4. Walking Worthily of the Lord to Please Him in all Respects (Col. 1:10a)
I. Doctrinal: The Person and Work of Christ (1:1-23)
A. Introduction (1:1-14)
1. Paul’s Greeting to the Colossians (1:1-2)
2. Paul’s Thanksgiving for the Colossians (1:3-8)
3. Paul’s Prayer for the Colossians (1:9-14)
a. The Cause of Paul’s Prayer (1:9a)
b. The Content of Paul’s Prayer (1:9b-14)
(1) The Root and the Trunk—“filled with the knowledge of His will” (vs. 9b)
(2) The Branches—a worthy walk that pleases Him (1:10a)
Following the prayer of thanksgiving (vss. 3-8), the apostle adds a fervent prayer of petition (vss. 9-14) consisting of the cause of the prayer (vs. 9a), its content, and purpose (vss. 9b-14). As mentioned, some of the terms used in these verses suggest the figure of a fruitful tree that has been planted by the refreshing streams of God’s Holy Word. In that regard, there is first the root and the trunk (vs. 9b)—the source and means of fruitfulness. After this come the branches or the Christian’s walk that extends to all areas of life (vs. 10a). This lesson, then, will cover The Branches—a worthy walk that pleases Him (vs. 10a). Lesson 6 will cover the products of a worthy walk, The Fruit—four areas of fruitfulness (vss. 10b-14).
Even a casual look at our society makes it evident that ours is a society that judges success or character by how much a person does, by how active he is, by how many hours he works, or by how much he accomplishes. In this passage, as in his other epistles, the apostle lays great stress on good works and service (cf. Eph. 2:10; 1 Tim. 6:18; Tit. 1:16; 3:1, 8) because our works are important to God and the purpose He has for us in society. But in this emphasis on works or good deeds, the apostle always represents them as an outgrowth of a right relationship with God through personal fellowship with the Lord Jesus. In Paul’s theology, works are never the root; they are the fruit, not just of a saved condition, but the product of spiritual growth and fellowship.
In contrast to Paul and because of man’s tendency to lean on his own resources, many in the Christian community often seek to motivate people to service and good works in ways that contradict the root/fruit principle. They seek to motivate by rah, rah techniques, by entertainment, by promotional campaigns, by playing on the emotions of people, or by seeking to make people feel guilty. Why do we tend to do this? Because we are often unwilling to wait on the Lord and His timing and methods; we are also prone to lean on the arm of the flesh, to measure success by numbers, by budgets, and by activity. We have become a quick fix-it-populace, a gadget society full of fast food junkies and instant tea crazies. We go looking for overnight panaceas, miracle cures or elixirs, but we are reluctant (1) to stop and spend time alone with God to develop our trust and walk with Him in the light of His Word and (2) to help others do likewise.
We are a society that worships at the feet of a god called activism. Activism comes from a misplaced sense of responsibility and trust. Ours is a world that has lost its sense of responsibility and trust in the Lord, placing it instead in what we do, in what we have accomplished, and in how busy we are. These values have become the measure of success, and it indicates a wrong focus, one on doing rather than on being.
Ultimately, we must learn that it is not we who work for God; it is God who works in us (Phil. 2:12,13). Christian service is designed to be the result of intimate fellowship with God, which in turn promotes devotion to God. The work we do is to be the result of the life we live. We need to avoid not only the extremes of impractical mysticism, but also those of fleshly enthusiasm. The opposite of activism is not passivism, it is biblical understanding and faith that produces godly devotion and godly service.
Let me suggest a modern parable:
In our plastic and cardboard society, you rarely see this anymore, but in days past manufacturers built meticulous wooden boxes to ship certain products. I can remember three such boxes—boxes for dynamite, shotgun shells, and books. These boxes were often better made than a lot of furniture you buy today. They were carefully constructed with mortised dovetail corners. I still have such a box. The point is, they were designed to be filled and fitted with specific contents. Where such boxes still exist today, as in my garage, they are filled with an assortment of odds and ends. With the original contents removed, their emptiness becomes a catchall for our junk.
These boxes form a parable of the Christian life. In Ephesians 4:17, Paul speaks of those who walk “in the futility of their minds” (NASB). God designed our minds to be filled with the knowledge of His will, but if they are empty of that knowledge, they can become quickly filled with junk. I like to think of this as the vacuum action of the soul. A vacuum may be defined as a depressurized space that draws whatever substance is around it into the void. The human mind is just such a vacuum, a space within us that becomes a junk box filled with whatever is near.
As regenerated people, those designed to be filled with the knowledge of God and the power of His life, we too often haphazardly fill our lives with the trivia and junk of the world. Then, as a result, we find ourselves either failing to serve the Lord at all or feverishly acting in the energy of the flesh in an attempt to do the work of God.
Through his prayer in Colossians 1:9, Paul has charged us to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. To be so filled is in essence to be filled with God Himself and to begin to experience His fullness—His character, peace, comfort, power, and purpose (cf. Eph. 3:19). In this regard, 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 teaches us an important truth.
4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 4:7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.
According to this passage, what are we? We are clay vessels that God has designed to be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the person and work of Christ. But when this occurs in us, it will result in transformed lives, lives that manifest the power of God in Christ-like living. Thus, in Colossians 1:10-14, Paul points us to the kind of fruitful life that is the designed end of a being filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
God must make the worker before He can do the work. God spent thirteen years preparing Joseph for his ministry in Egypt, and eighty years preparing Moses to lead Israel. Jesus spent three years teaching His disciples how to bear fruit; and even the learned Apostle Paul needed a “postgraduate course” in Arabia before he could serve God with effectiveness. A newborn babe can cry and make its presence known, but it cannot work. A new Christian can witness for Christ and even win others—but he must be taught to walk and learn God’s wisdom before he is placed in an office of responsible ministry.91
The Branches—a Worthy Walk (vs. 10a)
So that you may live (or "walk") worthily of the Lord and please (or "with a view to pleasing") him in all respects:
With these words, the apostle directs us to the intended result of being filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. “So that you may live” is an infinitive in the Greek text, which may point to either the purpose or result. Though it is often difficult to discern purpose from result, it would seem logical that the infinitive points to the intended result of knowing God’s will. That this clause points to the intended result stresses a vital truth—without the knowledge of God’s will it is impossible to walk worthily of the Lord. The intended result of God’s truth known and applied is changed conduct.
The false teachers in Colossae attracted people through their offer of “spiritual knowledge,” but they did not relate this knowledge to life. In the Christian life, knowledge and obedience go together. There is no separation between learning and living. The wisdom about which Paul prayed was not simply a head knowledge of deep spiritual truths (see Col. 1:28; 2:3; 3:16; 4:5). True spiritual wisdom must affect the daily life. Wisdom and practical intelligence must go together (see Ex. 31:3; Deut. 4:6; 1 Cor. 1:19).92
We must not think, however, that all the false teachers necessarily divorced religious knowledge from life or ethical living. The fundamental problem is that they sought ethical change apart from Christ as the source (means) and goal (design) of spiritual change. The same thing applies today to all the religions of the world and, sad to say, very often in some that name the name of Christ. In other words, spiritual change or moral behavior is sought through asceticism (some form of self-denial), by various forms of legalism (doing good in order to get God’s blessing), or by some other means of human ingenuity or works.
“May live” is the Greek verb peripateo, “to walk, live, conduct one’s life.” It literally means “to walk about or around.” In English, we have a seldom-used adjective, peripatetic, that is derived from this Greek word. It means, “to walk about or from place to place; to be traveling on foot.” The English noun, peripatetics, refers to the philosophy or teaching methods of Aristotle, who conducted discussions while walking about in the Lyceum of ancient Athens. While peripateo is used in the New Testament of one’s literal walk, it is often used metaphorically “of one’s behavior, conduct, of the way one lives” (Rom. 6:4; 8:4; 13:13; 1 Cor. 3:3; Eph. 2:2, 10; 4:1; Col. 1:10; 2:6; 1 Pet. 5:8; 1 John 1:6, 7). Here in Colossians 1:10, the tense of the verb is aorist. This is what grammarians call the constative aorist. As a constative, it envisions the whole of one’s walk or conduct. Thus, the ultimate aim of being filled with the knowledge of God’s will is to influence all of one’s conduct day after day. This will be stressed more in the following phrase, “in all aspects of life.”
“Worthily of the Lord” is the adverb axios, which means “worthily, in a manner worthy of, suitably.”93 Paul is not saying that we can become worthy of God’s love and grace by our good works or manner of life. No matter how hard we might try, we can never walk in a manner that makes us worthy of the Lord’s love or salvation. To walk in a manner worthy of the Lord means to walk in a way that is commensurate, fitting, and consistent with who the Lord is to us and what the Lord has done, is doing, and will do for us. The idea is something like, let your walk be the kind that brings credit to the grace of God in Christ. For instance, Paul illustrates the principle in his admonition to slaves in Titus 2:9-10. There he writes, “Slaves are to be subject to their own masters in everything, to do what is wanted and not talk back, not to pilfer, but showing all good faith, in order to do credit to the teaching of God our Savior in everything.” “To do credit” is literally “to adorn” or “show the beauty of.”
“And please Him in all respects” describes the goal of walking worthily of the Lord and what that looks like. It means to walk with a view to pleasing Him in all respects. This clause is introduced with the preposition eis, which points us to the goal in mind. The preposition eis indicates motion or direction toward or into something. From this, it naturally came to be used figuratively to point to a goal or purpose. Thus, we are to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord with a view to pleasing Him. The pronoun “Him” is not in the Greek, but is certainly to be understood. As we seek to live the Christian life by His matchless grace, it is tremendously important to keep in mind the all-important goal of pleasing the Lord and bringing honor to Him. It is so easy to lose our way here no matter how devoted one is to spiritual things. I recently read a definition of a fanatic that is fitting in this regard. “‘A fanatic is a person who, having lost sight of his goal, redoubles his effort to get there.’ The fanatic runs around frantically getting nowhere. He is a basketball player without a basket, a tennis player with out a net, a golfer without a green.”94 People often want to know how to be more spiritual or more pious, but the underlying goal ought to be to know God more intimately and to please Him. The reason? Simply because it’s possible to be very spiritual and religious, at least on the surface, without being devoted to pleasing God, and especially according to the principles of His Word. The Pharisees were very religious and appeared to very spiritual, but for most of them, it was only external and they failed miserably. More will be said on this in the conclusion of this lesson.
"To please" is the Greek noun areskeia, which is found only here in the New Testament. Nevertheless, it comes from the verb aresko, which Paul uses fourteen times in his writings. An important point to note about this word is that aresko describes an attitude that is the driving force behind one’s actions whether a false or proper attitude. Biblically speaking, a false attitude is seen in one who seeks to please only himself, or in one who acts only as a people-pleaser at the sacrifice of principle or service done in obedience to God (cf. Col. 3:22; Eph. 6:6). For this latter concept, Paul uses anthropareskos, “man-pleaser.” Paul also uses euarestos, “well-pleasing, acceptable,” but always of what is pleasing or acceptable to God. This is true even in Titus 2:9 where it is used of pleasing one’s master, but even there the ultimate goal is a life that does credit to the teaching of God our Savior in everything (Tit. 2:9-10).
“In all respects” focuses us on the all-encompassing nature of pleasing the Lord. As in verse 9, “all” is the adjective pas, meaning “all, every.” When used with a singular noun without the article as here, it may carry the idea of “every type or sphere of pleasing.” Through learning the will of God in the Bible, we are to anticipate and follow completely His wishes in every sphere and aspect of life. “In all respects” or “unto every kind of pleasing” points the to various spheres of one’s life—spiritual, mental, emotional—and all the various areas of one’s activities—family, church or the corporate life of the body of Christ, occupation or employment, recreation, entertainment, hobbies, government—wherever life may take us. Our tendency is to compartmentalize our behavior in such a way that we let God invade and take charge of some areas, but try to keep Him out of others. This kind of thinking displeases the Lord and fails to honor Him as God. Thus, later in this epistle (3:5-4:1 and cf. Eph. 5:22- 6:9), the apostle directs us to the kind of behavior that pleases and displeases the Lord in society as a whole, in the church, in the home, and at one’s place of business. It is for this reason, that God has placed the Holy Spirit within us, to enable us not only to please the Lord, but also to open up every room of our spiritual house to the Lord Jesus so He has access to every sphere of our lives. Paul certainly had this in view when he wrote, “I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith… (Eph. 3:16-17). In this verse, “dwell” is the Greek, katoikeo, “to dwell, reside, inhabit,” but the idea is that of “being at home.” When one is truly at home, he has access to every room of the house.
For instance, have you noticed how easy it is to love some people, especially those with whom you have a lot in common, but oh, so difficult to love others because of certain personality difference or because some they are just difficult to deal with, much less love. In such cases, we may be tempted to make excuses for avoiding these people or for failing to demonstrate Christ-like love. We rationalize with excuses and refuse to allow the Lord into that area of our life. I remember hearing a young pastor when giving his reasons for getting out of the ministry. He said “I really love the ministry; it’s people that I can’t stand.” Even a casual reading of the New Testament should lead us to the clear conclusion that being people-oriented with a caring heart is what pleases the Lord. Of course, a caring heart must express itself in ways that honor God’s truth, and this may at times require discipline or tough love, but regardless, it must be done in a way that demonstrates love. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, Paul urges tough love on those who refuse to work, but at the end of that section he added, “But if anyone does not obey our message through this letter, take note of him and do not associate closely with him, so that he may be ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thess. 3:14-15).
Summary Principles on Pleasing the Lord
The apostle speaks of living with the aim of pleasing the Lord in every respect to describe the Christ-like mentality that should be the guiding and controlling force in every Christian’s life. Pleasing the Lord stands opposed to the worldly mindset that primarily seeks to please oneself or that seeks to please others but for the wrong reasons. So, where does a life devoted to pleasing the Lord begin? It must naturally begin with the logical and spiritual service of presenting one’s life to God as a living sacrifice.
Rom. 12:1-2 Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing (euarestos) to God—which is your reasonable service. 12:2 Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing (euarestos) and perfect.
As the previous context and the “therefore” of Romans 12:1 teaches, the exhortation of Romans 12:1-2 is based on an intelligent understanding of who God is and all that He has done for us in Christ as described in the chapters preceding Romans 12 (cf. Rom. 3:21–11:36). Understanding the truth of these chapters forms the proper foundation for a life that is pleasing or acceptable (euarestos) to God.
Paul’s threefold use of aresko in Romans 15:1-3 summarily describes what is involved in a life that seeks to please the Lord.
Rom. 15:1-3 But we who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not just please ourselves. 15:2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good to build him up. 15:3 For even Christ did not please himself, but just as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”
- First, stronger Christians (those of stronger convictions and conscience) are warned against pleasing themselves at the expense of the weaker brother or sister in Christ (vs. 1).
- Rather, the guiding attitude that should control and direct the Christian’s life is that each must please his neighbor, but always with a view to his neighbor’s good, specifically, his spiritual edification (vs. 2). That good is to be defined, of course, by the teaching of Scripture.
- Finally, the apostle reminds us that the model for such behavior is the Lord Jesus who, refusing to please Himself, pursued the Father’s plan regardless of what it cost Him (vs. 3).
When seeking to please others, there is a twofold attitude that should control the Christian’s behavior. First, there must be the desire to please God and not men (Gal. 1:10; Eph. 6:6; Col. 3:22; 1 Thess. 2:4). As seen, this is naturally based on who God is and what He has done for us in Christ. Christians have been bought with a price and now belong to God (cf. Eph. 6:6; 1 Cor. 7:22-23). Second, in pleasing people, we are to be guided by what is best for them in the light of the will of God. If not, we would be serving others (mere people pleasers) for selfish reasons rather than serving God who examines our hearts and motives (cf. Rom. 15:2; 1 Cor. 10:33; Gal. 1:10b).
Naturally, since God is a God of love, pleasing the Lord extends to ministry to people in accordance with the gifts God gives us. Thus, Romans 12:1-2 is followed with the exhortation to take the gifts God has given us and to use them in ministry to the body of Christ and to serve society as a whole (Rom. 12:3-15:13).
Pleasing the Lord should be the great ambition of every believer’s heart for another reason. Since the Judgment Seat of Christ immediately follows the return of the Lord, Christ’s return is one of the great motivations for pleasing the Lord. The Judgment Seat of Christ is the time and place where all believers will be evaluated for the things done in this life and where they will receive or lose rewards based on their faithfulness to the Lord who examines our hearts.
2 Cor. 5:9-10 So then whether we are alive or away, we make it our ambition to please him. 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.
1 Thess. 2:4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we declare it, not to please people but God, who examines our hearts.
Pleasing the Lord is not only to be the great ambition of every believer, but something at which we should each seek to excel. The goal is not to be accepted into heaven, which is free through faith in Christ, but we are to excel because we love the Lord, want to honor Him, and because He has promised rewards for faithful service. The following verse, which stresses this, is also stated in a context that anticipates the return of the Lord for the church.
1 Thess. 4:1 Finally then, brothers and sisters, we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received instruction from us about how you must live and please God (as you are in fact living) that you do so more and more (i.e., that you excel still more and more).
But let us not lose sight of the truth that one’s ability to please the Lord is ultimately the result of His work in us as the Great Shepherd who is continually at work to equip us for every good work.
Heb. 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace who by the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, 13:21 equip you with every good thing to do his will, working in you what is pleasing before him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever.
Through the Good Shepherd’s equipping ministry (the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Scripture, and the ministry of the body of Christ [cf. Eph. 4:12ff]), pleasing the Lord, which means doing His will, involves discovering and doing what pleases the Lord.
Eph. 5:8-10 for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light—5:9 for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth—5:10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
1 Thess. 4:1 …that as you received instruction from us about how you must live and please God…
As mentioned, pleasing the Lord rather than men must be the motive for all ministry, for marriage, and everything we do. If we seek to please people for selfish reasons, it will ruin our capacity to follow the Lord, take a stand for truth or principle, love others unselfishly, and to be and function as servants of God.
1 Thess. 2:4-6 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we declare it, not to please people but God, who examines our hearts. 2:5 For we never appeared with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is our witness—2:6 nor to seek glory from people, either from you or from others,
Those who are in the flesh and who do not know God (unbelievers) or those who are walking by the flesh (carnal believers) are incapable of pleasing God. Only when Christians are Spirit filled (controlled) and Word filled do they have the spiritual capacity to please God (cf. Eph. 5:18ff; Col. 3:16ff).
Rom. 8:8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Heb. 11:6 Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
When we fail to please the Lord in our relationships with people, we ultimately act against them, at least from God’s perspective. The only way to truly meet the needs of people is by first seeking to please the Lord and by putting His agenda first. Because of its inherent selfishness, the sinful nature or the flesh is a constant threat and antagonist to ministering to others because, whereas the filling of the Spirit provides the enablement by which we are able to please Him. Thus, we are warned against entanglements with the world and its goals because these things will hinder our capacity to please the Lord as His servants and stewards of His grace among people.
1 Thess. 2:14-15 For you became imitators, brothers and sisters, of God’s churches in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, because you too suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they in fact did from the Jews, 2:15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets and persecuted us severely. They are displeasing to God and are opposed to all people.
Rom. 14:17-18 For the kingdom of God does not consist of food and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. 14:18 For the one who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by people.
1Cor. 10:33-11:1 just as I also try to please everyone in all things. I do not seek my own benefit, but that of many, so that they may be saved. 11:1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
Gal. 5:17-18 For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
2 Tim. 2:4 No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the one who recruited him.
Though now nearly two decades old, in his book, Loving God, Chuck Colson hits the nail on the head as he describes the self-seeking condition of Western society:
Popular literature rides the wave with best-selling titles that guarantee success with everything from making money to firming flabby thighs. This not-so-magnificent obsession to "find ourselves" has spawned a whole set of counterfeit values; we worship fame, success, materialism, and celebrity. We want to "live for success" as we "look out for number one," and we don't mind "winning through intimidation."
However, this "self” conscious world is in desperate straits. Each new promise leads only to a frustrating paradox. The 1970s self-fulfillment fads led to self-absorption and isolation, rather than the fuller, liberated lives they predicted. The technology created to lead humanity to this new promised land may instead obliterate us and our planet in a giant mushroom cloud. Three decades of seemingly limitless affluence have succeeded only in sucking our culture dry, leaving it spiritually empty and economically weakened. Our world is filled with self-absorbed, frightened, hollow people…
And in the midst of all this we have the church—those who follow Christ. For the church, this ought to be an hour of opportunity. The church alone can provide a moral vision to a wandering people; the church alone can step into the vacuum and demonstrate that there is a sovereign, living God who is the source of Truth.
BUT, the church is in almost as much trouble as the culture, for the church has bought into the same value system: fame, success, materialism, and celebrity. We watch the leading churches and the leading Christians for our cues. We want to emulate the best-known preachers with the biggest sanctuaries and the grandest edifices.
Preoccupation with these values has also perverted the church's message. The assistant to one renowned media pastor, when asked the key to his man's success, replied without hesitation, "We give the people what they want." This heresy is at the root of the most dangerous message preached today: the what's-in-it-for me gospel.95 (emphasis mine)
Though I know there are plenty within the church of Jesus of Christ that are appalled at the statement, “we give the people what they want,” it is nevertheless a sad commentary on a people who ought to be committed to pleasing God and giving people what God wants instead. The danger is one of two extremes. As God’s people, we are either devoted to pleasing ourselves like the world in which we live, or we tend to make pleasing God complicated with legalism and the rules of man. The prophet Micah, using the time-honored method of asking key questions and playing the role of an inquisitive worshiper, calls our attention to what is vital in pleasing the Lord:
Micah 6:6 With what should I enter the Lord’s presence? With what should I bow before the sovereign God? Should I enter his presence with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? 6:7 Will the Lord accept a thousand rams, or ten thousand streams of olive oil? Should I give him my firstborn child as payment for my rebellion, my own flesh and blood descendant for my sin?
In verse 8, Micah blots out all the complicated things listed in verses 6-7, and replaces it with the most simple and obvious things that please the Lord. These are the kind of things that should be practiced by those who know God through the merit of the Savior and serve Him in simple faith.
Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is proper, and what the Lord really wants from you: He wants you to promote justice, to be faithful, and to live obediently before your God.
Like Micah, the Lord Jesus also pointed to the kind of practice that pleases God and gave the following serious warning: “Be careful about not living righteously merely to be seen by people. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:1). Why did he begin with “beware.” Was there some danger confronting the people? Does this danger still face us today? Absolutely!
…A humble, uncomplicated walk with God had been replaced by a prime-time performance of religion. it was righteousness on display… strut-your-stuff spirituality led by none other than the scribes and Phariseees who loved nothing more than to impress the public with their grandiose expression of piety on parade.
Remember the Nazarene’s earlier remark about righteousness?
For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).96
Similarly, in Colossians, the apostle Paul warns us against the danger of complicating and distorting the gospel message and our worship with man’s additions and traditions.
Col. 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days 2:17 that are only the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ. 2:18 Let no one who delights in humility and the worship of angels pass judgment on you. That person goes on at great lengths about what he has supposedly seen, but he is puffed up with empty notions by his fleshly mind. 2:19 He has not held fast to the head from whom the whole body, supported and knit together through its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.
Col 2:20 If you have died with Christ to the elemental spirits of the world, why do you submit to them as though you lived in the world? 2:21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” 2:22 These are all destined to perish with use, founded as they are on human commands and teachings. 2:23 They have the appearance of wisdom with their self-imposed worship and false humility, by an unsparing treatment of the body, but they are thoroughly useless when it comes to restraining the indulgences of the flesh (Col. 2:16-2:23).
In the verses that follow (10b-14), the apostle will point us to some simple illustrations of what is involved in pleasing the Lord. There is nothing complicated about what follows as Paul describes four areas of fruitfulness where we should be pleasing the Lord. But we are so prone to complicating the Christian life in one way or another, and I doubt that we ever please the Lord when we do. Swindoll’s comments about simple worship and keeping things simple has application here. He writes:
The same applies to my idea of genuine worship: Keep it simple. I much prefer quiet, reflective times in the Lord’s presence to giant meetings led by professionals who know how to work the crowd and keep the show looking good. Give me a few grand hymns mixed with several choruses of worship and spontaneous moments of silence rather than all the religious hoopla where “guest artists” take turns and crowd-pleasing singing groups share color-coordinated microphones and try to get everybody to smile and clap along with the beat. No thanks. Something within me recoils when I sense that the program is choreographed right down to the last ten secondsand I am an observer of a performance instead of a participant in worship. Don’t misunderstand: I have no problem with great entertainment of professional performances. Nobody screams louder than I do at a ball game or applauds with greater enthusiasm following an evening at the symphony, but when something as meaningful and beautiful as worship gets slick or bears the marks of a complicated stage show or starts to look contrived, I start checking out the closest exits.97
91 Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Complete (Victor Books, Wheaton, Ill., 1986), 37.
92 Wiersbe, 36.
93 BAGD, electronic media.
94 R. C. Sproul, Pleasing God (Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, 1988), 29.
95 Charles W. Colson, Loving God (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1983), 13-14.
96 Charles R. Swindoll, Simple Faith (Word Publishing, Dallas-London-Vancouver-Melbourne, 1991), 121.
97 Swindoll, 117-118.