Friday, June 14, 2013

Real-World Holiness

Many American manufacturers are going to great lengths to protect themselves from getting sued. As a result, many companies now include stunningly obvious warnings about their product. Every year the Wacky Warning Labels Contest selects what it calls "the most absurd and silly warning labels attached to everyday products."

Here were the winners for the 2012 contest:
  • The Grand Prize Winner was for a 7-inch decorative globe with the following warning label: "These globes should not be referred for navigation."
  • The Second Prize Winner was for an electric razor for men with the following warning label: "Never use while sleeping."
Past winners have included the following warning labels:
  • "Remove child before folding"—a warning label on a baby stroller
  • "Does not supply oxygen"—a label on a common dust mask (2011 Contest Winner)
  • "Never operate your speakerphone while driving" - on a hands-free cell phone product called the "Drive 'N' Talk"! (2010 Contest Winner)
  • "Danger: Avoid Death"—a warning label on a small tractor
  • "Harmful if swallowed"—a warning on a brass fishing lure with a three-pronged hook
  • "This product moves when used"—a warning on a popular children's scooter
  • A rotary tool includes the following warning label: "This product is not intended for use as a dental drill"
  • "May cause drowsiness"—a warning label for Nytol One-a-Night sleeping aids, submitted by Van Morris
Rules are a part of life.  Unfortunately, people think they can reduce the Christian faith to a list of rules: "Do this.  Don't do that.  Don't eat that.  Don't watch that.  Don't associate with them."  But that's not holiness; it's legalism.
Ironically, legalism turns out to be much easier than true holiness.  Anyone who is sufficiently motivated can follow a list of rules.  But it takes the power of God to be loving, kind, forgiving, humble, patient, and joyful.  The people who conspired to kill Jesus were very good at following rules, but they weren’t holy.  Jesus followed the commands of Scripture to the letter, but He had something more.  So if we want to become the people God created us to be; if we want to live in a way that is distinct and compelling, that draws other people to God, then the answer is NOT to simply set up a list of rules and try really hard to follow them.  That has traditionally been the way religion teaches a person to be holy, but it doesn’t work.  Paul talks about this in the last verse of Colossians 2: Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.  In other words, if you try hard enough to follow rules, you might succeed in looking a little more moral.  But you’ll still be the same person on the inside. 
Frankly, this is one reason why Christians get so discouraged.  They say, “I was so excited when I accepted Christ.  I really thought I was going to be a new person.  But I still get angry and hurt people when I fly off the handle.  I still have these selfish, lustful thoughts that I’d die if anyone found out about.  I still can’t bring myself to forgive that person who hurt me all those years ago.  And I still sometimes get disappointed with God for not giving me the life I wanted.  I go to church and I’ve learned not to cuss, so it may look like I’m living the Christian life.  But it only looks that way.”  Fortunately, God’s response to those who resonate with what I just said is NOT “Try harder.”  Instead, in Colossians 3 He offers us a process of how to grow into the holy character we all long for.  As you read this chapter, don’t look at it as a list of rules.  Instead, it’s a compelling vision of what holiness looks like in the real world.  It really boils down to a three-step process, one we'll explore in our sermon this Sunday.

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