Self-Made Religion

Tuesday, January 31, 2017, 11:16 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Sheep.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Colossians 2 (Select vv. NASB).

Walk in Him (vv. 6-7)

Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

So, how do we walk in Him? Well, first of all, to walk has to do simply with how we live our lives each day, day in and day out. It has to do with lifestyle and with how we conduct our lives 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But, this isn’t just about behavior, but it is about heart, attitude, words, faith, mind, emotion and body, i.e. our whole being. What or who guides (directs) what our minds are given over to, or what words we speak, or our attitudes about life and about God? You know that what we truly believe about God, about life, and about ourselves will be reflected in how we behave and in the words we speak. And, this isn’t something we put on or take off depending on who is around us or what day of the week it is, either. This is about how we live our lives consistently no matter where we are or who we are with.

So, what does it mean to walk in Him? “In Him” means in Christ, so if we walk in Christ, it means we live (conduct) our lives according to Christ and his divine character, and according to his teachings (his instructions for us). If he is Lord of our lives, then he is master-owner of our lives and we are his bond-servants. This means he is boss, not us, and we are here to do what he says, not what we want. So, is that the reality of the situation in our lives? Do our lifestyles reflect that Jesus is truly Lord (owner-boss) of our lives? Do we live to do what pleases him, or do we live to do what pleases us? I think it might be easy to forget, if we are in Christ, that it means he is living within us in the person of the Holy Spirit, so he is always with us. But, what if you could see him in the flesh right next to you every day, would you do anything differently? I think most of us would have to say “Yes.”

Deceptive Philosophy (v. 8)

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

So, if we are going to walk (in lifestyle) in Christ, in accord with what we know of him and his divine character and his Word to us, then daily we need to be drinking in his Word, not the World. The vast majority of American (professing) Christians seem to spend much more time consuming the World than they do the Word of Christ, thus their attitudes, behaviors, thinking, reasoning and values often reflect the world more so than they reflect Christ. And, it seems most of them really have no concept or have little idea of what it means to truly walk in Christ day-by-day, because their minds are continually being inundated with the world via TV, video games, secular music, movies, the internet, social media and the like. And, smart phones in the hands of even children is making this so much more accessible.

But, you know, it isn’t just via the world that Christians are being influenced to follow the ways of the world, but this is happening in the churches, too. So many of today’s church congregations here in America have adopted the ways of the world in order to win the world, but not to Christ, but to their “churches,” i.e. to their human-made religious institutions and businesses. Yet, if we are truly going to win people to Christ, then we need to do it God’s way, not man’s way. When men (and women) determine how to attract the world to the church, this isn’t about building God’s heavenly kingdom, but it is about kingdom building here on earth, and it is about making followers of men, not of God. And, all too often the gospel of Christ is, thus, diluted in order to appeal to and be acceptable to the people of the world. And, this should not be.

For in Christ (vv. 9-15)

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

If our faith is truly in Jesus Christ, then our lives should be about HIM, not about the world and not about us, nor about entertaining ourselves. Americans are way too pleasure driven, and even the church is teaching people that they need to have “fun,” and if the church isn’t “fun” that we should, then, go someplace where it is. Of course, this is under the assumption that the “church” is a place and a business and an institution rather than it being the body of Christ, i.e. the people of God. But, the real church isn’t a place or a building or an organization or a business, but it is people who believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) of their lives.

And, if Jesus truly is our Lord, then we should be about him and his business rather than about living our lives the way we choose to live them. And, we also need to see that faith in Jesus Christ is not about joining a particular religion or becoming members of or being baptized into a particular church denomination. When we believe in our Lord, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). I believe this is the true meaning of baptism of the Spirit, when by the Spirit we die with Christ to sin and we are resurrected with Christ to new lives in Him, to be lived to his holiness and righteousness, and that our water baptism is an outward symbol of what has already taken place in our hearts, which is why immersion, if it can be done, does the best job of symbolizing this.

If You Have Died (vv. 20-23)

If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

In context, this passage of scripture is referring to legalistic practices, i.e. to that which is man-made and is external, not of the heart, such as was practiced by the Pharisees. This is NOT referring to the scriptures which teach us to not lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, and gossip, etc., although there are those teachers who would like to convince you that you no longer have to obey Christ’s commands (his instructions to us), but that is not what the Bible teaches us. This is talking about Christians who were being led to believe that they had to follow Old Covenant laws with regard to such externals as food, drink, religious celebrations, circumcision, the Sabbath, etc. or that they had to obey man-made rules regarding ceremonial washings, etc. Yet, most or all of “these are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (v. 17).

Yet, we can go through all kinds of religious practices, ceremonies, rites and rituals and it have absolutely no effect whatsoever on our spiritual lives and moral purity. And, this includes attending services at an institutional church once a week, or doing a church ministry, or volunteering in a homeless shelter, etc. Externals don’t change the internal. Only Jesus Christ, via his blood shed on our cross for our sins, can change our hearts and make us new creatures in Christ, and can empower us of his Spirit to walk in Christ in holiness, righteousness and moral purity. Yet, we have to be willing recipients of his grace to us by submitting ourselves to his lordship over our lives, and in allowing him to transform our hearts away from living to sin and self and toward following after Jesus Christ and his righteousness.

Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, take up his cross daily and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life with God. Paul reiterated Jesus’ words when he said that if we walk according to our flesh, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity). As well, we read in scripture that God’s grace is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and remorse, but his grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return. And, Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:24).

My Sheep / An Original Work / June 24, 2012
Based off John 10:1-18 NIV

My sheep hear me. They know me.
They listen to my voice and obey.
I call them and lead them.
They know my voice, so they follow me.
They will never follow strangers.
They will run away from them.
The voice of a stranger they know not;
They do not follow him.

So, I tell you the truth that
I am the gate, so you enter in.
Whoever does enter
Will find forgiveness and will be saved.
Nonetheless whoever enters
Not by the gate; other way,
He is the thief and a robber.
Listen not, the sheep to him.

Oh, I am the Good Shepherd,
Who laid his own life down for the sheep.
I know them. They know me.
They will live with me eternally.
The thief only comes to steal and
Kill and to destroy the church.
I have come to give you life that
You may have it to the full…

They know my voice, so they follow me.

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