Colossians 1:9b-10: Knowing in Order to Act Wisely

January 10, 2015

9. . . asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.

Today in our continuing study of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we are tarrying a bit around verses 1:9-10 in order to unpack one of the apostle’s cascading sentences. Yesterday I mentioned that the church so easily falls into a pattern that yields bitterness and stagnates growth. This infinite loop-to-nowhere-good is achieved by following mere human wisdom, writing God out the script, and wallowing in disappointment or anger.

The alternative to this vicious cycle is what I am calling today The Vitality Circle:

01.10.15 The Vitality Circle-croppedOnce the believer is infused with knowledge of God’s will—knowledge that is a gift of God’s Spirit—one is directed toward a life “worthy of the Lord.” This is not worthiness of the proving type, that is, efforts at earning God’s love by works according to some Law. Rather, the life we lead by following God’s will is a full expression of or consistent with or at home in God’s realm. When we say a person has performed a piece of music “worthy of J. S. Bach himself,” we are saying that it fully represents Bach’s intention and embodies his spirit. Same here. When (on those rare occasions) we nail it while on Kingdom business, it makes us happy to have finally lived into God’s intention for us.

The life worthy of the Lord is, by definition, a fruitful life. That fruit is the result of growth forces (for lack of a better term) conspiring to produce the qualities and actions that are God-honoring and life-giving. Among these would be what Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:21ff), including both inner character qualities (love, joy, peace, self-control) and relational steadfastness (love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness). Later in Colossian letter (chapter 3), Paul will expand on this idea as he describes more fully what the will of the Lord is for Christians. Fruit-bearing, for starters, is a natural outflow of the Spirit’s work in one’s life.

As it is said, success breeds success. And so also, in the spiritual life, an obedient and fruitful life just brings more knowledge of how God works and what he cares about in the world. Anyone who has dipped a toe into the waters of Christian ministry can recall the first thrill of seeing how those initial, perhaps tentative, efforts to serve Christ by serving others made a difference for the Kingdom.

For the de-churched, the decommissioned, or the sojourner, here is the message: pray for one another that God would replace the negative feelings still lingering in our hearts with the knowledge of his will. Open the door to allow God to show you how things stand, from his perspective. One of the best ways to open this door is to open our Bibles. God speaks to us there, and opening the Book while opening our hearts is a very good place to begin. Choose the wise course as God makes it known to you, and you will not regret it!

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