One of my favorite books of the Bible is Colossians. Every time I read it, I’m overwhelmed. Paul was dealing with a peculiar bit of false teaching in Colossians, a synthesis of Jewish and pagan folk belief. What some scholars believe happened at Colossae was that a shaman-like figure was presenting himself as a Christian spiritual guide; a mystic likely claiming to have superior insight into the spiritual realm and therefore advising the Christians there to perform certain rites and rituals to protect themselves from evil spirits and for their deliverance from affliction:
- To practice asceticism; to deny themselves certain food or drink.
- To practice the Jewish festivals and the Sabbath.
- To worship angels.
- To experience visions of spiritual things.
This false teacher judged the believers for not practicing these things. His judgment, of course, only served one purpose: to puff himself up. To show that salvation could be attained through man-made effort and ecstatic experience, which is a problem that still exists today, and still masquerades as Christianity.
Charlatans pose as men of God. Instead of pointing men and women to Jesus, they put on big shows about how they punched demons out of people, or visited Paul’s cottage in the third heaven. What’s worse is they draw a crowd as they pour gasoline on the fire that burns in our hearts. Our desire to focus on ourselves. To be the masters of our own destinies. To be our own gods.
False teachers all repeat the same lie Satan told Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen. 3), and we keep believing it. So sometimes we’ll deprive ourselves physically, or we indulge ourselves in all sorts of excess. We will whip ourselves up into a sort of spiritual frenzy. And for what? Ultimately, nothing.
But Paul gives us these words to counteract this. “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:1-2).
In Christ, we don’t have to look to the things of the world, or to ourselves, for hope. We look to Christ. We pursue him. We seek to live like and for him, as we seek first the kingdom of heaven. But we can’t do this—we can’t seek him—without spending time in his Word. Seeking the things above, setting our minds on them, starts there.
As we read the Scriptures, as we study it and consume it, we grow in our love for Christ. We want to be more like him. We want to love what he loves, and how he loves. If we want to know Jesus, if we want to be transformed by him, that’s where it starts.