Colossians 2:16-23 – Legalism / Mysticism / Asceticism (monasticism) – do not work. We tend to think, “If I would or could do this, then”, but spiritual maturity is not gained through the methods often employed by some in the church. However, a measure of maturity is the sense of your own sinfulness.
Legalism (vs.16-17) – No rigorous self-imposed devotion to types and shadows will make you more spiritual. It is Christ’s life being formed in you by abiding in Him. It is not done by formula or ritual. One aspect of legalism is that the doctrines of men are promoted as the laws of God.
Mysticism (vs.18-19) – It isn’t some mystical experience that will get you to grow; it is God’s life in you that is growing. These movements often appeal to elites or an elitist notion, not something for the whole body. Jesus wants us all to grow together.
Galatians 4:17 – they shut you out from the elite so that you will strive to become a member of the elite. The gnostics had a type of higher knowledge theory, and so, too, many today sell a deeper life or a higher level or whatever, so as to get others to come after them and their new improved doctrine and not after Christ (Acts 20:20-32).
Asceticism (monasticism) (vs.20-23) – Some so-called spiritual disciplines and contemplative prayer are simply self-made religion. We are not called to be monks but missionaries. Self-made religion is man reaching to God, trying to justify himself by keeping a list of rules. Christianity is God reaching down to man in love through Christ.
Spurgeon wrote of “a carnal repentance – a repentance that is of the flesh, and after the manner of the sinful nature of men. In this repentance the depravity of the heart remains the same in essence, though it takes another form of showing itself. Though the man changes, he is not savingly changed: he becomes another man, but not a new man. The same sin rules in him, but it is called by another name, and wears another dress. The stone is carved into a more sightly shape, but it is not turned into flesh. The iron is cast into another image, but it is not transformed into gold. This carnal repentance is caused by fear. Does not every thief repent of robbery when he is convicted and sent to jail? Does not every murderer repent of his crime when he stands under the fatal tree?” This kind of fear-filled living is a dark parody of the true Christian life.