Sunday, November 20, 2011

Empty Shadows (Colossians 2:16-23)

“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ… These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:16-23 ESV)

Every religion has at its core a means of assuaging guilt through behavior—either prescribing things to be done or prohibiting things that should be avoided. At their best they fall far short of doing anything to wash away wrongs that have been done; at their worst they are exercises in futility.

From the person who surrenders to God and repents, accepting the free gift of forgiveness and the life changing power that He provides any such religious action is an insult to everything He has done. To try to earn something that has been freely given is bad enough. To presume that the pathetic actions we are capable of could in any way afford such a costly gift is worse.

To be sure the believer is expected to be different from the world and from their former self. But the changes that occur in the life of the follower of Jesus are (super)natural. They are as a result of the new creation that has come to be and not of any religious practices. To impose rules and prohibitions on a new believer is a dangerous thing. They may lead the individual to understand that they are earning approval. Not only that, but they may convince someone who has not truly surrendered that they are in good standing with God based on their behavior alone.

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