The Disappearing Shadows of Faith

The Disappearing Shadows of Faith


Do you love vacations? I certainly do. Why do we love them? What do they offer that helps sustain us? And why do we long for them when they can be so fleeting?

Paul, at least in part, has an answer for us in our passage that Pastor Mike Halstead preached about this last Sunday. He writes this in Colossians 2:16-17 (ESV):

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.

Now obviously Paul is not referring to vacations, but the sentiment is the same. How often do we place our faith in a “shadow” of things, thinking it will rescue us? If you think about it for a moment, I suspect it is far more often than you realized. Paul wants to make this very clear: Our trust must be in Christ alone. Nothing else will do. There is only one God, and His rescue mission is perfect through the life and sacrifice of Jesus.

The reality, though, is that we can tend to think that salvation comes through more than Christ alone. We end up thinking that if only we do this or that, then we can be saved. This gets us nowhere fast. It is a lose-lose proposition because we can’t possibly live rightly enough to earn Heaven. Paul warned his readers in Colossians 2:18-20 (ESV):

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.

Put another way, if it is about anything other than God, or how we gain some sort of special access to Him, it is off base. More ends up being a whole lot less.

The beauty we see in how Paul describes our connection to God is that by believing Jesus is exactly who He said he is, and putting our faith in Him as our Savior, we become something new entirely. We can start to develop into people who are healthy and have the right perspective on nearly everything. Our growth comes from God, but growth happens, nonetheless. And while we will never reach some sort of pinnacle condition regarding all knowledge and understanding, we will come to understand Jesus, and the life He laid out before us to emulate with the help of the Holy Spirit. You see, salvation happens through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross, and only after that do we begin growing into His likeness; not the other way around. We can therefore believe with confidence what Paul says here in Colossians 2:20-23 (ESV):

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.

In Christ alone, we are saved. And in Christ alone, our life and actions are redeemed. We do not have to emphasize, or do certain things, to solidify our place in relation to Him. We are His beloved children, and it is because of that we live our lives differently. It is a result of that we are set apart to do things for God—not because we must do anything that earns us a place on His team, or gets us the right experience—it is a natural part of growth and an increase in our faith in Jesus.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Rom. 12:1-3, ESV)


  1. What does Paul mean when he mentions certain things being “a shadow of things to come?”
  2. What might “qualify” or “disqualify” one’s faith? How might that play out in their life?
  3. What does an authentic Christian life look like? How should growth take form in accordance with this new life?
  4. If you are a follower of Jesus, how has your life changed since becoming one?
  5. If you are not a follower of Jesus, what are some questions you have about it, or some things you want to understand or know about before becoming one? (Feel free to reach out and let us know if you want to talk with somebody about it:


Colossians 4:2-18: “Our Own Strength” / Blog post and Study Guide: “Starting Out Where it Ends

Colossians 3:18-4:1: “Our Old Relationships” / Blog post and Study Guide: “Gracious Reflections of a Savior’s Love

Colossians 3:12-17: “Clothed in Christ” / Blog post and Study Guide: “A New Suit Pressed With Timeless Truth

Colossians 3:1-11: “Our Old Self” / Blog post and Study Guide: “Life After Brambles of Old News

Colossians 2:16-23: “In Christ Alone” / Blog post and Study Guide: “The Disappearing Shadows of Faith

Colossians 2:6-15: “Freedom in Christ” / Blog post and Study Guide: “God Is There and He’s Not Hiding From You

Colossians 1:24-2:5: “Mystery Revealed / Blog post and Study Guide: A Mystery Worth Discovering

Colossians 1:15-23: The Supremacy of Christ” / Blog post and Study Guide: Jesus Christ Holds It Together

Colossians 1:1-14: The Pressure of the World” / Blog post and Study Guide: An ‘Others’ Kind of Faithfulness