More than "appearances".

This week's devotional is from Pastor Jeff Mazzariello.

ENCOUNTER:  Read Colossians 2:16-23

"Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value..." - Col. 2:23

The Apostle Paul's whole point in this passage is to keep the church at Colossae from getting confused and off-track since some new teachers were putting a "trip" on them about what it really meant to be "religious."  He reminds the church that the work of Christ has been sufficient -- sufficient to make us righteous in the sight of God; sufficient to change our nature from dead to spiritually born again; sufficient to lead and guide us into how we should, then, live.  No more is needed.  There is no magic formula of practices, experiences, or observances that finally qualifies one as religious enough.  No particular way of practicing Christianity is THE SECRET.  All that has ever been needed is to receive the free gift of forgiveness offered through the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross... AND then to remain connected to him as he leads us and changes us from the inside out. (Col. 2:19).

BE REFLECTIVE:

One of the ever present temptations for the Colossians, as it is for us, is to impose on ourselves some system of religious activity that makes us feel like we are being godly.  In the short term these activities feel satisfying to our human need for control and approval.  The approval of others is deeply embedded in our religious activity because somehow we feel better about ourselves if our appearance is such that we think others would respect us or be impressed by us.  We are also looking for self-validation; that is, our religious appearances make us feel good about ourselves, even if they are merely externals without our heart having to be engaged with the living God.  These are most often fairly unconscious dynamics, but God's Word through Paul to the Colossians is a welcomed bright light on our souls that exposes this empty way of living.  The text says that this kind of "religion" has the appearance of being the key to pleasing God, but it is in fact without value for our journey of relationship and growth with God.  Our call is to remain connected to him and follow what he says to do.  No more.  No less.

Are you able to identify any religious "appearances" that you are tempted to maintain, either for your own validation or for the approval of others?

If you were totally honest with yourself and God, how would you characterize your connection to Jesus?

What kinds of things help you stay connected to him?  What puts you in the place where the Holy Spirit can lead you and change you?

Right now, spend just a few minutes in the presence of your savior, Jesus, and ask him to free you from any religiosity that might be only the appearance of godliness. And ask him, in exchange, for true confession, leading, and transformation.

BE A BLESSING:

If you are willing to drop your mask of looking religious, then you will instantly be a breath of fresh air to everyone near you.  They all need something deeper than a religious system to follow.  Who around you needs to be reminded that Jesus is enough?  Maybe you can engage that person in empathy by sharing your imperfection, and together you can talk about what it looks like to fall down before the God of mercy and forgiveness.  At the very least, why not ask the Lord for a chance to drop your mask and confess your brokenness and utter need for Jesus with one other person this week.

BE TOGETHER:

When we gather on Sunday (or in your small-er group this week) be mindful of the way in which you might be tempted to convey a "together" or "religiously victorious" persona. Take the risk to drop the mask to let your real self be seen.  One who needs Jesus, one who is striving to connect to Jesus, and one who most definitely does not have it all together.  It will remind others to stop their religious self-effort, their hiding, and their beating themselves up.  That will make you a minister of the Good News, which is what we can be to each other.