Summary: Colossians tells us that rules and regulations have no power to make us moral... but does that make sense? Yes, and the reason may amaze you.
OPEN: 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.
ILLUS: 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?