Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Colossians 2:20-23, NIV)
Religion… in the church world we act like this is a bad word. It isn’t. Religion is simply an organized collection of man’s beliefs in an attempt to reach and please God. That’s not a bad desire – reaching and pleasing God – and not a bad thing to organize your thought on the matter. The problem with religion is that it often becomes the end rather than a means to an end.
Paul chastises the Colossians here for this very practice. He reminds them that their slave-like adherence to legal code was nailed with Jesus to the cross (2:14). Yet folks were still being bullied by religious zealots (2:16). People were forcing on one another rules of holiness that weren’t from God.
Such “holy” sounding restrictions sound great…but the Apostle lets us know very clearly what’s wrong with them. First, human initiated religion is devoid of wisdom (though it appears wise). Human religion looks humble, but it’s really a false humility (and in that sense, vain… “Hey, did you notice how humble I was just then?”). And even though it seems as if religion helps one remain holy, it doesn’t actually do so. We’re still just as indulgent to our senses as we were, we’ve just learned to hide it from others.
So, being more religious is not the answer. (By the way, neither is the answer being more worldy!). The answer is in the next verse: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1, NIV)
In other words, remember: religion is not the end…it is only a means to an end. The end is knowing Christ. Anything that helps us know him better is of value. Anything that doesn’t, isn’t.