Since you died with Christ to the elemental spirits of this world why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’ These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 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 value in restraining self-indulgence (Col. 2: 20-23).

Paul’s use of three words gets to the heart of the matter – the matter of the heart. Religion with its rules and regulations may be able to control behaviour to a point but it can never restrain the passions of the heart. Jesus made it clear that the problem lies much deeper than what we do. The issue is what we think which reveals what we are. Even the Jews, who had God’s Law – and if there was any group of people who would have been acceptable to God, it would have been them – were under the wrath of God because of their evil hearts.

Paul’s sorrow, both here in the case of the Colossians who were in danger of being lured away from their faith in Christ through Gnostic philosophy, and the Galatians who were tempted to become embroiled in Jewish law, was that they were being fooled by ‘human wisdom’. From the outside, these teachings appeared to make sense, but their demands were no more than cosmetic. You can stick a plaster on a cancer but it will not cure it.

Paul knew that there was only one cure for a heart that was at enmity against God. Remove the reason for the rift and restore peace. There is only one person who had the power to do that – God Himself, because there was nothing any human being could do to bring about reconciliation. We are the offenders and God the offended. It is the offended party who must reach out with forgiveness before the breach can be healed. The offender’s responsibility to initiate reconciliation once the offence has been removed.

This is exactly what Jesus Christ did for us. He removed the offence by paying the price for our sin and He initiated reconciliation by representing us to the Father.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them . . . (2 Corinthians 5: 17-19a).

Self-discipline may curb unruly behaviour for a while but it cannot change the heart. It may control choices temporarily but it can never control desires and appetites. There is only one thing that can effect permanent change – a new heart.

God knew that! He promised His people under the old dispensation that He would do exactly that through the Holy Spirit, but it was to be part of a whole new order of things.

For I will take you out of the nations: I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (Ezekiel 36: 24-27).

How futile, then, to try to follow self-imposed rules when they have no power to change the heart.

The issue is: Who do you believe? If you continue to believe the lies of principalities and powers, they will continue to rule your life. If you believe that Jesus overcame these ‘elemental spirits’ at the cross, they no longer have power to influence your life. You are free from their deception to live under the authority and power of the Spirit of God who lives within you.

The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart!

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Luella Campbell

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