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. Colossians 2:23

Paul is referring to “human commands and teachings” and hits on the reason why man-made rules are so attractive—they have the appearance of wisdom. They appear to be spiritual. They appear to be beneficial. We think by legislating for good behaviour we are promoting God’s cause. However, God has a higher goal.

Consider the impact of rule-keeping on people’s lives. If we manage to do what we perceive as good we easily become proud and self-righteous. If we fail to do what we perceive as good we feel condemned and disqualify ourselves. Neither outcome is what God intends. Man-made rules aren’t as valuable as you’d expect.

I read this quote by Dwight Edwards recently, “The key to the Christian life is not obedience to God’s standards. That statement may sound like out-and-out heresy to you, so let me hasten to say that obedience to God’s standards is a hugely important part of Christian living. One cannot honestly read the New Testament without coming to this conclusion. But in true spirituality, obedience to God’s standards is the by-product and inevitable result of something that’s centrally more important … God’s foremost calling for your life is a passionate and deepening love affair with His Son. When this is in place, God’s standards will take care of themselves.”

We need to place the priorities where God places them. Not on an outward adherence to standards of behaviour that has the appearance of wisdom, but rather on a relationship with Jesus where his love permeates everything we do.