Imagine having been served what, in your mind, is the perfect dinner. The meat cooked to perfection, vegetables done just as you like them, the right proportion of carbs, and the salad topped off with the best dressing you’ve ever tasted. The portions are generous, you enjoy the meal, and you are “filled”… content … satisfied. But after you have eaten a tasty and healthy meal to the “full,” you are presented with an oversized piece of dessert, perhaps a large butter tart. Lard, sugar, corn syrup, and butter in abundance. You wisely decline, but when pressed and told that it will enhance your dining experience, you give in to the temptation. You were already “full” but you scarf it down. The initial guilt is swallowed up by the sensation your palate is experiencing. Maybe your server was right – you really did need something more than that good, healthy meal … the one that had already made you satisfied and “full.” Then the pointless calorie-laden dessert settles inside of you. Your enjoyment of the perfect dinner is forgotten. The satisfaction has been replaced by disappointment. You are so uncomfortable you can’t even walk right. You’ve been deceived; you didn’t need more than what had already left you satisfied.
Satan’s Religious Devices
Don’t interpret the analogy irreverently. What Christ gives us is far greater than a full stomach. But He is the Bread of Life that satisfies our spiritual hunger (John 6). One of Satan’s most common devices in making Christian testimony less distinctive and less effective is by tempting the Lord’s people with the need for additional religious experiences, beyond faith in Christ. He cannot deny what Christ has done for us. But he wants us to believe that there is something more than what we learned in the gospel of Christ, something more tangible and exciting. It may be tough to discover, but those who are in the know, well, they just know it is a deeper spirituality. Like the large butter tart mentioned above, the supposedly spiritual experiences appeal to our flesh. And as our enjoyment of Christ alone is compromised, our Christian walk becomes less Christian. Christ plus anything leaves us with less enjoyment of Christ.
The 1st Century Butter Tart
This is exactly what happened in Colossae in the middle of the 1st century, and there are parallels to 21st century Christian testimony. False teachers were influencing the Colossian Christians with a strange brew of religious syncretism (an amalgamation of different religious philosophies). Based on how Paul combats the error in Colossians 2, the anti-Christ teaching was a fusion of Jewish legalism, Eastern mysticism, and man-made asceticism. The syncretism denied the sufficiency of Christ, the supremacy of Christ, and the satisfaction that Christ provides. Spiritual fullness requires nothing more than Christ: “In [Christ], the whole FULLNESS of deity dwells bodily, and you have been FILLED IN HIM” (Col 2:9-10, ESV).
21st Century Butter Tarts
The Name of Christ has been hijacked and mixed with various religious perversions of “the word of the truth, the gospel” (Col 1:5, ESV). Mormons may say, “No one can be a savior like Jesus,” but their beliefs about post-biblical visions and a spirit-brother relationship between Jesus and Lucifer reveal that they are not of God. Like others, they profess to lift up the name of Christ, but then diminish Him by teaching a salvation by works. While Judaism has little appeal to Christians today, its leftovers of legalism continue to be served. Some are made to feel more spiritual by following and enforcing a strict diet of mere religious rules. But the diet produces bloating and pride instead of a healthy appetite for Christ. For others, it is something more sensory, perhaps an exciting, supposedly spiritual Pentecostal experience.
Interestingly, the charismatic movement has made a figurehead out of the Holy Spirit, whereas it is the Holy Spirit’s objective to highlight Christ, not Himself (John 15:26; 16:14). It is not without significance that the Holy Spirit is only mentioned once in Colossians – it is so “that in everything [Christ] might be preeminent” (Col 1:18, ESV). The Eastern mysticism that was pouring into ancient Colossae is also being drunk by Christians today. Whether it is served as Bikram or Hot, Pre-Natal or even Christian, yoga is based upon Hindu philosophies. Stretching, exercising, and taking deep breaths are not sinful … nor do they require a program developed with an Eastern religious worldview. Eastern religious thought also contributes to pluralistic thinking, in which it is narrow-minded to insist that everyone outside of Christ is necessarily lost and perishing. It is ancient error disguised as ancient wisdom, and pride of human reason disguised as humility. Despite the sincerity of belief, there is no solution to sin apart from Christ. “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Col 2:23, NKJV).
We Are Filled in Christ
A life of spiritual growth and satisfaction comes from “holding fast to the Head [Christ], from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together … grows with a growth that is from God” (Col 2:19, ESV). God doesn’t have a mysterious corridor to spiritual ecstasy hidden away that gives the initiated few a fuller brand of faith. God’s mystery “is Christ, in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:2-3, ESV). “In Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col 1:19, ESV). The perfections of Christ and the satisfaction He gives are unappreciated by a world bent on satisfying the flesh. An appreciation of who Christ is, what you have in Him, and who you are in Him will not leave you disappointed or experimenting with additional human religious precepts. Don’t be fooled by Satan’s butter tarts. “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Col 2:6-7, ESV). As one practical suggestion, invest time genuinely preparing your heart for the Lord’s supper. It is a simple memorial with nothing for the flesh – it is precious, Christ-centred worship. Feeding on Him regularly will enhance your enjoyment of His supper. Then the butter tarts will seem superfluous and empty, because you will know you are already “filled” in Christ. Treasure Him, and your bond with the Lord’s people through Him, for “Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:11, KJV). Christ plus anything leaves us with less enjoyment of Christ.