Now here comes the challenge.
"If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations - 'Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch' (referring to things that all perish as they are used) - according to human precepts and teachings? 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." - Colossians 2:20-23 ESV
This question must be taken in the context of this passage.
"Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind..." - Colossians 2:18 ESV
If we just quote part of the verse...
"...why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations..." - Colossians 2:20b ESV
Then we can really miss the boat because there are many reasons why we submit to rules and norms within structures. We still live in the world and structure is important.
The writer is asking, 'Why are you embracing a teaching that tells you to control your behavior as a way to please God or yourself?'
In our present new identity as believers, we have a new master and our life is not regulated by rules like that. We aren't on a mission to perfect ourselves anymore. Our God does not demand that of us. He Is holy and we have been made as holy as the Son of God by association.
People who teach asceticism are control freaks. Even if they don't say it out loud they have a white glove in their back pocket and in their mind they are checking for dust.
God is in total control and He gives liberty. God knows His love WILL transform. God doesn't want us to be introspective. He wants us to believe.
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible." - Hebrews 11:1-3 ESV
The finished work is spiritual high ground. Jesus has done something amazing. He has paid for our sins and given us a new identity that functions under a new structure. We have passed through the cycle of death, burial and resurrection (verse 12) so now lets live in the structure of God's body life (verse 19). Love and mission give us a structure because our communication is focused on edification and evangelism that has a purpose.
In that structure, we say things to ourselves like, 'I won't do that because it is not edifying.' not because it is a rule but because it is not redemptive or pofitable. We live as perfected ones who do not strive for recognition, applause or spiritual self-improvement. We grow in excellent and approve excellent things because they glory God.
We ask 'why?' to ourselves with no introspection.
'If I have died with Christ then how should a person with those credentials handle this situation? Does the teaching I'm hearing line up with that reality?'