Last night my eyes were opened to a portion of scripture that I had not noticed before. Who opened them? God did. My eyes are still blind, mind you, and I see only because he has given me sight. Little by little, he shows me more and more. I have found that dieting is another false religion. Now that I know this, I can change! I tell you, it’s all quite exciting!
What did I learn? Have patience with me this morning, and I will try to explain it. First, the passage.
Colossians 2:20-23 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” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 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 is a great book. It clearly makes the case that Jesus is deity. Besides him, we have no need to look elsewhere because there is no one but him who is capable of doing what he does. In fact, no one was ever intended to be like him. Let me give you a couple examples.
Colossians 1:15-16 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
Colossians 2:9-10 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
Colossians 2:13-14 13 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, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
Jesus is the image of the invisible God, in his body dwells the whole fullness of deity (not just part of God, but ALL of God), who made dead people alive by voiding our record and sentence to eternal fire by…what? Nailing it to the cross! Wow! We died with him, and our sin with it, to be raised with him in his life. Jesus destroyed sin for our benefit. Colossians is Paul’s effort to make sure we know this and, more importantly, apply it to our lives.
Now, let’s dissect our passage. I’ll be honest, it’s a tongue-twister. I’ve read it many, many times. Well, actually, my eyes went over the verses, but the words never sunk in. Until now.
Verse 21 is the beginning of a question that takes two verses to ask. Let me try take out some of the language to shorten it up.
If you died to sin with Christ, why are you still trying to control it like the world teaches?
What are these teachings? In this passage, Paul speaks of regulations – “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch.” My thoughts have always been that this applies to the ridiculous rules of the Pharisees that Jesus condemns. Paul goes on to say that these things SEEM like they are wise to do because they promote (false) religion, asceticism, and severity to the body. Then he adds the big BUT:
v. 23b but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
What is indulgence of the flesh? Sin. These things that Paul is talking about do NOTHING to stop sin.
Is Paul talking about washing cups and kosher food? What is he talking about? In my limited vocabulary, I had to look up one of these words:
asceticism. noun. severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.
Hmmm. I don’t do that. I remember growing up as a Catholic, we didn’t eat meat on Fridays. And we gave up something special (candy) for Lent. And we knelt a lot during Mass because it was good to suffer because Christ suffered. Is this what Paul is talking about? Yes, and lots more.
My besetting sin is gluttony. I can’t tell you how much I have dieted and exercised – all in vain – in efforts to lose weight. Over and over and over again. None of my efforts have lasted. I always end up gaining the weight I lost. Certainly, it’s not from lack of knowledge; it’s from my inability to keep doing what I am supposed to do: control the amount of food I eat, carefully track my consumption with fancy computer programs, and eat healthily according to the latest trend. I USED to exercise a lot, but I finally did learn that this was futile to weight loss. Heck, it was COUNTER productive!
I spend a crazy amount of head-time thinking about food, whether in justification to sin, regret from sinning, or in my futile efforts to control my sin. It’s crazy! Dieting is a false religion! Heck, even left-leaning folks are recognizing this.
What’s the takeaway? If what my bible says its true, diets do nothing to stop the indulgence of my flesh! In fact, what if they are actually a false religion! God won’t bless these efforts. They not only won’t work, God will use them to INTENTIONALLY frustrate me!
Diets won’t help me at all. Self-control is what I need. Guess what? That’s a fruit of the Spirit, a gift from God. The Holy Spirit is the one who will control my appetite. Diets always leave me hungry. They don’t train me to internalize self-control. My lack of it with regard to food is my indwelling sin. I need a gift from God, not more of what I lack!
Now, here’s the scary part. Am I willing to accept the fact that dieting is a false religion? Am I willing to let go of all my diets, programs, and fads and trust God to deal with my gluttony? Am I willing to forsake my false idols and let him heal me through the blood of Jesus and the work of the the Holy Spirit? Can he possibly curb my appetite when I have been completely unable to do so myself with all the diets in the world? If he indeed can, can I trust him?
Of course I can, but this is new territory for me, folks. All this is fitting together. Stuff I knew but am relearning with new, open eyes. It’s all quite humbling.
Father, wow! Who would have thought that dieting is a false religion, chasing after gods of this world. Forgive me. Thank you for opening my eyes. Amen.
Copyright © 2021 Scott Powers