Finally Alive

Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him—in simple faith.

JP Phillips

‘Alive’ is a word often in the mind, yet rarely spoken from the mouth. Consider this, you have just had a moment that impels adrenaline through your body, an instant of absolute exhilaration or bliss and it is in that moment that a phrase like “I have never felt so alive” seems potent. Even in the aftermath of such an event, it might be how we describe it to people.  Such moments are fleeting and the normality is to be alive or life is simply a state of existence for most people – It’s every moment as we pass through it, we experience and live.  Yet, it is more than just existing: Life is what defines us; it is how we see ourselves in the grand scheme of the world. Every moment we live or experience is what shapes and defines us, our life is who we are.  When I was in Tanzania, or Kenya life was defined in different ways; family, tribe or simply as a matter of survival.  People’s life was their everyday. At home, we tend to define ourselves along different lines because our everyday experience is different; careers, success organisations we belong to and family.  In verse 6 we are commanded to “Walk in Him” because we have received Jesus as Saviour/Lord, or as JP Philips puts it in his Paraphrase go on living in him—in simple faith.” It’s a wonderful thought and term and something we see over and over again with the gospels and simply it is a command to define our existence, our life through Jesus.  Only in Jesus can we know the fullness of life.

Where to Find Life?

One moment that captures what it is to be truly alive is found in John Chapter 4; ‘The Women at the Well’.  Picture the scene:  Jesus is heading for Galilee, after a time of ministry in Judah he chooses to go through Samaria; he deliberately took a route most Jewish people would not, arriving at a small town called Sychar.  Tired and weary from the journey he sits down at Jacobs Well and waits. He sees a woman coming in the blazing heat of the midday sun, and he can tell so much about her already;  by timing alone, it is obvious she is a social outcast.  Why else would she arrive at such time? to avoid the other women of the village.  She did not want to face the judgement of her peers (little did she know she would meet the judgement of a loving God). Put yourself in her shoes, she is walking towards a well (the coffee shop of the village) hoping to avoid all human contact, yet as she draws closer her eyes catch a glimpse of a figure skewed by the glare of the midday sun sitting by the well. Step by step she draws closer to the well still unable to recognise him; wondering who it could be, perhaps even fearful of who it might be. She assumes that he will not interact with her – men did not speak to women in Public at that time. Closer still she draws noticing his Jewishness she feels more confident that no conversation will take place because Jews do not interact with Samaritans. Then as readies herself to draw out water from the well she hears a few simple words “Can you get me a drink?” an entire social reality is shattered, she reacts and tries to understand her confusion: “We are from different tribes, tribes that hate one another – how can you ask me for a drink?” Increasing her confusion, Jesus turns the conversation to himself as the Christ and offers her the ‘living Water.’ Or Simply put her offers her a life that she has never know – through believing in him.  As the story progresses Jesus is able to reveal the truth about her to herself: Her situation, struggles and sin. When she realises the mess of her own life, He is able to offer her comfort in the Truth about himself: that she can find true life in him. She believes and before we know it an entire town has been transformed by finding life in Jesus.

“God may thunder His commands from Mount Sinai and men may fear, yet remain at heart exactly as they were before. But let a man once see his God down in the arena as a Man–suffering, tempted, sweating, and agonized, finally dying a criminal’s death–and he is a hard man indeed who is untouched.”

J.B. Phillips, “Your God Is Too Small”

Once we grasp the truth about Jesus we are able to cry with all our heart and soul, “I am truly Alive.” In Verse 7 Paul outlines what living in Christ looks like. It means we have to root ourselves in him and build up from that.  Meaning, we must allow the roots of our souls to go down into the soil of Christ, that the nutrition that comes from him shapes our very being; building from him because he is the cornerstone. Our roots must go down into him and then we must build up from him because from this our faith will grow stronger and stronger – we will know more of the truth that is Jesus. The Truth being that Jesus is the Son of God, the promised saviour of the world.  A truth for the church at Colossae and one they grasped.  However, this same true is something our culture struggles with because it is an absolute truth – A truth that says that everything thing that tries to give meaning, purpose or shape the world is a lie. The Truth about Jesus is the most offensive truth because it calls people out it demands more of them. Consider this if Jesus is not the Truth then Christianity is pointless, but thankfully he is the Truth that the more we root into and build from, the more thankful we will be for What God has done and is doing for us.

Do not be fooled (8-10)

In the next few verses we see why it is so important our roots go deep in Jesus and we build up strongly in him: Satan will use the philosophies of the world around us to tempt us, confuse us and to distract us from the wonderful Truth of Jesus. Paul has already warned the church about “Plausible arguments” (ESV) in 2:2 and now again after affirming their faith and reminding them where to root themselves, he hammers home again the dangers of the world around them. Now, this can seem so far from us because the reality is most of us are not philosophers thus hold no interest in reading Plato or Socrates, we have never been influenced by Immanuel Kant or some random European Philosopher who had such a bleak view of life that we would not even waste money buying their books.  Yet, the warning in these verses carries no less importance for us because while we have not been influenced by some academic philosophy, the world around us is shaped by it and is full of its own philosophies.  A philosophy in my understanding is something that seeks to explain our existence, truth or reality. Simply a philosophy is a theory that attempts to give meaning to or define life. So whether or not we read Plato we are being influenced by the ‘empty philosophies’ of this fallen world. Even without opening an academic text book I can think of theories that define life; Consumerism, Materialism, Tribalism and Nationalism. What Paul Commands in Verse 8 is to be aware of the theories that the world uses to define us, that we hold them against the truth of Christ and say boldly “I belong to Jesus and my life is found in him” because “Jesus-plus-equals-Nothing.” What Paul is saying is that any theory/teacher who comes to you and says you can find some identity, some meaning in this-or-that is a liar and an agent of the Devil. We as Christians most hold all against the living word of God by which the spirit will reveal all to us that threatens the fullness of life we have in Jesus.

“Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40, and Jesus for only 3. Yet the influence of Christ’s 3-year ministry infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined 130 years of teaching from these men who were among the greatest philosophers of all antiquity.”

Unknown

“I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful; but I never read in either of them: “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden.”

Augustine

As we read on and look at verse 9, we see the importance of holding any theory of Life against Jesus. Jesus reveals the fullness of God in his humanity;  all that our minds can handle when we think about origin, existence, truth and cause are revealed in the life of Jesus. If God is real, then he is supreme Truth and if he is as such, all that can be known of truth is what is know of God. God reveals himself partially in the Old Testament and more Fully in the life and work of Jesus, thus all we can know of truth is to be found in the Bible.  Moreover, we have been filled with Jesus (Verse 10) or as JP Philips puts it ‘your own completeness is realised in him, who is the ruler over all authorities, and the supreme head over all powers.’ All things exist by Jesus, for Jesus and towards Jesus – so find you all in him.

You Are Qualified by Christ (11-15)

Already we have seen outlined where true life is found, The passage has shown us and the church at Colossae what we need to protect ourselves against the false truths of this world and now in this next section of the passage Paul seeks to paint an even more vibrant picture of what Life lived in Christ looks like. In verse 11, circumcision is used metaphorically – to describe the spiritual reality of what happens when we come to Jesus. Our circumcision is without hands because it is in the spiritual realm. it Is by Christ, through the Holy Spirit working in us.  What Paul is describing here is sanctification (being made holy) done through ‘putting off the body of flesh.’ Meaning that our lives are no longer defined by the realms of the flesh were because of our sin we cannot come before God.  We are defined by citizenship in the Kingdom of God a citizenship granted through Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the cross. A citizenship showed by our lives being defined by him. A citizenship that grants us true life….

The next two verses use language that is familiar to the theme running throughout this passage – Life and death. Although how the imagery is applied is quite strange it is simply another metaphor linked with Christs atoning work on the Cross. In essence, when we as Christian’s are baptised we chose to identify with Christs work on the cross –  both in his Death and Resurrection. We identify with his death, since when we are baptised as believers it’s a declaration of our public faith, of our desire to leave behind the sinful ways of our old life, of our desire to die to ourselves. We identify with him in his resurrection, because we are publically declaring that we are Christians, we are dead to sin and fully alive in Christ and for Christ. Linking ourselves even metaphorically with Christ’s work on the Cross signifies death to the power of Sin over us and Satan and being empowered by the work of the holy Spirit to live a new life – to be fully alive in Christ.

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

C.S. Lewis

Being Qualified or judged by a standard we cannot affect is a strange thing. If we play sports, we are judged by the success of our team, if we enter a talent show we are judged by our own talent and in the workplace, a promotion normally comes from merit; we are granted more responsibility by the standard of our work or contrariwise sacked because of a poor standard. The imagery Paul uses is a scene most of us are only familiar with from television – a court of Law. The scene is this, we will stand before God as individuals at some point in the future, If we are alive in Christ then all of our sins are forgiven (13); God cancels the debt with all its legal demands (14) not because we have a savvy defence lawyer who finds some legal loophole. Instead, the debt is taken from us and nailed to the cross of Christ, who acts as our advocate, he takes the burden of impossibility for us and makes all things possible. Then, in a moment of beauty God takes what Satan thought was his victory – the cross and the death of Jesus and turns it into havens victory; using it to shame Satan.  In placing the burden of Sin on Jesus Christ, God removes the ability of Satan to accuse people before God if their faith is in Jesus.  The term ‘put them to open shame’ is the same used to describe the situation where Joseph refused to publically shame Mary for her pregnancy (Matthew 1:19) except this time God has publically show the weakness of the enemy.  God has shown how they can be defeated, through faith in Christ. Through choosing life.

“Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. Do not defend God’s word, but testify to it. Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity.”

D Bonhoffer

Stand Firm in Jesus (Conclusion)

Accordingly, this text leaves us with a lot to process and to do.  Firstly, Christ must be received; the rest of this text is pointless unless we have received Jesus. What does this mean? It means accepting our need of a saviour, that we cannot truly know life outside of Christ, it means recognising the sin in our lives and the distance it places between us and God; that the only way to close that distance is the cross of Christ. Are you willing to know what true life looks like?

Secondly, we must Walk with him. Salvation is not a one-time event, it’s an ongoing process of sanctification – being made holy.  In order for it to happen, we through the power of the holy spirit working in us must continue to walk with God. Which is encouraged in the Third and Fourth commands of being rooted in him and building up from him by establishing ourselves in faith.  How? By learning about him (“Just as you were taught”) we learn by living out the faith: Spending time in God’s word and in a community (Church, small groups) and by never losing our thankfulness – it is thankfulness that reminds us of all God has done. Our thoughts, ideas and desires are to align with Jesus and to be protected from the false ideas that come out of this world (8-9).

But let us not lose sight of the true meaning of this text: it is not about what we can do through the power of Jesus.  It is all about him: What he has done and is doing for our sake. He brings us the fullness of God in Human form, he fills us (with his Holy Spirit) and circumcises our hearts of sinful desires. He allows us to join in his death and resurrection and all that grants us.  If we take the two sides of this passage: We receive him because he first came to us, we are able to walk in him because he filled us. We do because he has done.  All we can do is because of all he has done, we are truly alive because he has given his life.  That is why we must never lose our thankfulness! Are you willing to live a life that is fully alive?

 

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Ian says:

    Well done Andrew, the great thing about the woman at the well was that even though she had six men in her life, the only one that truly loved her was the seventh (Jesus). This same Jesus truly loves you. 😇

    Like

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