Dishman Baptist Church
Spiritual Bullying- Part 1
      • Colossians 3:11CSB

  • Holy, Holy, Holy
  • Our God
  • Great Is Thy Faithfulness
      • Hebrews 10:1–4CSB

  • Introduction

    Good morning and welcome to Dishman Baptist Church.
    The subject of bullying has become a major focal point in our society in recent years. Various studies suggest that either one in four or one in five teenagers will experience bullying. A whole new form of etiquette - called netiquette - was developed to govern online interactions and to attempt to prevent cyber-bullying. Nearly every segment of society is discussing how much bullying they receive and we Christians are not immune. We face increasing pressure to accept practices such as abortion, same sex relationships, same sex attraction, the concept of reparations for certain segments of society for the way they have been treated and even just the pressure that has been constant for the last 2000 years that we should be more accommodating to society and not be so exclusive. We should let everyone in and say that everyone is okay.
    The worst part of bullying is when it happens from inside the church. We can expect to be hated, disliked and bullied by the world - that was promised to us. And they hated, disliked and mistreated Christ (what they did to Him on the cross and leading up to it was far worse than bullying) and so we should expect the same treatment. But when it comes to us from those we think should be our brothers and sisters it is more difficult to handle. Paul is turning his attention, and thus the Colossians and our attention, to the subject of spiritual bullying that was taking place in that church and can infect our churches today as well - even this church. As we look at these passages - and it’s going to take us three weeks to get through this short section - we’re going to see many different ways that bullying takes place through things like legalism, mysticism or the idea that we have a higher knowledge and we’re more “woke” than you are, and asceticism or we are more self-sacrificing and self-denying and humble than you - all of which are ways that people add to the Gospel and say that you can’t be saved unless you do it as well.
    Turn with me in your Bibles to Colossians 2 and we’ll be covering verses 16 and 17 today but I’m going to read the whole passage so we have a good idea of Paul’s entire train of thought.
    Colossians 2:16–23 CSB
    Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is Christ. Let no one condemn you by delighting in ascetic practices and the worship of angels, claiming access to a visionary realm. Such people are inflated by empty notions of their unspiritual mind. He doesn’t hold on to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and tendons, grows with growth from God. If you died with Christ to the elements of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? All these regulations refer to what is destined to perish by being used up; they are human commands and doctrines. Although these have a reputation for wisdom by promoting self-made religion, false humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.

    What’s that about Judgement?

    Colossians 2:16a;
    Paul says therefore - in light of all that I’ve said and with a full understanding of what Christ has accomplished for you and is accomplishing in you - don’t let anyone judge you. Now it is important to pause here and to offer the disclaimer that
    Paul is not saying here that we are never to judge or that we are never to be judged.
    We have taken words that Jesus spoke in Matthew 7 “Do not judge, so that you wont be judged” and turned them into an eleventh commandment. Later in that very chapter - in fact as a part of the very statement that Christ is making at the beginning of chapter 7 He says “Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.” It is necessary to note that in order to determine who might be a dog or who might be a pig a judgement must be made.
    And we can’t even leave this just at unbelievers - in 1 Corinthians 5:11-12 Paul would write to that church “But actually, I wrote you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister and is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside?” So we are to make judgements regarding the behaviors of our brothers and sisters - but not for condemnation as Paul would write that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) but instead so that “if anyone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted.” While Paul may be referring to the temptation to fall into the same sin as that which had been committed by the fallen brother or sister, I think it is more likely that he was referring to the sin that was being perpetrated on the Colossians by those who were seeking to trouble them.
    The first part of that sin is pride in our own position and standing in judgement of another believer.
    We must always remember the statement that has been attributed to John Bradford from the mid-sixteenth century “There but for the grace of God, go I.” We need to remember that even when we are standing in judgement of another believer that we still are fighting our own sinful nature - which is why there is the second part of Jesus command in Matthew 7 to take the log out of your own eye before you can take the speck out of your brother’s. This could be a reference to the same sort of sin as the speck was literally a speck of saw dust compared to a log - and since both are made of wood they could allude to the same sin that is practiced in your life is the one that you have the most propensity for picking out in another’s. But this could also be a reference to the gravity of our sin - if the sin being judged was committed against me the sins that I have committed against God are so much greater that to compare them would be a log in my eye compared to the speck in my brother’s. All that to say that there is a time that we do have to make judgements of people’s actions - not so that we can stand in superiority over them but so that we can help move them along the road to maturity in Christ, always seeking to present every man mature in Him on the day they must stand before Him.
    The second part is the sin of legalism.
    Now we generally call any attempt to judge anything in our life legalism - and most times we are wrong in that definition. What legalism truly is is an attempt to
    Make salvation contingent on external adherence to observable requirements rather than internal transformation.

    The Shadow

    Colossians 2:16b; Mark 7:18-19; Leviticus 23:4-7; 1 Corinthians 5:6-7; Leviticus 23:9-12; Leviticus 23:23-25; Amos 8:4-5
    In this morning’s passage the people who were causing trouble for the Colossian church were judging them with regard to their keeping of two requirements of Jewish Law. The first was the food and drink requirements and the second, the more clearly designated of the two, was the requirement to keep certain festivals and to observe the Sabbath Day.
    I say that the requirements with respect to the food and drink were the less clear of the two because they are not explicitly referred to as the food and drink requirements designated under the Old Covenant. In truth almost every religious system in the ancient Near East had food and drink requirements or restrictions. Much of the discussion of Christian freedom that arose during the first century - that prompted Paul’s response - was with regard to meat that had been sacrificed to idols and whether or not believers were free to eat that meat. So it is possible that the judgement with respect to food and drink could have had something to do with the continuance or connection that the Colossians maintained to the system that they had come out of. But given that Paul very quickly moves from the food and drink issue to that of the obvious Jewish festivals it is safest to surmise that the food and drink issues were related to the Jewish dietary restrictions as well.
    When Moses was given the Old Covenant he was also given a list of animals that the Israelite nation was not allowed to consume - the comprehensive list is found in Leviticus 11 - and it includes over 30 verses of animals that they were not allowed to eat. The interesting thing is that if you’re ever witnessing to an atheist they’ll bring this up but they’ll only ever talk about two of the animals on this list - the pig and shrimp. And these restrictions have even started to make a small resurgence among some in the modern era. Joel Osteen is famous for his proclamation and admission from 2009 that he and his family only eat Turkey Bacon because he is choosing to honor God by following the Old Testament dietary restrictions against eating pork.
    And so these restrictions were being given to the Colossian believers as another step that they needed to accomplish or keep in order to be saved. Now before any of you go home and throw out your bacon - these restrictions have been clearly superceded by continued revelation of Scripture. In Acts 10 Peter has a vision of a sheet being let down from Heaven with all kinds of unclean animals in it and he is told to rise, to kill and to eat. One part of that vision was to make it clear to Peter that God had also given the Gospel to the Gentiles. A more clear set of verses on this subject is Mark 7:14-20.
    Mark 7:18–19 CSB
    He said to them, “Are you also as lacking in understanding? Don’t you realize that nothing going into a person from the outside can defile him? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into the stomach and is eliminated” (thus he declared all foods clean).
    So don’t worry whether you’re on the Atkins, Paleo, Keto or the Oreo diet like me - the food you eat doesn’t determine your holiness or whether or not you are saved. Although if you’re on weight watchers we might need to talk about your associations.
    Next Paul turns his focus to the religious festivals that the Jewish people were to observe annually, monthly and even weekly. These were tied to Temple worship and the sacrifices that took place there. In all there were seven annual festivals that were proscribed by the Law and that the people were to keep. There were four festivals in the spring to mark the wheat harvest and because of this they were known as the harvest festivals. Three of them happen in quick succession with one another - in fact they are really integrated into one another - Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits.
    Leviticus 23:4–7 CSB
    “These are the Lord’s appointed times, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times. The Passover to the Lord comes in the first month, at twilight on the fourteenth day of the month. The Festival of Unleavened Bread to the Lord is on the fifteenth day of the same month. For seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you are to hold a sacred assembly; you are not to do any daily work.
    We know Passover very well - it is the commemoration of the final plague that the Lord brought against Egypt as He freed them from the bondage of slavery to that nation. The Jewish people were commanded to select a lamb on Monday and then to bring it into their home until Friday. This couldn’t just be any lamb, the lamb had to be spotless. On Friday they were to kill the lamb to commemorate the lambs that the nation of Israel killed to put the blood on the doorposts of the their homes so that the death angel would “pass over” their homes and spare their first born.
    Because of the haste with which the Jewish people were to leave Egypt they were commanded to put no leaven in their bread. This enabled them to cook flat cakes relatively quickly to take with them on their journey. And so the nation was to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread to remember the exodus of the people from Egypt. Throughout Scripture leaven takes on a deeper spiritual significance of symbolizing sin that permeates through a believers life and so the removal of leaven from their homes was a symbolic purging of sin from their lives.
    1 Corinthians 5:6–7 CSB
    Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new unleavened batch, as indeed you are. For Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed.
    The final festival that takes place as a part of this trio of festivals is the festival of the first fruits. This is when the first sheaf of wheat would be brought in and offered to the Lord as a thank offering - thanking Him for the harvest to come.
    Leviticus 23:9–12 CSB
    The Lord spoke to Moses: “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land I am giving you and reap its harvest, you are to bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest. He will present the sheaf before the Lord so that you may be accepted; the priest is to present it on the day after the Sabbath. On the day you present the sheaf, you are to offer a year-old male lamb without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord.
    Following these festivals the harvest would take place and then fifty days later the nation would once again convene for the festival known as the Feast of Weeks or we might also know it as Pentecost. This festival was originally an opportunity to gather together and dedicate the future harvest to the Lord but by the time of Jesus it had become a time to gather and celebrate the giving of the Law to Moses and the nation of Israel.
    Then in the fall there would be three more festivals that celebrate the harvests of olives, dates and figs. These would happen over a period of three weeks and were known as the festival of Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles.
    The feast of Trumpets was commanded in Leviticus 23
    Leviticus 23:23–25 CSB
    The Lord spoke to Moses: “Tell the Israelites: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you are to have a day of complete rest, commemoration, and trumpet blasts—a sacred assembly. You must not do any daily work, but you must present a fire offering to the Lord.”
    Trumpets were used in ancient Israel for many purposes - they were to summon the people to battle as well as to be blown over sacrifices during the festivals and on the first day of the month. They were to warn of danger and to proclaim celebration.
    Ten days after the feast of Trumpets began, on the tenth day of the month, the festival of Atonement was proscribed to take place. This was the day where the high priest would atone for the nations sins by taking two goats - the first would be sacrificed as a sin offering and the second would be let go into the wilderness as a scapegoat to symbolically carry away the sins of the nation.
    The final festival of the year was the feast of tabernacles during which the nation was required to build shelters and live in them for seven days with the eighth day being a holy convocation to the Lord. This was to commemorate the 40 years that the people wandered in the wilderness and to remind the nation of God’s faithfulness to them during that time.
    On top of these seven festivals each month on the new moon sacrifices were offered and then the observation of the Sabbath day as commanded in the fourth commandment.
    It was in the keeping of these festivals that the Colossians were being judged by those who were plaguing and attacking the church. It is often that we are attacked the same way - what sound like legitimate requirements are actually set in place to try and make us adhere to external requirements that really cannot accomplish anything for us - let alone take away the deepest need that we have.
    Even though these feasts, festivals and special days were meant to be effective in keeping the people’s minds focused on God it is clear from the Biblical picture of Israel that at best they succeeded in making a moral people and at worst made them into a people who esteemed the festivals over the God that they were meant to point to.
    The prophet Amos gives us a picture of how the Sabbath and New Moon sacrifices had been perverted in Israel at the time that he was called to prophecy.
    Amos 8:4–5 CSB
    Hear this, you who trample on the needy and do away with the poor of the land, asking, “When will the New Moon be over so we may sell grain, and the Sabbath, so we may market wheat? We can reduce the measure while increasing the price and cheat with dishonest scales.
    The keeping of these festivals had become merely an external observation that carried no internal significance for them.
    Unfortunately this sometimes happens even today - we can have a tendency to fall into a pattern of going through the motions and doing good things simply to give the appearance of being moral people without actually having it accomplish anything for us.
    Donald Gray Barnhouse, the one time pastor at Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia, was once asked what he thought it would look like if Satan ever took complete control of a city. He responded like this “All the bars would be closed, pornography banished and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say “yes sir” and “no ma’am” and churches would be full every Sunday”....sounds pretty good doesn’t it?
    Or to make it more real - Miss Kitty’s would be closed, the pot dispensaries would be shut, the latte machines at Devil’s Brew would be cold. The pristine streets would be filled with kind pedestrians who smile and wave. There would be no swearing, OMG would not be texted and all the ethnicities would get along. The children would say “yes sir” and “no ma’am” and churches would be full every Sunday.” But Barnhouse clinches his statement by saying “where Christ is not preached.”
    You see therein lies the problem - both for the Colossians and for us when we try and enforce external requirements that don’t come from Christ or the Scriptures - we remove the truth of who is meant to be the focal point of our beliefs.
    Add anything to Christ, and the Gospel ceases to be the pure Gospel.
    Subtract anything from Christ, and the Gospel ceases to be the pure Gospel.
    When we try and force people to be moral instead of teaching them Christ we end up with a very polite, altruistic, philanthropic, well dressed corpse.

    The Shadow Explained

    Colossians 2:17; 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; John 7:37-38; John 8:12
    Paul, in his inimitable, characteristic style, refuses to let us be distracted however. He says that those things - the food and drink requirements and festivals - were merely the shadow but Christ is the substance. Those food restrictions which were meant to develop a superficial purity in the individual have been superceded because our purity is found in Christ. We can no longer be made impure or defiled by external things that we put into our body and if we have placed our faith in Christ and been cleansed our internal impurity of sin has been taken away as well.
    We are no longer beholden to any of the festivals because in His coming Christ has fulfilled every single one of them.
    Christ is our Passover lamb. He entered Jerusalem on the same Monday that the Passover lambs were being chosen. He dwelt among us for a short time - the imperfect passover lambs dwelt with the families for a week, Christ was among us for 33 years. Jesus was sacrificed on the day of Passover and His blood once and for all covered our sins along God’s wrath to pass over us.
    Christ fulfilled the feast of unleavened bread by taking away the “leaven” of sin from our lives making our home pure.
    Christ fulfilled the feast of first fruits by becoming the first fruits from the dead.
    1 Corinthians 15:20 CSB
    But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
    The feast of first fruits, the offering was waved, on the very day that Christ was raised from the dead becoming our first fruits in resurrection and conquering not only sin but also death.
    The feast of Pentecost had come to represent the giving of the Law - the sign of the Old Covenant - to the people of Israel. On the day of Pentecost Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit - the sign of the New Covenant - to those who believe in Him.
    The feast of Trumpets is probably the hardest of all of the feasts to see a clear picture of how it points to Christ - but Paul is telling them that the feasts were the shadow and Christ is the substance. Most likely what Paul has in mind is what he wrote to the church in Thessalonica regarding the second coming of Christ.
    1 Thessalonians 4:16 CSB
    For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
    The trumpet will announce the end of hostilities and the arrival of the true feast of the Lamb.
    The Day of Atonement - Christ is both the goat that is sacrificed for the sins of all who would believe and the scapegoat who is sent outside the city to bear the sins of the people.
    And finally the Feast of Tabernacles - on the each day of the feast the priests would dip water from the pool of Siloam and carry it to the Temple to be poured out to commemorate God providing water for the Jews in the wilderness. It was during this moment when Christ stood on the last day of the feast and proclaimed “On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and drink. 38 The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” John 7:37-38. He is basically telling them that what they were doing was a picture of Him. And that was only the morning.
    During the festival the priests would light torches to light the city. On the last night they would light torches everywhere - they’d even throw them on the ground within the Temple and the entire city of Jerusalem would be lit up like a fireworks show. It was on this night that Christ would stand up and proclaim “I am the Light of the World” John 8:12.
    He fulfilled every single one of the festivals. Even the Sabbath is no longer a requirement for Christians. Now before you all pack up and go home - the New Testament makes clear that we are not to forsake the gathering together of the saints but that is different than the Sabbath observance that Paul is addressing here and that Christ fulfilled. This Sabbath observance is as one commentator writes “inappropriately connected to a wider religious viewpoint”.
    To force Christians to conform to the requirements set forth in these festivals after Christ has been revealed is like a parent who insists on carrying around an ultrasound picture of their kids even though their kids are turning 5. No one continues to carry that fuzzy picture of what their child is going to look like and be once the clear revelation of their child takes place. And the same thing with those who have put their faith in Christ. Now that the true and better sacrifice and fulfillment of the pictures has come and we have the full revelation of Him we don’t need to hold on to the fuzzy images of Him or those things designed to point us to His coming because He is here, He has accomplished what He came to do and He will be coming back to effect the glorification of His body - the church.

    Conclusion

      • Colossians 2:16–23CSB

      • Mark 7:18–19CSB

      • Leviticus 23:4–7CSB

      • 1 Corinthians 5:6–7CSB

      • Leviticus 23:9–12CSB

      • Leviticus 23:23–25CSB

      • Amos 8:4–5CSB

      • 1 Corinthians 15:20CSB

      • 1 Thessalonians 4:16CSB

  • Amazing Grace
      • 1 Thessalonians 5:23CSB

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