Over the past several weeks, we have been working our way through the book of Colossians. We started in chapter 2 with Paul’s exhortation to not be carried away by deceptive teaching. One of the deceptions that Paul identifies is the threat of legalism; thinking the fuel that drives the Christian life comes from an adherence to rules. Paul calls this “self-made religion” (Col 2:23) and goes so far as to say that these rules “are of no value against fleshly indulgence” – the very thing we want to stamp out.
So how do we attack “fleshly indulgence”? How do we fuel the supernatural Christian life? In Colossians chapter 3, the apostle explains that the power to live the life is found in living into all that we have become in Christ; all that became new when we embraced the gospel message. It is living into the attributes of Christ that we now possess by the presence of His indwelling Spirit. We are to “mortify the flesh”, as the old King James says in Colossians 3:5, because we can. We have the righteousness of Christ inside, moving us forward.
Paul describes living out this righteousness of Christ as us “putting on” the attributes of Christ; compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and above all others, love. The rest of chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4 shows us what “putting on Christ” looks like in our relationships; husband/wife, parent/child, worker/employee, and in our connection with those outside the faith.
With that short review, let’s now circle around to Colossians chapter 1 and look at the foundation for all we have studied so far. Paul introduces us to the church in Colossae as a maturing church when measured by the true measuring stick of the strength of their faith, hope, and love.
“We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven…The gospel has come to you, and it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing in you – just as in all the world also – since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Col 1:3-6).
This church is “constantly bearing fruit and increasing” on the strength of their faith, hope, and love. Faith is such an important foundation on which to build the Christian life. Not only is faith a requirement to start the Christian life – “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26) – but it is the foundation for all that follows.
For example, the level of your hope is commensurate with your faith in God’s promise. There is a direct link between, “Do you truly believe the promises of God?” and the steadfastness of your hope. Where faith in what God has said is the rock on which we stand, hope flourishes.
To love as Christ loves works the same way. My ability to love, because it is not just based on feelings, is directly related to my faith. God has promised you and me a new identity with a new power to love as Christ loves. If we believe that, we can practice that kind of love because God has promised that we have the ability planted in us to do so and He in fact expects us to do it (see I John chapter 4). Our ability to love rests on the strength of our faith.
Of course, Satan always comes along and seeks to gum up the works. “Did God really say that as a child of God you carry love as your essence; that is, you have the desire, the propensity, the power to love as God loves?” The answer is a resounding YES, God really did say that. But Satan keeps at us, “When you look in the mirror, is that child of God really who you see, or are there some serious shortcomings in your ability to love?” Do not listen to Satan’s accusations. Yes, we have the old man to put aside as we grow in faith, hope, and love. But the raw materials are in there. You can do it!
God has given us all we need to be strong in faith, steadfast in hope, and diligent in loving the saints. May this be the picture of not only a maturing church, but of us as growing believers as well.