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.

Patience

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[a] That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

2 Peter 3:11-18 (NIV)

Having patience is not always a strong suit for me. When I have determined to make a purchase, I want the item to be readily available. Afterall, I have done my research and completed my mental gymnastics regarding should I buy or should I pass. Once I decide to buy, I want to do it right then. I also want to take it home immediately. This same mental battle and impatience occurs when I am determining whether to do something or not. Once my course of action is determined, I expect to place everything into motion now and not later. Lucky for me, I have usually had wise individuals in my life who temper my impatience. Perhaps you have a similar impatience.

In the letter of Peter in which we find our passage today, we hear Peter caution the people to have patience. He speaks of the destruction of the old heaven and earth making way for the new heaven and earth. The anticipation of this change appears to make the people extremely eager for its arrival. But the Lord is patient to ensure all are given an opportunity to accept salvation. Since the Lord is patient, the people must also be patient. Peter warns them to not be carried away by the error of those who are not following God’s wisdom. Instead, during this period of waiting they should use it as an opportunity to grow.

Waiting has always been an element of what it means to be God’s people. Throughout the story of God’s people in the Bible, we see many situations in which God’s people have to wait. We also see many times when an individual or group gets impatient and tries to force something to occur or at the very least starts complaining a lot. Examples include Sarai’s wanting a child, the Israelites in the wilderness, David wanting Bathsheba, Judas wishing Jesus would overthrow the Roman oppressors, and others. Human attempts to force God’s hand or taking matters into their own hands never seem to turn out successful. Hence, the warning of Peter to be patient and not lawless.

The season of Advent in the church calendar is all about anticipation and patience. We anticipate the completion of the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. The same anticipation which the hearers of Peter’s letter had. After over 1900 years of waiting, we struggle with remaining patient and some distort what Paul, Peter and other messengers of God have said. Yet we know God keeps God’s promises but the timing of their fulfillment belongs to God. Let us heed Peter’s warning and follow his suggestion. May we use this time to not become impatient and strike out on our own but instead grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Reaching

In our home we have a few houseplants. We are fortunate in this house to have windows to the south and windows to the east which provide excellent locations for some of our plants. Every few weeks, I have to turn the plants at least forty-five degrees. The reason for needing to turn the plants is that they tend to grow towards the window so by turning them I am able to keep them pretty evened out. Of course, the reason they grow toward the window is due to the fact that they are growing toward the source of the sunlight. If you remember from your basic biology class, plants need sunshine in order to trigger photosynthesis which allows the plant to grow.

You may be wondering why I have attempted to give a brief lesson regarding plants and photosynthesis. My reason is that while adjusting the plants the other day, I thought about how they reach for the sunlight. How they must have the sunlight for their survival. These thoughts caused me to ponder how I have a similar need. I am the type of person who does not do well on consecutive days of cloudy skies. After a few days, I notice shifts in my attitude and a reduction of my energy level. I am a person who needs regular days of sunlight.

I also began to consider how this applies to my faith. I have a need to feel a connection to God. When I sense this connection, my attitude is more of a positive attitude. Feeling surrounded by the Spirit of God, I experience a movement forward in my life. When going through a dark time in my life, my natural instinct is to reach out toward the Lord. Like the plant reaches toward the sunlight, I reach toward God so that I may receive what I need to survive and grow.

Between the impact of COVID-19 and the call for racial justice, there seems to me a greater need for us to reach out. A need for us to reach out to one another. A need for us to reach out to God. There we will find that life-giving source which will sustain us and help us to grow.