Dead to the World or Alive?

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?” (Col. 2:20).

- Colossians 2:20

Fear of evil spirits has plagued humanity since the fall, manifesting itself in a variety of superstitions, magical practices, and religious rites, all designed to keep people safe from the malicious plans of sinister beings. Voodoo, psychic readings, Ouija boards, shrines to Hindu gods, and the refusal to walk under a ladder or step on cracks in the sidewalk are all, to one degree or another, attempts to find shelter from the malevolent forces in the universe.

Scripture never denies the reality of the powers of darkness but rather affirms that their potency is so great that none of the aforementioned practices can ward off evil. The Devil and his minions have a degree of authority over unregenerate people in the present age because, under the sovereignty of God, we chose to make the Accuser our king when we thought we were choosing self-rule over submission to the Lord. Rejecting our good Creator in Adam, we turned ourselves over to the Serpent, as we grasped for the ability to be a law unto ourselves (Gen. 3; 2 Cor. 4:3–4). God could have intervened and stopped our turn from His lordship to the lordship of the Devil, but as He is wont to do in judging us, He let us have exactly what we wanted (Rom. 1:18–32). But the self-rule that we desired was not really what the great deceiver offered us in Eden. He actually tricked us into enslavement to him and pain, sickness, and the evil desires of the flesh — our fallen natures — when we turned our backs on the loving Creator (John 8:31–47; Gal. 4:8).

Death to our old master and resurrection to serve the gracious Lord is the only way to freedom, and liberation occurs when we are united to Christ by faith, being baptized into His death and His victory over sin, Satan, and the flesh (Col. 2:11–15). Being liars bent on our destruction, however, the evil powers still attempt to trick us into believing there are other avenues by which we can escape their rule. As with the Colossians, they create new religions and invent rules that on the surface seem to ward off evil effectively. They even take God’s good law and entice us, through the flesh, to pursue it as a means of self-justification (Rom. 7:7–12). But all of these things serve only to strengthen the power sin and evil have over us, and that is why we must never look to anyone but Christ for victory over the Devil (Col. 2:20).

Coram Deo

Out of His great love for us, God warns His people against legalism and false religious practices because hoping in rules, astrology, and other false spiritualities only gives Satan and the flesh more influence over us. But when we pursue the pure, undefiled religion revealed in Scripture — the gospel of Christ alone — and treat others in love, refusing to judge them by standards we have created, we render the evil forces in the world powerless.

Passages for Further Study

Leviticus 20:1–8
1 Chronicles 10:13–14
Matthew 12:1–14
Acts 16:16–18

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