I recently saw a conversation between two people on social media. One is often outspoken about their Christian beliefs. That person began the conversation by writing a post angrily condemning people who are of a different political persuasion. Many people responded with supportive comments, but one person disagreed, confronting the Christian writer. I don’t know for sure, but I wonder if that other person would not consider themself a Christian. Let’s call them an agnostic. The agnostic responded to the Christian, writing a kind and gracious response saying that the Christian person’s words were hurtful and mean. The Christian responded back sharply accusing the other person of trying to shut down their free speech. The agnostic responded again simply saying that the Christian came across very hurtful and mean.
I ask you, which one sounds more like a person who has received reconciliation with God, evidence by the Fruit of the Spirit of God flowing from their lives?
As you consider an answer to that question, I want you to think about worship services. How long is your church’s worship service? When I preached this sermon, it was about 35 minutes long. Add in the prayer, the musical worship, and fellowship, and my congregation has something like 75-90 minutes together on Sunday. Is that enough time and emphasis for us to reorient our lives on the mission of God? Or does the deluge of other stuff we give attention to throughout the rest of the week impact us far more? A one to one-and-a-half hour worship service pales in comparison to the amount of time most of us spend watching TV each week. Or reading books, emails and articles. Watching movies or scrolling through social media. Is it possible that we are being refocused more by the other influences in our lives, but we are unaware of how much those other influences are shaping our thinking?
I think it is highly possible, and I suspect the social media conversation I mentioned at the beginning of this post is evidence. I know the Christian person attends church worship services quite frequently, and yet their social media post and responses were unbecoming of a follower of Christ. What gives? Is it possible that though the Christian would believe they are a true follower of Jesus, it was actually the agnostic who was more genuinely Christian?
I ask that because this week we’ve been talking about Paul’s description of reconciliation in his letter to the Christians in a town called Colosse, located in the First Century Roman Empire. In Colossians 1:20-23, starting here, we’ve heard Paul’s world-changing message that God has gone to great lengths to bring reconciliation between himself and all humanity. But so what? If we rarely think about that, to the point where the message of reconciliation has no or little affect on our lives, what does it matter? While it should matter, is it possible that we have allowed other lesser things to get in the way?
Perhaps. So how should the truth of reconciliation between God and humanity affect our thinking? Paul tells us as he continues in verse 23, where he writes, “…if indeed you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”
This is right in line with what Jesus taught back in Matthew 7. Remember the people who thought they were shoo-ins to the Kingdom of God, and Jesus says, “I never knew you”? Well, what does Jesus say about how people can know God? In Matthew 7, verse 21 he says, “Only he who does the will of my father in heaven will enter the Kingdom of Heaven”
In other words, we can think we have the right beliefs, but if those right beliefs don’t lead to right actions, something is missing. What is missing is our embrace of the reconciliation God offers us, a reconciliation that transforms us inwardly into people from whom naturally flow the deeds of the will of God.
This is what Paul is describing in Colossians 1, verse 23: People who remain steadfast in the faith. People who are not shaken, but who instead, people who live lives that are consistent with the heart of God.
Paul is referring to people who hold fast in belief and in deed. See how this connects to verse 21 where the mind and the actions, the entire being of the person, is in need of reconciliation? So also the entire being of the person is expected to hold fast to the faith.
God does the work of reconciliation, and it is our choice to enter in that reconciliation. He doesn’t force us. Furthermore, once we have entered into a reconciled relationship with him, it is our choice to remain in it. It seems to me that there is no better place to be! So, how are you doing in your relationship with God. I wonder if any of us need to re-enter the reconciliation?
God has already taken a massive step toward you. What will it look like for you to receive him? What will it look like for you to help others receive him?