When the Good News of Jesus Takes Root
We are experimenting this month with a video teaching for part of our Sunday gathering. When we read Acts together in January, we observed the differences in sermons preached to the Jews vs. the Gentiles. When Paul preaches the Gospel to the Gentiles in Athens he uses different language. Why? Because the Gospel cuts to the heart of ALL cultures, no “Jewish-ese” required. For us that means we need to rearticulate the Gospel with new language as we grow in our understanding, and as our culture changes. No “Christian-ese” required! The series (Re)Union, taught by BIC pastor Bruxy Cavey has been a valuable (Re)Articulation (see what I did there?) of the Gospel for our time and accessible for a culture that is not as fluent in Christan-ese as it was 20 to 60 years ago.
When Jesus sets us free from the rituals of religion, we are free indeed! “We are rescued from the power of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of his beloved son (Jesus), in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).
Lots of Christian-ese, right?
In the first century, the rituals of being right with God – the right sacrifices, the right behavior, dress, etc. was the norm for both Jew and Gentile. The good news that no one saw coming is Jesus has accepted everyone unconditionally! Those rituals are of no value in our worth before God. We are not right with God only when we have our act together, when we have been to church enough that month, when we gave away a few dollars to the homeless guy on the corner, or when we only yelled at our children once that week. Maybe we don’t think of these things as pursuing right-ness with God. But what about trying to be right with ourselves? When we feel insecure, we put down others in our minds (and sometimes in our words) to feel better. When we receive a careless or offensive comment (or glance, or…) we dismiss that person and carry that bitterness with us, maybe even act in revenge.
We have rituals of self-justification to make ourselves feel worthy to be human, worthy to carry the image of God into the world.
But you are already worthy to be human! You are already worthy to bear God’s image! You are no less secure in God’s love and image when you hurt others than when you don’t. Why? Because Jesus said so. He is not accusing you (Colossians 1:22).
We don’t get to give a verdict on that truth. The power of the universe has decreed love. But we can choose to live in the gift of unconditional love, written into the very fabric of reality (Colossians 1:15-20). This gift has the power to break chains of anxiety, anger, bitterness, and insecurity. When this love roots in us we grow in our ability to forgive someone who hurt us, and see the image of God in others rather than looking for evidence of our superiority.
Paul is pleading with the believers gathering in Colossae, the “Colossians,” to keep growing in that truth. All the old rituals – the external ones of following religious laws, but also the internal ones – bitterness, anger, etc. are so deeply rooted in us they don’t go away right away (this is one way of understanding that religious word, “sin”). How do we stand firm in the truth? Paul writes Colossians 2 as an encouragement to the believers. It is an encouragement to me, to us, as we desire to live in love.
When the good news roots in us, when we are “raised with Christ” (present tense – the resurrection is both future hope and present reality), we seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). What is it that we seek? A life of unconditional love as we have received from God. Colossians 3-4 describes what Christlike love looks like (and doesn’t look like). It is not a list of dos and donts, but rather a description of a life transformed by love. Christlike love can be observed (i.e. has behavioral elements), but it isn’t the behavior itself that counts. Its the heart changed by love.
That can be unpacked so much more, but read Colossians for yourselves. Or we can talk more at church. And if it has been hard for you to believe the good news, that we are children of God, sign up for the seminar in March, it is all about growing in our identity as beloved children of God.
Watch a clip of Bruxy’s teaching here.