Summary: Using Colossians 2:11-17 as a basis, Dave looks into the second of three spiritual dangers, this one being religious legalism.
Keeping First Things First: Resisting Rules
Jesus, Post-Resurrection part 4
Wildwind Community Church
May 14, 2006
In the first 10 verses of Colossians Paul confronts a danger that would keep believers from standing firm in their faith – that danger is what Paul called empty philosophies. We discussed that last week. This week I want to move on to the second danger Paul points out, which is what he calls religious legalism.
Now unless you are pretty familiar with the Bible, parts of this are really going to be confusing for you, so please just absorb what you can and wait for me to answer your questions – I think I already know what they are!
Text is 2:11-17, but we’ll start in verse 9 to get us into it.
Colossians 2:9-17 (NIV)
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 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, 12 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.
13 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, 14 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. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
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.
There are few drives stronger in human beings than the drive to know the rules. Even people who hate rules want to know what they are so they can break them!
Rules tell us our limits. They give us boundaries. They secure some of us against a suspicion we have that there’s something in us that might rage out of control were the rules not clearly laid down, along with the consequences for breaking them.
When new people come to this church for the first time, they have this vague sense of discomfort, despite how hard we try to make them feel comfortable. Whether they understand this or not, that discomfort comes from not knowing the rules. Rules tell us what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Rules let us know what kinds of things will help us fit in, and what kinds of things will mark us as outcasts. Rules draw lines of comfort and safety and familiarity around us. Rules tell us what things are done, and how, and when, and by whom, and where, and how often. Rules tell us what things are NOT done so we know what to avoid so we don’t end up feeling foolish. What do I do with my chair after service? What do I do with my children when I get here? How should I dress for church?
People in our culture are instinctively nervous around those who do not respect the rules. Rule-breakers and rule-haters make people feel insecure and unsafe. Rule-breakers and rule-haters often wind up either as criminals or as visionary leaders: this includes both good ones – like Martin Luther King, and evil ones, like Hitler. It’s not unusual that they wind up dead, like say Martin Luther King or Hitler. Or Jesus. People are suspicious of rule-breakers. We need to know what to think and how to think, and the rules help us know that. So we don’t know what to think about people who don’t seem to respect the rules.
The human need for rules is so deep that everywhere humans go, they make rules. Our legislature debates and creates new laws every day in this country. The answer to every problem seems to be to draft a law that will make something else against the rules.
You take two people stranded on a desert island where there are no governments, no rules, no laws – nothing telling them what to do. I assure you that within a day or two, they have drawn lines around their own possessions, or drawn a line to divide the land in half, or set up rules for who hunts for food on what days. Human society could not survive without rules. The need for rules comes from our instinct to survive.