A Life of Love

Paul continues in Colossians chapter 3 to explain what a life of love looks like.  Remember, Paul has already identified the key to overcoming the flesh.  It is living into all that became new at our salvation.  It is laying aside the old self with its evil practices and putting on the new self with its holy attributes.  And the greatest of these is love.

“And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Col 3:14-15).  Two times in these two verses, Paul writes about the unity of the body.  One of the signs of a life of love is the peace that comes in our relationships with other believers.

The peace of Christ is the opposite of strife.  The peace of Christ is the opposite of dissension.  The peace of Christ is the opposite of jealousy.  The peace of Christ is the opposite of all these things that tear down the body of Christ.  Peace is synonymous with unity.  And it is God’s design that we live in peace.  And this peace leads to thanksgiving.

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thanksgiving in your hearts to God” (Col 3:16).  In this context, the “word of Christ” is not just referring to Scripture.  It applies to all the ways we hear the voice of Jesus.  We hear His voice in the Bible to be sure.  But we also hear His voice in our Spirit, the Spirit of Christ that indwells us.  In fact, we should expect to hear the voice of Jesus through His Spirit that is alive and active inside us.

In this particular verse, Paul highlights hearing the voice of Jesus in the community of believers that surrounds us.  We are literally the voice of Jesus when we teach and admonish one another; when we sing with and sing to our brothers and sisters in the Lord; when we express our admiration and thanksgiving to God.  Let the word of Christ, in all its different expressions, richly dwell in you.  A life of love is a life of listening to the voice of Jesus.

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col 3:17).  When we set up a rule-keeping system for pleasing God, we tend to separate our lives into the spiritual – following the rules, doing things to earn God’s favor, keeping spiritual disciplines – and the secular – our normal everyday responsibilities.  But when we walk in the Spirit, our connection to God is 24/7.  There is no separation between the sacred and the secular for the believer.

By virtue of who you are in Christ, all you do in word and deed is sacred.  Your homemaking, your 40-hour-a-week job, your visiting a neighbor are all sacred because you are indwelt by the sacred Spirit of Jesus.  Christ in us, living His life through us, sanctifies all of who we are and all of what we do.  This is “doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (vs 17).

The Journey to Love

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!

Breaking Radio Silence

Greetings friends.  When we moved to Tennessee several months ago, my intention was to keep marching forward at Fanning the Flames with my usual one or two posts per week.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the keyboard.  I ran out of things to say.  Well, not exactly.

That is to say, I did not run out of ideas.  My mind still races with thoughts about encouraging each other to live into all that became new at our salvation.  I still have a passion to explain what the supernatural Christian life looks like under the provision and promise of the New Covenant.  But the process of writing it down has not been the free flowing experience of the past.

As Rhonda and I were discussing my “writer’s block”,  I think she zeroed in on what is missing; it’s YOU!  I miss you!  When we lived in Houston, you and I were sharpening each other discussing these ideas.  We would meet for breakfast or lunch.  I would see you at church or in our small group.  This blog was not just about online writing and comments.  It was about living these principles with you in community.  I miss you.

Now when I try to restart the blog engine, I wonder if I am just sending thoughts out into cyberspace.  Will these posts encounter signs of life?  Is this turning into a one-way conversation?  As you know from the tennis ball illustration, a one-sided conversation is no fun.  I don’t know what this means going forward.  I just wanted to let you in on what I was thinking.

To end on a positive note, Rhonda and I have connected with Fellowship Bible Church Franklin as our new church home.  This church of maybe two to three hundred attenders is very focused on community-building.  We have joined a small group and are excited to be moving ahead in what God has for us here.  The Bible teaching is expository in style, very solid, and application oriented.  And the music is…(it’s Nashville, what did you expect me to say?)  The church is a smaller campus offshoot of Fellowship Bible Church Brentwood and is already feeling like home.  But that does not lessen the impact or point of this post:  We miss you!