It is interesting when the same types of conversations take place over the span of just 3 days. Actually, it’s pretty funny.
While coming back from OCC over the past weekend, at the very end of the trip, with just 2 hours left in the car, we began a very detailed conversation about the “theology of cussing, music, movies” and even things like alcohol consumption and smoking.
Fast forward to today; I was in Cedar Falls for the camp dean’s meeting to discuss next year’s camp season. Again, alcohol and smoking, this time cigar smoking, came up.
Which brings me to scripture.
From Colossians 2:
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ…Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come, the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head (that’s Jesus, btw), from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews grows as God causes it to grow. Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules? ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’ These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based in human commands and teachings. Such regulations have the 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 indulgences.“
Translation: Philosophies and ideas about these things which are based on human tradition (I don’t drink, smoke or chew, or go with girls that do) are hollow and deceptive. Why? because they are worldly. They cause us to lose connection with Christ because of their false humility and worldly righteousness.
Here’s another verse for you, this one from Isaiah 64:6:
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…”
Translation: The original Hebrew for “filthy rags” here refers to used menstrual cloths. You read that right. God says that the righteousness of man (described perfectly in Colossians by Paul) has as much value as a used tampon, to be thrown on the trash heap, cast as far out of the camp (and out of God’s presence) as possible.
Here’s the bottom line (for now)…we are righteous only because Christ died for us. Not because we didn’t drink alcohol, or smoke a cigarette, or not watch an r-rated movie. Not because we didn’t look at porn today. Not because we showed up at Sunday school 50 out of 52 weeks.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and cautiously state that God doesn’t give a rip about any of that stuff. We can clearly do all the right things, we can be baptized, we can even feed the hungry and clothe the poor. But if we’re not living in the righteousness that He provided, He’s going to tell us to depart from Him, for He never knew us.
And…it’s high time we stopped pretending otherwise. We need to cease this nonsense of trying to earn our salvation through all of this σκύβαλον.