Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely 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.
God would never, so to speak, judge a book by its cover. God is never fooled by outward appearance or by disingenuous acts of piety. You can’t deceive God with a show of spirituality if your heart is not truly faithful and obedient. The truth is, we often fall into the same sort of trap that Paul describes here. We turn traditions into rules. We equate rituals with realities. We impose our own preferences on others, insisting that what we like has to be accepted by everyone. These false rules often apply to how we worship in church, as each person thinks their favorite music is the best way to honor God or that how they dress on Sunday morning is the only right way or that their other prized traditions must have been handed down from on high by the Lord Himself.
Paul talks here about “rules,” “human commands,” “teachings” and “regulations,” and he says they “lack any value.” In other words, many of the things we do in our religious practice, from how we worship to how we run the church, are not valuable in and of themselves, and they certainly are not ordained by God as sacred. Now, we need to be careful here. Worshiping God is a sacred and special spiritual practice in which we should joyfully and faithfully participate. The music we play during worship can draw us close to God. The traditions we follow can be spiritually meaningful to many people. But we need to learn to distinguish between Biblical truth and human traditions, especially when it comes to our spiritual devotion. In Paul’s day, some people thought they were honoring Jesus by enforcing their rules and regulations. The rules themselves may have not been wrong, but apparently, these people elevated the rules to a position equal to or above the Gospel. That’s what Paul warned against.
In our spiritual lives and within the fellowship and ministry of the church we need to keep the main thing the main thing. We need to keep Jesus and the message of salvation at the center of our hearts and the center of the church. We need to resist the temptation to demand that others bow down to our preferences or to the traditions we have grown accustomed to. Our job is not to write rules and regulations about how to be religious. Our calling is to follow Jesus and to help others do the same.
Father, thank You for Your word that teaches me who You are and what Jesus has done for me. Help me to live faithfully under Your authority and to help others give their hearts fully to Jesus, through whom I pray. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian