Colossians 2:20-21. 20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”
It’s not a bad question is it?
If you died with Christ, why are you still submitting to regulations?
Have you ever asked yourself this question?
Since the entrance of sin into the world, and into our hearts, back in Genesis 3, it has never been what we do or don’t do that’s been the problem. And it has never been what we do or don’t do that’s been the solution.
Have you ever noticed how much you hate being told what to do? No one likes being told what to do all the time. Why is that? Maybe it’s because we are all rebellious sinners who just need to submit to God and be obedient. “Straighten up and fly right,” as grandma used to say.
Or maybe it’s because our hearts were created for more than simple law keeping. Regulation following. Maybe our hearts aren’t actually motivated by the elemental spirits of this world? (The root word for “the elemental spirits of this world” is a word that means to do things in an order – first this, then this, then this, etc.). Maybe we want more than just a life of “do A to get to B?” Maybe (stay with me) our regulation following, and law keeping, and self-discipline is actually just another form of gaining control over our own lives. Maybe what looks like submissive obedience is actually just more self-indulgence. Look at how Paul explains this in verse 23:
Colossians 2:23. These [actions of self-discipline] have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
Yikes. Is he saying that all our best efforts at self-discipline and obedience are actually just more self-indulgent sinning? Yep.
What does all this mean? It means we are in sin way deeper than we may have realized. Not only is our disobedience sinful, but even our obedient rule following, law keeping, self-disciplined, self-made religion is sinful too. It’s all the same indulgence of the flesh that offers satisfaction while keeping us from the heart of God.
Therefore, the problem, and thus the solution, runs much deeper than what we do or don’t do. The real answer is as deep as our hearts. As Jesus himself said, “Evil doesn’t come from what enters a person, but from what is inside a person – the heart” (paraphrase). The sin nature. Indwelling sin. This is the source of all our problems. And no doing or not doing can change it. No regulations. No behaviors. No asceticism. No fasting. No amount of Bible reading. No spiritual discipline. No penance. No amount of confession. No self-flagellation. No yoga. No diet. No exercise. No reciting motivational phrases. No self-help. No self-denial. No principles or practices.
The only thing that can solve our inner problem is death.
So praise God that with Christ we have died.
If a slave dies, is he still his master’s slave?
If an abused wife dies, is she still the abuser’s wife?
If a Christian has died with Christ to the law, then are they still bound by the regulations of the law? If a Christian has died with Christ to the elemental spirits of this world, then are they still bound by the “do A to get to B” cause-effect system of this world?
No. They are not.
They are free.
You are free.
So how can you and I live out of this freedom today? Paul will answer that in Colossians 3. But here’s a preview:
Colossians 3:2-3. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
“To live is Christ” has freed us from the system of this world. Our hearts are meant for so much more than such dead religion, such regulation keeping, such “cause-effect” basics. In fact, we have died to all these. And now we are alive to dwell within the wild and wonderful love of God. A love that is a law to itself. A law that is a life that has been hidden with Christ in God.
What regulation following and law keeping are you still indulging in?
You in Christ
How does being in Christ free us from dead religious works?
Christ in you
How does Christ in us take us beyond simple rule following and into the complexities of love?
Playlist: Died With Christ.