Holy. Chosen. Beloved.
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Recently, as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, I was struck by how many of my friends have before and after comparison photos. Some of the photo montages are of a child at birth compared to what they look like on a milestone birthday. Some of the photo comparisons are of themselves and what they looked like before they began a training program and now, after several months of exercise or diet, what it has done for their physical appearance.
Honestly, I am guilty of this myself. Every year when I run a marathon or a half-marathon I can’t help but compare my pace time, finish time and running form to the previous year. Did I run faster? Where did I finish in comparison with the rest of the field? Did all the strength training and conditioning help my form?
We live in a world that elevates comparisons. We compare homes, jobs, economic status, families and a host of other things. Being “slightly ahead” of someone else or “not that bad” compared to someone seems to make us feel better about ourselves.
However, when we look at Scripture, we find that as believers we need to give hard examination to our spiritual lives and make our goal Christlikeness as we compare our lives with the Lord Jesus’ life.
The apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church at Colossae while he was in prison in Rome. One of the first things that Paul writes to this church is that he is prayerful they will “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that [they would] walk in a manner worthy of the Lord to please Him in all respects bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…” (Colossians 1:9-10). This was all to happen as they were “strengthened with all power according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who ha[d] qualified [them] to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light” (Colossians 1:11-12).
Paul’s goal and aim for believers was maturity in Christ that bore fruit. As one reads further in Colossians 1 and 2, it is apparent that the believers at Colossae had accepted false teaching that had circulated within the church. He desired for them to realize that “in Christ” they were “made alive together with Him” because of His work on the Cross (Colossians 2:9-15). They had been built up in Christ not by the things they did or didn’t do, but because of who Christ is. After articulating all of this to them, Paul begins to explain to the Colossian believers that “[if] they have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). Paul reminds them that they have died to the world and their lives were “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:4).
After emphasizing all of this, Paul tells them to consider the members of their earthly body as dead to “immorality, impurity, passion evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry” (Colossians 3:5) and they are to “put … aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech from [their] mouths” (Colossians 3:8). Paul then says to “put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge of the One who created [them]” (Colossians 3:10). Paul encourages these believers as he writes as “those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Colossians 3:12-13).
The contrast between the two pictures Paul paints is stark. Those who live to the world are characterized as those who are living to the flesh. They are living in their sin nature and it is evident in the fruit that they bore — fruit that did not reflect the growth and maturity in Christ that Paul speaks of in Colossians 1. This is fruit that is characteristic of the sons of disobedience (Colossians 3:6) and reflective of the old self rather than the new self (Colossians 3:9).
However, those who know who they are in Christ — His chosen, holy and beloved children — can put on the compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and forgiveness that are reflective of Christ Jesus and His nature, which is the new self that is renewed to a true knowledge of Christ Jesus our Creator (Colossians 3:10). Notice, though, these evidences of growth in Christlikeness are not things the Colossians were to do to become the holy, chosen, beloved children of God; these were things they could put on because they were the holy, chosen, beloved children of God.
Much like the pictures of before and after on my Instagram feed, we see the difference Paul outlines to the Colossians and to us. Are we living as the holy, chosen, beloved children of God who have set our minds on things above and not on things on the earth? Or is it difficult to distinguish us from the world around us? What does our own before and after look like?
The theme for the 2018 N.C. Baptist Women’s Retreat is “Holy. Chosen. Beloved.” taken from Paul’s encouragement admonishment to the church at Colossae in Colossians 3:12-14. At this year’s retreat you will have the opportunity to learn more about this passage of Scripture and practical application as you seek to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10).
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ashley Allen serves as senior consultant for Embrace and Women’s Evangelism and Discipleship with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. The 2018 N.C. Baptist Women's Retreat is scheduled for Oct. 26-27 at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro. Register now or learn more at embracenc.org/womensretreat18.