Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Rules for Holy Living

When I read Colossians 3, my heart beats fast and I think to myself, “Yes! This is the way we are supposed to be, this is what my life should look like!” In my zeal I pray, “Make me like this Lord!” and I allow my imagination to conjure images of leading masses of people to Christ and whole nations changed, all because we put aside the messed up version of Christianity and embraced Colossians 3.

     The NIV rightly titles the chapter, Rules for Holy Living. “Set you hearts on things above…..Set your minds on things above…put on your new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other…And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…teach and admonish one another…do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

      Then I close my bible, put down my journal, get off the couch and go to work. “Colossians who?” Life hits hard and fast. Within a few hours I forget what I have read and allow my heart and mind to be set on earthly things. The car is rattling again. There is traffic on the way to work. Will so and so be working today? I hope not. Oh great! They are!

     A hundred things bid for my attention. I feel anything but clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness or patience. The Holy Spirit prods, “Be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”

     “Ok”, I calm myself. Take a deep breath and pray, “Thank you for this job. Thank you for my car. Thank you for great colleagues. Thank you…” This helps a bit, but I still feel diluted, the living room enthusiasm long gone.

     The apostle Paul had alot bidding for his attention too, yet it was he who penned Colossians 3.  In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul boasts about his sufferings, “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashed minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in open sea, I have been constantly on the move…I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face the daily pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Cor 11:23-29)

      Paul receives a word from God, (12:9) “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” To which Paul responds, (12:10) “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

     I know all this to be true. There were several times when in missions, I could have made a list like Paul’s and then testified that God’s strength was most certainly made perfect in my weakness. But what about now? What about when life isn’t all that bad? What about when Satan’s attacks are much more subtle and slip easily under the radar? What then?

     It is in Paul’s second letter to Timothy where I find the answer. Paul opens by telling Timothy how grateful he his for Timothy’s “sincere faith” and encourages him to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (1:6)

Paul invites Timothy to join him in suffering for the gospel of the amazing message of grace. He urges Timothy to not be ashamed of the gospel and then writes, (1:12) “..Yet I am not ashamed because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”

     For me, there are three very important words in the above verse: know, convinced and entrusted.

     Yet I am not ashamed because I know whom I have believed:  Paul does not write that he is not ashamed because he knows what he believes, but that he knows whom he has believed.

     and am convinced that he is able to guard:    Paul is convinced: totally sure, won over, certain, confident, persuaded – Because Paul knows Jesus, he has no doubt that He is ‘able to guard’.

      what I have entrusted to him for that day:    Here is the proof that Paul knows Jesus. He has ‘entrusted’ everything to him. God does not take our cares from us, we give them to him.

       With this understanding, I write 2 Tim 1:12 in my own words:


“Despite my circumstances, I am not reluctant, nor do I feel guilty, because I regularly spend time with and personally know Jesus, the only one I will place my faith in; and based on what I know of Him, I don’t have a single doubt that He is more than able and willing to keep and protect what I have eagerly handed over to him.”


So I write down my paraphrased verse and stick in my pocket. Then I hand Jesus my humdrum life and ask Him to guard my heart. I feel renewed, polished and like I have just put on a thicker plate of armor. Rules for Holy Living, don’t feel like rules I have to follow, they feel like a natural part of my life. Although I am certain tomorrow will bring it’s own distractions and Col 3 will seem beyond my grasp, I can pull out my little piece of paper and eagerly hand it all back to the One I know and trust. 


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