The truths of God’s Word are profound. They are intended to show you how to avoid error, to know the truth, and to live a life of authentic faith in Christ. Dig deep into the Scriptures. Meditate on them. Respond to them with faith and obedience.
#1 – Beware of empty philosophies.
Notice in these verses that you can test whether or not a philosophy is empty by what that philosophy teaches about Jesus.
Colossians 2:4-15 (HCSB)
4 I am saying this so that no one will deceive you with persuasive arguments. 5 For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.
6 Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude.
8 Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ. 9 For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, 10 and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. 11 You were also circumcised in Him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah. 12 Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. 14 He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him.
There are a lot of philosophies in the world. Make sure you are not being deceived by empty philosophies. Some tempt you to worship the elemental forces of the world like earth, wind, water, and fire. Others tempt you to worship the elemental forces of humanistic thinking. Don’t be deceived. Beware of empty philosophies. Trust in Christ instead. He is not empty. He is the fullness of God.
#2 – Beware of religious legalism.
Some people try to impose their religious convictions on you in a legalistic way: what foods to eat, what to do on particular holy days, what to do on the Sabbath day, and more.
Colossians 2:16-17 (HCSB)
16 Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah.
Verse seventeen reminds us that Jesus the Messiah is the substance. The other things are shadows pointing to Him. Some people focus on the shadows but they miss the substance. Don’t do that. Avoid religious legalism. Focus on Christ.
#3 – Beware of man-made disciplines.
Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, silence, simplicity and study can be helpful as we exercise our faith. However, if someone takes these disciplines to the extreme believing that the disciplines themselves are the answer, that person is mistaken and misdirected.
Colossians 2:18-23 (HCSB)
18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on ascetic practices and the worship of angels, claiming access to a visionary realm and inflated without cause by his unspiritual mind. 19 He doesn’t hold on to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and tendons, develops with growth from God.
20 If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: 21 “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? 22 All these ⌊regulations⌋ refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are commands and doctrines of men. 23 Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.
These verses do not tell us to avoid disciplines. They do tell us to beware of man-made disciplines. Such disciplines may even promise to curb self-indulgence but they do not. Christ is the one who grows each person spiritually (v19), not man-made disciplines. Focus on Christ. Follow Him.
And beware of empty philosophies, religious legalism, and man-made disciplines.
Author’s note: I am grateful to Warren Weirsbe for the three-part outline for this passage of Scripture. The outline I learned from him. The paragraphs are original with me. All praise goes to the Lord.