In Christ

Read Colossians 2:6-8

Some passages from the Bible can appear fairly simple on the surface but when examined closely, they can contain some valuable insights. For today’s passage we will do some mining to see what insights we may glean.

The passage begins with a reminder that those hearing this message have received Christ as Lord. The concept of receiving has been viewed in a variety of ways. First, there is the image of receiving Christ’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit. This image has associated with it the understanding of allowing the Spirit to enter our lives and our hearts as a guide and support. Second, by adding the phrase, “as Lord,” the concept of receiving includes an acknowledgement, maybe even a declaration, that Christ is the Lord of our lives.

The next portion of the passage comes with the instruction to “continue to live your lives in him.” This is a curious and complex thought. What does it mean to live “in” Christ? The idea that the source of our life is Christ comes to mind. Seeing our life enveloped in Christ would mean how we respond to people and aspects of our lives should be from a Christ-like perspective.

Then the writer expands upon the instruction by defining some of what this might look like. Our anchor is to be in Christ. We grow by being securely planted in Christ, his teachings and his expressions of love. This allows us to withstand the challenging times of life as we mature into being followers of Christ.

Next, the writer tells us to become stronger in the beliefs which we have been taught. Here we are reminded that our learning does not have an ending point, on earth there is no graduation as a believer. Instead, we continue to study God’s word, listen to the messengers God places in our lives, and explore with fellow believers how to live out the grace and love which we receive from the Lord.

The final phrase of this section tells us to overflow with thankfulness. There are a variety of ways we can express our thanks. The easiest is by using words to speak of our gratitude to the Lord. The expression which brings the greatest joy to God is by living out our thankfulness. Through the ways we give to and interact with others, we can demonstrate how thankful we are for what we receive. A combination of these approaches will allow others to see our lives of gratitude.

The remaining section of today’s passage is a warning. The warning is for us to not be led by human understanding but solely by Christ. Human interpretation of life and how to live it, void of Christ’s instruction and guidance, lacks substance and accuracy. Human teachings must always be viewed through Christ-given lenses.

May we take these pieces of wisdom and strive to live according to them.

Lord’s Prayer – Part 8

Read Matthew 6:9b-13

Today’s phrase from the Lord’s Prayer which we will look at is a continuation of the petition from yesterday. In this petition, the Lord is seeking from God forgiveness for sin. We know that Jesus is not in need of forgiveness but is providing a model prayer for his disciples who do need forgiveness.

The phrase for today places a caveat on the request for forgiveness. This caveat is “as we forgive our debtors.”

Most often this is interpreted to mean that God should forgive our sin in the same manner which we forgive others. This interpretation creates a problem. The problem is that this would place God in a situation dependent upon our actions and behaviors. God is not dependent upon humans in any way and does not respond as humans respond. Evidence of this is found in places throughout Scripture. In the story of Jonah God is prepared to forgive Nineveh which angers Jonah because he wants Nineveh punished. God shows Jonah that God’s choice to forgive or not to forgive is not linked to Jonah’s choices. (Jonah 3:10-4:11) God also declares, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”(Isaiah 55:8) Stephen reminds us of God’s independence from human actions when he says, “However, the Most High does not live in houser made by human hands.”(Acts 7:48)

If we do not interpret this phrase to be a link between our actions and God’s actions, we must look at it differently. Jesus appears to be expressing the importance of our forgiveness of others. One possible translation of the Greek word translated here “as” is “because.” The sense maybe that Jesus is telling us our reason for forgiving others is that we have been forgiven by God. This interpretation is supported by other Scripture. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone, forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13) Luke’s version of this prayer also lends support. “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” (Luke 11:4).

In including this phrase in the prayer, Jesus calls upon us to remember that by requesting and accepting God’s forgiveness, we are to extend forgiveness to others in gratitude.

Seeking Answers

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Colossians 1:15-17 (NIV)

Humans, by nature, have always been curious. We look at something and are filled with all kinds of questions. Where did this come from, what is its source? How was this created? Who or what sustains this? How does it operate? Will it last long? Can it be taken apart, and if so, can it be put back together? Questions seem to be endless when we encounter objects. This curiosity has led humanity to discover all types of beneficial components and processes throughout life. These discoveries have opened many adventures and opportunities to us. This inquisitive search has even extended to explore non-physical parts of life such as spirituality, thought processes, and philosophies. We tend to ask why someone thinks, behaves or responds as they do in a variety of situations.

Today in the passage which we have read, we see a few answers to some existential questions. The first question answered is “Who is the Son of Man?” The answer is he is the image of an invisible God. The whole definition of the incarnation is put there in a very simple sentence. Jesus is the physical embodiment of God, the first creature. The second question which is answered is “How was any and everything I see, hear or experience created?” The answer is through the Son of Man, or God. Another short answer to a profound question. The third question could be “How does everything fit together and kept in motion?” This question’s answer is that the Son of Man is responsible. 

If we are looking for the answer to the overarching question of how has this come to be, here we have a concise answer. All things, either physical and non-physical, came to be through God. If we wish to know who this God is that creates and sustains all things, then we have the Son of Man, Jesus, to give us an all-encompassing image. This places all things, all thoughts, all aspects of life in the realm of God who we fully know in Jesus Christ.

Reconciliation

19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. 

Colossians 1:19-23a (NIV)

Reconciliation is defined as “the restoration of friendly relations.” After the Civil War in the United States, the northern and southern states had to reconcile. Friendly relations were required if the nation was going to heal and move forward as a productive country on the world’s stage. Reconciliation can also be necessary among family members. When individuals become estranged from one another, there is a need to reconcile with one another for the family to become whole once again. Unreconciled relationships create a gap among people. It is as if there is a hole in the spirit of the person who has not been reconciled.

In his comments to the Colossian believers, Paul speaks of reconciliation with God. The reason for the need to reconcile is because our thoughts and behaviors stand often in opposition to the love of God. God is love so anything which cannot abide within that love is unable to exist in God’s realm. God chose to create a way for us to be reconciled with God. Jesus Christ is the means for reconciliation to occur. God decided to fully live among humanity in Jesus. At the right time Jesus became the reconciler by physically dying on the cross. He stood in for us, bearing our sinful thoughts and behaviors on his body. By doing this, he made us holy, free and innocent in the sight of God. Our thoughts and behaviors are now compatible with the pure love of God.

Now having been made compatible with God and fully reconciled in relationship, Paul says we are to continue in believing Jesus has made this so. He tells us to be unmoved from the hope found in this good news. Where we once were alienated from God, we now live in full relationship. This is the truth of the gospel and this truth gives us hope.

Beyond Us

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

The night sky on a clear night can be truly amazing to gaze upon. The light from the stars and planets provide wonderful beauty. When you allow your mind to wander, you are able to see shapes and images by combining various points of light. Ancient people did exactly this which led to the signs of the zodiac and other concepts of astrology. There is a scene in Disney’s Lion King when Mufasa is speaking with Simba on a star-filled night as they overlook the pride land. Mufasa tells Simba to look at the stars. He says they are the kings who have come before them and will guide them, including Simba, in being king. Later in the movie, Simba looks to the stars and sees Mufasa who guided him in reclaiming the prideland. By looking beyond one’s self and current situation, we can be guided in life.

When we look at the letter to the Colossians, we find this passage which calls us to look beyond ourselves. Here we are told that we have been raised into a new life by Christ. Now our focus should be and what God desires in our lives. We have died to our old way of living because our life is now found in Christ. When Christ appears before us then we will join in his glory. This takes us from our present way of living to a new life focused on the Lord.

Sitting and looking at the stars transports us from our current situation to a place where we can imagine and dream. By placing our focus on Christ to guide us in this new life, our thoughts and actions can be transformed. We can imagine the glory-filled day when we stand before the Lord. As Christ’s glory envelopes us, we see the fullness of our new life. Being in Christ, our daily living can now be guided by him.

Live as one who has been given new life in Christ. Look to the Lord to imagine and be guided in this new life.