Summary: #13 in series.
And we are in the final lap of the race, the final stage of working our way through Colossians verse by verse. Next week, we will spend some time looking at qualities of Christian friendships. And the following week, we will be examining what it means to be in chains… Paul’s, and ours, and how they’ve been broken. As for today, we will gain some insight as to living lives that will attract others to the God we serve.
Now, I need to tell you a couple of things. I read an article this summer asking the question to preachers, “Are we modern-day Pharisees?” Nobody wants to be a Pharisee because of all the negative connotations about them, but we often doing the same things as they did. We make lists of things to do and not to do. We read the Scriptures and say, “Now, here’s what God meant. So go out and follow this list of ways to do it.” And very often, the mystery and wonder of faith in Jesus becomes a to-do list of things to put into practice or things to avoid. And frankly, if following God is just a matter of obeying the right rules, Jesus didn’t really set us free from anything; He just exchanged one set of rules for another.
And I just finished an excellent but slightly controversial book called The Naked Gospel by Andrew Farley. It presents the argument that Jesus plus nothing saves us. Not obedience to the OT laws. Not obedience to the 10 Commandments. Not obedience to the Sermon on the Mount. Not even obedience to NT commands. Only Jesus’ blood saves us, and we enter into that by faith.
When we do, Jesus comes to live inside us, and He guides us and teaches us. And changes us. Obedience doesn’t us. Checklists don’t change us. Rules don’t change us. He changes us. Too often we try to change ourselves, and it doesn’t work, and we get frustrated and resentful that the Gospel isn’t really much better than the OT, except that we don’t have to kill animals anymore.
I want to present a better way, as I have come to see it. You may not “get it” or buy into it, but I pray that something would work in our hearts to stir us into a deeper trust in Jesus.
So Paul, as he wraps up his letter to the Colossians, begins to get a little personal. He shares that he’s in prison – in chains. He doesn’t ask them to pray that he would get out of prison, only that he would be a witness of Jesus where he is. I think too often we pray to get out of sticky situations, but God has better things in store for us, no matter how uncomfortable or unpleasant those situations may be.
In these few verses, Paul tries to give us a perspective of what really matters. From jail, Paul tells us the things that really have significance in our lives. He gives us 3 instructions for effective Christian living. And since they have to do with helping others reach out and find Jesus, to help others get what we have, I’ll use the term coined by Bill Hybels: contagious. Paul gives us 3 instructions for having a contagious faith.