We were so comfortable in our western Christianity, our heads full of doctrine, our theology precise and orthodox, and our actions, we thought, in line with all we knew, taught, and wrote. But then a significant test arrived, a pandemic driven by a coronavirus that eludes easy treatment. We’ve now learned much about our need for real and significant personal growth in selflessness and compassion that comes from a deeper faith.
The COVID19 virus continues to move through our ranks. We have 1,610,000 cases, nearly one-third of the worldwide 5,080,000. Sickness still spreads in our most populous states, and yet we’re opening up our country, because working people need to eat, to care for their families, and to pay their bills. With unemployment hovering at 14.7% and predicted to reach 19-20%, we seek to love our neighbors, to let them get back to work, and to do this as safely as possible.
Though, we’re still far short of the 24.9% unemployment rate of the Great Depression, we want to avoid an economic disaster. Necessity dictates that both safety and opening our cities be accomplished simultaneously. Only time will reveal the wisdom of our methods and the meticulousness with which we’ve carried out this process safely according to CDC guidelines.
The rapidity of these changes, the turning upside down of our world in these few short months, leaves us breathless, reeling, and unsettled, our emotions often out of whack and our souls weary. Anxiety and insomnia are close and personal.
Change is most often forced upon us, our pastor says. We tend to remain inert, coasting along in the same routines, following the same patterns. We typically continue to do what we’ve always done, our courses seldom altering, but now, change has been thrust upon us. Nothing is as it was. As a result, we have an unexpected opportunity for growth.
Spiritual maturity is marked by an increasing awareness of our need to grow and our concern for others. The spiritually mature acutely sense their lack of perfection. We thought we knew Jesus better. We thought we relied entirely upon God. We thought we were mature. Now we know better.Spiritual maturity is marked by increasing awareness of our need to grow and our concern for others. The spiritually mature acutely sense their lack of perfection. #Humility #Kindness #HelpingOthers Click To Tweet
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” the apostle Paul wrote of himself in Philippians 3:12.
The truly mature know that in themselves they are not mature. All of us need to grow in maturity. If the apostles did, then so certainly do we. None of us reach the goal of perfection in this life.
The more we know of Jesus and the more we love him, the more we are transformed into his likeness, thus moving us toward maturity. The Lord Jesus is our remedy. Hardship throws us into his arms, casting us upon his broad chest to be comforted, instructed in quiet tones, and held close.
There’s nothing we can do to earn a right relationship with God. Outward actions of goodness don’t prove our maturity. Wearing our masks, following all of the pandemic guidelines to protect others, virtue signalling in ways that demonstrate what kind of good people we are — none of this will fix what is broken in our connection to God, and so Jesus made a way for us.There's nothing we can do to earn a right relationship with God. Outward actions of goodness don't prove our maturity. Nothing we do can fix what is broken in our connection to God, and so Jesus rescued us. #Faith Click To Tweet
“The Father…has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-14 NIV).
There we were, the human race, stuck in a dark and foreboding place. And so, God the Father sent his one and only Son to make us complete and forgiven in him. We are now his own people, his own family, because he rescued us from the dominion of darkness, where we were once ruled by selfishness, pride, bitterness, intolerance, hatred, and lack of forgiveness. Maybe we’ve slipped back into this place during our confinement.
And yet still, as believers, even though we physically live and move and breathe here on this earth, we are actually now members of the Kingdom of God’s Son. He redeemed us, ransoming us, forgiving all our sins, and step by step transforming us into people in his own image. Within every single one of us a metamorphosis is occurring.
In the original language, this rescue is pictured as the kind of action that occurs when a strong arm reaches down into the dark place in which we, helpless victims all, are about to draw our last breaths, suffocating in our confounded ethical darkness, as if in deep waters or sunk in a black hole. That strong arm then draws us to himself, dragging us out, snatching us away from the danger, thus saving our lives for all eternity.
That is what God did for us spiritually. We couldn’t help ourselves out of that darkness. We were too far sunk. We were goners, and so Jesus, God the Son, reached in and saved us. To describe the whys and the hows of our rescue, God’s Spirit inspired Paul’s poetic rapture.
The first strophe/stanza:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For IN HIM all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created THROUGH HIM and FOR HIM. He is before all things, and IN HIM all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:15-18a NIV).
The firstborn, the One and Only Son, Messiah Jesus was predetermined from before time began to come to redeem us. In unity with the Father, the Son created the universe and everything in it for this very purpose. God the Son coming as Messiah was always Plan A.
“The first strophe lauds Christ as the sphere of creation, the mediator of creation, the preserver and controller of creation, and creation’s aim.”
The second strophe/stanza:
“He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:18b-20 NIV).
“The poem’s second strophe brings the cosmic Christ down to earth, where blood flows from a body strung up on a cross. Christians know the supreme Creator and Sustainer of all things as the crucified and resurrected Lord. Paul anchors Christ’s cosmic supremacy over salvation history and his Lordship over the church. The image of the invisible God entered the plane of human experience in order to reconcile all things in heaven and on earth by means of his humiliating death.”
Our pastor summarized in this way: Jesus is eternally supreme in all things, and by faith we are invited to be in him.
With the bedrock of Messiah Jesus reigning and ruling over all, Paul urges us to live a life that is pleasing to our Savior.
“We have never stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way” (Colossians 1:9b-10a NIV).
How shall we then live? In light of who Christ is, what he has done for us, and at what cost to himself, how can we live a life pleasing to him?
Out of love for Jesus, believers continually press toward these goals:
- To bear fruit by doing good, useful, and beneficial deeds of kindness and compassion toward others (Colossians 1:10b).
- To grow in our knowledge of God, thus bringing our actions and our thinking into line with God’s truth (Colossians 1:10c).
- To be strengthened by the power of God’s Spirit within us, supplying us with great endurance and patience under hard circumstances (Colossians 1:11a).
- To give thanks to the Father with joy and gladness for all he has done for us through the gift of his Son (Colossians 1:11b-12).
We seek growth in selflessness, kindness, compassion, and faith, because of what our Savior has done for us. His rescue from the dominion of darkness and into God’s kingdom of light to dwell forever with him is the strongest motivation imaginable, drawing us toward a deeper faith.
Love motivates. Passion stirs. Faith deepens. Growth occurs.
In what ways does your love for Christ impact your actions?
How has your faith been strengthened during this pandemic?
How does your love for Christ shape your response to this world crisis?
Quotes above: David E. Garland, The NIV Application Commentary: Colossians and Philemon, Zondervan, 1998, pg. 85-86.