Paul prays that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ may give the Ephesian church the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him (Eph 1:17). In other words, he wants them to understand more. More of what? Frankly, more of what they already know. He wants them to have a deeper sense of it, a fuller understanding.
Strangely enough, some Christians seem to grow dissatisfied with Christ. They claim to believe in what he’s accomplished. They know the blessings we have in him. But they get bored and pursue some weird philosophy or teaching.
It happened to the Colossians who were not far from Ephesus. Paul told them, “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” (Col 2:8).
Oh, you want to know the fulness of God, do you? You can imagine the supposedly intellectual philosophers speaking to the Christians in Asia Minor. If you want to expand your spiritual mind, I can teach you. I’ll guide through mystical experiences that you’ve never known before. You’ll see visions and discover incredible powers within yourselves.
No, you won’t. If you follow those guys, they’ll lead you right off a cliff. It’s nonsense. Listen to what Paul said to them:
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, that is, Christ, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2:18-19)
I’ll leave you to ponder the strange teachings which the Colossians were exposed to, but I doubt they were much different than those we hear today.
Today’s philosophers claim that God isn’t an infinite person; he’s a universal force. Man wasn’t created in the image of God; he’s one with God. Jesus isn’t the incarnation of God; he’s one of many manifestations of wisdom and enlightenment. We don’t need to be saved from our sin; salvation takes place in the mind.
Listen carefully when you hear someone teach. Just because a man quotes a couple of Bible verses does not mean he is teaching the Bible. I was talking with someone the other day about Joel Osteen. He said, “I love Joel Osteen’s positive messages. My favorite thing about him is how he makes his teachings so practical.”
“I suppose so,” I said, “but is he actually teaching the Bible?”
As I was thinking about our conversation later, I did a search for Joel Osteen on YouTube. Ironically enough, the first sermon was titled, “It’s Already Yours”. He spoke on the abundant blessings that we already have in Christ. Here’s what he said at the opening of his sermon:
The Scripture tells us how God has already blessed us, already forgiven us, already favored us, already approved and accepted each one of us. He’s not waiting to do it; he’s already done it. There are blessings with your name on them, healing with your name on them, promotions, good breaks, businesses, houses, contracts. As far as God is concerned, they already belong to you.
A few minutes later, he quoted his first Bible verse of the sermon: Psalm—I’m not really sure. He said, “The Psalms say, ‘God has crowned you with favor.’”
Psalm 5:12 says, “For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield.” Psalm 8:5 says, “You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” Neither of those verses support Osteen’s ungodly claims that God has promised us material wealth. In fact, Psalm 8 teaches the exact opposite. It tells us that Jesus received his crown through humble submission (i.e. his crucifixion).
Not only do men like Joel Osteen quote the Bible, but they’ll also mix a fair amount of truth in with their lies. The unsuspecting Christian might think, I like this guy. What he says sounds right. I would love a promotion or bigger house. God is almighty. It makes perfect sense that he would give his people these things. After all, he loves us. He saved us. Plus, I always thought there was more to Christianity than what I was told.
Be careful. Paul reminded the Colossians, “For in Christ the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Col 2:9-10). Don’t be tempted by false promises that neither Christ nor his Word gives us.
Having said that, Christ does offer us immense blessings. Osteen was right when he said, “There are blessings with your name on it.” But these blessings run much deeper than materialism. According to both Isaiah and Paul, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him“ (1Co 2:9). We have everything we need and more, though sometimes we need God’s help to see it.