Focusing on the Transcendent
(15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, (16) because in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or lordships or powers or authorities. All things were created through him and for him. (17) And he is before all things, and all things cohere in him. (18) And he is the head of the body, the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that in everything he might be the first. (19) For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, (20) and through him to reconcile all things to himself, making peace through the blood of his cross – through him – whether things on earth or in the heavens.
Two weeks ago we looked at the first twelve verses of Colossians with this question in mind: what does it look like for a good church to become a great church? The Colossians are praised by Paul for their love and faith and for bearing fruit. In other words, they were doing well. In view of this, Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is that they would be full with the knowledge of the will of God, and this fullness would lead them to walk worthily of the Lord and with every effort to please God. In short, Paul says that his prayer for a good church is that they would be so single-mindedly obsessed with knowing and pleasing God that there would be room for nothing else. How healthy a church is is directly connected to how focused they are on knowing and pleasing God. Richard Foster, a well known Christian author from the Quaker tradition, says it like this: “The more clearly we understand the nature of God, the more clearly we understand how we are to live” (Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2005), p. 17.).
If a church is to take this step into becoming full with the knowledge of God’s will, they will need to know what it means to be obsessed with knowing God’s will, or as Foster puts it, understanding the nature of God. Fortunately, Paul tells us what it means in the following verses in Colossians: to know God and his will is to know Jesus, and vice-versa. We have access to the knowledge of the nature of God in Jesus. Jesus tells his disciples in John 14:9, “Have I been with you for so long, and you have not known me […]? The person who has seen me has seen the Father!” So today, we are looking at the next several verses of Colossians with this follow-up question in mind: what does it mean to be full of the knowledge of Jesus? Secondly, what happens to us when we turn our eyes upon Jesus and determine to know only him and his Kingdom?
Enslaved to the Immediate
We are dealing with questions of priority, today. What is worth your attention? What do you need to spend your time and energy on? It would be really easy today to talk about current events, about this being the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, or perhaps more obviously, about the upcoming Presidential election. But I think that God thinks that we’ve already spent enough energy on the election. I feel that what God wants from us today is for us to lift our eyes above current events, above that which is immediate, to that which is transcendent and eternal, to set our eyes squarely on the Lord Jesus.
Make no mistake, the enemy would like to keep us enslaved to the immediate, to keep our attention on things that pass away. The spirit of this world is wrapped up in itself, telling everyone as loudly as it can that it is what really matters. Once the vital things of the world are dealt with, the spirit of this age tells us, then we can have the luxury of thinking about that which is less immediate and so less relevant, like God and the Church. We need to ally ourselves with unsavory elements to get things done in the short term so that we can have the luxury of our principles in the long term, because those principles are all well and good, but they aren’t of much practical use. This is the lie the spirit of this world tells us on a daily basis, to take our attention off of Jesus and to upset our priorities.
The spirit of the world is screaming, demanding our attention in all sorts of different ways. Most obviously, perhaps, it uses mass media. Newspapers, talk radio, twenty-four hour television news channels, news websites, Twitter, Facebook – all of it screams at us every day demanding our attention, our time, our emotional energy, and ultimately our devotion. When we let mass media have its way, we cannot possibly be full with the comprehension of the will of God, because we are too full with the burden of the spirit of the world.