Colossians 2:20-23

20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

How easy it is to drift away from the simplicity of the gospel!

  • I am a sinner.
  • I fall short of God’s righteous standard.
  • I am powerless to save myself and I stand guilty before a holy God.
  • However, God loved me enough to take on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ and to die in my place.
  • Jesus’ bodily resurrection is the ultimate proof that He alone has power over sin, Satan, and death.
  • I receive eternal life, a free gift of God’s grace, through faith/trust in Jesus Christ.
  • I now live a righteous life out of love for God through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.

So simple that a child can understand it. So simple that we as humans are compelled to add something to it to make it seem more religious, spiritual, and impressive to others.

The Colossians were being enticed by a group of super-spiritual, religious ascetics. Don’t touch that! Don’t eat that! Avoid this! Make sure you observe this day and that day! It sounded good and certainly looked spiritual. This group had also developed intricate views of angels, the movement of the stars, and the cosmic harmony of the universe. It was a complete religious system with everything a highly spiritual person would want. But Paul pointed out three big problems with the system…

1. Everything concerned things which are temporary. Food, drink, religious days, ascetic discipline, knowledge, etc. All of it is going to pass away. To focus all of one’s attention on religious regulations that ultimately make no eternal difference makes no common sense. Jesus combated the same thing with the Pharisees whose countless rules on one’s diet had no effect on a person’s heart. There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him, but the things which come out of him [from the heart], those are the things that defile a man (Mark 7:15).

2. Everything was based on man’s rules. We tend to follow religious rules that correspond to our own spiritual wants and practices. Just go to beliefnet and you can find whatever religion you want. The problem is, how do you know it is true? If any person can make up their own religion, then what’s the point of any religion? However, Christianity rises and falls not on its religious teachings but on whether or not it is historically true. If Jesus died and rose again, if He is truly God in the flesh, then His words are more than man’s words. They are God’s Word. And they are truth and life.

3. Nothing truly changed the heart. The religious system of the Gnostic ascetics sounded good, looked impressive, and had such great physical demands that it garnered a lot of attention. But in the end it had no value against the indulgence of the flesh. The heart was still self-centered, self-righteous, self-promoting, and self-gratifying.

My spiritual heart is so damaged that more religious exercise and a strict diet won’t help. I need a new heart.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgements and do them (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

This is the promise and hope of the new covenant in Jesus Christ. And, as Paul would say, if this is what you have in Jesus Christ, then why go back?

Lord, help me to hold on to the simplicity of the gospel. Help me not to drift into legalism, asceticism, or self-righteousness and so lose my love for You.

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