Resurrection Sunday: Clothed In Christ (Colossians 3:12-17) by Jemma Higgins

As we come to look at this passage, thank God we are looking at it in the light of the Gospel of Christ!  Reading these verses it is so clear how often we fall short of each one.  As sinners depending on our own strength we could never live up to this standard.  Yet as Christians, God’s children, His chosen ones, we are not depending on our own strength; rather we are depending on the completed work of Christ on the cross.  What wonderful news!

Image by Cadetgray
Image by Cadetgray

When we focus on ourselves, verses like these can be overwhelming, daunting, and honestly, at times, discouraging.  We see our own sinfulness, our weakness, our inability to do what we know we should do, and we struggle with the standards that God has called us to meet.  However when we feel like this, we are in good company!  The apostle Paul who wrote this letter to the Colossians, said of himself in Romans 7:15 “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate.” (NLT)  The truth is that no one can ever meet this perfect standard that God calls us too, and we don’t have to because of the Gospel.

Jesus came and He lived the perfect life that we as sinners could never live.  He showed more tender-hearted mercy (v.12) than we can even imagine to all of the sick, lonely, outcast, sinful people that He came into contact with during His human life.  Then He went to the cross showing us that His mercy knows no limits!  Because of what He accomplished, we never need to face the punishment we deserve as He has already taken that punishment on Himself.  He was truly kind, humble, gentle, and patient (v.12) as He walked this earth surrounded by sinful people who couldn’t see or understand who He really was or what He was trying to tell them, and yet he continued to pursue them, to pursue us.

In verse 13 Paul reminds us to “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.  Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”  This is why He came that first Easter: to offer Himself as the ultimate living sacrifice so that we would know true and lasting forgiveness, and in return extend that to those around us.  In verse 14 he calls us to “clothe yourselves with love”; praise God that He IS love!  It is Him who provides us with this ability to love others as Christ has loved us when He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to live in us and transform us from the inside.  None of this is achieved by us (cf. Philippians 2:12+13).  Anything good in us is as a result of Christ dwelling in us, and so it is to Him that we need to give our thanks and praise (v.16).

God Himself is Jehovah Shalom ‘The Lord Our Peace’.  This peace is not a peace based on our circumstances or possessions.  It is not a peace based on our performance or ‘perfection’.  This is a peace (v.15) that can only ever come from being in a right relationship with God.  Hemphill says, “Shalom expresses the deepest need and desire of the human heart.  In our experience, it means a sense of contentment, a freedom from guilt, and a satisfaction with life itself.  There is, of course, a requirement.  It means that we must have a pure heart before God and live in obedience with His Word and His plan.” (The Names Of God)  This peace can be found as we look to the cross, see what Christ accomplished there, and then look further to His glorious resurrection that fills us with assurance and hope that we are not in this alone, He is risen!

This is the message that I really want to leave you with, that because of not only Christ’s death, but also His resurrection, as Christians we should be people who are filled with hope.  It is true what we said at the beginning that we can never live up to this standard but again, we don’t have to!  Jesus already has.  He has lived these verses in their perfection.  He has shown us amazing grace and mercy by taking the punishment that we deserve.  And He has given us the hope that we can stand before God, holy and righteous, even as we strive everyday to be obedient and live lives pleasing to Him, not for our own glory, nor in our own strength, but through what Jesus has already done, and the power of the Holy Spirit living in us.  What hope this gives us!  What passion it gives us to persevere, to run the good race, knowing that we are never alone and that Jesus is already, and will eternally be, our prize!  Paul says it better than I ever could in verse 16, “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.”

~

Jemma is the wife of Jeff, mother of Devon and child of God; you can follow her on Twitter and read more from both of them over at The Higgins Family.

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Good Friday: Putting Sin to Death (Colossians 3:5-11)

I love Martin Luther! I don’t know what it is about him (should I say his writing!) that warms me! Perhaps it is the grainy character, sharpened time and time again by the ups and downs of the Reformation! Perhaps it’s his zeal for salvation solely by grace through faith! Not immediately Eastery I hear you say! I know! But a statement from Luther came to mind as I prepared for this article. It goes something like this:

“It is not imitation that makes sons; it is sonship that makes imitators.”

Faced with the cauldron of 1st century religious and moral values bubbling over into their lives, Paul writes to Christians in Colossae (modern day Turkey) to remind them of the pre-eminence of Christ (Col. 1) and our relationship with him as sons and daughters (Col. 2). Colossians 3:5-11 transitions from “theological statement to practical precept” (Carson, p.79) & as we read it, we should do so in light of Luther’s words that, “It is not imitation that makes sons (or daughters); it is sonship (or daughtership) that makes imitators.” As sons and daughters of God , we have been “raised with Christ… [having] died [with him]” (Col. 3:1, 3) and as a result we are now “alive together with him, having [been] forgiven… all our trespasses, by the cancelling [of] the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:13-14).

Simot Vouet's The Crucifixion
Simot Vouet’s The Crucifixion

Reading the list of things that Paul encourages (commands?!)  Christian’s to put to death was a bit overwhelming without the cold cloth of Luther’s statement! Then I thought to myself ‘why did this statement come to mind?’ Apart from the Luther bit, it was probably because it resonates with the foundation that the Apostle is trying to stamp in the minds of the Christians here in Colossae before they begin the work of putting to death their sinful desires and actions. It probably came to mind as well as I thought about our typical Easter gatherings (more of that later!) This illuminating little section is filled with a Gospel/Easter/Christ centred foundation for Christian living. Sonship (cf. Galatians 4:1-7) before imitation! Christ’s death and resurrection before our dying to ourselves and living in him! Christ’s life in us before our living for him!

We must put to death things like sexual immorality, idolatry, anger, obscene talk, lies, racism, to name but a few (5-11). However, we can only do this in the reality of the old/new transition that illuminates this passage. Paul repeatedly makes this foundation clear. Apart from 3:1-4, he says….

“In these you too once walked, when you were living in them” (3:7)

“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self” (3:9)

“…but Christ is all, and in all” (3:11b)

The Apostle didn’t leave us with a to-do-list for Christian growth, no, it is centred on the reality of Christ’s Easter victory and our hope of participation in that! Will power does not spur us on, Christ does! As Tullian Tchividjian writes, “Christian growth happens by working hard to daily swim in the reality of what you do have.” This is a good observation! Easter reality solicits Christian growth! The Christian’s position because of Christ’s death and resurrection is the foundation for any putting off of things that steal our affections away from Jesus! Again:

“It is not imitation that makes sons; it is sonship that makes imitators.”

Good Friday and Easter Sunday are not normally identified with Christian Growth! Contemplation is often encouraged (and rightly so!), but not transformation! No doubt our hearts are stirred as we contemplate Christ’s accomplishments, but do the events of Holy Week shape our foundation for Christian living? Does our union with Christ enable us to fight against the things that shift our gaze from him? We should work hard to not just reflect at Easter, but to react!

Let’s leave the last word to Luther, who captured this truth beautifully:

And from this very gift of His I derive my name and am called a Christian. There is no other reason. My sin and death hung about His neck on Good Friday, but on the day of Easter they had completely disappeared.

Advent: Anticipation

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In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

(Luke 1:39-56 ESV)

Apart from some rather cheesy multiple choice questions and that dreaded lingering feeling that you might, at any moment, be asked up front to demonstrate, our one and only pregnancy class at Antrim Area Hospital wasn’t that bad! Much better than the mental images you conjure up before hand of lying on the floor, propping up your wife (or someone else’s wife/partner!), while listening to the “this is what you must do or you aren’t a good husband” talk. However, one thing that was predictable was the fact that everyone was talking about the anticipated baby in the womb (note: not the anticipated foetus. Anticipation has the wonderful ability to shatter much scientific theory. I digress!):

“When are you due?”

“8th June”

“8th June!! You are looking well for that.”

“How have you been?”

“Fine, just some sickness at the start, but that’s to be expected”

“How have you been?”

“Hmm, I can’t wait for it to be over!”

“Have you any names yet?” (O, the boldness!) 

“We can’t decide” (mildly offended because of the question!)

And so it went.

Now, imagine this excitement and anticipation, but multiply it by 1,000 and you get somewhere near to what Mary & Elizabeth were experiencing in the 1st century.

With the angel’s ‘God-possible’ announcement (Luke 1:37) that both she and her cousin were pregnant, Mary “hurried” (Luke 1:39 NIV) around 100 miles from Nazareth to “somewhere outside of Jerusalem” (Darrell Bock, Luke: NIV Application Commentary).

A little like our pregnancy class, I’m sure the Aramaic language was being put through its paces as the questions flowed & as joy overflowed. Even the unborn John got in on the action! However, one question was asked that you never hear:

“Why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43 NIV).

Something special was happening. Something that caused the baby John in the belly of Elizabeth to “leap for joy” (Luke 1:44 ESV). This was something different to the in-utero gymnastics that he was performing by now. Mother & child recognised that they were in the company of not only Mary, the faithful servant of the Lord, but the Lord (kurio) himself!

Imagine!

How did Mary respond to Elizabeth’s Holy Spirit inspired joyfulness? You know those awkward situations when someone praises you & you don’t know what to do or say? Well, she sang (Luke 1:46-55). A song that showed off her grace enabled humility, commonly known as the Song of Mary, or the Magnificat.

This was a song steeped in the Old Testament.

Not only does Mary employ “quotes from and allusions to the psalms” but “the Magnificat’s closest parallel is Hannah’s song of thanksgiving in 1 Sam. 2:1-10” (Craig A. Evans, Luke: New International Biblical Commentary). In both these songs we have expectant mothers full of praise, and children destined for Gods service. Scattered throughout them we have allusions of a deliverer, a King, the anointed one, the Messiah. Promises of lowly exaltation, and descendants.

The parallels are remarkable!

Two songs.

Three expectant mothers.

Three children destined for Gods service.

But only one Saviour.

You see, although the anticipation of the mothers was clearly apparent, a greater anticipation jumps out from this passage in Luke.

The anticipation of a thousand ages, the anticipation of the Messiah, a friend of sinners, who was God, the Lord, the anticipation of a King who would rule forever over all the nations.

And here he was, the baby in the belly of Mary.

Samuel would foreshadow him, and John would run before him and proclaim him as the “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Mary’s baby.

Jesus.

The Messiah.

Our sin bearer and High King was the long anticipated one.

Surely a song is the only appropriate response!

No wonder Mary stayed with Elizabeth until she was about to pop. She probably couldn’t get away!

The night we left our one and only pregnancy class at the Antrim Area Hospital I was filled with relief (as were all the other men!) but also with deep, joyful anticipation. We walked away, anticipating our wee Devy, who arrived on the 20th of June, to our delight!

In the days to come during this season of advent, and in this series, as we anticipate our Saviour’s birth and consider the events surrounding his arrival in the world please join with us in praying for a deep, joyful anticipation and, like Mary, sing, sing, sing!!

~

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a four part series. Click here to read Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4.