I have always been a very devout person. I think my personality, my experiences – and perhaps my birth order – combined in me so that I always wanted to be “good.” I followed the rules (except once in fourth grade I stretched the truth so I could go to an event my mom didn’t want me to attend), I listened to my parents (except the time my sister cut my hair even though my dad didn’t want her to),\ and I obeyed (except when my boyfriend and I wanted to be alone so we left the retreat setting we were in to take a drive in -50 degree weather).
For the most part, I wanted to please others, including God. All of these characteristics – desiring to obey, listen to my parents, following rules – in themselves are not bad, but they made me susceptible to all kinds of aberrations when it came to following Jesus.
I started reading through the Bible the first time in 1981. As I read, my goal was to put into action the principles I encountered. The gospels gave me a good picture of Jesus and how he interacted with the religious institutions of his day. I learned that he cared about those that the rest of society discarded. Lepers, blind, deaf, lame, children, women, tax collectors – all held a special place in Jesus heart. He wasn’t afraid to talk to those whom others declared unfit.
The writings of Paul gave practical evidence of walking out post resurrection life. After the Good News spread to Gentile regions, new issues had to be discussed. Do Gentiles have to become Jews in order to receive Jesus? Do they have to follow kosher eating regulations, Jewish holidays and festivals? What about those who said there was special knowledge to be acquired through mystical worship practices? It seemed there were many people who were uncomfortable with Jesus alone.
In many ways, that is what happened to me after I left home. The last few years of high school I enjoyed a “Jesus alone” spirituality. I read scripture, I prayed, I discerned what Jesus wanted me to do and I did it – or at least made it my goal to follow. I’m not perfect after all.
Then I left home and attended Bible school in the middle of Ohio. And I met a whole new genre of believers. There were a lot of rules about what kind of clothes I could wear, including my shoes; I had to stop cutting my hair and wear a head covering; rules regarding dating abounded. I fell into line like a good soldier and soon adopted these strict rules for myself.
I lived in this environment for two years and then married my husband. His home church was also quite strict, and we attended there for ten years. It was, in many ways, a great experience. But inside, I started to die.
Gone was my acceptance with God based on faith. It was faith and… the right clothes, the proper hair style, no TV’s, no jewelry, no bowling, no movies, no alcohol, no dancing, no, no, no. I didn’t have to discern what following Jesus meant because my pastors let me know if I wasn’t doing it properly.
Sometimes knowing how to do something is best learned by looking at what not to do. Paul’s approach with the believers in Colosse was just that. After these people learned the Good News of Jesus, others came who wanted to add to the gospel. Paul says, “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world rather than from Christ…you are complete through your union with Christ.” (Colossians 2:8-10)
Paul specifically mentions three areas where we are likely to be taken captive. Legalism is following a strict set of rules for the purpose of being right with God. Asceticism is denying oneself the basic comforts of life in order to curb the appetite of the flesh. Mysticism is the attempt to know God based on secret knowledge that is attained through ecstatic experiences and not Jesus.
Where have you been taken captive? Have you ever been caught up in something that you discovered later to be less than the best? Is there something in your life right now that you question? Stay with me the next couple of days to learn what Paul says about following Jesus and what it is not!
Until next time…
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.Numbers 6:24-26