August 7, Sunday

UlyssesWangEditor’s Note: Today’s AMI QT Devotional is written by Pastor Ulysses Wang.

Devotional Thought for Today

Colossians 2:20-23

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.

7I once lived in an apartment with termites.  I didn’t know we had termites, until one day my foot suddenly stepped right through the wooden floor.  Up until that point everything looked normal – the wood was shiny and clean.  What I couldn’t see, however, was that everything below the shiny veneer had been slowly eaten away until the floor could no longer support my weight.  I think this is a good illustration of what Paul describes here in his letter to the Colossians.  They were impressed and taken in by folks who seemed spiritual because of their harsh treatment of the flesh.  The problem, however, was that such treatment was in no way indicative of true spirituality, which lies in the state of one’s heart.  I believe that the Colossian problem is not unfamiliar to us today.  Millennials are quick to pass on the heart-changing truth of the gospel for a soft-spoken “guru” dressed in eastern mystical garb.  What looks spiritual is oftentimes powerless to change our lives.  Simpson and Bruce explain what Paul means by “the flesh”:

“When they commended harsh usage of the body as a specific against fleshly indulgence, they thought in terms of the Greek antithesis between body and soul.  But this is not Paul’s thought.  When he speaks of ‘unsparing treatment of the body’ he means the body in its ordinary sense; but when he speaks of ‘indulgence of the flesh’ he means the old Adam-nature in its rebellion against God.”[1]

I think that as Christians, we, too, can be lulled by our own external appearance of spirituality into a false sense of security.  Whether due to a title, i.e. pastor, elder, leader, etc., church attendance or the collection of Christian books on our bookshelves, we let these superficial aspects of our faith become definitive.  But Jesus had only one criterion for real spirituality: the things that flow from our heart.  In Matthew 15, Jesus was confronted with similar hypocrisy in regards to the ceremonial washing of hands, to which He responded: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”  Going on, Jesus then declared, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

To guard against such error, it would be helpful to ask oneself these questions every once in a while: “Who would I be if my title were to be taken away?  Is God active in the areas of my life that others do not see, such as my thoughts?  What things do I do when no one is around?”  Such questions dig through the veneer and force us to confront the true state of our heart.

Prayer: God, help me to know that just because other people think I’m ok doesn’t necessarily mean that I am ok, because there’s so much that others do not see.  Help me to be brutally honest with myself and with You.  Challenge me in any area of my life where my heart has grown cold, hypocritical or complacent.  Help my lips to be in sync with my heart, so that my worship and lifestyle may be true.  Amen.

[1] E.K. Simpson, E.K. and F.F. Bruce, Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians (New International Commentary, Marshall, Morgan & Scott/Eerdmans, 1957) p.256

Bible Reading for Today: Psalm 134

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