Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Colossians 1:9-12

Day 2
Read Colossians 1:9-12

In the previous verses, Paul affirmed his knowledge of the authenticity of the church at Colossae. He mentioned three key ingredients to an authentic Christian: faith, love, and hope. Did that group of characteristics sound familiar to you? They are also listed at the end of 1 Corinthians 13: “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Now that Paul has validated what is going on in the church at Colossae, he tells them what he is praying for them. This is typical Pauline style writing-- Paul often begins his letters to the churches with a prayer for them. Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is all about their walk with God. The idea of walking infers motion. When we follow God, we are rarely standing still!

Paul qualifies the kind of walk he has in mind.

1. In a manner worthy of the Lord:
If we want our walk to be worthy of Him, we need to follow our perfect example in Jesus Christ. He walked on earth for 33 or so years, giving us a role model to follow. Paul urged the Philippians to do this very thing: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus . . .” (Philippians 2:5) Our goal is to walk in as perfect an imitation as we can manage. The very things that marked the life of Jesus should be prevalent in our lives as well: humility, submission, obedience, love, integrity, and a sense of purpose. All of these are just outward manifestations of what has already happened within the heart of the believer.

2. Bearing fruit:
Again, the idea of fruit implies movement, or active production. In this case, the fruit Paul is talking about will be produced “in every good work.” In other words, as we serve the Lord, the outcome of that service will be the fruit that we bear.

What is the fruit? Paul defines fruit in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are all qualities that result from growth within. We often think of fruit as outward accomplishments, achievements that we have made in the name of the Lord. Yet the Lord is more interested in the inner fruit that we bear. Service is actually a means to that end, and not an end in itself.

3. Increasing in the knowledge of God:
As we walk with Him, God enriches our lives with circumstances and experiences which will force a greater dependence on Him. When we need, we go deeper. As we cry out to Him, a greater intimacy results. We increase in the knowledge of God’s faithfulness, His goodness, and His sufficiency.

4. Strengthened with all power:
We do not walk alone. We are never expected to do all this in our own strength. Ephesians 1:19-20 tells us about the power available to us: “. . . the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places . . .” We have great power available to us-- resurrection power!

5. Joyously giving thanks:
As we walk, our inward attitude should always reflect a gratitude for what God has done for us and what He continues to do in us. Much of our thanksgiving focuses on the hope we have for the future, since the Father has “qualified us to share in the inheritance of the Saints.”

Back at the beginning of this passage, Paul prays that “you would be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk . . .” We have no excuse not to be knowledgeable about spiritual things here in this country. The internet and libraries are full of great writings about Scripture. Scripture itself is readily available to us for our study. But the point Paul is making is this: the knowledge is not an end in itself. It is to enable us to walk.

The Dead Sea is a great example to us of what happens when there is input with no output. The Jordan River flows through the valley, collecting the waters from the surrounding mountains of Israel, in a southern bound current. All of that water empties into the Dead Sea, carrying with it mineral deposits from the land through which the waters traveled. Yet the Dead Sea has no outlet to the sea. It is a dead-end road. The water molecules quickly evaporate in the dry desert climate, but the minerals are left behind. As a result, the Dead Sea gets saltier and saltier every year. No life can exist within its waters-- the mineral content is just too high to sustain life.

We, too, must have output as we grow in the knowledge of the Lord. It moves us ahead in the process of our sanctification. Without output, without a walk worthy of Him, knowledge becomes a source of pride and even a stumbling block to us. They must go hand in hand.

What does my present walk with God look like when compared to the standard Paul prayed for the Colossians?

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