Tagged: Colossians

Day 3: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

day 3“He is the image of the invisible God…”Colossians 1:15

What is your “image” of God? Children think about this…

Dear GOD, I bet it is very hard for You to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in our family and I can never do it. – Nan

Dear GOD, In school they told us what You do. Who does it when You are on vacation? – Jane

Dear GOD, Are you really invisible or is that just a trick? – Lucy

Good questions, aren’t they? However, as we get older, the questions change…

God, why is the world filled up with so much pain and suffering?

My own life is a mess. I have ruined everything. Is there hope for me? What do You think about me?

God, I’m hurting. I’m in trouble… do You  care?

Do You like me? Love me? Or are You out to “get” me for what I’ve done?

God, are You there? Are You listening?

God, where are You? Who are You ?

You have answers to these questions framed in your mind. They might be tentative or firm, but taken together, your responses draw a mental image of God. Who you think God is–even if you deny His existence–radically affects you. Our inner portraits of God shape our lives, guide our choices, and determine our destiny. We need to get it right.

In the Old Testament, God prohibited the use of carved, “graven” images in worship (Exodus 20:2-6). Even when we are armed with the very best intentions and conceptions of who God is, our human attempts to “picture” God will always fall short. Commingled with our own ideas and opinions of what God should be, our projections of God become manageable deities… little gods who are less than real and far more amenable to our choices and desires (Romans 1:20-23). To make matters worse, God is a Spirit, invisible, and unseen. Who He IS cannot be captured with a graphic or a sculpture.

More is needed. Much more. Here comes the Christmas Revolution…

In Colossians 1:15, the apostle Paul declares that the baby born in Bethlehem is “the image of the invisible God.” God does not leave us to our imagination. He wants you to know Him and who He is. Who is God? What is He like? What does He think? What does He want me to know about Him? What does He want me to know about me? Jesus is the answer.

Coming into our realm of time and space, infinite existence and consciousness was captured in human form. Theologians will never adequately explain the incarnation, having argued about it for centuries. But the truth is simple: when God wanted you to know Him, He didn’t send a snapshot (how do you take a picture of an invisible subject?). He sent a perfect and complete representation of Himself. Jesus, as the image of God, does not live in your mind, but He exists apart from your thoughts, and He lives… and He speaks… and He acts.

Jesus is not a picture on a canvas, but a perfect reflection of the Person of God. Babies can entertain themselves for hours in front of a mirror, marveling at the movements of the image which perfectly match their own. When you look at Jesus, you are not seeing a static, lifeless caricature of God, but every movement and expression of God Himself–as if you were watching Him in a mirror.

So it behooves you and me to let God reveal Himself to us His way and on His terms, doesn’t it?

What a revolutionary notion! It’s part of the Christmas Revolution.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

Transparency and Truth-Telling

Colossians 3:9 – Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds.

James 5:16 – Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

It had been a fairly ordinary retreat experience. The mountain setting made it easy to reflect and evaluate my walk with God. During our final session, the leader of the retreat led about 25 of us in a time of sharing: what had God done in our lives through our study and time together?

No one said anything for a long time. Finally, one of the single women stood and moved to the front of the group. She was trembling – obviously scared and nervous about what she wanted to say. Tears welled up in her eyes as she began to speak. “I’m pregnant,” she confessed. She had been dating an unbeliever and the unthinkable had happened. After sharing her story she said, “I am so sorry everyone, please forgive me — I need you right now so much…”

Immediately one of the women spoke, “We forgive you.” The group surrounded her for prayer and encouragement. After many minutes, we sat back down. It was only the beginning of what God wanted to do that afternoon… soon someone else spoke up. Another confession was made. Then another. And another… and still another. Relationships were mended. Deep needs and fears were expressed. Wrongs were uncovered through confession, covered over with forgiveness, and then put away forever.

For almost 5 hours our group became honest with each other and before God. The sharing was discreet (no unwholesome details), but open and full. Little was held back as God’s Spirit took us to a new place of trust and oneness as the people of God. How refreshed and alive we felt when it was over!

Back in our home church the next day, worship was different. Our greetings were transformed — less casual, more personal — more like family. More like heaven. More like home. We were made for this and finally were experiencing a taste of our privilege as God’s children! It was glorious.

Twenty years later, the experience remains vivid. The Lord still whispers the fragrance of that time across my heart, “this is My church”. Church as He intends it to be.

When we hide from each other it is safe and comfortable, but it is also lonely. We are missing so much. We live in a world of people looking for a safe place to be open and honest. A place where they can be known… and still be loved. Individual spiritual growth explodes in the fertile soil of mutual love and trust. How can we help create a place like that?

    • Become a truth-seeking person — pray that God will open our hearts to each other. The retreat situation described above was the result of several years of asking;
    • Become a truth-keeping person — what is shared stays with you and goes no further; and
    • Become a truth-telling person — when you feel led to take the risk, honestly share your weakness and need with other brothers and sisters.

Bearing the Unbearable

Ephesians 4:2 …with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love…

Colossians 3:13 …bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

Ephesians 4:32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

A grandmother celebrating her golden wedding anniversary, once told the secret of her long and happy marriage. “On my wedding day, I decided to make a list of ten of my husband’s faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook,” she said.
A guest asked the woman to share what some of the faults she listed. She replied, “To tell you the truth, I never did get around to listing them. But whenever my husband did something that made me hopping mad, I would say to myself: Lucky for him that’s one of the ten!”
“To bear” with someone literally means “to hold one’s self up”. I shouldn’t react to irritation or provocation, rather I am to wait patiently until the problem has passed. Can I do this in my own strength? Perhaps, but not without physical or emotional consequences to myself.
Paul is not directing us to simply “suck it up” and “gut it out” when someone offends us; we are to bring positive responses to the relationship. Paul encourages us to bear with one another in a way that is marked by humility, gentleness, love, kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness! What an awesome assignment!
How can I do this? Paul answers “even as Christ forgave you, so you must also do” and “even as God in Christ forgave you.” These phrases remind me that God’s forgiveness of my sin is:
  • Undeserved – I really offended God. Forgiveness was granted to me when I deserved punishment. He could have “chewed” me out and been absolutely right to do it –but He didn’t do it to me — and I shouldn’t do it to a brother or sister who sets me off.
  • Unrestricted – He included each and every offense in His forgiveness of me. He never says “that’s it, I’ve had enough! I’ve had all I can stand!”
  • Unending – He never changes His resolve to forgive. I am not forgiven, then later reminded of all the things He has overlooked. He will not give forgiveness then retrieve it at some time in the future.
Only the Spirit of God can empower me to do this with others. Since He has the willingness to do this for me — I should stand ready to do this for the ones who offend and wound me in my world.
Like the grandmother in our story, I can decide ahead of time that every offense made against me is already on the list – “one of the ten!”