Colossians 2

Readings for this week November 5 – 9
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Day 1 – With Jesus All the Way – Or No Way

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 2:1-7

Wherever we think we should be on the path of spiritual improvement, however we believe we should be “reaching for the stars” and growing in spiritual maturity and strength, we will achieve absolutely nothing without holding tightly to Jesus. Paul is at pains to point out to the Colossians that there is no other way. Christ is present – needs to be present – at every step along the way. We don’t start with Jesus, who gives us spiritual lift-off, and then move on to some sort of method of spiritual growth and formation that does not include him. He doesn’t get us going, show us the way, and then disappear. We begin with Christ and unless we carry on with Christ, we get nowhere.

We can very easily get bored with Jesus if we are not careful, or if we view growing into spiritual maturity the wrong way. It can seem like nothing is happening, that we’re not “moving forward” the way we think we should be, and that it’s just too much hard work. We want to move to the next level, we want to quickly get through the current lesson/level/phase (whatever it is) and move on up the ladder, using whatever the latest new and exciting programme/book/method is. But there is no secret method, no hidden formula for being a Christian. A life centred on Jesus, a life given over to him moment by moment, thought by thought, through the disciplines of prayer and worship and commitment to his body, a life of submission to his will is how it happens. The only way is through true union with Christ, being united with him in both his life and death. All Christian spirituality begins, continues, and ends with this.

Question to Consider
How do we keep Jesus front and centre and always present in our lives?

Prayer
Lord God, retune my focus when I waver, bring me back when I look like I am straying – keep Jesus at the centre of my life always. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Fullness of God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 2:8-12

This is one of Paul’s clearest and most famous statements about the full divinity of Jesus.  Jesus is the mediator – the perfect mediator – between ourselves and God. Jesus is fully a human being – but that is not all he is. Jesus is amazingly indwelt by God – but that’s not the end of the story either. He was and is the bodily form of God himself, God in human form, God incarnate. Jesus is God in all his fullness. He isn’t half-man, half-God; he isn’t magically possessed by God; he isn’t semi-divine. Jesus is God fully incarnate as a human being. If you want to find God, if you want to see what he’s like and know him, then just look at Jesus.

So if you possess Jesus, then you are already fulfilled in him, and there’s nothing any other authority or ruler or power can do to get past or around or through Jesus in order to impose its rule on you. And there’s no need to go in search of anything or anyone else in order to spiritually “top up.” Paul is at pains to let the Colossians know that there is nowhere else they need to go – or even can go – in order to find fulfilment. Just as Jesus, as God, is completely “full up” with God, so we, if we are “in Christ,” are likewise in a state of “fullness”, ushered into the very presence of God by the one who mediates for us before God the Father – who has offered us nothing less than all of himself through his son.

Questions to Consider
What can make us think we need to “top up” elsewhere? How can we avoid thinking this way?

Prayer
Loving Father, I thank you that the fullness you offer us through your son is true fullness, complete fullness – because you offer yourself to us fully in Christ. Thank you for your uninhibited love for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Complete Reversal

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 2:13-15

A cursory glance at any halfway realistic depiction of the crucifixion would be enough to make anybody turn away in disgust. Crucifixion was about power and humiliation: the unchallengeable power of the Roman machine (this is what happens to those who dare oppose us), and the abject humiliation of anyone foolish enough to stand against it (see how insignificant and worthless those who defy us really are). The sheer brutality of the punishment given to Jesus would be more than enough to convince anyone, whether enemy or friend, that whoever this person was and whatever he was trying to achieve was insignificant, unimportant and doomed.

But the exact opposite was true. What may have appeared to be the brutal destruction of a religious rebel (and at one level it was indeed) was, beneath the surface, something else entirely. What was actually happening in the guise of a powerless, defenceless, broken, tortured piece of meat hanging on a cross was that God was stripping the powers and authorities of the world of their power and announcing their overthrow. The world was to be no longer in thrall to the powers that had no right to it but that had subverted the rule of God. Complete reversal was on the cards, the opposite of what was actually seen to be happening. Rather than the Roman celebration of the death of a failed rebel, it was actually the celebration of God’s ridicule and defeat of the principalities and powers of this world. It was God’s triumph, not theirs – the most monumental case ever of appearances being deceiving.

Question to Consider
How have you experienced God’s reversal of expectations in your life?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, I thank you that you are not the God of appearances but the God of reality, the God who works all things for good. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Jesus Only

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 2:16-19

Rituals are not necessarily bad things. Festivals and food and drink are not automatically to be shunned. Paul says they are matters of indifference. He is not criticising these things outright; after all he himself has encouraged tradition (see back to v.7), the ritual of baptism and observance of the Lord’s Supper. His point is that certain foods, or fasting for no reason, or unthinkingly following along with certain rituals and festivals, offers no spiritual benefit at all. They are not in and of themselves important. They are only important because God is important. When Paul calls these things mere shadows of what is to come, he is not denigrating them, but reminding his readers that they are copies that point to the real thing (Jesus), who is what is important. Foods, festivals, rituals, celebrations – fine, as long as they point to the substance of Christ.

Likewise, people can chase after spiritual experiences for the sake of it. Heavenly visions and angelic encounters can seem very appealing and can lead people to think that they have latched on to some sort of special knowledge or experience; that they have been shown something deeper and more precious than has been revealed to others. God does not want a random group of individual worshipers chasing individual experiences. He wants a united, organic body of believers, a unified collection of worshipers joined together under the guiding and empowering head of the body (Jesus). Spiritual growth and progress is only possible under the headship of Christ, and can only happen for individual believers who are fully grafted into and a part of the whole body of Christ.

Questions to Consider
What role does ritual play in your life? How does it help/hinder?

Prayer
Lord God, may all I do and all I take part in lead to and point to you and you only. May I not be distracted from you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – True Freedom Brings True Life

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 2:20-23

There is a definite dividing line that participation in Christ’s death draws, between the freedom offered by the cross and the subservience demanded by the beliefs of this world. Perhaps the strictures in verse 21 were drawn from the Torah, or perhaps they are just generic examples Paul uses, examples that even the predominantly Gentile audience in the Colossian church would recognise. Either way, they seem to hint at religious or philosophical systems intended to maintain purity: don’t do/use/touch these things and you’ll remain pure; obey these commands and you’ll remain free from spiritual attack.

Worldly wisdom and human systems seem to have a veneer of truth about them, but that is all it is: veneer, surface, the mask or illusion of truth and wisdom. These philosophies – and others like them – all completely fail to achieve the one thing they all promise, namely the ability to subdue the passions and desires of the flesh and lead us into perfection and holiness. Paul’s main point in this matter is crystal clear: however profound and transformative the various wisdoms of the world may seem at first glance, none of them can free us from our bondage to sin, none of them can tame our passions and direct them to their true, Godly ends. Only a life founded on Christ, a life lived in imitation of the cruciform life Jesus led, can have any hope of moving towards the holy perfection that God commands us to seek after. If we now live in Christ, no longer labouring under the wisdom of this world, we should not continue to obey the old life’s commands as if we still thought that had power over us.

Question to Consider
Why can the philosophies of this world not free us from bondage?

Prayer
Lord God, you are the true life giver: you gave life to all. Only from you can true life flow, if we would only submit and commit ourselves to you. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)