Don’t Be Fooled

1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. (Colossians 2:1-5)

I have mentioned over the last several weeks that Paul is writing this letter to the church at Colossae primarily because of a concern that he has regarding false teachers, false teaching that may be entering into the church. As a pastor, he wanted to warn them of what may be coming and encourage them to stand firm in their faith. Today we see Paul’s first explicit reference to such dangers. We see this in verse 4: “I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.

In verse 4 what does the “this” refer to? He says, “I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.” What is the “this”? It goes back to what Paul said in verses 2 and 3 regarding Christ. What did he say? He said that in Christ is understanding, in Christ are all the mysteries of God, in Christ is all wisdom. In Christ we find all truth. In other words. Paul says this, reminds us of this, so that we are not quick to buy into arguments that may sound attractive, but are not true. That is Paul’s point: “Don’t be fooled.” And not being fooled means believing, holding on to the truths found in Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is truth, He represents truth, His words are true, all that He is, all that He represents is true.

This is why Paul said with great passion in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” To dwell means to take up residence. We are about to celebrate Thanksgiving. Many of you will have family and friends over for a meal, to visit, just to enjoy time together. When it is over, they will leave. They may be there a while, but most likely they will not “take up residence” in your home. They will come and they will go.

Too often the words of Christ, the written Word of God, is more like a Thanksgiving guest in our hearts and minds rather than a permanent resident. To let the Word of Christ “dwell” in us means that it has a prominent place in us, it permanently resides in our minds.

If we can stay there in Him, His Word in us, He in us, with Him, then we will, in that, find protection from what is false. I picture hiding, crouching down under His care, a place where falsehood cannot enter. Paul wants them, wants us to have the mind of Christ.

This is consistent with what Paul also taught in Philippians 4:4-7…

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

What are we to do? Pray about what? Everything. Give thanks, put off anxiousness that indicates a lack of trust in God, make requests to God who provides abundantly for all our needs. If we are doing these things, we are living with Christ at the center of our beings, we are letting His words dwell in us in belief, and what happens when we are living in Him and He and His Word is dwelling in us, not just visiting, but dwelling? The peace of God, which surpasses understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Peace comes and it guards us. That is where I get the mental picture of my crouching down and the Lord covering me. What does this peace guard? Our hearts and minds, it guards us. And this whole arrangement with Christ guards us from what? From what is false, what brings fear, what cannot give us peace, from anxiety, from all that runs counter to truth. If this is so, we will not be easily fooled.

Now, who here is easily fooled? Who in here is easily swept away by lies? Really, who really wants to admit that they are gullible, easily fooled by crafty liars? Who really wants to admit that? Probably no one. We are more likely to say, “I know a lie when I hear one. I know what is true. I grew up hearing Bible stories and sermons. My parents told me about Jesus and what is true. I understand that many are easily fooled by false teaching under the guise of Christianity, but not me.” And here is where we may get into trouble.

Here is the warning regarding this from the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 10:12 – “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. “Take heed” means to be careful, pay attention, watch out and notice carefully, to be ready to learn about. It describes a careful walk in a dangerous world. Like a soldier navigating a mine field.

I think it is because of our human nature to think that we are somewhat above believing lies and being swept away by those lies that Paul uses the language that he does in verse 4. In the ESV translation it reads this way: “I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. To “delude” means to make someone believe something false or to deceive by arguments of false reason. So to delude is to be fooled. 

It is like when I bought a knife set that a man was demonstrating at Sam’s a few years ago. I watched him and I was impressed with those knives. I saw what they could do with my own eyes. They performed impressively! He was cutting all kinds of things that you would never cut up in the kitchen: blocks of wood, a piece of steel. That impressed me. I assumed if they could do that, then surely they would perform well in the kitchen, you know with vegetables or bread, stuff like that. I was already impressed and wanted them before he told us of the durability of the knives. I was already sucked in with what I saw and already wanting them. I believed, or chose not to question, what I could not see, like how long they might last. By the way, I don’t do a lot of grocery shopping and I’m not very skilled in the kitchen, so I’m not the best person to make purchases in that arena anyway. I bought the knives. They were cheap anyways (which should have told me something). Not the best purchase. You know what was funny too? It was all men around that demonstration. Once he started cutting through blocks of wood, all the men gathered around, it was like a Home Depot demonstration. While I was there, only men bought the knives. Somehow that appealed to all those men. Like, “Yeah, I’m gonna get some kitchen knives that can saw through wood!”

Anyway, I know I can be vulnerable, fooled, and I’m guessing we all can be in different ways.

It is one thing to make a silly, low cost purchase, but it is another thing to buy into lies that run counter to our Lord. Those lies can wreck our lives. You may say, “I would be much more careful when it comes to spiritual truth and Christian living.” Well, I hope we would be, but again, notice Paul’s words – “I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.”

We are not generally easily led to believe lies that are just way out there, crazy stuff! If someone comes in here and says, “God does not exist,” well for us that is not plausible, not believable at all, in any way. Paul seems to be saying that the danger is that we believe plausible things. It is by plausible arguments that we can be led astray. This means led astray by arguments that make sense to us, given by very persuasive people. 

It is most likely subtle changes on truth that can be dangerous for us. So for us, paying too much attention to fine sounding arguments can deceive us about spiritual or biblical truth. Paul knows that it can be perilous for us, even as believers, to be led astray by high sounding rhetoric. In Paul’s day verbal skill was hugely admired and almost worshiped. If one could string the right words together with an appealing tone and even rhythm, it would be considered a fine art to be enjoyed by the culture. People would listen as a form of entertainment and content would be absorbed. 

For us today, that may still hold true on some level, but we can add to that not just the spoken word, but also the written word in books and other publications, and we can add multimedia presentations, movies, and music. 

How many times do we hear things like, “She is such a good author. I don’t believe her message, but I really love the way she develops characters, and her skill with language and the depth of the plot.” And so we may read her again and again and again when her message is anti-God, anti-Christianity, her message is harmful as it permeates into our minds and that of our children. Or how often do we just do what our peers are doing, seeing what they see, reading what they read? I mean, who wants to be left out of the discussions, right? We even get caught up in this as parents; adults are not immune here. “Well so and so’s parents are letting their kids do or see or read whatever, and I don’t want my kids to feel left out,” so we give the okay. We may wonder why our kids, in later years, are so willing to go with the crowd, when in fact we may have taught them to do that when they were young.

Is it entertaining? Yes. But is it helpful? Or worse, is it harmful?

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

Be careful, don’t be deluded by plausible arguments. Don’t put yourself in a place of easy delusion.

Authors, screenwriters, directors, musical artists, preachers, teachers, radio personalities, politicians, marketers, all have messages that they are wanting to convey. What is the message that we are receiving from the persuasive communicator? With what are we filling our minds? How are we processing what we take in? And are these things molding our lives?

The thing about plausible arguments that may be anti-God or anti-truth is that often times they are those things that we really, in our flesh, want to believe and embrace anyway, so in that case it is a very short step toward believing what is false. Again, the antidote for believing what is false is being filled with Christ and His truth.

There are 168 hours in a week. Say we sleep eight hours a night. I know you are saying, “I wish!” But if we sleep eight hours that leaves 112 waking hours. It would be interesting to analyze those waking hours. There is so much time, opportunity for us to be persuaded by those who want to influence us. Are we letting that happen, or are we actively living out Colossians 2:2-3 in all our waking hours? That is, are we living in an “understanding and…knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”?

Are we taking those thoughts with us wherever we go, consciously thinking these ways? Comparing what we hear with what God says, evaluating a person’s arguments with God’s arguments, analyzing society’s bold statements with God’s unchangeable truths? Do we take what the preacher or teacher says because he uses religious words and is well known, or do we go to God’s Word and then decide what is from God in what He has said?

For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. (Colossians 2:5)

Paul is not with them physically, he cannot be. But he is still “with them.” How is he with them? In Spirit. This is more than saying, “I’m thinking of you.” He is with them in a deeper sense. Christian to Christian, there is a particular connectedness throughout the Holy Spirit. We relate to each other in this special say. That is how he is with them.

Further, he says that he is rejoicing to see their good order and the firmness of their faith in Christ. That is an interesting statement. On the one hand he seems to be encouraging them to be firm, and on the other hand he seems assured that they will be firm. Many think that though Paul is warning and encouraging the Colossian Christians to be vigilant against false teaching, it has not yet really entered into the church. They think perhaps it is in the community, false teachers are rising up, but so far the church has persevered in the faith, they are standing strong. Others say Paul is simply believing the best, he is believing that as Christians they will heed his words, stand for truth, and overcome obstacles of the faith that the false teachers will bring.

Either way, Paul is joyful, happy, excited that they are and will hold on to Christ through it all. As we interact with each other, we are interacting with sinners. None of us are perfect, sin has affected us and continues to do so. But as we talk with each other we can speak in such a way that communicates our faith and trust in God who works in the life of that other person who is a Christian. 

When I counsel or when you counsel others in the faith, we can do so with an expectation that they will listen to and follow God’s Word. Believers tend to respond to truth. If they don’t, then okay, we can patiently talk through it again with an expectation that they will respond.

God will change their hearts and actions, or He will arrange in their life to bring more pressure to bear, out of love, for further refining. What father does not discipline his children whom he loves? Paul’s expectation was that the Christians will persevere to the end, not perfectly, but eventually to the end.

So what do we do with all of this today? We hold on to, spend time with, contemplate the vastness and majesty of our Savior. We go to Him, stay with Him, worship Him, remind ourselves of His place in this world and in our lives. We thank Him over and over again for His good favor, undeserved favor on us, and for the many undeserved blessings. We ponder His works, we fix our eyes on the future prize of heaven and sinlessness, we go there, we stay there in our minds. We stay in the truth of His Word. All of this is worship. That is verses 2 and 3. And then we will be stronger to resist foolish arguments, gospel lies, and false, plausible lies.

None of us are simply smart enough or capable enough to avoid plausible arguments. We need Christ to dwell in us richly, for our delight to be in Him, to love Him and His glory and none other. Lord, please work this in us, keep us near to yourself, keep us from foolishness. Thank you for your care.

1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. (Colossians 2:1-5)