Do you have a friend to whom you say, “Hey, how are you doing?” when you see them, and it’s like you just opened a door for them to unload on you. They can go on and on, seemingly not needing to come up for air, as they divulge their life on you. Meanwhile you’re trying to stay with them, nodding your head, keeping eye contact, every now and then saying, “Uh-huh, yeah.” As they continue nonstop, though, at some point your thoughts wander off, and you think “Oh boy, were they able to tell that my eyes just glazed over, and I wasn’t paying attention?” You realize that you don’t know what their last couple sentences were because you started thinking about something else, even though you kept eye contact and said, “Uh-huh.”
You think to yourself, “I better ask them a clarifying question, so that they think I am interested and paying attention.” But then you think, “Man…I don’t really want to ask them a question because then they’ll keep talking, and what I really want is to get out of this conversation.” So you feel stuck. You know it would be dishonest to lead them along, to lead them to thinking that you are interested. You’re basically lying to them. You also feel guilty because you think, “I really should care about this conversation. What’s wrong with me?” But then you think, “Hold on…what’s wrong with them? Do they even realize they have been talking nonstop for 30 minutes, and they have not asked me one single question about how I’m doing?”
Have any friends like that?
One day it hit that I was that friend…to God.
Let me explain. In the previous post Paul revealed a grand mystery to us. He writes in Colossians 1:28 that the mystery is Christ in you, the hope of glory. But what does that mean, Christ in you? How is Christ in you?
Paul similarly wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you.” Christ is in you through his Spirit.
This is why Paul goes on in Colossians 1:4-2:5 to talk about wisdom and knowledge and understanding, and he hints at that reason in verse 4. He wants the Christians in Colosse to not be deceived by fine-sounding arguments. Paul wrote this letter for this very purpose. He has heard troubling news about this group of Christians, that they are being deceived by fine-sounding arguments. He wants them to be rooted in Christ, who is in them, in whom are found the glorious riches of wisdom and understanding and knowledge. Paul wants them to know how incredibly important it is that they are convinced of this truth. He wants them to be orderly and firm in their faith, as he says in verse 5. All of that goes back to a solid understanding and practice of Christ in you.
It is one thing to intellectually understand Christ living in us by his Holy Spirit, but how do we practice it? I am convinced that we must grow our relationship with Jesus, with his Spirit, very similarly to how we would cultivate any other relationship. Spending time with the Spirit, talking with the Spirit, listening to the Spirit.
A few years ago on my sabbatical, as I was praying one day, it hit me that I can be very one-sided in my relationship with Jesus.
Just like the friend I describe above, that’s what I do to God all the time in my prayer. I won’t shut up. I just talk, talk, talk endlessly rattling off my lists of requests. What kind of friend am I? Never once have I asked the Holy Spirit in me, “How are you doing?” Never once have I listened to him. Never once have I cared to get to know him. When that first hit me, it was super embarrassing and shameful. I had to confess and repent, “Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit in me, I am sorry I haven’t been a good friend, I’m sorry I haven’t given a bit of effort to get to know you.”
Do you need to confess something like this as well?
Check back in to the final post in this series, as I’ll talk about how we can take a different approach, a relational approach to Christ in us.