Well, I’m going to give this blog another crack!
At Trinity South Coast, we spent most of last term reading through the magnificent letter of Paul to a small, unimpressive group of Jesus’ people in Colossae. I’ve posted before on this little gem, but thought I’d gather some more thoughts together flowing out of this latest journey through it.
These verses are the heart-beat of everything Paul wants to say; and they’re incredibly liberating and important words for those small, unimpressive groups of Jesus’ people 2000 years after they were written:
I find what Paul is saying here staggering, and I need to constantly come back to it. He wants his readers to know how to go on in the Christian life, how to progress and grow; but there’s a particular dynamic to this progress and growth that’s unique to the Christian gospel.
The Colossians had received something wonderful. They’d been taken from darkness to light, from being God’s enemies to full members of his family, a chosen people, holy and dearly loved. Their membership in this family wasn’t performance-based, it wasn’t driven by anxiety or fear. Being born again into God’s family, becoming a citizen of Jesus’ kingdom, beginning in the Christian life is simply to humbly hold out our hands in faith to receive God’s amazing free gift of this new identity; to receive Christ Jesus as Lord.
And for Paul, as far as our life in Jesus is concerned, Christians never move from being receivers to being contributors. We don’t get to a point at which we can take things on our own from here, thanks very much Lord. We are always and only ever unworthy, deeply loved receivers.
What struck me looking at this again was how deeply offensive this is; but at the same time how beautiful and liberating. It’s offensive to my pride and self-sufficiency, to my Babel-ish desire to make a name for myself. But it’s wonderful. It means that, at last, here is a life that is not about performing.
It’s a constant temptation to base who we are on what we do. It’s so ingrained in us, and comes from something very dark within us. At heart our rebellion against God is a rebellion against humble dependence upon him; so we base who we are on what we do, to sink our roots in ourselves, to build ourselves up, to be strengthened in our own works.
But Jesus reorders our hearts so that being a dependent receiver is not something to rail against but something to rejoice in. That I find so freeing. The gospel flips it all around – it doesn’t let go of what we do. It’s important how we live and Paul’s got a lot to say about it as we read on. But in Christ, what he has done, not we do, is the defining core of our life.
And what he’s done is there, always, simply to be received.