Jeremiah 7:21-8:7; Colossians 2:13-23; Psalms 78:32-39; Proverbs 19:4-5
NT: “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it… 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, 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 2:13-15, 18-19 NKJV)
The false teachers in Colossae were apparently not only teaching a blending of Greek philosophy and mysticism, but also extreme Jewish legalism in the form of asceticism. Asceticism is defined as a severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence. The belief behind asceticism is the more you debase, humiliate and deny yourself, the higher you will go spiritually. In the Christian faith, there is a denial of the flesh, but it is not the same thing as asceticism. However, many people – like the Colossian believers of old – confuse the two and end up subjecting themselves to something that our Lord and Christ never required.
At the heart of asceticism is pride. It is a pride that masquerades as humility – but is definitely pride, once all of the exterior façade has been stripped away. Pride is all about self-effort: “I can do this myself.” Even though asceticism appears to be all about humility, it is performing acts of denial and humiliation to attain spirituality through your own efforts, which ultimately is pride. That is why Paul referred to it as “false humility.”
True humility comes from the realization that I cannot do this myself. Denying the flesh, in the Christian sense, is about not allowing your flesh to rule your life, drive your decisions, and convince you that you can do things through your own efforts. Denying the flesh is about giving the Spirit the place of leadership in your life as you submit fully to the Lord by faith. The flagellation and abuse of the flesh that extreme legalism and asceticism demands is not necessary in Christ. All of the burdensome requirements that were against us… all of the punishments that we deserved for our carnal and sinful behavior were taken out of the way when Christ was nailed to the cross. Christ fulfilled all of the requirements, bore all of our beatings, and paid the debt that we owed with His life. Any leverage that the devil had in our lives was wiped away. As Christ hung on the cross, publicly humiliated for our sakes, He was in actuality publicly stripping the devil of all his powers and making him and his demonic minions a public spectacle.
Christ did everything that was required for us to have a full and abundant life free from the torment and ravages of sin. When we place our faith in Christ, we are made alive in Him and forgiven of all our trespasses – never to face punishment for our sins as we remain in Him. What a rich reward we have as we truly humble ourselves and place our faith fully on Christ. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise and cheat you of any of the riches and fullness that Christ so lovingly and sacrificially won for you.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the law and you bore all of the punishment that was due to me for my sin. I celebrate the fact that in You I am free and do not have to be subjected to punishment any longer. Therefore, I choose to walk in true humility before You, deny my flesh in the way that You call me to, and welcome the fullness of Your resurrection life in me as I am filled and led by Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.