These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion… Colossians 2:23 (NKJV)
In Colossians 2:23, Paul was addressing the Colossians hypocrisy. They believed that they had been forgiven in Christ, by faith, yet they continued in the traditions of man-made religious acts. What was so wrong with that? It seems that it would be a good thing to perform what looked to be “religious/holy”. But that’s all it was, a form of “false” godliness, but not the REAL thing. God is not in the fake religion and false humility business. Through the Colossians keeping of previous religious acts, they were living as though faith in Christ alone was not enough for salvation. They were trying to look religious by performing outward acts, which to God meant nothing. It was for the acceptance of man and not God. God is much more concerned about a true heart act and not deceitful religious acts. Man can be fooled by the outside of a person, but God cannot be fooled because He sees straight through to the heart. This was shown in 1 Samuel 6:7 "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." Samuel wanted to anoint David’s older brother who “looked” like he could be the next king, but the Lord did not want him to be king based on this. He looked deeper, and saw that David had the heart of a king.
Paul stated in Colossians 3 that if they wanted to one day see Christ, they must put away fornication, evil desires, covetousness, anger and filthy talk. In essence, it wasn’t showcasing the outside of a man that counted to God, but it was the cleaning of the inside of a man that counted. Purifying the heart will reflect on the outside of our lives through our actions.
Wearing Christian t-shirts or displaying jewelry with Christian logos doesn’t make someone more spiritual. Growing long hair, wearing no make-up or wearing dresses down to the floor will not make you a Holy Christian. These things aren’t necessarily bad, but they do not reflect a Christian’s closeness to God.
Anyone can do “holy” appearing things, but the state of their heart can reflect the total opposite. The Colossians were doing just that. They were keeping the traditions of the Jews and what the law, before Christ, had required. It was an outward display of holiness, but the inside was really what needed changing. In verses 12-14 Paul describes what we should really be living in …put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another and forgiving one another v.14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. These are the reflections of a person who has a heart after God. It’s all about how we treat others. God is looking at our hearts and what we are reflecting through our actions, not just to Him, but towards others. If we walk in love, we will fulfill all these. Love is where all these come from. It is the source spring that overflows from our life producing meekness, longsuffering and forgiveness toward people. Without love we have nothing and accomplish nothing.