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7th December 2003 AM

FLEE THE SHADOWS – THE REALITY IS IN CHRIST


16
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or
drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon
celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the
things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in
Christ.

Colossians 2:16,17

In this chapter Paul warns the Christians at Colossae that there are four
dangers facing them. In the process of doing so he reasserts the
supremacy of Christ – and the empty alternatives of other systems of
belief.

I want in particular to leave with you the central thrust of verse 17, which I
paraphrase in this way:

Flee the shadows – the reality is in Christ

Paul is, of course, speaking specifically in this section about the dangers of
tradition by which the believer might be criticised or judged – in particular
the traditions of religious observance – festival, New Moon or Sabbath.
These Jewish traditions were a foreshadowing of what was to come – and
now that Christ has come they are replaced by the “reality that is found in
Christ.”

In expanding on this verse I want to highlight what I believe to be a very


troubling tendency – evident in the world at large – but particularly
dangerous to the believing community. A tendency to be preoccupied with
SHADOWS rather than THE REALITY OF JESUS.

Ours is a generation preoccupied with flickering shadows. Our


entertainment seems to depend upon a technology of shadows – but our
outlook is also perilously superficial.

When we were children – and the habit remains with us still – the shadows
were places of uncertainty and fear: our ignorance and imagination filled
them with dangers – but also made them fascinating to us. And in varying
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7th December 2003 AM

degrees that preoccupation and the misunderstandings it feeds on is with


us still.

As we grow older the shadows in our lives take on a deeper significance.


There are places we go, experiences we live through and sometimes
situations we seek out that are very much with us.

Most of all we are easily duped into placing a greater value on, or given
greater significance to the SHADOWS of life rather than the REALITY which
is in Jesus.

Our spiritual lives become two-dimensional and we are preoccupied with


that which lies on the surface – appearances and so on – when we should
be deepening our knowledge of Christ and our faith in Him.

Today Paul warns us as he warned the Colossians:

FLEE THE SHADOWS – THE REALITY IS IN CHRIST!

In doing so I want us to be aware of the DANGERS that surround us and


result in this most serious warning, and then to consider some of the ways
in which our lives should demonstrate the REALITY THAT IS IN CHRIST.

The dangers are stated in verses : 4 8 16 and 18:

• Don’t be DECEIVED

• Don’t be CAPTIVATED

• Don’t’ be JUDGED

and

• Don’t be DISQUALIFIED

You are surrounded by value systems and mind sets that oppose the all
sufficiency of Christ. The world is convinced that success and significance
lies in other things. Don’t be taken in.
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7th December 2003 AM

1. Don’t be deceived by fine-sounding arguments


v4

There are many other systems and ideas abroad that sound convincing
and plausible. The Colossians had experienced the dangers of such
philosophies.

There were people who claimed to have found the secret of the universe –
the answer to the human problem. They prided themselves on their
KNOWLEDGE and REASONING.

Paul has to remind them that “all the treasures of wisdoms and
knowledge” are hidden in Christ.

One of the side effects of an educated society is the exposure to fine


sounding arguments. Ideas which leave God out of the reckoning

The danger here is that the believer will be DECEIVED – taken in – duped.

The world offers several “shadows” :

1. The Christian life is for those who do not face up to the claims of
science or of the present – for the weak and the gullible.

2. Life is for real NOW – leave the future to others – and as for eternity –
forget it!

3. The present pleasures of life are preferable to the claims of Christ –


sin may be ugly at times but it is “fun”.

Such shadows are aimed like a flickering film show across our lives to
distract us from the claims of Jesus on our souls.

2. Don’t be captivated by hollow and deceptive


ideas
8
See to it that no-one takes you captive through hollow and
deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the
basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
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7th December 2003 AM

There is much in other human traditions. We would be foolish to deny


that. But the claims of our world with its ALTERNATIVE VALUES and
ALTERNATIVE IDEALS is a dangerous aspect of the shadows that surround
us.

Man is always looking for a world system that will satisfy his desire to be
DOING SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT.

What kind of systems occupy the unbelieving mind these days?

Well there is always the notion of SOCIAL CONCERN and CARE FOR THE
ENVIRONMENT.

Now you must not misunderstand me here – I believe the Christian has a
responsibility for the care of the world in which God has placed him – but
that is different from a preoccupation with such matters – as being an end
in itself – and being such as to make sense of life itself.

It is because they are such laudable causes that these things appeal – and
they do so not so as to supplement the believer’s underlying view of
human sin and failure – but as an end in themselves.

They represent in all their variety – causes social and environmental,


charitable and political “the hollow and deceptive philosophy and basic
principles of this world RATHER THAN ON CHRIST” Such views are closely
followed by New Age ideas.

They are shadows.

3. Don’t be judged by religious observances vv


16,17
16
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink,
or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a
17
Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were
to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Down through the ages Christians have been derailed from their simple
faith in the all sufficient Christ by a plethora of TRADITIONS and
OBSERVANCES – many deriving from the Old Testament rules – which Paul
here clearly describes as A SHADOW OF THINGS THAT WERE TO COME – in
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other words (as Hebrews testifies) they have already been displaced by
Christ Himself.

A religious life full of liturgical practises and complicated rules about what
is allowable or not was a feature of the religious life of our Lord’s own time.

Since then there have risen many large and small denominations and
groups who major on ritual observance and holy days and fasts and feasts.

We ourselves look back affectionately to the Passover – and we recognise


the principles that it enshrines – but we do not any longer celebrate the
Passover – we meet around the Lord’s table.
Some Christians have made a great deal out of celebrating the Sabbath –
others have become preoccupied with the worship of saints and icons and
a liturgy that often has roots outside of Scripture.

But before we move away from that – we need to examine the traditions of
our own extempore worship and our “free church” rituals.

Such things are a SHADOW – the reality is in Christ and in Christ alone.

How many of our practises do we hold so dear that they have become to
us a major preoccupation – and we JUDGE OTHERS BY THE STANDARDS
WE HAVE INVENTED OR INHERITED FROM OTHERS – forgetting that the
reality lies elsewhere in the Lord Himself.

How easily we consign to a lesser spiritual group those who do not share
our particular views on worship or gender or prayer or music?

What matters is CHRIST.

But sometimes you would not think that that is so – we become


preoccupied – having failed to take notice of Paul’s warning here – with
small matters – and cherished traditions.

We become all too easily a people of HABIT and SUPERFICIAL RELIGION


convinced that what matters is how we worship, or how an individual
speaks, or whether others accord us due respect…

4. Don’t be disqualified by claims of superior


spiritual experience v 18
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18
Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship
of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into
great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind
puffs him up with idle notions. 19 He has lost connection with the
Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by
its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Pride is a pernicious force in the Church. One believer may be convinced


he has had a superior experience of God – or that he has been given a
vision that others do not share because it has been given just to him.
How many of us have suffered guilt in the face of other believers who
claim a deeper prayer life or a special knowledge?
When I look back over my childhood and my time at college too I
remember those who dominated the scene locally because they had “a
special vision” or an incomparable devotional life.

The ones who really were an example were marked by true humility –
those who had allowed themselves to be derailed by pride and false
spirituality were always complaining about those who did not share it!

We too easily replace FAITH with a dependence upon cherished ideas and
thoughts of personal discipleship that set us apart from others. It becomes
a practice of new spiritual patterns rather than a desire to be like HIM. We
are preoccupied with the shadows – the two dimensional appearances – we
have lost the link with the Head

The REALITY is simple and direct – and it is ALL IN JESUS CHRIST.

But turn aside from these SHADOWS and consider in closing the
MARKS OF THE REALITY THAT IS IN CHRIST:

There are many aspects we could dwell on – but I commend to you these
THREE:

• SATISFACTION
• TRUTH
and
• VICTORY

They mirror our Lord’s own claim: “ I am the Way and the Truth and the
Life…”
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7th December 2003 AM

TURN FROM THE SHADOWS TO THE REALITY IN CHRIST

A. For He is the source of SATISFACTION “the


Way”

Against a background of other claims to be the answer to the world’s


needs Christ claims unambiguously to be THE way. In Paul’s words He is
THE REALITY.

Following a system however persuasive, or a philosophy however well


structured, or a world view or mind set however plausible always carries a
risk – you MIGHT BE WRONG…

When Christ claims to be the WAY – He gives a single path for the pilgrim,
and steady aim for the believer, a single focus for the worker. In short He
who has gone before – and who knows our weaknesses and the shadows
that dog our path better than we do – OFFERS A SATISFACTION THAN NONE
CAN MATCH.

Flee the shadows ….. THE REALITY IS IN CHRIST

Perhaps I speak to someone who has been trying for years to FIND THE
WAY – trying to find a system of rules, or a pattern of worship, or a singular
vision that will answer the deepest yearnings of their heart …?

ONLY JESUS offers REALITY – REAL SATISFACTION

For only Jesus shares our humanity – has paid the price for our redemption
– and has risen to guarantee our salvation.

The shadows offer EFFORT, RULES, ENDLESS RITUALS and SUPERIOR


VISIONS

Jesus is the complete answer – the whole WAY – the true satisfaction –
satisfying the Law of God’s demands, and satisfying my heart’s need for
cleansing from sin and all uncleanness.

B. He is the TRUTH – “the real thing” if you will

Examine the teachings of other religions, or even of other Christian leaders


who offer a different way than His and you will find them lacking.
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7th December 2003 AM

Subject them to scrutiny – test their claims against the claims of Jesus.

Only Jesus reveals the Nature of God to me – for He is God in Human flesh

“In Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily”

Where others offer a faint hope – “if you do this , and if you do that” – my
Lord offers Himself and certainty – because it is not what I do or try or
earn – BUT WHAT HE IS.

FLEE THE SHADOWS of self help and attempts to meet God’s law – and find
In Christ the only complete answer – and TRUST HIM FOR WHO HE IS AND
WHAT HE HAS ACHIEVED in His death and resurrection.

C. He is the LIFE – He overcomes – He offers Victory

13
When you were dead in your sins and in the Uncircumcision of your sinful
nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having
cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood
opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the
powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them
by the cross.

Let such a ONE “rule in your hearts” (3:15a)

No One else takes upon Himself the sins of the world and nails them to His
cross.
No One else disarms the powers and authorities and RISES VICTORIOUS.

Satan is busily trying to keep us in THE SHADOWS -

They seem – like the brilliant colourful shadows cast upon the silver or
plasma screen by brilliant technology and amazing skill – attractive and
hypnotic:

“Live for the here and now


Enjoy the present
Abandon ideas of commitment to a distant and irrelevant God”
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7th December 2003 AM

THESE ARE SHADOWS

They do not stand the test of daylight, or everyday, or difficulty, or guilt, or


sin – their aim is to keep us in the SHADOWS and away from the Light that
shines from the Lord Himself.

THE REALITY IS FOUND IN CHRIST

And whatever my own poor weak discipleship and attempt to reflect Him in
what I do – the REALITY IS NOT ME – BUT CHRIST.

FLEE THE SHADOWS – THE REALITY IS IN CHRIST!