Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.
He brushed his teeth twice a day and the doctor examined him twice a year.
He wore galoshes when it rained, slept with the windows open, stuck to a diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and got at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
He never smoked, drank, or lost his temper. He exercised every day.
He was all set to live to be 100.
(pause…) The funeral will be Wednesday. He was only 53. He is survived by 18 specialists, 4 health institutions, 6 gymnasiums, and numerous manufacturers of health foods and drugs.
APPLY: He followed all the rules. He imposed upon himself a strict regimen.
He did everything he was told to do to have a long life… and yet he still died.
All the specialists,
all the health institutions
all the gymnasiums
all the manufacturers of health food and drugs…
and all the rules and regulations that he abided by…
still couldn’t help him attain his goal
He still died.
Now, if you were to listen to the health gurus of our day, you might be fooled into believing that if you did everything right, you could live almost forever. And yet, many of us realize that EVEN if you follow all the rules and take strict care of our bodies… we can still die at any time.
Such behavior MIGHT make our lives more healthy or more wholesome… but there is no guarantee of that either.
I. The Colossian Church was being visited by spiritual gurus offering similar assurances. These were false teachers – GUARENTEEING that their teachings would make anyone who followed their instructions acceptable to God… and if they dutifully followed those instructions, they could live for eternity.
Paul referred to the teachings of these individuals as being…
· hollow and deceptive philosophy (vs. 8)
· based upon “human tradition”
· and following “the principles of this world” vs. being based on Christ
What was this false theology?
What was being taught by this false teachers that was so threatening to the faith of the Christians in Colossae?
What was this false theology that Paul regarded as so evil and devious?
It was this: the false teachers were guaranteeing that those who observed their strict set of rules and regulations could be assured of being holy and pure AND acceptable to God.
Now, on the face of it… that does seem to make sense.
Everybody has rules
– Schools have rules
– Work places have rules
– Homes have rules
– Even churches have rules
It’s part of what makes for an orderly society. When everybody knows what the rules are, its then easier to live and work together.
And in religion, it helps to know what the boundaries are.
If I know what to avoid
if I know what sin IS
then I won’t sin nearly as often.
Although that doesn’t always work out that way.
A minister once told his congregation that there were 700 different sins. That afternoon he received 46 requests for the list.
Everybody wanted to know what they were missing out on!
Knowing the rules was even important in the Old Testament. Part of the purpose of the Old Testament Laws was to help God’s people know the difference between right and wrong.
II. Playing upon this “truth” the false teachers (who had come to Colossae) had put together a rulebook of what Christians had to do – and not do – to be acceptable to God.
Look with me to Colossians 2:20-23:
“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 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.”
You see, these folks had come up with a whole list of things that said “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”
That is the nature of rules and regulations – don’t do this, don’t do that.
That’s what you and I would expect from a rulebook.
But… as I was studying this text, there was one phrase that LITERALLY SHOCKED ME.
Look again at vs. 23: “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.”
WHOA! Wait a minute…
You mean – if I know all the rules.
If I understand all the “dos and don’ts…
even that won’t help me restrain my sinful impulses?
Yeah… that’s what it says.
Well, how could that be?
That doesn’t make any sense – does it???
III. But, then I got to thinking – yeah, that does make sense
Think about it:
When you’re driving down the highway you might see a sign that says: “55 mph.” What does that mean? (Get them to answer)
Now, how often do you see people driving at that rate of speed – or less? (there was laughter)
AND if you do see someone driving at that rate of speed – what ends up happening?
Everybody’s passing them.
It’s like they were following some little old lady who can just barely see over the steering wheel driving at 5 mph.
At the earliest possible opportunity the other drivers pull around and shoot on down the road.
WHY? – Don’t they know what the speed limit is?
Of course they do.
It’s just that they regard the posted speed as being too slow for their needs.
Even police have difficulty keeping the speed limits
ILLUS: I once read the true story of a group of motorists who were on an Interstate in Pennsylvania. They were all clipping along at a pretty high rate of speed…. until they spotted a state policeman coming onto the access ramp behind them. Then everybody slooooowed down!
Now, because there had been road work on the highway that summer, their side of the Interstate was restricted to one lane traffic and no one could pass anyone else.
After a couple of miles on this Pennsylvania highway, the state policeman activated his bullhorn and his voice was heard thru the open windows of the drivers in front of him: “I’m not an Pennsylvania State policeman… I’m from Connecticut! You can speed up now!”
EVEN POLICEMEN have problems obeying the speed limit. It’s too limiting even for them.
The rule that we should drive 55mph (or whatever speed) has NO power to keep us from breaking the law.
If the rules become inconvenient, or challenge our sense of what we consider to be fair and just… we ignore the law, or we’ll find a way to bend the rules… or simply break them. And we’ll always have an excuse or a rationalization as to why we can bend that rule.
What rationalization do people give for going 5 or 10 miles over the speed limit? (Give them a chance to answer).
That’s right! They tell you that there is a 5 to 10 mile per hour “grace” given by the police. While that may be true… it is still a rationalization.
IV. You see, the problem with depending upon rules to make us moral is this:
If I want to keep a rule… I will
If I don’t… I won’t
Sooo… the rules and regulations will make me only as moral as I want to be – No more and no less!
Therefore if I’m going to be more moral than I have been in the past then I have to WANT to be more moral than I have been. Something has to change within me to make me want to be different.
Jesus said: “…out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean” Mark 7:21-23
I once heard the story about a small village in Africa where the water was supplied by a well in the middle of the town.
One day, the water from the well grew stale and diseased, and many people got sick. But they weren’t sure why.
They tried boiling the water (to no avail).
They cleaned out their hot water boilers and they boiled the water again, but nothing worked.
Then specialists from the UN came in and inspected the well. They found that the pump was cracked and that surface water was seeping in and contaminating the supply. When they installed a new pump, the water was again pure and diseases stopped.
In order for the water to be pure, something had to change in the heart of the well.
The pump needed to be changed. Then the water became clean.
So also – in us – something has to change in our hearts, or our deeds will always be tainted.
We may be able to set down a set of rules (and everybody does have a set of rules by which they live) but those rules will always be warped by OUR desires .
That which we WANT TO DO will always color our obedience to the rules.
Something has to change inside of us.
Well, now… apparently something has changed. Look again at Colossians 2:9-15 (READ)
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
Something HAS changed inside of us.
When you and I were baptized into Christ:
· Our sinful past was removed, like dead flesh being cut from your body (vs. 11)
· Our hearts were filled with Christ (vs. 10)
· You and I have been forgiven of ALL our sins (vs. 13)
· AND we’ve been made alive in Jesus (vs. 13)
In other words, your old sinful heart has been taken out – it’s been cut away – and replaced with a new Christ-powered/Christ-centered heart
Because of that… NOW, you don’t do good things because of rules and regulations. Now, you do good things because Christ dwells within you.
You’re not moral because you HAVE to be
You’re moral because you WANT to be – because your heart now belongs to Jesus Christ
Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ tells this story:
A woman was married to a tyrant of a husband.
He didn’t like the way she kept house.
He didn’t like the way she did laundry
He didn’t like the way she ironed his clothes.
He didn’t like the way she dressed.
He didn’t like the way she conducted herself in public
He constantly criticized her for everything.
Early on their marriage he handed her a list of 25 rules for her to follow.
She hated it… and she hated him.
You can imagine how frustrating it was to her to have to constantly check her list to see if she was pleasing him – and to stay out of trouble.
But, she usually failed miserably – and each time, she got a tongue lashing from him – he made her feel miserable and small.
Then, one day much to her great joy, the abusive husband died.
Soon, she fell in love with AND married a wonderful loving man. They loved each other very deeply. She practically broke her neck to please him – and even brought him breakfast in bed.
One day, she ran across that old list, and the feelings of anger and inferiority returned. But, suddenly she began to laugh! As she checked the list, she realized that she was now doing all of these for her new husband and many more. And she did these tasks now with great joy because she loved this man.
Rules and regulations won’t make us moral
They can’t make us acceptable to God
But with a new heart within us and an overpowering love for Jesus in our lives
We CAN joyfully serve God knowing that we’ve been changed on the inside so that we can be changed on the outside.
Jesus the ruler who completely rebuilt the structure of faith by actually becoming the word in the flesh has laid a great foundation for us as called and elected, victorious children to abide by and within without any added mis quoted interpatations of His holy word.
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