Self-Made Religion

Bible Reading: Colossians 2:8-15

“My dear Wormwood, the real trouble about the state your patient is living in is that it is merely Christian.  They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christianity.  What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call ‘Christianity And.’  You know—Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology; Christianity and the New Order; Christianity and Faith Healing; Christianity and Psychic Research; Christianity and Vegetarianism; Christianity and Spelling Reform.  If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference.  Substitute for the faith itself, some fashion with a Christian coloring.”  The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis.

Our passage speaks to the dangers of what we might call a “Christ-and” approach to one’s Christianity.  It wasn’t that the false teachers were outright denying Christ.  Rather, they diminished Him in His person and work, simultaneously adding other things they deemed necessary.  But Christ is sufficient. Our calling is to the “simplicity and purity of devotion to (Him)” (2 Corinthians 11:2-3).

There were four main substitutionary additions the false teachers were promulgating.  And they all have their modern-day counterparts.

Christ and PHILOSOPHY… (Colossians 2:8).  The false teachers supposed themselves to be privy to some elevated knowledge and claimed that for a person to be truly spiritual there was something else they needed to know.  Some modern-day examples of this include the new age movement and humanistic psychology.

Christ and LEGALISM… (Colossians 2:16-17).  The false teachers were claiming in order for a person to be truly spiritual there was something else they needed to do.  For example, obeying certain food laws and observing particular dates.  Legalism is not the same as obedience.  The believer is to lovingly obey the Lord Jesus (John 14:15).  Obedience is the Spirit-empowered and love-motivated response to God’s commands.  Legalism is the flesh-empowered and pride-motivated attempt to gain self-righteousness through the keeping of man-made rules (Mark 7:8-9).

Christ and MYSTICISM… (Colossians 2:18-19).  The false teachers claimed for a person to be truly spiritual, there was something else they needed to experience.  The Colossian heresy included such things as the worship of angels and desire for visions.  Modern day examples: the new age movement; out-of body experiences; channeling, eastern meditation. 

Christ and ASCETISIM… (Colossians 2:20-23).  False teachers claimed for a person to be truly spiritual there was something in else they needed to endure.  The Colossian heresy included such things as self-denial, self-abasement and severe treatment of the body.  They obviously took pride in the endurance of such things and believed God looked favorably on their actions.

So, Paul admonished the believers in Colossae, “See to it that no one takes you captive…” (Colossians 2:8).  The word translated “captive” is a combination of two Greek words, meaning “to carry away” and “booty.”  It has the idea of kidnapping someone or plundering a house.  The thought here is—don’t be kidnapped by these deceivers and their falsehoods!

We need to ongoingly ask: “But what does the Bible say? (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  As A. W. Tozer once advised, “…any of it (teaching) that is good is in the Word of God and any that is not in the Word of God is not good.  I am a Bible Christian and if an archangel with a wingspan as broad as a constellation shining like the sun were to come and offer me some new truth, I’d ask him for a reference.  If he could not show me where it is found in the Bible, I would bow him out and say, ‘I’m awfully sorry, you don’t bring any references with you’.”


In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all in all
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

Songwriters: Keith Getty / Stuart Townend
In Christ Alone lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group, Capitol CMG Publishing

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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