Let’s dive back into our recent topic: empty religion. We were working our way through the book of Colossians, when we stopped at Paul’s warning regarding the “empty deception of empty religion.” The apostle reminds us that setting up a self-abasing, overbearing, tedious, rule-keeping system for living the Christian life is not only inappropriate, but is “of no value against fleshly indulgence” (Col 2:23). Said another way, “IT DOESN’T WORK!” The very thing we are trying to defeat is not the least bit hindered by a law-keeping system. Why? Because in its empty deception, it lacks true power.
The power to live the Christian life lies instead in our connection to our new nature brought by God’s Spirit within. Paul goes on in Colossians chapter 3 to explain that we defeat the flesh when we live into all that became new at our conversion. Our recent posts, Empty Religion, Indulging the Flesh, and Defeating the Flesh cover this in some detail. To summarize, we are to put on the “clothes” of our new nature; a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness (Col 3:12-13).
These attributes, these qualities of the new nature, look a lot like Christ. The new self we are to put on is essentially putting on Christ. And putting on the new self, the life of Christ in us, is the answer to the flesh.
The final attribute of the new man that Paul commends here is love. “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Col 3:14). Love is the overarching quality – “beyond all these things” – that energizes all the others. Love is the motivation for living into all that we are in Christ. And this love dwells inside you right now.
Love is not waiting for some new level of spirituality. It is not waiting for some new attainment or enlightenment. It is in you by virtue of the Holy Spirit who has taken up residence inside you. In Romans 5:5 we learn that the Holy Spirit is literally “pouring God’s love into our hearts.”
There is no law to follow for the New Testament believer, but there is a journey to take; the journey to love. As we experience the deep deep love of God, it will begin to flow out of us as we learn to love as God loves. It will empower and inform your relationships, activities, and thoughts. It will become a unifying bond for your church and family. Throw off the chains, throw off the sin that inhibits its fullest expression. You are a saint, holy and beloved by our Lord (Col 3:12). Because of who and whose you are, you can do it!