They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods. (1 Tim. 4:3)

I once thought a person’s godliness was measured by the severity of their spiritual disciplines. In high school it was “Who spends the most time reading the Bible and praying?” In college it was “Who can fast for the longest period of time?” Sometimes I emulated these sacrifices because I thought they were the litmus test of my spiritual growth. Though I tried to keep my spiritual practices a secret between me and God, often they would leak out in my conversations. If people were impressed with what I was doing, a little pride would fill my heart. Some of my heroes in those days were monks, who had given up everything to live a life totally devoted to Christ. I thought they were the spiritually elite.

Paul warned against that line of thinking. It can lead to false teaching, even demonically inspired lies. When Christian teachers begin to create human restrictions and call them the gospel, we lose sight of the real gospel. We put all our energy toward our sacrifices and forget that Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. We can add nothing to his work on the cross for our salvation. Certainly fasting and devotions are good practices. They lead us deeper in Christ. But when our gospel is marked with false asceticism, it’s time to come back to the freedom we have in Christ.

Identify any human restrictions you are bound by, and set them aside.

Jarod Osborne is lead pastor of Pathway Church, in Warsaw, Indiana. He is the author of Jaded Faith (WPH).

© 2019 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission.