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The Only Possible Option

Colossians 3:22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 

I know my heavenly master but I haven’t paid enough attention to the awareness that while I don’t have a job and a boss, real life is my earthly master. I spend many hours each week in the Word and in thought dedicated to learning to live in this world “with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”  That’s where “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you” comes into play for me.

I struggle to string together a coherent prayer built on God’s perspective for the dismal realities of that earthly master.  Those are situations so far removed from my own life; serious world situations and leaders that I have absolutely no control over.  I’m startled by the realization that I’ve let what I work at with all my heart, my dedicated preparation to know my heavenly master, insulate my mind from the only possible option I have to obey that earthly master.  It’s a revelation for me to accept the only frame of reference I have for those dismal situations I can’t control is prayer.  May that new “sincerity of heart” continue to be so!

Only One Right Answer

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

• Compassion • kindness • humility •gentleness • forgiveness • love
• thankfulness. 

I’m a list-maker so lists in Scripture always catch my eye.  The thing about lists is they serve a necessary purpose in daily life.  They’re usually filled with things to do and the object is twofold; to be reminded and to be able to √ items off. That’s how lists work.  I think Paul’s √ list of virtues works the same way.  It’s both a to-do and a reminder list but it has an added benefit.

Paul’s reminders are the right response to being “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” but they’re about more than behavior.   What if there’s another purpose to those reminders – the training of the heart?  What if each thing on that list of virtues is also a ? to ask yourself that applies to “whatever you do, whether in word or deed?”  What if the answer to each ? is as important as being able to √ it off?

• Compassion? • kindness? • humility? •gentleness? • forgiveness? • love?
• thankfulness?

Only the right answer makes it possible to add a √ mark after any of those virtues and there’s only one right answer to each of those ?’s.  “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly… And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” 

Transformed Scars

Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

1…set your hearts on things above
2…Set your minds on things above
3…your life is now hidden with Christ in God
9…you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 

The Good News today is your life is “now hidden with Christ in God.”  Think about that for a moment.  Think about the times you’ve spoken or done things that needed to be hidden.  If you need a little help with that re-read verses 5-8 and you begin to remember it’s the pain and shame of your sins that Christ has taken upon himself to “hide.”

Those sins are now hidden. You’re forgiven!  Thank God for that, but you may have some scars.  Jesus has a purpose for your scars, just as he did for his own when he showed them to Thomas, the doubter, as proof of new life.  Remember those scars?  Remember whose image is renewing you?  

New life brings healing but even healing can leave scars.  Your heart and mind are now set “on the things above.”  Jesus has hidden your pain and shame and transformed scars into verifiable evidence: proof of the reality of your new life that may even convince others of his glory.  “You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

Either/Or

Colossians 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ…22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

17 reality, however, is found in Christ
* 22 things that are all destined to perish with use
23 self-imposed worship…[ 3 versions]
– lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence NIV
– no value against fleshly indulgence NASB
– no effect when it comes to conquering a person’s evil thoughts and desires TLB 

Sometimes I begin by reading a passage of Scripture and jotting phrases that catch my attention [see above].  My go-to version is usually the NIV.  I frequently re-read the same passage in a few other versions hoping slightly different words will gel into a focus.  Then the hard part begins: to trust God really has something in that Word that will nourish faith in my daily life.  I try to write a sentence or two based on those phrases.  Today that focus seems to be either/or.  

Either you learn how to live every day as if “reality, however, is found in Christ” OR all you’re investing yourself in is “self-imposed worship.”  Is it possible, even likely, the very best spiritual nourishment we choose, reading the Bible, praying, service, church attendance and even writing a blog about faith, can become self-imposed worship of rules and regulations, not Christ?

We all know the answer to that question is yes.  The Scripture is very discreet about how it words *verse 22 so I will be too.  “Reality, however, [that’s] found in Christ” requires the same diligence of daily nourishment for our hearts that food does for our bodies.  Both kinds of nourishment are subject to the same natural processes.  Unless our investment is able to renew the reality of Christ in us and become our true worship that has real “effect when it comes to conquering a person’s evil thoughts and desires” it’s just the waste of “self-imposed worship.”

The Inner Circle

Colossians 2:1 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is…9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness…13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled tqhe charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

The word “you” is used twenty-two times in the first fourteen verses of  this Chapter.  You is a personal pronoun.  The Apostle begins with simple words “I want you to know how hard I am contending for you… and for all who have not met me personally.”  It only takes a couple more verses before he’s swept away that separation of knowing him personally, and time.  I’m certain grammar and pronouns were the furthest things from Paul’s mind when he wrote this Word but his goal is still alive and well because of them.  We’ve become part of the inner circle of “the mystery of God, namely, Christ” in you.  “God made you alive with Christ,”

The impersonal has been swept away because of these words written so long ago by a man we’ve never met.  Here’s the grand finale.  It’s very personal, we’re now part of the inner circle of Christ.   The indisputable confirmation of Scripture being Living Word is it still speaks loud and clear to the heart today with two more pronouns – us and our.

“He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”

Mystery Solved

NIV Colossians 1:19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Christ], 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…28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

Maybe you’re wondering why my mind searches for such different ways to read Scripture each morning.  It’s really pretty simple…I desire to do it but I have to look for ways to trick my mind into denying the lie that I already “know it all.”  It’s not a particularly flattering confession but sometimes concentrating on one word or idea from Scripture is what God uses to reconcile the mystery of those two very different realities for me.  That word from this Word is “fullness.”  

“God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ]”  “and through him to reconcile to himself all things.”  Once I was “alienated from God” but God in Christ has changed my mind and given me what I need.  Mystery solved!  It’s a new reality that’s become a promise I can depend on from “the hope held out in the gospel: ”fullness…mine because of his.

V28 MSG The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple.