On Saturday about 17 of us got together to Study Colossians (first 3 chapters). We did this split into 3 groups, and worked through 4 sessions. The idea was for each to share what God was saying to us through the passage. What follows is a broad summary!
In session 1 we loved the prayer of Paul, how he is praying for 'Spiritual fullness' in the lives of Colossian believers, praying for 'great endurance and patience'. God spoke to us about how patience is active - a walk in patience with God. Yet that walk becomes a state of being, being in the presence of God.
It was clear that the letter is about the spiritual, and so let us learn to pray in the spiritual realm, with the practical flowing from it. Let this become our norm! As a practical tip, use verses of scripture when we pray for people. Remember your status in Christ: rescued from darkness into His Kingdom, so we can pray with confidence from the throne room of God.
In session 2 we moved to Jesus Himself. We were struck by the phrase 'He is the image of the invisible God'. God is ... even if non-believers can't see it. We can, because we look to Jesus! So this is God in the spiritual breaking in to the physical (His own creation), but people can only get this by having spiritual sight. Sadly the devil does a good job of blinding people - their hearts might be open, but minds are blinded ... yet that doesn't put them beyond the reach of Jesus.
Christ reigns supreme, all things created through Him and for Him. That supremacy comes right into our lives, with the promise of Christ in You. He has done enough for each to be reconciled, our bodies now holy in His sight. By this stage we could see 2 clear principles emerging shared between the 3 groups:
- It is about Jesus and the spiritual ... which will have practical outworkings
- It is about the Big Picture of God and His plans - remember where you are in the Big Picture!
Ploughing on through chapter 2 into the 3rd session, Paul writes of Jesus' death and resurrection, and the implications. God spoke to us about rules, how they can set unnecessary expectations, but they are external constraints. Discipline, however, is intrinsic, it comes from our spiritual walk and the Holy Spirit working within. Our call, therefore, is to live by the Spirit.
The language is rich: with covenant marks of circumcision (Old Covenant) and baptism with faith (New Covenant). The rules do not save us, but faith expressed in baptism does! It saves us to Freedom in Christ, learning to live by the Spirit. To do that requires us to stay connected to Jesus the Head, and to be supported by the wider body of believers.
So let us live in freedom! Don't judge, and don't be judged. In everything put your faith in Christ. The alternative - unbelief - is death!
Our final session looked at chapter 3, applying what was read in the morning into real life. The key message for us was: Change your clothes! This is an active ongoing daily process of being renewed and transformed. Note the call is not written as a legal code, it is written as a choice - a faith response to what Jesus has done. Lose, get rid of, trash, put to death ... and put on the new. When you were physically born, you were born naked and were then clothed. Now you are 'born again', lost the old clothes (be naked again!), and be clothed by Christ, with His new clothes, worthy and appropriate for the Kingdom.
So learn to live Christ-centric - see it is all about Jesus! He is supreme (chapter 1), He is completely God, the Spiritual into the physical (chapter 2). Christ is all and in all. So when you see someone (perhaps someone who is 'far off'), learn to see what is of Christ in them, and respond to them as Christ would respond to them.
My own final thought was that this was a great day. Even a primary school age child could positively listen and contribute. We were able to have God speak through us. We read some serious stuff, e.g. chapter 3 covers immoral behaviours, but we weren't led to simply try and map 'Christian requirements of moral behaviour onto the world'. Instead the emphasis was seeing Jesus more clearly ourselves, and then helping others see Jesus!