Discernment and man-made religiosity

by Mike Ratliff

10 When I entered the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined at home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you, and they are coming to kill you at night.” 11 But I said, “Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.” 12 Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him, but he uttered his prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He was hired for this reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they could reproach me. 14 Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these works of theirs, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who were trying to frighten me. Nehemiah 6:10-14 (NASB) 

16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. Colossians 2:16-19 (NASB) 

Carefully read both passages I placed at the top of this post. In both passages false prophets have proclaimed to know something or have a message from God or have received a vision from God that is not true. In Nehemiah’s case, he perceived that the person was not from God, but from his enemies and so he refused to go. In the passage from Colossians, the Apostle Paul is giving us an example of how false prophets attempt to manipulate their followers using man-made religiosity and also by claiming to have received visions from God, but, of course, that is not true. Nowhere in God’s Word are we commanded to have fellowship with those who teach and preach heresy. No, we are to separate from them and warn the flock. In Nehemiah’s case the person attempting to cause fear was easy to discern because this attempt would stop the work God had commanded Nehemiah to do. In the second case, we discern what is wrong when we notice that the focus is never on the the glory and magnification of our Lord Jesus Christ, but on some fleshly religiosity. When we think on these things, using the discernment God has given us grounded in the Christian maturity God has grown in us, we can clearly see what is going on.

20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. Colossians 2:20-23 (NASB)

Appearances can be deceiving. Most people would look at the above statements and those who conformed to the rules of submission to the “elemental spirits of the world” according to human precepts and teachings and view them as the epitome of those the those who reached the higher echelons of their religion. However, as Paul makes clear here, their religion, no matter what it is called, is only self-made and is of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NASB) 

Our Lord made it clear that the path of following Him was not easy. It involves taking up one’s own cross and following Him through a narrow, hard to find gate down a narrow path. He also promised that this involves self-denial to the point of loving the Lord our God as His slaves and that means loving Him more than spouses, children, and parents and far more than this world. False prophets and teachers who attempt to manipulate people with their man-made religiosity are in big trouble with God.  Why? They are liars and have misrepresented Him. This is serious, but it reminds me so much of those false prophets that Ahab had assembled around him who told him what he wanted to hear, but when a real prophet of God spoke they attacked him. That’s the way it is in this world and the way it will always be until our Lord returns for His own. Come soon Lord Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria!

3 thoughts on “Discernment and man-made religiosity

  1. Very nice, my brother. And helpful. I Cambria Baptist church calls me to serve them, I intend to preach through Colossians after Christmas to make sure we all have the biblical of Christ, after all the worldly celebrations have worn themselves out.

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