"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."
Job 32:8

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Measure of Our Lives

We all have morals in life. Some differ vastly from one another, others are strongly in unity such as those found within the body of Christ, and I find, the more I talk with unbelievers, the more I realise that 99% of debates come down to differing morals and bases of truth.

I'm talking about where our values, our rules, our guidelines come from in life. Some choose to base it on experience, others on the teachings of other people and so on.

But, as Christians? There is one undeniable authoritative voice by which we must stand. Scripture. I'm not going to attempt to try to defend the infallibility of Scripture, that's a whole different topic, but I do want to share one beautiful verse found in Psalm 119.

Psalm 119:105 NIV says, "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."

Now, this light, it may not always seem to show five steps ahead in life, or three, or even two. But it always shows one, always directing us precisely where and what we need to do next. This is His Word, His spoken Word by which we live according to His will.

And, I like to think of daily Scripture reading like the manna God gave to the people of Israel while they were in the desert. We know how it goes: God rained down manna which was always sufficient for the people's needs.

But there was a catch: any manna leftover the next day would be old and gross. Try to have a romantic breakfast in bed with your wife from yesterday's manna? Sorry bro. The only exception was the Sabbath because of the restrictions placed on what was allowed during the Sabbath.

My point is this: we need to read Scripture daily because the verses we read yesterday aren't as fresh as they are today and we need that renewal of the Word in order to stay focused on Him.

The values on which Scripture is based are starkly contrasted with the world and the ways in which Satan hopes to control us. This brings the message to the central passage I want to focus on found in Colossians 2.

Colossians 2:20-23 NIV says, " Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 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 in restraining sensual indulgence.

Firstly, Paul authored a lot of the New Testament letters so its no surprise that he's one of the biggest preachers on the difference between living by the Law of the Old Testament and human regulations contrasted with life in Christ. One need only read through Romans to see how the Law brings death but Christ brings life.

And here we find Paul rebuking the Colossians for acting a though they still had to follow human regulations and restrictions given by others in order to live in a holy life.

But don't these commands sound all too familiar to us? "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!" This sounds not only like the Law, but mostly every other religion which places these values and limitations on their adherents in the hope of fulfillment, enlightenment or pleasing some idol.

But, before I get to the good part, I want to broaden this a bit and take this further than the Law. What about the rules that society places on us in order to be cool, or to fit in or to please others? Aren't these restrictions just as burdensome and aren't these restrictions far too common among Christians who try to fit in?

We are called to be separate from this world (John 15:19) and to be sanctified in the truth for His Word is true (John 17:17).

And yet, too often, we do fall into this trap of trying to please others by looking cool, fitting in and following orders. And the sad part is... people no longer see Christ in us, but we look like everyone else. It frustrates me when I fall into this and the Holy Spirit says "Hey, look I know you think this is cool but, now, they no longer see Me, they just see you... and the flesh."

Then God shows us in Colossians 2:22-23 that these very rules lack purpose and meaning. They're merely human restrictions, appearing to be wise but truly having no real value.  And that's how a lot of rules appear to be: wise. Particularly in religions, and we look and we may admire them for their perseverance and self-sacrifice but to what avail? To what means?

In the end, what value does it have? None.

Without the Spirit of Christ compelling the person, what good will it do and what other way of life will the Spirit compel but that which directs us towards Christ, His Words and His cross?

If anything, these restrictions are burdensome and they weigh us down bearing no godly fruit and reaping now eternal rewards. And Christ's answer, as simply as it is, is beautiful.

Matthew 11:28-30 NIV says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Christ is calling. He is calling us to put away this old way of life based on human regulations and values and trust in Him and give our burden to Him and experience the awesome freedom found in Him that compels our spirits to dance for Him. 

Are there still commands? Yes. Christ shows us the two greatest commandments of loving the Lord with everything we have and loving our neighbour as ourselves. But these commands are not intended to be burdensome. 

They're meant to bring joy because nothing can bring more peace than walking hand in hand with God each and every step of the way by obeying Him and His eternal decrees that bring eternal freedom, not wordly bondage. 

I want to leave you with this. In Chris Tomlin's song, All to Us, I think one of his lyrics nails how we should value our lives: 

"Let the saving love of Christ, be the measure of our lives." 

Keep that thought in mind this week., His love defines you, and His love alone. God bless you all. 

" May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13 NIV)

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