Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just As You Were Taught...

In every age there is a temptation for Christians to drift from a steadfast grip on the unchanging, key gospel truths in search of some secret knowledge, easy principles for success, or other things to "add" to Jesus. There is no shortage of teachers who present to us wise-sounding nuggets, presented to us as "the real meat." And our flesh has a natural tendency to desire, well, NOT the cross! Rather than decreasing, denying self and taking up the cross, our flesh wants to HELP Jesus save us. Even if we firmly hold to Christ-alone for initial conversion, there is great temptation to go the way of the Galatians and attempt to complete our maturity by "Jesus plus..." "Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:3).

Paul gives some help and encouragement on this topic in his letter to the Colossians. False teachers had sprung up in that local church. They were pulling the believers away from a Christ-centered stand on the gospel. Paul tells them that Christ is enough:
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him...  Colossians 2:6-10a, ESV
Paul calls the Colossian Christians back to the fundamentals of the faith. This is what all believers need! The gospel is the true meat - there is no secret knowledge past Christ, for in him "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (2:3). Notice that Paul told the Colossians to continue walking in Christ just as they had when they were first converted. Christian conversion and Christian growth are both rooted in the gospel message of Jesus Christ! Paul tells them to seek maturity as they are "established in the faith, just as you were taught." Established. Grounded. Standing firm in THE faith. Christ taught the apostles the faith, and they passed it on to the churches they planted, entrusting the gospel guardianship to qualified elders (Titus 1:5, 9-10). THE faith cannot be changed. We must hold to it! And Paul said to be established in this faith, "just as you were taught." Those who were taught the pure faith of Christianity must not sweve, drift from, or modify the faith.

There is a problem when we were not properly taught the faith from the very beginning. Pure teaching of the gospel seems scarce sometimes. But we must contend for the pure faith of Christianity (Jude 3). Were you grounded in the gospel as revealed to the apostles and entrusted to local-church elders when you first believed? Or were you taught a bunch of nonsense, things Paul refers to as "philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ"? Were you taught that Jesus is enough, and that the gospel itself is the ground of our conversion and our growth to maturity? If not, look to the Scriptures and embrace the gospel of Jesus!

If you were taught the pure faith, then stand in it firmly, "just as you were taught." Don't let anyone pull you away with tempting teachings. Paul says that we will be faced with competing doctrines that rely on human tradition, things dealing with 'elemental spirits' or principles - an appeal to demonic spirits! Later in the epistle he also adds to the list Jewish laws (telling us the gospel is not enough, we must also focus on Jewish ways and practices to really grow as a Christian), ascetiscism (a focus on denying the body), worship of angels (an unhealthy focus on angels to the exclusion of Christ), visions (relying on mystical revelations and visions rather than God's revealed word). All of this Paul describes as "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" (2:16-19).

Jesus and his pure gospel is enough! Enough to save us and enough to grow us up. Don't let your focus drift from Christ and the pure, foundational faith "just as you were taught." Yes, there is growth in wisdom and knowledge; there are deep things to learn. But the meat and wisdom are Christ-centered and gospel-saturated. Anything that takes our focus off Christ and the gospel (the message of his life, death and resurrection for us) is unhealthy.

The apostle John gave a similar warning. We will close with the bold words of the aged disciple of love:
Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. 2 John 9-11, ESV

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