Saturday, October 21, 2017

Keilah

Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” But David's men said to him, “Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” Then David inquired of the Lord again. And the Lord answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. (1 Samuel 23:1-5)

1. There may be something to the Philistines robbing Keilah of "Cain's offering" and David capturing "Abel's offering" in return, but since nothing is written about it, it will remain something to mediate on.

2. The main significance of this passage is the prayer.  David asks the Lord if he should attack.  Of course, in David's situation, his army is not a formidable force.  It is only composed of fellow desperate people.  Even though the Lord responds (probably through the prophet Gad) that he should attack, the men are sorely afraid, so David asks again.  The Lord responds that he will, indeed, give the Philistines over into David's hand, and so David proceeds with the attack.  David saves Keilah.

3. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus brings his disciples and has them wait near him, so he can pray.  He takes with him Peter, James, and John, and he begins to be afraid.  His divinity is minimized at this point, and his humanity is coming to the forefront.  He possesses a great heaviness, which he tells the three apostles about.  He describes his heaviness as the approach of death.  He then tells them to wait where they are and watch.

4. Going forward a little, Jesus falls to the ground and pleads from his humanity that the Lord might take his impeding sacrifice away.  But he submits himself fully to the father's will in perfect obedience.

5. The watchers fail three times.  Peter, James, and John are unable to stay awake each time.  The third time Jesus returns he tells them, "Sleep hence forth and take your rest.  The hour has come."  Christ means that, even though their watchfulness was weak, it was enough.  Their task is over, and Christ has passed the final test of human doubt.  Christ saves the world.

6. As Romans 8:26-27 reads, God's Spirit helps us in our infirmities, because we do not know how to pray or what to pray for.  But God's spirit prays through us, giving expression to what we are unable to express.  God searches through all hearts and knows what is in them.  He not only stirs up hearts to pray but shows the heart to whom to pray and how. Our prayers are to be for saints and potential saints, and the prayers themselves are to be according to the will of God.

7. So, even though the three apostles "failed" and fell asleep, through their infirmities God succeeded in the keeping watch.  What was the watch for? Not, it seems, for the people that were coming to capture Jesus but for his humanity's faith in the task at hand to be restored.

8. We must stay awake now, though, for we do not know at what hour the end will come, and we must be prepared. The incarnation of Christ is a warning to all the world to turn from our sin and live.  When Christ comes again, anyone who did not heed his message will have to pay for his own sins for eternity.  All who did heed Christ will have placed their full trust and faith in him for the forgiveness of their sins and have everlasting life.  When we keep watch, we are to be on watch for the best interests of the saints and potential saints. Sharing the gospel of forgiveness of sins would be in the best interests of our people.  Being a watchman is sharing the gospel.

9. David trusted God and fought the Philistines, but God was the one who won the battle.  All David needed was to trust in the Lord.  God works through even our doubt and weakness.  We cry out, "I believe! Help my unbelief!" when we hear that God has forgiven our sins through the shedding of Christ's blood.  The Spirit of God does just that.  We are saved through faith alone, and the rest of our earthly life is the Spirit helping our unbelief.  Your sins have been forgiven!  Believe!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Testing Ground

And David rose and fled that day from Saul and went to Achish the king of Gath. And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances,

‘Saul has struck down his thousands,
    and David his ten thousands’?”

And David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard. Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me? Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”

David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.

And David went from there to Mizpeh of Moab. And he said to the king of Moab, “Please let my father and my mother stay with you, till I know what God will do for me.” And he left them with the king of Moab, and they stayed with him all the time that David was in the stronghold. Then the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not remain in the stronghold; depart, and go into the land of Judah.” So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth. (1 Samuel 21:10-22:5)

With the sword of Goliath in hand, David flees his own kingdom to Goliath's home city, Gath.  So, David is essentially going back to the beginning of his ministry, seeking refuge in the very place he conquered for Saul.  Here we learn that after one has been delivered from the darkness, he cannot go back.  God uses the world as his sanctifying ground for us, to test us and put us through trials, so we can be transformed more into the likeness of his son.

1. Even the outside world can identify a believer.

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:54-62)

2. The Christian bond is that of bitterness (discontent) of soul.  We are together not in our power but in our wretchedness. This is important to note, because the modern church is teaching that we are bonded in prosperity.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

3. The Christian is obedient to God's commandments, even in adversity.  Remember, David's great-grandmother Ruth was a Moabite.  Perhaps he was looking for that same honor in Moab's king.  He did find it, for his parents were safe during his time in the stronghold.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26-27)

This series of scenes show the believer's interaction with the outside world.  We learn that true believers cannot hide among them but are drawn to each other by their wretchedness in Christ.  However, we can utilize the world's assets for our benefit.  Luke 16:8-9 reads: For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.  God made the world for his children, and although its people are hostile to us, we can take care of our own in it, just as Christ did.

God put everything in subjection under his son, and so there is nothing that is not his.  We do not yet see everything in subjection under him, but we see Jesus in the scriptures suffer death so that through God's grace he might taste death for everyone.  Since all things exist not only through him but for him, Jesus brings his children to glory through suffering.  He sanctifies them through the world that exists and is subjected to Christ.  So, when we interact with the world, things may not go our way, like with David at Gath, yet we can be sure that God is sanctifying us.  He brings fellow suffering Christians together, and he gives us opportunities to obey his commandments in the playing field of the world.  We don't have to isolate ourselves.  As Christians, we are obedient to him, even as the world tries to tempt us and turn us away. These trials and tribulations test our faith, so that we may become perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Goliath's Sword

Then David said to Ahimelech, “Then have you not here a spear or a sword at hand? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king's business required haste.” And the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you struck down in the Valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it, for there is none but that here.” And David said, “There is none like that; give it to me.” (1 Samuel 21:8-9)

David has been through a lot. After defeating Goliath, he was a hero, but just as you and I become persecuted when we take the Lord's side, so, too, did David experience trials and tribulations as soon as the Lord was in control of his life. He stood before Goliath and proclaimed the name of the Lord of hosts. He had already been anointed king of Israel. He defeated Goliath and then took the giant's own sword to behead him. Saul was impressed and kept David close. Then the women of Israel came out of their homes to sing about how great David was--how much better he was than Saul. Think of the angels singing when a lost soul comes into Christ's kingdom.  What happens next? The unbelieving world rises up against that new Christian and tries to bring him down. Saul gets very angry with David. He hurls a spear at David, not once, but twice, and Saul even throws his spear against his own son, because of his son's defense of David!

Saul tries to have David killed in battle, Saul tries to have servants kill David, and he tries to send messengers to kill David. David is now on the run, desperate, and he goes to priests in Nob and acquires bread. He has resorted to bearing false witness in order to get what he needs, because he is so desperate. Finally he asks for a weapon, and Ahimelech the priest tells him that all he has is the very sword of Goliath, the very one David used to secure victory against the Philistines.  He tells David, "there is none but that," and David responds, "there is none LIKE that!"

When we are at the lowest place in life, God reminds us that he is still there, that he is still in control. He reminds us of our justification. He tells us to be strong and courageous, not to fear or be in dread, because he is walking along side us the whole way. He will not leave us nor forsake us. 

After we are justified, we are commanded to follow God's law out of gratitude. However, David had just gotten through a whopper of a lie, before Ahimelech presents him with Goliath's sword. Likewise, we will fail to keep God's law. But if we repent of our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

In our desperate time, we will be tempted to turn to the right hand or the left hand, to incorporate false teaching about Jesus into our faith. But if we keep the word of God before us at all times, and we meditate on it day and night, then we will be successful in building up our faith and becoming sanctified in the Lord. Armed with the word of God--sharper than any two edged sword--and a good defense of the truth that is in us, no worldly person will be able to stand philosophically before us. God will not leave us nor forsake us.

Not only does the sword of Goliath remind us that God is with us, it reminds us to love our neighbor. After beheading Goliath, David did not keep the sword but turned it over to all Israel for commemoration. Now, that symbolic sword has come back to David. Likewise, when we give of ourselves the good work that God has done in us to our neighbors, the good work comes back to us. God's presence reminds us to show hospitality to strangers, to visit those in prison--those whose souls are held captive by the devil, who has tempted them to unbelief. We visit them in their cages and share the word of God with them, giving them another piece of the key to life, with which they may be sprung free. We keep the gospel elevated in our marriage and with our children. The Lord has told us that he will never leave us nor forsake us.

But one has been forsaken. On the cross, Jesus cried out, "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Why? Because there he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. God transferred all our sins upon him and then smote him. He was wounded, crushed, in order to bring us peace with our maker. All of our straying like lost sheep, God has put upon his son. God cut him off, forsake him, so that he could conquer sin and death alone, making his grave with the wicked. Even though he was sinless, God treated him like the most vile of sinners in order to save all of us. The sword of Goliath represents this satisfaction of wrong against God. Jesus participates in a duel and dies, but in that death he is victorious. He is forsaken so that the Lord will not forsake us.

When you are persecuted, desperate, and at your lowest ebb, think of Goliath's sword and know that the Lord will never leave you nor forsake you. We will never be separated from the love of Christ. Neither in tribulation, nor distress, nor persecution. No, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Nothing in creation can separate us from the love of God that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Karma Undone

Then David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David, trembling, and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread—if the young men have kept themselves from women.” And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away. (1 Samuel 21:1-6)

What we have here is a desperate David spinning a yarn in order to get food out of the priest.  Ahimelech asks him why he is alone, and David essentially claims, "I'm on a secret mission!  Yeah, that's it.  I'm a spy, and I'm meeting up with some other spies, and we are going to be doing some spy stuff.  Shhh!  Don't tell anybody.  Do you have any thing to eat?"  So, David is engaged in bearing false witness, because he is desperate, but that should not be an excuse.  Remember Abraham lying to the Egyptians about not being married to Sarah, and what happened?  A plague hit...the Egyptians!  This is not karma, this is something else.

Ahimelech responds with a sin of his own.  He takes an incidental command from Exodus 19 and applies it to eating consecrated bread that is only meant for the priests. There is no situation in which David is allowed to eat the bread, and so Ahimelech has violated the law of God.  What's more, because David is a likable and famous individual, having killed his ten-thousands as the song goes, Ahimelech is ready to violate God's law, and David has given him a tremendous opportunity.

Now, there's the chief of Saul's herdsmen, Doeg, an Edomite by birth, and it says in the passage that he was "detained before the Lord" at the same location.  God wanted this man there for a reason, and it is clear why in the next chapter.  Doeg tells Saul all that has happened, Saul confronts Ahimelech, and then Saul has Doeg himself kill all the priests and destroy the entire town of Nob, including women, children, and livestock. Once again, this is not karma, for none of this is happening to David, and the punishment on Nob is overwhelming in comparison to David's crime.  This is something else.

Let's look at another David transgression.  We will look closer at this in the future, but the taking of Bathsheba for his own and killing her husband involves not just being dishonest but literally lining up all the commandments and shooting them.  This makes lying to Ahimelech a boy's prank.  However, there is much destruction due to David's secret agent yarn.  There is much more destruction due to Bathsheba, too, as we read:

Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.” (2 Samuel 12:10-14)

Once again, this is not karma.  The world is not under a karma system.  Karma does not exist.  We are under a curse caused by the original transgression of Adam.  This is important, because the illusion of karma permeates everything that happens in life, including the history of David, as we see.  We get sucked into the idea that our actions cause direct consequences back at ourselves, and so we find ourselves in situations where we are watching our every move.  We find ourselves in a covenant of works, where every transgression of God's moral law manifests itself as an injury to self or loved ones, as if God is waiting for us to "mess up" so he can afflict us or our families.  But the truth is, the curse mankind brought on ourselves IS the affliction.  This is the natural state of things due to the fall, and so God doesn't need to afflict us with sickness and disease.  We've done it to ourselves already.  God's glorious job is to deliver us from the curse by grace.

I have been confused by certain verses for years.  When Jesus heals a 38-year invalid, he later tells him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14)  The wording made me think that one could lose God's grace by sinning again, and so one had to be constantly on our guard against sin to prevent his soul being lost.  This is a plunge into legalism fueled by karma.  Here is another way of looking at what Jesus said:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)

One is unable to repent unless the Holy Spirit draws him to repentance.  Repentance is the immediate and first seed of a true faith.  Faith is given to us by God's grace, which he exerts over us to deliver us from the curse.  So, what Jesus is telling his disciples and those with them, is that only those with a true faith will escape the curse that has been in effect since Adam sinned.  David repents in both of his situations.  In Psalm 32, David writes:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (1-5)

And we know the deep repentance of Psalm 51, which David wrote directly after Nathan convicted him.  Remember, this exchange: David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die."  We know that God forgave David his lying to Ahimelech, because Jesus justifies David to the Pharisees in Mark 2 (see last sermon).

Now, as Christians, we do continue to sin, and trials befall us, but this, too, is not karma, but God allowing his children to be disciplined by the curse without us being still under the curse.  As Paul writes in Hebrews,

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7-11)

We are delivered out of the curse by Jesus Christ taking the curse upon himself on behalf of God's children.  In an astonishing exchange at the end of 1 Samuel 22, David takes on the role of both the first Adam and the second Adam for the sake of the last surviving member of Ahimelech's family:

But one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. And Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord. And David said to Abiathar, “I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have occasioned the death of all the persons of your father's house. Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you shall be in safekeeping.” (1 Samuel 22:20-23)

In these four verses we have the fall of mankind through Adam, the curse, and even both the serpent and Judas in the actions of Doeg.  But then the second Adam rises up and takes charge when David proclaims, "Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you shall be in safekeeping."  The grace of God in Jesus Christ appeals to us, "stay with me, do not be afraid. Those still under the curse hate you because they hate me, and they will try to destroy you, because they hate all that I stand for, but put your full trust and faith in me, for with me you shall be safe forever."

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Against Legalism


One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-28)

In order to support what his disciples are doing in breaking the ceremonial law of the Pharisees, Jesus actually has the audacity to cite a desperate time in David's life.  David lies repeatedly to a priest, because he and his followers are starving, and Jesus uses this historic event to make his theological point.  The reason will become apparent, and it is the difference between life in the old covenant of works and the new covenant of grace.

The law of resting on the Sabbath is not only a ceremonial law that shows love for God, but it has been corrupted into a man-made exaggeration of the original law.  When man does something like this, he believes in an aberration of who God is.  Remember the original sin?  Adam and Eve were convinced by the serpent that God was a mean tyrant, and so they broke the single boundary that God had provided for them.  We even read Eve adding a little legalism of her own.  She tells the serpent that she and her husband are not to eat of the forbidden fruit NOR TOUCH IT.  God didn't actually say anything about touching the forbidden fruit, but the illusion of God as tyrant had grown in their minds, that they could not escape the image, even though it was a graven image they had created themselves.

Likewise, the Pharisees have taken a law in which man shows his love for God by taking a break from the toil that is part of the curse and basking in God's glory for at least a day, enjoying the Lord who made him, learning about him, and studying his eternal nature.  The Sabbath is a day to live in the gospel, and the Pharisees have turned it into a ritualistic game of freeze tag, where we aren't even supposed to touch anything.  So, we have developed a system of works that is a misinterpretation of a law that God made for us, so that we could live in his reality better.  So, when the disciples pick grain for food, the Pharisees freak out on them, telling them they are breaking a strict law.  God as strict taskmaster is unbelief in the God of the bible, and Jesus tells them so.

The key word that Jesus uses here is "need."  Elsewhere in the gospels (Luke 14:5) he says, "Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?"  The truth of the matter is, that even these legalistic Pharisees would help another in need.  The law of need supersedes the ceremonial law, especially a law that has been distorted by man's wiles.  Jesus punctuates his point twice.  Once with "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."  This first smack directly states what I said above, that the law of need--or the moral law--supersedes the ceremonial law.  The second smack across the face comes with the statement, "So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath," which is another way of saying, "I'm God, so my interpretation of the Sabbath is the correct one!"

Today, we have the same legalism going on, and it confuses us, because we are no longer in a covenant of works but in a covenant of grace.  Paul helps us in his fantastic letter to the Colossians in this exact matter.  He tells us that God "has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."  This transfer of his children from one covenant to the other absolves us from legalism. It doesn't mean we are not under the law, though.  Being in the covenant of grace means that we still perform the moral law, the law of need, out of gratitude.  Gratitude means loving the neighbor we can see to show that we love the God we can't see.

Paul writes, "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:16-23)

Remember, there are many in the church who are still under the old covenant.  God, in their eyes, is still "stern taskmaster," and so they are only trying to "help" you, because they do not understand the covenants, and they think everyone is still under the old covenant.  They are only trying to help, but you are under the new covenant of grace.  Paul says to let no one disqualify you by insisting on man-made institutions and regulations.  You are dead to those things!  You are also dead to the source of such things, which are the elemental spirits of the world.  These are demons inspiring humans to add unbiblical teachings to a false gospel in order to keep you dead in your sins and lose your soul forever!  Paul instructs us to keep our minds on heavenly things and not earthly things, in order to combat these worldly teachings.  This sounds like more law, but these are laws of joy that come free and willingly to the one who is in the covenant of grace.  When Paul tells us to put to death our earthly desires in Colossians 3, he's telling us as people who have been justified in Christ, not as people of the old covenant.  So, if we go back to where Paul states the theme of his letter, we read the following:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:8-15)

The first sentence above summarizes the letter: don't let anyone add legalism to your gospel.  Then Paul tells us how to do this by reminding us of our justification.  In fact, most of the letter is a classic telling of the gospel.  We need to hear the gospel over and over, so that we can be spared false teaching within the church, teaching that is legalistic in nature and that leads us outside of the covenant of grace and back into the covenant of works where death lay.

Paul ends his gospel presentation by showing us two things.  First, Christ has eradicated the legal demands put upon us by the law and crucified it, destroying it forever.  Next, he asserts his authority over all of the unbelieving people in this world who would lead us astray by their authoritative false teaching. 

Legalism is the most pervasive false gospel in the church today, as it has been throughout history.  It is the element that keeps many would-be Christians forever outside the grace of God, because many, both in and out of the church, think it is the true working out of Christianity.  Jesus tells us that this could not be more wrong.  Read your bible and see for yourself.  The true gospel is one of grace, and good works are done for love of God and neighbor, not to appease a tyrant who may or may not save you.