In March 2018, a Missouri man who had spent nearly four decades in prison was finally released. But after a couple of months of freedom, he walked into a restaurant, put his hand in his pocket, and demanded money asking the clerk to call the police. When asked why he staged the armed robbery, he explained, “I want to go back to jail.” After such a long time in prison, it was hard for him to imagine a different kind of life.
The Bible teaches that before we came to faith in Christ, we were slaves to sin and our fleshly desires. Once we embrace faith in Christ, we can be tempted to live as if we were still enslaved to our old masters. In chapter 2, Paul talks about false teachers who had infiltrated the church in Colossae. They were teaching that if the believers really wanted to be spiritual, they should follow strict rules concerning diet, purity laws, and worship.
This was a tempting message. Paul understood that such teaching could hold “an appearance of wisdom” (v. 23). Yet, he said it was foolish to go down that path because Christ died to free us from the “elemental spiritual forces” (v. 20), the demonic powers which Christ defeated and triumphed over on the cross (v. 15).
Not only does this works-based false teaching encouraged believers to live as if they were still enslaved to the world, it also did not produce desired results. This teaching lacked “any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (v. 23). In the words of Jesus, these false teachers, “worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules” (Mark. 7:7). Paul points again and again right to the gospel—we died and were raised with Christ.
Where do you go for advice? We need to be careful regarding who we ask for spiritual counsel. The Colossians listened to false teachers. Today, it is easy for us to get advice from sources like self-help books or talk shows. We need to evaluate all teaching against the standard of God’s Word. Ask God to help you listen to Him and His Word.