I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Colossians 4:18
Two people will personally be delivering Paul’s letter to the Colossians -- Tychicus and Onesimus. These two men will soon set off for the long 1,200+ mile (yes…1,200+ MILES…with no car, train, or plane) journey from Rome to Colossae. Do you think they have any idea of the significance of what they were carrying? Did they take extra caution to protect it from the elements during the journey? Could they have even imagined the impact this little letter would have? And not just for the Colossians, but for the millions who have read it since and will read it in the future.
Paul closes with mention of more fellow workers, and a peek into the team performing a mighty work of God. Each with different skills and purposes. We need each other, friends.
Paul closes, “remember my chains.” How would you want to be remembered? For Paul, it wasn’t his conversion count, the churches he planted, or his beautifully written words. It was his chains. The length he would go to make the mystery of the gospel fully known. His joining of Christ in His suffering.
The letter complete. Rolled up tightly and handed to Tychicus and Onesimus. Packed safely in their satchel with provisions for the long trip to Colossae. Possibly a few tears. Covered in prayer, no doubt.
In this day of instant communication via a multitude of channels, it is hard to grasp how special these letters are. They can’t just FaceTime Paul with a question, or shoot a quick text to Luke asking him for advice, or post a message on Demas’s Facebook account to encourage him to stick with the ministry. It was a slow process of penning a letter, hand-delivering it hundreds -- even thousands -- of miles away, and then waiting for a word to travel back. I imagine it brought a savoring; a careful consideration and study of each and every word. Let us savor it with the same appreciation.
Questions: What seemingly hard or small or insignificant tasks are you currently engaged in? Could they possibly have an eternal significance that you just can’t see yet? How do you want to be remembered?
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:5-6
Our words lose their power when our walk doesn’t match up to our talk. It doesn’t mean we are perfect or anywhere close to it, but we do care about showing Christ and a life in Christ. At the same time, we aren’t called to just go out and live a good life but not talk about it with others. The talking part is critical too! Paul shares instructions for evangelizing to non-believers that includes BOTH walking AND talking.
Walk in Wisdom: John Piper said of wisdom… “Wisdom is knowing what to do for the glory of God when the rule book runs out…It’s having a feel for the moment, and having an eye for what people need and want”
Making the Best Use of Time: We should be walking in those open doors around us with a sense of urgency. We don’t want to miss opportunities that could be lost forever because we are too busy, too distracted, or too self-focused.
Gracious Speech: Kind, humble, accommodating. We can be gracious in our speech without compromising truth. In such a polarizing cultural environment, gracious speech is a breath of fresh air.
Seasoned with Salt: Salt is used to make bland things taste better, as well as a preservative. How can we speak in a way that is full of life-giving truth and worthy of “tasting” what we are saying? Truth in a manner that is appealing, interesting, relevant, and as appetizing as possible. A message that is preserved in the recipient’s head and heart. Something they will think about again and desire to know more.
Personal: Paul says we ought to answer EASH person. In other words, it isn’t just a canned speech or a set formula for everyone. It is based on relationship and knowing something about the person and where they uniquely are in their life. It involves listening and responding accordingly.
Question: Which of these 5 things is easiest/hardest for you?
At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison. Colossians 4:3
Paul’s prayer request while sitting in a Roman prison? Open doors to proclaim the gospel. The thing that got him in prison in the first place is the thing he is asking for prayers to be able to do more of. His blinding encounter with the risen Jesus not only changed his life, it changed his mission and passion.
Paul planted churches and he preached the Word to so many people in so many places who then planted churches. But now here he is in prison. Might he be thinking doors that were once open to him were now closed? What does he do with this time? He writes letters. Something he may not have had time to do if we were out planting more churches. I wonder what he thinks in heaven watching us today reading from one of the many letters he wrote from prison. These prison letters and the others he wrote make him the most influential writer of the most read book of all time. Oh, doors were open. He didn’t see it at the time, but the impact he had because of his passion, perseverance, and single-minded focus on Jesus regardless of his circumstances is mind-blowing.
If, like Paul, you feel all the doors around you are closed, let this encourage you that they are more open than you think. Be persistent. Keep praying. Do what God is telling you to do. Your obedience will have far more impact than you can see once God gets His hands on it.
But I suspect most of us recognize that there are open doors all around us, we just aren’t walking through them. Let’s decide to take mustard-seed-yeast-size steps through those doors. If we really believed the news was as good as we say it is, we would want it to be told.
Questions: What doors has God strategically placed around you? Are you eagerly walking through or are you scared to step in? Or, do you feel like all the doors are closed? Ask God to show you the open doors He wants you to walk through today.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16
I used to think of music in a church setting as a kind of add-on thing to the main thing. Something to warm people up and kill time waiting for latecomers to arrive before getting to the good stuff, and then something to wrap the service up. But over time a shift occurred where I realized worship was an integral part of a Christian community coming together (I’m a slow learner!). The music isn’t for us as the recipient. God is the recipient…it is an act of worshiping God. We sing to Him. We lift our voices in unison – as a united people – in praise to God. It gets our soul in sync with Him in preparation to study His Holy Word. And we end service in response to the study of the Word, again praising and thanking Him.
Think about it…some people love to read, some hate it. Some people love to write, some hate it. Some people like to speak in front of crowds, some hate it. But everyone loves music. Not necessarily the same kind of music, but everyone likes music. In God’s creativity and love of order, God created music. Melodies and rhythms with endless combinations to tell stories, remember God’s Word, praise God. And God sings over us (check out Zephaniah 3:17).
When I focus on the lyrics, so often I am moved to tears as I join in worship at church. Our reaction to worship is a result of the spirit of God showing Himself and moving in and around us as we come together in joint worship. It is a beautiful thing to be in active worship to our God.
Through hymns and worship music, God’s Word is set to melodies that help teach us, heal our soul, remind us who He is, encourage us, and fill us with His goodness and wisdom. On a personal level, we get to intimately feel God near. Corporately we get to join others with one voice in united praise. And we do it all in the name of Jesus, with thankful hearts.
Challenge: Next time you are in church, intently listen to the lyrics. Make it your worship to God in preparation for the service.
… by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. That he set aside, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:14
The ultimate power the rulers and authorities thought they had over Jesus was death. The Jewish leaders got their way and witnessed the sentence and the crucifixion of Jesus. In their minds, they won. Their biggest threat was gone. But three days later, Jesus rose from the dead.
The worst they could do to Him had no power over Him. Little did they know, it was what He came for. It was always Plan A. They thought they triumphed over Him, but it was He who triumphed over them. It was not the end. In fact, it was just the beginning.
Just as legal wrongdoings require accountability and justice, so do moral ones. But we can never meet the demands. We would always be in debt. Just try to be holy for a whole day. Impossible.
Imagine being dragged from a jail cell, placed in a courtroom and having all of your sins read aloud. The guilt, shame, and panic unbearable. The anxiety waiting for the verdict and punishment you deserve. Then imagine Jesus walking in from the back of the courtroom, approaching the judge and taking the verdict and punishment upon Himself. The judge looks at you and simply says, you are free to go. Case closed.
The verdict of our sins slipped between the hand of Jesus and the cross. A nail securing it in place binding them together. The document covered in the blood of Jesus, unable to come loose. Then buried in the grave.
The message of grace, sacrifice, forgiveness, canceled debt, and freedom is so beautiful. How can we make it understood and make it stick? Because the truth is, THIS is what will make us want to walk out of the courtroom and do life differently. To live with a lightened load, to live with immense gratitude, to live telling others of the amazing gift we were given, to love more deeply.
Questions: How can we share the message of grace? How can we walk in freedom of one whose debt is wiped clean?
For in him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Colossians 1:19
Holiness, wisdom, grace, creativity, authority, power, excellence, mercy, justice, love…all power and attributes. How tightly it all was squeezed into the constraints of human flesh during Jesus’s short 33 years on earth.
God actively and continuously pursues us. From the Fall in Genesis 3 to Revelation, God is drawing closer to us to bring us back to Genesis 1…the beginning, when God’s creation walked and talked and DWELT with Him without constraints. He longs to physically dwell with us again.
In the Old Testament, God dwelt in the tabernacle tent and later the temple. Tucked deep in the temple was the Holy of Holies behind a thick curtain that only the high priest…only once a year…could enter to make a sacrifice for the sins of the people. Access to the presence of God and the forgiveness of sins was only available via the high priest. And the forgiveness of sins was temporary. Then Jesus - God in the flesh – arrives on the scene. The presence of God – God Himself – getting closer to His people; dwelling with His creation.
Where God dwelt with the Israelites in the temple, He now dwelt in the human body of Jesus, God in the flesh. And when Jesus fulfilled His mission here on earth, the presence of God was released from the confines of the Holy of Holies. The curtain was torn in two, no longer separating God from His people. God is getting closer to His people. First in the temple, then in the person of Jesus walking AMONG His people, then via the Holy Spirit IN His people.
The entire Bible is the story of God’s plans unfolding. Redemption, reconciliation, restoration through Jesus. The promise of a new heaven and new earth – a new dwelling place with God for eternity – is in the final chapters of God’s word, where we will again dwell with God without hindrance forever. Until that day, let us dwell well in these earthly bodies.
Questions: Imagine what it will be like to once again dwell with God – face to face with the Creator of all things. Describe a hypothetical day in the life.
And he is BEFORE ALL THINGS…in him all things hold together…he is the head of the body, the church…he is the beginning…he is preeminent in everything. Colossians 1:17-18
Our culture doesn’t like to put other people first. We follow leaders only as long as they don’t disrupt our comfort or individual goals.
“I’ve discovered that the less some people know about Christ the more they like Him. The baby in the manger touches even the most cynical soul who has long since given up on religion. The secularist who is bent on reforming society quotes selected verses from the Sermon on the Mount with reverence. And the religious types use Him as their example of humility, sacrifice, and basic goodness. He is worthy to be spoken about in hushed tones. He is, say some, the first among equals. Yet in all this He is often dammed by faint praise. Since Christ said that the world would hate Him, we can be quite sure that when the world loves Him it is because they have made Him into something He is not. The biblical Christ cannot be dismissed; He stands in our path forcing us to make a decision, either to the right or to the left. In His presence neutrality is impossible. The babe in the manger quickly grows to become God, the King.” (Reference: Paul’s Letter to the Colossians: An Exegetical and Devotional).
We often love Jesus as long as He fits our narrative. We love pieces and parts of Him that can be used to our advantage. We want Him… and we want the world.
But that isn’t how it works with God. He is first. He is before all things. He is preeminent. He will not take second place, because He can’t. And with Jesus as the head, everything flows from that vantage point, not in addition to, or in conflict with it. We don’t have a little bit of Jesus here, and a little bit of sin there…nice and separate and compartmentalized.
Jesus has to be first. Not one of many, but THE ONE supreme and preeminent. Not one of many ways we can be saved, but the ONLY way we can be saved. Not one of many ways to God, but the ONLY way to God.
Question: Is Jesus before ALL things in your life?
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. Colossians 1:15-16
What we believe about Jesus matters. A lot. Part of the reason for Paul’s letter the Colossians was to clear up false teachings. Because when our understanding of who Jesus is shifts, it changes everything. Paul wants to be sure we know exactly who this person is that came to earth to save us.
Jesus is one of the persons of the trinity. There is only one God who exists as three persons…the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. These three persons are not just a part of God, but they are fully and equally God. They are not three different roles played by God at different points in time. There has always been and will always be three distinct persons existing in the one God. Modeling community; oneness. They are in full cooperation with one another and testify to each other. They function in different capacities, relating to us in different ways. All while still being fully God themselves. None were created. They were all there from the beginning. Equal in glory and equal in majesty.
Any lesser understanding of who Jesus is changes everything. He can’t simply be a good person or a good representative and representation of God… He must BE GOD. And Paul wants to make sure the Colossians – and us – know this.
We have the power of the Holy Spirit now and the hope for an eternal new dwelling because of the blood of Jesus on the cross. The final and faultless sacrifice all the others before pointed toward. The perfect lamb that was slain so eternal death would pass over us. The great high priest who WAS the sacrifice and who MADE the sacrifice.
Jesus – God the Son, the Redeemer – came to earth in the flesh to carry out the plan of salvation that was created and set in place from the beginning of time. He came to earth dressed like us to save us.
Challenge: Spend time today pressing into who Jesus is.