And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.
For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.
“I’m writing you this letter,” says Paul, “So that you learn to discern the difference between truth and lies.”
I’ve used this example many times, but it bears repeating: It has long been the practice in banks to teach new tellers how to identify counterfeit money. They are taught, primarily, to be so familiar with real money that they recognize the false. So we, as believers, learn to identify heresy not by studying it intensely, but by knowing God’s Word so well that we are immediately uncomfortable with false teaching.
Why are we drawn to false teaching, and to false teachers? It’s because they give us a warm, gratifying sense (they beguile us) that we are perfect just the way we are. Sin? Biblicists spend much too much time and energy worrying about what they call sin, and not nearly enough time enjoying the unconditional love of God.
Do you see what I did there? First, I used one of today’s most popular Mr. Rogersisms–you are perfect just the way you are. Sounds so happy, (enticing) doesn’t it? Please don’t misunderstand. My purpose here is not to destroy Mr. Rogers, and maybe he just didn’t think through this favorite saying of his. But he was wrong on this. We are NOT perfect just the way we are. If that could be so, then Jesus didn’t need to die. We would be able to work our way to heaven with our own goodness.
That’s a lie.
Second, I minimized the importance of recognizing sin–or what some religious people call sin. Is it really sin? I mean, who gets to say what is sin and what is not? Maybe it isn’t really sin–just “poor choices,” or “mistakes.”
Do you see how such thinking minimizes the importance of what GOD says?
Well, Linda, how are you going to take apart the unconditional love of God?
I’m not. And this is one of the ways false teachers trip us up. The most effective lie is based on a kernel of truth. In this case, a false teacher will tie the unconditional love of God to our need to see ourselves as being free from sin and judgment.
His love IS unconditional. He died for the sins of all mankind, no exceptions. And yet, we have a responsibility. What are we going to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus? The answer to that decides for each individual whether he will go to heaven or hell when he dies. God sends no one to hell. Each person does that for himself whenever Jesus Christ is denied; whenever we grasp the belief that we can be good enough; or when we decide we don’t really sin, we just make poor choices now and then. The truth is that the love of God lies within the boundaries of His holiness. He cannot look on sin. As a holy God, the only view God has of a believer is through the blood of Jesus.
All these things Paul teaches in his letter to the Colossians. He takes great joy in their order and steadfastness in the things of God. Those are military terms, denoting an army under attack whose ranks are not broken, who discipline does not falter.
Paul is not accusing the Colossians of heresy. He is warning them against what he sees as a danger to the church. Sometimes, that danger comes in the form of the promise of a deeper understanding than most people have, a “new” and exciting “truth” that no one else has seen before.
I’m going to leave you with a warning for the present day. Be careful about click bait on your computer. It’s at the bottom of every news article or along the right side of your page. The promises are such as “secrets from the Bible” for healing things like imperfect vision, stomach troubles, arthritis, or marital troubles, etc. The promoters of such things rake in a lot of money from people who are taken in by their phony promises. Don’t even waste your time reading those articles.
Anything that is in God’s Word is already available to you. All you have to do is read with the prayer in mind that God will show you what you need for that day, that hour.
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.