Reverend Dr. William H. Curtis

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See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.

Colossians 2:8-10

The Apostle Paul is challenging all of these strangled formulas and philosophies. He stands as God’s appointed Apostle, right in the middle of the crossfire between Gnostics, Judaizers, and philosophers, all of which are trying to demonstrate superiority over the others.

Paul says, in order to walk in a relationship with God, it doesn’t need to be this profound or tangled. Just have faith in Jesus Christ. Living a spiritual life is not a secret knowledge revealed only to a select few, as the Gnostics would suggest. It is not an intellectual sport where we compete against each other to see who is more spiritually superior, as the philosophers believed. It is not about abiding by a set of rules and laws that have nothing to do with the human heart, as the Judaizers believed.

Paul says that it is much simpler. God extended this spiritual pathway to us, first appearing in a manger in Bethlehem. Paul says, you don’t have to worry about this philosophical, intellectual entanglement. Just have faith in Jesus Christ. Paul’s definition that comes behind that is this: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9 KJV).

Believing in Jesus, trusting confidently in His work in you, and imitating Christ’s example is what it means to walk in faith.

The Colossian church accepted Jesus and had faith in Him. As a result, they were under attack by the culture that existed around them—these intellectual philosophies and practices. These Gnostics, philosophers, and Judaizers so despise these Christ followers that they became aggressive enough to arrest the Colossian church with the intent to kill them.

Paul writes to center the saints: You know what you have been taught and you know what you believe. You know how important this faith is. It is not time for you to hide in the shadows. It is time for you to live out of the substance of His presence. In order to do that, you are going to have to kick your faith into high gear. Don’t get fooled into these fake spiritual practices.

When we have the conviction that we know that He who hath begun a good work will be faithful to complete it, we won’t settle for a type of spirituality that is less than what faith in Christ has to offer us. Everything about our lives is to center us more deeply in Jesus so that he can spread us higher and wider for Him.

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.

Colossians 2:8-10 (KJV) 

Walking in a relationship with God does not have to be complicated, we just need to have faith in Jesus Christ. Our spiritual lives are not a secret life revealed only to a select few. It is not an abstract theory to be danced around as an academic exercise. It is not an intellectual sport where we compete against one another to see who is more spiritual. Neither is it a system of laws to abide by that have nothing to do with the human heart. Paul tells us that living a spiritual life in relationship with God is much more subtle and guaranteed. God extended a spiritual pathway through His Son and said that we don’t need to worry about all the other complexities. We just need to have faith in Jesus.

In order to walk in faith, we need to live out of the substance of His presence. We should believe in His reality, live confidently in His complete work in us, imitate His example, and reflect Him with our interactions. To live in His presence, we must kick our faith into a higher gear. We can no longer be satisfied with anything less than a relationship with Christ. Paul said we need to stop merely studying the subject and start living it.

Everything about our lives is to develop our roots in Christ, which allows us to be built up and established in Him. Whatever we may be experiencing is deepening our relationships with Christ, broadening our understanding of His work, and challenging our assertions about Him so that we may become convicted disciples. Because of His root work, we are maturing progressively and being built up into a powerful expression of His presence. It is important for us to continually submit to God and His work in us so that we may continue to grow. With deepening roots and growing maturity, we can understand our establishment in Him. God has a covenant with us that cannot be broken, not even by our insignificant contribution on our side of the covenant. God tells us that He won’t cast us aside, He won’t forsake us, He won’t leave us, He won’t stop loving us. We will never be lacking God's perfect love.

Once we are established, our faith is kicked into a higher gear. God says to watch out for others who try to dazzle us with big words and intellectual double talk, as they want to drag us to emptiness. The universe is empty without Christ, but with Him, we are able to maturely respond to others. Because we are rooted, built up, and established in Jesus Christ, we have the capability of hearing and seeing Him clearly. We no longer need to live in insecurity, doubt our future, question our faith, or live as a prisoner to others’ opinions. God wants us to know that we are established and complete in Him.

Then God said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet [out of respect], because the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Then He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Exodus 3:5-6 AMP

Moses’ curiosity brings him to a bush that is burning but is strangely not being consumed. Over the last forty years of Moses’ life, everything has been pushing him to this moment. God is about to deliver His call on Moses’ life—a call that will change everything for the Israelites.

This divinely orchestrated introduction between God and Moses is an intricate one. God not only wants Moses to be aware of his human purpose, to liberate the Israelites, but God also wants to set up the patterns by which God and Moses will interact in the future.

In modern times, we expect God to be easily accessed, touched, and casually related to. But our culture has forgotten that God is to be approached with awe and reverence and mystery. It is less important for our spiritual pursuits to discover who we are, but it is critically important that we discover who God is.

Spiritual connection, or holiness, is not natural for humans. Holiness invites us to accept the reality that we are not the most important thing in our lives. When God introduced Himself to Moses, He set up patterns that showed Moses the enormous gap between His divinity and Moses’ humanity.

God did not create us for this distance or divide, but sin created distance. We see this first with Adam and Eve, who attempted to cover themselves and were ashamed before God. Eventually they were evicted from the garden, but that sin was forgiven in Jesus’ sacrifice. God is now to us what He has always been. He is the initiator. He is working to get us back into intimacy.  

Even when Moses approaches the burning bush, God tells him not to come near and to take his shoes off, out of respect. God, on the one hand, is drawing Moses in, and on the other hand, it appears that He is keeping Moses at a distance. However, this warning is for Moses’ teaching and training.

Moses didn’t know that by approaching the bush that he was consenting to being used by God. But God set to work, setting up patterns for Moses’ life, teaching and training him how to act and work with the Almighty God.

The first thing that God teaches Moses is that God is not to be approached commonly, carelessly, or casually. God has an expectation. He expects a certain mindset and discipline from us, too. God says to us, he who would come to Me must first believe that I am God, and I am a rewarder of those who would diligently seek after me.

I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my enemies rejoice over me.

Psalm 30:1 NASB

The most striking image in this verse is when David says, “for you have lifted me up.” For us, “lifted up” implies a change of space or a change of posture. Or we may think that David may have been thinking of being lifted from a low place or lifted above his enemies.

However, the Hebrew implies something different. It isn’t describing a change of posture or position. It means that God drew David out of the water. This verse is meant to be interpreted metaphorically.

We shouldn’t expect to feel God’s hand grab us by the arm and pull us out of a terrible circumstance. Instead, it describes the feeling of a bucket being lowered into a deep well, and while we are down there drowning, the Lord takes hold of the rope and lifts us out of the deep well so that we can catch our breath.

Each one of us faces life’s circumstances until we feel like it is snatching our breath. We may wonder how long we can keep our heads above water until our circumstances get the better of us and drown us.

But the God that we serve sends His promise through David in this Psalm. God will never let us drown. He will grab the rope and lift the bucket out of the well so that we can catch our breath no matter how dark it has been.

Sin can make us feel like we are being held under water. Pressure in life can make us feel like this as well. We may feel pressure to perform, to be strong, or to be positive. All of this can make us feel like we’re drowning. The bills have to get paid, the chores have to be handled, a person has to be dealt with, the job still has to get done.

But God loves us, and He wants us to live a life that feels different from a bucket being held under the water. David says that God lifts us up out of these feelings and emotions, and nothing that is holding us down is stronger than God.

God is a deliverer who is ever present. When we feel as though the weight of the world is on our shoulders, I can guarantee that God is always there.

Then God said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet [out of respect], because the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Then He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Exodus 3:5-6 (AMP)

As Moses curiously approached the burning bush, he was unknowingly saying “yes” to being used by God. When he approached the unconsumed bush, he was stopped by the voice of God, commanding him to remove his shoes, for he was about to enter holy ground. Although this demand may seem arbitrary, Moses’ act of taking his shoes off was an initial act of obedience to God, and following this act, God allowed Him into His presence. He allowed Moses to enjoy the space that He had transformed from common ground into holy ground.

If we want to step into God’s presence and feel His power, the first step is obedience. Because God is omniscient, His instructions may not always make sense to us, but if we want to be where God is, then we should do whatever God asks of us. As God invites us in, we must obediently pattern our lives in conformity to His will. Moses didn’t take off his shoes because it made sense. He did it because his Creator asked him to.

God may not be asking us to take off our shoes when we enter into His house, but He is asking us to leave behind the distractions. When He invites us into His presence, we need to enter carefully and respectfully. We are a child of God. It does not matter what title we hold at work or what designer brands we wear. The material things are insignificant. When we step into God’s house, it becomes holy ground, and there’s no other purpose than to glorify, magnify, and obey Him.

Moses stepped into God’s presence, accepting His perfection and holiness, completely surrendering his life to the Creator. He didn’t ask “why?” He just said, “Yes.” Like Moses, when God asks us to do something, despite how arbitrary, we need to start saying “yes” and trust that His plan is good and full of blessings. Although the commands of the Lord may not make perfect sense to us, it is important for us to understand that God is omnipotent and when we accept His perfect and holy plan for our lives, we act in perfect obedience to His will.