The longer one lives on this earth, the more obvious the futility of false religion is evident. The most fervent of worshippers on one day of the week can be the most immoral, un-thankful, arrogant, and deceptive two days later. Sadly this is true of false worship under the banner of Christianity too.
In debating the differences between different religions, the reality of having one’s sins forgiven is an important topic. But so is the matter of overcoming one’s sins and living more righteous. In Colossians 2:23 we find one of the most important transition verses in the New Testament, and it is a verse transitioning from the futility of false worship (even among Christians) to the practical sanctification of true worship.
These 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.Colossians 2:23 (ESV)
“These” refers back to all of Colossians 2:8-22, including the acts of worship like philosophy (theological debates!), traditions, rituals, spiritual warfare, festivals, eating and drinking regulations, holy days, self-punishment, angels worship, visions, prescribed practises, and human teachings. The commentary on it all is “these have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion … but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh”. These things make you religious, but none of them make you godly.
Then, Colossians 3 tackles the matter of how true worship stops the indulgences of the flesh. First, you need to be raised with Christ (a glimpse of this was already given in 2:11:15). Then you need to seek Christ and all this He is about. To make it really practical, start identifying the sins in your life, make the list, and start killing them off one-by-one.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:Colossians 3:5-9
evil desire, and
covetousness, which is idolatry.
… now you must put them all away:
obscene talk from your mouth.
Do not lie to one another,
But putting off the sins in your life is only half the battle. The other half is the more positive, Christ-like renewal. True worship will not only stop the indulgences of the flesh, but will also produce conformity to the image of the Creator (Col 3:10).
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,Colossians 3:12-17
bearing with one another and, …
forgiving each other; …
above all these put on love, …
let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
The point is this. If all your religious activities do not make you more Christ-like in your values, practices, thoughts, words, relationships, behaviour, and attitude, then you are merely religious and have nothing of any real spiritual value. But if you have been spiritually raised with Christ, then it will show in increasing ways in your life.
Religious deeds does not forgive sins. Christ forgives sins, nails them to the cross, and triumphs over the powers of darkness liberating the redeemed from sin to walk in newness of life.
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.Colossians 2:11-15