Summary: 4 of 5 messages on Colossians. This message speaks of religion, spirituality, secularism, and Godliness.

Life 101: The Way That Works

Four Ways to Live

Three ways crash and one way works

Is there anything as irritating as when something that is supposed to work – doesn’t?

Sit in your car and turn the key but all you hear is the starter growling incessantly. There is no comforting roar of spark plugs firing, gasoline exploding, and pistons thrashing up and down inside their cylinders. Or even worse, you turn the key and… nothing. Not even a click. Not a red light on the dash. Not a flicker of a needle on a gauge. Nothing! That’s frustrating.

Or you pull out the lawn mower, gas it up, and yank on the rope. Nothing! You do it again. And again. And again. And there is nothing every time. You do it till you’re sweating and your arm aches with fatigue. That’s irritating.

Or you put a dinner in the oven because friends are coming over. You work all morning peeling potatoes and carrots. You beat the living daylights out of a tough piece of meat to tenderize it and stick it in the oven with the vegetables. You work hard all day and when you come back a few hours later you discover the oven didn’t light. Your dinner is sitting in the pan – raw – when your friends ring the door bell. That’s maddening.

Or you just finished writing up a paper that is due in the morning. You’ve completed hours of research, written your best analysis with carefully crafted arguments supporting your thesis when the computer suddenly displays the blue screen of death. You reboot… but it doesn’t reboot. It hangs. You reboot again anxious but calm. It gets further but hangs again with a new message: It says… “This program is not working” Like YEAH! Your face is getting red, Your eyes are as sharp as knives and you reboot again but this time you hear a strange clanking sound from within the deep dark innards of this evil machine and you realize your hard drive has turned to stone.

Now that is enough to send you over the thin line beyond which is the wonderful world of insanity.

Don’t you just hate it when something doesn’t work when it’s supposed to work?

Today I’d like to explore four ways to live – really live. I’m not talking about existing. This is not about surviving. We’re talking about joy, love of live, happiness, and robust enthusiasm for getting up in the morning.

As we examine these four ways you’ll quickly see that three are busted and one – only one – really works.

First is the way of religion.

Religious People Confuse Shadows with Reality

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17

Religion is the art of appearing to be righteous.

Being righteous is a good thing even though it is often not understood well. Have you ever seen a movie or read a book about a CIA spy who is accused of treasonous activities? The whole of the storyline surrounds one idea – how this man can be made “righteous”.

That’s the meaning of righteousness. It is to be right with God and man. It is to be clean – no skeletons in the closet, no dirty laundry, no hidden secrets, no false representations, no garbage in the corners. A righteous man is one who stands without having to explain anything or answer for any action. He is without flaws.

A religious man pretends to be a righteous man. The result is sorry and sad.

Religious people focus on the external accoutrements of righteousness.

If a righteous man praises God with deep gratitude for what God has done in his life a religious man plans a religious festival so that he looks like a righteous man.

If a righteous man stays away from certain foods because it affects his ability to make God primary in his life a religious man makes it a rule and keeps away from such food “religiously” (pun intended).

Religion focuses on the shadows of worship and misses the reality of Jesus in their vain attempt to convince others that they are righteous people. And the attempt is vain – most of us can see right through religious people to their heart of dust. They are best at fooling themselves and even then they don’t do it very well.


Spiritual People Mistake the Act of Worship with the Object of Worship

18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. 19 He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Colossians 2:18-19

Religious people are focused on convincing others that they are righteous. As such they are dishonest and what we call a hypocrite.

Not the spiritual person. They aren’t hypocrites because they are not pretending to be something they aren’t. Spiritual people really get excited about piety and worship – but they confuse the act of worship with the object of worship. This is no small error – in fact it’s huge and leads to ruin.

Spiritual people get all caught up in the emotion and feelings of worship. They seek the ecstasy of worship and the pleasure of feelings that wash over them like the waves of the ocean.

For them its about lowering themselves and lifting up something – anything to worship. They’ll beat themselves with whips and pray to angels – some will even pray to the angels of darkness.

A friend of mine told me that he was traveling by plane and was seated next to a man who had his head down for much of the trip. After a time they talked and my friend asked his seatmate if he had been praying. When he answered that he had been praying my friend said, “That’s great I’m a Christian, too.” The other man said, “I’m not a Christian, I’m a follower of Satan and every day I pray against the pastors of the churches in my city.” The conversation limped a bit after this exchange of information.

Now, you can argue that such a man is a spiritual man – but he is certainly not a follower of God. He has no connection to the head of the body, the church and he has lost all touch Jesus Christ.

He’s an extreme example but there are lot’s of people who have gotten caught up act spirituality while focused on the wrong object of worship.

Right down this road at the corner of Hamilton and Okemos Road you’ll find a store selling all kinds of materials and books which are spiritually oriented – and totally Godless.

The Ephesians were big on spirituality and low on Godliness when Paul came to them and told them about Jesus. The result was that they burned their books – worth several million dollars.

Today if you listen to some of the music and read some of the lyrics of what is being played on our radios and ipods you may very well conclude that we need to destroy some of this as well!

There are other forms of spirituality that are not so blatantly anti-God. There are forms of spirituality involved in some fraternities of brotherhood, in religions that worship ancestors, human philosophies, false prophets, or cult leaders.

Listen to me – this kind of spirituality is extremely dangerous because it mimics the expressions of God worship while leading the practitioner away from His presence.

Test the Spirit

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.

1 John 4:2-3a

1 John has the test…

Is Jesus honored and glorified. If he is – fine. If he is not – you are dealing with spirituality not God.

Secular People Trust in the Law and Ignore the Heart

20 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: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 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.

Colossians 2:20-23

Religious people are actors.

Spiritual people are caught up in the practice of worship but they fail when they do not worship God’s Son.

Secular people trust in the law and ignore the heart.

The secular view of the world is that there must be the rule of law and that this is what will keep us right with one another.

It is the rule of law that will bring world peace. If everyone would just follow the rules and there was a new world order we’d finally have an earth where people would love people and there would be no more war.

For them it is all about a standard of morality and laws about what is right but – and this a huge disconnect! – there is no source or foundation for their morality.

There must be a source of morality and therefore there must be a law giver.

If the source is the same as those who are live by the morality given we end up with a circular process that is inevitably corruptible.

Not only that but when morality, good and evil, right and wrong, up and down, is defined by men and it’s all about rules… There will be lots and lots and lots of rules… manuals full of them… shelves packed with them… whole libraries of regulations and procedures that must be followed.

Look at how the government operates.

Several years ago there was a fire in a night club and 180 people died. So laws were passed and now it’s much harder to have a fire in a night club. And its much harder to build a building – guess how that will affect us.

Now, I’m not saying we don’t need some rules but what I am saying is this: What has happened to change the hearts of people who started that fire?

Do they love money less? Have they become less greedy and more loving of people?

Laws address the exterior or shell of people but they don’t penetrate to the interior of a person.

Listen, to me. The answer to our world problems – and they are many – Iraq, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, North Korea, and the list goes on and on – is not more rules, more United Nation Security Council Resolutions, or more treaties.

The answer is not political because the problem is not political – it is an issue of the heart and only Jesus addresses the heart.

None of these ways work – not religion, not spirituality, and not secularism. The only way that works for a life of peace, contentment and joy is the way of God.

Godly People are Transformed by Christ

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

Jesus is the reality not the shadow of reality

Jesus is the object of our worship

Jesus is the law.

He doesn’t make the law – he is the law!

Jesus transforms life…

Look at what happens to you when you follow Jesus…

The Transformed Life

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry…”

Col 3:5-11

Jesus loves you the way you are and at the same time he gently but firmly requires that we change.

The church word is “repentance” and it is the change of heart that leads to the change in life.

Look at the rest of this passage as it describes the transformed life.

Unclean lips become clean as rage, anger, and filthy language gives way to a loving and encouraging presence.

Liars and deceptive people are transformed into truthful and loving images of the creator God on earth as they put into practice His ways.

There is no more racism or attitudes of superiority because we’re all one in Jesus.

We bear one another’s burdens.

The peace of Jesus dwells in us.

The word of Christ fills us with praise and gratitude

Wives stand by their husbands

Husbands love their wives

Children obey their parents

Father’s don’t exasperate their children

Employee’s (Paul calls them slaves!) do good work for their masters (bosses!)

Bosses (Masters!) treat their employees right.

The Godly Way

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

Col 3:15

All this and more happens when we follow God’s way of living – that is a life devoted to following the law of God – His name is Jesus!

How about you? How about today!