4 Dead-Ends to Spiritual Growth

2017 Messages

Blake Holmes walked through Colossians 2:6-23 and showed the four dead ends to spiritual growth that Paul wanted the church at Colossae to avoid. These four dead ends are: worldly philosophy (any system that denies the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ), legalism (any attempt to earn God's favor), mysticism (religious experiences that are based on emotion, and reserved for only a select few), and asceticism (any attempt to earn God's favor through an extreme form of self-denial or punishment). Paul reminds the Colossians, as Blake reminds us, that there is one way to be right with God and find life, that is Jesus alone.

Blake HolmesApr 30, 2017Colossians 2:6-23; Colossians 2:6-7; Colossians 2:8-15; Colossians 2:16-17; Colossians 2:18-19; Colossians 2:20-22

Not too long ago, our staff had an opportunity to compete against one another. The competition that was set up for us was to race through a maze. I don't know if you've ever seen one of these mazes before, but don't think of something small. Certainly don't think of anything on a piece of paper. I'm talking about a maze that's the size of a parking lot. We were broken up into different teams, and the goal was to get through the maze as fast as you could with your team.

As you'll see on the screen here, there's a little crow's nest, if you will (a little captain's level, a platform), above the maze where your team captain would call out to you directions on the way in which you should go. You're put in there with other teams, and there are other captains up there. I know when you meet our staff, (I hope) you see people who are kind, understanding, gentle, and grace-filled. That is true most every day until you see our staff compete against one another. All right?

If JP and Todd are competing against you, they will step on you in order to get out of that maze faster. I want you to just picture the scene. We're broken up into teams. I'm on a team. I'm down below. My team captain is up in the crow's nest. Again, his job is to yell out directions. Directions like, "Go to the left" do not help. Right? "Whose left? Your left? My left? My teammate's left? What left?" It's mass chaos. It's not as easy as you would think.

Of course the other team's captain is yelling at them. What ends up happening inevitably is you're trying to make your way through the maze. You run one direction, and then boom! You hit a dead end. Then it's, "Ugh! Dead end. Okay." Well, you're still excited. That's the first dead end. You turn, and your captain is like, "No, no! This way. This way!" You run over here. Boom! You hit a dead end.

At that point, you start to lose confidence in your captain, right? Like, "JP, what are you saying right now?" Then you run, and you hit…what? Boom! Another dead end. You do this three or four more times. You're hearing other teams escape, and they're yelling and cheering. You're stuck in this maze.

Why do I tell that story? I tell this story because I'm convinced (I know…I know…because I hear you) that there are many of us who are constantly bombarded with competing ideas on the way to grow closer to Christ. People constantly give us advice on, "This is how you grow spiritually." But not every idea you're given, not all the counsel you receive, not every website you read, not every podcast you hear, not every book you are given, not all of them are based in Scripture. Not all of them are accurate.

Inevitably what ends up happening is, after we hit a few dead ends… Some of these ideas (which I'm going to talk about today) when we hit these ideas, it leads to exhaustion. It leads to despair. It leads to disillusionment and sorrow. It's one thing to be racing through a maze and playing a game, right? It's another thing when people are giving you counsel and advice, you receive it, and you believe it's true. They're genuine in their offering a desire to help, but it's just not biblical. We hit dead end after dead end.

Paul is going to write in Colossians, chapter 2, if you have your Bible… I'd encourage you to always bring your Bible or bring your iPhone. Turn to Colossians, chapter 2, because it's here that Paul is going to expose four dead ends to spiritual growth. Now when I walk through these, this passage right here I'm just going to acknowledge is dense. Okay? There's a lot here. I'm going to move through it pretty quickly, but I'm going to try to explain it as best I can.

At first when I share these with you, there's going to be a tendency for you to be like, "What in the world are you talking about?" I'm going to explain the "then" (what was true in Paul's day), and then I'm going to explain the "now" and how it plays out today. Hang with me. What you're going to find, though, what is so deceptive about each of these dead ends is there's an element of truth to each of them.

There are four false teachings, but what makes them so intriguing is there's an element of truth to each. They each promise freedom or a way out, if you will, of this maze. When taken to an extreme, they lead to a dead end. Let me set the context of where we're going. We're looking at Colossians, chapter 2. The whole point of Colossians… You could just write right above the book title in your Bible, "Christ is preeminent." That's the goal of what Paul is writing about. Christ is preeminent.

He goes on in chapter 1, verse 15, and he says that Christ "…is the image of the invisible God…" In chapter 1, verse 16, he says he is the creator and sustainer of the universe. "…in him all things hold together." He is the head of the church in chapter 1, verse 18. If you want to know who Jesus is, read Colossians 1. What did he accomplish for us? Read Colossians 1.

He sets out to say that Christ is preeminent, but then when we get to Colossians 2, he is now going to warn us, "In light of the truth of what we just heard in Colossians 1, the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ, that Christ is preeminent, that he is fully God and fully man, that he paid the penalty for our sin on the cross, that he died, was buried, was resurrected, that we're saved by grace through faith…"

Once he makes that case now, he is going to say in verses 6 and 7, "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." This is key. This verse is key. You can just underline it. It's thematic through the book. Paul is exhorting you, "Just as you received Christ…" What is, "…as you received Christ…"? What does that mean?

"Just as you heard the gospel, just as you understood what I just taught about Jesus, that he was fully God, fully man, just as you came to believe that the first time, now having received that, being rooted in him, rooted like a tree, built up like a building, if you will, established like a legally binding document, and overflowing with thanksgiving like a cup of wine that overflows with thanksgiving…"

He uses metaphors. He says, "Having received this, now live out your faith." It's more than just propositional ideas. It's a relationship we enter into with Christ. He exhorts us, but he recognizes there are false teachers who have infiltrated the church just like there are today. He gives them four warnings.

In verses 8 through 15, he speaks of worldly philosophy. In verses 16 and 17, he talks about legalism. This is something we're all very familiar with, whether you use that term or not. In verses 18 and 19, he warns them against mysticism. You're going, "I don't struggle with that." Well, when we talk about it, you just may.

Then another fancy term is asceticism. Now I'm going to explain each of these. Again, I'm going to tell you what it meant then, and I'm going to tell you the implication for today and what we should do in light of it. In verses 20 through 22, it's asceticism. Let's jump in to the text. All right, verses 8 through 15. It's here that Paul is going to warn them against…

1._ Worldly philosophy_. Now what in the world do I mean by that? He is not arguing against philosophy, which literally means the love of wisdom. He is not arguing against the pursuit of knowledge. He is not against learning. What he is arguing against is any system of thought that denies the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ. Paul is arguing against any system of thought that denies the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ.

Notice his language. It's strong throughout this passage, but beginning in verse 8 he says, "See to it…" Like, "Make sure! Pay attention! Pay attention, church." "See to it that no one…" What? "…no one takes you captive…" Literally that no one kidnaps you is the word there. No one kidnaps you by…what? "…philosophy…" By what? "…empty deceit…" Why? Because it's "…according to human tradition…" It's according to the way man thinks and the way man reasons.

He goes on. It's "…according to the elemental spirits of the world…" It's demonic. Quite simply, it's "…not according to Christ." He is saying to the church at Colossae, "Hey, listen. You're going to be bombarded by those who are going to tell you, "Run this way. Life and freedom are found this way." He is saying to the extent you hear somebody, a voice, telling you the way out is through any means, which undermines the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ, you're going to hit a dead end.

The supremacy of Christ that he is fully God and fully man, the sufficiency of Christ, of what he accomplished through his death, burial, and resurrection… We are saved by grace through faith. He is saying, "To the extent you hear that, be careful because…" In verse 9 through 15, now this is the deep end. This is the deep water here. There are a lot of terms being thrown out, but bear with me. Hang with me.

I think you're going to see where this is leading. In verses 9 through 15, notice what he says. He is going to talk about, "Hey, here's who you are. Having received Christ, having believed in him, don't fall for this empty philosophy, worldly philosophy. Remind yourself of who you are." Verses 9 and 10: "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily…" Jesus is fully God. "…and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority."

In verse 9 and 10, you've been filled with Christ. Remind yourself of who you are. Then in verses 11 and 12, he uses spiritual allusions. He speaks about how we've been set apart through circumcision and baptism, some words that aren't all that familiar to us. He says…

"In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead."

Those two verses right there could be a message in and of themselves. What he is saying here is that God has done more than just what is on the external in the Old Testament as people were set apart through circumcision or in the New Testament and even today as we practice baptism. He is saying, "God, through Christ, has done something even greater in how he has changed your heart."

He has given us his Spirit to set us apart. He goes on, and he says, "Now you're alive even though you deserve death." Look at verse 13. "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses…" You were forgiven. You see supremacy and sufficiency of Christ woven through here.

In verses 14 and 15, he says, "…by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him." He has set us free from the debt which we owe.

Okay, that's a lot. What in the world does that have to do with me today? Where is the application of that? Paul is saying, "Be aware of any system of thought that denies the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ." Let me tell you where you'll see this today.

One example of where you'll see this is on any college campus. You enter into any college campus, gang, and you will constantly be bombarded with ideas like, "We're not made by God. We're here because of time plus chance plus matter. We are all essentially good. All roads lead to heaven. Truth is relative. Jesus was just a good, moral man, a moral example." That flies in the face of what Scripture teaches.

Parents, if you're here and you're not helping your kids understand how to think through ideas like these, if you're trying to shelter them from ideas like this, they're going to have a very rude awakening when they enter that college campus. The goal is not to shelter people from ideas. The goal is to meet those ideas head-on.

You see, all truth is God's truth. Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…" Jesus says in John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life." Paul in this very book in Colossians 2:3 says that in Christ "…are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

I received an email not long ago from a mom whose daughter went to a major university. She was confronted with ideas exactly like I'm talking about. The mom in desperation emailed me and just said, "Hey, listen. I am struggling because my daughter who made a profession of faith long ago is now denying everything she once said she believes. Can you help?"

See, her daughter had continually been told what to think but had never be trained in the why. When she encountered a professor who stood up there, sounded persuasive, and walked through the why of his ideas, she wasn't ready. I want to read you what the daughter said to her mom. Imagine getting this email.

The daughter said to her mom, "I love God, Mom. I want to be the best person I can, and I think Jesus is a good model for that. If he existed or not, that doesn't matter because I still believe in God, and I still think you should try to be like Jesus." Do you hear that? "He is a good, moral figure, but you can't believe the whole Bible, Mom. You can't believe the whole Bible."

Gang, we do not have a blind faith. We do not have a blind faith! There are good answers to questions people commonly ask. We have classes all the time. Answering the Tough Ones is a Core Class we have where you can come and prepare your kids, and you can get answers to questions most people are going to face in a university setting.

Paul is just simply saying, "Hey, listen. You need to make sure you are not taken captive by a philosophy that denies the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ." Here's the point of application I want to challenge you with today. This week, just simply make it a habit of asking, "What does the Bible have to say about that?"

As you hear a song, as you watch a movie, as you hear a news report, engage your kids in those conversations. Engage your community in those conversations. Just simply say, "I hear that idea, but to what extent does it either conform to or contradict what Scripture so clearly claims?" Worldly philosophy, gang, is a dead end. Worldly philosophy promises understanding, but it leads to despair.

2._ Legalism_. Legalism is simply defined as any attempt to earn God's favor through your own efforts. It often emphasizes an external conformity, and that's just what he addresses in verses 16 and 17. He says, "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you…" Remember how strong he was in verse 8? "See to it that no one takes you captive…" Here again, changing subjects. "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath."

What does all this have to do? These are religious observances, Jewish ideas and customs. He is saying, "Hey, let no one keep a grade on you, a report card on you, looking to see if you measure up." Don't fall into the trap of external performances because these are just…what? These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. What does that mean today? Why is that important today? Where do we see it?

Well, let me just say that no one sets out to be a legalist. No one sets out to be a legalist! In fact, in his book, Larry Osborne says this: "One thing that makes legalism so dangerous is that it always flows out of the best of intentions. Legalists never see themselves as legalists. They see themselves as obedient. They never think of their extrabiblical rules as extrabiblical. They consider them to be profoundly biblical, the careful application of all that the Bible implies."

What legalism does is it measures not the condition of the heart. It seeks to conform you to external pressure and behavior. If you remember, that's exactly what Jesus took head-on with the Pharisees, is it not? Do you remember what he says to the Pharisees in Matthew, chapter 23? He says, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean."

Gang, this is how it starts. When we trust in Christ, we have a sincere desire to want to follow him. We're told, "Read your Bible." We're told to pray. We're told to memorize Scripture. We're told to give, to go to church. All those things are true. We're told to practice the spiritual disciplines. We should practice the spiritual disciplines, but what ends up happening is we take these secondary things, these tools, these disciplines, and we make them the ultimate thing.

Let me be clear. He is not speaking against spiritual disciplines. What he is saying is the goal is not to check a box. The goal of Bible study is not external conformity. "I read today." The goal of Bible study is to fall more in love with Jesus, to know him, and to walk with him. You can read the Bible and simply become a smarter sinner. You can read the Bible and still no one wants to be with you or in your Community Group. You can have a lot of head knowledge, but love does not mark your life.

Legalism, gang, is a dead end. What happens is we get into this "checking the box" mentality because we want to keep score. We like to measure our progress. We'll even go so crazy as to say things like… I hear people say it. "Well, you know, if you really want to grow, your time in the Word should start at 5:00 a.m. That's when the real people who love Jesus read the Bible. You know, you need to memorize a verse a week. Well, you should at least give this much. What you should do… You should do… You should do… You should do…"

I'm telling you (and Paul would warn you) legalism promises maturity, but it leads to exhaustion. Have you ever felt like you were all of a sudden running on that treadmill, and you're going, "Why am I running so hard?" Ask yourself that this week. "Hey, what's the why behind what I am doing? Is this to check a box? Is this to impress someone else? Is this to perform in an effort that maybe God will love me more if…?"

I would encourage you to read your Bible. I would encourage you to pray. I would encourage you to memorize Scripture. But don't take that and make it the ultimate. The goal is not to check the box. The goal is conformity to Christ.

You can write this down. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. Do you realize that? There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. The reason why I read, the reason why I pray, is not so I can earn more of God's love, but I am responding to the love he has already demonstrated for me. There's a world of difference there.

3._ Mysticism. What in the world is _mysticism? Well, I'll tell you what it was in his day, and I'll tell you where I think it has seeped in to our day. Verses 18 and 19: "Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism…" Which he is going to elaborate on in a second. " …and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God."

Now that again is a mouthful, but quite simply what he is saying is he is warning us of mysticism, which I would say is any religious experience that is based on emotion and reserved only for a select few. Mysticism is religious experience that is based on emotion and reserved only for a select few.

You see, Paul is saying, "Let no one disqualify you." There are those on the inside, and there are those on the outside. Don't let those who feel like they are on the inside look at you and disqualify you. Why? Because they've had visions. Why? Because of the worship of angels. They speak of these experiences that they have had but you have not had because they're the select few. They're the ones who understand. They're the ones who have had the experience.

What happens is they take their experiences, and they elevate their feelings, their emotions, their experiences, on par with Scripture until, "You can have this experience too." Paul is saying, "Don't fall for that. Don't fall for that!" He is not denying the reality that we are emotional people. He is not denying the fact that God allows us to hear from him, that God is at work.

What he is saying is, "There are people who are puffed up without reason by sensuous mind. There are people whose teaching is not from Christ. He is the head of the body. Their teaching is divorced from doctrine." He is not denying the miraculous. He is not denying that God speaks to us. What he is denying, what he is warning us against is experiences that are based on emotion, driven by emotion, driven by experience, on par with Scripture but reserved only for a select few.

How in the world do we see that today? I'm going to tell you. Do you remember how excited you were when you first trusted in Christ? Do you remember you felt like, "I have to tell the world. I want to learn my Bible. I'm going to go to church. I'm going to pray"? It felt like when you prayed, God heard your prayers. When you read the Bible, it was like you read it, and it was… It was the first time! You were like, "This is exciting!"

When you came to a church service, I mean, when they sang, you got goose bumps down your neck. Excitement filled your heart, and it should. Everything is new, but what happens over time, gang, is you recognize the Christian life is a fight. The Christian life is a fight! See Ephesians 6. The Christian life is a long journey. See The Pilgrim's Progress. Next to the Bible, it's the second best book ever written. There's a plug for you. Read that.

Do you want to know what the Christian life is like? Read The Pilgrim's Progress. It's a journey. It's a fight. The newness wears off, and what happens today is there are those who will come to you. They will tell you, "Oh!" They mean well and love Jesus, and they'll say, "Here is the problem. What you are missing is this experience." Quite specifically, they'll speak of a second filling of the Holy Spirit, a second baptism of the Holy Spirit. They will tell you you need to seek a second filling of the Holy Spirit.

You'll hear things like "private prayer languages" and "speaking in tongues." You'll hear them speak with a fascination around miracles. There are those who are in, and there are those who are not. Having been on staff for Watermark for a while, I receive emails about this all the time. I meet with people about this all the time. There is so much confusion, and frankly, there's so much hurt around all of this.

People are told by others looking down the maze, "Hey, I understand your heart has grown cold. You don't feel close to God anymore. What you need is this. Seek out a second blessing of the Holy Spirit. Seek out the private prayer language. Seek out the next experience, the next wave of emotion."

I want to read you again an email I received from a young woman who was going to another church at the time. She just wrote me, and she said, "Listen. I need help. I grew up in a church that believes in healing, praying in tongues, prophecy, all the things I've just listed for you. Growing up, I went along with everything, but now I'm at a point in my spiritual life where I'm starting to question everything.

You see, our very own pastor didn't get healed of cancer and passed away. At that moment, I thought, 'Maybe there isn't this formula to healing we always talked about. Maybe we have it wrong the way we've been thinking about healing.' I literally almost lost my faith because my pastor wasn't healed, which seems ridiculous, but to me if God wasn't showing up, where was he? It was so hard for me to understand.

I've read many Scriptures that talk about God telling his disciples to lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. They will do even greater things than he did. I just can't comprehend this. Basically what I'm saying is I feel bad for questioning. I feel that since I have seen some healings and now that I'm questioning that, it's bad.

I just don't even know how to pray for someone when they're sick now. God isn't going to heal every single person we pray for. I understand that now. I feel more at peace when I'm at a church like Watermark that isn't having crazy healing services or shouting fests. Is this wrong?"

I mean, I hear that email, and my heart breaks because I realize a sincere person who loves the Lord is being led by folks who I think sincerely love the Lord but are giving her bad counsel. I hear it often. Then what happens is as you hear me explain this (and you can save your email)… I'm just telling you what I'll get is, "Do you not believe God still works miracles? Do you deny the power of the Holy Spirit today?" That's just patently false. Of course I believe God still works miracles, and I believe he changes lives.

You heard Rick stand up here at the very beginning saying, "We believe God is at work every day." Every week we hand you a Watermark News story. What I'm saying is you don't need another religious experience based on emotion that's only reserved for a select few in order to grow spiritually. You don't need a special meeting. You don't need a secret knowledge.

Listen, gang. The Christian life is a hard fight, and it's a long journey. Second Peter 1:3 says, "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…" You have everything you need when you trust Jesus Christ. His Spirit fully indwells you, and you then decide whether or not you will yield to it. But you don't need more of the Holy Spirit.

Eugene Peterson in his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (what a great title) says, "There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness." Ask yourself this week, "To what degree am I allowing my emotions or my experiences to inform my theology?"

If you feel like your faith is growing cold, if you feel like God feels distant, you don't need another religious experience. Lean in. Recognize you're in a war. Recognize you're in a fight. Recognize you're on a long journey. You're on a marathon, not a sprint. God has not left you. Mysticism promises fulfillment, but it leads to disillusionment, just like you heard in that email. It promises fulfillment, but it leads to disillusionment.

Paul has talked about worldly philosophy, he has talked about legalism, he has talked about mysticism, and the last one he warns us about, if we're not careful, is…

4._ Asceticism. Now again, this is one of those words like, "What is that?" _Asceticism is any attempt to earn God's favor through an extreme form of self-denial or punishment. I've had 25 years in vocational ministry, and I see it often. Listen to what he says. Verse 20 through 22:

"If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—'Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch…'?" Just quick three ideas to forbid you of something. "…(referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?" He is saying, "Why do you submit to these regulations, 'Do not handle. Do not taste. Do not touch'?" The problem is all three ideas originate from human precepts and teaching (verse 22).

Paul is warning us of any attempt to earn God's favor through an extreme form of self-denial or punishment. He is not speaking against fasting, if you will, but the idea that you can somehow pay the penalty for your wrongs, for your sin. Somehow on top of the cross, you need to expunge your guilt and your shame by depriving you of something else. That's adding to the sufficiency and the work of Christ (his death, burial, and resurrection).

Where do you see this today? I mean, you may sit there and go, "Blake, I don't know anybody who does that." Well, I do. You're most susceptible to this, gang, under the weight of guilt and shame. You've been there before. Right? It's that familiar sin that grips you that you return to time and time again. Then you promise, "I'm never going to do this again."

By your own effort and by your own strength you sincerely believe, "I'm just going to work harder. I'm never going to do this again. I'm never going to return to pornography. I'm never going to return to this bottle. I'm never going to give in to greed like this again. I'm never going to lie like that again. I'm never going to manipulate. I'm never going to…" on and on and on again.

Then what ends up happening is it happens again, and then it happens again. It has you, and the weight of the guilt and the shame becomes so great that what you do is you seek to expunge the weight of that guilt and that shame through some form of physical punishment. It may be fasting. It may be (as people have tried in the past) vows of poverty. It may be isolation. It may be what is commonly practiced today: those who I meet with who literally cut themselves because their shame is so great.

Your heart breaks as a pastor. Your heart breaks as a believer. Your heart breaks because you just want to hug that person. You just want to remind them of the grace of God, the supremacy of Christ, and the sufficiency of the cross. You don't have to cut yourself. You don't have to hurt yourself. You're never the exception to God's grace, gang.

I told you there was nothing you could do to make God love you more, and you can write this down. There is nothing you can do to make God love you less. There is nothing you can do to make God love you less. For some of us, that idea is radical. It's like, "Yeah, I've trusted Christ, but…" I mean, just write those two ideas down. "There is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and there's nothing I can do to make him love me less."

You'll spend a lifetime trying to get your head around that. That is grace. That is grace! We must cease striving and rest in the grace of God. This dead end promises relief from guilt and shame, but it leads to sorrow. It leads just to further pain until you stop striving, till you recognize, gang, that we're broken people. All we bring to the cross is sin and resistance. That's all you bring. You bring nothing good. You bring nothing that merits God's favor. Every one of us!

This is why Jesus says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit…" That's how he starts the Sermon on the Mount, the most memorable sermon he ever gave. "Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who recognize they are bankrupt before me. They offer nothing." You can do nothing for a holy God to impress him. You're bankrupt. You're dead in your trespasses, but God, Ephesians 2 says, intervenes. He loves. He initiates. He offers grace. He offers reconciliation. He pursues you.

"We love because he first loved us." "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." It doesn't matter where you've been, what you've done, how many times you've done it. There's a God in heaven who loves you. You can't earn his love. You simply come to him, and you bow your knee. You recognize you're a broken person, and you receive the unmerited grace and forgiveness of God.

You recognize the penalty for your sin was put on that cross, and he paid your penalty. He made him who knew no sin to be sin on your behalf that you might become the righteousness of God in him. Three days later, he rose again, which validated all he claimed, said, and did. Based on his resurrection, gang, we have new life. We have power over sin and death through Christ.

Paul ends in verse 23. He concludes this thought, and he says, "These [ideas…worldly philosophy, legalism, mysticism, asceticism] have indeed an appearance of wisdom…" They look wise. It sounds reasonable. "…in promoting self-made religion and asceticism…" That's what they are. They're self-made ideas contrary to Scripture. "…and severity to the body, but they are of no value…" Underline that. "…they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh."

What he is saying here is he is saying, "All of these ideas cannot change the human heart. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. We are saved by grace through faith alone." Once we are saved by grace through faith alone, we continue to grow and conform into the image of his Son by grace alone. Our hope for a future is in grace alone, not in our keeping up, not in our running, but in our receiving of what Christ has done for us. Worldly philosophy, legalism, mysticism, and asceticism all have an appearance of wisdom, but they're all dead ends to spiritual growth.

My team on that day when we were playing that game eventually made our way out. Thankfully we didn't come in last. What you have to understand, gang, is God has given us his Word. He has given us Paul the apostle who was inspired by God to reveal to us a way out of this maze so we would not be confused. There are not many ways out. There is a way out.

It is our job to humbly sit before God and his Word, to surround ourselves with God's people, to remind ourselves of what is true, because there are a lot of voices competing for your allegiance. There are a lot of voices telling you, "This is the way to go." What that's going to do is lead to a dead end. If you've hit one of those and you're tired, disillusioned, exhausted, and sorrowful, we'd love to help you. We'd love to help you!

Every week we're up here, and we say, "Come. We'd love to engage with you." We offer Equipping Classes every week. We have Core Classes, Equipped Disciple. We have Great Questions for those who don't know the Lord. Every Monday night you can come ask questions. Nobody is going to look at you differently. We have Join the Journey. We have men's and women's Bible studies.

Why do we do all this? Not so we can impress God, not so we can just have more knowledge, but so our hearts could be conformed to his will. We could know the mind of God. We could fall more in love with him and respond to the grace that is given to us. Let's pray.

Father in heaven, I want to thank you for Colossians 2. I want to thank you for Paul's clear warnings to us that you don't leave us alone. He is in that crow's nest above the maze called life, and he gives us clear direction. He warns us of the dead ends to spiritual growth. He warns us of false teaching. He warns us if we pursue worldly philosophy, legalism, mysticism, or asceticism, it is not going to turn out well for us.

I pray, Lord, we would wrap our minds and hearts around the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ. I pray, Lord, each of us would find rest in what only he can provide. Thank you for the peace that comes through his death, his burial, his resurrection. We love you. In Christ's name, amen.