“The date on this yogurt says it’s expired. Do you think it’s still okay?” Jacob asked from behind the refrigerator door. Not wanting to ruin his Spring Break, I paused, thinking about how the very nature of yogurt requires that it goes sour. Right? Combined with my love for thrift, I answered with a hopeful, “Oh, sure. It’s fine.” After all, how many times does an expiration date really change our life? Do you know what’s expired in your life?
Maybe you stopped thinking about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, but it’s still good. The aftertaste, in fact, is life changing. The reality of Easter expired and we threw it out too soon.
Sometimes, an expiration date means everything. In the second chapter of Colossians, Paul writes about being alive in Christ. He declares how followers of Christ have had their “record of debt” canceled by nailing it to the cross with God’s Son. To add to the amazement, he says rulers and authorities have been put “to open shame” as God triumphed over them. Open shame. Humiliation. That’s powerful. You can read it all in Colossians 2:13-15. He sets the stage for 3 truly expired items we can’t afford to overlook.
That feels like more than enough substance, because “the substance belongs to Christ.” If that’s true, we should steer away from people hung up on shadows of things to come like judgment, visions, and things that pass away. He gets into the nitty gritty of cautioning us not to consider restrictions on food and drink to be sacred, because we have a tendency to make our own ideas appear wise (v.23). Since the lost world is often a place where anything goes, it is sadly within the Church where temporary tendencies take over.
In a day when we gather and divide ourselves according to lifestyle choices, spiritual experiences, and choices on our tables, an expiration date means everything. What’s expired and what’s still good?
- Our life here on earth has expired. We are no longer alive in this world.
- Our life according to man’s rules has expired. We are no longer bound by regulations.
- Our life as people pleasers has expired. We are no longer compelled by human precepts.
A disciple has been crucified with Christ, forgiven of trespasses, and made alive by God. It’s a real “died and lived again” story, and it means we are dead to the power of this world and raised to the power of Christ. In my job, in my love life, in my parenting, in my friendships, in my physical choices, in my dreams and plans … Life here expired.
“Why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings? (Colossians 2:20-22)
We often act like we’re still “alive” to preferences of people, rules of organized religion, and temporary trends. But we’re not. Those rules expired and we are no longer bound by them. To indulge in them would make us sick.
So why is it so hard to live to Christ if we’re dead to the world? There’s not a single answer, but there is a powerful principle here to help us understand why we love indulging in expired things. “These have an appearance of wisdom.” (v. 23) And we love what looks right. We love jumping on a band wagon. Truth is, rules promote “self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (v.23).
Sometimes we push aside unexpired things, like Easter, and reach for expired things, like popular packaged religion. We aren’t compelled by that any more, even in food preferences, religious requirements, or spiritual experiences. Let’s put those things with old yogurt. Only Christ compels us.
Friends, this is freedom.
“The substance belongs to Christ,” and there’s no expiration date on Him. This time, an expiration date means everything.
- We each have weaknesses where worldly things control us. What’s most likely to compete with Christ for control in your life?