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November 15, 2023 / by Richard Mayhew

We all love games and sports. To allow us to play fairly and consistently, there are certain rules and boundaries that every participant must follow.

In football, a ball in possession of a player which crosses the goal line scores six points. A basketball going through the basket scores two points. In tennis, if you step on the line during a serve before the ball is hit, it is called a “foot fault.” And so it goes. Because we normally operate with sets of rules, we tend to make up certain rules that also define our spiritual life. We can almost “keep score” by how well we can follow these rules.

It is reported that during Jesus’ time the religious leaders had developed a list of over 600 spiritual rules to follow which let a person keep score on how spiritual they were. Jesus called out the Pharisees in Matthew 23 as being “white-washed tombs”, looking pure, pristine, shiny, and bright on the outside, but rotten on the inside. Apparently, keeping the rules was not helping them develop spiritually.

As modern-day believers, we must guard against the same type of “pride” when we see ourselves as following all the rules. We think that more rules tend to equate with being more spiritual. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t play dominoes on Sunday, therefore, I am a spiritual person. And worse, it really makes me more spiritual than you, because I know that you do those things.

The Apostle Paul warns us in Colossians 2:16 “let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or festivals or new moons or sabbath day.” This is a repeated theme and warning in several of Paul’s letters, like his discussion of Christian liberties in Romans 14 or discussion of food offered to idols in I Corinthians 8. Paul is warning Christian believers that our spirituality comes from the inner working of the Holy Spirit, not in keeping a set of rules. Rule keeping is easy once you set the boundaries. Following and obeying God’s command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37,38) is difficult (impossible) without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, discipline in the Christian life is good. Of course, obeying God in our daily walk – family, work, school, leisure, etc. – is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. But the danger is equating our performance with our own level of spirituality.

Paul reminds us in Colossians 2:17, that these things are “mere shadows of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”

Let us live and walk along our spiritual path, with Christ as our example, under the power of the Holy Spirit, with our eyes fixed firmly on God the Father. Doing this quickly removes any tendency toward pride in ourselves and pride in our own accomplishments.

Colossians 2:6 “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”

Richard Mayhew and his wife, Becky, joined East White Oak this past spring. They have two grown children and seven grandchildren. After he retired as a research chemist in Maryland, they moved to Bloomington to live near their daughter’s family. Richard enjoys gardening, traveling, and teaching the Bible.

Return to November Oak Leaf

November OakLeaf Articles:

The Cure for Hypocrisy and Pride by Pastor Scott Boerckel
Religious Pride by Richard Mayhew
Christ As Our Source of Life by Jim Simmons
Pride: A Hindrance to Revival by Dr. Jeff VanGoethem
A Woman’s Struggle with Pride by Jeanette Clayton
A Sportsman’s Perspective on Hypocrisy and Pride by Pat Gregory