Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
This past weekend I was able to preach from Colossians 2:16-23 to Grace Fellowship Church in Culcheth near Warrington. Here’s a key portion of the message:
If Paul was speaking here – it almost seems like his voice would be dripping with sarcasm. “What’s wrong with you guys? Aren’t you united with Christ in his death? Why are trying to kill yourself again with your rules: Don’t touch this! Or Don’t taste that?” We continue to try to return to a salvation that we can accomplish all by ourselves. Most of us would never say it – but so often we think – if only, I would stop blowing up in anger to my husband – then God would love me. If only, I would stop looking at girls – then God would love me. If only, I would do whatever!!! It does not matter – you can not make yourself better with rules so that you will be accepted by God.
Rules that we make for ourselves do not address the human heart. You know how it goes – try to stop doing this or that – we want try this and then we try that – the problems continue. Can there be change in our lives? Can we become more like Jesus? Yes – as we admit our failures – we call that repentance and turn to Jesus for both our acceptance before God and for power to serve him.
You don’t need more rules to get your life together – you need a new heart which Jesus will give if you come to him. How do you know if you’re depending on your own strength or the power of the Spirit? Often times it can sort of look the same – religious, self-righteous people can pray, can read the bible and do acts of mercy just like the man or woman who is empowered by the Holy Spirit.
I think the key in knowing the difference is here where Paul says in verse 23 that these regulations give “self-imposed worship”. What is self-imposed worship? It seems to me that worship like this is seriously lacking in joy because they are approaching God with a business mindset. I’ll do these things for you – go to church, pray, help others, – whatever and in return you give me forgiveness and eternal life. I’ve got to force myself to do this worship thing because I know that there is a deal to be done.
But if you understand the grace of God in the person of Jesus – you will approach God in worship with joy. Worship will be an overflow from the heart and it will be marked by great joy. In fact, all of life will be one of joy if you know that God is your Father and he adores you because of the cross. This will impact your emotions as you deal with injustice on your job. You’ll know that your boss is not supreme – no matter what he says, you are loved and cared for by your Creator. This will impact your emotions as you deal with your singleness. You’ll know that you marital status does not define you – you are loved and cared for by your Creator.
The grace of God – if it runs deep in your life – will mark you as a person in your community who is different. Not a weird religious person who can’t cry with those who are crying or laugh with those who laugh. But one whose approach to life is so marked by a confident joy in the ups and downs of life that it is noticeable to others. Let the love of God sink deep into your heart and let it flow to those around as well.