It has been quite a week in our country. The trial of Derek Chauvin. Police shootings of people of color. Racial protests. Mass shootings. A removal of our troops from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years. And of course…Covid. On the one hand, more and more people are getting the Covid vaccines, while on the other hand Covid infections are on the rise in some places. Furthermore, we are being told that we might need an annual Covid booster? I could go on and on listing the headlines. But I’m not writing this post to review the headlines. Instead, I want us to step back and evaluate how we think and feel about the headlines.
What system do you use to evaluate the things that you see on the news or the things that go on in your life? Is there a source of authority that you can bounce things off of? What is that source of authority? How do you decide what is true, what is false, what is right, what is wrong? Do you have the answer in your mind?
I’ve heard some people answer, “My intuition. I just have a sense about things.” Similarly some people say, “My feelings, what seems right to me.” Others say, “Common sense. People just need to use common sense!” Some people answer, “A certain media personality, politician, author or celebrity. They just have a knack for hitting the nail on the head.” Some people answer, “A friend, a family member. I know I can trust them. They are wise.” In some countries and cultures, it is the perspective of the elders. What they say goes. Then of course there is the spiritual answer, “The Bible. I base my life on God’s Word.” Or better yet, “The Pastor. You all just automatically go with what I say, right?” Uh…no. What is your source of authority?
Turn to Colossians 3:1-4. As you turn there, remember that Paul is writing a letter to what would have been a house church, or maybe a group of house churches, in the ancient Roman city of Colosse. He has heard some troubling news about false teachers trying to influence the Christians, and he writes this letter in response. Do you see what that means? Those ancient Christians had a very similar situation as what we face today, the confusion about what is our source of authority, about what is true. Paul has some specific instruction for those Christians to help them evaluate what to believe, and by studying his letter, we can learn important principles to help us evaluate our world too. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to pause reading this post and read Colossians 3:1-4.
This week on the blog, we’re going to slowly walk step by step through Paul’s logic in these four verses, and what we’ll find is a powerful principle to follow if we want to learn what authority we can use to evaluate our world.
In verse 1, do you see how Paul is describing Christians? Paul says Christians are people who have been raised with Christ. This is such an important thought! Why? Why is it so important that we identify ourselves as people that have been raised with Christ? To try to answer that we first need to understand what “raised with Christ” means.
To understand what “raised with Christ” means, take notice that Paul does not say, “One day in the future you will be raised with Christ.” Of course in 1 Corinthians 15, which we studied just a few weeks ago for Easter, Paul does talk about the future resurrection of our earthly bodies, that day when our dead earthly bodies will be raised and made alive into new spiritual bodies. On that day we will experience in our bodies what Jesus experienced in his body. So Jesus’ resurrection does give us a future hope.
But that is not what Paul is talking about here in Colossians 3:1. He says, “you have been raised.” If you are a true Christian, you were already raised with Christ. Somehow or another, you have already in the past experienced resurrection. But how? Do you feel like you have experienced resurrection in your life? You never died, so how can you come back to life?
When Paul says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,” he calls our attention back to what he wrote in chapter 2, verse 12. There he said that we were “buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” Baptism symbolizes the death and resurrection of Jesus. In baptism, we are identifying with and linking ourselves somehow to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Let’s continue reading what Paul says in chapter 2, verses 13-15, because it is that passage Paul will, in chapter 3, explain more fully. Read chapter 2, verses 13-15.
In those verses, Paul is saying is that Jesus’ death and resurrection has made it possible for us to be set free from slavery to and final consequences of sin. Jesus won the victory through his death and resurrection, and therefore, when we believe in him and give our lives to truly follow him, we experience the power of his resurrection now. Being raised with him means that we are set free from the sin nature now. We can stand in his victory now.
You might think, “That sounds nice, but I don’t feel like I have been raised with him. I don’t feel resurrection power working in my life. I definitely still struggle with sin.” If you think that, you are not alone. I suspect we all think that, to some degree.
I’m not trying to make you feel bad about yourself, but just take a moment, reflect back over the last week, and make a mental note of the times that you sinned. Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t have to look back over the last week…I just need to go back into the past hour!” We can feel a lot of guilt about how much we still struggle, wondering, “Where is this resurrection power in my life?”
Our daily hour by hour reality is that, though we are set free from sin, though Jesus won the victory over sin, we still struggle with sin! I think Paul knows this. I think that’s why he decides to go in the direction he goes in chapter 3. He wants the Christians and us to not only know that we have been raised with Christ, but to experience that resurrection power over sin in our lives.
Check back in to the next post as we explore this further!