July 20, 2011

Prisoner For Christ XIX: Proud Proclaimer or Brooding Basketcase?

One more overview of Colossians...

The New Exodus

Colossians 1:13-14 is a prelude to the “new” exodus as written by Paul.“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” Paul was framing the conversion experience for a Christian in these verses. They would be expanded upon later but in these two verses we have a plethora of imagery. Paul is tying it back to a familiar experience for the Jews and for anyone that has bothered to familiarize themselves with the overarching story of Scripture that sees God as a deliverer or one that saves. It is the overarching theme of redemption or rescue from subjugation and subjection. The subjugation for either of these analogies is either Egypt and Pharaoh or sin and death followed by condemnation. God is a rescuer from all. I think we as believers often forget this. God can save us from anything since everything is under His dominion. As he shows in our conversion, He can even save us from ourselves.

The other image here is that of light and dark. We are saved and brought from the dark into the light. This image to me is also like birth (rebirth) as we are pulled, forcefully out of a womb of darkness and sin into a new world full of light while we are still “kicking and screaming”. Through the Gospel we the “true Israel” are brought into the Kingdom promised us just as God did for the Hebrew slave/Israelites in Egypt in the first Exodus. I guess the irony here for me is the Israelites (Korah’s rebellion) bickered and squabbled with Moses about what they use to have back in the land of Egypt as if it was better. We do the same today and continue to do it even as devoted Christians sometimes. We go through lean years sometimes and we lament the loss of things we use to have never once seeing that we were selling our souls to remain in slavery to sin that was killing us physically and spiritually. God needed to actively come into our lives and extract us. Thereby through Jesus a gracious God liberates us the “true Israel” from the consequences of our own sinful nature to have a proper relationship with Him.

The New Creation

A second thing immediately follows this new exodus: The New Creation. The hymn of Colossians 1:15-20 comes into view after the lead-in of verse 13-14. Paul wishes to show us something more about this God man Jesus Christ. Paul wants to compete and put the Colossian asceticism to rest. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is over all creation. Material and spiritual realms are within Jesus’ dominion. Paul confessed that Jesus is Lord over both realms or a “cosmic Christ”. Because of this believers need to reject any teaching that that separates the two. I have totally missed this point until now. I just assumed this passage was only praise about Jesus’ character, attributes and authority. It is much more. IF Christ is what Paul says He is in this passage then to divide loyalty between the material and spiritual is to have divided loyalty to Jesus. As new creations in Christ we are reformed/reborn into a new creation we are to embody the reconciliation of all things. If the most important goal for a fallen Creation is the reconciliation of all things to Christ and to each other we see that it is achieved at the Cross. This is for me in that I often see people say that they are “Christian” yet I see absolutely no difference between their actions, motives and behaviors of non-Christians. If we or they are truly reconciled to their Maker Jesus Christ, we should expect them to at least manifest some form of signs of reconciliation or at least a little “fruit” of it. We should see at least glimmers of holiness and the act of sanctification taking place in a life in harmony with, in and through Christ. Instead we see a life of “fits and starts” that looks more like the vomit of sin than the fruit of the Spirit of one reconciled to Christ.

The New Age of Christ

To be fair to Paul and to give an honest shake to him I must complete the trilogy surrounding the glorious hymn of Chapter 1 (1:15-20). The concluding remarks of Paul’s newness and holistic unity of all Creation under Christ is in Colossians 1:21-23. What do we see? We see a new age. We have come out of the old age of sin and rebellion against God. We have come out of the old age of the Old Testament and the Exodus and we come to the new age of the new creation and a new kind of believer that is saved by having heard the Gospel rather than having heard the story of the Exodus of Moses’ time. We see that we were once totally alienated from God and His enemy because of our minds and subsequently our behavior, which is to say, all of what or who we are. But as stated before we are reconciled. To who? God! Jesus! How? Through Jesus we are saved, to have a relationship to/with Jesus, that ultimately brings glory for Jesus. He did it so that we could be with God and God meant it to bring glory and honor to His Son. Having bracketed the Christological confession of v.15-20 we see Paul conclude with an exhortation in (v.23): if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

This is where Paul becomes more intimate with his audience and makes and autobiographical note. He is a servant. As a new creation we are called to serve. God’s salvation is covenantal and in Paul’s mind this is conditioned on a response from a believer for it to become legit. The response is faith or continued faith, without which no man enters into everlasting life. This covenant now requires the believer to have faith in the redemption created in Jesus’ death on the Cross. The very power that raised Jesus from the grave raises us to eternal life. In fact no faith imperils one’s eternal existence and is considered apostasy.

Christ-less Christians Makes "-ians"

From here I move on to Colossians 2:4-15 and Paul’s argument against “Christ-less” Christian Theology. This perhaps could be the biggest oxymoron of all-time. The “fine sounding arguments” of so-called logic, wisdom and philosophy *(gagging reflex)*. Sophistry had taken the driver’s seat and man’s wisdom was being taught in the Body not God’s Word of truth. Paul clearly states they are being "deceived"  παραλογιζηται / paralogizomai and listening to "fine-sounding arguments" πιθανολογια / pithanologia. Today I believe we would call this “bluster” or “pretentiousness”. The church at Colossae had begun to merge flawed human teaching with the divine truth of God. They had made what was a simple and easy to articulate truth into some form of syncretistic gobbledygook. Paul makes it clear in his delivery of this passage and this letter, “...just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Paul doesn’t say, “turn here” and then “turn there”, “add this” and then “add that”. Paul clearly states (I’m paraphrasing for a point), just as you received Jesus, keep Him and build up your lives in Him. He does not say add this or add that. My understanding of apostasy is this…not only can it be taking something away from God’s word or doubting it…it can also clearly be adding to God’s Word. For someone to add to the Gospel trivializes the work Jesus has done on the Cross and assumes, from a human point of view, that what Jesus did…was not enough. That in my eyes is nutty. In God’s eyes is heresy and sin. Being an "ian" as a Christian is not acceptable. That just means you can attach anything you want to that suffix and then become it through human reasoning and logic. That my friends is either damnable merging of false teaching and God or it is an outright idol. Either way, it is not good news.

The bottom-line is the redemptive formula has always been the same. The results of the choice have always been the same. The claim of truth in God’s Word is simple. I personally whittled it down to a 20 second sound byte because I realize it may be the only window of opportunity I have to evangelize a person(s). The first 10 seconds sound like this:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

 The next 10 seconds sound like this:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."  1 Corinthians 15:3-4

I figure it this way, if a person cannot articulate the Gospel in under a minute, they are either saying too much or they are not saying the right thing to get the point across.

Action! Actions Not Just Words!

Finally we begin to approach the landing pattern of Paul’s letter after all this cosmic talk of Christ and His reconciliation to Creation. In Colossians 4:5-6 we have the second imperative to the church in Colossae. This new thought also carries over from my last comments. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders. What Paul is saying here is the same thing St. Francis of Assisi said over a 1000 years before he said it. “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." Just as we should always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15), we are called to preach the Gospel. Not only should we be able to articulate what that is in short order, we should also be able to “show it”. Telling people what we believe is good but telling AND showing them is even better. Jesus did this and so should we. Without showing it in our behavior we flirt with hypocrisy and even the Lord did not like hypocrisy and hammered the Pharisees for it. Make the most of every opportunity.

Stop Mumbling To Yourself and Just Say It!

Like I said before, you may only have 30 seconds. Can you articulate the Gospel clearly and succinctly in that time frame?

Lastly, we see a little exhortation to season our speech (and perhaps our actions) with salt. Salt or wit and insight is often the clincher in the deal with people that listen. People like other people that are intelligent enough to see the absurdity on life and laugh about it. Its life for goodness sakes, nothing is perfect. At the same time we must never forget that we communicate through our body language more than we do our words sometimes. If we are constantly moping around with our heads down and hands in our pocket proclaiming the end is nigh we do nothing to attract people to Jesus’ message through our body language. Sure as sin we will drive them away. Don’t we suppose that most people have enough emotional baggage in their lives? Why would they want to take on another neurotic or histrionic friend that appears chronically depressed and constantly sulks around mumbling about the end of the world? Even I have a hard time being around bipolar Christians. Jesus is a God of life and light, not the of God darkness and the end. He is a God of new beginnings and new creations. We are new creations created into light, not depressed basket cases stuffed into darkness. Proclaim the Gospel and smile once in a while :) !!!

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...