Thursday, April 30, 2015

Condemned in the Shadows

Thursday, April 30, 2015
You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away.  Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins….Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things.  Their sinful minds have made them proud, and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body.  For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.  Colossians 2:13, 18-19 (NLT)
Paul told the church body gathered at Colossae that the forgiveness of God is extended to whoever places his/her faith in Jesus; it is free because of God’s mercy and grace.  That “transaction” releases us from the ultimate penalty of sin – eternal death, which is final separation from God. 
And then Paul reminds them to not be intimidated by those who want to take them back to their “pre-Christ days” – rules, ceremonies, schedules and rituals.  He said those things are only shadows of the reality which is in our future. 
This is joy unspeakable, and full of glory!  Condemned in the shadows, we are freed by the future!  Set free, we are free indeed!
But let us be quick to point out that Paul never said that since we are free we can now do anything we want.
No…far from it!  Notice the last part of Paul’s instructions about those who are connected to the head of the church – Christ:
For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.    Colossians 2:19 (NLT)
A body that decides to do whatever it wants would be unable to sustain.  Legs that decide to be noses, or fingers that want to be kidneys, will not function to make the body healthy.  God wants to nourish and strengthen the body of Christ, but we must embrace that nourishment as we were meant to live.
And so that requires different than just rules, permission-giving leaders and ceremonies; it requires the body to be integrated, congruent – held together in the kind of koinonia or relationship that allows and supports each member to thrive.
In his letter to the Ephesian church Paul explained it this way:
He makes the whole body fit together perfectly.  As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.  Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)
Rules and laws are never for the peaceful person of integrity; they’re intended to keep the lawless ones in check.  Law is intended to keep the rioters off the streets. 
The older I get the more convinced I am that the royal law of love cannot be litigated.  God needs Christian lawyers, certainly, but you cannot bring a conscience to justice with externals; it’s an inside job
God gave each of us created beings free will.  And because the gifts and calling of God are without repentance[2] God also refuses to violate that free will by making us conform our will to His; that is entirely an act of volition, a voluntary response to the loving acts of God in Jesus Christ on the cross. 
The logic follows that you can use the free will you were born with any way you….will.
If you want to exercise that will to please the Creator (as you were hard-wired to do), you surrender it back to Him, and let God use you to be a blessing. 
In The Lion King, Mufasa, the daddy lion-king, pointed to the way the animals eat each other and eventually return to the ground as food for the next generation.  He told his son, Simba, the cub who would be the heir:  it’s the circle of life.
With respect to Disney…Mufasa got it wrong; that is the circle of death - the circle of life is when the humans love other humans and by it they honor God.

For You Today

Mufasa got one thing right; he warned Simba to stay far away from the place of shadows. 

So right! 

Stay away from the condemning darkness; live in God’s light; it’s how God holds the body of Christ together and nourishes us.  That will see us home safely.

Think about that out on your rocky road today; and have a great day!

[1] Title image:  By Chitrapa at English Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons
[2] Romans 11:29

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