Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (C)
July 29, 2007
Staying Out of the Shadows
Did you ever play shadow puppets, using your fingers to form shadows that looked like a dog or other animals? How much better it is to enjoy a real puppy than a shadow of one. It is so much better to live the substance of the Christian life than hang around in the shadows.
That’s the concern expressed in Colossians 2. Two words focus on this thought: “shadow” (v. 17) and “appearance,” which could be translated “substance” (v. 22). Which would you rather have, shadow or substance? I much prefer the substance of cherry pie than the shadow of one.
The Colossian church had some teachers and followers who claimed to possess superior knowledge in spiritual things. They had moved into the realm of judging their peers and claiming to be superior Christians. Paul warns that those who made the claim were actually living in the shadow. Be sure you move out of the shadows.
Stay in the Light and out of the shadows (vv. 6-15).
Surely you have not forgotten what it was like to be “dead in your sins.” Oh the wonder of the transformed life-“God made us alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.”
I’ll never forget Mr. Brumlow, operator of a motel near a church where I was pastor. He had lived many years gambling, drinking-as he would say, “carousing.” Christian friends never gave up on him. One friend made a visit on a wintry night, with ice-covered roads. It became the night Mr. Brumlow met Christ and moved from the shadows into the light. He was changed and became Christ’s helper and worker to reach others lost in the shadows.
Your baptism pictures Christ’s transformation of life (v. 12). Every day gives us another opportunity to die to sin and self. Live the resurrected life through the power of the Living Lord.
Stay out of the shadows of religious regulations and live in righteousness (vv. 16-17).
The Pharisees prided themselves in living by the regulations of the law. Yet not one of them met the standard of God’s righteousness. These regulations actually became a way of life that “was against us and that stood opposed to us.” Christ took it all away, “triumphing over them by the cross.”
A Doonesbury cartoon (February 25, 2007) pictured an American soldier and an Iraqi comrade on patrol. They arrived at the assigned house with orders to capture alive an insurgent. The Iraqi soldier protested, “That is impossible; I know this man, one of his family killed one of my family; he can’t be taken alive.” The U.S soldier asked, “When did this happen?” When his colleague replied, “1387,” the U.S. soldier said, “What is the matter with you people?”
Religious regulations enslave and sometime destroy innocent lives every day around the world. Christ has disarmed these powers of darkness; how tragic that many individuals are still dying in the shadows. We’ll not be judged by religious regulations; these are but “a shadow of the things that were to come.” We will be judged by the words of Christ. He is the standard for righteousness.
Stay out of the shadows of prideful personal experience and stay connected to the body of Christ (vv. 18-19).
Paul described individuals with a “false humility” who delighted to share details “about what he has seen and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.” The real problem was a loss of connection with Christ, who works with each believer to bring growth to the body. Beware of those who seek to disqualify you on the basis of their spiritual egotism that declares, “I’ve got it; you don’t.” Warren Wiersbe said, “True worship always humbles a person. The mind is awed by the greatness of God; the heart is filled with the love of God; and the will if submitted to the purpose God has for life.”
Regulations are not the answer for a sinful humanity. Rules may tell us what not to do, but they give no power to do what is right. Living in the lordship of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit is the only way to stay out of the shadows. (Bill Whittaker)