Therefore, if you died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you subject yourself to legalistic rules? “Do not touch! Do not taste! Do not handle!” These all are to perish with use and are aligned with the commandments and doctrines of men. These things have indeed a show of wisdom in self-imposed worship and humility and neglecting of the body, but are worthless against the indulgence of the flesh.Colossians 2:20–23 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
I love the way Paul writes. He is saying, if you’re saved why do you worry about rules as if breaking them nullifies your salvation?
Of course, we should live blamelessly. There is real wisdom in that. But doing that, or not, doesn’t mean one loses eternal life. Living by legalistic tiles is often just a shallow veneer… A show for others.
Living the right way is going to be no help to anyone in the fight against the indulgence of the flesh.
Living right isn’t going to help fight the cravings of the flesh. If you have battled addiction of any kind, you know exactly what that is. Whatever the flesh craves, for some it’s a substance that may alter moods or help to cope and perform tasks. For others, it could be food. Then another might actually abstain from food or even purge. It could also be chasing that fleeting gratification from looking at graphic images.
The flesh will crave what it craves. But just living right isn’t going to help stave off the desire to indulge the flesh.
Peter words this from another perspective…
Although they promise them freedom, they themselves are slaves of corruption, for by that which a man is overcome, to this he is enslaved. For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to have known it and then turn back from the holy commandment that was delivered to them.2 Peter 2:19–21 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
As Peter continues, he is talking about false teachers. These are people that peddle legalistic rules of abstinence from indulging the flesh. Inside they are really slaves of the corruption. (Remember that word corruption.)
These kinds of teachers escape the defilements of the world… For a time. That is, they do not touch, taste, or handle bad things. They may even go to church for a time. In all of that, they only escape the indulgences temporarily.
Eventually, because they have no real salvation… They return to corruption that enslaves them. Usually, the fall is deeper. In some cases, the consequences could be devastating physically, mentally, and spiritually. Dying in that kind of mess without Jesus means an eternity of torment.
And these have no excuse because they heard the truth. What a sad situation.
That word corruption… Peter used it earlier in this epistle.
His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who has called us by His own glory and excellence, by which He has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, so that through these things you might become partakers of the divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.2 Peter 1:3–4 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Basically, Peter is extolling the goodness of God to people who are saved. People that have His Spirit living in them. That Spirit is the earnest money or down payment given by God. It is by that Spirit we believers partake now of the divine nature.
It is that partaking of the divine nature that allows us to escape the corruption in this world that comes through giving in to decadent indulgence. The phrase escape the corruption means we won’t die and spend an eternity in perdition.
Modifying behavior only goes so far. Without God, it’s just modifying behavior. But with God and the indwelling Holy Spirit, there is real hope to look toward. There is a God that can be our focus instead of indulging in decadence.
Our minds will be drawn away from the demands of the flesh. And it is the continual practice of flexing this muscle that helps it to grow strong. We let atrophy the muscle that works to indulge the flesh. We can lock minds with the divine nature of the Spirit in us to master the flesh.
In doing so, the rules are irrelevant.
It is the most difficult thing to fight addiction. Believing and trusting Jesus is the first step to partaking in the divine nature. It is that precise move that is made that brings the Holy Spirit (that divine nature) inside of us.
Don’t just temporarily escape the pollution of the world. Get saved and escape the corruption… For good.