Over the years I’ve discovered that the best way to really learn something is to teach it. The process of preaching through Colossians has very much deepened my appreciation for how theologically profound and yet deeply practical the letter is. Perhaps three themes from the letter will especially stay with me:
Life really is all about Jesus. The only way this world ever will fit together is with Jesus as its center. Colossians tells us that when this world was made, it was built with the Son of God as the one in whom everything else finds its place—everything was designed to find its connection to God and to each other through the loving reign of the Son. Our world is broken because we have lost our center, and it can only be redeemed through being reconnected to Jesus.
Growth comes by receiving. God upends our entire way of thinking. As long as we try to work our way up to him on our own, we only make the same mistake that got us here in the first place. Salvation is about God stooping down through Christ to do his rescuing work on us. The cross and resurrection puts to death the Christ-less old self and creates a new person—one whose identity is fundamentally “you with Jesus.” To be a Christian and to grow as a Christian is not about achieving, but about “receiving Christ as Lord.”
Receiving the gift we have in Christ involves hard work. Everything we have as Christians is a gift. Everything we do that is good is in the strength given to us through Christ. But that doesn’t mean there is no role for effort. Paul’s instructions make it clear that taking hold of the gift we have in Jesus involves intentionality and action. We are called actively to “put off” the old habits left over from our Christ-less lives through confession and repentance and to “put on” the new life and new person we have in Christ. As we continue to work through this process in every aspect of our lives, we are transformed increasingly into the new person we truly are in Jesus.
As we wrap up our series on Colossians over the next two Sundays, I continue to pray what Paul prays at the outset of Colossians: that God will be filling you with a deeper understanding of what he has chosen to do for you through Christ Jesus—so that you will grow and be increasingly fruitful in your Christian faith.