The Maze of Mysticism: Colossians Series #12
The book of Colossians has as its purpose to set forth the absolute sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the first chapter, Paul has set before us the sufficiency of Christ. In the second chapter, he takes all other substitutes for the Lord Jesus Christ and compares them to what we have in Him.
Some years ago, there was a farmer in Madison, Wisconsin, who had built a maze on 400 acres of his cornfield. It was rather sophisticated affair. They used satellites in order to help design the maze and a variety of other technological innovations. They had towers so that when people go through the maze and got lost, staff would be able to locate them. It was a huge maze on a cornfield and people would go in and out of it and try to find their way.
A maze is a confusing intricate network of passages. Do you remember going to the fair and they had a house of mirrors? You would go into that house of mirrors and try to make your way through that maze of mirrors. It was a maze, a confusing intricate network of passages.
When you study what the Bible has to say about the cults, and when you look at the cults which are currently rampant in the world today, you will find yourself very much as if you are in a maze. It is usually very difficult to find exactly what the cult is trying to teach.
In the early days, in the New Testament times, there were a variety of cults that were abroad, led by false teachers who were moving in and out of the Christian community offering substitutes or additions to the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, Jesus Christ is the One and Only. Jesus is not a way to God; Jesus is the way to God. Jesus Christ is not a truth; Jesus Christ is the truth. Jesus Christ is not a life; Jesus Christ is the life.
So, cults are always substitutes for the Lord Jesus Christ. In Chapter two, there are four definite elements of the cults which we are studying. First, there is the matter of intellectualism. That is the attempt to reach God by your own thought processes apart from divine revelation. Secondly, there is ritualism: that is observing ceremonies and going through particular rituals in order to gain your way and entrance to God. Third, there is mysticism. Fourth, there is legalism–the attempt to win the approval of God by a series of rules and regulations–a series of dos and don’ts.
We want to study in this chapter the idea of mysticism. I mean by mysticism: the attempt to perceive spiritual reality apart from objective verifiable facts. Mysticism is the belief that you can have a direct experience with the spirit world and with God, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ and the revelation God has given to us in the Bible.
In the city of Colossi, where young believers had been wonderfully transformed and brought out of sin into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, there were false teachers. These teachers were saying that Jesus is fine. Jesus is Great as far as He goes, but there is more. You can go to a deeper level than Jesus Christ will take you.
These false teachers were known as Gnostics. A Gnostic is the opposite of agnostic. An agnostic is someone who says, “I don’t know. It may be true, but I don’t know.” The Latin word for agnostic is ignoramus. The opposite of that is a person who is a Gnostic. A Gnostic is someone who says, “I do know. In fact, I’m one of the few who does know. I have access to information and experiences that are not available to the average person.”
The Gnostics had come to Colossi. They were claiming to have had deeper experiences with God. They said they had gone further and knew more than other people did, and they were able to help people enter a mystical experience whereby they would come in contact with the spirit world and ultimately would come in contact with God.
Old mysticism or old Gnosticism, expresses itself today in what we call the New Age Movement. The New Age Movement is a maze. It’s very difficult to define everything they teach. There are some distinctions about the New Age Movement that remind us a great deal of Hinduism and Buddhism. One of them is Pantheism—it is the idea that God is in everything. There is just a unity of all things and all persons in the whole world. It is the belief that ultimately you yourself are a God. Ultimately, you can achieve a oneness and a unity with the God who permeates the entire universe.
Another characteristic of mysticism is the idea we can go through a series of spiritual experiences to get closer and closer to God. Mysticism, the New Age Movement, is absolutely permeating the thinking and the society of American life in the 21st Century.
In Colossians 2:18-19, we have a contrast. In verse 18, we have human experience. The idea that whatever a person experiences becomes truth for them. Have you ever heard someone say, “I know it’s true, it happened to me. It was an experience of mine. I had this way-out experience, but it is true for me.”? Many people say, “That’s great if it happened to you, that’s true for you.”
The other side of this contract is found in verse 19. We learn divine revelation and the revelation which comes to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “No man comes to the Father but by me.” It is only through the Lord Jesus Christ that you come to know God in reality. All other experience is spurious experience. All other attempts to reach God are futile attempts. It is only by Jesus Christ that you have fellowship with God and come to know God.
I. Mystical Exploration
This is a complicated verse, but I want to show you the elements of mystical exploration. I want to show you how the New Age Movement works and how all attempts to reach God apart from Jesus really unfold.
Notice he says, “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility…” In other words, a false humility. The New Agers or the Gnostics would say, “Far be it from us to think that we in and of ourselves could have contact with God. You have to go through a series of steps.”
I have some good news for you. You don’t have to try to get to God through a series of mystical steps. You don’t have to try to achieve some deeper knowledge that’s not available to average people. God didn’t make His salvation plan difficult to understand. God has set it forth in simple, understandable language. The way to God is direct through the Lord Jesus Christ. “There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.”
In Hebrews 10:19, it says, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.” When Jesus died on that cross and shed His blood, the veil was torn in pieces from top to the bottom. That simply means that because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ the way has been opened to God and we have the privilege of going directly into the presence of God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
We can come to Jesus Christ and as a born again child of God through Jesus you can talk directly to the God of this universe. It is not a mock or false humility that tells people they have to go through a secret initiation.
“And worshipping of angels…” The whole field of angels is big now. You go into the average bookstore today and you will find whole shelves of books that are written on angels. The Bible teaches that there are angels. The Bible says there are good angels and there are bad angels. The Bible makes it very clear that we are not to worship angels. In the book of the Revelation, when John saw this magnificent revelation that closed out Scripture, in the last chapter the angel was revealing things to John. It says in Revelation 22:8, “I John saw these things, and heard them, and when I had heard and seen I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. The angel said unto me, See thou do it not, for I am thy fellow servant and thy brethren, the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book, worship God.” We are not to worship angels, even if they are good angels.
There are also bad angels. The Bible teaches that one-third of angels fell with Satan when he rebelled against God. The devil said, “I will go up, I will go up. I will exalt myself. I will climb to the heights.” The Lord God said, “You say you’re going up, you’re going down.” And the devil fell. When he fell, a multitude of the angels fell with him and they are known as demons in the Bible. The spirit world is a real world. The Gnostics had a whole series of teachings about this matter of a hierarchy of angels. They said that no human being could go directly to God through Jesus Christ. They said that you have to go through a whole series of these angelic beings. You make contact with one set of angelic beings and when you learn the insights there, then you move on to a higher level. You get higher and higher until, finally, you find yourself in the inner shrine and you will be God yourself.
The Bible makes it very clear that the devil has his purpose to get you to worship him instead of the true God. In the garden of Eden, when Satan came to Adam and Eve and tempted them in the garden, the devil said to them, “Why God knows that if you eat of that tree of knowledge you will be as gods, knowing good and evil.” He said, “You’ll just be a god yourself.” There are people who believe this false teaching today.
I will share two philosophical thoughts that will be very helpful to you. Let me give you two philosophical thoughts: 1) There is only one God. 2) You are not Him. I found out a long time ago that I wasn’t God. In fact, I found out I wasn’t even assistant God. This whole idea is utter foolishness and stupidity. When people begin the worship of angels and delve into spiritual entities, they find themselves getting in contact with a spiritual reality, but it is not divine reality nor God-reality, it is Satanic reality.
In II Corinthians 11:14, we read, “And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” The devil can give people experiences. The devil can give people visions. What do you need with a vision when you have the Lord Jesus Christ? What do you need with on- going revelation when you have the completed revelation of the canon of Scripture, the Holy Word of God.
He says, “Let no man beguile you in a voluntary humility or worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen. Vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” “Intruding” was a word used by the mystery religions, by the Gnostics. This concerned secret initiation rites— secret ceremonies that could get them into a higher level of spirituality.
Paul says that it tends toward the puffing up the fleshly mind. The word, “puff up,” is a word that was used for bellows of a blacksmith. When people get to the point that they think they have superior knowledge to others, it tends to puff them up.
There on the one hand, you have what I call mystical exploration–the attempt to perceive spiritual reality apart from objective, verifiable fact. To know the Lord Jesus Christ is to be in the position to have a wonderful, eternal spiritual experience. But you must always keep in mind that your experience must be verified by what God says in the Bible. Check out your experience in the Bible and see if the Bible will vindicate it.
I believe in an experience with Jesus Christ that can be felt in the heart and move the life. I don’t like to be a part of a dead church. There are some churches that are so cold you could ice skate up and down the aisle. They think they are the fraternity of the frozen. I don’t want to be one of the Lord’s frozen, I want to be one of the Lord’s chosen. I like my music to be exciting. I don’t want dead music. I want God’s presence to be real and powerful in our midst.
Let me show you how you can have a genuine spiritual experience. In the book of Luke, the Lord Jesus, after He had been raised from the dead, walked along on the Emmaus Road with two disciples. As they walked along together, the Bible said their hearts began to burn. They had a good old heart-warming experience with God. Don’t you like to have your heart warmed? Don’t you like to have that closeness with God that touches and moves the hearts?
Listen to what they said. After the Lord walked with them in that resurrection experience, “And they said one to another, did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures.” Get the connection? Where do you get the burning heart? You get it when the Lord opens up the Scriptures. You get that spiritual experience with God on the basis of truth in the Bible. Truth is not just whatever happens to you. Truth is what God has revealed in His Word and when you respond to that truth and act on it. Then, God gives you the experiences He wants you to have.
II. Miraculous Exemplification
We are now going to learn “the real deal.” We are moving from mystical exploration to spiritual transformation.
When Paul states, “Not holding the head,” he is saying that when people get you off on these other tangents, you lose conscious connection with the head. The word, “Head,” is in capital letters. It is used back in the first chapter. Look at verse 18 and we’ll see what he’s talking about. “And He (the Lord Jesus Christ) is the head of the body, the church…”
In Colossians 2:19, when he says “the head” he’s talking about Jesus Christ. “Not holding the head, from which all the body.” He is talking about the Church. The body is a beautiful picture of the Church—many pictures of the church. The Church is compared to a building and the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation of the building. He is the foundation of the Church. You build a church on Jesus. Sometimes the Church is compared to a beautiful bride and He is the heavenly bridegroom. One of these days the bridegroom is going to step out of the portals of glory and descend down the stairway of the stars and say, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” And the bride of Christ will be caught up in the air to meet their heavenly lover, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Church is also like a body. The Church is the body of Christ and Christ is the head. He’s talking here now about the way to spiritual transformation. “Don’t lose that vital communion with the head.” As a born-again child of God, the moment you receive Jesus as your personal Savior, you were added to the body.
In I Corinthians 12-13, we read, “For by one spirit (holy Spirit) we were all baptized into one body.” At the moment of your salvation, the Holy Spirit baptized you into the body. He made you a part of the body of Christ. So, you are all a part of the body. So, you are not a part of the body, connected to the body, but you are also to maintain communion with the body.
Let me break it down as simply as I know how to break it. Spiritual transformation, a personal relationship with God, is on the basis of a living and a growing relationship with Jesus Christ who is the head of the body. You take your head and sever it from your body and the body can’t live. Life comes from the body. And spiritual life comes from Jesus Christ. “By joints and bands…” Let me use two better words for this. By ligaments and sinews. Held together by ligaments and sinews. “having nourishment ministered.” We get our life from Jesus Christ, not some esoteric experience, not some secret initiation that brings you into contact with God. But you get spiritual life from Jesus Christ and that relationship with Jesus Christ is made alive as you stay in conscious fellowship with Him.
Spiritual transformation is on the basis of a living relationship with Jesus, but also a growing relationship. “Increased with the increase of God.” Grows with the growth of God. At the base of your skull you have what is called a pituitary gland. The pituitary gland secretes a growth hormone. It is this growth hormone which makes it possible for your body to grow. It’s evident that some of us have a bigger pituitary gland than others because some of ours grow a whole lot bigger than others grow. But all growth for the body is derived from the head. That is the same thing that is true in the spiritual life. We grow with the growth of God. By the way, the tense of the verb there where it says increases, is present tense. It means continual growth. You don’t just all of a sudden become a full-grown Christian.
I am concerned about what is behind these people who get off into these mystical things. They are looking for some quick fix. They are looking for some way that can bring them into a spiritual experience and reality that just happens all at once. God’s way of spiritual transformation is that you grow daily. If you don’t grow, if it’s not a continual growing positively, then there will be negative retrogression.
What can help us grow or increase with the increase of God? In I Peter 2:2, we read, “As new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word that you may grow thereby.” We have learned tremendous things about nutrition in our day. We have learned how proper eating of nutritious food will enable the body to grow and be strong physically. Just as we have to have good nutrition physically to grow, we must also have good nutrition spiritually to grow. God’s perfect food for your spiritual life is the milk of the Word. Do you feed on the Word everyday? You can’t grow if you aren’t in the Word. You need to get up a little earlier and have a quiet time. Every day open up your Bible and read and eat some of the Scriptures.
In II Peter 3:18, we read, “But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” It is as you study God’s Word, that you grow in knowledge. You learn more about Jesus. The more you learn about who Jesus is, then you can grow not only in knowledge, but in grace. Now that you know who Jesus is, you can begin to live the way Jesus wants you to live.
Every day, God’s child comes to God’s book and in God’s book he sees God’s Son. As he opens up his heart to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit begins to change his life and he is transformed into the image of Christ. He becomes like the Lord Jesus. Why in the world would you want to leave spiritual transformation through Jesus Christ, for some mystical exploration that is a maze which leads to nowhere?
There was a dog walking across a bridge over a stream. It had a bone in its mouth. The dog stopped, looked into the stream, saw the reflection of itself and saw a much bigger bone. So, the dog dropped the bone it had in an attempt to lurch for the bigger bone and in so doing lost them both. Don’t fall for the bone of mystical experience and lose the reality that is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ.