Colossians 4 (post 3 of 3)
Paul starts off his final greetings with two people who will personally be delivering his letter to the Colossians -- Tychicus and Onesimus. These two men will soon set off for the long 1,200+ mile (yes…1,200+ MILES…with no car, train, or plane) journey from Rome to Colossae. Do you think they have any idea of the significance of what they were carrying? Did they take extra caution to protect it from the elements during the journey? Could they have even imagined the impact this little letter would have? And not just for the Colossians, but for the millions who have read it since and will read it in the future. Amazing.
Paul continues his greeting with more fellow workers, and a peek into the team performing a mighty work of God. Each with different skills and purposes, and some not using them to the fullest at times.
As I look back over the team in Paul’s closing greeting, it is a beautiful compilation of people we could all hope to be and have in our lives, along with the sad reality of relationships that don’t pan out as we would have hoped.
Do you have real names associated with these people/characteristics? In which do you see yourself?
Two more short closing sentences hand-written by Paul… First, remember my chains. How would you want to be remembered? For Paul, it wasn’t his conversion count, the churches he planted, his beautifully written words. It was his chains. The length he would go to make the mystery of the gospel fully known. His joining of Christ in His suffering. It is a reminder of the sacrifice of following Jesus and making the gospel known. Paul counts it as a blessing, not something to be pitied. And finally, grace be with you. The sign off from Paul. Paul’s opening and closing blessings include grace. It is the essence of the gospel he loved and committed his life to.
The letter complete. Rolled up tightly and handed to Tychicus and Onesimus. Packed safely in their satchel with provisions for the long trip to Colossae. Possibly a few tears. Covered in prayer, no doubt.
In this day of instant communication via a multitude of channels, it is hard to grasp how special these letters are. They can’t just FaceTime Paul with a question, or shoot a quick text to Luke asking him for advice, or post a message on Demas’s Facebook account to encourage him to stick with the ministry. It was a slow process of penning a letter, hand delivering it hundreds -- even thousands -- of miles away, and then waiting for a word to travel back. But I imagine it brought a savoring and careful consideration and study of each and every word. Something that is lost in our time of information overload.
What seemingly hard or small or insignificant tasks are you currently engaged in? Could they possibly have an eternal significance that you just can’t see yet?
What friends do you have around you? Are they beloved and faithful? Do they stick by you and join you on this journey of life you are on? What kind of friend are you? Would you stay close in hard times and deliver the letter when asked?
God, help us see our tasks – big and small – through your eyes. Help us find the kind of friends and be the kind of friend that sticks with our friends and is willing to do what is needed to mutually build one another up to accomplish our God-sized callings.
Colossians 4 (post 2 of 3)
Paul’s letter to the Colossians is coming to an end. These are the last few instructions before Paul’s final greetings. He has grounded them in the gospel message and given them practical instructions for Christian living. Now he offers up instructions for evangelizing to non-believers that includes BOTH walking AND talking. These two go together, and don’t let it pass by too quickly that the walking is before the talking. Our words lose their power when our walk doesn’t match up. It doesn’t mean we are perfect or anywhere close to it, but we do care about showing Christ and a life in Christ. At the same time, we aren’t called to just go out and live a good life, but not talk about it with others. The talking part is critical too!
Paul gives them [us] five pieces of advice:
Walk in Wisdom: John Piper said of wisdom… “Wisdom is knowing what to do for the glory of God when the rule book runs out. It’s knowing how to become all things to all men without compromising holiness and truth. It is creativity and tact and thoughtfulness. It’s having a feel for the moment, and having an eye for what people need and want”
Making the Best Use of Time: We should be walking in those open doors around us with a sense of urgency. We don’t want to miss opportunities that could be lost forever because we are too busy or too distracted or too self-focused.
Gracious Speech: Paul says our speech should ALWAYS be gracious. It should be kind, humble, accommodating. We can be gracious in our speech without compromising truth. In such a polarizing cultural environment, gracious speech would be a breath of fresh air.
Seasoned with Salt: Salt is used to make bland things taste better, as well as a preservative. How can we speak in a way that is full of life-giving truth and worthy of “tasting” what we are saying? Truth in a manner that is appealing, interesting, relevant, and as appetizing as possible. And it should have something about it that sticks. A message that is preserved in the recipient’s head and heart. Something they will think about again and desire to know more.
Personal: Paul says we ought to answer EASH person. In other words, it isn’t just a canned speech or a set formula for everyone. It is based on relationship and knowing something about the person and where they uniquely are in their life. It involves listening and responding accordingly.
God, help us to WALK AND TALK as redeemed, restored, grateful, fully loved and fully equipped children of God.
Colossians 4 (Post 1 of 3)
Paul’s prayer request while sitting in a Roman prison? Open doors to proclaim the gospel. The thing that got him in prison in the first place is the thing he is asking for prayers to be able to do more of. His blinding encounter with the risen Jesus not only changed his life, it changed his mission and passion.
Paul frequently uses the word mystery. Think about a mystery game or novel. Some unknown or unanswered thing is out there. Gradually and methodically clues are introduced. Some very telling and some a bit more hidden. Clues mount and more information is uncovered until the climax where the clues all come together and the mystery is revealed. This is how it is in the Bible. The Gospel was always there, but it was slowly presented and slowly unveiled. Paul was given a final clue to understand the mystery and begin, with the apostles who walked with Jesus, to declare it to the world. He takes this responsibility very seriously. As should we.
We are often so eager to share good news. Why aren’t we as eager to share THE good news; the Gospel? I think part of the problem is we don’t really know how. We aren’t sure how to approach it, what to say, or how to say it.
Paul says we should make It clear. Not using confusing Christianese, but rather plain, clear language. It is about walking with people and in relevant ways showing in words and actions the good news. I think the gradual revelation of the mystery is similar to the conversations that happen walking through open doors. It isn’t a theological doctrine dump, but rather the building of conversations over time. Slowly making the gospel known as the people in our circles see how we live and engage in conversation.
Jesus says of the kingdom of heaven is like a tiny mustard seed. Little seeds that are watered and take time to grow. It is little conversations and actions that pique interest, questions and more discussion over time. It is plain, clear speech in everyday life situations where doors are opened. Christ in us equips us for these conversations.
Paul is praying for open doors. He planted churches, he preached the Word to so many people in so many places who then planted churches. But now here he is in prison. Might he be thinking doors that were once open to him were now closed? What does he do with this time? He writes letters. Something he may not have had time to do if we were out planting more churches. I wonder what he thinks in heaven watching us today reading from one of the four letters he wrote from prison. These prison letters and the other nine he wrote make him the most influential writer of the best-selling book of all time. Oh, doors were open. He didn’t see it at the time, but the impact he had because of his passion, perseverance, and single-minded focus on Jesus regardless of his circumstances is mind blowing.
If like Paul, you feel all the doors around you are closed, let this encourage you that they are more open than you think. Be persistent. Keep praying. Do what God is telling you to do. Your obedience will have far more impact than you can see once God gets his hands on it.
But I suspect most of us recognize that there are open doors all around us, we just aren’t walking through them. We just need to take mustard-seed-yeast-size steps. If we really believed the news was as good as we say it is, we would want it to be told.
God, please give me vision to see, and then the courage and wisdom to walk through, the open doors you strategically have placed all around me. I know that it is you who does all the work. Give me words and actions that backed by your power can make the mystery of the gospel clearly known.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your heats to God.” (Colossians 3:16)
I am not musically inclined at all. I can’t sing, play an instrument, or even read music. But there is something about music that stirs my soul, especially in a worship setting, like nothing else.
I used to think of music in a church setting as a kind of add-on thing to the main thing. Something to warm people up and kill time waiting for latecomers to arrive before getting to the good stuff, and then something to wrap the service up. But overtime a shift occurred where I realized worship was an integral part of a Christian community coming together (I’m a slow learner!). The music isn’t for us as the recipient. God is the recipient…it is an act of worshiping God. We sing to Him. We lift our voices in unison – as a united people – in praise to God. It gets our soul in sync with Him in preparation to study His holy Word. And we end service in response to the study of the Word, again praising and thanking Him.
Think about it…some people love to read, some hate it. Some people love to write, some hate it. Some people like to speak in front of crowds, some hate it. But everyone loves music. Not necessarily the same kind of music, but everyone likes music. In God’s creativity and love of order, God created music. Melodies and rhythms with endless combinations to tell stories, remember God’s Word, praise God. And God sings over us (check out Zephaniah 3:17).
When I focus on the lyrics, so often I am moved to tears as I join in worship at church. And to glance over and see someone with their eyes closed, hands up, clearly moved by worship just gets me. A friend once told me she thought it was the holy spirit’s presence that brought her to tears. I like that thought. Our reaction to worship is a result of the spirit of God showing Himself and moving in and around us as we come together in joint worship. It is a beautiful thing to be in active worship to our God. Now when I am overcome by emotion in response to worship, it causes me to pause and thank God for revealing Himself to me in such a special, personal way. I feel like God is close and I can’t help but express gratitude to Him.
Through hymns and worship music, God’s Word is set to melodies that help teach us, heal our soul, remind us who He is, encourage us, and fill us with His goodness and wisdom. On a personal level, we get to intimately feel God near. Corporately we get to join others with one voice in united praise. And we do it all in the name of Jesus, with thankful hearts.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Colossians 2 (post 1 of 2)
The ultimate power rulers and authorities thought they had over Jesus was death. The Jewish leaders got their way and witnessed the sentence and the crucifixion of Jesus. In their minds, they won. Their biggest threat was gone. But three days later, Jesus rose from the dead.
The worst they could do to Him had no power over Him. Little did they know, it was what He came for. It was always Plan A. They thought they triumphed over Him, but it was He who triumphed over them.
It was not the end. In fact, it was just the beginning.
Through different words, visuals and metaphors, Paul tells the story of grace to the Colossians. The significance of what Jesus actually did for us on the cross. Just as legal wrongdoings require accountability and justice, so do moral ones. But we can never meet the demands. We would always be in debt. Just try to be holy for an hour. Impossible.
Imagine all your wrongdoings logged and submitted for punishment. All actions, thoughts, motives…hidden and out in the open…past, present and future. The document would be long and thick. Now imagine this thick document slipped between the hand of Jesus and the cross. A nail securing it in place binding them together. The document covered in the blood of Jesus, unable to come lose. Then taken down with the body of Jesus and buried in the grave.
This is what Jesus did for us. It is incredible. The debt paid and wiped clean. Imagine being dragged from a jail cell, placed in a court room and having all of your sins read aloud. The guilt, shame and panic unbearable. The anxiety waiting for the verdict and punishment. Then imagine Jesus walking in from the back of the courtroom, approaching the judge and taking the verdict and punishment upon Himself. The judge looks at you and simply says, you are free to go. Case closed. The life you imagined of eternal punishment now set utterly free.
As this visual rolls around in my head, I am baffled as to why Christians spend so much time attacking and being attacked. The message of grace, sacrifice, forgiveness, canceled debt, and freedom is so beautiful.
This is the message Paul is trying to pound in their heads through all ways he can think of. How can we make it understood and make it stick?
Because the truth is, THIS is what will make us want to walk out of the courtroom and do life differently. To live with a lightened load, to live with immense gratitude, to live telling others of the amazing gift we were given, to love more deeply.
God, let us embrace and experience the freedom of our document of sin nailed to the cross. Let it drive us to love and share the message of grace with others.
Colossians 1 (post 3 of 3)
“For in him [Jesus] the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” (Colossians 1:19)
God actively and continuously pursues us. From the Fall in Genesis 3 to Revelation, God is drawing closer to us to bring us back to Genesis 1…the beginning, when God’s creation walked and talked and DWELT with Him without constraints. He longs to dwell with us again.
In the Old Testament, God dwelt in the tabernacle tent and later the temple, constructed according to meticulous details and instructions. “And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may DWELL in their midst.” Exodus 25:8
Tucked deep in the temple was the Holy of Holies behind a thick curtain that only the high priest…only once a year…could enter to make a sacrifice for the sins of the people. Access to the presence of God and the forgiveness of sins was only available via the high priest. And the forgiveness of sins was temporary.
For over a thousand years, this is how the people of God would approach Him. One high priest, once a year on the Day of Atonement. The high priest would cleanse himself, put on special garments, and then sacrifice a bull for him and his family. The blood of the bull would be sprinkled over the Ark of the Covenant (which contained the 10 Commandment tablets, Aarons staff, and some manna...symbols of the law, the miracles, and the provisions). He would then take two goats and one would be sacrificed for the sins of the people. The other was called the scapegoat. It would be released into the wilderness, carrying off the sins of the people, which were forgiven for a year. Rinse & repeat. Every. Single. Year.
Fast forward to the New Testament and the account of Jesus entering the world. God in the flesh. The presence of God – God Himself – getting closer to His people. “And the Word became flesh and DWELT among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
Where God dwelt with the Israelites in the temple, He now dwelt in the person of Jesus, God in the flesh. And when Jesus fulfilled His mission here on earth, the presence of God was released from the confines of the Holy of Holies. The curtain was torn in two, no longer separating God from His people.
The sacrifice of Jesus sets us free, like the goats on the Day of Atonement, taking on our punishment and washing our sins away. But His sacrifice was perfect and complete and permanent.
As Jesus prepared to go back to His dwelling place, He tells of the Holy Spirit who will come when He leaves and dwell in us…“he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever...You know him, for he DWELLS with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-17)
God is getting closer to His people. First in the temple, then in the person of Jesus walking AMONG His people, then via the Holy Spirit IN His people. For now, we live in this earthy tent, grateful for God in the person of the Holy Spirit in us, but still longing for a time to come when we will again dwell face to face with our God. “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly DWELLING” (2 Corinthians 5:2)
The entire Bible is the story of God’s plans unfolding. Redemption, reconciliation, restoration through Jesus. The promise of a new heaven and new earth, a new dwelling place with God for eternity, is in the final chapters of God’s word…
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the DWELLING place of God is with man. He will DWELL with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” (Revelation 21:1-4)
In the new heaven and new earth we will dwell with God as in the early days of creation. We are reconciled to God because the fullness of God dwelt in Jesus, the blood of His cross, the Lamb that was slain, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, the One who conquered sin and death, the One who is worthy.
Until that day, let us dwell well in these earthly bodies.🧡
Colossians 1 (post 2 of 3)
“And he is BEFORE ALL THINGS…in him all things hold together…he is the head of the body, the church…he is the beginning…he is preeminent in everything.” (Colossians 1:17-18)
Our culture doesn’t like to put other people first. We follow leaders only as long as they don’t disrupt our comfort or individual goals.
“I’ve discovered that the less some people know about Christ the more they like Him. The baby in the manger touches even the most cynical soul who has long since given up on religion. The secularist who is bent on reforming society quotes selected verses from the Sermon on the Mount with reverence. And the religious types use Him as their example of humility, sacrifice, and basic goodness. He is worthy to be spoken about in hushed tones. He is, say some, the first among equals. Yet in all this He is often dammed by faint praise. Since Christ said that the world would hate Him, we can be quite sure that when the world loves Him it is because they have made Him into something He is not. The biblical Christ cannot be dismissed; He stands in our path forcing us to make a decision, either to the right or to the left. In His presence neutrality is impossible. The babe in the manger quickly grows to become God, the King.” (Reference: Paul’s Letter to the Colossians: An Exegetical and Devotional).
Unfortunately this powerfully, and sadly, represents what Jesus has become to many of us. We love Him as long as He fits our narrative. We love pieces and parts of Him that can be used to our advantage. We want Him… and we want the world.
But that isn’t how it works with God. He is first. He is before all things. He is preeminent. He will not take second place, because He can’t. And with Jesus as the head, everything flows from that vantage point, not in addition to, or in conflict with, it. We don’t have a little bit of Jesus here, and a little bit of sin there…nice and separate and compartmentalized.
Jesus is before all things in time and priority. Not only is he first, he is the beginning, the end, and what holds everything together in between. The Amplified translation says, “He is the controlling, cohesive force of the universe.” Things fall apart when what holds them together is diminished. They start to slip, change shape, and ultimately are destroyed completely... unrecognizable and not at all what they were intended to be.
Jesus has to be first. Not one of many, but THE ONE supreme and preeminent. Not one of many ways we can be saved, but the ONLY way we can be saved. Not one of many ways to God, but the ONLY way to God.
God, may we never hold on to anything more tightly than You. May we always put You in Your rightful place...FIRST. Before ALL things.
Colossians 1 (Post 1 of 3)
Chuck Swindoll says of Colossians, “In this book, the apostle Paul describes Jesus with some of the loftiest language in the New Testament, focusing on Christ’s preeminence and sufficiency in all things.”
What we believe about Jesus matters. A lot. Part of the reason for Paul’s letter the Colossians was to clear up false teachings. Because when our understanding of who Jesus is shifts, it changes everything. Paul wants to be sure we know exactly who this person is that came to earth to save us.
Jesus is one of the persons of the trinity. There is only one God who exists as three persons…the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. These three persons are not just a part of God, but they are fully and equally God. They are not three different roles played by God at different points in time. There has always been and will always be three distinct persons existing in the one God. Modeling community; oneness. They are in full cooperation with one another, testify to each other, and function in different capacities, relating to us in different ways. All while still being fully God themselves. None were created. They were all there from the beginning.
Mind blown? Mine too. It is hard to wrap my head around, but it matters because any lesser understanding of who Jesus is changes everything. He can’t just be a good person or good representative and representation of God, He must BE GOD. And Paul wants to make sure the Colossians – and us – know this.
Paul tells us, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15) as a stand-alone passage might lead us to believe Jesus was created by God, but Paul is quick to follow it with the assertion that, “BY HIM all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created THROUGH HIM and FOR HIM.” (Colossians 1:16)
Chuck Swindoll says, “Paul presents Christ as the center of the universe, not only as the active Creator, but also as the recipient of creation.”
Paul goes on, “And he is before all things…in him all things hold together…he is the head of the body, the church…he is the beginning…he is preeminent in everything.” (Colossians 1:17-18) So. Much. Here. A separate post is coming just on this!
“For in him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” (Colossians 1:19) Holiness, wisdom, grace, creativity, authority, power, excellence, mercy, justice, love…all power and attributes. How tightly it all was squeezed into the constraints of human flesh during His short 33 years on earth. And during this time, He completed what He came to do…what was set apart for Him from the beginning. Who He created Himself to be and do. A way to reconcile us back to Himself through the blood of His cross. (P.S. another separate post is coming about the fullness of God dwelling in Jesus.)
We have the power of the Holy Spirit now and the hope for an eternal new dwelling because of the blood of Jesus on the cross. The final and perfect sacrifice all the others before pointed toward. The perfect lamb that was slain so eternal death would pass over us. The great high priest who WAS the sacrifice and who MADE the sacrifice.
Jesus, God the Son – the Redeemer, came to earth in the flesh to carry out the plan of salvation that was created and set in place from the beginning of time. He came to earth, dressed like us, and not only warns us of what to avoid, but teaches us – shows us – how to live. And He didn’t stop there. He took our sins upon His perfect, sinless flesh and died for us so that we could live forever. So we could be children, heirs, saints delivered from darkness and transferred into a new kingdom of light.
Oh God, may we never lose the awe of Your majesty and glory.
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