David Jeremiah - Beware
Rita McClain's spiritual journey began for her when she lived in Iowa. She grew up in the fundamentalist world of the Pentecostal church. In her 20s, she tried less doctrine in her Protestantism, and that too proved very unsatisfying to her. By the time she was 27 she had rejected all organized religion. She said, "I just felt pretty wounded as a Christian". And for the next 18 years, she sought inner peace through nature, through rock climbing, through mountains, hiking in the desert. That seemed enough. But a few years later, in the aftermath of an emotionally draining divorce, Rita McClain's spiritual life took another direction. Just as she had once explored mountains and began scouting the outward life, she began looking into the inner landscape of her own heart.
She started with Unity, a metaphysical church near her Marin County, California home. It was a revelation light years away from the Old Testament kind of thing she knew growing up as a child. And the next stop was Native American spiritual practices. Then it was Buddhism at the Marin County Spirit Rock Meditation Center, where she attended a number of retreats, including one that required eight days of silence. These rituals melted into some sort of a personal religion, which McClain would celebrate at an altar that she built in her own home, an altar consisting of an angel statue, a small bottle of sacred water blessed at the Woman's Vigil, a crystal ball, a pyramid, small brass image of Buddha on a brass leaf, a votive candle, a Hebrew prayer, a tiny Native American basket from the 1850s, and a picture of her most sacred place, a madrone tree near her home.
Now, you might think that's kind of strange, and you might think nobody does it. Oh, they do. Oh, yes, they do. A lot of people think that if you just keep adding more gods, you'll have a better shot. So, they keep adding stuff here and there. They borrow from this and borrow... oh, here's... oh, yeah, well, let's put that in here. And so they end up with a cocktail of doctrines that totally diminishes the centrality of Jesus Christ. False teachers who came after the Colossians were very much like Rita. They borrowed from everything to create their doctrine, and it seemed like they made it up as they went. What they embraced and what they were trying to get the Colossians to embrace was a coalescence of rituals, and restrictions, and regulations, and angel worship, and legalism, and mysticism, and rituals.
And no wonder Paul was in such great agony over what to say to this young church. I was in great agony this week trying to figure out how I was going to explain it to you all. In this extended passage, Paul is going to present five major errors that were being foisted upon the Colossian believers. These errors were intellectualism, ritualism, legalism, mysticism, and aestheticism. That outlines the passage. I promise you I won't get you lost if you stay with me. These are five major threats to our Christian life. They're five ways we trade in the abundant life of Christ for slavery and condemnation. They're five ways we forfeit the fullness of Christ in our life for something much less. No wonder there are three commands in this passage. Here they are. Verse 8, "Beware lest anyone cheat you". Verse 16, "Let no one judge you". Verse 18, "Let no one cheat you".
Paul is writing to the Colossians, and he's saying, "If you're not careful, they're gonna come and steal your religion right out from you by adding all of this craziness that's in their doctrine". We begin with the first of the five errors in verses 8 through 10, intellectualism. Remember, the word gnostic means to know. It comes from the Greek word to know, and the Gnostics were proud intellectuals. To put it in everyday language, they considered themselves smarter than everyone else. Have you ever been around somebody like that? As Paul is walking around the city of Rome, chained to a Roman soldier, he's about to warn the Colossians about this. Don't get sucked in by their false intellectualism, by their proud knowledge. He says there are four marks of this kind of intellectualism. They're all found in the 8th verse. He said, "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit".
He warned the Colossians to be careful, because there were people out there who wanted to rob them of their Christian faith. He's not putting down intelligence. He's not putting down philosophy. The word philosophy just means the love of wisdom. Paul was warning them against a kind of philosophy that was being imported into the church, a philosophy that was empty and deceitful and seduced believers away from the simplicity which is just Jesus Christ. You're going to learn through this lesson Christ is all you need. He's all, all you need. And in case you haven't noticed, this same ideology that was creeping into the church in Colossae has been imported into our culture. It's in our churches too, false philosophies which are pervading the culture. I wrote down some of the things people are pushing on us now in the name of religion. God helps those who help themselves. Find that in the scripture. He will love us more if we're good. He will judge us according to our accomplishments. Anything that feels good must be good.
Self-expression is the only way to self-realization. Enjoyment is enrichment. Christ is the best of all good men, a really good example for us to follow, nothing more. What we are is what we acquire. Our worth is determined by our productivity. Health and wealth gospel. And so it goes, everything from playboy philosophy to materialism, astrology, scientism, socialism, all trying to get the American mind to be manipulated and motivated primarily to spend money. And often Christians are among those who get caught up in this, because they have an emptiness that has not yet been filled with the fullness of Christ, and his fullness is what fills our emptiness. There are many false philosophies. They all share a common core. In his first paragraph of this section, the Apostle Paul outlines these characteristics of a seductive philosophy. He said, first of all, these philosophies are deceptive.
J.B. Phillips translates this phrase, "Through intellectualism and high-sounding nonsense". The word philosophy is not found anywhere else in the Bible. Believe it or not, it's not a Bible word. It's a reference to the highest effort of your intellect if God isn't in the picture. It's everything you can do, the best you can come up with if you don't believe in God. Philosophy is the love of wisdom, but in this text it's the love of a kind of wisdom that X's God out of the picture. And the key word here is the word deceit, which occurs 18 times in the New Testament, and it's all about people trying to pull the wool over your eyes by saying to you, "Well, if you just knew what I knew. If you just had the knowledge I have, if you'd just been to the school I've been to, if you just were as smart as I am, you would know that there's much more to being a Christian than just loving Jesus".
Deceptive. And people fall for it. Donald Grey Barnhouse, the great preacher and writer, used to illustrate this by telling of a practical joke that he and his teenage friends used to play on unsuspecting passersby in a large city. Here's what he did. His group would stand on a busy corner, and they would look intently into the air like this. And one of them would point and say, "It is not". And a third friend would argue, "It is so". At this, one or two people would stop and begin to look up in the same direction as Barnhouse and his friends. And as the argument grew more heated, others would stop. Then, one by one, Barnhouse and his friends would quietly slip out of the crowd and gather a few yards away to watch the results. By this time, 15 people were looking into the air. The crowd changed as new passersby came along and joined the group and those who had been staring longest left. Twenty minutes later, several people were leaning against a building, looking up for something that was not there and had never been there.
And Barnhouse observed that little incident is a good illustration of all of the earth-born religions. People talk about having faith. They tell you to look in a direction where there is absolutely nothing. Some people are so desperately in need of seeing something that they will look until they're almost blind, and they never catch a glimpse of anything real. Deception. People come along and say, "You don't know what we know. If you knew what we knew, you'd crave what we have". But when you look up to what they have, they ain't got anything. It's emptiness. Empty deceit. Not only is it deceptive, these kind of philosophies always claim antiquity.
By that, I mean they always say they've been around for a long time. In the verse it says, "According to the traditions of men". In other words, you need to believe this because, oh, it's been around for a long... it's older than Moses. It's older than Job. And, of course, none of that's true. They made it up on the way to the conversation. It's relatively recent, but in order to give it credibility, they have to add antiquity, according to the traditions of men. And then it's demonic. This one you have to dig a little deeper. Gnostics were boasting a truth according to the basic principles of the world, that's what it says.
Now, the first thing you need to know about that is that's a little phrase that means the alphabets of the world. That phrase, "the basic elements of the world," is often used to translate satanic forces. The expression usually argues that evil forces are in control of this doctrine and that these demons are trying to bring the Colossians back to the bondage that they knew before they became Christians. How many of you know that when you get saved, the devil doesn't leave you alone. I think you get more attention when you become his adversary. I'd spent the better part of a year researching the philosophy of socialism. I don't think I've ever researched anything like I did that. And I can tell you that it is demon controlled.
Its founder, Karl Marx, was possessed of a devil, and his doctrine is a demonic doctrine. Paul said, "This intellectualism that's coming at you back there in Colossae, it's deceptive. It claims antiquity. It's demonic. And then finally, it's enslaving". He says, "Beware lest anyone cheat you". This is one of the three imperative warnings in this text, and some translate the verse, "Don't let anyone take you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophies". The phrase means to take someone like you were capturing a prisoner of war. And Paul says, "If you're not careful, all of this craziness that people throw at you in the name of religion can actually capture you and take you away so that you lose all of the vitality of your faith in Jesus Christ". And he says, "Be careful that doesn't happen".
Let me just say to you, if you're dabbling in strange doctrine, it wouldn't be surprising to me if there's more than one person here who's doing that. If you are listening to arrogant teaching that does not seem right to you, it does not ring true, it's not what your Christian friends and your family embrace, my advice to you is to run as fast as you can away from that seductive philosophy. Get out while you can. Get out before it's too late. Renounce anything that does not see Christ as everything. You need to do that. And then Paul goes on, having warned them, to present the folly of abandoning Christ in verses 8 through 10.
Now, let me just give you this little interpretive comment. We usually don't start new thoughts in the middle of a verse, but in this case it is warranted. Paul has just described the emptiness of false intellectualism. And before he enters the subject of the fullness of God, he inserts a summary statement. Look at your Bibles, and you will see it. All that he has written about "is not according to Christ". Do you see that phrase? If it's not according to Christ, you don't want anything to do with it. What he is about to say is according to Christ. What he has said is not according to Christ. In verses 9 and 10, he says, "For in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power".
The whole purpose of saying that is quit looking around for something else. You've already got it all. You've got Christ. What else do you need? You need to understand what you have, but you don't need something else. The Gnostics were trying to spread the fullness of God among angels and spiritual agencies, and Paul is responding by declaring that the fullness of God dwells only in Jesus Christ. That's what it says. "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily". And when we are told that this fullness dwells in Jesus Christ, what it is saying is that the Godhead has taken up permanent residence in the body of Jesus. I have been telling you this ever since I've been your pastor. I don't know where I heard this the first time, but I say it every time I can. Jesus Christ is God walking around in a body. Do you understand that? Jesus Christ isn't just a good man. He's not just a great teacher. Jesus Christ is God. He's the Son of the living God. Jesus Christ was on this earth, and when he was on this earth, he was God walking around in a body.
So, we learned if you want to know who God is, study Jesus, 'cause Jesus is God. Philip said, "Show me the Father". Jesus said, "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father". Jesus Christ is God. And when he came into Bethlehem, he was given a body. Now listen to what it says here. He's the fullness of God bodily. In other words, in his body he's God. The body of Jesus was fashioned by the Holy Spirit in the virgin's womb. In that body Jesus lived, in that body he displayed his deity, in that body he died, in that same body he came out of the grave, in that body he ascended to heaven, in that body he's seated at the right hand of God, in that body he's going to come again and take us to be with himself, in that body one day he'll sit on the throne of David and rule over the empires of the earth. That body is now his, and it's forever.
I remember when we all learned together that Jesus is in his body. He took his humanity back to heaven with him. If you went to heaven right now, if you'd get exported in there, look around for Jesus. He's in his body. You'll see the nail prints in his hands, the scars on his forehead from the crown of thorns, and you will know this is Jesus in his resurrected boy. And in Jesus, says the scripture, is the Godhead. He is the answer to whatever weird mysteries were being foisted upon the Colossian church. They don't need all this stuff. If you've got Jesus, you don't need intellectualism. In fact, I've discovered this week, if you get Jesus, you get humility. People who really are into Jesus aren't walking around telling everybody all of their wonderful things about them. They're humble. So, here's the great mystery. Here's the wonder that in Christ is the fullness of God.
Now, watch this. "And if Christ is in you," Colossians 2:10, "you are complete in him who is the head of all principalities". I wrote this down. Here's the wonder of this statement. Our fullness comes from his fullness. God is in Christ filling him up. Christ is in us filling us up. We have the fullness of God in our hearts. That vacuum I told you about that's empty 'til God comes, if you become a Christian, that gets filled up with the fullness of Christ. Who is Christ? He's filled with the fullness of God. Now, that doesn't mean that we become little gods, but we have the new nature in us. Before Jesus Christ comes to live within your heart, you only have one nature. It's the old nature, and it's in full bloom. It's doing all the stuff old natures do. There's no conscious about anything. Just do whatever you want to do, what the old nature tells you to do. When you become a Christian, the old nature doesn't get exited. You get a new nature.
Now you've got two natures. You've got the old nature, and you've got the new nature, and the Bible says they're at war with each other. The new nature doesn't want you to live the way you used to live. And I have a little poem I share every time I come to this doctrine. It goes like this, "Two natures live within your breast. The one is foul, the one is blessed. The one you love, the one you hate, but the one you feed will dominate". Which nature are you feeding? Gotta work harder at feeding the new nature. You've gotta study the Bible. You've gotta ask God to help you build, to strengthen your life. One of the things that becomes obvious to us as we read the Bible is there's an awful lot of Old Testament things struggling for attention in the early New Testament Christian faith, and that brings me to the second point.
The first thing that Paul addresses is intellectualism. The second thing he addresses is ritualism, and this is the passage most people don't want to preach on. I'm not crazy about it, but I'm going to tell you what it means. Colossians 2:11-13, let's begin with verse 11. "In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ". One of the things that becomes obvious to us as we study Colossians is the fact that much of the false doctrine that was creeping into the church was a holdover from Judaism. The false teachers in Colossae were trying to bring their old Judaism into the new Christianity. Part of the cocktail of doctrines was the requirement of believers in Christ to be circumcised in order to be saved. That was what they taught. Many of the converts of the early church were Jewish converts. They'd grown up with all kinds of rituals and ceremonies. And when they accepted Christ, they struggled to leave behind their Jewish way of life.
So, many battles were fought over ceremonies and feasts and dietary restrictions. Acts chapter 15 and the two books, Galatians and Hebrews, deal with this almost exclusively. You read those books and you study that chapter, it's all about the fact that if you're a Christian, you can't drag the Old Testament law into the grace which is Christ. And if you try to bring the law in, we'll get to a little of that later, you're going to ruin everything. The law was for the Old Testament. It doesn't mean that we go and disobey all the things that are in the law, but when you get to the New Testament, Jesus elevated the law way beyond what it was in the Old Testament to include motives for whatever it's worth. And one of the most stubborn battles that they fought over in the early church was this ceremony of circumcision.
Now, for us today this is a very indelicate subject to talk about, but for a Jew, it was central to their religion and central to their orthodoxy. Circumcision was a minor surgical operation that involved the removal of a small portion of flesh from an infant Jewish boy when he was 8 days old. This Jewish ceremony was instituted by God as a sign and seal of the Abrahamic covenant. It was solely a Jewish thing. But Paul, instead of arguing against the fact that this shouldn't be included in the gospel, uses the Old Testament ceremony to help the Colossians understand that there is a kind of circumcision that we undergo as Christians. He calls it a circumcision without hands. He says that our circumcision as Christians is a spiritual one. In fact, in another place the great apostle refers to it as the circumcision of the heart.
At salvation, listen to me, believers undergo a spiritual surgery which Paul describes in this text as the putting off of the body and the sins of the flesh. This is the new birth. This is the new creation. This is conversion. If you're a Christian, that's spiritual circumcision. The Gnostics wanted to force the Colossian believers to undergo Old Testament physical circumcision as a requirement for salvation and spiritual enlightenment. Paul is refuting this with every ounce of mental and spiritual strength available to him. If anything is added to the faith requirement of salvation, that addition, whatever it is, negates the whole process. Listen to me, it's not just about circumcision. People teach today that if you're not baptized after you accept Christ, you're not a Christian. Baptism in that regard is a work, not faith.
Some people say, "If you don't join the church, you're not a Christian". Some people say, "if you don't do certain regimentations and rituals, you can't be a Christian". Let me say this as clearly as I can. There's only one thing you need to do to be a Christian, and that's to put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for your personal salvation. That's it. If somebody comes along and says, "Oh no, but you need to be baptized," you say, "Wait a minute. I read my Bible, and my Bible says I'm complete in him. If I'm complete, what else do I need"? We'll get to baptism in a few moments, because it's important, but it is not important in order that you become saved. It's important because you are saved, and it's a picture of what's happened to you in your life. The Gnostics wanted to bring all of this into the salvation experience of the Christians and muddy the waters.
Paul takes a right turn, right in the middle of this passage, and he does deal with baptism. He says in verse 12, "Buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead". The outward affirmation of the already accomplished inner transformation is the believer's baptism by water. We honor baptism. You say, "Why would you do that? Why don't you just get a little water and sprinkle it on their head"? The answer to that is right here in this text. Baptism, water baptism is a picture of what has happened to you in your life. Paul said, "We are buried with him in baptism, and we are raised again in resurrection". When you are baptized, you are painting a picture for the whole world to see, that you have been identified in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And the reason that I say that is because the mode of baptism is not unimportant.
If the picture you're trying to paint doesn't match the reality you're trying to paint it of, it doesn't work. Baptism by immersion is a perfect picture of what happens to you when you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. Do you know what happens at that moment? The Bible says you become identified with Jesus Christ in his death and burial and in his resurrection. You then are saying to the world, "I have been buried with Christ. I am risen with Christ. I am a Christian". And that's why we baptize the way we do. That's why if you haven't been baptized, you haven't had your picture taken yet. You need to go get your picture taken. Baptism doesn't make you a Christian. It's the first command you are given as a Christian. The first thing you're supposed to do once you become a Christian is to be outward about your faith and be baptized.
So, I'm glad I got to say that in this message. 'Cause I know some of you are hanging out out there, you're saying, "No, I'm not gonna do that. That's not important". Oh, it's important. First of all, it's a command of God. And here's the other thing. You may not think about this. The Bible commands me to go into all the world and preach the gospel and to baptize those who are saved. Now, I can't baptize you if you aren't willing, so you're making me disobedient. Did you know that? You need to get baptized, because that's the command of the scripture. So, here's intellectualism. We talked about ritualism. Here's the third one, legalism. Colossians 2:14-15, "Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And Jesus has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it".
Now, Paul pictures the Colossians' sins as a charge list. In ancient times these charges were listed out against a person, and if he signed it, it was an admission in his own hand of his debt. The Greek word for charge is an interesting word. It's the word which is translated by the word autograph. In other words, here's all my sins, everything that I've done, and I'm signing it at the bottom. According to Paul, our guilt before God is immeasurable. Our failure to obey God and our disobedience to what God tells us to do, all those things become a part of the charge list. Martin Luther helps us with this. He experienced one time the reality of this truth. He had a dream. And he said in his dream, he was visited at night by Satan, and Satan brought him, in his dream, a record of his own life written with his own hand. The tempter said to him, "Is that true? Did you write this"? And poor, terrified Luther had to confess it was all true. Scroll after scroll was unrolled, and the same confession was wrung from him again and again and again.
Finally, the evil one prepared to leave, having brought Luther down to the lowest place in his life in his dream. Suddenly, Luther thought of something. He turned to the tempter, and he said, "It is true, every word of it is true, but write this across that scroll, 'The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin.'" Amen? I think that's the greatest visual we've ever had right there. Now, Paul said, "Because you've been forgiven, all your sins have been taken away. Don't get caught up in trying to add to that with your legalistic life". Verses 16 and 17, he says, "So don't let anyone judge you in food, or in drink, or regarding a festival, or a new moon, or a Sabbath. These are shadows of things to come, but the substance is Christ". He says, "Now that you're a Christian, don't get caught up in all the rules and regulations people will want to throw on you so that you can prove that you're a Christian".
There's none of that in the scripture, none of it. And he kind of coalesces these things around, first of all, the diets. He says, "Don't let anybody judge you in food or drink". You know, I've been a pastor here for 40 years, and one of the most memorable times in my life was during the time I was going through cancer. And I have to tell you I got so much literature from people. You know those boxes you put your business statements in? They have a little box. The top fits on them. I had two or three of those full of literature people sent me about how I should eat, how I should change the way I eat. "If you eat this way, you're going to get better". And I would, okay, some of them made sense. I'll be honest with you. I drank carrot juice for a whole month. My wife said it was turning me yellow.
But here's the point. The Judaizers, the teachers were taking it further than just a suggestion. They were saying, "You have to eat these certain things in order for you to continue to have your Christian experience," and they put diets into doctrine. I read recently about a young man who suffered from a crippling form of arthritis. After he became a Christian, he met this doctor who put him on this incredible wonder diet. The basic philosophy behind this particular diet was you must never eat a meal that includes both proteins and carbohydrates, and the young man swore that he had been healed completely by the diet. And in his enthusiasm of his new faith and his new diet, he began to push the people in his church for the incorporation of this new diet into the doctrinal statement of the congregation. In other words, if you come to this church, you accept Jesus Christ.
And, oh, by the way, here's the diet you have to live on in order to stay healthy. Well, this went on for some time, and argument after argument. And one day, they were arguing about this issue in a church meeting, and another young Christian in the church membership who had been saved almost at the exact time as this diet devotee got up and he settled the issue once for all. Here's what he said. He spoke to the young diet guy, and he said, "You believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is God, don't you"? And the diet guy said, "Absolutely". "And would you also agree that since the Lord Jesus Christ is our Creator," he asked, "and the one who made our bodies, that he would know what is best for these bodies"? "Yes, absolutely, he would". "Then how come, if your diet is right, did the Lord Jesus feed loaves and fishes to 2,000 people, giving them proteins and carbohydrates in the very same meal"? Amen.
And I wrote down in my notes, "It sure is fun to know the Bible". If you know the Bible, you've got answers to a lot of questions people don't know what to do with. Fortunately for us, we have a lot in the Bible about diets. Let me read to you what Jesus said on one occasion. He said, "Are you thus without understanding? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from the outside cannot defile him, because it doesn't enter his heart, but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods". And he said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man". And Paul concluded in one of his letters, "Food does not commend us to God, for neither if we eat are we better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse". So, Paul goes on, and he says, "Don't get caught up in what you eat, and don't get caught up in the days". He has a whole thing about special days like Sabbath days and feast days and all that. Don't make them the essence of your salvation.
I need to tell you that I grew up in a different environment than we have here. I grew up in a legalistic church atmosphere, and it almost made me want to run from the church and not toward it. When I finally discovered the principle of grace, it was like fresh wind blowing through me, and I just, I couldn't get over it. Now, I didn't become more tolerant of bad behavior when that happened. No, no, I became more careful, because I didn't want to do anything to offend the one who had so wonderfully saved me and put grace in my life. Ladies and gentlemen, the enemy is the one who wants to come and bind you all up with a bunch of rules that don't come from God. We call them the filthy five, the nasty nine, and the dirty dozen, you know what I'm talking about. And the devil says to you, "You can be holy and righteous. You can be everything God wants, if you'll just not do these things, and you'll do these things".
And what I want to say to you, you know, the best thing you can do is just fall in love with Jesus Christ. Ask Jesus how you're supposed to live your life. Get up every day and say, "Lord, I love you. I want to serve you today. I don't want to do anything to disappoint you. Lead me and guide me, show me the way," and he will, and you'll have joy in your heart, and you won't be under the burden of all the rules, and regulations, and restrictions that people want to put on you as a Christian. Legalism, measuring your own or someone else's spirituality by the ability to keep manmade rules is confining, and it's lifeless, and it will steal the joy out of your Christian life.
And then there's mysticism. "Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility, and worship of angels, and intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, not holding fast to the head, from whom all the body, nourished in it together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God," what a sentence that is. What Paul is just saying is that if you are not careful, you will get caught up in worshiping things that don't deserve worship.
And I remember when the angel craze happened some years ago, do you remember that? I went into a woman's house, and when I walked in, the entire house was covered with angels, all on the walls, on the ceilings, all around, everywhere. There must have been thousands of angels there, and her belief was that if she had all those angels, she could pray to those angels, and they would keep her safe. You never pray to angels. Angels do not want to be worshiped. They are not worthy of worship. Only God is worthy of worship.
So, if you're in situations where you pray to angels, you should quit it, that's sinful. Praying to angels is disrespectful. Angels have no power. And the doctrine of the Gnostics included angel worship. It included sorcery. It included all kinds of stuff. And I can't imagine what their worship service was like, probably like Rita's little altar in her home. Everything is in, nothing's out. When we search for supernatural experiences out of false motivation, what happens is we get proud, and we have to run around and tell everybody about our experiences. But I believe God can give you special experiences. I don't know which ones you've had.
I've had some experiences where God has done special things in my life, but you know what? You have to be careful when you talk about those with other people that you don't convey to them that because that happened to you, it should happen to them. How many of you know that if you're in this church and hear baptism testimonies, nobody ever ultimately comes to Christ the same way. They come in terms of the message is the same, but the experiences they have and the things that happen to them that lead them to Christ, all of them are different. So, if you've had an experience with the Lord, and it's special, and it's scriptural, enjoy it, but be careful how you share it, because if you're not careful, you're going to convey to other people that if they don't have the exact same experience you had, there's something missing in their life. Wrong. Not true.
And then, of course, the last one in this list is asceticism. Let me just summarize that by saying ascetic people believe that if you punish yourself enough, that will get you to godliness, that self-denial is a way toward God. Some people have bought woolen, scratchy shirts, and they wear these shirts that scratch. It's like itching will make you spiritual. Some people think that to be a Christian, you have to fast. Fasting is good. We should probably all do it sometime, but fasting won't get you to heaven. Fasting isn't going to make you a better Christian. All these things that we say we do to ourselves, you don't become a Christian because you hurt yourself. You become a Christian because you accept Jesus Christ.
Christ is everything. He's all that you need. He makes you complete. And when you try adding stuff to your faith, when you try putting stuff into your faith that has nothing to do with your faith, that doesn't make you better. It diminishes you. It makes you less. It makes it obvious that you don't really believe that you are complete in Christ. If you're complete in Christ, you need nothing more. Build your relationship in him. Read his Word. Pray to him, worship him. Make Christ everything, and you will have the things that will make your life meaningful.
Author Peter Kreeft tells this story about a poor European family who saved for years to buy tickets to sail to America. Once they were at sea, they carefully rationed the cheese and bread they had brought for the journey. After about three days, the younger boy complained to his father, "I hate cheese sandwiches. If I don't eat anything else before we get to America, I'm going to die". And his father gave the boy his last nickel and told him to go to the ship's galley and buy himself an ice cream cone. When the boy returned a long time later with a wide smile, his worried dad said to him, "Did you get lost? Where were you"? "I was in the galley," said the little boy, "eating ice cream cones and a steak dinner". "All that for a nickel"? "Oh, no," he said. "The food on this ship is free. It comes with the ticket".
The Apostle Paul warned his readers about the false teachers who were offering them bread and cheese instead of steak. They were in danger of forgetting Christ's sufficiency and relying on their own self-effort. We who have trusted Christ for salvation have been assured not only of safe passage to heaven, but of everything we need to live for him here and now. Charles Haddon Spurgeon nailed it when he said this, "If you have Christ, you have all". Do not be desponding. Do not give ear to the whisperings of Satan that you are not the children of God. For if you have Christ, you are perfect in him.
So, don't be intimidated by the spiritual bullies around you. You are complete and righteous in Jesus Christ. And all God's people said amen. What I want more than anything else is for you to leave here today knowing that if you have Jesus Christ, you have the ultimate goal of life. Does that mean all your problems go away? No, but you have an ally. You have someone to help you. He's not only your Savior, he's your friend. He's your advocate. He's your helper. The Bible says if you need anything, go to him, and he'll help you. But don't go away from him to find that help, or you will be in worse shape than you ever dreamed, because Jesus Christ is everything.