COLOSSIANS 2:20 – 4:18
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Imagine the scenario. You’ve just finished taking a big test. Your semester grade hangs in the balance. You studied hard, but you’re not sure how well you’ve done. Thankfully, your teacher had mercy. He included some extra credit questions on the test, and you’re sure you’ve answered those questions quite well. In fact, your answers to those questions might mean the difference between the semester grade you need and the one you’re praying you don’t get. Extra credit can be a beautiful thing.
Every day we take a kind of test from God, one with only two questions. He says, “Do you love me above all things? Do you love your neighbor as much as you love yourself?” (Matthew 22:37-40). What should we do with such hard questions?
Some people try to help their chances by looking for extra credit. They make extra rules and restrictions about what people can eat or drink, extra rules about how to behave. They say, “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” They make rules God hasn’t given in the Bible, and they hope God will give them extra credit for keeping them.
Not only is this not extra credit, it is sin. If such people truly loved God, they’d stick to the questions on his test instead of inventing their own. If they truly loved their neighbor, they wouldn’t be so obsessed with how good their own behavior looks.
It’s good to set high standards for ourselves, but isn’t it easy to start thinking that we’re earning extra credit with God? Listen to God’s warning in these verses from Colossians. You can’t cover up your sin with extra credit. Trying only makes things worse.
God has given you something infinitely better than extra credit. God has provided a proxy to take your test for you. God has given you his Son. Jesus loved God above all things. Jesus loved his neighbor as himself. Jesus aced God’s test, and it all counts for you. Are you looking for a good grade on life’s report card? Forget about extra credit. You have Jesus!
Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for acing God’s test for me. Amen.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
By definition, the name believer says that you depend on things you can’t see or feel. The Bible says that “nothing good lives in our sinful nature” (Romans 7:18), but it might not seem so to us. The Bible says that “Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 2:2), but we might not feel forgiven.
Sin and forgiveness aren’t the only things hidden from our eyes. In today’s reading, the apostle Paul states that a believer’s whole life is now hidden with Christ in God. Paul is saying to believers, “Everything you do looks holy to God. Everything that ever happens to you is to your benefit. God has blessed you with an entire life of uninterrupted spiritual success.” Paul is also saying, “This life is hidden.”
It sure is. When we reflect on our efforts to live the way God wants us to, we see consistent failure. When a pile of trouble hits us, it can feel very much like we’re being punished. Believers who see and feel such things may even begin to wonder, “Am I really a believer?”
The apostle Paul pries our eyes away from what we can see and feel, away from earthly things, and speaks God’s Word to us: “You died…” he says. “You have been raised with Christ.” Paul is talking about Baptism. Baptism is God’s Word and promise of forgiveness, connected to water. Through Baptism, God works faith in our hearts and connects us to Jesus, who by his death and resurrection has taken away our sins. Baptism is a drowning of the sinful nature, and a resurrection to new spiritual life.
Paul says, “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” Looks can be deceiving, and feelings can’t always be trusted. God has given us something better, something that will never change because it comes from him. When believers struggle with guilt and pain, God invites us to look past what we can see and feel. Our baptism tells us who we are.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, set my mind on things above. Amen.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Put Down Sin
Your dog is fifteen years old. She’s been the family pet since she was a puppy, but she’s sick and she’s in pain, and the vet says there’s nothing more to be done for her. You know what you have to do, but it won’t be easy.
In today’s reading, the apostle Paul tells us to put our sinful behavior to death. He’s telling us to confess our sins to God and to beg for mercy. We know he’s right. On some level we all know that our sins deserve God’s wrath. Still, it isn’t easy to put our sins down. In a sense it’s like losing a pet. We’ve grown attached. When you’re a sinner, sinful behavior feels good.
We need more than an encouragement to confess our sins. We need someone to take away our sinful desires. We need someone to take away our sins. We need Jesus. Jesus put himself under the wrath of God that we deserve. Jesus suffered and died in our place. Jesus has taken our sins away.
It’s true that when you’re a sinner, sinful behavior feels good. When you’re used to wearing dirty clothes, dirt doesn’t bother you. Things change when your sin is forgiven. Paul says, “You have taken off your old self…You have put on the new self.” Forgiven in Jesus, you are a new person. Forgiven in Jesus, you can see your sin for what it really is. Sin is not man’s best friend. Sin is mankind’s worst enemy.
So, goodbye, sin! We won’t miss you. God has clothed us in Jesus’ righteousness. God has given us better things to do.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me fight against my sins. Amen.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
If you are reading this devotion in the morning before you go to work, or school, or run errands, here’s the amazing, beautiful thing about your day–-you leave your house a chosen, holy, loved child of God. And if you are reading to this devotion at night, you can expect it will be the same for you tomorrow morning.
Is it hard to believe–-chosen, holy, loved by God? Yes, it can be. Rejected, wretched, and unworthy feels more like it. As a sinner, you know how depressing it can be to leave the house, knowing that you are going to live another sinful day. Shamefully, that’s the reality of being a sinner in a sinful world. But what a difference Jesus Christ makes!
You are chosen because of grace in Christ. You belong to God, not because of something good about you, but because of something good about him. You are holy because of the life Jesus lived for you without any sin. You are loved because of the death he died on your behalf for your sin. These blessings are yours through faith in Jesus, and what you do with these blessings today is your great joy.
Connected to Jesus, your Savior, it is your joy to treat anyone and everyone today with the virtues listed in our reading: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness patience…bearing with each other, forgiving and loving one another. The power that enables you to live each of these virtues is the humble knowledge that Jesus lived each of them perfectly for you. Then he died the painful death on the cross to take away the many times you have failed to put those virtues into practice as God wills. Jesus endured such pain with a selfless love unlike any other love—love for you!
Therefore, extend a helping hand to others as Jesus has extended his helping hand to you. Look out for the benefit of others. Treat people with care. Reconcile whatever stands between you and another. Love all people, even the unloving and unlovable. Why? Yes, don’t forget the why. You are a chosen, holy, loved child of God in Christ. It’s the best part of your day.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to see that how I treat others today is simply my joy of living Christ’s love. Amen.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
The Peace of Christ
In a world of sinners, people sin against each other. Christians do too. Even in church, we often give and take offense. How do we handle this? Ironically and pathetically, often with more sin. With bitterness and grudges. With spats and quarrels. With name calling and gossip. This can happen in the Christian home too.
But Christ did not die for us in order that we might live in hostility toward each other. He gives us a better way. The better way is the peace of Christ that removes conflict and renews relationships.
When you have conflict in your life, do you seek resolution or reconciliation? Do you even realize there is a difference? Take these two examples: 1) Divorce might seem like it resolves conflict, but it fails to bring reconciliation; or 2) disgruntled church members might transfer their memberships to a neighboring church to remove themselves from the fray, and they might think that resolves the problem, but reconciliation never takes place. Now do you see the difference? If God thought to resolve our sin by quitting on us and walking away from us rather than removing what separates us, imagine where we would be!
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” seeks reconciliation. Like an umpire or a referee, the peace of Christ makes the call for every conflict, seeks to remove whatever stands between the two conflicting parties (usually sin), and strives to bring together again. Just like Jesus did with us and God.
Our sin caused conflict with our holy God. It stood between us. But Jesus removed that conflict with his death. His death removed the hostility and made peace between us and God. It is amazing the relationship that we can share with God as a result. The peace of God has been established in our hearts through God’s word—his good news of salvation through Christ. Given the wisdom that Jesus is our peace, we now teach it, live it, and share it in church, at home, and even in our community.
And in everything we are thankful to God. Because when the peace of Christ reigns, harmony reigns.
Prayer: Gracious God, heavenly Father, lead us to be ambassadors of Christ’s peace. Amen.
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. 22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. 1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
Relish Your Role
In the United States a distinction is made between an individual’s status and role. All Americans enjoy an equal status. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “All men are created equal”. As a result, all Americans enjoy the same voting privileges and equality under the law. In this way we are all equal.
But the roles of individuals in our country are not equal. For example, my role is not the same as that of the President of the United States. As a result, I can’t go into the White House whenever I want. I am not an elected official, so I can’t vote on legislation. My role is that of a common citizen and in that role to vote for candidates who are running for election and to obey the laws laid out by our government.
Again, we all have equal status, but different roles in our lives.
As followers of Jesus, we also enjoy a wonderful status. Each one of us is a child of God through faith in Jesus. God loves each of us unconditionally. Each one of us is completely forgiven by God. Each one of us looks forward to an inheritance from God in heaven. God doesn’t care where we come from, what our skin color is or what we do for a living. God sent Jesus so that by faith all people could be his children.
But as we follow Jesus, we have different roles. To his Colossian readers, the apostle Paul spelled out some of those roles. Some of them enjoyed roles as Christian spouses. Others were Christian parents and children. Still others had a slave and master relationship. No matter what the role of the individual, God’s message was clear, “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
In the past 2000 years some roles have changed. Thank God that slavery has been abolished in our country. But some things haven’t changed. One of them is the status of God’s children. Because of Jesus, you are just as loved and forgiven by God as the people to whom this letter was originally written. The other thing that remains the same is that God wants you to use your life’s role to serve him and others.
What role do you have in life? Are you married or single? Are you a boss or an employee? Are you a parent? Whatever role you play, use it to show the love of Christ in your life. Remember, it is the Lord you are serving.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for making me your child through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. No matter what role I have in my life, help me to use it to serve you. Amen.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 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. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
Devote Yourself to Prayer
Jesus is our all-sufficient Savior. With the fullness of God dwelling in him, Jesus offered himself on the cross to reconcile all things in heaven and on earth to God (Colossians 1:19). We have been buried with him in baptism, and raised to life with him through faith in the power of God (Colossians 2:12). Because of Jesus all of our sins have been forgiven, and we are “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12)” by our heavenly Father.
How then should we live? The apostle Paul says, “Devote yourselves to prayer.” Live in constant communication with your heavenly Father. Spend your days speaking to God. Prayer allows us to be watchful. It changes our perspective by preventing us from getting all wrapped up in the cares and concerns of this world, so that we can be ready for our Savior’s return. As we pray, we can be thankful for all that God has done for us, and even give thanks for what we know God will give us in answer to our prayers. Consider setting aside a little extra time each day to devote yourself to prayer. Here are some ideas to get you going:
Sunday: Pray that you are given a desire to share your Savior’s love with others (think of specific people).
Monday: Pray that God continues to open doors for our missionaries in places that are hostile to the gospel.
Tuesday: Pray for all those who pay a high price for their faith in Jesus–-teenagers who stand up for what is right, those in prison who follow Jesus, those who work with someone who mocks and ridicules their faith.
Wednesday: Pray that the Lord help you reflect his love in your life at home, at work, in the world.
Thursday: Pray that Jesus gives you a greater appreciation for his forgiveness.
Friday: Pray that the cross of Jesus is seen by all as a place where God’s mercy overcomes his wrath.
Saturday: Pray that the Lord give your pastor a deep understanding of the Savior’s love and the ability to clearly communicate it.
Prayer: (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal – 412):
Lord, teach us how to pray aright, with reverence and with fear.
Though dust and ashes in your sight, we may, we must draw near.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
I suppose it really shouldn’t surprise us that Christians are often slandered and mistreated in this world. Jesus told his followers, “‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20b).
In the early church, false rumors and lies of all kinds were spread about the followers of Jesus. Some called Christians ‘unpatriotic atheists’ because they refused to burn incense in worship of the Roman Emperor. Others heard believers greet each other as “brothers and sisters” and spread the lie that they were involved in incest. Still others heard about the practice of eating the body and blood of Jesus in Holy Communion and accused Christians of cannibalism.
To this day many in the world around us spread lies about the Christian faith. They twist and distort the truth and ridicule those who follow Jesus calling us ‘ignorant, intolerant, and judgmental.’ So what should we do? How can we possibly overcome the skepticism and even hostility toward Jesus? Paul says the best way for Christians to defeat such slander is by being wise in the way we act toward others and speak with them.
Being wise means loving God and following the example of Jesus. It has often been said that people may not read the Bible, but they will read Christians. God in his grace “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” (Colossians 1:13-14). Now we can live as his children. Even if you don’t notice, others are watching how you live; they are listening to the things you say and observing how you treat others.
Sadly, many have heard the lies and are skeptical about the Christian faith. God gives us an awesome privilege that with the Spirit’s help we can live to reflect our Savior’s love. And as we have opportunity, we can speak about Jesus and answer people with the truth.
What an honor that God uses you and me as he works through his word to change people’s minds about Jesus. Therefore, be wise in the way you live and speak, so that people around you may see the beauty of the gospel and come to know their Savior.
Prayer: O Holy Spirit, help me to live a life of wisdom and love, and speak your word of truth so that others may come to know Jesus. Amen.
Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9 He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here. 10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. 17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” 18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
Filled With Jesus’ Love
Nearly a dozen people are mentioned is these verses, people who were closely connected with the apostle Paul in the work of the Lord. He mentions them by name—they were people who were an encouragement to the first readers of this letter. They were people whose hearts were focused on Jesus so that they gave their lives to the Lord’s service, even if it meant discomfort and trouble, even imprisonment. They were people who loved their fellow Christians, so they prayed for them to stand firm in the will of God, encouraged them in their life of faith, worshipped the Lord with them, and worked hard to help them.
Now for us who read these words many hundreds of years after they were written, the names have changed, but there are still many people who demonstrate Christian love and concern, especially toward their fellow believers. They pray for them in times of need. They are always ready with a word of encouragement to uplift their troubled spirits. They are glad to gather regularly with their fellow believers and worship the Lord together. They are ready and willing to work hard to help others both spiritually and physically.
They do these things, not to get a reward or to receive recognition. They have such love for others because they treasure how much Jesus loves them.
In the same way, Jesus loved you to give himself as the sacrifice for your sin. He loves you in calling you to follow him and gives you eternal life!
Grace be with you.
Prayer: Savior Jesus, fill me with you love! Amen.
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