When many people think of being ‘religious’ or being a ‘Christian’, they might think of a person who ‘lives a good life’. Certainly, we should expect that knowing Christ and receiving his forgiveness will bring some positive changes in our lives.
However, Paul has a warning for the Colossians here, and it’s a warning against trying to appear ‘good’ or ‘righteous’ by following a huge list of rules that we have made up ourselves. Living our lives according to a man-made set of rules might make us appear wise, or good, but they “lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence”, meaning that following the rules will not fix the sinful desires within us.
Even worse, living our lives according to a strict set of man-made rules – “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” – leaves us in danger of becoming judgmental towards others who do not follow the same rules. We become like the Pharisees who Jesus criticised for being apparently clean on the outside, but sinful on the inside. They prayed long prayers in public for everyone to see, but their hearts were cold.
So, what does this mean? Should we ignore the bad habits that we have? Should we just go ahead and live however we like, making no effort to clean up our act?
We find our answer at the beginning of chapter 3:
If we want to clean up our lives, we need to focus our hearts and minds on Jesus so that we can be clean on the inside. Once our inside is clean, our outside will be clean too. As we focus daily on Christ, in his word, in worship, in prayer, he will transform and renew our hearts and minds.