A Warning to Believers Part 1 of 3
by John Lowe
Title: A Warning to Believers
Text: "Let no man beguile you of your reward."-- Colossians 2:18
I have seen in my own life and in the life of other Christians, something that disturbs me; it’s that we are often more concerned about the things of this life than we are about the things of the life to come. Many people live from paycheck to paycheck, and they face the possibility of poverty, if they become sick or lose their job. No one seems to be able to keep his or her head above water with the same ease of their father and grandfather. The poor and middle-class have to work hard for their daily bread. That’s why this poor world is so engrossed in the latest cares and concerns of daily life, and why the things of God are only considered now and then. That’s not the way it should be. We should love God with all of our heart, and all of our soul, and all of our strength, and serve Him with a spirit of total commitment. If we do these things, the Bible says we have only done our reasonable service to Him.
Just think about that; even if we love God that much, we have only done the minimum, it’s nothing great.
Now the Apostle, who wrote the verse I read, gives us a warning, however, there have been several meanings given to his warning. Out of the meanings, there are three which are worthy of notice. The verse says, "Let no man beguile you of your reward." What the Apostle could have meant here is:--
LET NO MAN BEGUILE ANY OF YOU who profess to be followers of Christ of the great reward that will come to those who remain faithful to the end. Now, folks, many of us have praised the Christian life, but the fact is, the number of starters is far greater than the number of the winners. "They that run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize."
"Many are called, but few are chosen." Many start out, who appear, at first, to be Christians, but after a while, even if they did run well, something holds them back so that they do not obey the truth. And they go out from us because they were not one of us, because if they had been one of us, they would have continued with us. Now, we may expect that since we have started to run, that some will come and try to force us out of the race course with an open and honest wickedness. Some will tell us plainly that there is no reward to run for, that our religion is all a mistake, that the pleasures of this world are the only things worth seeking, that there are pleasures of the flesh and the lusts of the flesh, and that it’s a good idea to enjoy them.
We will meet the Atheist with his contempt and with his sarcastic laugh. We will meet with all kinds of people who will tell us to our face to turn back, because there is no heaven, there is no Christ, or, if there is, it’s not worth our while to go to so much trouble to find Him.
Therefore, be careful of these people. Stand face to face with them with confidence and courage. Don’t pay any attention to their jokes and their laughter. If they mistreat you, consider this to be an honor to you, since persecution is the tribute that wickedness pays to righteousness.
But the Apostle’s warning is not really against those people who openly come to you in this way. He knows that you will be on your guard against them. Rather, he gives a special warning regarding some others who would like to beguile you; that is to say, who will try to turn you away from the right road, but who will not tell you that they mean to do it. They pretend that they are going to show you something that you didn’t know before or something that will improve you.
It may surprise you to know, that in Paul's day there were some who took the Christian’s attention away from worshiping God, and convinced them to worship angels, instead. They said, “Angels are holy beings; they keep watch over you; therefore, you should talk about them with great respect." And then when they gained confidence, they said, "You should ask for their protection." And then after a little while, they said, "You should worship them; you should make them your intercessors." And so, step by step, they went on and established an old heresy which lasted for many years in the Christian church, and which is not dead even now, and that’s how the worship of angels crept into the churches.
In the past, there were men who would say, "That the bread upon the Lord’s Table represents the body of Jesus Christ to you when you come to the Lord's Supper; therefore, you ought to treat that bread with great respect." After a while, they became a little bolder, and then they said, "Since it represents Christ, you may worship it, and pay it respect as if it were Christ, Himself." Eventually, it came down to this: that you must have a napkin under your chin, just in case you should drop a crumb; or it will be very bad if a drop of the sacred wine should cling to your mustache when you drink. And there were directions which are given in some of the documents coming out from the higher church authority—absurd statements that are only fit for the nursery--about the way in which the holy bread is to be eaten, and the holy wine is to be drunk. That brings in idolatry, sheer, clear-cut idolatry, under the pretense of improving upon the worship of Christ. So, let’s be careful to watch out for the first step into this way of thinking, because this must not happen to our church.
Or, perhaps, the heresies may come to you in another form. Someone will say to you, "Do you love your church? And do you love that seat where you usually sit?" And your natural instincts will cause you to say, "Yes." Then it might go a little farther. Someone will say, "That place is holy; it shouldn’t be used for anything but worship." Before long, you may hear it said, "Well, that is the house of God." And you may come to believe that contrary to what the Word of God says that God dwells not in temples made with hands; that is to say, in these buildings where we worship, that you have to worship places, and men and women thought to be holy, and bread, and wine. And then someone will say to you, "Hasn’t your minister frequently cheered you up? Well then, you should honor him by calling him 'Reverend.'" And then, you will be told to call him "Father"; and after that, he will be the one who hears your confession and forgives your sins; and finally he will be your infallible Pope. It all happens one step at a time, and don’t think it can’t happen to you and your church.
The first step seems to be very harmless. It begins with a kind of voluntary humility. You look like you’re humbling yourselves, and paying respect to these things for God's sake, however, the object is to get you to pay respect to them, instead of to God. And, this is where we can apply the apostle Paul’s words, "Let no man beguile you of your reward." Be wary of any attempt to get you to worship objects, places, or other men and women, instead of God.
There is something else to be wary of: someone may insinuate that you should try to live in some way different than the Christian lifestyle. You have believed in Jesus, and you are saved, and your sins are forgiven. You go to Jesus constantly to be washed clean of your daily sins. You go to him and ask, please "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us." But there will be some who will tell you that to live by simple faith in Jesus Christ is not the best way. They say there’s a better way to live. You could live like those hermits who mortify the flesh in such a way that they come to believe they have no sins, and that they’re perfect in themselves? You could begin, bit by bit, to commit yourself to some priest, or to some friend, or to abide by this rule or some other rule, and to live by the edicts of the early Church, or by one of those books which profess to show how they used to do it a thousand years ago? All this may be accompanied with a great show of wisdom, and beauty. There may be the appearance that everything about it is holy, and godly men and women may be linked with it. But listen to the Apostle as he says, "Beware lest any man beguile you of your reward," because if they get you away from leaning upon Christ like a poor sinner by simple confidence in him, they will beguile you of your reward.
There is another group who will attempt to beguile you of your reward by bringing in speculative philosophies, instead of the simple truths of God's Word. There are certain people who think that a sermon must be a good one if they can’t understand it. And they are always impressed with a man whose words are long; and if his sentences are complicated they feel that because they don’t know what he is talking about, that he is a very wise man. And after a while, if he does say something they can understand, even though it may be contrary to what they have learned in Sunday School, they are ready to believe it.