Read Col 1:24-2:5
Recap on background and last 2 weeks – main points:
• Church started by Epaphras in city of Colosse, once proud but now in decline – when this happens (Like GFC) people are actively looking for secret knowledge, or a new philosophy which will bring new hope to their lives.
• Paul writes to make crystal clear WHAT Christian faith is - the pure, simple Lordship of Christ
• Previously Paul has written about the Supremacy of Christ, Lord of All, Creator, Image of the Invisible God. The Image of God you receive is the one you will reflect to others...we need to have our image of Who Christ Is renewed.
• Now Paul is saying “That is who Christ really is – now what does it mean to BE IN THIS CHRIST and to have THIS CHRIST in you?
Col 1-2 raises 2 Questions – When we become followers of Christ:
1. What have we gotten into
2. What’s gotten into Us?
Discussion 1: What did it mean to the Colossians to be IN Christ?
1. It meant they were not owned by Caesar.
2. Col 2:3-4 All of the power and self help Ideas of The Empire cannot save you – it’s all found by being In Christ. Matt 22:21 THE HEAD TAX. Return to Caesar what is Caesars – and to God what belongs to God.
Discussion 2: What might it mean for US today to be IN Christ?
FOR US it means – We might be in The Empire but we don’t let it own us. We wrestle not with Caesar and Pax Romana; but other things like consumerism, power, comfort and self promotion compete for Lordship of our hearts.
Discussion 3: What does it mean to have Christ IN US?
It means we should be maturing IN our walk with Christ, allowing His Image to be formed in us, not being swayed here and there by circumstances and ideas. Col 1:26-29
Discussion 4: How Can we tell if this is happening?
Discussion 5: What do I expect of Life at its best? How do I react to life at its worst?
The Empire tells me
• Consume – Accumulate! Get Stuff, Get Power, Get Comfort – and Get it NOW. I need a holiday, new clothes, shoes that are not last season...
Christ In Me says
• Phil 4: Be Thankful, Be Outstandingly Generous, Matt 5 - Pursue Servant-hood and Love not Power...
Paul assumes that suffering is a normal part of life. When disappointment and suffering comes – do I get angry and bitter, or cynical and resentful? Or can I somehow see God at Work?
Col 1: 26-29: Christ In Us means GOD IS AT WORK INSIDE EACH OF US. This invisible, all powerful, creator-God of the universe...is at work INSIDE you and me, transforming us into “little Christs”.
Col 1: 24-25, Col 2: 5 Our response to Suffering:
Having a theology and a mindset that are able to embrace difficulty and suffering like Paul.
• PERSONAL SUFFERING – relates to our own personal choices and can sometimes be attributed to unwise decisions, but there is more often...
• STUCTURAL SUFFERING – suffering which comes purely because we live in a broken, sin-affected planet which the devil and mankind’s self will has infected with much pain. This kind of suffering is not attributed to anyone but is simply part of living in a broken world waiting for God to fully redeem it. We do see His kingdom come now sometimes in miracles, but we also sometimes have to wait for the full expression of His Kingdom (i.e. healing, miracles, no more crying etc.)
Paul’s attitude to suffering... Paul believed that both success and suffering were tools IN which Christ was at work. How did he respond?
1. He sowed his suffering (used it with intentional PURPOSE – HE was hungry, so he FASTED, he was confined so he MEDITATED, he was in need, so he PRAYED FOR OTHERS NEEDS...)
2. He served in his suffering, (He prayed for the Church, HE WROTE THE LETTER, he refused to curl inward but kept an outward focus)
Paul understood that He is Present IN US and with us in our suffering.
i. We can suffer WITH Christ...crying our tears to him, confronting our anger and bitterness with him, confessing our envy and our jealousy, cradled in his comfort...
ii. Smells Like Rain Diana Blessing baby born 24 weeks. 2 months not even able to hold her. Prayed God would cradle her. 5 years later...at baseball practice...storm clouds gathering... “Do you smell that?” ... No – do you smell that – it smells like God when your head is on his chest.
3. He surrendered in suffering. Paul somehow understood that if the suffering was not to be taken away, he could trust God to do something Greater in and through him. What we now know is that the letters Paul wrote from prison were far more effective than him being able to personally visit each church. Lesson for us: Christ IN US is GREATER than the suffering or the pressure of The Empire around US.
i. 2 Kings 5:1-13 Naamans slave girl story.
Discussion 6: How do you view suffering? How do you react when difficulty or suffering happen in your life?
Discussion 7 - Challenge: Is the external environment (The Empire) or internal allegiance (Christ IN ME) the most powerful force in your world?
Paul wrote to the struggling Colossians who wrestled with The Philosophies of The Empire, and the suffering they were experiencing, to say – get a hold of this: You In Christ – and Christ IN You. You are NOT owned by The Empire, and whatever you meet in The Empire is not going to defeat you – Christ IN YOU is your way through.