Think Like a Christian
Study no. 4
Everything We Need We Have in Christ
Col 2:8 See to it that no-one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
The warning to 'not be taken captive' by worldly philosophies is particularly true if someone is not happy and satisfied in their present situation. We have all we need in Christ. Well, at least that is the statement we claim. But if we are living in Christ in appearance only, we will be attracted to something else that claims to be more fulfilling.
The pull of the 'tide' is very strong. Philosophies of the world can seem so right. We are faced with the challenge at looking at every one of them (that is an impossibility) or closing our eyes to them and looking at the fullness we have in Christ and making every effort to live in Him.
“Takes you captive” This is a strong term. It sounds like there is an enemy out there just waiting to grab you. Actually there is. It may not be the educated neighbour next door with whom you enjoy a coffee and a 'chin-wag' from time to time ... but it will be the unseen spirit with whom that neighbour is unknowingly aligned.
By 'taking captive' obviously we don't mean a literal kidnapping. What we really need to avoid is being sucked into a worldly pattern of thinking. Human tradition - means historically natural human thinking. This would include all of the good, recommended, beneficial concepts that people of the world promote and believe in. These are based on 'basic principles' or 'building blocks of human life and interaction.' Paul contrasts them to Christian values when he says, 'rather than on Christ'.
How these things take a person captive is not too hard to see. We live right in the middle of them and by continual exposure come to see them as normal for everyone ... even for Christians. In most cases we have not had reason to even question them or compare them to biblical norms that exist in light of eternity rather than time.
The following biblical example, suggested by Peter is a very good incentive to resist the philosophies of the world.
2Peter 2:8 (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) —--
You are familiar with the story of Abraham? Before there was a nation called Israel ... back when God had no church, no nation ... God used fathers, the heads of families, to be his teachers of Godliness. Everything that could be known about God was passed on right from the time of Adam. But here is Abraham living with relatives in an area called Ur of the Chaldees (near present day Iraq) when He hears a voice speak to him, telling him leave everything and follow His directions to a land that would later be known as Palestine or 'The Holy Land'. God said that he would create a nation of from Abraham who would be known as the people of God.
He more or less obeys. Travelling with him is his nephew Lot. Lots father had passed away, so it appears that Abraham was raising him.
Fast forward ... they come into the land. Abraham (and Lot) as nomads ... wandering in the promised land, set up sheep farming. They acquire hired hands as well. Then a severe famine hits the area. They are forced to leave in order to survive. They go to Egypt. I don't know know how long they were there, but they did all right for themselves and come back quite wealthy.
Next in the story we discover there develops some animosity between Abraham's herdsmen and those of Lot. They are fighting over grazing rights and 'trespassing' on each other's best grass lands. Abraham settles the problem by suggesting to Lot that the Land is big enough for both of them, but they will have to separate their flocks in order to have peace. “You go north ... I'll go south ... take your pick.”
Lot makes an interesting comment that tells where he is coming from in his mind and just how he thinks. This is where we need to pay very close attention. Lot followed a worldly philosophy and ended up in a terrible spot.
The sequence of choices he made are not all that different to those put before us in our present world.
- He looked for a better area to operate, as Abraham had suggested. He looked down into the valley ... the one we would call the Jordon valley. It was very fertile ... plenty of grass there. He makes this observation: “The whole plain of Jordon is well-watered, it's like the garden of the Lord; it's like the land of Egypt!” What he is thinking is ... Like Egypt ... I can make a lot of money. It's like the garden of Eden ... I will be in the centre of God's will!!. Isn't it interesting how we can justify some of our own choices by putting a spiritual twist on them?
- He moved his operation down there and pitched his tent amidst the cities of the plain, near Sodom.
- A short while later an army moves in against Sodom and other towns in the plain ... takes a lot of captives including Lot, including the king of Sodom also.
- Abraham steps in ... takes his herdsmen as his soldiers, and rescues the whole works ... brings them all back.
- From this point on Lot lives in the city of Sodom. What we see is – Lot in Sodom ... then we see Sodom in Lot.
- By chapter 19 of Genesis, Lot is the Mayor. No doubt he accepted the position thinking he could bring some godly influence to the city. Here is where Peter's verse comes in: 2Peter 2:8 (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) —--
- God decides to 'take out two cities ... Sodom and Gomorrah. He gives Abraham a heads up. Abraham prays, asking whether God would destroy the righteous along with the wicked. He pleads and bargains with God ... ending up asking, If there are ten righteous people ... would you still destroy the city? God answers ... He says, “No .. if there are ten righteous I won't do it.” The next morning Abraham looks down into the valley and sees huge columns of smoke.
- Meanwhile in Sodom – Two angels appearing as ordinary men show up at the city gate and speak to Lot who is performing his duties there. Once he realizes that these men are from God ... we see Lot doing his 'Christian' best ... using whatever influence he has ...to do what these men ask.
- He has no influence with the crowd
- He has no influence with his son-in-laws.
- He has no spiritual direction as where should he now go.
- He has no influence with his wife and daughters
By constant exposure Lot came to tolerate the humanistic philosophy of Sodom.
Paul warns us that human philosophy is deceptive. He says it can take you captive. We can add, that it can take you captive without your knowledge. It becomes something that we accept and believe. And from those beliefs we base our choices. If we add a spiritual justification as Lot did, we even think that our choices are godly. That is so dangerous!
Paul says that this philosophy is based on 'basic principles of this world'. In other words, the basic principles of the world is the doctrine and belief system that a person has outside of Christ.
Are you familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs?
The concept is: People care about these needs in an order starting at the bottom of the pyramid. You find yourself a survivor of a plain crash in a remote place ... your first concern or need will be physiological. Once you are OK with food, water, clothing and a place to sleep ... you will continue to have needs but they will be different ones.
The average 'good parent' will try to teach their kids and provide for their kids according to these logical needs. Schools equip children to prioritize life so that as responsible citizens they will 'move up to the top'. Universities exist to train young people in such a way that they will have a greater chance to 'make it to the top'.
What Abraham Maslow has illustrated here is totally logical. But for a Christian is almost completely wrong. Maslow has been called the 'Father of the ME generation'.
Essentially all of the training that young people will get will be 'godless'. The basic building blocks, the basic principles of the world are godless. We talk about 'godless Communism'. ... well Capitalism is equally godless.
Our educational system is godless. We think back and shudder when we think of the holocaust ... people gathered up and sent to the death camps. But those death camps had nothing to do with eternal death. We round up our kids and send them to universities ... which most of the time end up being a spiritual death camp. Perhaps Lot thought that he could influence the people of his city ... it did not work that way. Jesus said that we are 'to be in the world ... but not OF the world'. For many in churches today that is not true. Christians are in the world and the world is in them.
Let's consider the last phrase of Colossians 2:8 ... and not according to Christ.
Verses 9 and 10 say that we are complete in Christ. Do we believe that? Can we live like Abraham and not feel we are losing out somehow? By the way Abraham is commended in Hebrews 11, the faith chapter. Lot is not mentioned.
Jesus said “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:31-34
Here is a 'word picture' that most of us might just like to do without. Modern medical doctors have influenced our thinking concerning circumcision. Why was it instituted in the first place? What does or did it represent? Why does Paul include it in this verse?
Whatever the merits of circumcision or the reason it was put upon the Jews as something they had to do, it came to be an identifier. The Jews came to be known as 'the circumcision'. It was not something a Jewish boy could deny. He was different for life. He would always belong to a different group. We are supposed to belong to a different group. We, too, are marked for life. We have no business studying and applying the basic principles of the world. Christ has a new, special and separate1 world for us to live in here. We are visitors here on earth. Our old life ... is buried. That is what baptism pictured. (verse 12).
Verses 13 and 14 tell us what it took for us to be 'made alive'. By the forgiveness of Christ we are brought into life with him and live our new life in him ... apart and separate from the thinking and philosophies of the world. We need to free ourselves from areas where the world has taken us captive and begin thinking like Him.
Verse 14 – We did not become members of God's kingdom, God's family ... by changing our thinking. We became children of God ... only by confession of sin and by his forgiveness. He did the work. He nailed the penalty of the law to the Cross. And in so doing he tells us a little more about the philosophies of the world ... they are the result of unseen forces, demonic forces preaching philosophies that are godless.
The bottom line, though, is this ... He triumphed over them for us. We are no longer to be under them. Alive in Christ we are learning a whole new way of thinking
12Co 6:17 Therefore "Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you."