Colossians 2:23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
The NIV specifies “false humility” in this verse, while the Japanese does not. I’m guessing the Greek doesn’t either. It’s not that someone who relies on external rules to control their lusts is necessarily proud, it’s that they are relying on the wrong things. As Paul says here, various external systems can indeed have the appearance of wisdom, but the problem is, they don’t work. The only thing that can tame our flesh is handing control over to the Holy Spirit. We are very much involved in that, because it is a decision of our will and we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit, but the power comes from Him and not us. Humility really is called for, because we have to acknowledge that we can’t do the job on our own, but there also must be assurance that He can do the job in and through us, if we will cooperate fully with Him. My impression is that the pace of temptations to the flesh has picked up over the centuries. That’s probably not really the case, because human weakness and the nature of our enemy have not changed, but it is certainly true that the devil is relentless in trying to trip us up any way he can. James made it very clear that it is our own lusts that lay us open to the devil’s wiles. (James 1:13-15) The point then becomes what Paul said so famously in Romans 12:1. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
I’ve certainly had my struggles with my flesh, and I still do, and I can testify that the more I focus on me “controlling the problem,” the harder it is to do. However, I have found that 1 John 1:9 is very true: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” It is only when I am fully honest with myself and with God that repentance becomes real, and only then can I accept the forgiveness that God has provided through the cross of Christ. “Making penance” is actually continuing to focus on the sin, when the only real answer is to let the blood of Christ wash that sin away. I must not take sin lightly, in myself or in anyone else, but I must never think that sin is greater or more powerful than the love and grace of God.
Father, thank You for all You’ve brought me through in this area. I ask for wisdom and anointing as I help others who are struggling, so that together we may walk in the righteousness of Christ, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!