July 17, 2011

Prisoner For Christ XVI: Spiritual Oak

I have completed the reading of Colossians chapter 1 and 2 and the supremacy of Christ is the divine hammer blow to start things off in Colossians 1:15-20. Hymn or not this is easily the most powerful statement about Jesus Christ other than those of the Kenosis, Hebrews 1 and John 1. I often get sidetracked in this life and lose focus on things that are important. I need only come back to this verse to regroup and reorient my head. If I become to heady or high-minded I can read that Jesus is over all Creation. If I am in Him and He is over all than the things I encountered more than likely have occurred for my eternal well-being and other believers also because He is sovereign…over all.

If I struggle with the physical things of this world I know that God trumps this and does so for my well-being (visible). I know that if I struggle with the things of the spirit (invisible), here too I am defended with an impenetrable grace of Christ Jesus. And God knows, I have my doubts and times of “down-and-out”. Life can and often has dragged me like a dog on a leash tied to the bumper of a car. These hardships often lead on to wonder, “Where is He?” I pray in these moments and read Colossians and Philippians. This is reassurance I can get nowhere else and from no One else. I know that He will work things to the good of my salvation and others because this brings glory to God. Our salvation is ultimately to His glory. I know that to reach mountain peaks a person must often walk through low spots in a valley to gather strengths and endurance. In a strange way we are often reconciled to Jesus in our suffering. It is also through His suffering that we are reconciled to God and granted eternal life. In this commonality that we share with Jesus that we are afforded the very means to be the most like Him. By sharing in his suffering and death we share His eternal life because we know that He is over all…even death itself.

This in turn leads us to the idea of Paul’s or our suffering for the Church in Colossian 1:24-29. Paul speaks in these verses to what I have already alluded to, we suffer as Christ suffered. His suffering produced the Crucifixion and the glorious Resurrection. Our sufferings bring glory to God. How? Because we remain the Church if we remain as believers. In our steadfastness of faith under adversity and suffering we project the fruit of a true Christian. This is what I take from the enigmatic portion of Scripture. All the work and suffering necessary to appease God’s wrath and justice was put up for us by Jesus and nothing more needs to be done. But in our suffering to maintain our faith we thereby are being stalwart adherents of the faith and unshakable stones in the “walls” of the Church. By enduring for the sake of Christ we build an unshakable Church. I will walk the extra mile or take the extra lash for the sake of the Church. I will expend the effort and the sweat of my brow to show that, yes indeed, the Church is worth working on and suffering for. We have a price to pay and a cross to bear in this life if we are Christian. A person does not take up his or her Cross unless they are willing to die to self to give for others. When we do this side by side with other Christians and with the mind of Jesus Christ, which I try to do as often as I can, we mature not only individually but communally. That my friend is a true Church.

This then leads to the last of my personal applications and that is our spiritual fullness in Christ of Colossians 2:6-15. Instead of being filled with the spiritual junk food of the world we need to be filled with Christ. The text is clear here we obviously received Christ Jesus as Lord is we are Christian we must continue to live our lives in him. It is here that we push down deep sturdy roots in the faith so that we can send up strong branches for others to seek shelter under or to use to hold others up. If we do not send down deep roots we are in jeopardy of being blown over by every stiff wind (false teaching/philosophy) that blows our way. We need to be spiritual oaks in a windstorm. I personally have set out to make this one of my characteristics. My male role models including my father were spiritual oaks with thick course outer bark but soft core wood. Spiritual oaks with trunks as thick as trucks but arms/branches that reached the ground low enough for children to climb into for shelter during a storm. Ironically, I imagine this is how it was when my father died. When he went home he went to be in Jesus arms, the fatherly oak with the Creator of the oak tree, God Himself. I am thankful I had a role model like pop who was not ashamed to show his love first for Jesus and then for others. I do the same. Strangely, I believe this is the case as my pastor told me a “hard nut to crack” that was at a recent inner-city Bible sports camp showed up at Church this past Sunday. Many attributed his presence to a friends interaction and my interaction with him. They believe it was because we pulled no punches with him. It was also because something had reached through to his daughter and she too wanted to attend too. He told me about how “this” and “that” had happened in his life and his life was now a wreck. In simpler words I told him that he needed to live in Jesus and be built up in him. I told him it would strengthen him in the faith. I explained to him that his moments that were the bleakest he had probably been his farthest from God. I told him I had gone through the same type of things and learned to abide and seek fullness in the Lord. I told him I didn’t bend every which way the wind blew but stood straight. I also said to him that the world makes us think we want things that we really don’t. That he needed to stop aspiring to the things the world wanted of him to do and aspire to the things God wanted of him. This is a direct tie in to, “see to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” I believe this man may have thought he was truly Christian but what I saw was a mish-mash of worldly mores and partial Christian philosophy. What I believe I saw was Christianity crossed with secularism…in other words…a contemporary form of syncretism. The very same syncretism I was once lost in but left to pursue Jesus full-on.

Poignantly, many of the folks that saw my conversation with him could see that when I began to speak of Jesus and His love for mankind and His story of redemption…they said my “eyes lit up like a fire”. They said this guy lit up too and came alive (v.13: God made you alive with Christ). I saw it in him too. I literally saw the Spirit come on this guy. Like the snap of a finger, it happened that quickly *SNAP* …just as it had happened to me. The Spirit bled over. On Sunday July 10th the dude showed up in the back of church with his tattoos and facial piercings on display but also wearing a golf shirt, khaki shorts and pair of penny loafers. Thanks to Jesus Christ the One that is over all. Perhaps we have another that will join us in the Kingdom? 

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