Get Focused 4: Check the Warning Label

We see warning labels all over the place. There’s a warning label on
boxes of cigarettes: "SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung
Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and May Complicate Pregnancy." On
coffee cups, you’ll notice the warning, “Caution: Hot!” You might see
signs occasionally, exclaiming, “Flammable!” or "High Voltage!" On
homes, you might see signs warning, “Beware of Dog.” What other warning
labels come to mind?

Now, some warning labels are just plain silly. Here’s a list I read recently … 

  • "Do not use in shower." — on a hair dryer. 
  • "Do not eat toner." — On a toner cartridge for a laser printer. 
  • "May irritate eyes." – on a can of self-defense pepper spray. 
  • "Do not use for drying pets." — In the manual for a microwave oven. 
  • "For use on animals only." — On an electric cattle prod. 
  • "Caution: Remove infant before folding for storage." — On a portable stroller. 
  • "Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly." — On a child sized Superman costume.

Incidentally, Christianity probably ought to come with a warning label,
something like: "Following Christ is dangerous. You are joining a
revolution that requires complete devotion, obedience, and action. And
remember, it is not about you; it’s about loving, serving, and honoring
God, and loving and serving others." Or something like that.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
(2 Timothy 3.16, NKJV)

So, let’s look at some warnings in Colossians 2.6-23.

Get focused (and stay focused) on Christ!
Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live
your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and firm in your faith
just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
(Colossians 2.6-8)

Don’t get distracted!
Even though reason, tradition, and experience are all important, they
must not be valued on the same plane as Scripture. I think of the so
called "Wesleyan Quadrilateral" (Scripture, reason, tradition, and
experience) in which Scripture is primary (for Wesley, anyway)! The others may help shape us and
our understandings, but God’s Word must always take precedence over the
other influences!

In Colossians 2, we hear Paul warning us to watch out for distractions of reason, tradition, and experience.

Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty,
deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the
elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him
all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form …
(Colossians 2.8-10)

Reason, the mind God gave us, is important. But we must be careful not
to be carried away by human arguments that may sound good, but in the
end, lead us away from God.

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—these are only
the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ!
(Colossians 2.16-17)

Tradition can be good. Learning how those who’ve gone before us lived
can be valuable. But we must guard against doing what we’ve always done
simply because that’s the way we’ve always done it.

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. 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. 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? “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” These
are all destined to perish with use, founded as they are on human
commands and teachings. Even though they have the appearance of wisdom
with their self-imposed worship and false humility achieved by an
unsparing treatment of the body—a wisdom with no true value—they in
reality result in fleshly indulgence.
(Colossians 2.18-23)

Experience is important, too. But our experience must be affirmed and
given witness to by the community of which we are a part. We seek
guidance in community; we hold one another accountable, and we
willingly submit to one another, in community.

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy in Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation (2 Peter 2.20).

Be missional!
Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him … (Colossians 2.6)

Living the life of Christ is a missional life!

“Christianity over the past 2000 years has moved from a tribe of
renegades to a religion of conformists. Follow Jesus into a
resurrection. To claim we believe is not enough. The call of Jesus is
one that demands action. Jesus said ‘Go!’ The modern church makes you
think he said, ‘Come, and listen.’” (Erwin McManus)

In an article called, “A Missional Church,” Ed Stetzer wrote, "What is
‘missional’"? He said, "The term ‘missional’ is simply the noun
‘missionary’ adapted into an adjective. … a "missionary" is someone who
acts like a missionary (for example, understands a culture, proclaims
the faithful Gospel in a way that people in culture can understand, and
uses parts of that culture to glorify God). A ‘missional church’ is a
church that acts like a missionary in its community."

A missional church is … 

  • Incarnational (deeply connected to the community) 
  • Indigenous (they’ve taken root in the soil and reflect, to some degree, the culture of their community) 
  • Intentional about their methodologies.

I also love what Reggie McNeal wrote: “Member values clash with
missionary values. Member values are all about church real estate,
church programming, who’s in and who’s out, member services, member
issues (translated: am I getting what I want out of this church?).
Missionary values are about the street, people’s needs, breaking down
barriers, community issues (translated: am I partnering with God’s work
in people?). One of these value sets will triumph over the other. They
do not coexist peacefully.”

These words are very timely for us, aren’t they? We’re in the process
of discerning God’s yearning for our ministry in this Valley. And
recently, our District Superintendent, Rev. Dave Norris, wrote in his
October District newsletter piece, regarding the concern about finances
and money that is surfacing in a number of our congregations,
especially in light of the projected increased heating costs we are

“It is increasingly apparent that some congregations will be forced to
consider closing because they cannot continue to meet the costs of
being in mission and ministry while maintaining a building. My
hope is that, if your congregation finds itself in that situation, you
will prayerfully consider how and where you might be able to continue
in ministry without your building. A stumbling block to ministry
in many of our congregations is their lack of mission and vision: very
simply, many have forgotten that they exist not for themselves, but for
God so that they can spread ‘scriptural holiness’ to those who have
either forgotten or never experienced the powerful presence of God’s
grace in their lives. Many, unfortunately, have come to believe
that their building is more important than the Lord God we are to
serve, and that Christ Jesus calls us to serve others, not
ourselves.  ‘Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of our life’s wild,
restless sea, … saying, Christian, follow me.’"

We are stewards of our experience with God
In him you also were circumcised—not, however, with a circumcision
performed by human hands, but by the removal of the fleshly body, that
is, through the circumcision done by Christ. Having been buried with
him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith
in the power of God who raised him from the dead. And even though you
were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your
flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all
your transgressions. He has destroyed what was against us, a
certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has
taken it away by nailing it to the cross. Disarming the rulers and
authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over
them by the cross.
(Colossians 2.11-15)

God has done amazing things for us! But God also wants to do amazing
things through us! We are now stewards of what God has done in us —
what we’ve experience. Now, we must pass it on to others so that they,
too, can experience God in a personal way!

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