Passions of a Godly Life

Rules and Regulations

Colossians 2:16-23


We have been studying the book of Colossians from a different perspective, the perspective of passion, passion for living a godly life.

Faith with Passion (Colossians 2:6-7)

~ rooted, built up, and established

Prayer with Passion (Colossians 4:2-4)

~ steadfast, watchful, with thanksgiving

Suffering with Passion (Colossians 1:24-29)

~ rejoicing, filling what is lacking

Fullness with Passion (Colossians 2:8-14)

~ vigilance, fullness, barriers removed

Church with Passion (Colossians 1:1-8, 2:1-4, 3:12-17)

~ bearing fruit, forgiving, teaching, singing, thanking

Family with Passion (Colossians 3:17-24)

~ everything in Jesus name, pleasing the Lord, revering the Lord, living for the Lord

Living Powerfully with Passion (Colossians 1:9-14)

~ knowledge, wisdom, understanding, fruitful, thankful

Jesus Our Passion (Colossians 1:15-20)

~ eternal, Creator, Sustainer, Preeminent, fullness of God

Relationship with Passion (1:21-23)

~ alienated/hostile, reconciled/blameless, established/steadfast

Today I want to talk about the killers of passion found in Colossians 2:15-23.  One of the major issues many of us face as believers is a loss of passion on our journey of faith.  There can be several reasons for that, but I know for me, one of the reasons is a humanly devised set of pious rules and regulations.  The Apostle Paul is dealing with this in the church of Colossae.  They had teachers that were telling them that they had to do certain things if they were going live a godly life.

You have certainly experienced this in your life also, or at the very least, you have seen it in the lives of others, where people become legalistically pious but have no joy in their life in the Lord.  I think that as parents and grandparents, we need to not only be aware of this in our church settings, but we need to be careful of imposing such things on our families.  I believe many young people are turned away from a relationship with the Lord because of these passion killers.

Killers of Passion (2:16-23)

Now as I look at our passage this morning, I see three areas that are related to each other, but somewhat different.  But all of them can be that which robs us of our joy and kills our passion for the Lord.

~ Legalistic Traditions (vv. 16-17)

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Two things are being addressed here.  What you eat and the religious holidays or festivals you celebrate.  The Old Testament dealt with certain foods that were eaten as clean and unclean.  God gave Old Testament believers these dietary restrictions for not only physical reasons, but also for spiritual reasons.  They were to develop a consciousness of purity and impurity in their lives before a holy God.

Certainly, eating properly is good for us physically.  Like R Kent Hughes has said, “Eat too many Twinkies and you will no longer be “twinkletoes.”  But there is a spiritual aspect to this also where we understand that our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 6:19).  Thus, we do not want to purposefully consume food and drink that is physically harmful.  But what Paul is dealing with here is that people were judging others spirituality by the things they ate and drank.

For instance, meat that had been sacrificed to idols was less expensive to buy.  Some would buy this meat for a family meal; others would not dare to eat it because in their mind it would cause them to not be right with the Lord.  This is what the Apostle Paul was dealing with in 1 Corinthians 8.  Listen to his conclusion from 1 Corinthians 8:8:

Food will not commend us to God.  We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.

So, food and drink, or even other things we put into our bodies, if it does not harm our bodies and if it does not cause us to sin against the Lord, then we should not let someone else’s judgment on the matter hinder our walk with the Lord.

Paul also focuses on the Jewish festivals, the first of the month new moon sacrifices, and even the Sabbath Day.  The Old Testament is very clear about these also.  God expected the Old Testament believer to participate in these times of celebration, sacrifice, worship, and remembrance.  These were given by God to help the believer develop a God centered life.  There was a spiritual good that was developed in the life of the believer by participating in these things.

But look again at what he says in verse 17.  “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”  What he means is that the dietary regulations and the holy days are all pointing to fulfillment in Jesus Christ.  All the Old Testament requirements were casting a long shadow toward their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus.

This is clearly seen in the Old Testament sacrifices as Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice for sin.  The sacrifices cast a long shadow to the ultimate sacrifice in Jesus.  The feasts that Israel celebrated were a call to remember what God has done for them in delivering them and bringing them into the Promised Land.  But every single one of the feasts pointed to some aspect of Jesus Christ the Messiah.  We did a fascinating study on the feasts of Israel in our Adult class and found Jesus the Messiah in all the feasts.  They were casting a long shadow that was fulfilled in Jesus.  Even the Sabbath, the Temple, and all the activities that took place there cast a shadow to Jesus.

In other words, the reality of these things is found in Christ.  The dietary rules sensitized God’s people to purity.  The feasts illustrated the work of Christ.  The new moon sacrifices presented the need for an ultimate sacrifice.  The Sabbath presented the concept of entering into God’s rest.  All of these are fulfilled in Christ.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with continuing to do these things, but they are not required for a life in Christ.  Jesus made it clear that food no longer produced anything spiritual in a person’s life (Mark 7:18-20).  In fact, God gave Peter the vision of clean and unclean animals making it clear to him that it was okay to kill and eat all of them (Acts 10:13-16).  The monthly new moon sacrifice is no longer necessary (Hebrews 9:23-28).

But the problem the Colossian church was facing is that there were teachers telling them that they need to continue these Old Testament rules and regulations to be right with God.  Paul says, don’t let these teachers judge your spirituality by these things. 

I believe the point is clear, our spirituality is not determined in whether a person does these things or not.  Keep in mind that we are not talking about sinful actions, but about the practice of the things that have been fulfilled in Christ.  It is about our relationship with Christ.  Now we may do some of these things because of our own personal convictions, or because we enjoy doing them, or even find doing them helpful in our walk with Christ, but we must be careful about trying to legalistically force others to think they are not spiritual if they don’t also do it.

Illustrate participating in Jewish feasts.

Don’t let others pass judgment on your because you do not practice things that traditionally point to Jesus Christ.  Just following legalistic traditions because others think you are more spiritual when you do will kill your passion for living a godly life.

~ Pious Abstinence (vv. 18-19)

Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

Second, Paul tells the Colossians to not let these false teachers convince them that they are somehow disqualified from experiencing a genuine life in Christ without a pious abstinence.  What we mean by that is a religiously devoted self-denial of something.  According to the false teachers, they were not good enough if they didn’t live like monks in a monastery denying a lifestyle of sensual pleasure.  They insisted that you must live an ascetic lifestyle, a life of abstinence.

Also, the false teachers were perpetuating the forbidden practice of worshipping angels.  In some twisted way of thinking, the false teachers considered the worship of angels something that made you spiritual.  These false teachers based much of what they practiced on visions and dreams.  They would go on in detail about the supposed revelations they received through visions.  Through this they were claiming to be on the inside track with God and they became puffed up.  In proclaiming their humble pious practices, they actually became filled with pride.

We need to understand the deceptive power of this.  They were trusting their sensuous minds and not holding fast to the Head of the body of the church, Jesus Christ.  They were no longer following Jesus Christ, the Head, they were following their own structure of pious abstinence and worship that was brought about through dreams and visions.

Paul makes it clear, that it is only through Jesus, as the Head of the body, that believers are nourished and knit together.  It is only through Jesus that it grows into something that is from God and not from people.  Some may be drawn to a pious legalistic lifestyle, the inner circle of spirituality as they see it, but that is not a passionate life in Christ.  In fact, pious abstinence is a passion killer.  Why?  Because they have lost connection with the Head, Jesus Christ.

Paul says that we should not allow this kind of teaching make us think that we are disqualified from the fullness of a life in Christ if we are not piously abstinent.  Let’s look at the third one Paul gives us in verses 20-23.

~ Religious Obligations (vv. 20-23)

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations-- "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" (referring to things that all perish as they are used)-- according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

What is interesting to me is that Paul begins this last area that kills passion with a statement of remembering who they are in Christ.  Those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ have identified with His death, burial, and resurrection.  Believers in the Colossae church have died to the enslavement of sin.  The “elemental spirits” of the world refers to all that is in opposition to God.  The things of this world that are under the control of Satan and his demons.  The adversary would love nothing better than to manipulate followers of Christ into thinking their religious oblations are somehow making them spiritual.

The false teachers at Colossae had certain taboos that they said you must submit to, certain religious obligations.  Though Paul doesn’t specifically tell us what those taboos were but look again how they are described in verses 21 and 22.

"Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" (referring to things that all perish as they are used) -- according to human precepts and teachings?  

Clearly, these things are according to human precepts and teachings, not what God has taught them.  This is a powerful warning.  Teachings about religious behavior must align with what the Word of God teaches.  Prohibitions or instructions for living godly that do not come from God’s Word cannot be laid upon us as some sort of religious obligation that we must adhere to in order to be spiritual.  These can become enslavements to a passionless life.

Notice that these religious obligations have the appearance of wisdom according to verse 23, but they become a self-made religion.  This ascetism and severity to the body in reality has no value in stopping our fleshly indulgences.  We might say what? Really?  But I thought the religious obligations would keep me from sinful and fleshly indulgences!  If you think about it though, all these taboos promote nothing more than confidence in the flesh rather than confidence in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

We have a very vivid modern-day example of this.  One prominent Christian denomination requires their religious leaders to be celibate, unmarried, and sexually chaste.  The concept of these taboos seems to be wise in keeping their religious leaders from sexual sin.  But as we know, for many of those religious leaders today, these taboos had no value in stopping their indulgence in fleshly desires.

The point Paul is making is clear.  We do not need religious obligations to keep us from sin.  What we need is to remember our identity in Christ.  We have died with Christ to the sinful flesh of this world.  We should not need to have these rules to keep us pure if we are no longer are alive to them.  If we are living just to keep the religious obligations, then we are not living passionately for the Lord.  Our passion for Jesus should drive us to godly living, not living according to a set of legalistic rules.


Next week we will probe more deeply into the idea of passionate living versus living by rules and regulations in the first four verses of chapter three.  But today’s passage really gives me a lot to think about.  Why do I do the things I do?  Do I do them because I was told I should, and I don’t want other people’s judgmental comments about how unspiritual I must be if I don’t do them?  Do I do the things I do, because of my passion for Christ?  If so, do I pass judgment on others spirituality, if they don’t do those things?  This can be a huge issue in any body of believers.

Unfortunately, our answer to this is that we will never say anything to anybody because we don’t want to be judgmental or cause any problems.  However, we are clearly told that the church, the Body of Christ, ought to help each other when it comes to living godly lives.  We are a Kingdom people and our goal is to live like who we are in Christ.  The purpose of the Body of Christ, the church, is to help each other do that.

Mention the simplified purpose statement on the back wall.

Ephesians 4 is full of good instruction about how we give ourselves to the body of believers in a local setting to help us walk closer to the Lord.  Equipping the people of God, building up the people of God, seeking unity among the people of God, speaking in love to one another, and striving to grow together in Christ.  Why?

so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Ephesians 4:14 ESV)

So, if that is true, then how does that fit with our passage today?  May I get somewhat personal for a moment?

** Couples devotions

** Read the bible through every year

** Not drinking alcohol

It is a good thing for us to have certain practices, certain routines, certain habits, that help us live in a way that draws us closer to God.  But when these practices turn into rules and regulations that determine a person’s spirituality, suddenly something has gone wrong and our passion for living a godly life goes out the door.  They become passion killers.

All of this comes back to our identity in Christ, not an attempt to live by rules and regulations.  Not that certain practices may be an effective means to walk closer to the Lord in our own lives, but not a means of judging the spiritual welfare of others.

Where do you stand in your relationship with the Lord, your identity in Jesus?  Do you know Him or is it just about pious religious obligations in an attempt to make yourself righteous?