Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Witness Protection

So it comes down to this:  since you have been raised with Jesus, the liberating King, set your mind on heaven above.  The Anointed Jesus is there, seated at God’s right hand.  Stay focused on what’s above, not on earthly things, because your old life is dead and gone.  You new life is now hidden, enmeshed with Jesus who is in God.  On that day when Jesus, who is our very life, is revealed, you will be revealed with Him in glory! 
Colossians 3:1-4

Anyone who is looking for the ways to follow Christ need not look any farther than Colossians 3.  Other places in the New Testament can help us see the divinity of Christ, the development of theology and evidence of the kingdom of heaven.  But here in the third chapter of Colossians is the key strategy for following Jesus in companionship with others.  Paul gives us directives and the source for living out those directives.

Paul is clear that my old life is gone and my new life is now hidden and enmeshed in Jesus.  Sounds like I am in a witness protection program, with Christ as the director, to the point that I have a new identity and new manner of living.  This make-over should make me completely separated from and unrecognizable to my previous life of sin (verses 5-10).  I no longer inhabit any previous spaces, nor engage in any former behaviors and be so far removed from that previous life that I am no longer identified by it.

The entire escapade of new life begins with an identity change:  You have sloughed away your old skin along with its evil practices for a fresh new you, which is continually renewed in knowledge according to the image of the One who created you.  (Colossians 3:9b-10 )  The make-over begins and is continual and puts my new design in direct correspondence to the image of Jesus.  I will now look like him and look like nothing of my former self.

Then, Paul makes it clear that I need to walk away from my former life.  Do I yet visit the neighborhood to keep my connections?  Do I hide somewhere in my being some part of my former life?  Or am I willing to chuck that whole past so as to be completely renewed?  Paul goes on to tell what that new person looks like:

Since you are all set apart by God, make holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life:  compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  (Col 3:12) These internal qualities, reflecting my new identity, then should translate into new set of relationship behavior:  Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, just as the Lord pardoned you.  And above all things, put on love!  Love is the perfect tie to bind these together.  It generates peace.  And be thankful. (Col 3:16)

Paul goes on to list several worship/wisdom efforts:  teach, counsel and instruct one another.  Sing songs and psalms inspired by the Spirit.  Be thankful.  And no matter what you do, it will be all for Jesus.  Belief is not enough for Paul:  it must produce right living.

I like to say it this way.  Belief is more than a good idea.  Lots of people think Jesus had some good ideas.  Belief is depending on his life and ideas as models.  Belief is valuing and trusting the Lord of the Universe, as he displayed himself in the life of Jesus, as the source for the life I should be living.  I need to get out of the ‘hood and walk in the palace, where I belong.

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