The Secret to Life

Colossians 1:24-29

“I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”

Background:

  • Paul seems like a glutton for punishment when he says he is glad when he suffers physically.  Yet this isn’t what he is saying at all.  He writes from a Roman prison.  He doesn’t bring on his own physical suffering to torment himself on purpose.  Instead, he chooses to rejoice and identify with Christ for the sake of the church.  “The first phrase alludes to the fact that Paul’s bonds and imprisonment had been incurred in the course of bringing the gospel to the Gentiles, to which class the Colossians belonged.”  Paul’s sufferings also benefit us.  If he wasn’t imprisoned, he wouldn’t have written this letter and we would be “deprived of it’s message.” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary)
  • When we are suffering (not the kind we bring on ourselves because of sin), but things we can’t control, we can choose like Paul to be glad for an opportunity to identify with Christ and help others through our pain.  What posture will you take today toward your sufferings?
  • Then Paul moves on to his favorite topic – the proclamation of God’s message.  We see four concepts in these verses:
  1. Paul appointed as a preacher (25)  – He refers to himself as a servant in his commission.
  2. The message he preaches (25-28) – Christ in you – the hope of glory.  “‘Hope’ is joyous expectation or anticipation.  ‘Glory’ is that which will belong to the Christian in the heavenly state.  The general truth is that Christ dwelling in the believer is the ground for certainty of complete salvation.” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary)
  3. The method he uses (28) – Warning and teaching with all the wisdom God gives him – depending on Christ’s power in Him
  4. His ultimate aim (28-29)  – To present those he teaches “perfect” or mature in Christ
  • “Present” (paristemi) refers to the bringing into God’s presence at the return of Christ.  Only then will God’s work in the believer be complete. “Perfect” suggests attainment of the proper end of one’s existence.”  (Expositor’s Bible Commentary)   Paul isn’t saying he is trying to make everyone behave perfectly.  (He isn’t under the delusion that we will be perfect until we are in heaven, he even says of himself in Romans 7:15: “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”)
  • Even though Paul knows we won’t be perfect until heaven, he longs for all Christ-followers to grow to maturity.  He understands our tendency to get stuck in spiritual childhood (needing to be ‘fed’, having to be carried by others instead of spiritually walking with Jesus on our own, etc.)  Others of us stay spiritual teens (thinking we know it all and don’t need any help, rolling our eyes at spiritual parents who could really help us if we would let them).   So Paul teaches and warns through the Word of God by the Spirit of God working in him in order to help others grow and mature in faith.  He longs for them to know Christ and follow His purposes for their lives.

Application questions:

  • How are you approaching the suffering in your life that is out of your control?
  • Paul depended on the power of Christ within Him through the Holy Spirit to do the ministry God entrusted him with.  As you think about your ministry (to your children, your church, those God has placed in your life), are you doing it through the power of Christ in you – or depending on your own strength?
  • Though it may be difficult (Paul says he works hard in verse 29), he struggles to depend on Christ to do it through him.  Are you weary and tired in your ministry?   Take some time to get alone with Jesus and allow Him to refuel and refresh you as you depend on His strength instead of yours.
  • Do you live with the “joyous anticipation” of the glory that is to come?  The day that you will be present with the Lord, absent from the body will be something like this from Revelation 21:3-4, “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’”
  • Even if everything here on earth isn’t going right, we can dare to hope for the future day when God will live with us, no tears, no dying, no sorrow.  Until then, we continually discover the secret to life – Christ in us, the hope of glory to come!  Spend a moment looking forward to that day.  How does the perspective of future glory change your outlook on today?
  • What next steps might God be calling you to take to grow toward greater maturity in Christ?

Prayer:

Adoration: Praise God that through Jesus He opened the door for everyone (including us Gentiles) to find our way back to God.

Confession: Ask God to reveal any temporal thinking that is keeping you from daring to hope in Christ – He is the secret to life.

Thanksgiving: Thank God for the future glory with no death, no sorrow, no tears.

Supplication:  Pray that the Lord would stamp eternity in your eyes so that you can see your life clearly.

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