The difference between authentic Christianity and some perversion of it is this: the perversion will have the handprints of humans all over it, while authentic Christianity will only have the handprints of Christ.
Part of always following Jesus means a call to exclusivity—that is, not only must you always follow Jesus, you must only follow Jesus.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col. 2:8)
The Colossian church was dealing with some doctrinal issues—exactly what they were is hard to pin down, but it seems that false teachers were slowly sneaking in and adding bits and pieces to the faith. That’s what the apostle Paul means in Colossians 2:8 when he says “philosophy.”
Paul is not speaking of the academic practice of philosophy, which is not inherently sinful; rather, he is referring to inventions of the human mind—dangerous ideas that were new on the scene. Be wary of new ideas, friends. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Be assured that there is nothing new to theology except that which is false.”
Be wary of man-made religious rules.
Paul’s response to man-made tradition (whether Jewish or pagan) is the same:
These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Col. 2:23)
An “appearance of wisdom.” That should cause us to pause, shouldn’t it? Man-made religion—man-made religious elements—can have an appearance of wisdom, especially when compared with the Christianity of the Bible. Is Christ the only way? That’s what the Bible says.
Yet, what if we throw in some works? Many of us are swept away and caught in the trap of legalism. Why? Because it has an appearance of wisdom! Because it makes sense—it’s plausible, it’s attractive. We like the idea of being able to earn something.