Unmasking Mysticism & Asceticism

 June 10, 2016

Hello Church,

Last week’s sermon dealt with the counterfeit teaching of legalism as Paul confronted the false teacher(s) that sought to seduce the Church in Colossae with a man-centered criteria for gaining and gauging one’s spiritual condition. I explained how legalism teaches Christ + Rules = Spirituality. Legalism is defining and/or distinguishing one’s spirituality by the ability to keep man-made rules and to conform to man-centered criteria. We also find legalism when personal preferences are upheld as Scriptural priority, when personal convictions become biblical commands. Legalism is all about living externally according to man-made lists and focuses ultimately on behavioral modification. Paul made it very clear in Colossians chapter two that legalism breeds a judgmental spirit (16a), that legalism is based on unbiblical standards (16b), and that it always blinds you to reality as you focus on shadows and not substance (17). I understand for some of you the names of the counterfeits can be a bit confusing, so I thought I would preview this week’s sermon and give you some explanations in order to better prepare your heart for what’s to come.

Unmasking Mysticism & Asceticism


Mysticism is built upon a deeper or higher religious feeling which (seemingly) yields a greater sense of spirituality based totally on some personal intuition and experience!  This is totally subjective and emotional teaching that Christ + Experience = Spirituality. It is a higher, deeper, and greater subjective spiritual experience! Where legalism is living externally, that is living according to an external list and gauging your spirituality, mysticism is living emotionally and allowing your personal “experience” to be the measure and means of your spirituality!  Where legalism produces a deeper sense of prejudice, so mysticism yields a deeper sense of pride as you consider yourself greater than others because you have had this “spiritual experience” and they have not! Paul will demonstrate the counterfeit nature of mysticism by showing how it breeds an elitist mindset (18), how it is based on unbiblical practices (18b), and how mysticism is ultimately bankrupt of spiritual sustenance (19).

Asceticism is the belief that a life of rigorous self-denial will make you more spiritual, draw you closer to God, and help you subdue or fight against sin and the flesh! An ascetic person is one who practices or lives a life of rigorous self-denial in hopes of becoming more spiritual. Asceticism teaches Christ + Pain = Spirituality.  This kind of teaching is what instigated monasticism and Monasteries where monks live in silence and isolation in pursuit of purity. Paul will demonstrate the futile nature of seeking to fight sin through ungodly self-denial by demonstrating that asceticism actually breeds isolationism (20-21), asceticism is based on unbiblical teaching (22), and asceticism is bankrupt of spiritual strength (23).

Listen Church, when you take your eyes off of Christ, everything gets confusing and convoluted! Thus, we do what we do, fight sin, pursue righteousness, strive for holiness, put off all impurity, practice and passionately pursue godliness, not because we are trying to be something, but because of who we already are in Christ! Like Paul, we want to know Him more, being made like Him, and so we follow Him and do what He requires of us because of our love for Him, which flows ultimately from His sovereign love for us! I look forward to worshipping with you on Sunday as we seek to exalt the Lord Christ together in a manner that pleases and praises Him for all that is! I pray this little preview has been helpful as you prepare your heart to hear the Word of the Lord and learn further of Christ-sufficiency from Colossians chapter two verses 18-23. I hope to see you on the Lord’s Day.

For His Glory Alone,

Pastor Matt


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