As I mentioned in this post, it was deeply discouraging to see rioters at the US Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021 holding Christian flags and banners that said “Jesus Saves.” I will admit that I don’t know for sure what each and every one of those people were attempting. It could be that some were trying to stop the insurrection. It seems that, for at least some, they felt no discrepancy between their acts of violence to property and people and their expression of Christianity. If I am right about this, they showed by their actions that they did not have a deep relational knowledge of God’s heart. The evidence was right there in living color for us all to see. What, then, is genuine Christianity?
We learned in the previous post that a deep relational knowledge of God is critical for determining God’s will. Yes we can know a lot about God and his will by reading his word, but Paul, in Colossians 1:9, prays for Christians to learn God’s will through an intimacy with God. Through that close relationship with God, a person is also changed. They not only have an understanding of his will, but also by knowing his heart, God transforms them.
The person who has a close relationship with God, then, is transformed by the Spirit of God who is at work in that person’s life. But what kind of transformation does Paul envision? Look at Colossians 1:10 to see how Paul describes this. Paul says a person with that kind of deep relational knowledge of God, “will walk worthily of the Lord, always pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” That person makes the pattern of their life a following after the example of Jesus.
That’s the bar.
That’s the standard for Christians.
We who are disciples of Jesus will walk worthily of him. Jesus is our example, our standard. I wonder, have we set the bar too low? Have we made Christianity too easy, diluted, so that we are not truly what Jesus wants us to be? So that we don’t see any or much fruit, good work, or increasing knowledge of God in our lives?
Let’s set the bar where it ought to be: in line with Jesus.
When I think about a statement like we read in verse 10, I can get frustrated though. It is too hard! That bar is set too high! Have you ever thought something like that about the Christian life?
It reminds me of the famous phrase by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor during the Nazi regime which eventually murdered him in a concentration camp. Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
That stops you in your tracks, doesn’t it? Sounds dire if you ask me. Here’s the thing, Bonhoeffer wasn’t talking about a calling to be a pastor or a missionary. He was talking about Jesus’ call to every person to believe in and follow him, to be his disciple. In other words, Bonhoeffer wasn’t making this up, simply because he himself had it tough trying to be a pastor in Nazi Germany. Bonhoeffer got this phrase from Jesus! Jesus taught his disciples that true discipleship is when we die to ourselves and follow him.
Well, I don’t like the sound of that. It’s too hard, and left to myself, I would opt for an easier form of Christianity. But Bonhoeffer, Paul and Jesus tell us that there is no easier form of Christianity. Either we live according to the description Paul gives here in Colossians 1:10, or we don’t.
Thankfully, God knows us humans, and our weakness. Paul brings that up, as we will see in the next post. For now, I encourage you to evaluate your practice of following Jesus based on Colossians 1:10. Are you walking worthily of the Lord, always pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God? If you’re not sure, let’s talk about it. Comment below!