The voice on the phone was serious. He assured me that I had won a large cash prize and that all he needed to send it to me was my social security number, birthdate, and bank account number. I thanked him, insincerely, and hung up! It is not the first scam artist that has contacted me. For a long stretch, there were emails from dying people in some foreign country who wanted me to have their money but first I needed to send them all my identity information. I hit delete. My Dad always told me that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I wonder how these scams manage to trick people, but apparently there are those who are gullible enough to cooperate and give these cheats a way to steal enough money to make the effort worthwhile.
Paul warns Christians to be aware of religious scams, too. Churches are plagued by those who love to talk about religion, who speculate about angels and demons, who can go on endlessly about eschatological theories, who can debate the proper mode of baptism as if all those things are the core of the Gospel. The apostle knew these ‘teachers’ well. He says. “Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings.” The Message (Colossians 2:8)
Our real strength, our true salvation does not come from a fine philosophy. We are saved through Christ Jesus. “My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7, The Message)
We all love a great story. Miracles intrigue us. Promises of relief from the tedium of day to day living by experiences of the supernatural grasp our imagination. I am inspired as much as anyone by a testimony of a person radically transformed, whose life was nothing but wreckage who is now a trophy of God’s grace. But, we must not build our Christianity around ‘experiences’ no matter how amazing. Our hope is fixed on One Person’s story – Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again! That is the good news that saves us when we accept it and become disciples. We follow Him, through life, living a disciplined life that is formed around Christ. We become people who walk by Kingdom principles and live with an eternal hope.
And, then there are those who would rob the Gospel of power and majesty by turning our amazing faith into a system of rules and regulations. These ‘teachers’ enslave us to rigid practices built around denial of food, rest, on endless works of service, around giving large sums of money – and all of these things will somehow cause us to earn the favor of God. It appeals to our pride, lets us compare and measure ourselves with others, and replaces God’s grace with the slavery of human effort. Again Paul warns of this deception.
“You were dead because of your sins … God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. In this way, God disarmed the evil rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross of Christ.
So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new-moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules were only shadows of the real thing, Christ himself. Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on self-denial. And don’t let anyone say you must worship angels, even though they say they have had visions about this. These people claim to be so humble, but their sinful minds have made them proud. But they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For we are joined together in his body by his strong sinews, and we grow only as we get our nourishment and strength from God. You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the evil powers of this world. So why do you keep on following rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle, don’t eat, don’t touch.” Such rules are mere human teaching about things that are gone as soon as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, humility, and severe bodily discipline. But they have no effect when it comes to conquering a person’s evil thoughts and desires.” (Colossians 2:13-23, NLT)
Pursue Christ Jesus.
Put your faith in what He has done, salvation complete and hope secure. Keep step with the Spirit, faithfully listening and obeying where He leads. If some teacher, pastor, or author turns your attention from Jesus, the Cross, and the Resurrection – walk away. Don’t be bamboozled!
Here is a word from the Word. Lord, inspire us with Your majesty. Captivate us with the good news that you save us completely, by grace, through faith, and help us to love You more each day. Amen.
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I can learn what it means to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that, somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead!” (Philippians 3:8-11, NLT)
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
Christ alone, cornerstone,
Weak made strong, in the Savior’s love.
Through the storm, He is Lord,
Lord of all!
When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil,
My anchor holds within the veil!
He is Lord, Lord of all
When He shall come with trumpet sound
Oh, may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless stand before the throne.
Edward Mote | Eric Liljero | Jonas Myrin | Reuben Morgan | William Batchelder Bradbury
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