Colossians 1–3: Apprenticeship to Jesus

March 11, 2015

Colossians 4:1 is a good place to pause for a bit of a review in our study of Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

After a splendid introduction to Jesus Christ— his primacy, his deity, and his presence—Paul makes the case in chapter 2 that Christians enjoy a particular freedom. This liberty is not license to do whatever one pleases, but practical freedom from human regulations (like the Jewish Law) and secular humanistic philosophies. Life in Christ gives a person the opportunity to enjoy the freedom to do good without the lead weight of counterfeit wisdom or spiritual OCD (2:23).

A good life walks in holiness made possible by the Spirit within every believer. A holy life, as Paul describes it, is not self-conscious, self-righteous, or self-glorifying. In Christ, we have been given a life set apart from earthly things, that is, a sacred opportunity to align ourselves with Jesus and reject the things of earth that lead to death. Ironically, living to Christ means dying to self, but the death of our earthly nature is the means of our liberation to receive all the Spirit has for us.

A technicality: I do not intend to carve out a dualism here between that which is material (bad) and that which is spiritual (good). But Paul uses the language in chapter 3 of “earthly” (perhaps we can interpret this as “worldly”) and “spiritual” (interpreted as “godly”). The worldly wisdom expressed in human regulations is to be distinguished from godly wisdom expressed in holy living, which is described in very practical ways in chapter 3.

So how does this translate into everyday life? We allow Jesus to shape us in his image and likeness. We apprentice ourselves to Jesus (Dallas Willard’s favorite image). To illustrate, it has been said that the longer a husband and wife live together (we’re talking decades), the more likely they will take on their partner’s characteristics. These might be vocal inflections, facial expressions or gestures, or a way of thinking. There have been times in our married life when others who didn’t know Andy and me thought we were brother and sister. When you spend (almost) 40 years in the same household, one personality is bound to rub off on the other! And so it is in our apprenticeship to Jesus. The longer we spend in fellowship with Jesus, the more he is going to rub off on us.

Holiness develops as we walk in close relationship with Jesus Christ, the one who is fully God and yet in whom all things (like us) hold together. When Jesus dwells in us and we in him, his presence has a transforming effect on us. The Spirit that raised Christ Jesus from the dead, that same One, dwells in our mortal bodies by faith (Romans 8:11). Resurrection follows! Unleashed within us, the Spirit of Christ goes to work to bring joy, humility, love for God’s Word, and a host of other gifts and attitudes. You see, only God has the capacity and the all-in desire to change us from the inside out. But when God does that, we have the power and the freedom to act in concert with him.

The transformation begins when we come alive in Jesus Christ and it is complete when finally we see our Savior face to face. Along the way, we are people under construction, and God is not finished with us yet. So let us stay close, stay faithful, keep listening, and continue to surrender our wills, minds, hearts, and bodies to the One who will return to us the freedom to live the life he designed us to live.


3 Responses to “Colossians 1–3: Apprenticeship to Jesus”

  1. Bruce Pope Says:

    This is why Dallas said..God’s intention is that we should each become the kind of person whom He can set free in his universe, empowered to do what we want. Wow! 0 replies0 retweets0 favorites

  2. Jodie Gallo Says:

    I like this concept that in Christ what we are free to do and be is free to do the right thing.

    I think in real life all too often people feel they are obligated to do the wrong thing. It gets articulated in many ways, as we try to justify it: “not personal”, “it’s political”, “I don’t have any choice”, “it’s just business”, “not going to give them the satisfaction”, “they started it”, “can’t look weak”, “have to save face”, “it’s a matter of honor”, “can’t justify it financially”, “somebody needs to take the fall for this”, “somebody needs to make the hard decision”, “it was a management decision”, so on and so forth. We are obligated by forces outside our control to do what we have to do, even though we don’t like it – because we know in our hearts it is wrong. We just can’t find a way out. We are trapped. We are imprisoned by the circumstances.

    But in Christ we have been set free from those prisons, and we have the freedom to simply do or say the right thing, and not worry where it goes. It’s the right thing, and that is all that matters.

    But most of all, what I really love, is that we are free to forgive. That to me is the greatest freedom of all. In our natural state it is normal to forgive. Young children are so forgiving at first. Animals are forgiving. My dog is forgiving. I watched a bull fight once (and never again). It took so much injury to coax the bull to fight! Cruel human beings could not bring themselves to leave the poor creature alone, even as he tried to lay down and die.

    We learn >not< to forgive. And it becomes a drug we can't shake. We become enslaved to something mysterious that keeps us from forgiving even when we want to, and makes us hang on to the anger and the hurt, and goads us to hurt back, to bite and to tear down, to diminish, to get some.

    But when Christ sets us free, we are free to let it go, and it lets us go, and we are… Free.

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