I am so lucky to have been a part of vibrant ministries. I have also been a part of ministry for the sake of ministry. It feels different. We have all been there.
There are even some that have encouraged temporary seasons of growth for me, but could not be productive long-term. They offered guidelines and new rules geared toward making my behavior holier. Lots of these happened while I was in singles ministry. I will have to think about why there are so many rules, in print, for singles.
In retrospect, I can say the only practices that have any potential for holiness are wrapped up in the time that I spend living in Christ, every day. The first of this time is spent in His word and prayer. My verse this week is a refresher for me because it is only when I am devoted to prayer that I become different. I have to pray about praying…that is how much help I need! Out of that time comes everything else.
I am settling into Colossians today and remembering these times of forced obedience. They all point me to these verses,
All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence (Colossians 2:22 & 23, NRSV).
All of the rules in my life could not change me. They did nothing for my desires. They did nothing to check my indulgences. They structured me and set wobbly, beautiful fences around me. My intention was good, but I was accepting a regulation in place of relationship.
Sometimes with the purist of intention, we fall for a shadow.
Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17 These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God (Colossians 2:16, NRSV).
The substance belongs to Christ…
sub•stance \ˈsəb-stən(t)s\ n
MW Collegiate Dict. (11th Ed.)
1 : essential nature : essence
2 : ultimate reality that underlies all outward manifestations and change
Christ = the substance, what is essential to us, the ultimate reality of our lives that underlies all outward manifestations and changes.
Everything that we create to draw closer to Him is simply a shadow.
This takes us to two places. We need to put our best efforts into these shadows because they reflect the substance of us and our churches. This will matter when we give our account.
Next, we need to remain in the source, in the substance itself to find out what is real and essential. I don’t know about you, but I can get off track so quickly. I have to constantly check to see if my flesh is playing tricks on me. The substance belongs to Christ, not to me or my shadows. That is real.
There is no ministry, no regulation and no self-abasement that could bring me closer to Christ than Himself. The ultimate reality already lives inside of me. Tapping into our substance has to be moment by moment, holding fast to Him. When we hold fast, these shadows of Him (ministries, relationships, homes) become more powerful. They look more like the substance…more like Jesus.
What if all of our shadows looked like this?
Father, thank you for giving us completely freedom from anything that could distract us from you. You are our substance, Father. Separate the shadows from reality and make us aware of what is real in our lives.