Saturday, October 3, 2015

Colossians 2:20-23

Colossians 2:20-23
If you all died with Christ from the elemental nature of the world, why do you conform to the regulations while living in the world?  “You should not handle.”  “You should not taste.”  “You should not touch.”  That is, everything that is in destruction by nature of being used – that which is a word in one case while having wisdom in a religion made by yourself, and humility, and severe self-control over the body.  But they are not in any value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

In this section, Paul talks to the Colossians about how they are living.  He asserts a very serious caution.  If they all claim to have died with Christ, then why are they conforming to regulations that Christ Himself did not establish?  This is such an absolutely fundamental point to faith, yet it is an incredibly difficult line to walk.  The truth is that we are saved by Christ and as such we should be interested in anything that can promote the glory of God while avoiding that which brings sin into our life and glorifies ourselves.  That is easy to say and it is easy to agree to that.  However, it is harder to live out.  How do I determine whether something is for me and God’s ministry to which He has called me?  In what ministries can I involve myself without risking temptation yet realize that for other people being in my same shoes would cause them to fall into sin?  What things can other people do without being tempted but I should avoid because I cannot resist the temptation?  Even if we think about only good things this issue is still not easy.  How do I organize my worship without worshipping the familiarity of the order?  How do I come into God’s presence in a meaningful and productive order yet avoid the temptation of having it become stagnant?  We are always having to walk the balance between being free in Christ – thus not being confined to the traditions of the world – yet also respecting the fact that traditions and rules are often helpful guidelines that bring order to the chaos of life and help us keep from sinfulness.  This is a very complex issue that Paul is addressing.

Where in your life do you need regulation to help you bring order to the chaos and to help you keep yourself from temptation?  Where in your life does that regulation have the possibility of becoming harmful and actually keep you from something to which God may be calling you?

Second Thought:

Paul brings up three very simple test cases to illustrate what he is talking about: do not handle, do not taste, and do not touch.  What Paul is referring to are the purity laws of the Jews.  We know that they couldn’t eat certain foods.  We know that they weren’t supposed to possess certain kinds of objects.  We know that they weren’t supposed to even make contact with certain kind of people.  And in some cases, those regulations help keep them from harm.  But Paul’s point in this passage is that by allowing those guidelines to become regulations that we cannot go against in meaningful contexts limits us.  For example, think of all the meaningful ministry Jesus did with prostitutes, adulterers, or lepers!  Yes, we absolutely do not want to blindly find ourselves in a position of temptation into sin.  But at the same time we do not ever want to limit God and His ability to call us into ministry.

Has God called you to ministry in places or with people where others would not have been willing to go?  Why do rules confine us if we let them?

Third Thought:

Paul also makes an argument about the weakness of regulations.  Paul knows the human heart.  Paul knows that even among people who classify themselves as “rules-followers” that we all have a spirit of “rules are meant to be broken.”  We all break rules when we think that the rule is hindering us.  Who among us doesn’t occasionally speed when we want to pass that annoying car on the road?  Who among us doesn’t steal a grape or two when wanting to test the fruit and see if it is good?  (This one really bothers me, because it isn’t like we test apples or cucumbers or anything else in a grocery store before buying it.)  The truth is that when dealing with human beings, we will keep the rules we want to keep and no rule is going to be strong enough that we won’t break it if we want to.  Rules are guidelines for behavior; but rules are never powerful enough to stop us from sinning if our heart desires to sin.

What rules do you never break because you believe in them and are not tempted to break them?  What rules do you have a habit of breaking frequently, especially when the likelihood of being caught is low?

Passage for Tomorrow: Colossians 3:1-4
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