December 31 in Christmas

(If this day occurs on the first Sunday after Christmas,

please refer to that devotion instead.)

Colossians 2:4-15

Hold Fast to the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Having explained who Christ is in his person as both fully divine and human, having shown how being who he is as the very Word of God allows him to reveal the Father to us, and ultimately how he rescues us from darkness and transfers us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, Paul now turns his attention to the problems in the Church at Colossae.  Apparently there were those who were trying to “take [the Colossians] captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world.”  Later on Paul mentions some details of this false teaching, specifically, asceticism, worship of angels, and the necessity of vivid dreams and visions.

And here is a temptation which has frequented the Church in all ages: the desire for something more than what the faith gives.  What do I mean by this?  Well, Paul is content with Christ himself.  And why shouldn’t he be?  After all, in Christ “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”  In him, believers have been circumcised, not with hands, but by the putting off of the sinful nature.  Christians have been buried with Christ through baptism, drowning their sins, and dying to sin, self, the world, and the devil.  Moreover, they have been raised to new life in Christ whose resurrection is their own, both now as born again believers and later at the resurrection of their bodies at the end of time.  So Paul tells them that through the crucifixion of Christ, such things as human traditions and “sacred” works whereby we seek to earn something from God or make ourselves more holy by torturing ourselves or worshipping angels, is exactly what Christ disarmed, for behind these schemes is not the true God but Satan and his demonic host seeking to do one thing: to take our minds off of Christ and on to something else, to distract us from the real to the artificial.

It’s a sorry commentary that for many Christians, Christ is not enough; they want something more.  They want to be the super-Christian who can deny himself every bodily comfort and thereby make God his debtor, or the mystic-Christian who sees things in eternity the rest of us can’t see, or the ecstatic-Christian who has “out-of-body” experiences the rest of us just don’t understand.  Paul wants none of this: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).  There is more in Christ Jesus upon which to ponder, more in the fundamental truths of the Christian faith upon which to meditate and live, than in all the religious trinkets of the world.  Hold fast to Christ.

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