COLOSSIANS 2:16-19: “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. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” (ESV
OBSERVATION: Beware of “religion”! Webster defines “religion” as – “the belief in a god or in a group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods; an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group.” Within itself, there is nothing wrong with the concept of religion – except one thing. Christianity is not a “religion” – it is a “relationship” with the living God. It is not based on a code of rules and dogmas. It is based on one thing and one thing only – JESUS CHRIST!
When we fall prey to questions about dietary laws, special observances of days, debates about the Sabbath, a preoccupation with angels, or a methodology that is needed to receive from God – we have fallen into the “religious pit”. It is a trap that leads us right back into a “works” oriented relationship with God. The result is personal failure and condemnation, or worse yet, a judgmental and critical spirit that flows from a false sense of spiritual superiority. In essence, it is falling prey to a modern day version of “Phariseeism”.
Every church and every Christian is susceptible to this subtle and damaging trap. We all begin well, but the temptation to rely on a system we devise and create is very tempting. The real struggle is who will have the preeminence. Paul reminds them – “…but the substance belongs to Christ.” He is the Head, the Chief Cornerstone, the Rock on which we stand. The reality of our Christian faith is simply – Christ alone, Christ in me – the hope of glory! A proper interpretation of God’s Word will always lead us back to a full dependence on Jesus Christ. When we begin to move away from the centricity of Jesus Christ in all things – we are headed to the pitfall of “religion”.
Paul warns us to watch out for those who have the form of “godliness”, but deny the power. He says – “From such turn away!” (II Timothy 3:5). Whenever we begin to develop an attitude that is JESUS + (fill in the blank), we are racing toward the pitfall of “religion”. Religion can never set us free. Paul warns the Colossians – “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 2:23 ESV) In other words – “religion” looks good, but it can’t help you get free from the power of sin. There is only one who can – Jesus Christ through His completed work on the Cross! Our faith is about relationship with Jesus – period!
Lord, this morning help me to look to Jesus Christ and Him alone! Let me lay down all the trappings of “religion” that have begun to encroach my life and let me return once again to my “first love” with Jesus. With child-like faith I come to You today. In Jesus Name!