Colossians 2:18–23 (NKJV)
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.Colossians 2:18-23
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.
Paul continues his teaching in the letter to the Colossians by moving from the rituals that bring death to the regulations that create bondage. Paul warns the Colossians not to let anyone cheat them out of their reward by placing them in bondage to false humility, worship of angels, restrictions on diet and hygiene, neglect of the body, etc. These things are purported to bring some semblance of piety and holiness. Paul, however, characterizes these regulations and restrictions as pride dressed up as humility. Asceticism was common in the days of Paul. This lifestyle denied the body of anything pleasant in an effort to feed the spirit. However, asceticism often became its own goal and reward, and the gaunt physique and neglect of the body was a badge of honor that negated the supposed quest for holiness.
Paul suggested a robust life in Christ, provided by Christ, and lived unto Christ. Denying the body does not make one holy. Living in Christ daily appropriates holiness to the spirit of man. Attempting to regulate sin out of the life of a believer by rules and practices is out of order, even from a logical frame of reference. Instead, we must understand that Christ makes us free and holy, and then our actions should be taken in response to that great gift of grace and love. Then, the Christian will have the means to overcome the temptation to indulge the flesh, for Christ in him or her will lead that Christian to holy living that reflects the holiness of Christ bestowed so freely.
Stop trying to live right before Christ makes you holy. Get in a real relationship with Christ and He will make you holy, and empower you to live holy. That is a key element of the ordo salutis, or way of salvation. Justification is the act of God to remove all guilt of sin. Sanctification is the act of God to set the believer apart for a holy purpose. Living right is possible once Christ’s work is complete. Don’t go back to a man-made set of rules in order to live holy. It will not suffice. Instead, walk with Christ and let Him show you the Highway of Holiness. The Father gave us the decrees and commandments. The Son gave us the redemption which saves. The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth and guides our steps in life. Let the Holy Trinity show you the way, not a man or a system that no one can perfect. You were once bound in sin. Don’t be bound by religion. Instead, be free in Jesus and let Him show you the way!