“These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”
Paul points out the futility of legalism and asceticism. Taboos impress some people because it implies that those who practice taboos rise above the desires of the flesh.
“These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom “
“These things” refer to taboos and legalism. Legalists consider themselves wiser than others. They have an “appearance” (show) of wisdom; it is not real wisdom; it is pretense. “Wisdom” is spirituality centered on Christ. Tabooism passes for spirituality in some evangelical circles.
“in self-imposed religion”
The word “self-imposed” means arbitrary and unwarranted piety. Legalism is an over-scrupulous religion. When we subject ourselves to regulations from men, we operate contrary to the very essence of the gospel of grace (Gal. 5:1f). Man-manufactured religion always tends toward some form of asceticism.
Men love to invent religious beliefs and practices that come from their own desires and initiatives. This is self-imposed religion, religion thought up by oneself–self-made religion. When Christians impose their will over God’s, they come up with weird systems of belief. This is religion based on man’s will, emotionalism, and ecstatic.
God wants us to avoid religious systems invented by men.
People love religion. If they do not have one, they will invent one. Evangelical Christianity in the twenty-first century loves to invent new forms of religion like that in the days of the Colossians. We love legalism, asceticism, ecstatics. At the same time, we do not expend effort in the Word of God, exposing ourselves to what God truly wants from us.
When we get away from the Word, we always move away from the grace of God.