“Which things indeed appear like wisdom in self-imposed worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but aren’t of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.”
The outward form of religion appeals to our fleshly mindset and our love for the formality of ritual. They can seem like a good idea to us, but are based on worldly wisdom and not the wisdom of God.
Worship becomes a self-imposed event with self-imposed humility therefore not sincere. We have an outward show of religion, but it is not reality in terms of God. It is not spiritual and therefore not acceptable to God. It focuses on the body and what we can present to God and not on what He has done for us – His mercy and grace which give spiritual life.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, on account of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
Our worship of the Lord, comes from a renewed and spiritual soul, the inner workings of the Spirit of God and the heartfelt expression of sincere love. We are not to be taken in by the fleshly outworking of our unspiritual mind, but have renewed minds that can test and know what is pleasing to God. Our human wisdom is set at odds with the will of God and not what He requires of us. He seeks the contrite, humble soul that will follow His wisdom and not the devices of human religious practices. All that is human is against the Lord and tends to neglect the needs of the body, and at the same time, treating it with severity in the name of this self-imposed worship. On the one hand we can be harsh in our treatment of the body, yet also neglectful. Outward religion focuses on the subjugation of the body for aesthetic purposes and denying necessary needs to the body to try and bring it under a self-imposed subjection for so-called religious purposes. This is not what God requires. Our whole lives are a sacrifice of praise, and denying the fleshly tendencies in our character to grow in grace and love for God.
In reality, the earthly religion of man is purely the indulgence of the fleshly mind and satisfies the outward expressions and not the inner work of the Spirit of God, indeed there is no worship at all, only the puffing up of the godless mind. None of it helps us in our fight against the flesh and simply serves to indulge it further and confirm us in our lack of spiritual attitudes and motivations.