November 20, 2022

David Sorn

In our Colossians passage this week, the apostle Paul warns us of 3 “isms” that can lead us away from Jesus if we’re not careful with them.


November 20, 2022

David Sorn

In our Colossians passage this week, the apostle Paul warns us of 3 “isms” that can lead us away from Jesus if we’re not careful with them.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT | Colossians 2: 16-23


Morning. My name is David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.

You know, Christians have this uncanny way of losing focus…and straying from the path that God wants us to walk on.

It’s like, in our history, we can’t seem to help ourselves from making Christianity into something it’s not.

But what’s interesting though, is every culture and generation seems to struggle with this a bit differently.

For instance, this morning, I’m going to preach a message where I am convinced that my 1st point would get me burned at the stake in Europe in the 1400’s

And then, in my 3rd point, I know, that if I could time travel to a typical, solid, Bible-believing Church in America in the 1940’s, they would literally chase me out of their church (maybe with rocks in their hands) after preaching this message I’m going to preach to you today.

But here’s the thing.

I’m almost positive you won’t be looking for stones under your chair when I finish this message today. You might not even bat an eye at what I say today.

And yet, I feel moderately convinced that this message might irritate you greatly if you re-listen to it in 2045.

See the church, in church history tends to swing like a pendulum.

And we struggle to stay in the middle, where the truth is.

And so even if a particular topic we read about in Scripture doesn’t seem like a pressing struggle to us right now…

…it’s critical that we pay close attention to it because history tells us that if we ignore it, it will be a pressing struggle again soon enough.

And so let’s take a look at some of very interesting warnings from Paul’s letter to the Colossians today

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Colossians 2:16-17

We are finishing chapter 2 today of Colossians today, which will conclude our Jesus Over Everything Series

Next week, we’re going to take a short break from Colossians for about a month, and go into a series called, “Names of God”

(Names of God Series Promo with Titles)

We’re going to take 5 weeks and look at a different Scripture passage each week that teaches on a unique and powerful name of God

It’s going to be great!

And then, after Christmas, in January, we’ll jump back into Colossians, chapters 3 & 4, for a series called, “Roadmap for the Resurrected,” and cover the final 2 chapters.

So that’s where we’re headed.

Let’s read


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Colossians 2:16-17

(Colossians 2:16-17) – NIV

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.

(Deceptive-isms Title Slide)

The early church of Paul’s day grew up in a confusing world.

Because the new Christian believers were trying to make sense of how to integrate (or NOT integrate) the Old Testament & Judaism into Christianity.

And so, what was happening, is evangelists like Paul would lead people to faith in Jesus.

But then, others would come around, and say, “No, if you REALLY want to do it right, you need to do it more like the Jews were doing it”

You need to make sure you celebrate the religious festivals (Passover, and Hannukah and all that)

You need to make sure you follow Jewish dietary laws (which foods & drink you consume are very important)

And then they’d say, “And any good Christian needs to fully honor the sabbath day…like the Jews

But we see Paul writes them and says, “Don’t let anyone judge you by what you do with these things”

Paul was worried because many of the Colossian Christians were starting to feel that if they were going to be really Christian, and really Spiritual, that they needed to bring in all of these ritualistic aspects of the Old Testament.

And this is the first of, what I’m calling, The Deceptive-isms that we’re going to see today in our passage

Here’s the first “ism”

And keep in mind these are all written as false statements.

The Deceptive-isms

Ritualism makes me more spiritual (vv. 16-17)

But Paul is saying that engaging in these rituals doesn’t automatically bring you closer to God.

In fact, it could even draw you away from Him.

And here is where they’d burn me at the stake in the 1400’s, which was the high tide of ritualism in Christianity

And Paul is saying that these rituals (whether they are old ones from the Old Testament, or New Ones to look like the old)…

…these rituals should not be your main focus.

If we make them our focus, that’s like expecting a visit from a great and important person.

And as soon as we see that person’s shadow coming around a building…we start to get all excited.

And we focus in on their shadow!

And we say, “This is amazing! Look at the shape of the shadow! They’re coming!”

Okay, well, that’s good…that makes sense. Anticipation.

But when that person comes into full view and comes to be with us, we can’t continue to say, “Wow! Your shadow! Can I touch it?! It’s amazing!

Paul is saying that the shadow is not the focus anymore, not once the person (Jesus) has arrived.

So, take the Sabbath for example (the day of rest in the Bible)

Paul is teaching here in Colossians that the Sabbath was a shadow that pointed to what could eventually be found in Jesus.

It’s in Jesus that we now find our rest.

And thus, Christians are not bound to have a specific ritual of rest on Saturday or Sunday anymore…but we need to seek a way to find our REST in Jesus

Now, this is a church where we appreciate tensions and nuance.

SO let me say also this:

Remember, in verse 16, Paul started this topic by saying:

“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you do with these things”

Why? Isn’t there a right way to do this?

Look at the fascinating and mature nuance in which Paul addresses this same topic in Romans.

(Romans 14:5-6a) – NIV

5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord.

And he goes on to say, and vice versa

Here’s what that means:

If you regard every day the same (and no one day is more special to the Lord in your mind), then you live each of those 365 similar days for the Lord!

There is no New Testament command for Christians to celebrate the old Jewish holidays or even the sabbath.

And YET, Paul says, on the opposite side, if by honoring those old traditions or by having your family take a serious sabbath every Sunday, if that really helps you find more rest in Jesus, then, by all means, do that…to the Lord.

And if you can’t find a better way to find rest in Jesus, than find Him in the sabbath!

But let’s not judge each other either way, Paul says, because the point is not HOW we find rest in Jesus, but THAT we find rest in Jesus.

And so, here’s a principle you can use to sort through this tough subject:

You want to examine yourself and ask:

Am I doing this ritual because it brings me closer to Jesus?

Or am I doing this ritual because it makes me FEEL like a better Christian?

And so for example, let’s say your family wants to celebrate Advent this year (which is a ritual that some churches in the past have used to anticipate the coming of Christmas and the eventual return of Jesus)

If that’s you, then ask yourself those questions.

Are you doing it because it’s going to give you a concrete and weekly way to help your family get closer to God in December?

Then by all means, that’s awesome! Do it!

Or do you want to celebrate Advent because you think it’s going to make you feel like a better Christian, and then you’ll be able to show your family on Instagram

(swipe through each shot to see a different kid blowing out the Advent candle…a little bit more spiritual than your children)

If that’s what’s truly in your heart (and do a heart check here), then celebrating the ritual of Advent is actually the last thing you should do!

And what Paul is warning us about here with these deceptive-isms is that each of them (ritualism included) can make us feel like we are now earning our way to Christ’s love, but that’s not the Gospel (the Good news of Jesus)


Okay, let’s see the next Deceptive-ism

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Colossians 2:18-19

(Colossians 2:18-19) - NIV

18 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. 19 They have 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.

Here’s what we’re seeing in these verses, and we’ll spend less time here because it’s less of a threat to the American church right now or in our immediate future

The Deceptive-isms

Ritualism makes me more spiritual (vv. 16-17)

Mysticism makes me more knowledgeable (vv. 18-19)

So there were Colossians in the church who felt the need to worship angels.

And this group of people in the Colossian church had gone into great detail about what angels are like and what they’ve seen.

And Paul said, it puffed up a lot of pride in their lives.

And you see this at times in Christian history.

Where Christians get so distracted by “what the supernatural MIGHT be like,” and again, they’re straying off from what the Bible simply says.

And this mysticism is deceptive because it feels like it’s SUUUPPPER spiritual to be talking about angels and their ranks, and which angel does what, and which angel they maybe saw, and on and on.

And yet, kind of like ritualism, you end up with people just feeling like they are more loved by God because of what they’ve seen or done.

And that’s just not true.


Okay, let’s keep reading, because we’re coming now to what has, over the last 300 years, been a massive thorn in the side of the American church

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Colossians 2:20-23

(Colossians 2:20-23) - NIV

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

(Deceptive-isms Title Slide)

What Paul is talking about here is what Christians call “Legalism”

Legalism is the false idea that Christians need even more rules than the Bible gives us, and we need to obey those rules as well!

And often it devolves into the idea that it’s only if we also obey those extra rules that we will truly earn God’s love

Legalism is like religion on steroids.

And that’s what some of the false teachers had brought to the Colossian Church.

Giving them all sorts of extra rules:

That’s verse 21: Don’t do this, don’t do that, and don’t do this!

But Paul says, “These are just human commands. They’re not from the Bible; they’re not from God”

And actually, he points out, these new human rules are quite deceptive…

V.23: Paul says, they have an “appearance of wisdom”

And that’s why Legalism is our 3rd Deceptive-ism

The Deceptive-isms

Ritualism makes me more spiritual (vv. 16-17)

Mysticism makes me more knowledgeable (vv. 18-19)

Legalism makes me more loved by God (vv. 20-23)

Which, is not true.

And now were at the part of the message where they’d be reaching for their stones in 1940’s America.

Because evangelical Christianity in the early to middle part of the 20th century largely drifted into fundamentalism for a while.

And so if you time traveled to 1946 and asked a person on the streets of Minneapolis, , “Sorry, I’m from way out of town, could you tell me, What is a Christian?”

They might have said, “OH! That’s easy! A Christian someone who doesn’t dance, drink alcohol, smoke, gamble, or go to the movies! That’s a Christian!”

No, that’s legalism.

Now, are there bad things associated with, and sinful things that can happen with each of those?

Yeah. Absolutely.

But in those days, rather than searching the Scriptures for how to live, and then relying on the Holy Spirit to guide them in the things the Bible doesn’t give specific commands to…

…the Christians of that time, relied on a whole new set of rules that they had made for themselves.

(Deceptive-isms Title Slide)

And listen, as foreign as they may sound to you, understand that legalism still has a death grip on much of the global church.

I shared the Gospel with a woman in Haiti a few years ago, and got to watch the tears form in her eyes as she gave her life to Jesus.

As we began to talk to her about discipleship and her next steps, her face grew strangely sad as we talked about going to church.

She said, “I can’t go to church.”

And we said, “WHY?”

And she said, “I’m too poor. And at all the churches here, you need to wear fancy church clothes to get in, so God will be pleased with you”

You know what that is?

That’s legalism from the pit of hell!

It’s making a moral code that isn’t in here.

But here’s the challenge of verses 20-23 for most of us right now, if I can demonstrate yet another continuum for you 😊

If we drew a continuum, and one end we plotted all of the Christians around the world who struggle with legalism, and on the other end, the Christians who don’t take God’s commands and holiness seriously enough.

Where should we put the American church? Point to a side with your hand!

(it’s over here!)

But I’m telling you, we will swing back towards Legalism soon enough

I can already see hints of this coming as it gets harder to be a Christian in this country …

…and Christians begin to wrestle with how to avoid being polluted by a culture that looks less and less Christian by the day.

And for many, I suspect the answer, in part, out of fear, will be to impose more rules on ourselves.

And for others of you, legalism is already a challenge right now.

And if that’s you, I want to show you the ineffectiveness of legalism by telling you a parable.

There was once a man planted a garden and was delighted when shoots emerged.

Every day he watered and weeded, and his garden grew until he was ecstatic to see plants bearing fruit.

However, a few days later, he went to his garden and was dismayed.

Every plant showed evidence of hungry rodents that had raided his crop.

So he decided to erect a fence.

A few days later, the man again went to his garden and saw the same thing: the rodents had come back

So he put up another fence, a bigger one, farther out from the first.

Every time he checked, he found rodents had raided the garden!

Finally, he realized critters could go over, through, or under each fence.

So he built this brick wall with a deep concrete foundation, and declared victory!

Weeks later, he climbed the garden wall and was horrified to find it was choked with weeds.

The ground was cracked, the plants wilted, and worst of all, his crop was ruined. WHY?

-1, Trusting in the wall’s protection, he had forgotten to tend the garden.

-And 2, worst of all, he had completely overlooked the greatest threat to his garden: many of the rodents, had already been inside the garden all along

I love this parable because it’s such a great description of the New Testament’s view of sin and change.

The garden is your heart.

And the rodents (sin) can come from the outside world

And so yes, putting up walls (protections in your life so you don’t let as much sin in) makes a difference.

Put some walls up!

Most modern American Christians actually need a lot more walls!

Many of you are letting the enemy into your mind every night without any resistance because you have zero walls.

Walls help protect our heart from allowing more sin into it!

Please don’t hear me say otherwise today!

But walls cannot change your heart.

Plenty of American Christians forget this Biblical truth: The sinful world out there is not the only threat to you.

Don’t forget that rodents of sin are also already in the garden of your heart.

And your sinful heart is a threat you cannot escape from.

It has this habit of following you everywhere you go!

But legalism (that you just build more walls) is a Deceptive-ism because it wants you to think that the one who builds the most walls is the one who is most loved by God.

And the one who builds the most walls is the one who is most holy for God

But that may not be true at all.

So, you could be saying, “I put my kids in the right schooling situation, I don’t let them have a phone, I have filters on all my accounts, I keep good company, I never drink, I never, I never, I built, I built, I built, wall, wall, wall”

And Paul, says, careful, because that kind of “do not, do not, do not” often is self-imposed worship, and a false humility (v. 23)

In other words, it leads to you looking at everyone else and saying, “Where are all of your walls?”

And your nose gets a little higher in the air

But from your high pride, I warn you, your downfall will hurt even more

Because Paul says (look at v. 23) that walls lack any value in “restraining sensual indulgence”

In other words, the garden of your heart still has rodents crawling over it, and unless you let the Master Gardener, Jesus, actually work on your heart, it doesn’t matter if you’ve built 10,000 walls.

And before I step down, let me speak to a few of you in this room.

Because I know there are some of you here that grew up in homes with 10,000 extra rules.

And you felt shamed because you weren’t able to obey every single rule… and you never had a relationship with Jesus.

Or some you grew up in a faith that was full of rituals but no relationship either

If that’s you, and you grew up in a “rule home” or a “ritual home,” I would love for you to meet the real Jesus today.

The one from the Bible.

If you don’t believe me, take that Bible with you and start at Matthew and read it yourself.

And you’re going to see that the real Jesus, is someone you don’t have to impress into your life

With your religious obedience on special holidays

Your dedication to obey all the right rules

The real Jesus has seen all of your life, all of your sin, all the times you messed up…

…and yet He still loved you so much that He came to die for your sins on the cross

Even if you built all the walls and failed anyway

Even if you went to first communion, and catechism classes, and confirmation, and failed anyway.

He came to die for you…for YOU

See the real Jesus is not someone you have to impress into your life, but someone you invite into your life.

To be your savior. To die for your sins.

To let Him lead you.

To let Him show you where to walk, and to let Him walk by you, but to stay by you, and wrap you in grace, even when you mess up

And if you need to start walking with that Jesus today for the first time, I want you to talk with our follow-up team in the front right after the service, okay?

All right, let me pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.

NOVEMBER 20, 2022