authority as "the head of all principality and power". Therefore His kingdom being active in you means the King has taken up His dominion over your whole life, giving you supernatural power.

So this "circumcision of Christ" speaks of an inner transformation of the heart, also known as conversion. We humble ourselves and become as little children once again, in light of His love, mercy, and power. Paul now shows how this is also pictured through baptism, realizing only as we crucify our flesh, can we live the resurrected life:

COLOSSIANS 2:12

12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

None of this is of us, but totally by "the operation of God" which is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, energeia #1753 meaning (effectual) working, just like the resurrection. The church ordinance of baptism is another shadow, a symbolic rehearsal of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, picturing what He did in your place. There's nothing wrong with publicly identifying with the Gospel of Christ. Where the confusion begins is when men think they can merit favor with God or even salvation through trusting in anything (like baptism) or anyone other than Christ alone. Baptism has become one of the most misunderstood practices in all of Christendom, though instituted by God through John the Immerser (Luke 7:29-30). This faith doesn't come thru doing rituals, ordinances, or going to seed on certain doctrines, but from the inner, effectual power of the Holy Spirit of God in you. It is only through the energy of God in our faith that we realize we "are risen with him". WE CAN KNOW THAT WE ARE WORTHY OF GOD'S GREATEST BLESSINGS BECAUSE THE FAITH GOD GIVES US IS BASED ON THE RESURRECTED CHRIST. Therefore when God sees you, He doesn't see one who is unworthy because of your past failures, but one who is worthy because of the One Who was buried and raised for you.

COLOSSIANS 2:13-14

13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 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 his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

This describes the seriousness of what was against Israel; the sin between us and God. These Colossians were Greeks who knew very little if anything about the law or circumcision especially as it being a part of their religion or traditions. These people are representative of all the scattered Israelites following the Assyrian and Babylonian Captivities who never came back to the land. This proves how "being dead in your sins" could not have been remedied through anything we could have done or stopped doing, then or now. In spite of the fact that we were not able to do anything (as our ancestors were separated for generations from being under the law and God's favor as the kingdom of Israel), Christ came and died for us anyway.

We were actually "dead in our sins" being put out of the favor and blessings of God. This "dead" is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #3498, nekros- a corpse. Without a consciousness of God, even as Adamites, we are the spiritual equivalent to a dead corpse. All the things we fell short of were clearly evident, like "handwriting... against us, which was contrary to us". Yet through His "Blotting out" all our sins, He "took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross".

By the power of the blood of "his cross" He has "forgiven all our trespasses". This "Blotting out" is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #1813 which is to wipe away. Understand, this isn't atonement as the law teaches. This is what the New Testatament calls propitiation meaning through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, our sins are not just covered but totally removed to where God sees them no more; as if we never sinned (Psalm 103:12; I John 2:2; 4:10). CHRIST'S BLOOD IS THE ONLY BASIS FOR HAVING PEACE WITH GOD. When He was raised from the dead, we were "quickened together in him". Though your sin is already forgiven before you receive the truth of this, personally acknowledging it by receiving that He "took it out of the way" from being between you and God is a good place to start. NOTHING ELSE COULD HAVE ACHIEVED THIS FOR US- ONLY THE BLOOD OF JESUS!

Despite "the uncircumcision of your flesh" or it being impossible for the dispersed Israelite nations to be under the law, "you... hath he quickened together with him" anyway, as our Substitute. Notice, all of this is in the past tense because Christ has already accomplished all of this in order for us to be reconciled unto God. There are no "principalities and powers" He did not conquer on our behalf. For "he made a shew of" their weakness and insufficiency "openly, triumphing over them in it."

So speaking of each individual Israelite, past, present, and future... when Christ died- we all died, when He was buried- we were all buried, and when He was raised from the dead, we were all raised up with Him- "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 his cross". By dying to self we individually ackowledge this truth daily, as Romans 10 says to "confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus" and "believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead".

Concerning the powers that be, on the cross, Christ made a "shew of them openly" which are Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #1165 and #3954 to exhibit... publicity. Were not the ones who spearheaded the unjust trial and public murder of the sinless Son of God perceived to be the most religiously powerful and Biblically-sound of all, holding in their hands the oracles of God?! BUT THROUGH THE RESURRECTION, GOD SHOWED WHAT LITTLE POWER THEY REALLY HAD. And in 70 AD when Titus and the Roman armies came in and destroyed Jerusalem, we see what God thinks of those who claim it as their rite to take such matters into their own hands.

This "handwriting of ordinances" is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #5498 manuscript and #1378 which is the Greek word dogma. Before, during, and after Christ's sacrifice, there have always been those among our people who feel it their duty to impose their formulations of dogma as the exclusive way to God. Here we see these externally oriented dogmas are actually "against us" and were blotted out by Christ, why? Because the way to God isn't out here somewhere or getting something in your head; He's already in you. Therefore He's already blotted this out for you, now you must wipe it all away for Him.

COLOSSIANS 2:16-17

16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

THE ONLY OPINION OF YOU THAT MATTERS IS THAT "OF CHRIST". While others are busy concocting twisted arguments why we must stay in their shadow, Christ is the reason we are here- "the body is of Christ". Those who choose to remain dead love to dress themselves up in their sophisticated dogmas. YET PAUL SAYS THEY HAVE NO RIGHT TO JUDGE YOU. Don't get so hung up on things like "meat... drink... holyday... the new moon... the sabbath days" and miss out on Christ. Those who want to wallow in the shadows will not know what it means to live.

Christ taught that the Sabbath was for man, not that man was for the Sabbath (Mark 2:22). MAN WAS CREATED FOR GOD. We must all walk in the light God has personally given to us. Arguing over modes of baptism, wine or grape juice, Saturday or Sunday, the food laws, whether or not to keep the Feasts of Yahweh, and so on... may be important, but not to the point of causing division and putting a black eye on the Gospel.

Paul isn't saying at all we shouldn't care about obeying the law of God. We obey it from within, do not allow those who are still hung up on the letter to get to you. We should want to keep God's law, but not just for the sake of appearances. Do it because you love the Christ within you and within your brother as well, fullfilling the law. For this is the only way our righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, through living by faith.

COLOSSIANS 2:18-19

18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.

When we're talking about receiving a "reward", we are obviously talking about it coming from God. As we have seen, because of what Christ accomplished on behalf of Israel, our eternal salvation is secure, we will be raised up on the last day. The concern here and now then is "your reward". Though every Israelite shall be saved and raised, not every Israelite will receive a reward. Therefore all this he is talking about not only has an impact on our lives here and now, but whether we'll have a better resurrection and receive a reward from God for being a faithful servant.

Believe it or not there are men who want to "beguile" you into holding them right up with Christ- how do we recognize them?! This word "beguile" is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #2603 which Liddell and Scott's defines as to give judgment against. In reference to him who is doing the beguiling, no one else ever quite measures up. He sees himself as the only one who has it together, who has the gifts, therefore looking down on others, especially those who disagree with him. Concerning spiritual gifts, Paul told the Corinthians that they all had them, "But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." THEREFORE TO TREAT OTHERS AS IF THEY HAVE NOTHING IS THE VERY DEFINITION OF ARROGANCE.

Given this type of "man", Paul is teaching us to not be cheated out of our "reward" by getting tangled up in their endless smoke and mirrors, distracting us from the substance of Christ within. These men 'major on the minors' and have 'gone to seed' on certain doctrines at the disposal of things they do not know. As Christ said of these Pharisee types, they "strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel". Do not allow them to 'spiritually decapitate' you from the Head. They think their knowledge is the source and supply. That their take on the Scriptures is the final word, when it is only Christ who is our Head "from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together". All of this begins by just humbly recognizing that Christ is truly in you.

According to Paul, the way to "your reward" is by "holding the Head". This "holding" is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #2902, to use strength... obtain, retain. This comes down to who you hold in the highest regard. Some teachers want us to look to them the way we should only be looking to Christ. BUT IF YOU WANT A REWARD FROM CHRIST YOU MUST ONLY SEEK TO HOLD HIS WORD IN THIS ESTEEM. Ultimately you will not fall for the tactics of the one who is "vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind". How can we detect such a one? By recognizing there is a true and false "humility" and maintaining your hold on the Head. Whereas one with true humility knows his own gifts and his limitations, one with false humility is always "intruding into those things which he hath not seen", even passing judgment and criticism on those who possess spiritual understanding. So what it comes down to is if you are following the way someone else is influencing your fleshly mind or holding to Christ as our Head by following the leadership of His mind in you.

ALWAYS REMEMBER, A MAN OF GOD DOESN'T SEEK TO BELITTLE OR HUMILIATE HIS BRETHREN. This is clearly in reference to one who thinks way too much of himself and is over-stepping his bounds. Such a one may feel he casts such a large shadow, being so "puffed up by his fleshly mind", that everything he says must be obeyed by everyone around him. Yet he is exposed by his arrogance to those who hold Christ as their Head. This is made further evident by his always wanting to elevate himself above others by selectively comparing himself to them (II Corinthians 10:12-18). This level of selfish pride results in him "intruding into those things which he hath not seen", even twisting and abusing the Scriptures to support his carnally-minded positions. These men require and demand so much from God's people unto themselves- your attention, your allegiance- your highest regard. What you must realize though, is by giving a mere man so much, you could lose "your reward" because you are not holding Christ as your Head.

For one to be so"vainly puffed up" is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #5448 which is to inflate... make proud (haughty) and #3553, disease from #3552 to be sick... to harp upon. Paul is telling us to not keep listening to one who keeps harping on how unworthy you are of "your reward". This is exactly what happens when this kind of man minimizes the importance of faith, which has greatly contributed to getting our race in the position of weakness we are in today. This kind of man attempts to divert our focus to things that are circumstantial and temporal, which don't even matter. Such a man takes advantage of people's confidence, while preying upon thier ignorance to push his way into things he does not know, being inflated by his huge ego.

Understand, Christ alone has your "nourishment" which is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #2023 to fully supply. Christ needs no one supplimenting our spiritual diet with their puffed up ideas. Unfortunately, this kind of man is more concerned with what he can get from you rather than you being blessed of God. HE WILL OPENLY ACCUSE OTHERS OF THE THE VERY THINGS HE IS DOING IN SECRET. Yet the job of a pastor or teacher is to help you grow in "the increase of God" which is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #838 to enlarge. This is the purpose of edification- to build up the body of Christ, to be fully functional and ever-expanding the message of Christ, not just building up one big super teacher who thinks he knows it all. We should want all of God's people to learn of and utilize their spiritual gifts and for each of us to receive our reward. Christ is our Head and He is the One we owe our allegiance to, not another man.

COLOSSIANS 2:20-22

20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?

WE MUST DIE TO FOCUSING ON THE EXTERNAL TO GET TO GOD. Using "the rudiments of the world" to distract God's people from the spiritual aspect of the Scriptures only 'stunts their growth'. WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO IS HOW EACH OF US LIVE. Some men insist, "Here's the beliefs you should have" while ignoring spiritual things. Yet the only chance we have at an abundant life is to "be dead with Christ" in our flesh. It's the same thing Paul said when he spoke the following to the Galatians, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God; who loved me and gave himself for me". Being dead to all "the rudiments of the world... ordinances... the commandments and doctrines of men" is the way to keep your attention on the substance of "Christ in you". Stop living in the shadows by removing all the external, religious distractions, "Which all are to perish with the using".

Fully embrace Christ by no longer looking outside of yourself, thinking they can make you more spiritual. "Touch not; taste not; handle not" may be good advice concerning health and avoiding certain things such as what may cause diseases. But not eating pork or refraining from touching a dead animal does nothing to make you more spiritual. Though we should practice separation from the world, non-whites, and not eat things unclean, this does not make us more spiritual or give us the right to look down on those who do not know these things. For this is the method of every external and/or fear-based religion: men using various levels of fear and/or intellectual manipulation, preventing you from leaving them behind for the truth of Christ in you. We must either follow Christ or go "after the commandments and doctrines of men". Men with agendas, who are hungry to gain or retain power over you have no problem coming up with their own rules and commandments. They'll even make new ones up or change their doctrines along the way if need be. BUT EVENTUALLY, THEIR 'HOUSE OF CARDS' WILL HIT THE FLOOR.

COLOSSIANS 2:23

23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

SOME THINK IT WISE TO PUT ON A SHOW TO COVER THEMSELVES. All they require is an appearance of Christianity, willing to dispense unlimited energy in "the flesh" to maintain it. For "indeed", their pretensious facades provide "a shew of wisdom in will worship" which is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #1479 voluntary (arbitrary and unwarranted) piety... sanctimony. FOR A CHRISTIAN HOWEVER, BEING HUMBLE ISN'T SOMETHING WE MANUFACTURE, IT'S JUST THE WAY WE ARE BECAUSE OF CHRIST WITHIN. Those who feel they must remind us all continually of how humble they are are putting on a show. Part of the mind of Christ is humbling ourselves and not drawing attention. All other approaches to Christianity outside of living by faith and walking in the Spirit are in some way only "satisfying of the flesh" with their cover-up.

Christianity isn't something we turn off and on. Man-made dogma falls way short of God's "wisdom", as it is neatly wrapped up in fleeting layers of false "humility". What your soul yearns for is not satisfied with smug manipulation cloaked in one's evolving scholarship. This also describes (as we have seen) how some have even taken signs and ordinances given by God and made them more than what they were intended. Men who attempt to make the Scriptures say what they want as "a shew of wisdom" suppress God's people from the substance in us from above. You must choose whether you want to keep settling for counterfeit interpretations or the pure Christianity from within manifested through the simplicity of Christ's words. The choice is yours: the right combination of clever beliefs or Christ in you.

REFLECTION

Life is too short to waste on anything other than what matters to God. So what will it be, more shadows or substance? Stop following men's ideas and start being His living epistle. No longer settle for approaching your relationship with God through others, but by "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen"- supernatural power accessible only by faith in Christ. To move from shadow to substance, you yourself must be willing to make the changes.