- Read Colossians 2:20-3:4 here.
- If you missed Sunday’s sermon (7 November) you can listen to it here.
When I read the verses about Christian liberty that we covered last week, Colossians 2:16-19, I get excited. God finds man made rules as ridiculous and frustrating as I do. But I understand that some of us have witnessed others grasp an inch of liberty and take it a mile. Christian liberty can easily become a dangerous rationalization for sinful behavior. That’s why Paul immediately turns his readers focus back on the big picture.
Yes, when we died with Christ we joined ourselves with him and were able to turn our backs on all the human rules and restrictions. We now answer to God alone. BUT, not only did we die with Christ, we have also been raised with Christ. As a consequence of this, our orientation moves from focusing upon my rights and other earthly priorities. Now, as one raised with Christ I strive to match my life with God’s heavenly values.
Rather than standing around celebrating my freedom in Christ while thumbing my nose at all those poor suckers (both within and outside the church) still captive to human regulations, God calls me to turn my attention away from the food I can now eat and the festivals I can now celebrate. Instead he wants me to focus on heavenly priorities. Essentially in these verses the church is called upon to GROW UP! The whole point of following Christ is to become like Christ, so keep moving forward.
The manner in which we practice our spiritual freedom is a question of maturity. Just because we CAN do something, doesn’t mean we MUST. Maturity helps us decide when and how we SHOULD. WE can trumpet our freedom to not attend a midweek Bible class. But maturity and setting our minds on things above, says we better be doing something productive for the kingdom if we’re not going to be there. We might celebrate our freedom from the Old Testament requirement to give 10% of our income to God. But maturity and setting our minds on things above might actually result in us giving a higher proportion of our income as worship. We might point out that the Bible never says we must read it every day. But maturity and a heart set upon God recognises the benefits of this regular discipline.
Freedom and liberty are core components of the Gospel message. However, people who use these freedoms to practice a minimalist form of Christianity overlook the goal of the Gospel. Liberty gives us the freedom to pursue God. A spiritually mature Christian seeks opportunities to transform their mind and behaviour into the image of God. This is actually a higher expectation than many of the rules we formerly observed. Spiritual freedom is not a MUST thing, it’s a MATURITY thing.
This passage again reminds church leaders that the best spiritual motivation is not legislation, but vision. Reminding people that they have allied themselves with heaven is a greater inspiration than good ideas that have become rules. Church leaders also need to remember the fluidity of maturity. Different people are all at different levels of maturity. The same person can also exhibit different levels of maturity in different areas of their lives. Shepherding maturity means knowing the flock and leading each person toward heaven from their particular starting point. One size does not fit all.
- Can you think of some other examples where God gives us freedom, but maturity raises the bar?
- Have you ever met someone you would describe as having their mind set on things above? What was it about their life that prompts you to describe them that way?
- Do you find it difficult to set different expectations for different people depending upon their spiritual maturity? Eg. if you attend a church work day (or some other event) with a low turnout, how do you think about those who chose not to attend? A. They’re lazy good for nothings B. They’re not real church members C. This church really has a lot of young Christians still learning commitment D. It’s great that all these people are making their family a priority.