People who say they are not religious do not realize that everyone is. Everyone worships something or follows a philosophy of life that is like serving a god or an idol. Even the dictionary says religion is “a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.” Whatever it might be, it usually boils down to the words of Sinatra’s hit song, “I did it my way.”
When someone say things like, “I don’t need God” or “I don’t need religion” they are echoing Sinatra. However, many have no idea that “doing it my way” fits a biblical description of sin. This one is found in the Old Testament and also says what God did with it:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him (refers to Jesus) the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6, comment is not in the text)
I know how easy it is to turn my own way. I’m continually bombarded with Ideas of how to run my life, constantly needing the Word of God to remind me that God’s ways are higher than my ways and His ways lead to peace and joy that glorify Jesus Christ — while mine are designed merely to benefit myself.
It is thought that Colossians was written because of the same problem in the lives of believers in that city. They were being bombarded by those ‘do it yourself’ ideas regarding how to live, ideas that became ‘rules’ or regulations by which they measured themselves. Paul told them:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled (generously supplied) in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:8–10, comment from a Bible dictionary)
They had Christ and were generously supplied with all that comes with knowing Him. Why turn back to relying on themselves? For these Christians, it seemed to be a matter of peer pressure . . .
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. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 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)
Some were passing judgment on them. “You should do this . . . or that” appealing to the sinful desire to “do it my way” and pulling them into a life of rules. They needed to realize that those rules and regulations from their former way of life were given by God to point them to Christ, to a greater reality, a greater standard. The rules showed them they could not overcome sin. They needed Jesus to forgive their sin, but also gave them perfection, a perfection they could live out by relying on Him in faith for everything.
Christianity is not a DIY religion. It is trusting Jesus for everything from ideas to the ability to carry them out. Rules might make a person seem to be ‘religious.’ Rules are also the reason many deny that they are religious because they don’t want rules. Either way, lives are not changed by rules or by avoiding them. Only Jesus Christ can change who we are!
It takes courage to say no to peer pressure. It also takes faith. Do I really believe that following Jesus will give me an exceptional and satisfying life? The only way to prove it is to do it.
Today is an ordinary vacation day. We are driving to a place we’ve been before, sight-seeing and relaxing. What will following Jesus mean today? In my selfishness, I could be a back-seat driver, be picky about the roads we take, the places we stop, the food we eat, and generally a (nasty word) person. Jesus puts joy in my heart, laughter in my soul, agreeableness in mind, smiles on my face. He stops the indulgence of the flesh and gives life a lift. Yes, I am religious — not based on lists of “You must do . . . and don’t do . . . .” but based on the Savior who lives in me.
Jesus, how very thankful I am for You. Far better than rules, You simply set me free from the tyranny of selfishness, from the insistence I must do it my way, into a life that is filled with abundant love, joy, peace and good things. Yes, we have trials and I get tested with temptations and setbacks, but You are always with me, gently getting me back on track. Thank You for the freedom of being Your child!
Today’s thankful list . . .
No rules, just One who rules my life with grace.
A long, lovely trip up the coast and back.
Good food at a place where goats live on the roof and eat the grass up there.
Safety on the road.
A happy fatigue.
Salt-free potato chips.