Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Death of the Church; Moving out of the Comfortable Cathedral

THE DEATH OF THE CHURCH

Whether you realize it or not the Church, and by that I mean the traditional, established, religious institution of the Church is dying a slow and unusual death. By almost every statistical analysis of the European, and by some measures the American Church context, the Church is in a state of slow painful deteriorating death. We (The LEAP Network) have received new statistics recently from the Church of England that by the year 2067[1] there will essentially be no Anglican Church anymore, meaning zero, nill, nada. In other words, let the last one out the door turns off the lights, kind of situation. Now it is hard to imagine the Anglican Church in a state of atrophy, disintegration, and degeneration. It is maybe even harder for the Church in England and greater Europe to think of itself as completely nonexistent. The Church in Germany the Lutheran Evangelical Church stands in the same situation. By the year 2025 the Landeskirche will not be able to pay the pensions of their current pastors[2]. I paint a grim and somber picture because most of you need to wake up or be shaken out of your indifference to the reality that we are in trouble! The first step is to admit that we have a problem.  But from that first step, I want to take a little different approach, and ask a different more long lasting question of the future.
Is it a bad thing that the (traditional) Church as it exists today dies? Let me be clear before you start throwing stones, or light the fire of heresy underneath me. I BELIEVE IN THE CHURCH!!! I have a high and conservative Ecclesiology, probably more conservative than most. Even among my colleagues, and many of the cohort my age think I am too conservative theologically. But let me suggest something that actually comes from a strong and high view of Christ and the Church. I want to suggest to you that it is not a bad thing that the Church as it exists today, by that I mean the hierarchical, institutional, structural church that we currently have would die. If we understand Ecclesiology correctly, we understand that the Church is a living organism. We get that from all the references to the Church as a body and living organism in the NT, and as a living organism goes through life cycles, so also the Church. As we look at Historical Ecclesiology we can gather that this has happened to The Church through the ages. A Church dies in one place to be birthed in another place, and so on and so forth until our current time.
Let’s take the very first Church for instance in Jerusalem.  They were in danger of not obeying the last command that the Lord had given them. He told them “And you will be my witnesses starting in Jerusalem, in Judea, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” And what did they do? They stayed in Jerusalem, and so Acts 8:1 happened I believe from God to gently pushed them out of the nest. If we look at current church planting and church growth models, we could surmise that the Church in Jerusalem was a complete failure[3].  In Acts 8:1 we read that a great persecution arose after Paul started persecuting the Church in Jerusalem. The people were scattered into Judea, and Samaria, and further as we read in the rest of the book of Acts. Was this God’s will? Absolutely. As they went into these regions, and the rest of the known world at the time, they took the seeds of the gospel, and the Church was planted “as they went”. As the Great Commission commands, they went. The Church was spread, died, spread, died, and spread, and still spreads unto the uttermost to this day in that same vein.

MOVING OUT OF THE 
"COMFORTABLE CATHEDRAL"

What we have done is broken down the Church to the institution, the place, the building, the Pastors, the historic building in one place or in this or that city.  The New Testament believers had no such concepts. The Church was to them the people of the master, underway with Him in His great commission to make disciples of all nations.  They were tempted early on to stay in their
“Comfortable Cathedrals” in Jerusalem, but God allowed a persecution to disperse them so that the gospel could cross over the first cultural threshold (Acts 8:1). I was involved in a church somehow a little like the model I am describing. We were a young and impetuous church. We were so impetuous that we believed that God wanted to work in the then very young postmodern person. We even called ourselves Tommy’s Interactive Church after the great Apostle Thomas who was so well known for His doubts. It is funny how Thomas so negatively known for His doubts, Foxes Book of Martyrs attributes Him with making His way all the way to India as its first Missionary,
Thomas called Didymus, preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.”[4]
We believed at Tommy’s that doubts were good if expressed to Christ, because as Jesus did with Thomas, He will reveal himself to, us in our doubts, and dispel them quickly with His resurrection power. Tommy’s was a great success in my eyes, and for the time that I was there and involved, very exciting. However, it lasted only a short time. I would say that all in all, it lasted from first meeting to last meeting, only 20 years. I am however ok with that, because Tommy’s didn’t die. It served its purpose, the purpose that Jesus had for that time and place, and Jesus spread the people out into other movements, and Church plants. As the people went underway with God, they spawned new work on their way. For example, I went away from Tommy’s to California for 8 years to be a youth pastor. When I came back for one year to Columbia, and got involved in a church plant, there where many people from Tommy’s who had been involved in this new Church from day one.  This is how God continues to move, and will continue to move in History in an organic, biological, living way. The New Testament describes the Ekklesia of God as a living, familial, corporeal, body. We have however described it as,

"The business corporation. (Where) The pastor is the CEO, the clergy and/or staff is upper management. Evangelism is sales and marketing. The congregation is the clientele. And there is competition with other corporations ("churches") in the same town."[5]

Mars Hill In Seattle is also a prominent example of how the Lord uses difficult circumstances to advance and multiply through scattering the church through seemingly negative circumstances. Mars Hill was a church of multiple campuses, through hierarchical leadership structures, they almost overnight through the resignation of Mark Driscol, became eleven autonomous Churches with a local leadership structure, not a centralized business model.  God allowed things by his gracious hand to end in one way, so that the prevailing model of “Lording it over them”, which the Lord strictly forbade, was changed. This I do not see as a tragedy, or failure in Church growth, but rather a success story of the church. As the church grows larger it must also get smaller, and multiply. I imagine Jesus in his goodness allowed Mars Hill to play out like it did, so that their own credo “It’s all about Jesus” could shine through. I will say something prophetic that might upset some, but I do believe that these new church growth strategies that we are seeing especially those built around multiple campuses will crumble in the coming years, just as we are seeing the Anglican Church crumble. With that I do not see a negative outcome, but that of a church rising up that will be what Christ had in his heart from the beginning. It will be a decentralized, bottom up leadership, and pastors that do not need to be seen or heard, but rather those men Jesus has empowered to take up once again “The Basin and the Towel” as our Lord did so many years ago to love and serve His disciples from His knees.
So lets be ahead of the curve of the dying Church, and seek to plant the Church where we are. Jesus said it, “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name there I am in their midst”. Let us get out ahead of things, open our eyes, and see what Jesus sees. He sees churches everywhere, in Bars, in the workplace, in abandoned warehouses, in coffee shops, in old church buildings that are reshaped for the new liturgy, in our homes, and in the places where we most frequently are. In seeing Jesus true Ekklesia He will also show us where he is “calling” people out unto Himself.
So let us ask a new set of questions, not “How can we employ the newest Church growth strategies?” Or, “How can we protect what we have?” Or, “How do we stop the hemorrhaging of the current state of the Church?” Let us instead ask, “How can we obey the Misseo Dei for the next 50, 100, or 200 hundred years?” Because Jesus will not abandon His Church, We have to ask a new set of questions. “What will His church look like in the years to come when the traditional model of Church crumbles?” “What are the new wineskins that will hold that new wine that He will surely pour out onto His Church?” And, “How can we be obedient to His call to extend and multiply the work that He is going to do in our midst, in the heart of the New Ekklesia?” “How can the Missional Movement address these new realities of the dying Church?” “What will the Church look like in 2060?” “How can we seek growth of His true Ekklesia?”  That Ekklesia that Christ died for? For this New Ecclesiology we need it to intersect early and often with Missiology. Actually if every form of Systematic Theology (Eschatology, Ecclesiology, Christology, Soteriology, etc.) does not intersect early and often with Missiology, then that Systematic has failed. In other words every solid systematic theology should be Missiological in its nature.  And so when we re-study these systematics, we must seek the missiology in and out of them, so that the Missio Dei can come forth we should be seeking this Missiology so that Church will advance undergirded by a renewed focus on Christ Great Commission (Matthew 18:28-30, Mark 13:10, Acts 1:8, Malachi 1:11, Psalms 46:10)
Jesus will not abandon his Church. He will not let His global Church die before he returns; He does however push us out of our “Comfortable Cathedrals” to arrive at the people whom he has called us to. I would encourage you to let this news of the Church’s death empower, encourage, and embolden you to move with, and how God is moving in this world to reach the people who have not yet heard of Christ. Or to arrive at people who have, “Forgotten that they have forgotten God”. Let us with fresh boldness seek the Lord of the Church for His new move, and new wineskins, that He is preparing. These new wineskins will certainly hold the fresh wine that he his is pouring out into His Church of the future (Acts 2:16-21)!



http://www.evangelisch.de/inhalte/85227/20-06-2013/isolde-karle-wachsen-gegen-den-trend-fuehrt-ins-burn-out
[4] Foxe, John, and William Byron Forbush. Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1978. Print.
[5] Viola, Frank. Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2008. Print. Chapter on CORPORATE CHRISTIANITY VS. FAMILIAL ECCLESIOLOGY

Thursday, July 2, 2015

LeBron James is Changing the Nature of Truth

LeBron James is changing the nature of truth. During the NBA Finals this year LeBron James a Professional Basketball player made the statement "I feel confident because I am the best player in the world."

"

 If he says I am the best basketball player in the world does that make it true? By what standard does he measure that? By his own standard? By Commentators Standards? Has he played against every basketball player in the world? On which day is he the best? What about when he has an "off" day is he still the best? Has he ever lost a one on one with anyone? And when did he become the best player in the world? Did it just happen? You see where I am going with this? Statements like this I believe are changing the nature of truth. The way something is verified as truth is if someone that our community values says it, then it becomes true. And if other people who our community values as important also verify it like color commentators or ESPN Analyzers, then it stands as a true statement. Pontius pilot actually asked Jesus the same question, "what is truth?" Right before he nailed Jesus to the cross for claiming to be the truth. Truth is a hard thing to nail down in our culture. LeBron James is right about one thing, One person is the best player in the world and HE is the truth. Jesus said of himself, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me." This one verifiable truth stands the test of time. Jesus is the best player in the world, he has given his life to prove it, he has more followers in human history that anyone ever, and His word has stood the test of time. We can't say that for LeBron James. He can't even win a Championship in his last two tries. Maybe if he were the best player in the world he might be able to win a championship, but oh basketball is a team sport, but I digress. I think I'll stick with Jesus, his track record is a little better. I am pretty sure that I can trust him. His truth stands the test of time a little bit better than LeBron's truth.

This is a cultural phenomenon that we as the Christian community should resist with everything that we are. As Jesus people we resist...

Pride
Opulence
Greed
Lies
Worldliness
Power

On the other hand we are countercultural with values such as... 

Humility
all Sufficiency of Christ (Jesus is Lord)
Generosity
Benevolence
Truth
Holiness
Meekness

When we live these values we will be a city on a hill, a sweet fragrance that the world will notice. The nature of truth is changing in our culture, but for the Jesus follower the nature of truth NEVER changes. We are a people that give ourselves wholly and fully for the one who gave Himself fully for us. If we could boil Christianity down to a single thing it would be Jesus telling us what it takes to be a disciple of His. In Mark 8:34 Jesus says, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the sake of the Gospel will save it." That is the truth of being a Disciple of Jesus. I am so glad that I serve a great savior not just great, but sorry LeBron He is the greatest player in the universe!!! Here is an old video, but a great one that explains further the greatness of Christ.

Monday, May 25, 2015

American Memorial Day is also Pentecost Monday

 Memorial day is a long tradition in America. It is one of remembrance of those who have fallen in American wars. I find it a good tradition to remember the freedoms we have as Americans as a result of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Germany also celebrates today a very good Church tradition. It is Pentecost. Germany has a long tradition of church holidays. Some are better than others. This one I find incredible. Pentecost is the celebration of when the Holy Spirit descended on the first believers in Jerusalem after Jesus ascension. What followed was one of the most powerful sermons ever preached. Peter preached powerfully in the name of Jesus, and explained to those standing there what was happening. Here's a bit of the passage.

"When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came
from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.
And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel...

“...Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it...

...he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing...

...Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:1-16, 22-24, 31-33, 37-39 ESV)

This whole story is pretty amazing and incredible that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on the early Church like this, and even until this day when we believe in Jesus we receive that same Spirit at a guarantee of the gift of salvation. 

What I also understand about Memorial Day in remembering people that have given their lives to secure American freedoms, I find also in Pentecost. These holidays are one in the same in so much as Jesus has given His life to secure our Freedom, and the Holy Spirit is the promise of that Freedom in Christ. 

So today as you celebrate Christian freedom in Germany and American freedom in America, take a minute and seek the filling of the Holy Spirit as as a sign of the promise. "How am I filled with Holy Spirit"? you ask. I'm glad you asked, here is a passage that describes how we can be filled...

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Ephesians 5:15-21 ESV)

HAPPY MEMORIAL PENTECOST DAY!!!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Holiness is Essential for Mission

Holiness is essential for Mission. What I mean by that is that if you as a Christian want to live a life on Mission for God, if you want to be on Mission with God in this world Making Him known, then you must live a holy life! The Bible is pretty clear about this, that Christians are meant to live holy lives (1 Peter 1:15-16; 1 Thessalonians 4:4-8; Ephesians 4:24-30; Colossians 3:12; Hebrews 12:14; Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 1:4; Philippians 4:8 Just to name a few). It seems like to me then that if God asks us to live out a holy, and blameless life he has a great reason. He is using our example of holy living to give the world a picture of what Christ offers those who put their faith in Him and repent from their sins. When we fail to live a life of consistent holiness we forfeit the right to be a faithful witness in the world as we live on Mission. Philippians 2:14-15 explains this, "Do all things without grumbling of complaining that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, in which you shine like stars in the world." The implication is that if we live holy lives, we will shine like stars in the universe, and that if we do not live holy lives we will forfeit the right to shine like stars in the universe. 

Imagine with me if you will what would or could happen if everyone in the western church for one whole year decided that they would...

Stopped looking at Pornography
Stopped smoking weed
Gave up premarital sex
Stopped committing adultery
Paid their taxes
Stopped cussing and using profanity
Stopped loving violence (or being violent)
and maybe even fostered or adopted a child that would have otherwise been aborted

The Church would look completely different, not because of how we judge those outside the church, which is what we are so good at lately in the evangelical world. We would actually be transformed from within, because of how we are transformed inside the church. We cannot be missional without this inward transformation first. If we try to be missional without a holiness transformation first, then we have NO real credibility. Holiness is essential for mission! So if you practice one of these things on a regular basis. Please don't try to be missional first, be holy first, then missional. Otherwise just stay home and don't tell anyone you are a Christian! If you are sleeping around, smoking weed, etc then please don"t tell anyone you are a Christian you are hurting us more than helping. We follow Jesus..."But as he who called you is holy, you also should be holy in all you do."

Imagine the Church being a "holy missional force" in the world! If we were holy we could bring the kingdom of God and His gospel to a hurting and dying world. The world needs this type of Holy transformational Mission. Not just mission to do good things. We need Good words, Good works, and Good lives to be effective for such a Good master.

The scandal of Grace is that He died to make us holy, and by His grace we can be holy, live holy, and become more and more holy day by day...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Temptation is not a Hopeless Situation

Jesus temptation gives us hope to defeat our temptation



I always was confused at Satan's brash temptation of Jesus when he offered him all the kingdoms of the earth. Up until now I was missing one key word in that passage, "given" or "delivered" in the ESV rendering. 

The Devil was "given" authority over the kingdoms of the earth. But, "who gave him that authority?" I asked myself.

The passage in Luke reads...
"And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will." (Luke 4:5-6 ESV)

For all you 'Greek Geeks' out there, the Greek word for "delivered" in this passage is...
παραδίδωμι
Pronounced par-ad-id'-o-mee

It means to surrender, i.e yield up, intrust, transmit:--and it is translated in other contexts as betray, bring forth, cast, commit, deliver (up), give (over, up), hazard, put in prison, and recommend.

So my question still remained, "who gave Satan authority over the kingdoms of the earth? Of course the answer is, Jesus did...Jesus gave Satan that authority...Jesus is the controller and sustainer of all kingdoms and authorities.

We read in Colossians...
"For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:16-17 ESV)

So in the infinitely wise counsel of the Godhead, Jesus gave Satan the authority to temp Himself in the end. So Satan was duped and tricked by the eternal power, authority, and plan of the Godhead...but even still Jesus did not use this information against Satan to rebuff his temptation, for instance Jesus didn't say to Satan, "hey I gave you the authority over those kingdoms in the first place, so..." Instead Jesus used God's eternal, infinitely powerful, and helpful Word to rebuff Satan's weak and authority-less temptation. 

That is why we can call on Jesus in our temptation, because we know that He has the power and authority to overcome it! Every temptation of Satan is ultimately a temptation that is allowed by God's good hand to make us more like Jesus, and with Jesus help and authority we can rebuff the Enemy.

Hebrews describes Jesus victory over temptation and sin...
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15 ESV)

So when you are tempted today call on Jesus the great high priest, author, and perfecter of our faith! He will deliver you! Worship Him now for His deliverance.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

God is NOT SLOW: My Hope in the Journey of Disability?

This last year at our annual family ritual Joni and Friends Family retreat the speaker Clint Echols asked us men to lead and share how God was giving us hope in our families journey in Disability. I did not want to share actually because the ideas were not altogether formed in my head. He challenged us to lead out, so I stayed up till late into the night, to pray, and ask God to form the Hope and Joy that was before inexpressible into some form of expression. I wanted to encourage those who face disability everyday, and especially the hope of salvation for their disabled loved ones. Here were my erratic and somewhat spontaneous thoughts...

Joni and Friends Family Retreat 8/7/2014
Clint Echols
'Hope Overflowing'
Reflecting on hope and sharing with the camp...

The hope overflowing that I have his week is...the hope against Hope for me is...

First that...

"The Lord is NOT SLOW to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (‭2 Peter‬ ‭3‬:‭9‬ ESV) and so the hope that I am clinging to is...

That my cognitively two year, physically eight year old little girl, would trust Christ one day. If all she can do is call on the name of Jesus as Romans 10:13 says, "For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”" Then I am trusting that HE is enough to credit her with His righteousness just as He with does me.

Secondly I am Hoping that...

"For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy." (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭7‬:‭14‬ ESV)


"Otherwise your children are unclean...but as it, they are holy"? Do I understand how God can make my children holy through my own faith? No! Do I understand fully how God has credited me with Christ's righteousness? No! But, I do know that God is NOT SLOW to keep his promises. How does God make us righteous? How does God count our faith as righteousness? He takes that, maybe only a mustard seed sized faith, and applies the perfect record of Jesus righteousness to it, because of his own kindness, and own promises! And He is NOT SLOW to keep his promise of salvation! 

"The Lord is NOT SLOW to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (‭2 Peter‬ ‭3‬:‭9‬ ESV)

Lastly I am NOT Hoping...

So I will tell you what I am NOT hoping for on our journey of disability. I am NOT hoping against hope, that my child will read one day, or that she will talk more, I am NOT hoping against hope, that she will be fully integrated, I am NOT even hoping against hope that she will NOT be made fun of in school or in the playground or wherever, because that has happened, is happening, and I believe will continue to happen. However hard that is in this life. I am NOT hoping against hope that she will be potty trained. I am content for the rest of her or my life to help her in toileting. I am not even hoping against hope that she will sleep through the night, and not wake us up at the most random of times in the middle of the night. 


But...


What I am hoping against hope in, what I am hoping in The Lord is, that He will carry out His promise to me that He does not wish any to perish, and that one day, she will trust in Jesus with whatever capacity He gives her to trust. So I'm hoping it forward, and I'm asking God to grow that mustard seed of faith until it is a full grown tree of hope and apply His perfect righteousness to that little bit of faith. I am not just hoping, but believing that God will, as the word says, "they (children) are made holy (emphasis mine)." 


In fact I believe she has a better opportunity for God to work through her and to draw her to himself. I have seen the simple faith, hope and a trust in as she calls Him "Cheesus" (Jesus). God is not going to use or work through my child 'in spite' of her disability, but BECAUSE of her disability." And He is NOT SLOW to keep His promise. Thank you Lord. I Hope! I Believe! Can a child who sings "Jesus Loves Me" be calling on the name of the Lord? That is my great Hope!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

CHRIST THE FOUNTAINHEAD OF LIFE: THE TRUE REALITY

Christ the Fountainhead of Life: Christ the True Reality: 
Colossians 2:16-23 Week 5
"So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality (See Greek Word 'so-mah'). Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it. You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires." (Colossians 2:16-23 NLT)
Christ is the Reality behind the shifting shadows
Christ is the true reality, substance, or body of every spiritual thing that we see, all of which are shifting shadows. He is the reality of everything seen and one day all seen spiritual truths will be realized, revealed, and culminate in Him; in complete truth in the unseen heavenly realms!

The Greek word for Reality can be translated as Body, Substance, Reality, or True Picture
Greek word 4983: σῶμα
Pronounced so'-mah: the body (as a sound whole), used in a very wide application, literally or figuratively:--bodily, body, slave.

Don’t let anyone condemn you, but rather focus on the Reality of Christ who is the 'So-Mah' in the unseen in four ways. 
  1. Let Christ be your righteousness. 
I have found that people “try” so hard to be Christian when this is an practical impossibility. I think of the scripture where Jesus says, "unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees you can never enter the kingdom of Heaven”. We as the Church have often times tried so vigorously hard to be righteous apart from Christ. We must stop trying so hard. Let Christ be your righteousness! He will stand in the gap for you! He will cover you with his Righteousness! He will clothe you in Holiness! Let Him do it!

"And Christ himself is that reality. Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things."

People were being pressured in the Colossian Church to act out their piousness, But Paul says that Christ himself is our piousness, He himself is the reality of all things spiritual, the seen, the unseen, and the not yet known! so trust him for those things!

Greek word for condemn here can also be translated to trick or beguile...καταβραβεύω it is pronounced kat-ab-rab-yoo'-o (in its original sense); to award the price against, i.e. (figuratively) to defraud (of salvation):--beguile of reward. Now isn't that interesting that Paul here is asking the Colossians to not be tricked into thinking that you could be pious enough, holy enough, or good enough to attain your own salvation. Don't let anyone defraud you of the salvation that Jesus wrought for you on the cross!!!

We are asked not to let anyone trick us into taking up a righteousness of our own through empty piety. in other words "do not take up a yoke again of slavery"! Jesus has taken all our condemnation in our place!
  1. Put your pride in Christ alone
"Their sinful minds have made them proud, and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body."

Pride is one of those acceptable sins in the Church. Let me give you a for instance. If your pastor gets up this week in your church and admits that he has been looking at pornography for the past 5 years on his Church computer, he would be fired before he leaves the church that same day. But on the other hand if he gets up there and confesses pride a deep and hurtful pride, you would think like I have many times, “yes brother, I am with you.” We have agreed too many times in this area. We have placed our pride in the wrong things! We have succumbed to the worldly pattern which says that pride in self and accomplishments is ok. This is actually the exact antithesis of true spirituality. This verse shows us that when our pride puffs us up, we are not connected to the head of the body namely Christ. We must turn our pride from self and put our pride in Christ alone! "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God". Also Paul wrote that he "boasted only in the cross". We can also take up that boasting when we turn away from worldly pride. 
  1. Receive Christ’s victory
"For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it. You have died with Christ, and he has SET YOU FREE from the spiritual powers of this world."

One of the areas of weakness in the Calvinistic, Reformed theological traditions is that of the SPIRITUAL VICTORY that we have in Christ. This Reformed/Calvinistic Camp (of which I am happy camper) sometimes tends to a spiritual defeat perspective. Instead, Romans 8 describes an “overwhelming victory” that we receive through Christ’s righteousness. Many times what I hear in between the lines of these traditions is somewhat of a “woe is me” tone. However this could not be further from the truth! We are OVERWHELMINGLY VICTORIOUS! and We are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ! We are made brothers by His own blood, and sacrifice! So my encouraging word is for you to receive and live in that victory, and do not take up the yoke of slavery to sin again!!! 
  1. Trust that Christ has destroyed the evil systems of this world (your world)
Christ has destroyed the Evil Systems in the World
"So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.” 
Legalism says that "you cannot do that" because you will not be holy or acceptable to God. The gospel says, however, that you cannot be holy or acceptable to God. Jesus has done that in our place!!! Therefore, He has destroyed all those rules regulations, and teachings that say we can somehow be holy on our own power. But as Paul says here it cannot help us conquer even one evil desire. This is the greatest news we could receive in the gospel! You cannot do it, so stop trying so hard. He is our righteousness. Put down your empty acts of religion, and receive His perfect righteousness. When I am most tempted to act on my own behalf, I have usually taken my eyes off of Christ. "Let us therefore fix our eyes on Jesus the Author and Perfecter of our faith". We can begin to do that through worship.