“We are not governed by externals. We are led by the Spirit.” – Graham Cooke
On a regular basis, I receive messages like this in my email from Graham. The above was the first line of the one I received today. And it is the essence of the gospel that Paul was given through direct revelation from and taught to him by Christ. And that gospel is in direct opposition, direct conflict, with religion and the religious spirit. As I said a couple Sundays ago in my sermon, the gospel is anti-religion.
This is why, in a discussion about this very thing, Paul writes at the end of what we know as Colossians 2, “If you died with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as if alive in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances? Do not handle nor taste nor touch, (regarding things which are all to perish when used) according to the commandments and teachings of men? Such things indeed have a reputation of wisdom in self-imposed piety and mock humility and severe treatment of the body but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.”
Religious-inspired Christianity says things like the following:
Good Christians don’t drink alcohol.
They also don’t patronize business establishments that serve alcohol.
Good Christians don’t get tattoos.
Good Christians don’t get body piercings.
Good Christians only wear certain types of attire to worship.
Good Christians only listen to certain types of music.
Good Christians don’t bake cakes for same sex weddings.
Good Christians don’t do certain activities on Sundays.
And on and on it goes.
And adherence to lists like the one above is how one’s spirituality is judged. Religion is all about externals – living life by what one must do and what one must not do – whereas what God has done through Christ is all about the internal – life lived by the Spirit, meaning that we live by the nature of God, which He placed within us who have believed in Christ, having been joined with Christ in His death and raised also with Him to walk in newness of life just as He walked, by which we have been given Christ’s nature as our one and only true nature.
Life by the Spirit does not abide by some religious code or moral code; it abides by the very heart and desires and character of God. And that is display in different, sometimes seemingly contradictory, ways. This very truth, this very heart of the gospel, is why Paul no longer considered it obligatory to follow the dictates of the Mosaic Law as a Jew. In Galatians 4:12, he says this directly to the Galatian believers: “Be as I am, because I am also as you are, brothers…” He’s telling these Gentiles that he had become just like them as Gentiles in observance of the law. Gentiles didn’t follow the mandates; Paul was saying that he was no longer either, all because of life by the Spirit through the gospel.
I wish religion would die, but it won’t until the reality of the defeat of the enemy of God and all those who believe comes to fruition.
Until that time, we who believe must live from the inside out, for when we do that, we experience the culture of the Spirit – of joy, of power, and of peace.
Graham says this at the close of his message: