Paul is fighting hard for these Colossian believers – even those he has never actually met face to face! How? He does this by the power of prayer – a channel by which those physically absent can be entirely present in the spirit realm. Paul prayed for his own disciples and for the disciples of others! This is a real challenge to me personally, to involve myself in the heavenly battles of others, giving them assistance and support where they urgently need it. Paul’s prayers were producing fruit: the Colossians were disciplined in their living and firm in their faith.
A challenge to them and to us is found in verse 6: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness”. The challenge is for us all to maintain our good start in Christ; it is so easy to slacken the pace. We began with the ‘white heat’ of the new birth, with wholehearted commitment to the Lord and with faith that he and we together could do anything; let’s not cool down to lukewarmness and place our relationship with him on the back burner, distracted by the everyday humdrum activities of life.
One of the Colossians’ distractions was the trendy teaching going around that seemed to combine secrecy, exclusiveness, and privileged philosophical knowledge with external rituals related to eating, drinking, observing certain festivals, and circumcision. These heresies later developed into full-blown Gnosticism in the Second Century AD.
By way of an antidote, Paul in chapter 2:9-15, focuses again on Jesus Christ: full of God-ness and complete in power. Christ is and was complete and sufficient for our salvation. He is also the ruler and head over every other authority in heaven and earth. He is God (the Gnostics denied this).
As we were baptized, Jesus removed the calloused, unfeeling covering of our stony hearts and made us alive again with him. He also removed the legal punishment that we had earned, nailing it along with his own body to that cross. And from that position of weakness and apparent defeat, He sprang the Devil’s trap, launched himself like lightening at all the forces of darkness and triumphantly rendered them all powerless and immobile. His rising brought them everlasting disgrace and public humiliation at the scene of His ultimate victory!
Since we have already been carried to heaven in his slipstream, why do we act as though we are still chained to the ground? (See 2:20). Since we now rule with Him, why do we still choose to submit to rules? It is not even as though they work! Legalism saps one’s energy and produces zero fruit. It appears to work, by limiting the damage that breaking the rules would otherwise produce, but it does not produce the standard of behaviour that God is looking for. For example, to have a great marriage, it is not sufficient simply to obey Commandment Number Seven (“You shall not commit adultery”)! Note also that there is a world of difference between a disciplined lifestyle and an attempt to gain favour with God by slavish obedience to a set of rules.
Therefore, let’s go back to verse 6 and continue to live our lives in Christ – just as we began our Christian walk – and we will find no need for the rules in any case. This is where we need a disciplined lifestyle.
JEREMIAH 10, 11, 12 and 13
What follows is a difficult choice: You can have the True God, who is mighty in power, King of the nations, the Eternal One, Creator of Heaven and Earth; or you can have an idol-god, cut from the forest, covered by a craftsman with gold leaf, which has to be carried by its worshipers and which cannot even talk. (Jeremiah 10). Difficult choice! And yet, perversely, Judah instinctively chose the idols. No wonder that God declares that Judah’s ‘wound is incurable’! God finally starts to make irrevocable plans for the nation’s destruction.
In chapter 11, God reminds the people of the terms of his covenant (see Deuteronomy 29:9) and the curses that would follow if they rejected it. He then commands Jeremiah to walk the streets of Jerusalem (like Jonah through Nineveh) proclaiming that fact. The difference now is that the inhabitants of Jerusalem are not listening! So, again, God tells his prophet not to pray for these rebels. This is indeed the unforgiveable sin: when people reject the Lord’s salvation and call the work of his Spirit ‘evil’. There is no other way to safety and no other saviour. (1 John 5:16.)
Then the residents of Jeremiah’s hometown, Anathoth, start to plot against him – as Jesus found, a prophet is never welcome so close to home! – and issue threats to him if he continues in his prophetic calling. So Jeremiah complains to the Lord. (11:21) In the next chapter (12), God warns Jeremiah that actually things will get worse for him; his relatives will betray him and try to kill him. This is an example of the prophet’s life being an ‘enactment’ of his message; God is really saying that His people have also rejected Him: “My inheritance has become to me like a lion in the forest. She roars at me: therefore I hate her”.
Then in chapter 13, Jeremiah is asked to do a piece of ‘drama’: buy a linen belt and wear it for a while. Then hide it in a crevice in the rocks, then dig it up again after a period of time. It was damp, rotted, and useless. God used the allegory as a picture of Judah: originally worn with pride, then hidden away in shame where it rotted and became worthless.
As a final attempt at reason, Jeremiah cries out to the people: “Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings darkness…” (13:16). But really, God has made up his mind and will not change it – it is too late! The leopard cannot change its spots, Judah will not change its evil ways, and God will not deviate from his path of judgment! He will bring shame on the nation to end all shames. Just as a prostitute was paraded through the streets with her skirts pulled up over her head, so Judah’s shameless prostitution to other gods will be made public to all the other nations. The Jews will become hated and a laughing-stock around the whole world – so says God’s word here.