Let heaven fill your thoughts!
Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the
things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Keep
thinking about things above, not things on the earth, for you have died
and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ (who is your
life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him. (Colossians 1.1-4)
“Keep seeking the things above …” and “Keep thinking about things above …”
I love these phrases that Paul uses. "Keep seeking" and "keep
thinking." There’s a persistence that’s necessary in following Jesus,
isn’t there? What’s your focus? Who’s the center of your life? How
committed are you to following God, no matter what?
What does a Christ-centered life look like? I believe a life centered
on Christ has at least three characteristics (this is not an exhaustive
- Desire to know God
- Desire to honor God
- Desire to obey God
“If you have been raised with Christ …”
What is your current relationship with God? Perhaps you may have made a
commitment to serve Christ many years ago, or maybe you were baptized
as a young child. That’s wonderful, but what is the state of your
relationship with God today. We must renew our relationship/commitment
to God every day!
“You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God …”
Our life is in Christ. I think of Galatians 2.20: I myself no longer
live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by
trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Paul talks about the change here in Colossians, using the language of
the "old man" and the "new man" (3.9-10). IOW, when we commit to
following Christ, we are made new. I think of Jesus’ language of being
"born again" or "born from above": unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3.3).
And, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5.17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Here in Colossians, I hear Paul saying, "Are you a Christian? Then act like it!" It matters how we live, and it matters how we treat people!
What is our reputation in the Valley?
What do you think people think or feel when they see our church
buildings or hear the name of our churches? Reputation is so important.
It’s part of our witness! Think about that as God’s Word challenges us
to get rid of bad behavior and practice good behavior.
I am very grateful to those of you who exemplify the good behavior
described in the Scriptures, behaviors that give witness to the life of
However, quite frankly, many of the bad behaviors listed by Paul are
also taking place among our ranks! Some may want to blame the
exploratory process we’re in, but the reality is, these bad behaviors
are not anything new. They’ve been part of the "DNA" for decades.
(Incidentally, spiritual transformation is the only thing that can
change our "spiritual DNA").
I believe the process we’re in is simply providing an ample opportunity
for bad behavior to come to light (stress always reveals the cracks in
That said, the process is going at least as well as I expected it to
go. No one said it would be easy. No one said there wouldn’t be loss
(there’s always loss when there’s movement, regardless of whether the
movement is good or bad).
BUT if we do the right thing (whatever that is) for the right reasons,
we will be "pruned" (to use the language of John 15) and mobilized for
missional life (and fruitfulness) in the Valley. That’s what is (most)
important, taking the next faithful steps!
I can honestly say that it does NOT matter to me what YOU decide (in charge conference, early next year) as long as you fully engage
in this exploratory process. You need to be praying for one another,
especially the Exploratory Team, discussing your concerns with team
members and with me, giving AND receiving.
My ONLY fear is that there will be people who show up to vote (at the
end) who have skipped out on the process of engaging God and one
another in, perhaps, the most important decision impacting the future
of our mission in the Juniata Valley. I know the process is long and
painful, but you owe it to yourself, to each other, to the Juniata
Valley, to future generations, and most of all, you owe it to God, to
give this process your ALL! (IOW, the process is important.)
There was something I said a year and a half ago (toward the beginning
of this process): While God certainly cares WHAT we decide, I believe
God is even more concerned about HOW we come to our decision. IOW, it’s
not just the destination (end point) that God is interested in; it’s
the journey. How we get there is important, too!
Get rid of bad behavior (sin)!
So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual
immorality, impurity, shameful passion, evil desire, and greed which is
idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming on the
sons of disobedience. You also lived your lives in this way at one
time, when you used to live among them. But now, put off all such
things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your
mouth. Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man
with its practices and have been clothed with the new man that is being
renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it.
Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised,
barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all. (Colossians 3.5-11)
Put to death … (worldly things)
- Sexual immorality
- Shameful passion
- Evil desire
- Greed (idolatry)
“You also lived your lives in this way at one time …” (3.6)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3.23). 1 John 3.4-6 says, Those
who sin are opposed to the law of God, for all sin opposes the law of
God. And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, for there is
no sin in him. So if we continue to live in him, we won’t sin either.
But those who keep on sinning have never known him or understood who he
Put off …
- Malice (ill-will)
- Slander (“blasphemia”): Spreading negative info, defamation of character
- Abusive language
John Ortberg once described “splatterers,” people who bottle up things
and then “splatter” everyone with it. Eugene Peterson, in his
paraphrase, The Message, calls it “vomit from the heart.” Mark 7.14-23. Next time it’s directed toward you maybe you’ll get that graphic image! 🙂
Get rid of divisions …
Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised,
barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.
(3.11) We could continue the list: In the church, there is neither
American, or, say, Chinese, Democrat or Republican, resident of
Petersburg or Alexandria, etc.
Practice good behavior!
There are unhealthy/sinful ways of interacting/communicating, and there are healthy ways of communicating.
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe
yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and
patience … (3.12)
Put on (“clothe yourselves”) …
- A heart of mercy (compassion)
Forgive one another!
Paul emphasizes forgiveness in this passage: bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone
happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has
forgiven you, so you also forgive others (see also Matthew 18.21-22). Finally, I think Matthew 6.12 contains perhaps the most dangerous prayer one can pray: Forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.
It matters how we treat each other!
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting
one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual
songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in
word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to
God the Father through him. (3.16-17)
It matters how we treat each other — what we say and how we say it. Let us treat each other in ways that honor God!