Someone once told a fictitious story about Peter that went like this. One day Jesus said to his disciples, “I would like you to carry a stone for me.” Since Jesus had not given any specifics in regard to weight or size, and since Peter was of the practical sort, Peter picked up a small stone and put it in his pocket. Then Jesus said, “Follow me.” Peter followed. Around noon time, Jesus told his disciples to sit down and present their stones. He blessed the stones and turned them into bread. Within seconds Peter finished his morsel. When lunch was over, Jesus said again, “I would like you to carry a stone for me.” Peter thought to himself, “Now, I get it!” So, he found the largest bolder he could hoist and staggered at the rear, until finally Jesus told them sit down. They sat by a cool stream. “Exhausted,” Peter thought to himself, “dinner.” Then Jesus said, “throw your stones into the water.” Peter opened his mouth to protest, when Jesus stopped him. “Don’t you remember what I asked you, Peter? You were to carry that stone for me.”
It is easy to become side tracked in our religious journey. In Colossae, the Christians were threatened by certain forms of religion that appeared good on the surface, but were actually cutting them off from the source of their righteousness and spiritual vitality: Jesus Christ. They were fastidiously following certain rules and regulations. They were practicing certain forms of ascetism. They were focusing on certain subjective religious experiences. (Colossians 2:16-23) Some of these things were not harmful in themselves, but, when these secondary things were made into primary things, they threatened to undue all the good the gospel had done in their lives.
We too must be careful about elevating secondary religious practices into primary things. Churches that practice forms of Christian legalism replace Christ with rule following. Churches that overly emphasize certain forms of Christian asceticism, such as personal Bible reading and prayer, and church attendance, may do more harm than good. Churches that are obsessed with subjective religious experiences, such as spiritual gifts or miracles, may be missing the point. Christ is the center. Even good things can become harmful things, when they become our primary object of devotion. Make Christ the center, and keep him the center. Die to any self-made form of religion. He alone is the real deal.