The type of person who might be attracted to Christianity is sometimes the sort who loves rules, is ascetic and driven. Clearly this passage concerns Gnostic practices, but-lest we think it thus irrelevant-people are attracted to similar ideologies today, they are just given a different name. Study any successful cult and you are likely to comprehend that much of what they do stems from Gnosticism. Paul here speaks of four such practices: 1. Self-denial. Gnostic teaching involved a huge list of what the adherent could and couldn't do as they believed that all matter was essentially evil. This meant that it didn't matter what you did with your body, but also that it should be suppressed, so resulting in complete immorality or rigid self-denial. Basically, Paul states here that the Christian believer should have nothing to do with people who identify religion with laws about what one may eat or drink. Jesus declared that it made no difference, read Mark 7 v 14-23. 2. The observation of certain days. The Gnostics drew up lists of days which specially belonged to God, thus identifying religion with ritual. Surely, to go back to this way of living is to take away the freedom Christ has graciously given us? 3. They prided themselves on special visions of secret things, not accessible to ORDINARY people. The danger in this is twofold: it brings pride and the Christian walk is one of humility. Paul was granted special visions, but along with that was given chronic ill-health to keep him humble. Secondly, the danger with mysticism, especially when often self-generated, is that the person sees what they want to see. Studying the Bible may appear prosaic, but it generally means that we are hearing the voice of God! 4. The Gnostics worshipped angels. They did this because they believed that there were hundreds of intermediaries between humans and God. Worship must be kept for Jesus Christ alone. It is essential for us to recognise that, for Paul, the Christian faith brought FREEDOM. Remember what he had been: a Pharisee who knew the Law of God inside out and observed it completely, which brought him into slavery. What is it that you do or what attitude do you have which threatens your freedom in Christ? It might even be the one where you consider yourself worthless and so become blind to the gifts God wants to pour out on you!
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