Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Don't Lose Your Reward

By Dennis Pollock


In writing to the believers in Colossae, the apostle Paul strictly warned them: "Let no one cheat you of your reward…" (Colossians 2:18). He is clearly speaking of the rewards God will give His children for their service to Christ. This is a theme Paul shared frequently: not only are Christians allowed to go to heaven and live forever with God but also, we will be rewarded for our good works done in Christ's name and by His Spirit. The King James version says, "Don't let anyone rob you of your reward." This is an interesting concept. Apparently, we can be ripped off, and duped out of the reward that we should rightfully receive on our Day of Judgment.


So how could anyone possibly rob us of our reward? Let's look a little further at the verse:


Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind… (Colossians 2:18)


We do not know the exact specifics of the problems Paul was concerned about with this church. Just what was this "false humility," and how was it causing a problem? Angel worship isn't so hard to figure out, but this is rare among believers today. Most pastors rarely even mention angels and with all the churches I've been in during my fifty years of ministry, I have never seen a single one where this was a problem.


Universal Problem


However, the basic problem remains. There have always been "teachers" in the church who try to introduce new, interesting, and unprovable doctrines to gullible believers. This love for extra-biblical teachings and pride in esoteric "revelations" and bizarre doctrines which could never be proved by the Bible is like a virus that appears frequently in the church, leads believers astray, and makes the church of Jesus Christ anemic.


Thus, Paul's warning to believers to be careful not to be "ripped off" by strange doctrines whose proclaimers revel in their uniqueness and take great pride in understanding "the deep mysteries of God" has always been a relevant issue. The principle is the same, but the specifics of the doctrines change from generation to generation. So, Paul's warning about angel worship and "false humility" is as relevant today as it was when he penned it.


Desire to be Special


Some pastors or Bible teachers love to be unique in their teachings because if they are just teaching the plain and basic doctrines of the Bible, they are not special. Some of these teachers realize that if they simply preach the basics of Christianity, things are easily seen in the Scriptures, they will merely be one out of hundreds of thousands of ministers, with nothing to set them apart or make them special. But if they preach some new doctrine, some "revelation" that no one has ever considered before, people will think of them as deep and profound. They may even be able to start a "movement," which is precisely how cults are birthed and multiply.


If you examine some of the teachings of the cults, you can find all sorts of doctrines, firmly held and taught, which have absolutely no basis in Scripture. These would include that Jesus and the devil are brothers, or that Jesus was only raised from the dead in a spiritual sense, but not physically. Some believe that celebrating any holiday is a sin and that the return of Christ has already happened, (in 1914, believe it or not). Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus did not die on an actual cross, even though the Bible uses the word "cross" over and over again. Mormons teach that Jesus, after resurrecting, traveled to America and taught the Indians. They believe that there are many worlds in our universe and that each world has its own personal "god." Likewise, the God of the Bible was, in their estimation, once an ordinary man who evolved to godhood. And we believers today, if we behave ourselves and get better and better, will one day be rewarded with our own world, and can become a god over that world.


If you were to ask these false teachers and cult leaders if they still believed in God and Christ, they would surely say that they did. But they do not focus on Jesus; they proudly focus on the bizarre, unbiblical teachings which separate them from the millions of ordinary Christians who simply read the Bible and take it at face value.


Paul is warning Christians about false teachers who come into their midst and turn them away from a focus on Jesus and a love for the plain-sense teachings of the Bible. Paul describes such a "teacher" as "vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind." To be puffed up is to be proud, thinking yourself superior to the common Christians or the ordinary pastors that teach such basic things as John 3:16 or talk about faith and repentance and love and prayer and godly living. No such simple themes for these deep revealers of mysteries; they have far more important topics of wisdom for their followers, insights that you could never find in the local Baptist church down the street.


Speculation and Imagination


They thrill and exult in speculation and imagination, in bizarre beliefs that could not possibly be proven by the Bible. After calling these false teachers "puffed up" Paul goes on to describe them as "not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God." These proud teachers of speculative imaginations have forsaken the "head," and of course, the Head of the church is Jesus Christ. Rather than focusing on Jesus, they major on wild theories that are not only unprovable from the Bible but often disagree with the plain teachings of the Bible.


They lead multitudes astray and bring them into spiritual impotence, failure, and disaster. Victory comes from holding onto the Head…our Lord Jesus. Fruitfulness comes from holding onto the Head. Security, peace, joy, and anointing result when we hold onto the Head. In other words, we abide in Jesus; we continually focus our faith on Jesus, we trust in and depend on Jesus, the Head of the church. Jesus commands us, "Abide in me," and promises that if we do, we will bear much fruit. But there will always be false teachers who will seduce simple-minded believers into thinking that they are somehow much more special than ordinary Christians because they now possess wonderful secrets that go beyond the plain truths of the Bible.


The apostle John takes up this same theme in the epistle we call 2 John. John writes: "Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward." (2 John 1:8). Here again we find a warning about losing our reward. In this case, we are warned that we must be careful in how we live and in what we believe so that we do not miss out on the full reward that is promised to the disciples of Jesus who abide in Him.



John goes on to make it clear what he is talking about, what kind of behavior and beliefs, and focus will cost us our "full reward." He writes further: "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son." (2 John 1:9). Abide means to "stay put," to remain exactly where you are. John is saying that if we come to Jesus, but we do not "stay put," we will lose some or all of our reward. The word "transgress" in this verse can be translated to mean "to move ahead" or to "go beyond." John is warning believers: "You have come to Christ, but now you seem like you are moving "beyond Christ," you are moving away from dependence on Jesus, and you have begun to focus on strange, unbiblical teachings which have little or nothing to do with Jesus. You are losing your place of abiding.


Stay Put!


Both John and Paul are saying precisely the same thing, "Once you get to Jesus, stay there. Don't go anywhere!" If you move beyond Jesus, you will have traveled too far, and you will lose your reward. John and Paul are both saying, "Don't go beyond Jesus. Stay with Jesus, stay with the Bible, stay with winning souls to Jesus, stay with things you can prove from the Bible, and doctrines that relate to Jesus.


From these verses we can see that there may be Christians who make it to heaven, expecting a great reward, only to find out that because they wasted their time and energy on meaningless doctrines with no plain basis in the Scriptures, they will discover that there will be little reward for them. They forsook their focus on Jesus, neglected prayer, paid little attention to winning souls, and instead listened to sermon after sermon, and attended seminar after seminar based on worthless speculations and meaningless philosophy that did not profit them.


It is not only the cults who stray from Jesus. Sadly, many evangelicals, who began their spiritual journey with a white-hot love for Jesus sometimes turn around and lose their focus on Jesus. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus warned the church at Ephesus: "I have this against you, that you have left your first love." (Revelation 2:4). Somehow, they had "gone beyond" Jesus. While He commended their works, their love was waning, and He was not pleased.


The takeaway from these verses is simple but so very important: Don't go beyond Jesus. Once you come to Him, remain right where you are. Do not allow self-proclaimed revealers of mysteries to move you away from your secure position in Christ. Or, to use Jesus' own words, "Abide in Me."




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