by: Pastor Joey Vazquez
Colossians 2:23 (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.
In our society, it is obvious that we need rules and regulations to govern ourselves. Without them we would descend into chaos. Because of our sinful nature, we need to put boundaries, guardrails and checkpoints to regulate our sinful behavior using laws, rules and regulations. When the laws, rules and regulations are enforced, they generally do control our extreme behavior while we still have to deal with crime from those that refuse to submit to them. But even for the people that do obey rules, many do it grudgingly. In other words, their heart is not in it. They just don't want to get in trouble.
It's curious that the Apostle Paul, knowing that we are prone to sin, would write to the Christians at Colossae to rebuke them for following rules. What did he think was so wrong with that? It's simply because Paul knew that when it comes to God, He is interested in much more than people following rules. He is looking at the condition of each person's heart. As is evident in our culture, you can try regulating behavior with rule after rule, but you cannot change a person's heart. Even law-abiding citizens will try to get away with as much as they are allowed to get away with. Jesus spoke and taught about this while rebuking the Pharisees, who were experts at following rules. They prided themselves in following outward rules, but Jesus called them out for having malice inside their hearts while looking good on the outside. They followed the rules (many of which they just made up themselves) but were unchanged in their hearts. So much so that when they saw Jesus do miracles, it irked them. They were the ones that were supposedly first in line in praying and waiting for the Messiah to come and when He came, they were jealous of Him. That's because all of their obedience to all of their rules did absolutely nothing to get rid of their sinful nature.
We learn from the verse above that even things that you would think have some value, such as strong devotion and self-denial, can be rendered useless if your heart is not in it. That's why the Bible tells us that there in none righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). Trying to do good by following rules and outward bodily discipline will get us nowhere, as we have a serious condition that takes much more than that to overcome. It takes the power of Jesus Himself to change our hearts and that's what He wants us to know. Any efforts outside of the effort to get to know Him, submit to Him and love Him more and more will end up in a futile attempt to do what only Jesus can do in us. While obedience to the laws of God is a great thing, do it from the position of a transformed heart through the life of Jesus in you. In that way, you will be following the rules from the inside out and will be done with the evil desires of your sinful nature. It's always Jesus on the inside, working on the outside for true change!
Pastor Joey Vazquez