Outward Show

“Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh” (Colossians 2:20-23).

When the focus is not on Jesus, the focus falls to something else. For those who shun irreligion, the focus falls to religion. Since Paul here warns of this error to the Colossian saints, this diversion can occur among believers.
Some get so exercised about their expression of religious show, that they tend to force it on others. How many pastors have to face constant pressure from the rigid right, which is well past what is truly right, about their “shew of wisdom”? But it is not true wisdom. It originates from the “doctrines of men,” which essentially consists of man-made traditions, which have no real power over the flesh.

Often so-called “convictions” are merely areas of someone’s comfort zone based on familiarity. When these outward-show concerns are forced on others, people who love Jesus and are seeking to serve Him get crushed by the condescending stern faces and condemnation. But the outward-show issues do not deal with what really matters.

God is more concerned about people than rituals. Jesus said to the Pharisees that cared more about their traditions (that went beyond the biblical text) than people’s needs, “But if ye had known what this [Hos. 6:6] meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless [the innocent]” (Matt. 12:7). People are more important than man’s traditions. But in churches with crushers, people get suffocated and trampled in the name of righteous ritualism. Innocent people get condemned.

Outward-show traditions miss the greater need of focusing on Jesus as our leader and life. Our text in Colossians 2 is followed by an emphasis on the real deal in Colossians 3. Set your focus on Christ, who is our life. Let His life be manifested. Then through His overcoming life, you can deprive real flesh issues from powering up (see Col. 3:1-5ff).

Outward-show religion keeps people from an inward-shining relationship with Jesus.


John Van Gelderen

John Van Gelderen

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