By Heather Rodriguez
Approximate completion time: 40 minutes
Read: Colossians 2:16-23
Memory verse: Colossians 2:17
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for the freedom to worship you and study your precious Word. I acknowledge that the Bible is actually the Word of God. I pray that as I study your lesson today, that your Word would be at work in me.
Rules…all of us have an opinion about rules. Some of us love rules; we like boundaries; we like the order and control that rules bring. Others hate rules, we feel confined and restricted; we think rules hinder our creativity and our freedom. I tend to be a rule follower, how about you?
At the time Paul writes this book, the Colossians were very familiar with rules. The Jews lived under the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17), a variety of food restrictions and many ceremonials laws (Leviticus 23). The rules were originally given in order to help the Jews live according to God’s standards, but the laws were also in place to show that they would never be able to please God by just following the rules. The laws were preparing the way for Jesus. They needed a Messiah, a Savior. The religious zealots and false teachers of the time added hundreds of additional laws to make themselves appear more religious and used the added laws to judge the people of Colossae. The Christ-followers in Colossae were told that they needed to follow the religious rules in order to be better Christians, but Paul refuted that.
“These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Colossians 2:17
The Colossians were making efforts to earn their way to God by following all the rules, but they missed the center point of Jesus. As Christians we don’t need laws, we only need Jesus. He is above all of the laws–whether imposed by the religious or self-imposed, Christ rules over all of it. He is our reality. He is our salvation. He is our Messiah. Jesus has come so that we may have freedom from human rules and seek complete dependence on Him. What an incredible blessing it is to know that I don’t have to try to do everything right or follow every rule in order to earn my salvation.
All other world religions focus on things believers must do to reach God. However, in Christianity, Jesus came down to us, died on the cross for all the times I didn’t measure up to the rules, and made a way for me to sit with Him in Heaven one day. He did the work. Hebrews 10:10 reads:
“And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Did you catch that last phrase? “Once for all.” My freedom comes through Him. My eternal life comes through Him, not through how many times I attend church over my lifetime; not through how many activities I volunteer for; not through how well my kids turn out. My salvation comes from Christ’s sacrifice alone, not from how well I followed the rules.
The verses go on to talk about false humility and false worship (Colossians 2:18). In the Ten Commandments, God told the people not to have any other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3), but many of the Colossians were worshipping angels. It is interesting that our own culture has had a recent fascination with angels as well. The Word goes on to say in Colossians 2:19:
“They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.”
The “head” is Jesus. When we turn our attention away from Him, even when we are looking at seemingly spiritual things like angels, we lose our connection to Christ. He is our connection to the whole body. He holds and supports us. He causes us to grow. We can never turn our attention away from Him. We must fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Another thing we seem to have in common with the people of Colossae is that we tend to make up our own regulations that appear to be wise and worshipful, but in reality, draw us away from Jesus. I remember a time when my youngest daughter was going through the family blessing service at church. We invited my family–none of whom are Christ-followers. My grandma didn’t realize that we were actually going to a church service because it was a Saturday night, she assumed all “real” church services happen on Sunday mornings. She was dressed in pants and would not go to a church service dressed in pants. She actually sat in the parking lot during the service because of the self-imposed rule: Ladies wear dresses to church.
How often do we make up rules in an effort to get closer to Christ, but in reality, it just pushes us farther away? In my own display of false humility, how often do I find myself judging someone because of what they wear to church rather than praying that God would use His Word and His teaching to minister to each of our hearts? That is really what it comes down to…the matter of the heart. We have freedom in Jesus because He desires my heart, not my good behavior. As a parent, I want my girls to make good choices and behave appropriately. I want them to do those things, not because I asked them to, but because in their hearts, they love Jesus. They are kind to others because they love Jesus. They speak respectfully to others because they love Jesus. They love people because they love Jesus. I can tell them to do all of those things, but unless their true motivation comes from an overflow of a heart that loves Jesus, it is simply another rule to follow (Luke 6:45). I can do and say all the right things and appear to have it all together, but it is meaningless if my heart is crusted with judgment, false wisdom, and fake humility. Jesus wants me to love Him and love others.
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-39
Jesus wants me to worship Him, not the idea of Him, not the praise songs or the angels or the spiritual things around me. Everything else is but a shadow, the reality is found in Christ. I want to live in the reality of Christ not in a world of rules that I made up to try to earn my way to Jesus.
Lord, I pray that you would help us worship you and you alone. Help us to identify any rules we have self-imposed, any false wisdom, any distraction that may be in our way of worshipping you. We claim you as the head of our heart. We pray that we would feel the reality of you in our lives today.
- Are there any self-imposed rules that you have created that you need to eliminate from your life?
- Do you tend to focus more on your behavior or your heart?
- What “heart” issue do you think God is challenging you with today?