Monday, February 13, 2012

Winning the War Against Worldliness (Colossians 3:1-4)

What is the best strategy to fight worldliness?
Shall I smash my TV set into pieces?
Shall I retreat to the boondocks or hide in a cave and live as a hermit?
Shall I live in a box to insulate my self from the world outside?

I was in isolation from the outside world when I was in my mother's womb. Before there were any external influence upon me, I was already sinful from the moment of conception.

In the verses that preceded Colossians 3, it appears that in the pursuit of godliness, some teachers enforced some external rules. It may be some form of asceticism, that is the practice of denying the physical body of comfort and pleasures to achieve spiritual goals. It has penetrated the church and so Paul writes to instruct the Christians about true spirituality. The apostle told them that asceticism has no value in combating the indulgence of flesh (2:23). In place of these practices, Paul prescribes two imperatives which are grounded on two realities.


1. SEEK for heavenly things (verse1)
Seeking the things of God should be our one single passion. The Greek word is zetew. It means to "try to learn the location of something". It conveys the idea of moving from place to place in the search process. It is the very word used in Mark 1:37. Jesus left very early in the morning while it was still dark. Nobody knew where he had gone. His disciples made every effort to search for him everywhere and when they finally found him, they exclaimed "Everyone is looking for you".

I was on board a public jeepney one morning. Though eavesdropping is not a habit of mine, the volume of the woman's voice four feet away compelled me to sing Alanis Morissette's opening line: "I had no choice but to hear you".

She worked hard for years for the education of his son. Yet on graduation day, she learned that her son's name was excluded from the list of the candidates for graduation. Her son failed to secure the signatures necessary for his graduation clearance. A few hours away before the commencement ceremonies, she took the clearance sheet and started to search for the required signatories. This San Carlos City resident must now go to places where she has never been before. Her search led her to the island of Salapingao and two other baranggays outside the city of Dagupan.

Nothing else mattered for that woman that day. She did not touch the laundry. She left the kitchen dirty. Earning income was far from her mind. The blanks in the clearance sheet must be filled. A few minutes before the commencement ceremonies, a handwritten entry was made in the list of the candidates for graduation. It was her son's name.

In order to resist our propensity for worldly matters, Paul prescribes that we should seek the things of God with such a vigor as this. Seek heavenly things as if nothing else matters.

2. THINK About heavenly things (verse 2)
The Louw and Nida lexicon defines the Greek word phrone as "to employ one's faculty for thoughtful planning, with emphasis upon the underlying disposition or attitude". Your thought life is an essential area to be conquered if you are to win the war against the indulgence of the flesh. Evil thoughts are not fought by restraining your brain's ability to think. Rather, one must actively involve the mind to meditate on the things which are eternally holy and beautiful.


I have said earlier that the two imperatives are grounded on two realities. The first reality we shall consider is:

1. Our Union with Christ
Col.3:1 "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ"
Col. 3:3 " For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."

There is a mystical union between Christ and his followers. We are united with him in his death and resurrection. Paul has already stated this earlier in 2:12-13. The result of this is that his followers died to sin. The old man that used to be a slave of sin is already dead, therefore is now free. Paul says in Gal. 2:20, he has been crucified with Christ. He no longer lives. The only life he is living is the life of Christ living in him. When the incarnate Christ was on the surface of the earth, nothing else mattered to him but to do the will of the Father (John 4:34). If Christ is indeed living in us, we will must have the same mindset. The good news is our union with Christ is not something we are still working on. It is a present reality that we should live with accordingly.

The second reality by which the earlier imperatives are built is:

2. Our Glorious Future
Col.3:4-- "When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."

Christ will return and when he appears, we will see him in all his splendor. In Titus 2:13, Paul describes this appearing as "glorious". Yet it is not only him who will appear in glory. Colossians 3:4 says there will be a change in us. We will appear with him in glory.

If I'll give you a 3x5 card and ask you to scribble all the undesirable things in me, both physical and spiritual, perhaps you will answer back, "Bro. Manny, this 3x5 card will not be enough for my long list". But when the day comes when I shall appear with my Lord, I will be changed within a twinkling of an eye. All things inglorious in me will suddenly be replaced by glorious things. All things disgraceful in me will suddenly be replaced with honorable things (1 John 3:2)

How does this reality serve as a weapon in fighting worldliness? 1 John 3:3 says "Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."