Colossians 2: 11- 23 (New \living Translation NLT)
“When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. 12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
16 So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17 For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. 18 Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, 19 and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.
20 You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21 “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? 22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.”
Paul begins this section with a reference to circumcision. Jewish readers (and I imagine even Gentiles would be aware of this practice) definitely knew that circumcision was the mark of a “true” Jew. Genesis 17: 10 – 11 talks about this covenant between God and his nation of Israel:
“This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you.” But new believers in Christ, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, don’t need to follow this procedure anymore. Jesus’ death and resurrection has changed everything. Our faith in what Jesus has done for us is what makes us God’s children – not circumcision.
Paul mentions that baptism is now the sign of a believer’s faith. Baptism is a symbol of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. As we are baptized, we go under the water, a symbol of death, and then we are lifted out of the water, a symbol of resurrection and new life. Being baptized doesn’t make us a child of God; it is just a public declaration that we have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for us personally. This Easter there is an opportunity to be baptized at LSA. If you are a believer in Jesus, and have never taken that step, I encourage you to contact the church office and arrange to be part of that special occasion.
Again, Paul can’t emphasize enough that we have freedom when we believe that Jesus died for us personally. “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” (v. 13 – 15)
Paul goes on to say that we should stay away from people who try to tack on things we must do to get God’s approval. Some of the new Jewish Christians wanted the Gentile believers to follow the Old Testament laws. If you remember from our study of Acts, some thought the Gentile believers needed to be circumcised, and there were many more laws they tried to enforce. At that time in history, there were also people who said the human body was evil, and therefore it should be punished in various ways – very limited diet, whipping yourself, lack of sleep, etc. By doing that, you would free your spiritual side. This was the Greco-Roman Empire with its myriad of gods and mystic beings. (You may remember taking mythology in high school English class.) Paul warns the new believers not to get sucked in with these mystical theories.
We can get side-tracked with legalists today – people who forbid dancing, drinking alcohol, dressing in certain ways, etc. Or people say a person must give a certain amount of money to the church, or attend a certain number of services. There are people who say Christianity is OK, but too limited; there is a spirit world that we should immerse ourselves in. We need to concentrate on what Paul said.
“Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” (v. 8 – 10)
There is a new song that we’ve sung recently at LSA that helps us remember that we are loved by God without needing to do things to please him. You can find it on You Tube.
The God Who Stays -By Matthew West
If I were You I would’ve given up on me by now
I would’ve labeled me a lost cause
Cause I feel just like a lost cause
If I were You I would’ve turned around and walked away
I would’ve labeled me beyond repair
Cause I feel like I’m beyond repair
But somehow You don’t see me like I do Somehow You’re still here
You’re the God who stays
You’re the God who stays
You’re the one who runs in my direction
When the whole world walks away
You’re the God who stands
With wide open arms
And You tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart From the God who stays
I used to hide
Every time I thought I let You down
I always thought I had to earn my way But I’m learning You don’t work that way
Somehow You don’t see me like I do Somehow You’re still here
You’re the God…
My shame can’t separate My guilt can’t separate My past can’t separate I’m Yours forever
My sin can’t separate
My scars can’t separate My failures can’t separate I’m Yours forever
No enemy can separate
No power of hell can take away Your love for me will never change I’m Yours forever
You’re the God who stays …