Gather • Devotion #5: Self-Made Religion

Dr. Randy T. Johnson


“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 – ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings? 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 2:20-23

In Colossians, Paul was challenging the believers about feeling defeated or distracted by man-made rituals. In the Old Testament, God gave the Ten Commandments, but the Jewish rulers came up with 613 laws. I am sure the readers understood and had heard all too often the statement, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch.” It must have felt like young parents with a toddler walking through the crystal section of a store.

Paul is blunt in his appraisal of the culture affecting these believers. He says they have the “appearance of wisdom.” That may sound like a compliment, but it is not. It reminds me of the statement, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” In this case, the legalists had an “appearance of wisdom,” but their restrictive form of “worship” was foolish. It was not about Christ as it was a “self-made religion.” That is the culture of today, too. People want to determine for themselves what is truth. They have no standard. They live by their emotions. They, in essence, have created their own church or religion. It is very similar to the book of Judges, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25).

People have taken spiritual liberty to the point of selfishness. They avoid gatherings or only attend when it is convenient. They have become lazy and do not want to commit to serving in any way as something better may come along. Paul references this in Galatians 5:13, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Our liberty should not pull us away from believers.

God’s design for worship does include the daily times when we are reminded to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). However, there is great emphasis on corporate worship. They gathered together to worship. There is something about gathering with others as Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Since He is with us always, He must be emphasizing the importance of gathering with others. He might be cheesy, but it is impossible to spell church without “u” (You!).