Colossians 2:20-23 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.
What is Christianity all about? Have we vowed to follow Christ only to replace the Old Testament law with new law? Is this new life just about more rule-following? Observing some of today’s churches, you would think so! Sermons so often focus on behavior modification or bettering the life of the Christian through specific actions. We trade in the true power of the gospel for the belief that being a good Christian means listening to the right music, wearing the right T-shirts, not swearing or drinking, and being “nice.” Congregants lack the joy of Christ because they fail to keep up with all of the things they are “supposed” to do. Moralistic, therapeutic deism fails to deliver.
The truth is that no formula for behavior modification will ever work because the root of sin is in our hearts. No amount of keeping up with strict law or disciplines or rituals will keep us from being what we are: fallen and sinful. Religion seeks to justify the believer through their actions. True justification comes from Christ (Romans 4:25). Only He can liberate us from sin.
It can make us feel good for a while to try to earn our own merit, but in the end we will always fall short (Romans 3:23). We’ll never be good enough, do enough, deprive ourselves enough to be free from sin. If we fully rely on Jesus it means we trust that His sacrifice was good enough, that we don’t need to be under the law in order to receive forgiveness from God for our transgressions, that He died once, and for all (Hebrews 7:27-28). Nothing we could ever do could make Him love us more. And nothing we fail to do could ever make Him love us less.