Colossians 2:16 "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
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."
Here we are, day 3 on the same passage. Why? Because it isn't just the heart of this letter to Colossae and Laodicea. It is the heart of an issue that continues to plague humanity today.
Look closely at verse 20. Paul says this world has basic principles and goes on to basically say that Christless religion - religion without Jesus - follows those basic principles. Let me define what the most basic principle of this world is: me first.
There is always a pecking order and it is set up in the mind to either believe I am the top dog or I am hopeless. At the time of Jesus in the Jewish mind they were the top dogs. Then within Judaism there was a pecking order. Women, children, sick, and poor were at the bottom. Rich male Pharisees (or Sadducees depending on your views) were at the top. Within all that rank and family lines and various other factors impacted the pecking order as well.
He openly stated that the pecking order within Judaism was no different than how the Gentiles behaved. In other words it was the way of the world.
Following Jesus means we are no longer part of this world. We are dead to the world. It's norms and practices no longer apply. It's philosophies are not our philosophies. Here is the gist of Paul's message:
Jesus paid it all. The ground at the foot of the cross is level. There is nothing more to achieve or acquire. There is no class distinction or pecking order inside His church. There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, circumcised nor uncircumcised, bond or free. A man who fasts 7 days a month is not superior to a man who does not fast at all. A woman who dresses from her ankles to her neck is not a more advanced Christian, closer to God, or more saved than a woman who doesn't. In reality those going the "extra mile" in "holiness" may not be in Christ at all. They might be all wrapped up in themselves. Me first... The inverse can also be true btw. We might be so proud of ourselves and our "freedom" and our "better understanding" of Jesus that we have no principles at all and look down on anyone who does as slaves to religion etc...
There is a common thread between the two extremes. Me first.
One of my favourite authors has a litmus test for our Christian experience. "Who do you like to think about and talk about? Who has your best energies? Who has your first thoughts in the morning and your last thoughts in the evening?"
If your religious life is a constant comparison test and judging of others in relation to yourself or yourself in relation to others you are in the same trap as the hedonist who judges himself by his material wealth and accomplishments.
We are complete in Him. End of story. We can not add to or take away from what Jesus has done for us. It is finished. When men with persuasive words come into your life or your church and make it sound so good and holy and necessary to do more, be more, advance further look to Jesus. In Him you will become less and more. Less about self obsession and more about others. Less about anxiety over your own performance and more about sharing His completeness with those who need Good News in a bad news world.
You are free. Don't go back to Egypt and bondage. Walk in the Light.