Life is a race. This is a common metaphor used with a variety of implications. Some use it to refer to the various seasons and stages of life. But we, as Christians, typically use it in reference to our spiritual walk. We didn’t come up with this nifty turn of speech, Paul did. Throughout his letters he likened the spiritual life to a race. And just like all races, there are rules on how to run and consequences if those rules are broken. The greatest consequence an athlete could ever face is disqualification.
How’s your tree growing? Last time we talked about being rooted and built up in Christ and used the analogy of a tree and how it grows upward and downward simultaneously. Likewise, we also must be growing in our spiritual walk with Lord by rooting ourselves more firmly in Him through time spent with Him in the pages of His Word and relationship-building time of prayer. And as we grow and root ourselves in Him, we’ll come to an astounding realization that Christ is enough. Enough to satisfy our hearts. Enough to keep us from returning to our slavery to sin. Enough for all areas and aspects of life.
The fall season has officially descended upon us. The mornings are chillier, the days are shorter, and the delicious smells of mulling spices, hot apple cider, and fresh apple pie fill the kitchen. However, one of the most distinct marks of the season is the vibrant fall colors that transform ordinary maple and other deciduous trees into canopies of splendor.
Christians all have knowledge of the same mystery, are saved by the same Savior, promote the same gospel, read the same Bible. Yet despite our many similarities we, believers in Jesus Christ, tend to struggle with unity. We often become embroiled by our own opinions and pursuits that forget our common ground. We no longer walk in the unity that God ordained and therefore, lose sight of all the riches of His grace. But what was Paul’s exhortation and prayer for the Colossians? At the beginning of Colossians 2 he talks about how great a struggle he has for all the Gentile believers whom he has not met face to face, but why was Paul struggling and in constant prayer for these young Christians?
Hidden knowledge, mysteries accessible only to the inner circle, special rituals to gain knowledge, and an air of overall secrecy. These are all elements of Eastern mysticism which was creeping its way across Asian Minor where Colossae was located and is also infiltrating our 21st century American culture and society today.
Jesus Christ. The image of God, the firstborn over all creation, the preeminent One, the Creator, Sustainer, and Continuer of all things. He was with God in eternity past and will remain throughout eternity future. He was before all things and in Him all things hold together. He is the driving force and power behind all the mysteries of creation, from the structure of the atom to the water cycle and existence of gravity.
Central to the message of Colossians is the understanding of the uniqueness, preeminence, sovereignty, divinity, and full nature of Jesus Christ. Back in the first century, there was much argument over Christ’s identity. Within the Colossae Heresy there was the notion that Jesus wasn’t really God, just a really good person. Sound familiar? Almost two thousand years later we are faced with the same false doctrine. Satan never changes his lies and rumors, he just repackages them so that they can appeal to a new generation.
A word of discipline is always made easier by a word of encouragement and praise. As the Mary Poppins saying goes, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” So while Paul had many words of exhortation, reproof, and correction for the Colossae Christians, he starts his letter out with a declaration of his heart and love for the Colossians. He wants them to know that while they had never met, he was writing this letter out of love and not judgment, and while there were areas they needed to strengthen and improve, there were many other things that Paul and his team were so encouraged and thankful for. So after his initial greeting, he begins his letter with, “We always thank God…” and “we never cease to pray for you…”
The message of the gospel is simple. We do nothing to earn it, nothing to deserve it, and nothing to receive it. It only takes faith, trust, and acceptance. But for many that seems too easy, so they try to add stuff to the gospel. They add additional layers of requirements, rules, and regulations in an attempt to “earn” their salvation, not realizing that God’s grace is not something any of us can earn.
They were of different nationalities, different cultures. By all rights they should have been enemies. They’d never met, but his love for them was so great that though he was over 900 miles away and under house arrest, he wrote them a letter. But it was no ordinary letter. This was a missive full of all that he wanted to say but never had the chance to. Comprising over 1600 words and now arranged into four different chapters, no word, sentence, or phrase in this letter is meaningless. All hold incredible weight, depth, truth, and significance. This is Paul’s letter to the Colossians.