Church: It's not a ritual it's a way of life!
Sermon Summary

This message is based upon Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church in the New Testament. There were two groups of people standing in opposition to the gospel message Paul was teaching. One group was the Gnostics. They believed there was a secret knowledge only a few enlightened ones were privy to. Their thinking led to a secret and mystic society of elitist who thought they were better than all others. The believed everything spiritual was good and everything material was inherently evil. This led to very warped extremes in their lifestyles. On the other hand, there were those who were insisting on a strict adherence to Jewish law, which was also very dangerous to the new church. Why? Because it taught religion instead of relationship, and ritual instead of a way of life. Jesus had given His life in order to set people free from the curse of the law. It wasn’t that the law was evil in and of itself, it was the fact that no human could live up to the righteous standards of the law. Paul was so concerned for the members of the church, both at Colosse and at other churches. He wanted them to realize the true church is not based on man made tradition, rituals, or legalistic rules and regulations! He wanted them to understand true church is a way of life based on the grace, mercy, love, and power of Jesus Christ.

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Thinking about your own personal experience with church, what are some ways church can become a ritual instead of a way of life?

2. Pastor Larry said in his message “Church is not something you do, it's something you are! And when you are the church, there's things you do because you are the church. There's a difference!” Discuss this statement and whether you agree or not and why. The following verses might help...
Titus 3:4  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
Titus 3:5  he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
Titus 3:6  whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Titus 3:7  so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:8  This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

3. Paul gave four characteristics that should be a part of our daily walk with God. Read the following passage and discuss the importance of each characteristic.
Colossians 2:6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,
7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

4. Although we are no longer under the curse of the law, because Jesus took our curse on the Cross, there are still things we should not do and things we should do. The difference is that we are no longer condemned for our mess ups and we have The Holy Spirit living in our hearts so that we have the power to rise above the mess we used to live in. End your discussion time by reading the following 17 verses of Paul’s letter to the Church and discuss why Paul’s to do list and to stop list are great wisdom.

Col 3:1  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Col 3:2  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Col 3:3  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Col 3:4  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Col 3:5  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Col 3:6  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
Col 3:7  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
Col 3:8  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
Col 3:9  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices
Col 3:10  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Col 3:11  Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Col 3:12  Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Col 3:13  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Col 3:14  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Col 3:15  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Col 3:16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Col 3:17  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.



Church: It's not a ritual it's a way of life!
Full Sermon Notes

You fill me, You see me, You know my every move, You love for me to sing to You! Today we're going to talk about the most amazing way to sing to God. I love singing to God in this gathering on Sunday mornings. It's a time I look forward to every week.
And I know God must look forward to hearing the hearts of His people sing out to Him! However, Sunday is not the only day we should sing to God, and our voices and instruments are not the only way we should sing to God! There's another way to sing to God! Let's pray and ask God to teach us today what it means to sing to God with the lives we live. Because Church is not a ritual, it's a way of life!

"Sweet Jesus, You are simply amazing! You are so faithful and so constant, so loving and so true, so powerful in all You do! We are honored to gather together here in Your presence and we are so grateful You desire to hear us sing songs of praise to You. But Lord we know You want our lives to be a song that rises above the noise and turbulence of this old world and makes a beautiful noise unto You! I pray we can learn from Your Word today what it means to be the church in the way we live. I pray the songs of our lives will broadcast to those around us Your love, Your mercy, Your awesome power, and Your willingness to personally work in anyone's life who cries out Your name! Speak through Your servant this morning and let us all learn and hear from You. I desire to exalt You and I desire for each of us to be transformed by Your power! In Jesus Name I pray and I believe!

Church, it's not a ritual, it's a way of life! Some people think if they attend a service they've done church and they can get on with their life! How tragic and misinformed is this line of thinking. Church is not something you do, it's something you are! And when you are the church, there's things you do because you are the church. There's a difference. If you think church is a ritual thing you do once a week and you're golden, you've been misled, and I don't care what denomination you are, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, non-denomination, home church and the list goes on. Let me give you the definition of ritual...

rit·u·al /ˈriCH(əw)əl/ noun:
1. a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.

A ritual is a religious ceremony. I'm not against religious ceremonies! But religious ceremonies are only a small part of what it means to be the Church! When church is only about attending religious ceremonies it quickly becomes irrelevant and becomes a burden rather than a way of life. It becomes something you have to do instead of something you want to do! When church is only about ritual, the purpose behind the ritual get's lost and the ritual becomes a meaningless activity. And here's the truth of the matter. You can attend ceremony after ceremony and perform ritual after ritual, and walk away totally unchanged! True Church transforms because it's not about a place, it's about a personal relationship with a person named Jesus Christ!
True Church changes the way a person lives because it's not about coming to a building,  it's about being the Body of Christ in this world! True Church is not a weekly ritual, but is a way of life that changes hearts, individuals, families, communities and ultimately the world!

Here's the way Paul put it in his letter to the Colossian church...

Colossians 2:6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,
7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Paul says "just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him!" So we become a part of the church, His body, when we receive Jesus into our hearts. When we do this we receive His forgiveness and His salvation, but Paul says "don't stop there!" Continue to live in Him! Every day! Paul then gives four characteristics of a person who understands that church is not a religious ritual but a way of life. He says...

Colossians 2:6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,
7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

We need to be rooted in Jesus!
We need to be built up in Jesus!
We need to be strengthened in the faith!
We need to be overflowing with thankfulness!

Why was Paul so concerned that the people who made up the Colossian church be rooted, built up, strengthened and overflowing with thanksgiving? Because there were two groups of people in Colosse actively challenging the teachings of Paul. The gnostics and the some of the Jews who insisted on the traditions and rituals they had always done. Listen to what Paul says in the very next verse...

Colossians 2:8 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.

Dr. R.E.O. White gives one of the most clear definitions of Gnosticism that I've ever read. He writes...

Gnosticism combined philosophic speculation, superstition, semi-magical rites, and sometimes a fanatical and even obscene cultus. Ideas common to it's many forms include: salvation by knowledge (gnosis)--the enlightened are "advanced Christians"; dualism--everything spiritual is by nature pure, everything material is by nature irretrievably evil, including the world and the body. God therefore is far off; the gulf between him and the world is filled by a chain of beings of descending spirituality. The body, the tomb of the spirit, may be rigorously suppressed or indifferently indulged as irrelevant to the life of pure spirit…Gnosticism cultivated an enlightened elite, for whom alone salvation was possible, and despised all others." Broadman Commentary Volume 11 page 219.

Now can you see why Paul was so concerned with this horrible heresy? And on the other hand, there were those who were insisting on a strict adherence to Jewish law, which was also very dangerous to the new church. Why? Because it taught religion instead of relationship, and ritual instead of a way of life! And Jesus had died to set people free from the curse of the law. Why? Because no man could live up to the holy expectations of the law. It's not that the law was bad, it's just that human were not capable of living up to the law on their own. We needed help! Paul had put it this way in his letter to the Galatian Church...

Colossians 3:10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

And even though the good news of the gospel is that Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us and sacrificed His life for us so we could be forgiven and saved, there are still people who insist that salvation is by some other way. Special knowledge and following certain religious ritual.

Paul expressed his concern in the first few verses of chapter two of Colossians...

Colossians 2:1 I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.
2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,
3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.

Sometimes, lies can sound so convincing can't they! Now you see why Paul said we need to be rooted in Jesus, built up in Jesus, strengthened in our faith, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Instead of trying to earn your own salvation, why not just receive the salvation Jesus wants to give you and then live a good life as an overflow of your thankfulness! In fact Paul is about to give us some words that will help us get rooted deep in Christ and will build us up in Christ!

Colossians 2:9-15

9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,
10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,
12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,
14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Man, you get that and you'll be rooted deep. Get that and you'll be built up and strengthened in your faith so much so you won't be able to help but overflow with thankfulness!! Thank you Jesus!!!!

Now this is were some people make a serious mistake. They think, "well, okay, I'm not strong enough to keep the law, so it doesn't matter how I live. I'll just ask Jesus into my heart and not worry about how I live my life. I'll just let Jesus take care of that when I die!" Let me just say this…you and I could never keep the law on our own. We could never be good enough or holy enough to earn our way to heaven and so, yes we need Jesus to take care of that! But listen when I realized the horrible pain, and suffering, and agony my sin caused Jesus, I was broken! I was so ashamed of my sin and the hurt it had caused Jesus and the hurt it had caused others, I wanted Jesus to not only save me from the penalty of sin, but I wanted Him to save me from the power of sin. I didn't want to live in that slim pit anymore. I wanted Him to give me the power to live a new life. I didn't want to just go through some kind of ritual cleansing every week by going to church and just keep doing the same sick and destructive stuff over and over again. I wanted to become the man of God He created me to be. And Paul tells the Colossians and us, how we can stop going to church and start being the church. He tells us how to move from religious ritual to a way of life that is truly transformational!

Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

In other words, let Christ help you set your priorities and your agenda every single day!
Why? Because it's not all about you any longer. It's not me, myself and I!
It's about my precious Lord, who I don't mind being in charge of my life, because He has my best interest at heart. And it's about others and how I can help my family, my spouse, my children, my grandchildren, my co-workers, my neighbor, my friends! And you know what? Life is so much better for me when I live my life for God and for others. It's just better that way!!!! Paul continues...

Colossians 3:3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

And now Paul is going to give us two list of things get rid of in our lives. Things that will hurt us if we don't get rid of them.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, (There's a right and a wrong way to enjoy that aspect of our humanity, Pastor Larry’s comment) impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

Colossians 3:6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices
10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

You see, ritual law will kill you, but if you have put on the new self, made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, you can discover a whole new way of life, not based on religious law, but on a personal relationship with your Creator God! And since we all depend on Him, Paul says...

Colossians 3:11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

And now the moment you've all been waiting for…the things to do list! It's a good list, a fun list, and a rewarding list...

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Someone once said, "if we'd get busy doing the dos we wouldn't have time to do the don'ts!" I like that! Let's get busy being the church by living our lives in such a way that the world knows we're not playing church, we are the church! May it be said about us "at Northshore Church it's not a religious ritual, it's a way of life!"
Let's pray!