When Rules Don’t Work: Fighting Temptation the Wrong Way
Read Colossians 2:16–23
Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom . . . but they lack any value.
Some churches teach abstention from alcohol, enforce strict dress codes, and forbid activities like dancing and playing cards. Other churches don’t mind moderate social drinking, women wearing pants, and a rousing round of hearts. Who is right? This month in Today in the Word, we will examine what Scripture says about holiness, temptation, and desire. We begin by noting that all followers of Christ share the desire to please God.
In his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul affirms their earnest faith and desire to please the Lord. But the church had been exposed to false teaching, and Paul feared it will erode their hope in the gospel. At first glance, the false teachers appeared to be doing the good work of calling the Colossians to greater holiness. They introduced regulations regarding the observance of various religious holidays. They called for stricter guidelines to govern what the Colossians ate and drank. By all accounts, the teachers were neither passive about their faith nor tolerant of small indiscretions.
They had the “appearance of wisdom,” but their proposals inspired self-effort and self-mastery rather than a humble reliance upon Christ. These human traditions are powerless for defeating temptation and breaking sin’s slavery. Rules are a reflexive impulse in the face of temptation; we think that we gain control by imposing more severe restrictions on our bodies. And it’s true that often God requires us to change our habits in order to restrain our indulgences. But temptation, as we’ll learn this month, is too slippery and sin is too deceitful to be caught in all the traps we set. We need to understand the truth about temptation even more than we need rules. Most of all, we need to cast our hope on Christ.
Apply the Word
Paul reminds us to maintain our connection to Christ in order to grow spiritually. This month is an invitation to examine your understanding of temptation and your fight against sin, but it isn’t a call for stricter rule-keeping. It’s a call to hold fast to Christ. Confess your attempts at self-effort and self-mastery: look to Christ’s victory over temptation.
Pray with Us
Please remember Betel leadership in prayer. We appreciate all the dedication, time, and leadership skills they bring to their service, and we pray God gives them wisdom in all decisions.