The Futility of Flesh Training

Colossians 2:20-23

“You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as,  “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them.  These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.


  • “Paul’s fourth and final warning is against ascetism – the imposition of man-made rules as means of gaining favor with God.  For ascetics the body is a thing to be buffeted and punished, a thing to be treated like an enemy.  They see the body as evil and conclude that the way to holiness is to deny all the body desires, refuse its appetites, and cut its needs town to an irreducible minimum.  Asceticism was apparently a prominent feature of the Colossian heresy, and in various periods of history it has appealed strongly to misguided people.” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary)
  • Paul talks in these verses about false humility.  “The idea is that asceticism, while parading under the guise of humility, actually panders to human pride.” (EBC)  When we put ourselves down and make negative comments about ourselves – whether physically or verbally – this is not humility.  The focus is still on ourselves and how we “seem” to others and finds its root in pride.
  • These verses strongly reveal that being a follower of Christ is not living by a set of demanding rules and limiting ourselves from all joy in this life.  Flesh training will never work.  It may look good on the outside from time to time, but it has no power to really restrain sin.  “Maclaren says it with characteristic force: ‘There is only one thing that will put the collar on the neck of the animal within us, and that is the power of the indwelling Christ.’” (EBC)

Application Questions:

  • What ascetic tendencies do you have?
  • Do you put yourself down or point out your physical flaws often, thinking it is humility?  Try today to think and say nothing negative about yourself – when you are tempted, remind yourself of who you are in Christ.
  • Do you often engage in flesh training?  Do you try to change sin patterns in your life by your own effort?  How’s that been workin for ya?


Adoration: Praise God that He doesn’t ask us to get rid of our sin in our own strength.

Confession: Admit how you have been trying to live like a Christian without Christ lately.

Thanksgiving: Thank God for His power through His Holy Spirit living in us to change us.

Supplication: Ask God to help you abide in Christ today.

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