Learning to Thrive
From: Paul of Tarsus <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Grace and Peace
Date: 30 September 0052 at 9:05 PM
To: The church in Colossae <email@example.com>
Cc: Timothy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I’m excited to hear from my friend Epaphras that you in Colossae are genuine followers of Christ, displaying the fruit of true conversion. Your genuineness is proven by the working of the Holy Spirit in your lives displayed in acts of Christ-like love. So now I am praying for you that you may fully grasp the fulness of the plans and purposes of God, in order that you may thrive in your faith together, bearing good fruit and fully obtaining all that God intends for you, an inheritance that is full of light and freedom. God has called you out of the domain of the powers that held you captive, just as he called Israel out of the grasp of Pharaoh in Egypt, or he called the remainder later out of exile in Babylon.
However you believers in Colossae are called into a much fuller inheritance than Israel was, not just out of captivity into a new land but into a new way of living that is to bring light and healing to the whole earth, and especially into the place where God has placed you. This process of “calling out” and “calling in” is God’s redemption plan and it is accomplished now as then through forgiveness of sins and overcoming of the captivating powers that we were enslaved to. This is what God’s consuming love has done for you in Christ. This redemption is not into a physical promised land as it was for them, but into the eternal kingdom of His beloved Son, Jesus. Heaven’s ways flooding into the earth. (1:1-14)
I am aware though that you are not thriving in your faith as you should. In order for you to continue to grow to maturity in Christ you need to refocus you lives on Christ. Don’t degrade him and lower him to just another hero or teacher. Christ is creator, redeemer, Lord of all and God in the flesh! As Lord of all and head of his church, Jesus is working in the earth to reconcile all that has been lost and broken, all the way back to the garden. You yourselves are examples of God’s restorative work in Christ. Remember where you have come from and the life you have been rescued from. Just like the redemption stories, remember what you have been rescued to and rescued for, a life of purity and fruitfulness through a focus on the story of the life, death and resurrection of Christ. But in a world of many distractions and other dominating stories that seem to point to other ways back to the garden it will take focus and effort on your part to keep Christ at the centre. (1:15-23)
It is my own focus on Christ that compels me to do what I do even though it’s often unpleasant, unpopular and hard. Even though you don’t know me personally I suffer for your sake and for the sake of the wider world in maintaining my focus on Christ and on what he has called me to do. I carry a weight of responsibility to reveal to people everywhere the goal of God, which is the light of God shining through us into the darkness of the world. Jesus has empowered my by the Spirit to do this, and all you believers are called to do likewise, together as the representatives of Christ, each expressing your unique part, as if he was here in person. You have a great purpose as followers of Christ but you also have great responsibility. (1:24-29)
The purpose of my struggle in prayer and reminding you of these things is that you have courage placed within you, and that you be knit together as one, sharing Christ’s life together. This will give you strength and resilience. Then you will be filled with the true wealth of a lived out knowledge of Christ. There are many other measures of wealth and value out there that seem popular and convincing, but true wealth is only found in Christ and in living out his priorities.
I’m pleased with how well you have started your Jesus-life, but I am concerned with how this is not being reflected in how you are trying to living out of the life of Christ on a day by day basis. It seems that on top of your wonderful conversion you are being swept back into the fake, dehumanising, de-facto values and priorities of the powers of your age, rather than living out of the perspectives of Christ. Remember that your baptism into Christ is like Israel being released from captivity to Egypt, marking them out as a new-identity people. As they were on the other side of the Red Sea, so you are on the other side of the cross. There is no longer any claim against you. There is no condemnation by God or obligation to the defeated powers. So in the light of this massive fireworks display of victory over the powers why are are you concerning yourselves with the trivial sparks of legalism, rule keeping, ritual and superstition? Those have no power to bring forth the life of Christ into the world and no power to deliver anyone from the grip of sin. (2:1-23)
Instead our hope is in our focus on Christ, and remembering that we are in union with him. Because of our new identity and our new focus we are given permission and power to leave behind the dehumanised sub-optimal life that is part of the wreckage of a broken world and is tagged for destruction. That is not our identity now. Our primary identity is as a person in Christ. So act out of that Christ-nature that thrives on compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love and peace. To help you stay centred in this place meditate in the words, ways and life of Christ, sing praises, sing psalms, stay in gratitude to God and to each other. Also bring this attitude into your family life. Follow his ways of expressing unity and grace and mutual support for each other. No more domination and bullying. That was part of the old life.
A life lived unto Jesus will flow in a new attitude toward everything. Work done unto the Lord from your true self will become art, and art done from an honest heart in turn becomes worship, and worship will in turn result in a transformed mind and soul. This is the inheritance God wants from us and for us. So we are to do right by one another. No more human power-divisions of “haves” over “have-nots”, bosses over workers, men over women, old over young, certain races over others. Instead treat all with dignity, love and respect. Remember too that prayer is the foundation for all else. Life is too complex to work it out on our own. Self-reliance was the original problem where all the trouble started and we lost touch with God. (3:1-25)
So be in prayer, beseeching God on behalf of one another and for me so I can complete my task. Prayer shows that we know we need Jesus, we need grace, we need help, we need God and we need each other. None of us have to have it all together, we need each other to back us up, to encourage us and to remind us when we forget to do things right. Then God will help us live in gracious ways that help others to develop a God-appetite.
You are all precious before God. He knows you just as I know my co-workers and he wants us all linked together in love because that is where our strength comes from, and that is where Christ is displayed to the world. So go for it with the passion that you see in me, Paul. Even though I may be sitting in this cold hard prison I am free and overcoming through the one who has overcome all! Stay focussed on him and he will enable you to thrive. Amen. (4:1-18)
Posted in Regular sermon