I always set out to be a well mannered driver, but it never ends that way. The desire to get to my destination as quickly and efficiently as possible always leads to a couple incidents that I am sure inspires road rage in those I share the asphalt with. My intentions are good, but there is a reason why I’ve never had a fish or Christian bumper sticker on my car.
This same trend can show up, not only on my way to work, but also in the good works I do for God. I’ve learned that it’s possible to add well intended rules to your faith that end up producing more burdens than benefits. In other words, some Christian philosophies appear holy because they require self-denial, but have little to do with a life changed by grace. While the intentions may be good, the result is an exhausted Christian life that is unsatisfying to the believer and unattractive to the nonbeliever.
This is exactly what is discussed in Colossians 2.
“[Christ] has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world…” (Colossians 2:20 NLT)
“These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.” (Colossians 2:23 NLT)
You would expect that when the Bible mentions “rules of the world” it would include a catalog of self-indulgences, but that is not the case. Instead, it is a list of deeds that lead to self-righteousness that is given.
Standards make a great shoulder to the road, but do nothing for your desire to go mud riding.
While self-indulgence (going mud riding) is dangerous to your soul, at least it has the potential to leave you humbled before God (covered in mud). In the case of self-righteousness though, you never get muddy on the outside which allows you to gain more pride and self-sufficiency outside of the grace of God. This would be like having a Mercedes that you would never dare take off the road, but then allow a family of pigs to live on the inside.
I think Jesus called this being a white washed tomb.
So what are the new rules of the road that help us avoid this ugly scenario of pigs ruining our leather seats? It is found earlier in this chapter:
“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:7)
The solution is not discovered in changing the rules of the road, but rather changing the desires of your heart. A love relationship and a lifestyle that keeps us engaged with the center of our affection is what gives life to our souls; not rule keeping. A holy life is what overflows from a thankful heart; not one focused on duty. Standards protect our path, but they do not direct it. Only the love of God can recalibrate our life’s compass, and keep us on His holy highway.