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Read This Week: Colossians 4

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 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. – Colossian 4:2-6 NIV

It’s ironic that in Matthew 21:13, Jesus said, “My house will be called a house of prayer,” as he was defending the purity of worship, yet, prayer is often the last thing we do as followers of Jesus. It’s not always as cool as music nor is it considered as captivating as public speaking, but it is supposed to be a center point of a believer’s life.

Prayer is the most important conversation we can have because we are conversing with the God of the universe. Nothing is more sacred or meaningful than talking to God and if we do it out of a desire to pursue Him, it can actively transform and reshape our lives and communities.

In concluding his letter to the Colossians, Paul wanted to remind the people to be devoted to prayer. But he didn’t want them to form a religious habit out of it. He wanted them to increase their spiritual attention and build a close, personal relationship with Jesus. Intimacy with God is the essence of prayer. Our desire toward seeking him should not be filled with selfish ambition, religious strategy, and conceit. We should talk to God simply because He is worthy, and as we pursue Him, we become more attentive to His heart and perfect will for us. We develop insight and spiritual awareness that leads to a deeper, richer and more meaningful life.

Colossians 4 says that prayer makes us watchful and thankful. It not only increases our spiritual attention but causes us to value God more than what we want from Him. As we devote ourselves to pray, we become a lot more interested in the person of God rather than the perks of prayer. Our hearts grow in thankfulness for who He is, who we are and what He has done for us. A daily conversation with God empowers us to enjoy and value the relationship we are able to have with our Creator.

When we value and enjoy God, we will have an ignited heart for his message. Paul writes, “Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, clearly, as I should.” As we consistently petition God, there is a swelling passion for the Gospel and its power to save, heal and transform. Friends, neighbors, family members, and people groups are being lifted up out of a desire to see the transforming message of Christ spoken, preached and lived out.

Lastly, Colossians 4 teaches us that as we pray, we are building a community with others. There is a deepening both vertically and horizontally. As people are growing closer to God, they are inevitably growing closer to each other. Prayer empowers our relationships to be more authentic and our conversation to be always full of grace and love. The bonds of friendship and fellowship have been forged and solidified by people praying with and for one another.

Let It Go

Read This Week: Colossians 3

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. – Colossians 3:12-14 NIV

Unforgiveness. That is one terrible little adjective and discouraging idea. It ruins lives. It causes heart attacks. It splits families, ends friendships and makes people old before their time. Forgiveness. That is a wonderful noun qualifier and uplifting thought. It enriches lives, establishes relational harmony, brings glory to God and leads to greater physical and emotional health.

In Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul writes about a new life in Christ. He details how someone who has a relationship with Jesus does not behave, interact or engage in their former lifestyle. He makes it clear that things like sexual immorality, greed, anger, slander, and lying have no place in the life of a Christ-follower. But he goes on to assert what should be present and expressed in a Christian’s life.

Paul says in light of God’s love for us that has changed our lives, we are to display his will by being a people of love, hope, and peace. We should embody kindness, gentleness, patience, and affection. He then decides to put special emphasis on forgiveness and expound on it a bit by writing, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

Forgiveness that is seen in the life of a believer reflects the compassion and grace shown to the world through Jesus. It is a powerful emotion that goes against the natural tendencies of human nature, the inclinations of society and points to the transcendent beauty of God’s character and heart. A person of forgiveness understands that they have been forgiven.

A forgiving person puts others before themselves. Humility and mercy are essential to forgiveness. Before Paul tells the people to make room for each other’s faults and forgive one another, he tells them to “clothe themselves with tenderhearted mercy and humility.” Forgiving those who have wronged or offended us is difficult and cannot be done when we lack the mercy and humility that will help us see the value in others and in restoration.

A forgiving person is an encouragement to those around them. Paul says in verse 13 to “make allowance for other’s faults.” In other translations, it says to “bear with each other” or plainly, don’t give up on each other. Expressing forgiveness to someone says we’re not giving up on them and that is a very encouraging thing to both experience and witness. Being in an environment where everyone knows their shortcomings are allowed and will be forgiven if needed, is a promising environment filled with encouragement.

A forgiving person reaffirms love and peace. Love is the summary of all the things described in this passage and it perfectly fulfills what God requires of us in relationships. Therefore, forgiving someone is a quintessential loving act and the love expressed through it provides harmony, comfort, and peace. The forgiveness we are to show can console, restore and bring lasting peace to a relationship, family, workplace or community. Paul writes in verse 15, “For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.” Forgiveness is the gateway to peace.

Scenarios in life that require us to apply forgiveness will never go away. There will always be a need for it. We must pursue the understanding and practice of forgiveness. What if we individually and collectively lived in a perpetual state of forgiveness? What if we could effectively let it go? These are important questions to ponder as we seek to walk with God, display his love and live in peace.

No Prisoners

Read This Week: Colossians 2

So then, 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. 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. – Colossians 2:7-8 NIV

In Colossians 2, Paul is writing to a community of people that are struggling with the issue of identity. They are wrestling with the truth of who they are and with understanding their significance in Christ. He pleads with them to not “let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that comes from human thinking and from spiritual powers.” He is saying to not be influenced by voices from the outside that try to tell them who they are. Voices that try to shape their thinking about life and their relationship with God.

Paul wants them to put their faith in the words of Jesus to find the significance and value that leads to freedom. The New Testament makes it clear to whom (Jesus) we should go to base our lives and identity, but it is also clear about who shouldn’t be allowed to influence us. Paul uses the word anyone in this passage and it means “a specific person or a group of people” that doesn’t affirm or promote the teachings of Jesus.

This is important because there are a lot of people talking in our ear each and every day. We often feel compelled to listen to them, pay attention to their philosophies, and even insert them into our lives. But when the scriptures say, “anyone” that means anybody in our families, friend group, workplace, on social media, or talking into a microphone. We are not to let any specific group or person, capture us with these empty philosophies or thoughts that do not come from Christ.

Shallow and deceptive information can have a major impact on our lives. We can be oppressed by the lies that come from others. We begin to believe things that are not true about God or about ourselves and it “takes us captive” in a prison of false belief. We begin to listen to and apply what anyone says about who we are, about our value, our worth, our identity, and our significance in this world. We can become enslaved to those ideas and controlled by false thinking that then oppresses and sometimes pushes us down roads and paths that can be incredibly destructive. It can hold us in thought patterns, lifestyles, and choices that are harmful, unhealthy and not based in truth.

But there are no prisoners in a life with God. Christ has set us free from the bondage of sin and the lies of the enemy. He has given us authority over the powers of the world that seek to deceive, oppress and destroy us. When we root our lives in Jesus, we understand how and by whom we are created. We understand that our value doesn’t come from doing more, buying more, pleasing more, and achieving more but from being created in the image of God, fashioned meticulously by Him for a relationship with Him. We understand that our lives are not dependent on what the future holds but on a secure future in Christ. We understand that our significance is not governed by how we view ourselves or by how others view us but by how God views us through Christ. In these truths, we find freedom.

So we shouldn’t let anyone or anything in our life, as Paul is telling the Colossians and as he communicates to us in our day and age, enslave us, oppress us, or take us away from the truth of what we know about God. We’re not prisoners. We’re free.

Seeing in the Dark

Read This Week: Colossians 1

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together. – Colossians 1:9-10, 15-17 NIV

The loss of vision can be unsettling, and at times, completely frightening. The ability to see is a human faculty and sense that we often take for granted until it is gone or impaired. When our sight is diminished or taken away, our confidence gets shaken, our path becomes uncertain and our bearings get lost.

However, faith and knowledge are great equalizers when we can’t see. When we’re in a room that is completely dark, but we know what is there, we have the confidence to walk through that space undeterred. When someone who is blind knows and trusts their guide, they are able to move forward along the path with belief in the person directing their steps.

Faith in and knowledge of what is true lessens the anxiety that occurs in us when we lose our sight. In Colossians chapter 1, Paul has just prayed for his friends that God would give them “the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way.” He then tells them that they can live a life that “bears fruit in every good work” because of the example and relationship with Jesus.

Paul tells the Colossians and communicates to us that Jesus is what we need to be able to see in the dark. He is the “image of the invisible God”, and supreme over all things seen and unseen. We can trust Him when our sight is limited or restricted in life and we don’t have a vision beyond our circumstances. We can follow His lead through any situation, challenge or relationship because of his supreme power available to us through the cross. The observance of his example and the knowledge of his authority and capacity, not only allows us to navigate through times when we can’t see but to thrive and be successful in spite of them.

When our hearts waver and our emotions deceive us, we must remember and correspond to the truth of who Christ is and who He is to us. He is infinitely supreme and “in Him, all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.”

Contained in this truth of Jesus is the ability to live the life God desires for us. Knowing this about our Savior and what is available through a relationship with Him supplies wisdom and awakens love and restores faith and inspires goodness and provides assurance. It incites joy and garners admiration and gives peace and recaptures the wonder that can often be lost in the intensity of the struggle.

When we remember and know this about God and His Son, Jesus Christ and that His Spirit lives in us, we can overcome and do anything. There is no mountain too high; no valley too treacherous. There is no bill too costly; no job too stressful; no family issue too egregious. There is no relationship too complicated; no Monday too hard; and no future too uncertain.

This is how we experience a fulfilling life or come to know our complete self. This is how we see in the dark. This is our hope. It is a person and his name is Jesus.