When Strivings Cease (Colossians 2:16-23)

February 5, 2023 | Brandon Cooper


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Go ahead, grab your Bibles open up the Colossians, chapter two Colossians chapter two, we’ll be starting in verse 16. And finishing up the chapter this morning, as you’re turning their parents. Do you ever feel hypocritical when talking to your kids? No. Good. I got no illustration. Now this is bad. We say all sorts of things to our kids that we don’t say to ourselves, okay, we don’t touch knives. Now, you know, the lighter is off limits. No, you can’t drive the car Brielle, things like that. So we’ve got rules for them and not for me in a lot of areas. Now, this is not really hypocritical. Of course, though, these are wise boundaries having to do with each child’s age and responsibility levels. In fact, as kids grow in responsibility, as they grow in wisdom, we usually take a stepping approach at a certain point, they’re gonna be able to use a butter knife, and then eventually even a sharp knife, we would take this stuff in Virginia, you know, you don’t want your kids to go from you may have no contact with the opposite sex to engagement, right, there should probably be some steps in there where they kind of learn how to engage with with people or your phone or something like that technology in general, even money and stuff, you know, little allowance gross in there, they get a checking account, they get a credit card at some point, all that kind of stuff, you see the idea, where’s not this shift from rules to no rules, the shift is from the folly of immaturity, to the wisdom of maturity. It’s very similar to the Christian life in a lot of ways, and especially even the relationship between the Christian and the law. So there are two errors we face when it comes to rules and regulations. And maybe even the way we think of the Old Testament law, to errors we face. And that’s true in a lot of parts of the Christian life that they’re kind of twin dangers are always reminds me of Luthers, great illustration of the drunk man on his horse, who was so worried about falling off the left side of the horse, that he fell off the right side. That’s kind of the danger we always have here. So when it comes to rules, what are the left and the right sides that we could fall off the horse, on the one hand, we could fall into libertinism, which is that there are no rules. We’re saved by grace through faith. And so it doesn’t matter what we do. So go do whatever you want. We love to sin, God loves to forgive all that good stuff. That would be an error. Of course, the other side of the horse is legalism. Legalism, which says What if we just kept all the rules, because if we keep all the rules, then people are going to do what they should do. Now, you got to know that we all lean in one direction or the other. Thank you, you’re all good on the horse kind of slightly tipped to one side. And it’s good to know which side you lean toward the heretics. in Colossae, that Paul is addressing in this letter, they leaned towards legalism. That means by the way, that we’re gonna be addressing legalism today. So there’s some things I’m gonna say, we’re gonna go, what about the balance, I’m not gonna get all the balance. I’ll try to get in there. But just be aware of that as I’m talking. So the Colossians lean toward legalism that we need the law still, maybe the way we would put it is that Jesus gets us started, but the law gets us home. That’s the danger that they were facing. That is a constant temptation for us even still today. Maybe if not Old Testament law. Maybe you don’t have people in your life saying, you really should keep kosher. But what it is the temptation is to trust in the flesh, to trust in your own deeds. you’re striving for salvation or even earning salvation by what you do. Why does this matter? I mean, what’s wrong with a few extra rules and regulations? If they kind of keep it you know, it’s good little boundaries kind of thing. We’re being extra careful. Paul’s gonna point out three danger areas why this matters. So we’re gonna look at the three danger areas in turn, and we’ll kind of pull it all together at the end then. So the first danger area is dangerous D verses 16 and 17. Let me read them for us now. 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. These are a shadow of the things that were to come. The reality, however, is found in Christ. The therefore points us back points us back to what Paul said what we looked at last week, especially verse eight, where Paul says, See to it that no one takes you captive through basically this empty teaching. What Paul is doing now in this section today is exposing the would be captors now that he’s shown us Christ superiority to their teaching. So remember where we ended last week, or if you weren’t here? Here’s where we ended last week. We need a spiritual and not a physical remedy to our problems. Paul uses the language of circumcision. It’s not a circumcision done by human hands. We need a spiritual circumcision of circumcision of the heart, we need the spiritual remedy and we have it in Christ. So in light of that, don’t let anyone judge you. Paul says, Don’t let anyone judge you don’t let anyone take you to task or make you feel guilty or somehow lesser because of mere externals. Like food and drink. Notice, by the way, Paul does not say Don’t let anyone judge you for your adultery. Don’t let anyone judge you for your murder. No, no, no, we got that like read Corinthians where we talked about people falling off the other side of the horse. And we got some issues there. He’s talking about mere externals, like food and drink. So don’t let anyone tell you, you got to keep kosher, or whatever you do, make sure you don’t eat food that might have been sacrificed to idols, or drink most likely, then as now we’re talking about fermented drink, we’re talking about alcohol. You know, there’s some super spiritual people in the Old Testament called Naza rites who abstained from it, maybe you should do that too. Or special days, like the Jewish festivals, the new moon celebrations at the first moon of each month very important for keeping the calendar or even the Sabbath. We know by the way that we’re talking about the Jewish law here because the Sabbath only exists in the Jewish law. So that’s, that’s what’s being talked about. Paul saying, don’t, don’t go back to that this is this is going backwards. If you turn from the grace of receiving Christ to this, the law was meant to guide us like a schoolmaster until Christ came. But then Christ came to set us free. Paul talks about this at length in Galatians. Here’s Galatians, four, nine and 10 makes almost the exact same point. But now that you know God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? The same elemental forces that he keeps talking about here in Colossians? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again, you are observing special days and months and seasons and years? It’s the same idea. Why are you keeping these things that you don’t need to keep? That’s a turning from grace to law? It is shifting from done, it is finished, done to do you better earn this? Why would anyone do that? It’s a question we actually need to ask ourselves because like I said, this is a constant temptation. Why would we do that? Why would we turn back to law? Well, it’s makes sense, actually, because it puts us back in the driver’s seat. What it allows us to do, I hope this makes sense to you. It allows us to quantify our spiritual lives, which we love. How are you doing? When it comes to loving people? You know, I got an 86 this I don’t know where does a hard question. How many quiet times did you have this week? Who seven out of 700%.
I am an A plus student we love to quantify our spiritual lives. The problem, of course, is that that breeds pride in our relationship to ourself, and judgment in our relationship to others, like we’ve been studying the work of the Spirit in Journey groups, minority groups there anyway, I know a lot of Journey groups are in a similar spot. And we talked about this our first week, at least minority group that the whole study of the Spirit is it’s a hard because it’s so subjective, because it is relationship with a person. But keeping the law is easy, because those are just boxes that we can check. Am I good in God’s eyes? Sure. Yeah, I read my Bible. I showed up to church this morning, congratulations to all of you. And you know, I dropped my kids at Awana or youth group I, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t play cards, whatever it is start to fill the stuff in. So the question though is, why are those sorts of deeds? If divorced from true spiritual life? That’s a really important qualifier, by the way, like, it is a good thing to come to church, it is a good thing to read your Bible. Absolutely. But not if we’re depending on them for our salvation. So why are those sorts of deeds so dangerous if they’re divorced from true spiritual life? First, they’re bad for your relationship with God. Because that is a relationship. And the Bible frequently uses the metaphor of marriage to describe our relationship with God, that type of intimacy and union. Would you ever evaluate your marriage based on box checking? Did I send flowers this month? Did I say I love you at least three times this week? Have we been physically intimate? Boom, marriage is good. My wife found a bunch of boxes checked off like that in my journal or something like I’m gonna get yelled at next date night, date night, did it? Right. That’s not how you evaluate it. Same thing with the Lord, of course. Are you actually experiencing union with Christ intimacy with the Father? Well, that’s way harder to evaluate as bad for your relationship with God, because it reduces God to a box to be checked. Second, it’s bad for your relationship with others. Because you’re going to judge anyone who doesn’t measure up to your standard, because this is what righteousness looks like. I did it seven out of seven, I’m righteous. You went five out of seven. Less righteous if nothing else, it’s bad for the church as a whole. Our congregation. Why? Because it produces a joyless conformity, because we just keep rules instead of having the rich diversity of actual people experiencing this relationship in unique ways. And then it’s also fourth bad for you. Because you ignore the weightiest matters. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, love your neighbor as yourself. You ignore the weightiest matters because you’re too busy majoring in the miners. Did you ties on the amount of deal you grew in your garden this summer? Miners? And that produces a shallow self righteousness then, so that you could be and you may have met people like this proud, unloving, slanderous gossip who never shares the gospel, but hey, you don’t watch R rated movies? Do you see how that’s a little bit out of whack? Now, notice, Paul does not say that you can’t do these things. Paul does not say make sure you don’t celebrate any festivals. Make sure you’re having pork sausage so that you are not keeping kosher? No, of course, if you wanted to celebrate the Feast of Booths as a family, okay, if you want to abstain from alcohol for different reasons, okay. The issue is insisting that everyone else do what you do. That’s where we have problems. The spiritual standard in the new covenant is First Corinthians 1031. Whether you eat, whether you drink, whether you don’t, for that matter, to everything, to the glory of God. And then that produces a community standard that Paul expresses in Romans 14, five and six, one person considers one day more sacred than another, another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day a special does go to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does go to the Lord, they give thanks to God, and whoever abstains does go to the Lord and give thanks to God. What matters is the are you doing this? Because of your relationship with the Lord for His glory, giving thanks to him? Again, it’s not a shift from rules to no rules, the shift is from immature folly to mature wisdom. Now, some of you may be wondering, at this point, it maybe you’ve been asked this question before to like why don’t we have to keep the law anymore? Are we just cherry picking which parts of the Bible we actually pay attention to? How is that now we can eat shellfish and mow our lawn on Saturday and wear cotton polyester blends, all of which show up in the law. Paul tells us here it’s because those were a shadow cast by the coming reality is like the sun was behind. And so it was casting a shadow on us as it approached as Jesus himself approached. But you don’t want to just live in the shadow. It’d be a little bit like, you know, your parents get you tickets to see Les Miz. You know, come To town shortly for Christmas, and you are ecstatic. And you’ve got the ticket and you hold the ticket and you watch the trailer on YouTube, and you are so pumped. And when show day comes, you go No way. Because then I’d have to get my ticket up. And so you’re clinging to the ticket where you’re like, we gave you the ticket. So you could go to the show, so that you could have this experience, the ticket was not the present, the ticket was just pointing forward to the present. That’s what’s happened here, the reality, the substance, we got the ticket to see the show. The law was meant to lead us to Christ, to expose our sin and our need for a Savior, but the Savior has arrived. The reality is here Paul says that word reality are in bits translated a substance, the actual word that’s used there normally means body, like the physical body of Christ is here. And not only that, Paul has talked about this quite a bit already. We are now members of his body. So live in union with Him. That marriage relationship idea again, let the shadow go. So you can see these are dangerous deeds, indeed, if they will keep us from true spiritual life and harm just about every relationship we have. There’s more danger. So second, danger area dangerous delusions, let me keep reading verses 18 and 19. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen. They’re puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with a head from whom the whole body supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews grows as God causes it to grow. Alright, so this is the second danger. We know that Chris Paul starts the exact same way Do not let anyone but now instead of judge he says Do not let anyone disqualify you. And then he gives us this window into the Dangerous Mind here, the one who would seek to disqualify you and say, Well, you didn’t measure up what’s going on inside that mine? Well, this is somebody who delights in false humility, and the worship of angels. And those are actually related here in Colossi at least. So there’s this false modesty, this is like the original humblebrag. Okay, what’s happened is you’re good. These people, these heretics were standing up. And they’re pretty much saying, Wow, I mean, with all the spiritual visions, I’ve had my insight into the spiritual world, I know that I couldn’t possibly approach God directly. And so I need to go through his intermediaries, the angels. So it sounds very modest, but actually, it’s steeped in pride. And then involves us having this barrier between us and God, the barrier that Christ came to remove. What’s so dangerous here is that this person a assumes that there’s a higher level of spiritual spirituality that is attainable only by a special few, and a special few who follow their dictates. So they get all sorts of power. Now, it’s not hard to see why they would start to talk this way. They’ve made themselves invaluable. They’ve generated this cult following almost. And they can look down on others as well. So what’s happening here is the danger of what CS Lewis called the inner ring, in his talk by that name, the inner ring, there’s this desire to be on the inside. Because then, of course, you get to disdain those who are on the outside, you get to look down your noses at them. With the inner ring, we would do almost anything to get inside that ring. In fact, Lewis says, I don’t think he’s wrong about this. He says, it may be the primary reason why people who are not yet very bad people all of a sudden do very bad things.
To fit in with whatever group it is you’re hoping to belong to, I mean picture say a 12 year old boy who has a good relationship with his next door neighbor, you know, older gentleman who’s shown him out to you know, do woodworking, all that kind of stuff and whatnot. Why would that 12 year old ever throw a rock through that guy’s window? Probably only one reason. A group of 12 year old boys, pressuring him to do it. There’s the inner ring doesn’t ever go away. By the way, once you turn 18 or 25 or 52. It’s always there. Why do we have this temptation to the inner ring because it’s proof that we are something we belong? We’re on the inside. And since our performance as people always calls that into question, we have such fluctuating per For minces, we’re always like, do I actually measure up we love the false security that belonging to an inner ring offers us. So we can easily succumb to the dangerous delusions of false spiritual grandeur. I’m on the inside. It looks different today. I doubt if any of you are being tempted to worship angels right now. But it’s still here. And still in the church. Of course, it takes again, many different manifestations. It might have, like an ecstatic character, the people who are really close to God, they speak in tongues. That’s the proof. Nevermind that Paul explicitly says, Not everyone will speak in tongues in First Corinthians 12. That would be could be theological. You know, the people who are really spiritual, who really know their Bibles are superlab Syrians, you don’t even know what that means. You’re not on the inner ring. Okay. I don’t actually know what that means, either. But it is a theological term. So it’s theological. But we have this, you know, it comes out denominational and stuff. I mean, you want to be so careful, even in the crafting of a statement of faith to kind of go, here’s what you’re going to hear at this church, versus here’s what you need to believe. Those are different statements. To belong to Jesus, there is a core bit of doctrine. We settled out of it last year when we’re repeating the Creed’s. And then there’s some things we’ve got opinions about. We hold them humbly. You might get them here, but still theological, certainly, or could be even just emotionally and spiritual sorts of stuff. The people who really know God pray like this. And they’re the ones who get to say things like, Well, God told me and we have to listen because of their prayer life. So how do you recognize it? How do you recognize that you’re, you’re talking to somebody who’s got these delusions and trying to draw you into it. One is to look for that great detail. Even if it is couched in a humble brag, if somebody is always talking about the vitality of their spiritual life, or, or the effectiveness of their routines or whatever, watch out, maybe it’s in a discipleship relationship, where you’re just trying to go, Look, here’s what I do. That’s a totally different situation. You know that, right? You know, people who are always talking about what they do. And with the implication that they do it right, you just you’d want to be cautious because maturity, Christian maturity manifests in humility. Always. You would also want to watch out for those who disqualify others. Those who are constantly looking around going well, that’s not real Christians. That’s not real Christian. That’s not real Christian. That’s not real Christianity, for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned. Because the reality is, if I’ve understood this book, right at all, none of us qualifies. None of us qualifies. But Jesus passed the qualifying exam for us. That’s the good news, right. And that’s why sinners in the gospels, tax collectors, prostitutes, people like that. We’re entering the kingdom of God, long before the people who had the rules and regulations down, because they were still trying to qualify, and they knew they could never qualify. We got to be aware, we do need to be aware because we work so hard to look good in the eyes of others. And we do that, especially on Sunday mornings, don’t we? So you got to put that spiritual facade up. The church is meant to be a museum for saints, right? Not a hospital for sinners. It’s not It’s the opposite of won’t be clear anything, but that’s the the mentality we can bring into it. And so then we enslave ourselves with the shackles of others expectations, is we do anything to be inside the spiritual, inner ring. But you don’t need to fake it. You don’t need to delude yourselves, you can get into the most exclusive circle, fellowship with the Triune God himself if you come through Christ, but spiritual pride cuts us off from Christ. Right? It’s like separating the vine from the branch. How’s it going to grow? Isn’t that what Paul says? They’ve lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body grows as God causes it to grow. This the problem with trusting in ourselves and following these delusions is that we cannot make ourselves grow. Only God can do that. That’s why these are such dangerous delusions. Depending on our striving, it’s like, you know, you’re clutching the wheel of a ship that’s going down. You may be captain. You’re at the wheel, you’re in control. You’re gonna drive that thing right to the bottom of the ocean much better to reach for the lifeboat instead. Dangerous delusions third, dangerous area that is dangerous denials, verses 20. To 23. Since you died with Christ, the elemental spiritual forces of this world why as though you still belong to the world, you submit to its rules do not handle, do not taste, do not touch. These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with us are based on nearly 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. They lack any value and restraining sensual indulgence. So the last danger is the danger of asceticism, of denying things to yourself denying yourself certain foods or practices, the kind of stuff that you would still see again, maybe don’t rightly, maybe not practice in, you know, monasteries or something like that, when you’re taking a vow of silence of our poverty, whatever else it may be. What Paul saying is, here is such denials have the appearance of wisdom, and certainly a mature look what I’ve given up, surely I’m gonna exempt an example of holiness. But not at all, Paul says this may actually inhibit your holiness, depending on the spirit in which they’re done. The problem again, is imposing these rules on others. Absent the command of God, we can’t insist that others follow our practices. Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch. This is teaching as the commands of God What are really just the precepts of people. Let’s take us back to verse eight. By the way, see, to the no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depend on human tradition, and not on Christ. What’s the same thing here? These rules are based on merely human commands and teachings. If we needed these commands to attain true holiness, God would have given them to us. So why would we listen? Well, it’s because we don’t always trust God, do we? Okay, verse 21, here’s a great little historical note, do not handle do not taste Do not touch was the title of a temperance him during the prohibition movement? The stuff that Paul’s going, why would you listen to people who say this, people started singing in church? While they insisted that people follow their rules and regulations, we don’t trust God, because we think we know better. And that’s the main issue. Ultimately, it’s a question of itself will rather than surrender to God, we want to do religion on our terms. Why would you do this? Why would you take the yoke of slavery on you again, spiritually speaking, simply because it gives us back control. That’s why, like, I’m picking what to deny myself. And then I’m congratulating myself on having denied myself that who’s in charge me, who is deciding whether or not I’m righteous, me. So this is a self salvation project. And it’s pointless, because it deals with perishable things like food, once you eat the steak, the steak is gone. It’s destined to perish with us. That’s what Paul’s saying there. So why would you pay it so much attention? Why not rather focus on the imperishable, like the state of your soul? Especially, especially if these denials could end up being counterproductive? I’m gonna like so you think about how foolish these sorts of denials are? Let’s review quick so they’re taught by people, not by God. They’re focused on the perishable and not the eternal, and then they’re useless to do the very thing you’re seeking. They lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. Paul says
that raises a question doesn’t know you’re reading that going? Are you sure about this? Like I’ve just given up food and drink and sex and wealth that seems like I am actually restraining my senses, aren’t you, but what you haven’t given up yourself? In fact, you’re leaning into self at this point, which can so easily produce overweening pride. And pride is one of the most intractable works of the flesh, with CS Lewis called the chief sin. And pride, of course, produces a host of other sins that we’ve already met and that are very hard to root out of your life sins like judgment, and gossip and slander so that you become godless and loveless. I would say you have not restrained the flesh then. Here’s the way Jonathan Edwards put it he says spiritual pride is very apt to suspect others. Whereas a humble saint is most jealous of himself. He is so suspicious of nothing in this world as he is of his own heart. Now, you’re actually restraining himself. He goes on to say that you don’t worry about what your neighbor is doing, but there’s too much going on at home to judge or gossip about them. That’s the idea. Is it not to say that we never deny ourselves anything? Again, we gotta balance and this whole discussion. I mean, Jesus says things like when you fast in Matthew chapter six, so there’s the expectation there that we will at times deny ourselves food. So the question is why? Why do we deny ourselves, it’s a little bit like the diff between a student who’s already got an A, doing the extra credit because she loves the subject and wants to learn more. And a student who’s already got the doing the extra credit, because then she’ll have 102. And that makes her better than everyone else in the class and maybe smarter than teacher frankly. When you fast. When you memorize scripture, when you practice a discipline like silence, or solitude, do you do so to pursue intimacy with Jesus, or to impress yourself and others? Because if it’s the former that can help modify the flesh. But if it’s the latter, you’re just strengthening the sin in your life. Or when you insist that others fast or memorize or practice disciplines like silence and solitude, is this a loving encouragement for them to know Christ more? Or to puff yourself up and set the rule and the pace for others? If it’s the former, it’s an act of love that will make allowances for the spirits leading, but if it’s the latter, well shoot Paul’s talking about you in this passage. Denying yourself as a good and necessary thing, in Mark 834. If anyone wants to be my disciple, it must deny themselves take up their cross and follow Me. Clearly we’re going to deny ourselves plenty but again, the shift is not from rules to no rules, the shift is from immature folly to mature wisdom. And we have to know that there are dangerous denials that cause the flesh to grow. So what’s the alternative? Then? What’s the alternative? It’s the first half of verse 20, which I pretty much skipped. Instead of these dangerous denials, or dangerous delusions or dangerous deeds, we have delightful death. Delightful death. We’re talking about death to the old self, which we talked quite a bit about last week in which baptism pictures you dyed your old self erased a new life in Christ. But death to the old self also means death to the old rules, death, severs bonds and severs our commitments, our covenants, there’s no stronger human covenant than marriage. And yet, we are free to remarry after death. So with avoiding Val even says, till death do us part. In the same way, death severs the bond between a subject and his master. We have a new master, now, we’ve died to the old way of doing things. And we’ve now been raised to life in Christ with Christ, we died to the elemental spiritual forces of the world. Remember, I told you last week, that’s the the ABCs. It’s literally the word for the alphabet, the old way of doing things. The old way of doing things, by the way, is quid pro quo. I do this and then God has to do this for me. We know that it’s elemental. Because it’s what every man made. Religion does and teaches if you do X, you will get why. Whatever salvation looks like you’re in the driver’s seat, but then Jesus comes in everything changes. It’s not If you do x, you get y, but because he did x, you get y through faith in Him because He took your place you can take his and that is so freeing, in contrast to the rest, all of which enslave us to seasons, or laws or people or whatever it may be, we can at last lay our striving down our attempts to earn salvation. We saying this last week, Martin Luther did we in our own strength confide are striving would be losing. So there’s another option. Don’t trust in yourself and your own strength, confide. And then what joy when strivings cease that’s why I say delightful death. It is a delight. We died with Christ. So we died to the old way of doing things the world in the flesh have no more power over us because Christ has power over them and we now belong to Him. So here’s the main idea. Let’s put it together. All of what Paul has been teaching us is very simple, but hard to do still, since You died. Live Free, since you died, Live Free, free from dangerous deeds and dangerous delusions and dangerous denials free instead to walk in the Spirit, mature wisdom where you can handle knives with care, because you’ve learned how to do it in him. What does this look like practically? Just in closing, let me speak to four groups. This is a warning passage. So we’re going to end on a note of warning here like these are the things we want to watch out for these four groups first to speak into Christians, which I know as most of you hear the warning is, why would you go back? Why would you go back? Nest Paul’s question, really, we need to know how to withstand the temptation to go, going back to trusting in ourselves, can we would go back because it gives us control that self well, we don’t like to depend on God. We like to depend on ourselves and obligate God by our deeds, don’t do it. Okay, watch out, don’t do it. If for no other reason, than your fluctuating performance is always going to lead you to despair or pride. And those are both bad things. But also, because it will strengthen your sin nature. And that’s dangerous. That then leads into second group, which is the church. So let’s think of the Christians but collectively, like here in this room, how what do we need to watch out for we need to watch out for this legalism, fundamentalism creeping back in to our culture, we love an inner ring. And the church can be at its worst, a great inner ring. We’ve got walls between us and them. And that’s the mentality, it creates an us versus them thing. We see this, for example, the rise of the religious right, in the 80s. And on from, they’re very much an us versus them mentality. What do we talk about a lot today, a culture war. You think it produces a lot of love towards the people who disagree with you culturally, if you hear yourself at war with them? No, probably not. But we got to watch out for a church culture that teaches human traditions as law. I’ve seen this in different churches, some of the areas that just come to mind off the top of my head, one would be schooling, like really godly people homeschool their kids, or send them to a Christian school, or send them to a public school so that they can be on mission. I’ve seen all three of those by the way, or maybe it looks like an approach to dating, or denominational lism. We’ve talked about that. One way to see if this is true for church culture is if we’re willing to die on every hill, then we are certainly guilty of the unspiritual mind that Paul talks about here, some things don’t matter, they don’t matter. Now, I realize some of you might have grown up in this kind of culture. And maybe it was different sorts of things. Again, alcohol media cards, some of you were probably hurt by it, I’m tapping into something deep here. Some of you might be hurt that I’m talking about this, because you kind of miss the good old days. I don’t want to be aware of that as well. But what happens is, we look back on a lot of human traditions that were forbidden to a church culture with kind of a bemused moment, almost, if there isn’t a lot of hurt there. We don’t want people looking back on us with that same hurt and amusement. Because we want to be wise that whatever we do, we do it to the glory of God, not from rules to no rules, but moving towards mature wisdom. Now, on the flip side, because some of you are congratulating yourselves, because you’re not part of the church, and the church has all of these issues we
certainly do. So let me speak to skeptics, for a moment. Skeptics, this is not just a problem with the religious or the right. You can see this among humanists, and on the left, it’s there for everybody. Why? Because it is sin and like all sin, it is endemic. There is a whole list of rules today, I could start naming rules. They vary by subculture, though I don’t want to get them all into all of it. But you know, political and cultural views. I could write a 10 secular commandments very easily. And every one of you would nod your heads going Yep, that is what’s taught today. We’ve seen a lot of this just recently, like the pandemic brought that out, for sure your view of masking your view of vaccines, like these were inner rings sorts of discussions, weren’t they? Everybody loves an inner ring. Everybody is trying to save themselves to justify themselves before God, or even just before other people, and especially in our own minds. But it problem is it doesn’t work because it produces hate. Because the only way to get yourself inside is to make sure there are people outside and then you are good and they are bad. You cannot save yourself because you need to be saved from yourself. That’s why God came to save us. And the good news there then is there’s no ladder we need to climb because none of us could climb it. So Jesus came down the ladder. In fact, Jesus says He is the ladder. Last group, then parents. Why am I ending with parents because I think the most tempting place to set up a law is in the home. No knives, no ladders. Again, some of this is because it makes sense. Like, there are good rules to have in place while your children are growing in wisdom. Absolutely. But don’t try to use the law to change your kids spiritually. Don’t try to change them by guilt, or by bribery. Only the gospel can change hearts. And only a changed heart can produce a changed life. So check for the hidden curriculum in your home, where what you’re really teaching is you need to follow these rules if you want to be right with Jesus. I had someone say to me just recently, you know, gotta read my Bible because I don’t want to go to hell. Nope, that’s not right. That’s not right. I have never said that. This is not what we should be hearing. But man, we go there quickly, don’t we? So we got to watch out for that temptation. We don’t preach law. We don’t go back to if you do this, you get this we preach Christ and Him crucified and US crucified with him. There’s that delightful death, death to self death, the self will and self salvation, and the self love that that produces whether that comes out in self loathing, or hatred of others, or pride, death to self because we’ve been raised to new life in Christ, the fullness of life in Christ finished work. All the dues have been done, since you died, live free and Christ free to love God free to love your neighbor, because he already loves you to the end, let’s pray. Lord, how grateful we are that our salvation is by grace, and not by our effort, because we know our efforts could never get us there. All our striving would be losing. And yet, Lord, as much as we love grace, and sing about grace on Sunday mornings, we recognize the temptation within us to practice law, and to teach law to insist on law to those around us. Keep us from that temptation. Deliver us from that evil. Let us rest in the grace that you have given us in Christ, let us rest in His finished work. And allow that grace to change us as you have promised it will, so that we lead new lives. We do not remain unchanged. But we lead new lives in you and not in our own strength. And will we pray for our church as well that you would protect us as a culture from this sort of mentality? Because we know it will creep in. We know that there are hostile forces that would try and get us off target would you keep us fixed on the gospel fixed on Christ and Him crucified? And proclaiming that message to ourselves to our kids and to a world in desperate need of it? We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen

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