Feb. 17, 2013
Background Scripture: Colossians 3:1-17
Devotional Reading: Psalms 107:1-9
When I was in high school there was a member of our class, George, a preacher’s kid and later, a preacher himself. George was known for two things: an almost ever-present grin and an alarming habit of coming upon solitary fellow students with a face like the wrath of God and a demand to know: “ARE YOU SAVED?”
Our teachers could have cleared crowded hallways in a jiffy if they had let George roam the halls at large. I don’t know how spiritually effective his tactic was; all I know is that he scared the bejeebers out of most of us. Today, from the security of time to ponder the question, I would probably answer, “YES, EVERY DAY!”
Actually, jarring as it is, it is not a bad question for the Christian to entertain (although the volume and abruptness might be wisely adjusted). We need to be constantly examining our Christian discipleship to determine if it has advanced, retreated or remained much as it was.
Today, reading Roger Bullard’s commentary on Colossians 3:1-17 (The New Interpreter’s Study Bible), I found him summarizing Paul’s intent in 3:1-4: “The Colossians are to live now as if they are already in heaven, because in effect they are with Christ, who is in heaven. They have in effect died and are buried (hidden) –not in the earth, but in God, along with Christ where all wisdom and real knowledge lie hidden.”
A new life
When, as ninth-grader, I joined the Park Evangelical Church in Reading, Pa., I don’t recall anyone intimating that now I was expected to live as if I was in heaven with Christ.
I knew, of course, that I was expected not to smoke, drink, swear, attend movies on a Sunday or dance (sex wasn’t mentioned).
But, inasmuch as I didn’t drink, smoke, swear or attend movies on a Sunday and I didn’t do much dancing – my mother and father danced and they were my role models – I didn’t anticipate much of a change in my lifestyle. Later, as a pastor, I don’t think I ever brought up the subject with youth and adults being baptized or joining the church.
Now, however, I realize the folly of not having helped new Christians realize that, more than just joining an organization, they were to live a new life in Christ and what that might mean for them.
Paul plainly told the congregation at Colossae that as converts to Christ, they were in effect accepting a new set of values, because essentially the way we live is usually determined by what we value as good or bad: “giving above getting, serving above ruling, forgiving above avenging. The standard of values for Christians will be God’s, not the world’s” (William Barclay).
But the standard of values of many Christians, probably myself included, are often the world’s standards, rarely changed or modified by the values of God. That is partly because we regard God’s values as authoritative for only an elite minority of Christians and not authoritative for us, because we believe they are not realistic in the world in which we live.
And if we are anything, we are realistic, aren’t we? … and not really disciples of Jesus Christ.
Joining and/or attending a church are not the same as being a Christian. To be disciples of Jesus Christ, to be Christian, means to be a new person and live a new life. And in that new life, we are called to grow in our discipleship, become more like Christ, live more by his values.
Being in Christ is not something we add to our lives; it is a transformation of our lives.
Sometimes when in pleasant surroundings or in a state of deep satisfaction, people will say: “Wow, this is living!” Actually, that’s what life in Christ is – real living.
We sometimes say, “Football is his life” or, “She lives for her children.” In 3:4, Paul says: “When Christ who is our life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory.” For the Christian, Christ is our life.
The new life we are to take up as disciples of Jesus Christ is not static, but one that constantly needs to be renewed. If Christ is not our life – and you must answer for yours, as I must for mine – what do you need to give up for Christ to be your life? And what do I need to take up?
In 3:5 Paul says: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire and covetousness which is idolatry.” In the Jerusalem Bible, this is rendered as: “That is why you must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life” and, in the J.B. Philips version: “Consider yourselves dead to earthly contacts …”
I particularly like William Barclay: “Put to death every part of yourself which is against God and keeps you from fulfilling his will.”
There is one thing that completely distinguishes us from our old selves: Love. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And, above all these, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (3:12-15). Then, you will be already in heaven.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Those with questions or comments for Rev. Althouse may write to him in care of this publication.