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Colossians 1 - Living Faithfully

Colossians - Living Faithfully in a Faithless Culture #1

Colossians 1:1-2 - "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae; Grace to you and peace from God the Father."

The city of Colosse was in actuality a small town, but a small town with a big city atmosphere.  It was located on the main road between Ephesus and the Euphrates valley, and as such was a busy city for commerce.  It was also a river city as it was located at a gorge where two streams united.  Colosse was also a mountain town as it was located very close to the 8000 foot high Mt. Cadmus.

Colosse was a city that was filled up with idol worship and false religion.  It was a very worldly city known for its fabric and its material.  In addition to this, some of those false teachings had begun to infiltrate the church in Colosse, and so the truth of the Gospel was well hidden in this area.  In fact the church at Colosse, which was at one time a thriving church with a lot of influence, had seen its influence begin to fade away in the midst of this worldly culture.

Because of that, the city of Colosse resembles our culture in America today.  We too see our cities (and our towns) filled up with idol worship and with false teachings.  We also see the church of our day and time losing its influence to the world, because of the worldly and sinful culture that we live in.  The similarities are obvious.

So when Paul writes to that church, a church that is beginning to lose its influence, he writes to a church very similar to the church in America today, and because of that the church of America, needs to sit up and take notice.  We too live and minister in the midst of a worldly culture.  We too contend with sin and with worldliness.  We too see our influence beginning to fade away and are reminded almost daily that we no longer live in a Christian nation.

Our world is drastically changing.  Things that were shunned a few years ago are now commonplace.  Evangelical Christians are labeled by some as a hategroup because of our stance concerning abortion and homosexual marriage.  We have been pushed to the fringes of society in the midst of a nation that no longer upholds the teachings of Christ.

Church attendance in most areas is low, and many Christians have no idea what the Bible says or about the truths of Biblical doctrine.  In addition to this many “false gospels” are presented and people blindly follow.  All of these situations have left many Christians with a “chicken little” mentality in which we cry “the sky is falling, the sky is falling,” bemoaning almost daily how bad the world has gotten.  Yet I believe the Bible calls for a different approach, I believe it calls us to be hopeful in the midst of a worldly godless culture.  I believe it calls us daily to remind ourselves of the power of the Gospel and to daily live out the Gospel.  It calls us to moment by moment keep our eyes on Jesus, and remember that He is in control even in the chaos.  In short I believe it calls us to live like the Colossian Christians did, in a world filled up with godlessness, just like our world today.

So how did those believers live? Paul in Colossians 1:2 says he is writing to “the saints and faithful brothers in Christ.”  What does that mean? It means that he is writing to a group of people who are justified and sanctified through the blood of Jesus Christ.  People who are saints because they are clothed in Christ’s righteousness.  People who are perfect? No way but people who have had all of their sins forgiven (Hebrews 10:12). Sins past, present, and future and because of that are declared holy through the blood of Christ.

They are people who are as Martin Luther said, “simul Justus et peccator”, simultaneously both justified and a sinner.  They Colossian church was filled up with people who were both saints and sinners.  People who had been declared righteous by the blood of Jesus but who at the same time struggled daily with sin.  And yet they did struggle, they didn’t just give in to sin, the struggled and they made war against it.  Why? Because they had been declared righteous and because of their great love for Jesus they wanted to live their lives in daily practical righteousness.

Because of that Paul calls them “faithful”.   In the midst of the godless culture where sin abounded and where false doctrines were bombarding the church they lived “faithful” lives.  That is a short direct statement but an impressive statement.  They were faithful.  Instead of giving in to sin, they were faithful.  Instead of listening to false doctrine they were faithful.  Instead of giving up and bemoaning how bad life is, they were faithful.

In doing so they stand as a great example for us today.  We to are both “simultaneously both saints and sinners.”  We too are only declared righteous (saints) through the blood of Jesus.  Our works don’t save us or justify us, it’s not what we do but rather what He did on the cross of Christ that justify us.  We are saints through the precious blood of Christ shed on the cross.  Yet we are sinners to aren’t we? We too struggle daily with sin.

We should however be inspired by the Christians at Colosse and we should struggle and make war against our sins.  As Paul says elsewhere we should “mortify the deeds of the body.”  In other words we are declared saints so our passion should be to live our lives that way.  To live faithful to Jesus in the midst of a society that is certainly not.

We are called to be “salt and light”, in other words to live differently than the world.  Why? So that others might see the truth of Jesus living within us.  What does that look like in our daily lives? It looks like what we just said, staying away from sin in the midst of a culture that is full of it.  Beyond that it looks like holding fast to the truth of the Gospel, even as many people no longer know or understand those truths.

In a recent survey of people in America (2013) only 5% of the people could name all of the 10 Commandments and 68% of the people had never heard the story of the Prodigal Son.  Take that a step further and begin to talk about the cross and why Jesus died and about original sin and the fall, and less and less people will know what you are talking about. Living faithfully however means that we hold to these truths.  The truth that we are born sinners.  Sinners who are absolutely hopeless and who cannot save ourselves.  Sinners who need the blood of Jesus to take our sins away and that need the righteousness of Christ so that we can be declared righteous.  Sinners who through the grace of God are delivered from a place called hell and who have heaven to look forward to.  These are the truths that we must hold dear, and as Jude says “we are to contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).  We faithfully hold to the truth of the Gospel.

We also live with hope in the midst of hopelessness.  Instead of constantly crying “the sky is falling,” and talking about how bad things have gotten we realize that even in the midst of the chaos God is in control.  Beyond that we realize that we have a hope since this world is not our home.  We know that one day we will be in a truly Christian nation and that all of the kingdoms of the world will bow down to Jesus (see the book of Revelation) that day is not today however because our culture is increasingly hostile to Christ.  Yet in the midst of this godless culture we affirm that God is still working and we trust Him each step of the way.  Realizing that the goal of the gospel is not a Christian culture but a Christian people from every tribe and tongue worshipping around the throne of God in the New Jerusalem.  We are hopeful because God’s grace is still changing people.  We are hopeful because Jesus is “preparing a place for us” and that one day we will gather around His throne in worship.  True, unhindered worship without distractions, without worry, without fear, without weeping, without crying, without mourning, without pain.  True worship without the confusion of sin.  True worship without the fear of death.  As the old song says, “what a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see, when I look upon His face the one who saved me by His grace……”  We live hopefully and we are motivated to live faithfully because we wait for that day.