Colossians: Week 5

Rooted in Him.

Our journey is coming close to its end, only one more session after today. We are so glad you joined us. We hope along the way you have established a newfound fellowship to gather with to study His Word and share your hearts.

We’ve been blessed on this journey and hope you have been too.

Father God, every good and perfect gift comes from You. The greatest of Your gifts: the grace of the gospel through Your Son Jesus. Open our hearts to Your Spirit and to one another as we continue to seek You in Your Word. Amen.

Meditating on the Word.

Finding Him in His Word.

We’ve kept an underlying focus on the spiritual discipline of meditating on Scripture during our journey through Colossians: Rooted in Him. This week brings us to yet another aspect of meditation: Self-Examination.

self-examination – a reflective examination (as of one’s beliefs or motives): introspection

introspection – a reflective looking inward: an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings

–Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.)

Self-examination or introspection becomes a form of meditation when we use God’s Word as a mirror. We look into His truth and let it reflect into our hearts to see if our beliefs and motives, our thoughts and feelings, line up with who God says we are in Christ.

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This is where the rubber meets the road in our study of Scripture. We take our theories about the Word and road test it in our hearts. It is a practice that brings us face-to-face with ourselves. Sometimes we see flaws we don’t like, just like when we look in a mirror. But it is also a way of seeing transformation. Where God has worked His Word into our lives and we are different than we used to be.

We look in a mirror to check our appearance, to see what others see before we go out into the world. Some things are easily adjusted or corrected (like a hair out of place or a bit of breakfast stuck between our teeth). But we also see things that take time and commitment to bring about change: losing weight, getting fit, anger, addictions, facing truths. Then there are those things we can’t change… things that need a miracle… a missing limb, incurable diseases, heart wounds left from betrayal and sin…

Looking into the Word as a mirror can be as painful as comparing yourself to a supermodel on the cover of a fashion magazine in the rack at the checkout line in the store. Depending on our age and our heart, we may be at a place where we long to be what we see and set about doing it OR we turn away with a muffled, “Well she’s been photoshopped,” knowing deep inside we’ll never live up to that standard and walk away feeling a little worse about ourselves than when we came into the store. OR it stirs up anger about how our culture uses women.

But the hope we have when we examine our hearts against God’s Word — with who He says we are and the lives we are called to live — is: It’s true. It’s who He calls us to be. And He’s the One who can bring about the heart transformation to become all He says we already are in Christ.

When we stand “naked and unashamed” before God with all our flaws and brokenness, He looks on us in love and grace. When we confess our sins before Him, when we cry out in pain, He hears. And He longs to restore. We need to receive the truth of where we are, who He calls us to be, and follow His guidance to the place of healing, peace, joy, and freedom.

This week’s passage in Colossians was filled with verses to look into as a mirror, things we need to put to death in our lives and things we need to put on as our new identity in Christ.

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Read Colossians 3:3-15.

Did you find yourself reflecting on your own life as you read through the study this week?

What was your initial reaction? Did you pause to examine? Or simply turn away?

Carol says:

And be thankful.
Colossians 3:15

Looking into the Word this week as a mirror, I must confess the last three words of our passage cause my heart to flinch. Like when you see that lettuce from lunch stuck between your two front teeth and you wonder how long it’s been there… how many saw it… And why in the world didn’t anyone tell me…?!

I don’t think it’s always been true, but somewhere along my growing up years I became a soul that sees lack and loss instead of provision and blessing. Especially in my current season of life I find it hard to be thankful. I see far more things that have gone wrong and need to be set right.  It takes great emotional and spiritual effort for me to shift into thanksgiving. Lament I have down pat, but thanksgiving… not so easy…

I know! It’s terrible. But it’s a truth about who I am in my flesh. It reveals shades of unbelief I haven’t yet let God deal with. It’s one of those things I recognize and work at and ask Him to transform in me. Because I am thankful for so many things. And when gratitude overwhelms me it humbles me — like face on the floor humbling. It reminds me how hard it is for me to daily see all the blessings of grace God pours out on me and is preparing to pour out. His Word shines a light on my heart blinded to the blessings of His grace.

When I look in the mirror of His Word and read And be thankful, I expect to see a heart of gratitude filled with peace and joy. A place I struggle to stay put right now. But I see the ‘flaw,’ accept it’s truth for now, and am ready for Him to transform me…

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Stacy says:

I read these verses years ago and created a sort of compare and contrast list. I looked at my living and determined I was falling short in every area. I feared God’s wrath would take me out even though I believed and attempted to follow His Word the best I could. Each day I worked hard to be good, but when I looked into the mirror of these verses all I saw was “not enough.”

This is the danger of self-examination without understanding who we are in Christ. Eugene Peterson paraphrases the first verses of our reading like this:

‘Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life–even though invisible to spectators–is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up too–the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.’

Meditation through self-examination is not about some list I strive to live up to. It is not about what I see, it’s about what Jesus sees. It’s not what I think I need to change. It’s about the transformation Jesus is doing in me. Kind of like looking in the mirror when I first get out of bed, and knowing my puffy-eyed-bed-head self will look a bit better with time.

Sharing our hearts. 

Photo by Chiara Pinna on Unsplash

At the heart of our study this week was emphasis on the transformation God brings into our lives when we put our faith in Christ.

We were dead, now we’re alive in Christ.
We were sons of disobedience, now we are holy.
We were once defined by the world and our flesh, but now we are defined by Christ — He is our all in all.

For you are dead, and your life is hidden in Christ with God.
Colossians 3:3 MEV

In Day One of the study, the writer highlighted the secure nature of our new identity.

The people of God will persevere not because of some hidden strength of their own, but because they are hidden with Christ in God.

Colossians: Rooted in Him, p 103

Is this a hard truth for you to accept? a new life hidden and secure? real life? A life you don’t have to figure out or work out in your own strength? Complete transformation from what you were before?

Did you discover anything in the study this week to help you receive and walk in the truth of this new life? of being hidden in Christ?

Carol says:

I spent some time studying the word: hidden. I wondered what exactly it means to be hidden in Christ. So I went back to the original Greek. I discovered something very interesting.

The Greek translated as hidden is transliterated: krupto. What I saw — perhaps because we were talking about death in this verse — was that this word looks much like the English word crypt.

Photo by Ravi Bhardwaj on Unsplash

Sure enough, kruptos is the origin of the English word crypt — a tomb or burial chamber. A place we hide dead people! So I imagined a tightly sealed casket, like the old Egyptian style you see mummies emerge from. An upright figure of a man tightly sealed with me inside.

Believe it or not this image helps me feel more secure about who I am in Christ and that I can’t be moved from this place.

By putting faith in Christ’s death, being buried with Him — His resurrected life becomes our hiding place. The crypt where we have eternal life. It’s where real genuine life is found. 

Rooted in Him — in His death and resurrection — we take on His life! Very different from the crypt we put dead bodies in when you think about why we put dead bodies in a crypt… or not… We bury the dead to protect others from the corruption and smell of the decomposing body, and to protect the body from the elements and being devoured by wild animals. 

Through faith in Christ, He becomes our Crypt. He takes our corrupt life and transforms it into real life. In Him, we are protected from our own corrupt nature and so are others. In Him, we are protected from the forces of sin and death. We are no longer subject to the rule of darkness, because we are hidden — encrypted — with Light. 

Christ is the Crypt we need for real life!
It is a reminder of our unchanging reality with Christ.

Stacy says:

Meanwhile be content with obscurity, like Christ. –The Message

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Peterson’s choice of the word obscurity caught my attention this week. According to Merriam-Webster it means “the state of being unknown, inconspicuous, or unimportant; the quality of being difficult to understand.”

It is common for me to feel out of place or weird. Many days I bump up against those who don’t understand me. The sister and I have often talked about feeling lonely in the places we find ourselves even when we are surrounded by others.

Turns out Jesus experienced the exact same thing, and this feeling of weird or out of place might be a sign transformation is taking root in me.

Discussing the Word.

Hearing Him in His Word

We’ve read our passage, so now let’s review our work in it.

What day spoke to your heart this week? Why?

Carol says:

The questions on Day 2 (p 109) were probably the most challenging for me. They are questions focused on self-examination and how to respond to the Word which reveals your sin.

I don’t know if I have the answer to: ‘How can you practically put sin to death in your life?’

Spiritually and biblically God says I’m dead to sin already, but then the “practical” — apply to your life — question causes pause.

Then there was the whole identifying the sin we struggle with most of those listed in the passage — what we are dead to but keeps rising up out of the grave like a zombie. Unlike Jesus, who came out of the tomb free of grave clothes, we rise up more like Lazarus (John 11:14-44), still bound in the baggage and habits of our sin-full lives.

The practical steps I listed for putting sin to death are:
Recognize the sin and condemn it.
Take it before Jesus the Judge
and remind myself I’m dead to it — He’s already judged it and died for it. I’m safely tucked away in Him as my Crypt.
Remove myself from any temptation
to the sin I struggle with — people, places, things associated with it.

Getting practical…

If you have others I’d love to hear them. I’m still wrestling with this question, especially when it comes to the personal sin I’m to fight against in the power of Christ.

You can probably guess, from my unthankful heart, covetousness is the sin I struggle with most from those included in this week’s passage. The writer’s words — Covetousness… is an accusation against the goodness and sovereignty of God speak directly to the tendency I have for only seeing my lack and loss, not His goodness and grace. Yuk!

Thankfulness is clearly a step in staving off wanting what I don’t have, seeing others lives as better. Envy is what I generally suffer from, a very close cousin of coveting. 

I’m reminded of a season of fear I walked through when Psalm 23 became a constant prayer to fight off the paralyzing anxiety and panic. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. From the perspective of envy, I see where this is a reminder of God’s perfect provision.

A step I need to take is to begin praising Him regularly as my Good Shepherd who knows just what I need when I need it. I lack no good thing. Amen.

Is there a phrase or photograph that caught your attention?

Did you write a paraphrase of the verses? Why or why not?

Carol says:

Once I discovered the word crypt within the Greek translated as hidden, it wasn’t much of a leap for me to consider our new life as being “encrypted” in Christ. The Oxford Dictionaries told me encrypted means “convert (information or data) into a cipher or code, especially to prevent unauthorized access.” I took this secure definition and worked it into my paraphrase: A reminder of who I am in Christ.

“Your life is sealed in Christ — your glory tied to His. You are encrypted in Christ so don’t let your life be corrupted by the ways of the world. They can’t get to you — they are not authorized. They only want to steal what you have: life abundant.

Live your new life without fear — let Christ’s data encode your life with love, kindness, mercy and patience. You are chosen to live distinctly separate from the world simply because He loves you.

Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani on Unsplash

What about God’s character or your own condition became apparent to you this week?

Carol says:

The gospel changes everything…
Colossians: Rooted in Him, p 111

From a leadership perspective and knowing personally the difference the gospel has made in my life, this statement from Day Three led me to note a string of questions for fellow Believers:

How has the gospel changed you? your life?

How are you different?

Are you growing in the knowledge of God? Has He revealed something new to you about Himself? Something that changes everything?

I encourage you to spend some time in these questions and answer honestly. Maybe even ask God how the gospel has changed you.

How has the gospel changed you?

As to my own condition from the perspective of a sinner and one who struggles with gratitude I can clearly name off a list of conditions, common to all mankind:
Denial 
Defensiveness
Self-justification
Complacency
Pride

All of which keep us right where the enemy wants us: dead. Or for Believers, convinced we do not need to change… or worse… can’t change.

There were a couple of things this day of study revealed about God’s character. First, in growing in our knowledge of God, I was reminded we are getting to know an Infinite Being. Every aspect of His character has infinite facets. Complacency and pride can keep us thinking we know all there is to know about our God. And we’ll just coast along.

But the truth is there is always something new He wants to reveal about Himself to you. And in the revealing, something about you will never be the same.

In dealing with our condition — especially mine — I see Him reveal Himself as all goodness and kindness and patience. 
Though we fully deserve every bit of His wrath, He came Himself to endure it on our behalf.
He desperately wants us to have a heart like His for His broken lost people. 
And He misses us.

What response did you have, or steps are you being called to take as these words sink deep into your soul?

Carol says:

Live from the truth of being firmly rooted in Christ!
Live out of His grace and not my self-condemnation and judgment.

Christ in you, the hope of glory!

Stacy says:

It is no secret I love everything about the beach–gritty sand, salty water, finding the perfect shell. As I headed out on a morning walk, praise music playing in my ears my heart was filled with gratitude. At least for a few minutes until I began to notice all the trash left along the shore. It didn’t take long for a bit of frustration to build, and I expressed that thought upward.

Lord, your people are messy!

In response to my frustration I heard the Spirit extend an invitation. Yes, my people are messy. Would you help me clean up this mess. I spent the next hour picking up what others left behind on the beach. At first I thought it was quite the chore, but as I continued on I found myself praying and giving thanks for those who left their mess behind. Thank you Lord for the one who drank from this water bottle, for the child who dropped their shovel, for the person who ate from this plate.

The quote found at the end of Day Four reads, “We can live in peace with one another because we are ruled by the Prince of Peace.” Yes, people are messy, and Jesus comes to clean that mess up. He doesn’t do it as a chore nor constantly grumble about it, nor condemn those who leave the mess behind.

If this is the way of the Prince of Peace, then I want it to be my way too.

Closing Prayer

We borrowed a prayer from The Valley of Vision titled Faith. Read through the prayer. Take it as your own.

My God,
I bless thee that thou hast given me the eye of faith,
to see thee as Father,
to know thee as a covenant God,
to experience thy love planted in me;
For faith is the grace of union
by which I spell out my entitlement to thee:
Faith casts my anchor upwards where I trust in thee and engage thee to be my Lord.
Be pleased to live and move within me,
breathing in my prayers,
inhabiting my praises,
speaking in my words,
moving in my actions,
living in my life,
causing me to grow in grace.
Thy bounteous goodness has helped me believe,
but my faith is weak and wavering,
its light dim,
its steps tottering,
its increase slow,
its backslidings frequent;
It should scale the heavens,
but lies grovelling in the dust.
Lord, fan this divine spark into glowing flame.
When faith sleeps, my heart becomes an unclean thing,
the fount of every loathsome desire,
the cage of unclean lusts all fluttering to escape,
the noxious tree of deadly fruit,
the open wayside of earthly tares.
Lord, awake faith to put forth its strength
until all heaven fills my soul
and all impurity is cast out.
Amen.

Photo by samewhat LEE on Unsplash

Until next week, be blessed to know what to wear!

Carol & Stacy

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