In our society, it is not unusual to see people "adding things on."
Take for example technology -- I wonder what percentage of Americans has made the transition to a flat screen TV. I am sure it is pretty high.
And just think about how often we are updating the software on our computers with the latest downloads. It just amazes me how quickly we (or I) discard the old for the new.
As a culture we also are continually adding on activity. Most of us here in the good ole USA are very busy, and should not say yes to something new without cleaning house a little and saying no to something. For most, when a new, fun activity comes along, or something like that, it gets added on to what is already an insane schedule.
OK, let me make it clear that most add-ons are not "evil." Just like a lot of things, they can bring about good or bad. A new gadget can bring about convenience. A new activity can add pleasure and quality to our lives. But there should be some scrutinizing of what we are "adding on" because some can have a detrimental impact on our lives.
What about adding on to faith? How does new teaching that is being put forth today fit with what was conveyed years ago? Is there a Christianity 2.0 that we should all bring into our lives?
The apostle Paul, in Colossians 2:13-14, tackles these above questions. "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross." Paul first of all addresses the simple message of Christ -- humanity was dead in rebellion and Christ made atonement on the cross making forgiveness possible.
Paul goes on then to caution in Colossians 2:16-19, "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. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head." The warning here is that there will be pressure to add on to Christianity.
The first add-on that Paul deals with in this passage is something we might call "human achievement." Apparently some in that church were pressuring others to jump through certain hoops in order to be judged in a positive light. This belief pushes the question of what must we do in addition to what Christ has done to be accepted by God. And the answer is, there is nothing we can do to merit acceptance with God. Acceptance with God is not a matter of what we do but a matter of what Jesus has done.
The second here in the passage is the add-on of "additional beliefs." While there was a group pressing people into "jumping through hoops" (above), there was another group claiming that they had secret spiritual knowledge that was needed to find true fulfillment. But Paul says do not let anyone "disqualify you" with such subjective thoughts that are not knowledge grounded in an unchanging truth.
You've probably heard the expression "red herring." This term was coined from a method of training hunting dogs to follow the scent of their prey. Once the dogs were following the proper scent, their trainers would draw red herrings (a stinky fish) across their paths. Initially, the dogs would be drawn away by the scent of the herring.
They had to be trained to ignore that scent and instead stay focused on the scent of their prey. So a "red herring" is something that is introduced which diverts our attention from what we should be pursuing. Paul's thesis is that the key to authentic spirituality is pursuing Jesus Christ, because He alone is the source of all true spiritual knowledge.
What do you believe? What is the source of "spiritual knowledge" that you hold to? I encourage you to seek out the truth of Jesus through the pages of Bible and let his truth feed your life and your family.
Norm Byers is the lead pastor of Genesis Church, which meets 10 a.m. Sundays in the cafeteria building of North Central Michigan College in Petoskey and 10 a.m. Sundays at Boyne City elementary. For more information, visit www.genesiswired.com. Comments and insights are welcomed on Twitter @NormByers.