Paul’s message to the Colossians arrested our attention. “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition …” (2:8). Jesus had warned against traditions that religious leaders of his day had developed (see Matthew 15:3-9). Creating things to observe and keep do not make us more righteous – indeed they have the opposite effect – they can make us self-righteous.
Paul tells the Colossians, “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow …” (verse 16). Observing festivals (e.g., Easter, and keeping the Sabbath) do not make someone more righteous, says Paul. “They are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (verse 23).
What is of value? “Holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God” (verse 19). And how does God cause growth? We are blessed in that each of us can own and read the whole word of God revealed and written through men like Moses, prophets like Isaiah, the Gospels and the letters of the Apostles. They provide essential spiritual nourishment every day. Other things are seen more and more to be “as of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” – more and more things today encourage such indulgence.
But success is not so much about setting our minds to stop doing things that our human nature tends towards, but instead of occupying our thoughts to a greater degree with spiritual things. The result will be that we will be less inclined to indulge in fleshly activities but instead will grow “with a growth that is from God” (verse 19) as we appreciate His word to a greater degree.
As a result, Paul tells the Colossians, “when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (3:4). And that “glory” will be truly unique for “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).